Week Ending 11/25/22
Get those Thanksgiving releases while they're hot!
My plan is to publish these on Fridays since that’s the day most new releases take over movie theater screens. Of course, my first weekly newsletter falls on an outlier to that pattern due to the Thanksgiving holiday. So, here we are: Wednesday.
So far things are looking good as far as viability. I’ve been in touch with publicists about screeners and all who’ve asked for an outlet have still given me access even when telling them I’ll probably only be doing a capsule review here. Rotten Tomatoes adding Hey, have you seen …? as an outlet definitely helps since studios really only care whether watching will equal another grade for the aggregate.
Here’s hoping the “What I Watched” section will grow as a result. Not that it will be a problem at this time of year with FYC screeners piling up in my inbox and on my porch for award voting consideration. I’ll have a ton of titles to keep busy this long weekend.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
What I Watched:
(now streaming on Disney+)
Let’s just say that it only took a minute or two before my partner asked if we should just shut it off (she eventually pivoted to “We should have shut it off” every half hour). Why? Because the opening animated device recapping everything that occurred in the first film seems never-ending in large part because it’s completely unnecessary (no one is watching the sequel without first seeing the original and being able to stream the former means you can also stream the latter since they're on the same platform).
We laughed in earnest a few times (Maya Rudolph gets to have fun every once in a while), but mostly in jest (like at the fact that James Marsden must have only had one day available, so the script planned accordingly—yet his character might still be more developed than Patrick Dempsey's Robert, who's left to his own devices far away from the main plot for the duration).
The music is forgettable (although Idina Menzel does get to finally sing). And there’s zero narrative propulsion to get us to care about anything that happens. We slog through exposition and more exposition, find the film didn’t know what to do with two villains beyond bask in its apparently intrinsic "boldness", and roll our eyes at SO. MANY. EASTER. EGGS. If nothing else, it proves just how great the original was. ENCHANTED's magic simply couldn't be replicated.
(now streaming on Shudder)
"Segan and Moroles excel at bringing heart (albeit jaded) to the whole. Because this isn't your usual master and sire relationship. This is deadbeat dad stepping up and rebellious teen doing all she can to ensure doing so won't be easy."
- Full review at The Film Stage.
EMILY THE CRIMINAL
(now on VOD/Digital HD)
With a Gotham and Indie Spirit nomination for Best Actress, seeing Aubrey Plaza's performance for myself meant I couldn't skip EMILY THE CRIMINAL this awards season. I'd say the acclaim is warranted as she's great in the role. You could say it's against type due to the film not being her usual comedic fare, but I'd argue she delivers the same trademarked headstrong, take no prisoners attitude regardless of genre. Her Emily is a woman being crushed by the patriarchy, capitalism, and feminism alike. So, why not take matters into her own hands?
Is it enough to squeak onto the Oscar shortlist? Probably not. But I would love to see it happen. That's the beauty of ceremonies like the Gothams and Spirits—they highlight the lesser known titles and get names into the conversation. If enough Academy members listen and watch, who knows?
As for the film: it's a solid feature debut from John Patton Ford. A bit overt in its messaging (having Emily's boss, Gina Gershon as a potential employer, and many other characters literally speaking aloud the themes their angrily superior ultimatums are meant to deliver as responses to Emily's justifiably angry incredulity is heavy-handed at best), I liked the parallel dramatic arcs pitting the lead's personal and professional awakenings (fueled by Theo Rossi and his Arabic accent—he's apparently part Syrian) together for a tense climax.
LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION - Season 2
(releasing weekly on Freevee/Prime)
Four episodes in and I've been entertained. Nothing to write home about since there's no real overarching plot to take stock in. So far it's just been con after con with some decent character development. No big bad a la Jack Latimer in season four of the original LEVERAGE run. No overt redemption arc a la Harry Wilson in season one of REDEMPTION. Easy, breezy, and, unfortunately, forgettable.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES - Season 1
(now streaming on Netflix)
I expected more from this. Anthology series are tough, though, especially those with multiple directors and no real through-line beyond the genre. I shouldn't have therefore been surprised at the mixed-bag result, but Guillermo del Toro's name has a tendency of influencing expectations for the better.
My faves: THE AUTOPSY, PICKMAN'S MODEL, and THE VIEWING. They're perhaps the most original three and the tightest since many of the others are simply way too long. THE MURMURING is good. THE OUTSIDE, DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE, and GRAVEYARD RATS are entertaining if mediocre. And LOT 36 proves to be the sole dud (despite a pretty cool creature).
THE WALKING DEAD - Series Finale
It's funny to think of this last episode as a series finale since THE WALKING DEAD's demise is really just making room for more programming. It's dying so AMC can better logistically handle the fan favorite characters' arcs separately while also, assumedly, making more money by having advertisers jump onto three shows instead of one.
