Friday, January 12, 2024

Mean Girls

My View: Mean Girls (2024) PG-13   New student Cady (Angourie Rice) has it made! An elite group of popular girls called ‘The Plastics’ has welcomed her into the top of the social situation at her school. The Plastics are ruled by conniving queen bee Regina (Reneé Rapp), and she isn’t someone you want to cross. However, Cady makes a major mistake by falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron (Christopher Briney), and now she finds herself in Regina’s crosshairs. Can Cady survive the wrath of The Plastics and High School? This film suffers from what I call ‘The Broadway Bloat,’ when a musical has too many songs, some of which do absolutely nothing to progress the plot or give character insight. A good example is ‘Sexy,’ which Avantika sings at a Halloween party. It’s just a waste of screen time. The film also does a horrible job of making Renee Rapp stand out. Rapp played Regina in the 2nd year of the Broadway run, and I can see how she would dominate the stage with her presence, but with her two best songs, Someone Gets Hurt and World Burn, Rapp is second to the attempt to make the film look like a TikTok video. Having recently watched the 2004 film, I was stuck on what Tina Fey cut out of the film, including some fun jokes and funny sequences from the original. A perfect example of how badly shot the film is when Cady’s two best friends are watching a horror movie (one of the Friday the 13th films) on Halloween, when Cady, dressed as a zombie bride, walks in on the two. In the original film, Cady’s sudden appearance in the doorway scares them, right out of a horror movie. It’s a funny moment. In this version, the shot is so poorly done that it seems the film, not Cady’s sudden appearance scares the two. I also didn’t like the change of songs that the Plastics sing at the Winter Talent show. I loved in the original film how Cady saves the day by singing Jingle Bell Rock when the music starts skipping because of Gretchen’s stumble, which makes Cady the center of the spotlight and the hero. The song is different in the musical and the impact of what happens misses the mark on elevating Cady in the eyes of the audience. I will say the casting of Jenna Fisher as Cady’s mother was a brilliant move, as Angourie Rice looks and acts so much like Fisher that it’s uncanny. Overall, I came away from the film wanting more. I wanted it to be funnier, the songs to stand out more, and I wanted to go away from the film humming a song or two.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Mean Girls Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The BeeKeeper (2024) R   Clay’s (Jason Statham) world is rocked when his neighbor (Phylicia Rashad) is scammed by a phishing operation, which causes her financial ruin, and she takes her own life. Clay is about to get revenge for his neighbor because they don’t know who they messed with. Clay is a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as ‘Beekeepers.’ I saw three action films this week, and this is the only one that I had fun watching. It’s got all you want from a Statham film. Jason beats up and kills a bunch of bad guys, sometimes in very imaginative ways. Check! Jason is on the side of right vs wrong and he doesn’t care who he is taking on to get retribution. Check! Jason says a few lines commenting on how the over-confident bad guy will die. Check! Things blow up bigger than they should, and maybe even if they shouldn’t. Check! The Beekeeper is what I call a ‘stupid fun’ movie. It knows what it is and has fun with it. Statham, who has made an excellent living doing this kind of part, does his Statham thing and is serious throughout, even in the touching moments (there is one early on to show he has a heart). For a few minutes, I didn’t recognize Josh Hutcherson, who plays the main bad guy as the troubled son of a wealthy person. He is ok in the role, but to make up for that, we have Jeremy Irons chewing up scenery only like Jeremy can, as the bad guy’s head of security slash trouble fixer. Spoiler alert: if this is the box office, I think it will do; I can see this being a Statham series where he rights further wrongs for the weak and defenseless. How about The Beekeeper II: The Sting is back!?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Beekeeper Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The Book of Clarence (2023) PG-13  Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield) is a hustler whose days may be numbered because he owes money to a local mobster. A mobster who happens to have a sister that Clarence is in love with. Clarence notices his brother is doing well following a local Messiah named Jesus. Clarence claims he is also a Messiah, but soon discovers that life becomes very complicated when dealing with things like God. Like his western film, The Harder They Fall (2021), where he played off the Hollywood westerns of the 40s and 50s, filmmaker Jeymes Samuel takes on the classic Hollywood religious spectacles and gives it his unique spin. The result is a film that is engaging and sometimes hilarious but doesn’t always succeed in what Samuel is trying to do. LaKeith Stanfield is brilliant as Clarence, who is madly in love with local mobster Jedediah’s sister (played by Anna Diop). Clarence owes a lot of money to Jedediah (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) and spends most of his time early on in the film trying to find a way to raise the money while dodging Jedediah and his henchmen. There are some shout-outs to the classic religious films, including a rousing chariot race and a couple of scenes reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar. The film explores Christianity, the power of belief, and how we look for messiahs in times of strife. At its heart, the film is a journey of discovery and enlightenment. It just takes a long and winding road to find it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Book of Clarence Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Role Play (2023) R  Emma (Kaley Cuoco) is married to Dave (David Oyelowo), and they have a great life with two kids in the suburbs of New Jersey. Couples sometimes have a secret or two they keep from their loved ones. Emma’s secret is she is an assassin for hire and is wanted for murder…many murders. I am a fan of both Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo, so I was looking forward to this film, which looked like it would be a lot of fun—a sexy assassin living a double life as a housewife in the suburbs. The film starts with a nice encounter with a fellow killer, played by the always enjoyable and stylish Bill Nighy, who messes up Emma and Dave’s big night out on the town. Unfortunately, the film goes downhill from there. The film takes too long to reunite the couple once Emma’s cover has been blown and then there isn’t the fun or thrill that the encounter with Nighy’s character gave us. I wanted more of Oyelowo, as the mild-mannered husband, having to help Emma defeat the bad guys, but he mainly just reacts to his continual disbelief that his wife is a killer. Cuoco is fine as the assassin and does well in the action sequences, but the film doesn’t let her comedic talents come out at all. I think the film suffers from a villain, played by Connie Nelson, who doesn’t have the magnetic pull of Nighy’s bad guy from the early portion of the film.   My Rating: Cable  Role Play Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

