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Quick Reviews: Week Of 08.12.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 08.12.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. I’ve also included three films that I caught up on from the previous two weeks that COVID, lack of wide release, and so many releases from last week delayed me from watching. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
- Plot: An LA vampire hunter has a week to come up with the cash to pay for his kid’s tuition and braces.
- Review: There’s something I love about a mix between things you don’t think go together. For instance a rap and hip-hop soundtrack for a horror movie that also happens to be a dark comedy featuring names like Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, and (of all people) the one and only Snoop Dogg. And that chaotic sounding recipe comes together to give us a new horror comedy from Netflix in Day Shift, which sees us following a literal union of vampire hunters hunting in Los Angeles.
This is a movie that does try to differentiate itself from other horror comedies featuring vampires. For one it has a unique soundtrack that I think gives the movie incredible personality, and is in my mind hands down its strongest asset. It also isn’t afraid to get gory with literal beheadings aplenty and yet isn’t too serious with itself not to sprinkle the comedy plenty. There’s real world building in here that if this were ever to go on to become some kind of new franchise for Netflix I’d be happy to see what else the lore can offer. I also felt like the ensemble was having fun with their roles for the most part, and Foxx’s character grew on me the longer the movie went.
Unfortunately the movie’s weak points tend to start dominating it in the second half when the screenplay seemingly reminded itself it had to wrap things up in two hours. Thus you get pacing that doesn’t earn certain moments, the tone starts to get uneven, and the personality that it got from the soundtrack goes away when the music suddenly disappears until the finale.
While Franco made me chuckle as counterpart to Foxx as the comedic relief, not every joke lands and he could overstay his welcome with some. The antagonist of the film is played competently enough by Karla Souza, but the character is written as very flat and predictable. Eric Lange also features as a prototypical “angry boss looking for a reason to fire the protagonist” stereotype.
That aside though I have to admit I did have more fun that not with this one though. It was a “junk food” kind of horror watch for me and I really dug the things that I thought were positives enough to not let the criticisms I had outweigh my enjoyment of the film. Its by no means going to compete with The Black Phone for my favorite horror film of the year, but if you’re hungry for a fun vampire horror comedy that attempts new things, I’d give this one a try.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.
- Review: With so much superhero fare out these days, some have been starving for some original material from the subgenre. Enter the new Paramount+ original movie, Secret Headquarters, starring Owen Wilson as an Iron Man type superhero whose son (Played by Walker Scobell fresh off the earlier in the year’s The Adam Project) discovers his secret and inadvertently catches the attention of a villainous weapons maker played by Michael Pena.
The concept on its face is interesting. Its nice to see some original stuff being tried out with the most popular and over-done type of film going today. But the movie hinders itself with an uneven tone and character writing, while also aiming for the lowest common denominator in its humor that it ends up feeling like something you put on for the kids to calm them down for two hours rather than an enjoyable new family favorite.
One major problem is that the superhero whose secrets drive the film, the one played by the biggest star in this in Wilson, has little to do until the final act. The cast of child actors are front and center in this, and their characters can be predictable and stereotypical even though I don’t necessarily blame the actors themselves as none of them stand out as particularly horrible - which is always impressive when talking about child actors.
Most of the movie are hijinks of kids running away from “the bad guys” in the secret basement area where the hero’s tools are hidden, and the grown adults that make up these antagonist end up coming off goofy and incompetent. There’s nothing wrong with comedic villains, especially in a kids movie, but when you have some scenes that include said antagonists literally killing other adults it kind of just makes all the comedy that comes from them in other scenes seem tone-deaf and thus off-putting.
But as I said, it is an original idea for once that doesn’t try to stick to a formula, it has some nice visual effects and costume designs for a smaller film made for streaming, and its just good enough that I think certain younger ages could have a blast with it. But if you ask me, unless your kids are begging you to put this on or badly need distracting with something new for them to watch, I’d say you can keep this one locked up from your view.
- Initial Grade: C+
BODIES BODIES BODIES
- Plot: In an isolated family mansion, a group of rich twenty-somethings decide to play Bodies Bodies Bodies, a game where one of them is secretly a “killer” while the rest tries to “escape”. Things take a turn for the worse when real bodies start turning up, setting off a paranoid and dangerous chain of events.
- Review: A24 delves back into horror with Bodies Bodies Bodies starring a pretty impressive ensemble of up-and-comers in Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha'la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, and none other than Pete Davidson himself. Touching on wealth, class, and influencer culture through a dark comedic horror tale. Released in New York and Los Angeles last week, but hitting wide release this weekend.
The movie’s biggest challenge will come through the fact that practically all of these characters are unlikable. Spoiled, rich kids that seem to each be negative representations of the kind of social media celebrities or young people we know in our lives that we’ve come to love to hate and vice-versa.
