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Quick Reviews: Week Of 06.24.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 06.24.2022 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.
LOVE & GELATO
- Plot: Lina is about to graduate high school and has her sights set on her future at MIT. But when her mom gets sick, she encourages Lina to follow in her footsteps and have “the summer of a lifetime” in Rome. Using her mom’s old diary as a guide, she explores the romantic and magical city, where she just might find love - and gelato of course.
- Review: Another week and another Netflix fluffy rom-com drama adapted from a romance novel has come our way. This time its Love & Gelato featuring what might be the most vapid and overly quirky main protagonist I‘ve ever seen from one of these movies. I don’t even blame the lead actress, Susanna Skaggs in her feature debut, but there is such a thing as making a protagonist feel too involved with themselves - especially in what’s supposed to be a romance!
Its a story that is supposed to play out with mystery and travels through Italy but instead it feels like a predictable slog with little real intrigue to that mystery and Italy taking a backseat to a love triangle I never could never really get invested in. All leading to an ending that left me wanting more and laughing at the gall of the writers to go with what they did.
Its overlong, its got characters I couldn’t care about, and it somehow managed to make me feel bored. Me, the guy who typically gives these sort of movies okay-ish B/C grades. So if I couldn’t get into this, what chance do you have? Stay away from this mess of a film. Based on what I’ve read and heard from fans of the source material slamming this adaptation, I would say if anything you hopeless romantics can check out the book instead.
- Initial Grade: D-
BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE
- Plot: Beavis and Butt-Head are sentenced to Space Camp by a “creative” judge in 1998. Their obsession with a docking simulator leads to a trip on the Space Shuttle with predictably disastrous results. After going through a black hole they re-emerge in our time, where they look for love, misuse iPhones, and are hunted by the Deep State.
- Review: I can almost vividly remember seven year old me sneakily watching Mike Judge’s adult Beavis And Butt-head animated show on MTV and that included checking out the 1996 film Beavis And Butt-head Do America when it came on the premium cable channels the following year. I can’t claim to have gotten all the jokes and I can’t even say that I was a super fan of the thing, but I was amused enough to chuckle a few times and want to watch other episodes if I ever came upon them.
Now here we are, an odd twenty five years later, and we’re getting a sequel to that film with Beavis And Butt-head Do The Universe and the final product is honestly probably what the biggest fans of these two could hope for. Given the movie takes place in our time and has a bit of a new glossy animated feel, it somehow still pulled me into feeling like I was back in the mid-nineties sneakily watching the show on MTV. The humor, the lead characters’ ticks and traits, the callbacks and Easter eggs, etc it all feels very much like Judge hasn’t missed a step with this property. And yet the little jabs at modern day life didn’t seem to hurt that nostalgic vibe either.
As I said, I can’t claim to be a big super-fan of this series, but having re-watched the 1996 film and then watching this on Paramount+ right after, I can certainly see the audience for this. Its funny enough and in a world like today a nice shot of nostalgia as well. I envision this getting a new generation of fans onto the series even while long-time fans have a blast with it.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: The life story of Elvis Presley as seen through the complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
- Review: Its been about a decade since we got a new feature film from the visionary and stylistic Director Baz Luhrmann. The man who has proven time and time again (including with this latest project) to know how to turn any film into a grand spectacle that can trigger awe in a viewer. This time around he gives us an Elvis bio-pic through the eyes of his controversial manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by the one and only Tom Hanks.
Hanks’ makeup job in this can be distracting even though he doesn’t necessarily give an awful performance either. But every time Hanks’ Parker comes on you can’t help but be taken out of the movie a couple times by the accent and body suit. The movie also overstays its welcome and frankly runs too long at nearly a whole three hours. And for a film about an iconic singer that has been lobbed with legitimate criticisms of appropriation and getting behind the Nixonian “law and order” regime, the movie never seems to want to touch on these things and instead chooses to focus more on the myth of the man than the reality. And as you’d expect it bumps into the typical bio-pic tropes and flaws these movies tend to have.