My View: Lift (2024) PG-13   An Interpol agent named Abby (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her ex-boyfriend Cyrus (Kevin Hart), a renowned art thief, are teaming up to steal 500 million in gold bullion from an evil arms dealer (Jean Reno). The only problem is that they must steal it while transported on a 777-passenger flight. Lift is a film that aspires to be clever but keeps throwing tech stuff at you to show you how brilliant the film’s heroes are. I am not a fan of movies that keep something from you until the end, and this film does a poor job of just doing that. We know the good guys will win in the end, but the build-up takes too long to get there, and I was never clear on the heist’s details to begin with. Kevin Hart tries to play the suave thief who has one weakness: he is in love with the Interpol agent (Mbatha-Raw) who is trying to catch him. The plot is razor thin on how and why the gang has to help Interpol steal the gold and then even thinner when getting an internet billionaire to lend him his fancy jet to do the heist. I am guessing that it’s an inside joke that the ‘master of disguise’ character Denton, played by Vincent D’Onofrio (who seems like he has just woken up from a nap in every scene), has some of the worst disguises in the history of film. Lift is a film that wants to be clever and fun but instead feels as if the writer and director felt as if we keep throwing tech stuff at them, they won’t notice we don’t really have a plan.   My Rating: Cable  Lift Website  Now playing on Netflix.
My View:
Self Reliance (2023) R  Tommy (Jake Johnson) is a single guy who, right off the street, is given a chance to win a million dollars on a dark web internet program. He must stay alive for 30 days while a team of assassins try to kill him. His only way to stay alive is that they can only kill him when he is alone. Can he convince someone he just met, a woman named Maddy (Anna Kendrick), to stay with him 24 hours a day for a share of the prize? So if you were single and had a nowhere job, and Andy Samberg pulled up in a limo, invited you inside, and then said you could win a million dollars, would you? Even if it meant that you could die? And so starts Self Reliance, a film that Jake Johnson wrote, directed, and stars in. I wanted to like this movie, but it never pushes the boundaries of comedy or drama far enough into absurdity for it to be interesting for the entire hour and twenty-five minutes. There is a great bit early on when none of his family believes his story, and for most of the film, we go back and forth on whether we think this is real or some psychotic episode that Tommy is having. Adding Maddy into the game mix was a fine addition, but that storyline gets lost when Tommy pushes things too far. I would have loved Anna Kendrick to have gone on some of Tommy’s adventures with him. Kendrick plays off of Johnson well, and she could have helped take the film over the top. Self Reliance has some funny moments, but it could have been more, with an ending feels rushed and dwindles away. I wish the film had gone all out, either darker or more absurd. Overall, I look forward to seeing what Jake Johnson can develop next, just let it go further.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Self Reliance Website  Now playing on Hulu. 

Forgotten Film: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010) PG-13  Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a high-school student who is infatuated with his best friend’s girl and can’t focus on his schoolwork. Depressed and suicidal, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward. The juvenile side is full, so he gets stuck in the adult ward, where he makes friends with Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who takes Craig under his wing. Along the way, Craig meets Noel (Emma Roberts), who just might solve all of his problems, or at least that unrequited crush. The film has a wonderful cast that includes Zoë Kravitz, Jim Gaffigan, Lauren Graham, and Thomas Mann. Gilchrist is perfect in the role of the teen who is cracking under the pressure of high school and high expectations, and Galifianakis is fun as his guide to survive the psych ward. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a warm-hearted film that didn’t deserve to get lost, and Emma Roberts shows why she was destined for stardom.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  It's Kind of a Funny Story Info  Available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV+.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Mean Girls: Math Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Madame Web (2024) Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a NYC paramedic who develops clairvoyant powers and repeatedly crosses paths with three young women (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor). Cassandra realizes these women must be protected at all costs because they are destined to become super-heroes. The film is being promoted as a stand-alone film in the Marvel Universe. I have become a fan of Dakota Johnson after trying to forget those Fifty Shades films, so I look forward to this one.  Madame Web Website   The film will be released on February 14, 2024. 

Until Next Time!

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