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Quick Reviews: Week Of 05.20.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 05.20.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
A PERFECT PAIRING
- Plot: To land a major client an LA, a wine exec travels to an Australian sheep station, where she signs on as a ranch hand and hits it off with a rugged local.
- Review: Quite frankly these straight to Netflix light romance films are either going to make you cringe or be warm blankets to have on a lazy afternoon or evening for us hopeless romantics. Feeling like films that could have shown up on the Hallmark channel, there’s really nothing groundbreaking from them and A Perfect Pairing is no different.
There’s nothing overly dramatic or tense here, the acting is certainly not Oscars worthy, and the story is predictable as it gets. But hey that simplistic and predictable nature to these kind of movies have their fans, I among them. Victoria Justice plays our lead here as the prototypical “city girl out of her elements who is wooed by the rugged and yet kind country boy” protagonist. As the plot synopsis mentioned, wine is a major part of the story and yet honestly we barely get to see much of the wine discussed save for small scenes here or there. Instead the majority of this film is watching our protagonist slowly but surely warm up to the Australian countryside and win over the heart of the male love interest played by Adam Demos who in turn ends up having a pretty predictable secret himself. All capped off by a very rushed and simplistic ending to leave things tied up in a happy bow.
If it sounds like there’s not much to this, its because there isn’t. As I said, your mileage will vary with this sort of film and I barely give this a good review in terms of being a hopeless romantic who enjoys these airy romance flicks that are nice one and done watches whether they be from Netflix or the Hallmark channel themselves. But if this sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, this isn’t the exceptional film among this subgenre of romance movies that’s going to change your mind.
- Initial Grade: B/C
CHIP N’ DALE: RESCUE RANGERS
- Plot: Decades since their successful television series was canceled, Chip has succumbed to a life of suburban domesticity as an insurance salesman. Dale meanwhile has had CGI surgery and works the nostalgia convention circuit desperate to relive his glory days. When a former cast mate mysteriously disappears, Chip and Dale must repair their broken friendship and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas once again to save their friend’s life.
- Review: Like many millennials I grew up watching re-runs of the Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers show on the Disney channel and other syndicated networks. So when I got word that not only would Disney Plus be coming out with a movie that follows up as a fourth-wall breaking sequel, but that it would be in a Roger Rabbit style that mixes animation and live action, I wasn’t so sure how that would work out. Well color me stunned because not only does this film deliver on the nostalgia but it goes above and beyond in pushing the limits of its PG rating to deliver a chaotically fun thrill ride that frankly Disney should’ve released on the big screen.
Featuring voicework from an incredible ensemble that includes John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Roge, J.K Simmons among others, and KiKi Layne in a live action role as a Detective that helps the two little chipmunks.
The movie doesn’t just dare to break the fourth wall, it actively has a meta commentary on nostalgia by actively poking fun at everything from conventions to bootlegs to even Disney itself. It also features jaw-dropping after jaw-dropping jokes and cameos that had me shouting “How on Earth did Disney green-light this?!” but in a good way. I’m talking about references to Alvin and the Chipmunks, Main Street from the Disney parks being a cover-up for criminal organizations, the ugly Sonic CGI design from the 2020 movie’s original trailer, Shrek merchandise, and even a Randy FREAKING Marsh from South Park sighting and that’s just to name a few!
This is the kind of movie that you and a few friends can enjoy on multiple visits to catch every Easter egg and reminisce on the days growing up with these characters. Or its also the kind of movie you can show the young ones and follow it up with the original show to get them into it themselves. I thought this movie was a blast and well worth seeking out for the 90s Disney kid and their own kids. More streaming originals like this and Disney won’t even need the theatres to get more eyes on their new releases.
- Initial Grade: B+
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA
- Plot: The residents of Downton Abbey go on a new adventure that takes them to a Spanish villa.
- Review: During the early to mid 2010s there were two adult dramas that seemed to find a way into their respective country’s cultural makeup - Game Of Thrones here in the U.S and Downton Abbey across the pond in the U.K. Of course they also saw big fanbases sprout out of their home bases and the latter found a home on PBS in the states to become one of the most popular shows of that era of television. Somehow giving us soap opera style storylines from both the wealthy Crawleys upstairs and their estate staff downstairs; even while maintaining a dignity and class in its tone and never going further than a PG-13 rating, the show was able to give us an insight into these two worlds with historic events in the foreground.
Now we get the second film that follows up the successful series and as admittedly a massive fan of the show and the previous film legitimately being one of my favorites from its released year, I was so excited to get to visit the Crawleys and the staff once more - perhaps for the last time given the box office returns. And to no one’s surprise really, this movie delivers everything fans of the series expect from it. The Crawleys talking about the newest drama in their lives while wearing fine clothes over dinner, the staff commenting and muttering to themselves about what’s going on upstairs, the warm cozy feeling in tone that almost makes this coffee drinker want to pull up a cup of tea instead over my popcorn and soda at my screening.
