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Quick Reviews: Week Of 07.22.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 07.22.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. Plus a look back at a film that I didn’t get to when it released last week, and another that I’ve been spending a month waiting to see. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
- Plot: Kelsa, a confident high school girl who is trans, navigates through senior year. When her classmate Khal gets a crush on her, he musters up the courage to ask her out, despite the drama he knows it could cause. What transpires is a romance that showcases the joy, tenderness, and pain of young love.
- Review: Its about damn time we got better representation of trans youth in cinema, particularly at a time when state legislatures are going after the queer community. And adding to that, Billy Porter getting a shot in the Director’s chair was news that made my eyebrow raise in a good way. So I came into Anything’s Possible with high hopes of getting to see something new from a pretty outdated and worn out sub-genre of romance film.
First let me say that I do think Porter was competent in the Director’s chair. Nothing mind-blowing, but I would be open to seeing him grow in the role with potential future projects. Let me also add the film’s two leads, played by Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali, had good chemistry and I bought into their attraction to one another. The aesthetics of the film will hit major marks with the Gen-Z crowd as well.
Unfortunately as happy as I am to see this representation, I have to admit I did not enjoy the film as a whole. The generational gap between me and Gen-Z was felt even as a guy in his early thirties, so there was always this distance that I felt between me and the characters.
The romance played out a lot like any other generic straight to streamer or TV coming of age romance flick, and it never really had much new to show past the moments when the film touches on the elephant in the room that is the drama and cruelty that can be thrown at a relationship of this kind. And that drama itself played out very much like what I would expect from a YA adaptation more so than an original film tackling such an important subject; a bit over melodramatic in a few moments and with an ending that left me wanting in its bid for going against the more traditional finale.
Even though I came away underwhelmed by this one, I hope it is just the start of better trans-representation in film, especially coming of age and/or romance films. So yes, I confess the movie didn’t fully work for me, but the kind of new projects that can come from younger folks seeing something with this kind of representation leaves it so that there’s many possibilities to see this type of romance flick improved upon.
- Initial Grade: C-
- Plot: Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery.
- Review: Since comedian Jordan Peele showed off his horror storytelling bonafides with 2017’s incredibly successful Get Out, he’s built up a reputation as one of the best modern genre Directors of our time. So much so, one man on Twitter went viral this past week for claiming him as the GREATEST horror Director of all time which got a humorous “Please put the phone down” response from the Director himself. After his critically acclaimed follow-up with 2019’s Us, we now get his latest with Nope - a film in which a town is seemingly hunted down by a mysterious UFO or, as we learn from one character in the film, UAP.
Daniel Kaluuya returns to team back with Peele as our lead protagonist OJ, playing him with a quiet and reserved manner and yet also exhibiting himself as arguably the leader of the pack. Keke Palmer plays opposite as his sister “Em” and is clearly having a blast playing the boisterous and outgoing character. Brandon Perea plays tech guy turned sidekick for the brother and sister pair in Angel. We also get Steven Yuen playing a quirky child star turned theme park owning cowboy nicknamed “Jupe”.
The ensemble does its job, there’s no complaints there. The direction is competent, the visual effects are incredibly effective, the score is great and may just be deserving of awards contention, the moments of levity hit more than miss, and yes you will get legitimate scares from this as any horror movie fan would expect from Peele’s filmography.
I just wish the movie got to its damn point a little quicker than it does. Just going to say it straight out, this is my least favorite of Peele’s films so far. While the movie eventually thrills us in the second half when it goes from slow burn horror to an all out sci-fi flick, it takes getting through a sluggish first half filled with stylistic choices that didn’t work for me and a sub-arc told through flashbacks that at the end of the day felt like it should’ve been cut out of the whole thing altogether.
So as good as most elements are, the story here is over bloated and overlong. I found myself looking at my watch wondering when the plot would get going. And while the obviously Jaws inspired final confrontation with the big bad is executed extremely well, its such a chore to get there that I left my screening thinking about all the ways it could have been more coherent and tighter with some heavy edits.
This is by no means a bad movie. If you’re a massive fan of Peele’s storytelling or a horror and/or sci-fi fan in general, I would certainly recommend you go check this out on the big screen. I seem to be in a bit of a minority among a plurality of my peers in my being underwhelmed by this. But boy, I just thought there was a much better movie underneath all the sloppy chunks that make up the final product. Nope gets a yes from me, but not an enthusiastic one either.
- Initial Grade: B-
THE GRAY MAN
- Plot: When the CIA’s most skilled mercenary known as Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six, accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, he becomes a primary target and is hunted around the world by psychopathic former colleague Lloyd Hansen and other international assassins.
- Review: Starring big names like Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thorton, Regé-Jean Page, Alfre Woodard, and directed by none other than the Russo Brothers themselves, The Gray Man is an adaptation of the popular book series and a big-budget-backed Netflix flick that they have hopes of turning into a major franchise. Unfortunately if this does become a franchise, I’m not particularly excited about watching it unfold.
Gosling and Evans’ chemistry as rival CIA black-ops colleagues turned rivals isn’t bad; I got a small chuckle over some of their (rare) banter and I felt like they were both trying really hard to elevate what is frankly one of the most generic play-by-the-numbers action flicks I have ever seen. Evans is clearly having fun playing bad guy, and might single handily be the reason I’m not giving this an even lower grade.
