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Quick Reviews: Week Of 08.19.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 08.19.2022 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.
LOOK BOTH WAYS
- Plot: On the eve of her college graduation, Natalie’s life diverges into two parallel realities - one in which she becomes pregnant and must navigate motherhood as a young adult in her Texas hometown; the other in which she moves to LA to pursue her career. In both journeys throughout her twenties, Natalie experiences life-changing love, devastating heartbreak, and rediscovers herself.
- Review: Its that time of most weeks again when Netflix releases a low-budget “comfort food” type of feel-good movie that would otherwise usually end up as a Hallmark channel premiere.
The movie in question this time is Look Both Ways, which actually attempts to differentiate itself from other movies of this subgenre by basically showing you what is for all intents and purposes two of these kind of movies in one as we follow two diverging paths for its protagonist. One path is almost like a lighter female version of Knocked Up, and the other more of a “single career woman trying to find herself in the world” sort of dramedy in the same vein of a The Devil Wears Prada. Both have similar story beats that end in predictable ways, but through different prisms.
The movie actually features some major names in its ensemble like Luke Wilson and Nia Long as the father and boss to our protagonist respectively; but the lead is played by Lili Reinhart in what I believe is her first true lead role (Arguably a co-lead in previous films she’s starred prominently in). I have to say she did a good job in her performance in making me feel for her character and wanting to see her succeed as she pursues her passion for animation, especially as a creative type myself.
But the movie does make certain narrative decisions that frustrated me. During the final act in particular when it teases you with what could have been a clever way to bring both stories together or even try to do mirror endings with each path. However it inevitably goes the predictable route both times and thus I think the ending lost a little more impact than it could have.
But all in all I liked this for being what it was. It sort of does have a message at the end that anyone caught in a situation like the one our protagonist find herself in at the start can be okay at the other end regardless what path they take. Its a simple, light fare, and predictable movie that will either work for you as a “one and done” watch or it will just be something to skip for those who are looking for something with more meat on the bone. In those two paths of thinking I was more on the former side.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: A recently widowed man and his two teenage daughters travel to a game reserve in South Africa. However, their journey of healing soon turns into a fight for survival when a bloodthirsty lion starts to stalk them.
- Review: If you know anything about my personal journey to becoming a cinephile, you know that creature features were a major part of it. So when I got word that we would be getting a late Summer movie in which Idris Elba goes toe-to-toe with a rogue Lion, I was already onboard.
Beast isn’t going to be making my “Best of the year” lists much less really anyone else’s, and it’s looking like it won’t be lighting up the box office either. But it does have the possibility of becoming a cult classic in the years to come via network re-runs and streaming service plays.
Lets get the negatives out of the way first with this film. The movie like other B-movies of its kind simply makes some dumb decisions in how it handles certain character motivations and actions; and the incredibly sloppy and lazy writing involved in how some very key story beats are set up. For example, the way the final confrontation is set up is absurd and unrealistic; and there’s a scene involving poachers that felt incredibly forced and as if it needed some major polishing up. The film also has a subplot in regard to our lead protagonist having strange (almost supernatural) dreams that could have been cut out altogether.
But I gotta’ level with you. As a creature feature fanboy, this hit a lot of high marks with me as well. Elba elevates the film through his performance so that the silliest parts can still have you able to suspend your disbelief because he makes you root for him and his daughters to escape. The action sequences are done with impressive long takes that ratchet up tension for the scares and the thrills whenever things get heated. The Lions in this are VFX but I didn’t find them to be distractingly bad as effects; and honestly they all had much more emotion than we got from the ones in the 2019 The Lion King remake. And while the final confrontation is absurd in how its set up, I was loving the way it brought back something from earlier in the film to resolve the plot.
I’m probably the highest person you’ll find on this literal B-movie, but I’m admittedly biased towards the subgenre. Yes it has some objective flaws you can pick apart all day, but I had an absolute blast with this and I think creature feature fans like me who trek out to their local theatre will too. Beast roars as a movie that knows what it is and isn’t ashamed to be.
