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Quick Reviews: Week Of 09.09.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 09.09.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates plus a film I caught up to that has been out for a few weeks now. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
- Plot: A wooden puppet embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy.
- Review: I’ve been seeing a lot of Pinocchio lately. From re-watching the 1911 silent classic to the 1940 original animated movie that this remake is adapted from. And that’s still with another adaptation of the story to come from Guillermo Del Toro later this year.
This movie has un-suprinsgly been getting some rough reviews, strike that, its been getting awful reviews across the board. Before they even saw the movie it feels like some out there already had the knives out for this. These live action remakes and spinoffs already have the handicap of having a contingent of critics and audiences that demand they show why they deserve to exist. Quite frankly some seem to talk about these films as if they are an affront to their childhood and the reason for the rip in the fabric of the Universe that caused the Trump presidency or 2020 as a whole. Of course these movies purely exist as cash grabs, but I think its worth taking these as standalone projects and evaluating them regardless of that cynical reality.
The live action remakes and spinoffs have always been hit or miss with me. There’s the column with the ones I liked to love like Aladdin, Beauty And The Beast, Cinderella, Cruella, Lady And The Tramp, or The Jungle Book. Then there’s the duds for me like Dumbo, Maleficent, Mulan, or The Lion King.
This Pinocchio remake is Directed by Robert Zemeckis, re-uniting with Tom Hanks who plays Geppetto. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth voices the title character, Cynthia Erivo as the blue fairy, Luke Evans as the coachman that takes the lost children to Pleasure Island, Keegan-Michael Key voices the Fox that tricks Pinocchio into joining the puppet show, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices Jiminy Cricket.
So is it THAT bad? Well it certainly has its flaws.
Hanks’ accent comes and goes and for whatever reason the movies tries to have him sing multiple new songs, and as much as I love Tom its clear he’s not anywhere near the singer his wife is when these musical numbers come on screen. While its obvious he’s having fun with the role, its not among his best performances and its quite frankly easy to parody.
Those new song choices feel forced, and its not even that I disliked the songs themselves but it just didn’t gel together to make it the solid musical adaptation Zemeckis must have had in mind. The pacing is a bit rushed even with the film arguably overstaying its welcome, and characters come and go very abruptly. The script is also littered with jokes that should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
But my biggest gripe is the CGI for our main characters. It looks like uncanny valley and shows that Disney didn’t give this more of a budget compared to what they would have done had this been a full blown theatrical release. Pinocchio looks like a walking cartoon rather than an actual puppet, Jiminy looks like he needs much more rendering, and Monstoro looks nowhere near the intimidating beast he does in the source film. They even bother to CGI Figaro the Cat - the Cat! Its almost like the movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a 3-D style animated remake or a live action film with more realistic VFX.
And yet…I didn’t completely dislike this as much as everyone else did either.
There’s shades of a much better movie in this. There’s ideas that it explores like hinting Geppetto lost a son once and introducing a new character during the puppet sideshow subplot that could have made a great addition to the story had they kept them around longer and made them matter more to the story. For as hit and miss as the CGI is, there are moments where the visuals are striking particularly the production design on Pleasure Island. I also have to confess I found re-watching certain scenes and musical numbers from the 1940 classic re-enacted with more modern technology to have its fun moments.
I have to say I think many are being a little too aggressive in their dislike of this movie. But I also have to say I can see why so many don’t like this. I am as mixed on this as I can be. Its got major flaws and frustrating decisions from the production team, but it also shows promise in a few moments and hints at the better film we could have seen instead. Not to mention that while I would recommend you instead show your kids the 1940 version, I think the young ones will like this enough whether they’ve seen that original film or not. I cannot tell a lie and let my nose grow, I thought Pinocchio was just okay at best and just blandly mediocre at worst.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: In town for a job interview, a young woman arrives at her Airbnb late at night only to find that it has been mistakenly double-booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement she decides to stay the night anyway, but soon discovers that there is much more to be afraid of in the house than the other house guest.
- Review: In a day and age where horror movies go for jump scares and predictable twists and turns, its great when a new addition to the genre goes for big swings and truly unpredictable story beats. Malignant was that horror movie last year, but unfortunately it was also one that swung and missed with me. This year that movie is Barbarian and I’m happy to say it (for the most part) did not miss with me.
Touching on themes in regard to sexual assault and trauma, the film is anchored by a great showing from Georgina Campbell as our main protagonist, Tess. Alongside her in the main cast are Bill Skarsgård (Yes, Pennywise himself), and Justin Long.
Its difficult to try and write a review of this one without touching on spoilers but I will try my best. This movie is a showcase in what a horror movie should be in terms of never letting the audience correctly guess the surprises it has in store for them. What awaits us inside the Airbnb that Tess finds herself staying at is not something one can be easily prepared for. What happens half-way through the movie that completely shifts the story is something you won’t be prepared for. And hint, hint I don’t think its a coincidence that they cast bigger name actors for certain parts to achieve the surprises they do.
This is a movie that doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares so much as it keeps hitting you with unpredictable story turns that will keep making you say to yourself, “Wait…what the F*ck?! Are you serious right now?!” but in a good way.
