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Quick Reviews: Week Of 09.16.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Latest Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 09.16.2022 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.
- Plot: After narrowly surviving a massive heart attack, Randal enlists his old friend Dante to help him make a movie immortalizing their youthful days at the little convenience store that started it all.
- Review: Admittedly I have never gotten around to watching the Clerks films until the day I went to my local theatre to go see the latest (and likely final) installment of this trilogy. And now having seen this final addition to the franchise, I would HIGHLY recommend you watch the previous two movies before seeing this one. Because this film may just be the most meta sequel in the history of cinema; and to fully grasp and enjoy it you absolutely should watch the first two installments to warm yourself up for Clerks III.
Every major player from the previous two films has returned. Brian O'Halloran as Dante, Jeff Anderson as Randal, Jason Mewes and Director Kevin Smith as the cornerstone characters of Smith’s little movie universe Jay and Silent Bob, Trevor Fehrman as Elias, and even Rosario Dawson’s character from the second film returns in this. But they are just the tip of the iceberg, because literally almost everyone from the previous two films including the one scene side characters from the very first movie all now aged nearly three decades older come back in this including Marilyn Ghigliotti’s Veronica from the first movie. And if that didn’t make this nostalgia-infused enough, the film’s main plotline is literally them shooting the first movie.
Each of this trilogy’s installments have their strengths and weaknesses that cancel each other out to make them (In my opinion at least) serviceable and enjoyable, decent watches. In this film the strength comes from the movie embracing the nostalgia and meta, plus the fact it is self-aware that this will be the final movie. All of these kooky characters' arcs come to what I thought were fulfilling enough ends. Even the annoying Randal has some growth in this, and O’Halloran actually pulls off some serious and emotional moments for Dante who is going through lingering trauma of a major tragedy in the midst of all the jokes about “dicks and weed”.
The movie’s weakness comes from its niche comedy which won’t be for everyone, the line delivery as always with these films can be iffy, and I did think it relied too heavily on some celebrity cameos that took me out of the film more than a few times. I also got the sense some of the production was rushed and the cinematography felt off to me in a way.
But where this movie earned its B-tier grade from me was in the final act. Here the movie pulls off what has become a major trope for the final films of franchises these days, but it executes it in such a beautiful way that I found myself actually emotionally moved in how it all wrapped up. This was Smith’s baby looking at itself in the mirror and coming to peace with what it is and who these characters are. If you’re a major fan of these movies, it would be worth your time to catch this if its playing at a theatre near you. Its a cathartic experience that brings a trilogy full-circle in ways other more big studio trilogies have struggled to pull off.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: A dethroned “Queen Bee” at a posh private high school strikes a secret deal with an unassuming new student to enact revenge on one another’s enemies.
- Review: I thought we were beyond having adults play teens in high schools, or depicting those high school kids as drug taking sex-crazed maniacs who hold super expensive parties with no parents to be seen anywhere; but apparently we’re not and its what we get from Netflix’s Do Revenge directed and written by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, someone who co-wrote one of my favorites from earlier in the year in Thor: Love And Thunder.
With a twenty eight-year-old Camila Mendes and a twenty four-year-old Maya Hawke playing our co-leads of High School seniors Drea and Eleanor, and a twenty six-year-old Austin Abrams playing the main antagonist in a classmate of theirs Max, I found myself laughing at the casting choices for this more so than the actual comedic attempts in the movie. There’s also turns here with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the school headmaster in a role that I didn’t feel she pulled off, and Sophie Turner makes two cameos that felt pointless - was she called in as a favor for someone producing this movie or something?
The entire thing feels vapid beyond belief for me, with characters that are written in such a way I couldn’t find one to care about or even buy realistically. I’m not blind to high school students taking part in sex and drugs but watching how Robinson wrote these kids you’d think she was attempting to replicate Euphoria rather than make a smart teen comedy.
The worst part is even with such bad character writing and no jokes landing with me, the movie couldn’t help itself but be incredibly predictable and stereotypical with each of its story beats as well. That is save for one major twist that gets us into the third act that blew me away and ALMOST made me start to turn for this movie (And the sole reason I’m not going to give this a D-tier grade) only for the writing to back away and do nothing of note with that twist that greatly changes the story in any way. Its a wasted use of what was genius writing we got for that one reveal scene.
I found this unfunny, predictable, unremarkable, cringe, vapid, and filled with unlikable characters. I seem to be in the minority on this one, but if you’re asking me I’d stay away from Do Revenge because I sure wished I did.
- Initial Grade: C-
- Plot: Trapped on her family’s isolated farm, Pearl must tend to her ailing father under the bitter and overbearing watch of her devout mother. Lusting for a glamorous life like she’s seen in the movies, Pearl’s ambitions, temptations, and repressions all collide.
- Review: Earlier this year A24 delivered to us Ti West’s tribute to classic seventies slasher horror with X, and just months later he delivers a prequel for that highly acclaimed film in Pearl. Admittedly while I generally liked X, I also felt a bit underwhelmed by it compared to the hype around the film. However with Pearl, while I would put it in about the same tier as its predecessor, I think we get a superior slow burn horror flick that allows an amazing lead performance, great direction and editing, and amazing crafts to elevate it as something that will end up making others’ “Best of the Year” list.
Ti West is on his A game here. His direction really stands out and coupled with his editing and the great cinematography that allows this movie to be one of the prettiest looking of the year, you get some great looking and impressive shots that enhances every story beat. The costumes, the production design, and even the gore effects all shine to make the crafts around this movie standout as the best I’ve seen from a horror film in some time. And the cherry on top is the score which has an outside shot at being in my personal top five of the year.