As if it were auto generated, its script checks off all the boxes of tropes you’d find in a movie like this from the retired veteran boss to the side-character sacrifice to the young girl the bad guys kidnap. Action scenes are typically just “shoot them ups”, and the only one of real highlight was the final confrontation between Gosling and Evans which in itself is resolved in a lazy Deus Ex Machina style.
The movie is also overlong and I found myself staring at my watch or even my phone more than a few times. Its a slog, having nothing really new to say or do with its runtime. Its the definition of going through the motions. On a technical level there’s questionable pacing, editing, and the cinematography left me wanting. It felt more cheap than a film with this kind of money and star power thrown at it should have.
This is a great example of a film that has all the elements to be a cool, sleek, action thriller packed with big names and a big budget, but ends up a generic trope filled bore-fest that overstays its welcome. A showcase in mediocrity and lazy action writing. Its not one of the worst films of the year, but its among those with the least effort put into its storytelling. Evans and Gosling try God bless them, but not enough to save this movie. No gray area here, I was not a fan of this Russo brothers project.
- Initial Grade: C-
MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON
- Plot: Marcel is an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colorful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and a new hope at finding his long-lost family.
- Review: A decade ago, a short little viral video became a massive hit overnight. That video was about a tiny one-eye shell named Marcel. The little guy’s wholesome short films were a creation of Director Dean Fleischer Camp and Marcel’s voice actress, Jenny Slate. A decade later after many attempts to get a feature length film done fell apart, and even after its co-creators married and then split, we finally have gotten the tiny shell on the big screen.
This time Camp returns not just as Director but in front of the camera as the documentary filmmaker that discovers Marcel and decides to shoot videos of him. Marcel’s grandmother, Nana Connie, is voiced by none other than Isabella Rossellini. The film, shot in a mockumentary style, was a big surprise hit at last year’s Telluride before being acquired by A24 as their first ever “family friendly” movie. This was followed up by another great reception at SXSW earlier this year, and then released to the public with great critical acclaim in late June before being released wide July 15.
I’ve been beyond excited to give this film a try, to the point its become my most anticipated of the year so far. Its amazing Letterboxd score of 4.3 and high audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this only made those levels of anticipation rise higher. The movie has continuingly eluded me as its marketing team has been way too vague on its released schedule at times. The first public release was limited, and last week’s “wide release” was anything but with many (including me) complaining it was not as available as the movie’s social media team claimed. I was starting to think this thing didn’t even exist and I was in a fever dream when I saw the trailers and posters. But finally the movie came to my area this weekend.
And I must say that it lived up to the hype. From the very first scene the character of Marcel wins you over, but Nana Connie and the importance she is to the film’s story is the show stealer that stole my heart. The way you find yourself caring for these animated shells to the point I was fighting back tears a few times is a credit to the team behind this project. Its like they were real and in front of the camera living out their lives.
Its all at once a smart, funny, poignant, heartfelt, and tear inducing film for the whole family. The laughs are there, the heart is there, the sad moments are earned, and the way the movie brings you up from those sad moments will make you have a good-feel cry - especially with its finale. Its like a gateway for getting younger audiences to check out smaller and more intimate movies.
Like the films of Paddington before him, Marcel the shell’s cinematic debut is pure comfort food. Its the kind of movie that could build up a cult following or even have an outside shot at Oscar gold if it gets into the Best Animated Feature race. Do yourself a favor and grab some napkins and go and meet Marcel and Connie. Its soup for the soul.
- Initial Grade: A+ To S Tier
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
- Plot: Abandoned by her family, Kya raises herself all alone in the marshes outside of her small town. When her former boyfriend is found dead, Kya is instantly branded by the local townspeople and law enforcement as the prime suspect for his murder.
- Review: An adaptation to the best selling novel, Where The Crawdads Sing released last week with rough critical reviews and I wondered if there was any reason to catch it after missing out on a chance to see it for myself. Then the film ended up doing better than expected at the box office and general audiences gave it glowing word of mouth. So of course my interest peeked to see which side I fell on.
Now keep in mind I have not gotten to read the source material for myself, so I went into this completely blind. Watching this I could quickly see the problems my peers had with it - it takes long to really get things going, its a bit bloated in trying to juggle so many subplots at once, and it certainly has more the vibe of a very well funded Lifetime movie than your traditional cinematic thriller.
But I also saw why general audiences have responded so well to it. I legitimately cared about our main protagonist in “Kya”, played well by Daisy Edgar-Jones who once again is able to lift a movie just in the same way as she did with Fresh earlier in the year, a film that I too left with mixed to barely positive feelings about. When the mystery started to finally get going, I honestly wanted to see how it would play out and was griped at times by every twist and turn of the investigation. And the finale’s reveal legitimately made me gasp in a good way.
This film has found a willing audience and I’m happy for it given that I do think its been a little too beat up by fellow critics. But its still got some very real flaws in its production and storytelling. Overall I would give this about the same kind of grade that I would a straight to streaming or TV mystery that I enjoyed as a good “one and done” watch. Count me in as a man of the people and liking Where The Crawdads Sing JUST enough to give it a positive review.
- Initial Grade: B/C