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Quick Reviews: Week Of 06.17.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 06.17.2022 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.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE
- Plot: A father comes to grips with his daughter’s upcoming wedding through the prism of multiple relationships within a big, sprawling Cuban-American family.
- Review: I have a confession to make - I have never seen one of the Father Of The Bride films whether it be the Spencer Tracy original or the Steve Martin remake. I do plan to remedy that in due time, but perhaps that fact is why coming into this I found myself very pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this film.
With Andy Garcia in the titular lead, this version adds a Latin flavor to it that I found to have executed well the differences in Latin culture among different countrymen and the differences between generations. Providing interesting subplots from an impending divorce announcement, a daughter seeking to prove herself as a would be business woman, and a multi-millionaire groom’s father that butts in among them.
I found myself laughing out loud several times and feeling a genuine connection to these characters as a Latino myself. I even fought back tears during the climatic wedding toast. For me this was a great time and well worth your time on HBO Max especially if you’re a Latino looking to connect with a classic story that film loves to revisit.
- Initial Grade: B+
CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH
- Plot: Fresh out of college and stuck at his New Jersey home without a clear path forward, 22 year old Andrew begins working as a party starter for bar bat mitzvahs - where he strikes up a unique friendship with a young mom and her teenage daughter.
- Review: Cooper Raiff is emerging as one of the young Directors to keep an eye out for as we enter what feels like a new era in filmmaking with the world of streaming, indie arthouse niche studios, and known IP box office juggernauts. With his 2020 break-out Shithouse. and now this new film that won praise and awards at Sundance, Cha Cha Real Smooth, he could be the next Woody Allen. Not in the creepy way hat we now know Allen to be in his private life mind you, but in the way of an actor directing himself in films about the complications around love and relationships.
I came into this movie having heard for almost half a year what a masterpiece this was and unfortunately I have to say I came away finding it cute and heartfelt and yet also underwhelming at the same time. While the performances are all competent and the work behind the camera continues to show us Raiff could one day deliver a real classic that breaks into the film school classes and maybe even the mainstream culture, the writing for me needed some polish.
Raiff’s Andrew, our lead, comes off likeable enough but frustrating to watch with some of his actions more so than relatable. It may be an age thing as I am in nearly in my mid-30s and this character is just out of college but I kinda’ saw this character as a dumb naïve kid more so than a lost soul I was supposed to be rooting for. Dakota Johnson has perhaps the best performance in this whole thing as Domino, the single mother Andrew pines for, but her writing feels very confusing in a way that made me feel like she was leading Andrew on more so than buying there was any possibility there. Not to mention her relationship with the character of her fiancé Joseph, played by Raúl Castillo, is written and shown in a way that makes the finale feel a little forced in regards to her arc with him. With no fault given to Vanessa Burghardt who plays Lola, Domino’s autistic daughter, I was kind of mixed on the portrayal of autism here. At times it felt like what I had seen among others I know who are on the spectrum and other times it felt a little stereotypical.
But I don’t dislike this movie, its not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It has cute moments, it has heartfelt moments, and I admit to chuckling with the film’s moments of levity more than a few times. But ultimately I walked away from this one liking it for the most part, but not nearly blown away as much as so many who have seen this seem to have been. Its a decent watch, its worth watching especially for hopeless romantics or those who feel like they’re still trying to figure things out for themselves, but in the end I think it may just be the most overrated film of the year so far? Sorry to sound so brutal, but this was a nice little coming of movie, not the next CODA. Raiff has potential, but I don’t think in the long run this will be his Annie Hall.
- Initial Grade: B-
JERRY & MARGE GO LARGE
- Plot: The remarkable true story of how retiree Jerry Selbee discovers a mathematical loophole in the Massachusetts lottery and, with the help of his wife Marge, wins 27 million dollars and uses the money to revive their small Michigan town.
- Review: When I first heard of this film and did some light research on the true story in question I found myself scratching my head and wondering how on Earth they were gonna’ make this work as a feature length film. Now having seen it for myself, I have to say I think the writers, producers, and noted Director David Frankel all created what is ultimately a pretty enjoyable “feel good” movie that keeps it light but still throws some curveballs here or there thanks to the power of dramatic license.
The namesakes of the title are played by Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening who bring a dignity to their roles and made me buy them as a regular small town retired couple, specifically Cranston who puts in what is honestly for me one of the best performances of the year so far. Their ability to make you root for these two characters is the anchor and heart of the film. Among the rest of the cast highlights for me were Larry Wilmore who appears as a friend and accountant for the Selbees, and Rainn Wilson as a convivence store clerk who ends up getting tied up in their scheme.