I also thought the character writing was more solid here than with X which featured characters I struggled to care about. Even though I knew things were not going to end well in this origins story, I still found myself invested in the drama between the characters and the dynamics between them - especially Pearl and her mother’s less than great relationship.
But the MVP of this entire project is Mia Goth who in X played the “final girl” Maxine (Who will be returning for a sequel) and was in makeup to play the more elderly version of Pearl. She returns here as the title character and has a performance that in a more fair world would honestly be up for a potential Oscars nomination. I actually felt myself seeing some things from her point of view and felt sorry for her even though we all know where her character’s arc is headed.
However I will make some nit-picks. While I appreciate the slow burn nature of the movie, I also feel like the pacing made the movie feel a little longer than it should have. I also question how re-watchable this is going to be for me. As much as I loved the crafts and Goth’s performances, I’m not so sure I’m rushing to want to return to this dark tale too quickly.
However if you are the most hardcore of horror movie fans or you’re a major champion for X, this is a perfect film to go catch at the local theatre. Ti West is really building a potential new classic and beloved horror franchise all by himself and he’s getting more hits than misses so far.
- Initial Grade: B-
SEE HOW THEY RUN
- Plot: In the West End of fifties London, plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after a pivotal member of the crew is murdered. When world-weary Inspector Stoppard and eager rookie Constable Stalker take on the case, the two find themselves thrown into a puzzling whodunit within the glamorously sordid theater underground, investigating the mysterious homicide at their own peril.
- Review: The whodunit is one of the most trusty subgenres to hook audiences with and when you add comedy and two big name actors playing off each other as co-leads, you get a recipe for a fun movie that features an impressive ensemble of real-life characters from the fifties.
See How They Run has been adapted on several occasions through various mediums of storytelling. This 2022 film version doesn’t stick to the source material much and instead embraces the fourth wall with inside jokes about itself and the subgenre of whodunits.
During the first half of the film I found myself laughing more than a few times and loving the chemistry between Sam Rockwell’s Inspector Stoppard (Who actually nails a pretty good and consistent English accent in this) and Saoirse Ronan’s Constable Stalker. The audience I watched it with seemed to be having a great time as the mystery was unraveling and the two protagonists started to slowly warm up to one another.
The problem comes in the second half when the fourth wall, inside-jokes start to become more of a hinderance than clever writing and when the story decides to basically take the two leads away from each other to meander around some subplot that feels like the film is wasting its time trying to distract the viewer. Capped off by a finale that felt a bit rushed and messy in how it comes together. I don’t think its a coincidence that my audience had much less of a reaction when the film loses its charms in the second half.
But overall if you’re a sucker for whodunits or just want to have some light comedic comfort food, this wouldn’t be too bad a watch at the local movie theatre. It gets the job done. Its just a shame that it loses some major momentum in the back half versus the way it sets things up.
- Initial Grade: B-
THE WOMAN KING
- Plot: The story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the eighteen-hundreds with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen, and General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
- Review: When it comes to action blockbusters and historical epics that have nothing to do with superhero fare or just any known IP in general, we have to appreciate the few we still get with each passing year. The kind of movies that used to be automatic money-makers but now have to battle it out for attention with streaming services that keep people home and giant event films that have some folks saving up their dollars for those films’ tickets instead. But of course the quality of such a film is key, it should earn that kind of attention and admiration because its actually good - and I’m happy to say The Woman King does.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and starring an ensemble that includes - Viola Davis in a powerful performance as General Nanisca; The revelation that is Thuso Mbedu as the newest addition to the Agojie, Nawi; The rising Lashana Lynch as Izogie; The award winning Sheila Atim as Amenza; John Boyega as King Ghezo in a performance where the young thirty year old actor is able to command respect; Jordan Bolger as Nawi’s love interest, Malik; among a host of others. This entire cast from top to bottom elevate this film into becoming something special and bringing life to a long list of characters in a way other films with large casts find hard to pull off.
And make no mistake this is an epic. It feels like something that is in the same vein as a folk tale (Though it is inspired by real-life history) every bit as it does an action film. There were times that the story even gave me, dare I say, Kurosawa vibes. And its got some impressive action scenes that needed little visual effects.
And for any fellas’ out there that fear this film will be very one-dimensional in the reversed gender roles, I can assure you this is by no means one of those lazily written films. Make no doubt about it this is a movie about sisterhood and female empowerment, but its not written in a way to make it inaccessible for the dudes. Guys can enjoy this for the great story and action every bit as the gals can enjoy seeing fellow women kick ass and be their own heroes on screen.
There are however two major gripes I have with this movie that keep it from going into that A-tier, nominee to make my “Best of the Year” list, level. One is the romantic subplot in this that ultimately felt kind of hollow and forced to me, and keep in mind dear reader that as you should know by now I don’t mind romance in film, but this felt like it could have been cut out of the script altogether.
Then there’s the length of the movie. At two hours and fifteen minutes its shorter than other epics and event films we’ve gotten of late but I could really feel the length watching it. I found myself surprised when I looked at my watch and realized we were just an hour in when it felt like ninety minutes had passed. I could see scenes here or there that I think could have been cut for time and made the overall story stronger, and one of the biggest examples of that is the finale in which the movie seems unable to make up its mind on what the last shot will be.
But overall this is a solid action blockbuster that plays like an epic tale that touches on themes of sisterhood, female empowerment, coming of age, fighting for your community, and coming to terms with your past. This is the definition of the kind of movies we should be seeing more from Hollywood’s big studios. You can go ahead and crown this as worthy watch.
- Initial Grade: B+