On top of this the character’s motivations and actions are practically begging you to enjoy watching them go down one by one, which in its defense is the point of these sort of films. It reminds me of a major issue I had with X, another A24 horror film from earlier in the year. I understand the sentiment and point of making the characters undesirables, but at a certain point you want to have someone to like enough that you’d like to see survive.
But where with X we got to see the film unleash old-school slasher horror in the second half and provide some stomach-churning entertainment, I didn’t feel I got that with Bodies Bodies Bodies. Yes eventually the movie predictably starts to produce a body count (no pun intended…I think) and gives you some satisfaction in watching these spoiled “kids” get theirs; and yes I understand the themes it was going for in regard to commenting on such negative influences in the culture, but I just found the characters so grating that as the movie continued on I found myself begging for it end already.
Its not ALL bad though. I did think the filmmaking was competent with good direction from Halina Reijn in her English directorial debut. There was some clever dialogue and use of atmosphere in a few scenes, I did chuckle once or twice, the ensemble does a good job with their roles in terms of what the script is asking of them, and it isn’t a movie that necessarily overstays its welcome with its short runtime.
But regardless I have to say I was more annoyed than not watching this movie and I think your ability to handle and and stand these characters is going to play a major part in your enjoyment of it. Perhaps if I ever bother to re-watch this it’ll play with better with me knowing what I’m getting myself into. It may be a hilarious hit with others, but for me this is easily one of my least favorite films to come out of A24’s catalog.
- Initial Grade: C+
DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS
- Plot: When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto the Super-Dog must convince a rag-tag shelter pack - Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle, and Chip the squirrel - to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the superheroes.
- Review: For all the superhero fare we get these days, its interesting that this film is the first time we’ve seen these IPs extended over to new characters that aren’t even of the same species. But we got that two weeks ago when we saw the release of DC League Of Superpets, an animated film about superhero pets that I missed out on thanks to COVID coming to my household at the time. I finally got a chance to catch up with it this weekend and boy am I glad I did.
The film features the voices of an impressive ensemble that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Keanu Reeves, Ben Schwartz, and Thomas Middleditch.
And the voice work is top notch in my opinion. Particularly Johnson as Krypto and Hart as Ace, building off their real-life, well-known, and over-used chemistry between each other. But what really stole the show for me to my surprise was McKinnon who is clearly having a blast as the main antagonist in Lulu - a literal evil genius hairless guinea pig. Her story arc as a delusional lab pet who thinks she’s colleagues with Lex Luthor was some great writing in my mind.
I found the humor to be hilarious and over the top in a good way, not being afraid to make some fourth wall references and in my opinion landing for parents who take their kids to see this. I never felt the humor was overly childish like in other animated movies.
Maybe its because I saw this at a late night showing after Bodies Bodies Bodies and needed a pick-me-up, but I had an absolute blast with this film. Its unfortunate its struggled at the box office like it has. But if your children, nieces or nephews, etc are begging you to take them to see this, I actually think its worth the ticket price.
- Initial Grade: B+
- Plot: Pressured by their immigrant parents to find spouses, two Indian-Americans pretend to date in order to survive a summer of weddings – but find themselves falling for each other as they struggle to balance who they are with who their parents want them to be.
- Review: Reviewing movies like these are becoming increasingly difficult for me. Not so much because they’re tough to get through, as I’ve stated before I am a sucker for simple little rom-coms like these, but because they tend to blend together as one. In fact this actually came out to Netflix last weekend, but I made sure to catch up on it for this week, which tells you how interested I can be in watching this subgenre.
To get straight to the point - if you find these types of films grating, corny, and overly predictable, this won’t be for you. If, like me, you don’t mind sitting down for 90 minutes and watching “junk food romance” play out in front of you that you know full well you won’t ever bother to watch again, this will be up your alley.
If I could point to anything that makes this stand out compared to other straight to streaming Netflix rom-coms is that it does star a diverse cast of Native American Indian actors in Suraj Sharma, Pallavi Sharda, Rizwan Manji, Veena Sood, Ari Afsar, Sean Kleier, and Manoj Sood. Its also written by an Indian screenwriter, Shiwani Srivastava. I can’t say for sure how well this provides a realistic portrayal of the Indian immigrant experience, but given those involved Its certainly something to watch that lacks that all too common white gaze of storytelling. Interestingly enough Failure To Launch Director Tom Dey is the one behind the lenses of this one though.
But that isn’t to say this is reinventing the wheel either. Its a rom-com of two individuals faking a relationship that find themselves falling for each other. Its been done to death a million times and I don’t have to write another word to spoil how this movie turns out. Your taste is going to play a big part in how much you like or don’t like this. I liked it just enough even if I admit we’re not exactly talking about a game-changing romance flick here either.
- Initial Grade: B/C