The movie does have some slight flaws that grated on me, the biggest one being a forced antagonist subplot regarding a whiz college kid attempting to outdo the title characters with his own big plans to beat the lottery, that ends in a sort of an abrupt and frankly unrealistic way. But for the most part this a touching and light watch that’s just like having a nice chicken noodle soup on a lazy afternoon. Almost like a would be Hallmark original but with big names attached. If you’re in the mood for some comfort food, you may wanna’ give this a try.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: Legendary Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear embarks on an intergalactic adventure alongside a group of ambitious recruits and his robot companion Sox.
- Review: It seems that every time we get a new film from the Toy Story franchise there’s cries of “who asked for this movie?!” or “is there a point to having another one of these?”. And inevitably every time folks come away from the said new film with commentary such as “I can’t believe they did it again!” or “They found a way to justify a sequel!”. This time around we get a spin-off in the form of Lightyear, a movie that is apparently based on the film that got Andy to want the Buzz Lightyear toy from the first film in the first place. And this time around instead of plaudits for making it work, the reviews and reception to this one have been…less than thrilling - and box office wise as I write this the returns have not been stellar. But where did I fall on it?
Well let me get some gripes out of the way that I feel make this the weakest film from the now long standing three decade franchise. For one, the movie feels so simplistic in comparisons to other things we’ve gotten from Pixar that the favorite term from many peers in the last few years of “light Pixar” when complaining their consistency may not be on the level it once was really does seem fitting here. Next, the characters play a lot of predictable roles and thus have predictable arcs play out. Then there’s a villain reveal that left me a bit cold and had me actually rolling my eyes. Finally, for a movie that has been struggling to actually justify itself, I came away from this feeling like we honestly didn’t need this thing and that whatever franchise it seems to be wanting to set up in regard to this version of Buzz Lightyear still needs to prove itself - if we even ever get a sequel out of it.
That said even with all of its flaws that I can pick at, this was still a very enjoyable film. Chris Evans really proved himself to me with his voice work as this version of a younger and more inexperienced Buzz, and as many have already stated elsewhere his companion cat robot Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn) is far and away the MVP of this venture. Keke Palmer as Izzy, Taika Waititi as Mo, Dale Soules as Darby, and Uzo Aduba as Alisha Hawthorne who happens to be Buzz’s former partner and Izzy’s grandmother all round out the major core of the cast and they all do commendable work.
The moments of levity work, I laughed out loud a few times at my screening and my wife who came with laughed even louder, harder, and more often. There’s still glimpses of that Pixar magic here and there with heartfelt moments, and all round I think the adventure that plays out with the plot is an enjoyable romp. Finally, there’s some real progress here (Granted still not enough) in regard to LGBTQ representation. All in all, while it doesn’t live up to the hype of the films its spinning off from, its still worth a trip to the theater with the family in my mind. If we do somehow get sequels to this film they may be able to improve upon the positives and address some of the weaknesses. If they can do that, then this Buzz’s part in cinema’s history has the possibility to go infinity and beyond.
- Initial Grade: B+
- Plot: A prisoner in a state of the art penitentiary begins to question the purpose of the emotion controlling drugs he’s testing for a pharmaceutical genius.
- Review: Straight off his recent massive success with Top Gun: Maverick, Director Joseph Kosinski gives us Spiderhead, a film based off a pretty bleak short story that is now a little over a decade old.
Miles Teller plays our protagonist Jeff and Jurnee Smollett plays his love interest Lizzy. Both are hiding secrets in regard to how they ended up in an island filled with killers imprisoned and doing experiments that range from hallucinations to getting two people who aren’t attracted to one another to have sex and perhaps fall in love. Their chemistry is noticeable from the get-go and I started to find myself rooting for them to end up together even with the ugly secrets each is keeping from one another.
But the absolute standout to me here is Chris Hemsworth as the antagonist of the film and the man behind all of these experiments in Steve Abnesti. He is clearly having an absolute blast playing this charismatic villain, oozing slimy manipulator and liar even while smiling and giving convincing smiles to the people he’s using. Its roles like this that really show you his range past his iconic role as Thor from the MCU.
Furthermore the movie has a killer soundtrack that finds a way to weave eighties hits with the story as it plays out. This all equals a thriller with an interesting concept, great turns in the story, sympathetic leads, a charismatic villain you’ll love to hate, a killer soundtrack, and an overall fun experience at home on Netflix.
- Initial Grade: B-