And yet - I still really enjoyed this for what it was. Baz’s ability to make his movies feel almost like a party has broken out on a stage as you watch a play still shines through here. The colors, the editing, and the performances of Elvis’ banger songs all liven this up in a way other Directors wouldn’t pull off. But the namesake of the film is played by Austin Butler who emerges form this with an incredible charismatic performance that could potentially be the first major leading Actor Oscars contender of the year. He almost single handily carries this movie with this incredible performance.
Whether you’re a massive fan of “the king” or not, Elvis delivers a stylish (albeit not completely without flaws) ride that takes you through the roller coaster of one of the GOATs of the history of rock and roll. You might just be as captivated as the young girls where when he shakes his hips.
- Initial Grade: B+
THE BLACK PHONE
- Plot: Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a sound-proof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.
- Review: In my mind, Stephen King is the greatest modern novelist we have. Thankfully as the man rambles on in his twilight years, he has two sons who have continued on with their own storytelling. Among them, Joe Hill, who has a short story that has been adapted to film in The Black Phone.
As those who have read this newsletter since earlier in the year are well aware, I have found myself a bit let-down by the major critically beloved horror films from the first half of 2022. Its not that I haven’t liked them, but I also have found myself underwhelmed in regard to the kind of praise they got. Well, I can happily say this one has lived up to the praise and is easily my current pick for my favorite horror movie of the year so far.
From a storytelling standpoint Director Scott Derrickson’s decision with the soundtrack and editing here is top notch, and helps to keep the attention of the viewer. Newcomer Mason Thames who plays our lead and Madeleine McGraw who is cast as his Psychic sister stand out and make us want to root for them to escape this nightmare from each of their perspectives. But the real heart of this movie is Ethan Hawke as the main villain “The Grabber” - his performance sends chills and made me legitimately concerned every time he came on screen with a voice that I can see making its way to some younger viewers’ nightmares.
The turns of the story aren’t as predictable as it might be in lesser hands and the thrills and scares had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. This was an eerie and terrifying scary tale that did its job and showcased what modern horror can be. And best of all it doesn’t overstay its welcome, keeping things tight for the most part and finishing when its time to.
My only gripe might be that it may not be as effective on re-watches when you already know everything that’s coming, especially given a crazy and ballsy twist here to set up the climatic final confrontation. But this was a blast for me as a horror movie fan and I absolutely recommend a trip to the theatre to go jump in your seat and spill your popcorn every time that phone rings and pulls you into its nightmare.
- Initial Grade: B+
THE MAN FROM TORONTO
- Plot: In a case of mistaken identity, the world’s deadliest assassin, known as the Man from Toronto, and a New York City screw-up are forced to team up after being confused for each other at an Airbnb.
- Review: Originally meant to be a theatrical release by Sony, this Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson “buddy comedy” action flick was reportedly sold off to Netflix after concerns from the studio whether it could sell in today’s box office market.
And before you say anything to yourself, yes these “Kevin Hart shouts and screams as bullets fly and his straight man comedy partner saves the day” movies seem to be becoming their own subgenre. I can see why some would find this schtick from Hart grating by now and Harrelson plays this character so straight that it almost makes him feel a little too cold and distant even for playing a hitman. But I have to say I ended up liking this enough.
As predictable and cookie cutter as this was, I did find myself laughing more than a few times. I liked the feel of the film and the “dangers from every corner” vibe from the story as multiple different assassins' and criminal elements chased after the two leads, and the running gag of Hart being mistaken for the hitman always worked for me.
There is a possibility that my want for levity and escapism after a rough morning that had me feeling a bit down helped this work better for me than it seems to have for others. But as far as I’m concerned I found The Man From Toronto to be a likable enough “one and done watch” comedy that could be worth your time next time you find yourself scrolling through Netflix in need of something simple and entertaining enough.
- Initial Grade: B/C