As the end of the flagship, however, they did as well as you could expect. I pretty much checked out years ago, watching each new episode in the background during work to keep up with what was happening without devoting much energy. As such, I probably won't continue on with Maggie & Negan's adventures in DEAD CITY, Daryl's in the aptly named DARYL DIXON (now that Melissa McBride has bowed out), or Rick and Michonne's in, you guessed it, RICK & MICHONNE (please tell me these last two are pre-production "working" titles).
There are a couple deaths to keep things weighty by letting the living cry and mourn. The Pamela storyline completes (and the show's end hopefully means no one will have to watch her reform in captivity like Negan). And the fade to blacks and time skips give us that RETURN OF THE KING feel. Although I'd argue the first two-thirds of the episode are even more disjointed and scattershot with near-peril action scenes ending in mid-action before finding those characters safe and sound elsewhere later on. It's as though this was a three-hour finale whittled to one.
So, it is what it is. In the end, I had fun with the show. Those first few seasons were great. Losing Glenn sucked, but that loss and Negan's over-the-top villainy were a welcome injection of life for a little while until Carl's dying wish made everything slow to a crawl (I say that not to diminish Jeffrey Dean Morgan's subsequent performance since he does a great job).
It should have died long ago. And I'll be really surprised if the fan base remains big enough to sustain four spin-offs (FEAR THE WALKING DEAD continues) for more than a season each.
Cinematic F-Bomb -
Here’s a new one from THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT that I put together last week. (Substack apparently can’t handle an embedded gif, so you’ll have to click over for a smoother experience. Or see everything at cinematicfbombs.com.)
New Releases This Week:
(Review links where applicable)
Opening Buffalo-area theaters 11/23/22 -
BONES AND ALL at AMC Maple Ridge & Market Arcade; Regal Elmwood, Galleria, Transit, Niagara Falls & Quaker Crossing; Dipson Flix
DEVOTION at AMC Maple Ridge & Market Arcade; Regal Elmwood, Galleria, Transit, Niagara Falls & Quaker Crossing; Dipson Flix
THE FABELMANS at Dipson Amherst & Regal Quaker Crossing
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY at AMC Maple Ridge & Regal Quaker Crossing
"Despite GLASS ONION not being as smart as KNIVES OUT, it was definitely just as entertaining—if not more." - Full review at jaredmobarak.com.
STRANGE WORLD at AMC Maple Ridge & Market Arcade; Regal Elmwood, Galleria, Transit, Niagara Falls & Quaker Crossing; Dipson Flix
BHEDIYA at Regal Elmwood (starting 11/25/22)
Streaming from 11/23/22 -
GOOD NIGHT OPPY - Amazon Prime on 11/23
THE SWIMMERS - Netflix on 11/23
LOVE, LIZZO - HBO Max on 11/24
THE NOEL DIARY - Netflix on 11/24
FANTASY FOOTBALL - Paramount+ on 11/25
GHISLAINE MAXWELL: FILTHY RICH - Netflix on 11/25
THE LAST DOLPHIN KING - Netflix on 11/25
THE KINGDOM: EXODUS - “Halmar” - MUBI on 11/27
THE BALCONY MOVIE - MUBI on 11/30
THE LOST PATIENT - Netflix on 11/30
A MAN OF ACTION - Netflix on 11/30
MY NAME IS VENDETTA - Netflix on 11/30
TAKE YOUR PILLS: XANAX - Netflix on 11/30
THAT KIND OF SUMMER - MUBI on 12/1
THE MASKED SCAMMER - Netflix on 12/1
QALA - Netflix on 12/1
TROLL - Netflix on 12/1
A WOUNDED FAWN - Shudder on 12/1
“Stevens intentionally uses our expectations to surprise us with subversive twists when it comes to genre conventions.” - Full review at The Film Stage.
Now on VOD/Digital HD -
ARMAGEDDON TIME (11/22)
BLACK ADAM (11/22)
THE ESTATE (11/22)
HOLD ME TIGHT (11/22)
JUJUTSU KAISEN 0: THE MOVIE (11/22)
LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE (11/22)
“While everything you can probably guess early on does more or less come to fruition, it won't be entirely in the way you thought. Because karmic retribution can create as well as destroy.” - Full review at The Film Stage.
POKER FACE (11/22)
SKIES OF LEBANON (11/22)
“Rohrwacher is wonderful in that role, steadfast and determined regardless of whether Lebanon is her adopted home. Mouawad provides the stoicism and defeat of a man unsure about his identity.” - Full review at The Film Stage.
SOMETHING IN THE DIRT (11/22)
“It's a case where logistics seem to dictate content. The whole looks great and the acting is solid, though. Fans should have a good time.” - Full review at jaredmobarak.com.
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY (11/22)
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (11/22)
THE WOMAN KING (11/22)
“With great visuals and choreography making each battle a physically brutal dance, we get a sense of what these women are fighting for whether "each other" means the Agojie or Africa itself.” - Full review at jaredmobarak.com.
From the press kit archive:
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