Quick Reviews: Week Of 07.01.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 07.01.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. Plus a look back at a film that I didn’t get to when it released a few weeks back. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE
- Plot: Nancy Stokes doesn’t know good sex. Whatever it may be, Nancy, a retired schoolteacher, is pretty sure she has never had it, but she is determined to finally do something about that. She even has a plan - It involves an anonymous hotel room, and a young sex worker who calls himself Leo Grande.
- Review: I consider myself a pretty sex positive guy, but as a hopeless romantic who has three romances in his Letterboxd favorites I also found myself going into this with fears it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But after a few weeks of skipping out on it, I decided to finally give this Sundance hit that got sent to Hulu a look. But Good Luck To You, Leo Grande instead ends up a touching film about two people opening up to one another and finding a platonic connection through a sex positive perspective.
Emma Thompson plays our protagonist in Nancy, and unsurprisingly she gives a good and competent performance as a woman who is trying to experience something new at her mature age. Her role as a woman who is attempting to move past her husband’s passing, and yet have the orgasm he could never give her, could have easily ended up an over the top parody of “dirty older woman” but instead through the sex positive perspective she’s given humanity and empathy - even with all the levity this dramedy delivers.
Newcomer Daryl McCormack plays the titular character and instead of a lazy stereotypical sex worker, he’s also portrayed with humanity and empathy as we start to learn more about him the longer the movie goes. Ultimately ending up helping Nancy grow as a person as equally as he helps her um…fulfill her needs.
While I wasn’t blown away as some of my peers were coming out of Sundance, I still enjoyed this. If you’re in the mood for something sex positive and yet want that connection between two humans coming together emotionally as well, I recommend this as a watch next time your flipping through Hulu.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: A young singer on the brink of a promising career finds herself torn between a domineering family, industry pressures, and her love for her girlfriend.
- Review: Directed by Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu, featuring Gracie Marie Bradley in a debut feature lead role and big names such as Giancarlo Esposito, Niecy Nash, and Sharon Stone, this movie started out with the promise I thought it had from that glance I had at the trailer after it had barely shown up on my radar. But in time it lost me as I found myself feeling like it didn’t seem to know where it wanted to go.
I don’t particularly think the acting in here is bad mind you, specifically Nash who shined for me the most among the cast, and the technical aspects of the film in its presentation from the direction to the cinematography is competent - albeit still feeling like a made for TV movie most times. I did care for our protagonist’s struggles in dealing with creative, professional, and societal pressures. Any creative would identify with that. And there’s some interesting thematic and visual choices in this.
Where this movie lost me was when I realized about half-way through that for all the drama, nothing seemed to be happening. Let me explain, some major story beats do happen but they either feel rushed or unproperly set up leading to many moments that felt almost incomplete. By the time the film is wrapping up I was literally looking around my room and wondering if I had somehow slept through scenes because it felt almost incomplete and messily put together.
There’s been some criticisms leveled at this as an obvious alternative Whitney Houston like biopic, but I didn’t get that vibe personally. What I got from this was a potentially interesting indie drama that didn’t seem to know where it wanted to go and what it exactly wanted to say. After watching it for myself I can see why Beauty barely got a mention from Netflix’s ad team. This thing goes nowhere.
- Initial Grade: C-
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU
- Plot: A fanboy of a supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6, Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them, with the backup of his followers - the Minions.
- Review: The Despicable Me franchise has ended up being one of the most successful animated franchises from outside of Disney’s own studios since arguably the Shrek films. Alongside three core movies there’s a prequel and now we get the sequel to that movie in Minions: The Rise Of Gru. Admittedly my past with these films has been kind of spotty. I still need to actually watch some of them, and while I’ve found the ones I’ve watched charming, I can’t say either that I jumped in the bandwagon with these in terms of praising them as among the best animated movies we’ve gotten in the last decade. So I came into this completely blind as to what I should expect in terms of quality and storytelling. After all this is clearly a cash grab, a sequel prequel, come on right?
Watching this movie never gave me enough to justify its existence, and honestly if you were to come into this completely blind some callbacks would have you confused and missing context. The humor can be a miss sometimes, particularly when it goes for the lazy pop culture references, constantly using a 70s soundtrack to play off the time period the movie is set in.
And yet the movie has its charms as well. The Minions are, as expected, funny and cute at the same time. Carrell does nice voicework as a much younger Gru, and the Vicious Six concept has a lot of potential. Even when the movie is clearly going for filler mid-way through, such as a kung-fu training subplot that features Michelle Yeoh as the voice to the Minions’ teacher in Master Chow, the film finds a way to use humor to keep its intended for younger audiences’ engaged. There’s also the fact the movies tries to keep it short with its runtime allowing it to never feel like its overstaying its presence.
Even as a very casual fan of this franchise and someone of the demographics this movie isn’t aimed for, I could see me taking one of my nieces or nephews to see this and not being bored or cringed out of my mind in my seat begging for it to end. This is enjoyable enough for all ages even if it doesn’t really shoot for the moon either.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: A beautiful, strong-willed, young royal refuses to wed the cruel sociopath to whom she is betrothed and is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle. With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom.
- Review: Those who know me know that while I am all for the brave new world of female characters that have more to do than just be love interests, I’m also a sucker for a good old fashioned fairy tale as well. In fact my all-time favorite Disney movie is 1959’s Sleeping Beauty which is arguably the ultimate “damsel in distress” film. So while the concept of The Princess featuring the roles being somewhat reversed is intriguing, I also came into this wondering if the obvious themes on subverting and criticizing the fairy tale would be a bit of a turn off. Unfortunately I have to say, this was mostly not for me.
That’s not to say there aren’t things here I didn’t like. Other than the intriguing concept, I thought some of the action sequences in this were well done. There’s certainly that vibe in here that you get from other films with one person slaughtering their way to a climatic showdown. So if you’re a fan of that sort of action subgenre, this may be for you. Joey King certainly holds her own in the lead role making me buy not just into her as “badass woman out for revenge” but also as a woman from the time as well. In fact the entire movie pulling this kind of revenge tale in medieval times is interwoven well.
But the movie also feels a bit much in its themes at times. I found myself cringing at how “in your face” it felt sometimes with the shots at the genre it was subverting and at a certain point it found ways to come off like a generic action flick to me which is wild given the intriguing concept. I kept wanting the movie to win me over more, but instead I felt more to be underwhelmed by as it went. On paper this could have been a fun idea, but the execution (no pun intended) left me wanting.
- Initial Grade: C+