- Initial Grade: B+
ORPHAN: FIRST KILL
- Plot: After escaping from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Leena Klammer travels to America by impersonating Esther, the missing daughter of a wealthy family. But when her mask starts to slip, she is put against a mother who will protect her family from the murderous “child” at any cost.
- Review: I have to be honest and say I wasn’t the biggest fan of 2009’s Orphan. I understand its got its fanbase, but for me that is a movie in which I did not leave my viewing of it wanting a sequel much less a prequel. But alas we got a prequel a whole thirteen years later in Orphan: First Kill - even with a return performance of Esther by Isabelle Fuhrman.
So going into this I was wondering if this was going to have any purpose or have any logical reason for existing past a cash grab. Given this is a prequel in which its events were hinted at in the first film, was I just going to sit there for almost two hours watching a whole family getting killed one by one? Well I have to say that unfortunately this movie, for me, did not justify its existence.
God bless her hard work at trying to make it work, but Isabelle Fuhrman came off less convincing in her performance this time around than in the original 2009 film; I don’t blame her so much as its clear there’s been thirteen years since and this being a prequel sets up for an awkward transformation of her appearance between projects. It took me out of the movie many a time even though this film does give us the hindsight of knowing she isn’t actually a little girl.
Given we know the fate of this family won’t end well as a prequel to a movie that already hinted at what would happen, the movie seems to try and force a justification for the final events of the prequel in a way that just left me feeling like they took some cheap ways out with their script. This sets up practically no one to be all that likable, and by the finale I was rolling my eyes more so than gripped and hoping for a “happy ending” for the family in this. And of course given this is a horror film it has to try to successfully thrill and scare me and I felt neither emotion watching this. If anything I was more bored than intrigued in any way.
The only positives I will give is that Julia Stiles does try to make it work with her performance; she knows what kind of movies she’s in and embraces it. Its also competently made for the most part; we’re not talking anything of embarrassing production quality here.
I’m not typically THAT GUY that demands a movie justify its existence, but this was going to have a hard time winning me over and it did not do so. I came away from this thinking that perhaps the fans of the first film might like this enough given it fills in certain gaps to “Esther’s” backstory, but for me I just left feeling hoping this would be her last kill on screen.
- Initial Grade: C-
THE NEXT 365 DAYS
- Plot: Laura and Massimo’s relationship hangs in the balance as they try to overcome trust issues while a tenacious Nacho works to push them apart.
- Review: Lets get the elephant in the room out of the way - you, dear reader, and I both know that this was never going to be good. Having made the horrible mistake of watching 365 Days back in 2020 and watching the sequel earlier this year, I was not happy to see the third film already showing up this early in the release schedule.
These movies are all horrible. They’re horrible because the writing is bad. They’re horrible because the characters are so unlikable. They’re horrible because they’re misogynistic in ways that make the the Fifty Shades Of Gray books and movies look like progressive masterpieces. They’re horrible because they insult your intelligence from the moment each movie starts. They’re horrible because you can’t even have fun with them like you can other bad films.
For the most part if you’ve seen the previous two movies, of which I have to admit I am one of those poor souls, you’re mostly going to get the same putrid product here. You’re still going to cringe at this clearly toxic relationship we’re supposed to be rooting for, and you’re going to be begging for the movie to finish already even if you were to speed up the frame rate on your Netflix app.
But I will give this movie one major thing it has over the other two, it actually presents an attempted plot and actual stakes. Don’t get me wrong, its not a particularly interesting plot with stakes that I could care about, but I felt like this was attempting to have more of narrative than the other movies did. There’s an attempt to have some tension in regard to the love triangle that dominates this chapter in Massimo and Laura’s story. If you were to force me to pick “the best” movie of the trilogy, I’d probably just hold my nose and pick this one.
So in a shock to no one, I would beg of you to skip The Next 365 Days as it is one of the absolute worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. Skip it for YOUR next 365 days and the 365 days after that, and the 365 days after, and all the 365 days you have until you cross the river styx. The only positive to come out of watching this for me, is knowing this dreadful trilogy is over - I hope.
- Initial Grade: F