This time around the film attempts not one but two plots. One about a movie being shot at Downton, and the other about a trip to a French villa to uncover secrets about matriarch Violet Crawley. Somehow the two plots and the massive cast of characters come together with its limited runtime and provide everything a fan of the series would want and still remain entertain for casuals. There’s somber gut punch moments including a bitter ending that we all knew had to come one day, and there’s moments of levity that had my audience at my screening laughing aloud.
As much as I loved the last film, I also do admit to its flaws and I think the biggest part of that is that it felt more like a reunion special for the fanbase than a proper film. This one feels like a proper film and ends up a fitting finale for a series that has gained so much love. I wouldn’t mind visiting the Crawleys again in a few years with another film, but if this is truly it then good lord what a run. I loved my visit back to Downton, and I think a lot of fans of the series will.
- Initial Grade: A-
- Plot: In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside hoping to find a place to heal. But someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread becomes a fully-formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.
- Review: Alex Garland is one of those Directors whose works I’ve come to appreciate much more than love or constantly revisit. That should be no surprise given how divisive his films (especially the last few) can end up being. Ex Machina being pretty well received by both critics and audiences while Annihilation was well reviewed but got a mixed response from movie go-ers. With this new film of his, Men, I suspect it’ll be more divisive among both of those groups given the early responses.
As you may have easily figured out from the title, marketing, and just the general conversations society is having with itself right now, this is a film with obvious allegories and themes in regard to the power and hold the male part of the human species has had on society in general for thousands of years and how it affects women in a negative way. Whenever such is explored in a movie I have to admit I go into it with trepidation as a lot of these movies seem to be so insistent on this message that all the male characters come off as either too stereotypical or negative representations. And don’t get me wrong we men have not had the best track record at times in being pieces of crap to society and women in general, but it gets hard to take a movie seriously when its so overt with its message and beats you over the head with it. And that goes with any attempts at any social commentary in a movie.
I have to say this one sort of felt like it had that issue and yet the horror elements around it were still intriguing enough to hold it together for me better than other films like this that didn’t quite work for me. This is a slow burn; following Jessie Buckley’s Harper, our main protagonist, as she starts to realize the village she’s decided to take some refuge in is filled with judging and staring men of all types that seem to know things they shouldn’t - all the key characters of these played by Rory Kinnear who is actually pretty damn phenomenal in his roles in my opinion. He truly pulls off all sorts of negative versions of men with some sort of hold or power over society as portrayed by the various males in the village.
The film doesn’t really start to show its cards until the second act which will hurt it with audiences who are expecting the typical straight up horror film, but it does have effective jump scares on top of its storytelling once it gets going. I liked the concept of exploring these themes and conversations around the power of men in society, but I also think that like Garland’s other films it all feels kind of hollow at certain points and he leans so heavily on a more nihilistic aspect that I see in his movies’ conclusions that aren’t my cup of tea.
As with most of his works, I liked and appreciated the craftmanship and premise to this movie. Its a freaky and thoughtful watch to go and see, and I would think it will specifically connect with women out there who have had to deal with toxic male behavior all of their lives. But it certainly lacks some accessibility, it certainly can come off as a bit pretentious at times, and the story and characters left me a bit mixed. Overall, I liked and respected this but I wouldn’t say its one of the top horror flicks I’ve seen either and I’m not sure its particularly re-watchable. If you’re ready for hard conversations with “arthouse style horror”, this will be right up your alley.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: World famous movie star Olivia faces a PR disaster when a paparazzi snaps a photo of her with her married lover, Vincent. The hard working valet, Antonio, accidentally appears in the same photo and is enlisted to pose as Olivia’s new boyfriend as a cover up. This ruse with Olivia thrusts Antonio into the spotlight and unexpected chaos.
- Review: Reading the plot synopsis for this and watching the marketing, you’d think this was another Marry Me style of “famous celebrity falls in love with regular dude” type film. A subgenre that arguably started with Notting Hill and has been attempted to be duplicated every since. But to my somewhat pleasant surprise, this remake to a French comedy wasn’t at all any of that.
What this film is truly about is about unlikely friendships from Antonio and Olivia to even the private investigators chasing each of them around. The movie shows its heart with Antonio’s mother, played in her last role by the late Carmen Salinas, and extends to his family and friends including Mr. Kim, a Korean man his mother starts dating. The family dynamic is powerful in the movie and even shows us a little heartbreak at one point.
The chemistry between our two leads played by Eugenio Derbez and Samara Weaving is actually incredibly believable; if I were to see a celebrity become best friends with a working class guy this is probably the way it’d go. The movie also offers more than a few moments that had me laughing out loud.
That said there are some glaring weaknesses. The movie does overstay its welcome by the third act, seemingly not knowing where or how to wrap things up. There’s also a subplot in regards to a woman Antonio is fond of in the middle of a battle with city developers that has a fitting end to it - and yet isn’t touched upon enough for me to feel like its completely earned either. As much as I enjoyed certain aspects of the film, there were others I kind of wanted to go in and polish up myself were I writing the script.
Overall though this ended up being a pleasant surprise. A comedy that subverts the rom-com and ends up a film with heart and themes of friendship and learning to grow from failed relationships. This certainly might be worth a watch if you’re a Hulu subscriber.
- Initial Grade: B-