The only gripes I will mention about the film are that for being a story that touches on themes of sexual assault and trauma, it sure limits itself at times in exploring that. It makes me think this had Get Out sort of potential had it dared to push that more instead of leaving me feeling like they didn’t fully grasp all the potential the story had. It also made certain decisions towards the end that I felt could have used more refinement.
But regardless, this is exactly the kind of horror movie that you bump into during spooky season and you end up just going for the ride with. Its also a perfect film to watch with an audience and to talk about later once you can speak free of restrain of not spoiling it. If you’re a fan of horror and in the mood for the spooky season as it descends upon us, go rent a ticket to go see this one.
- Initial Grade: B-
END OF THE ROAD
- Plot: Recently widowed mom Brenda fights to protect her family during a harrowing road trip when a murder and a missing bag of cash plunge them into danger.
- Review: Its a momentous weekend for Netflix, instead of a low budget rom-com or romance drama we’re getting an action/thriller instead. But after watching End Of The Road I wish we just got another forgettable straight to Hallmark style romance.
Starring Queen Latifah and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as siblings and even featuring Beau Bridges as a local Sherriff, this movie is an affront to both common sense storytelling and productions trying to make competent features. This could have easily blended with other straight-to-streamers on Netflix and have come and gone with little for me to say about it, but it made the decision to end up one of my absolute least favorites from the year.
Where do I even start? The direction is awful and I can honestly say I’d be stunned if any scene didn’t go past two takes. The dialogue is simplistic to the point I could have sworn I knew what the next word out of some character’s mouths were going to be. The production is low budget all around with little effort to at least cover that fact up, in particular in regard to its bare bones production design.
But the cherry on top of the awfulness are the cartoonish as hell villains. After this movie opens up a door to address systemic racism, it instead decides to veer into a straight up parody of the dangerous hillbilly white guy stereotype on multiple occasions. To the point that what should have been scenes that had me scared for the family were instead scenes I was laughing out loud at for how over the top they were and how bad the dialogue was from the antagonists. After he was hiding in the shadows through the whole movie, the twist at the end when the main antagonist is finally revealed had me howling at how unoriginal and predictable it was. I even guessed what it was half an hour before it happens and thought to myself, “No way they’d be THAT unoriginal.”
Unless you want to poke fun at the sloppy mess that is End Of The Road, I’d recommend you skip this one altogether. Its not a trip I’d recommend.
- Initial Grade: D+
- Plot: A teenage cartoonist rejects the comforts of his suburban life in a misguided quest for soul.
- Review: A teacher posing naked for his student to draw him, a shocking and out-of-the-blue tragedy, and a young man announcing to his parents he will not be finishing his last term of high school to voluntarily live with two creeps in a dingy apartment is how this dark coming-of-age comedy kicks off. Funny Pages is deliberately low-budget in its cinematography and low-key in its direction by debuting director-actor Owen Kline. It’s script, also written by Kline, goes for dry and uncomfortable situational gross-out humor that won’t be for everyone, and rather chooses to focus on embarrassments and failures over anything of nostalgic value.
This film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and released two weeks ago to the public. I’ve been meaning to get around to it and finally had my chance to this week. Coming-of-age movies are one of those subgenres I can be a sucker for, and I did find myself very much connecting with the struggles of our main protagonist in this, Robert (Played by Daniel Zolghadri), and his aloofness in how to reach for his goal to be a comics artists; but also deal with the expectations that his parents and society are placing on his young mind. The way he keeps screwing up as he inevitably goes down a path of stupid decisions that will undoubtedly end up ones he’ll have to learn from reminded me of some of my own eager and naïve actions at his age.
The rest of the cast are pretty great in their roles from Matthew Maher as a complete loser-in-life who Robert desperately wants to learn from just because he once worked at a well known comics’ publisher, to Josh Pais as his strict and overbearing father, to Miles Emanuel as his completely-comfortable-in-his-own-awkwardness best friend.
The movie has a pretty good score that I actually wish was more present in the tone of most of the film, and I did legitimately laugh out loud more than a few times. I also greatly appreciated the film not even lasting ninety-minutes. It gets in and out as quickly as it can, though to be fair I think it could have used a little more fleshing out and perhaps five to ten more minutes in creating a much more fulfilled ending.
But the movie does lose me with some of its comedy. There’s watching people screw up for laughs and then there’s maybe overdoing it just a tad on making situations uncomfortable to watch. And at a certain point Robert’s strange relationship and idol-worship of Maher’s character started to feel like it was spinning its wheels and going nowhere. And in fact the final scene of the movie did leave me wanting, as if I had just seen a slightly unfinished product.
But I still did appreciate watching a coming-of-age film that was unlike the others of the subgenre, and the film did a great job in really making you feel as if you were right there with Robert - desperately trying to find a path to fast-track his dream even if it means putting himself in cringe situations. I’d say I’m pretty neutral on the movie once everything cancels itself out, and I would recommend this to only a certain type of movie fan with a certain type of comedic taste. There’s shades of a better film in this and I hope Kline fine-tunes and learns from any flaws in Funny Pages to give us an even better follow-up.
- Initial Grade: B/C