“Fall” (Thriller: 1 hour, 47 minutes)
Starring: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Director: Scott Mann
Rated: PG-13 (Strong language, bloody images and intense peril)
Movie Review: Just because something is there does not mean you need to climb it. The moral of this story is friends should never force friends to do something they do not want to do and friends should never allow peer pressure to persuade one into doing something stupid. Now having read this public announcement, “Fall” creates the perfect thriller because of friends doing stupid actions.
After the death of her husband, Becky (Currey) has become a reclusive individual avoiding her father (Morgan). Enter her best friend, Hunter (Gardner), who talks Becky into climbing a 2000-foot radio tower. Once there, disasters happen, leaving them atop the tall structure.
This is a survival thriller and it thrills. Mainly, this exists because the movie causes anxiety. It’s not the movie for those afraid of high places. The visualizations are good enough that one feels far from terra firma. The characters appear as if they are on a floating needle, and the ground is a foreign place.
The characters learn more about each other while trapped on a small platform. Too bad, they did not realize they cannot fly. Jokes aside, their predicament provides good entertainment. It offers a good anxiety-filled narrative directed by Scott Mann (“Heist,” 2015).
Grade: B (Fall for this soon.)
“Vengeance” (Drama/Comedy: 1 hour, 47 minutes)
Starring: BJ Novak, Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher and Boyd Holbrook
Director: BJ Novak
Rated: R (Violence and strong language)
Movie Review: Actor-writer BJ Novak creates cunning dark comedy for his directorial debut. Novak’s script could use some fine-tuning, especially at its start, but it manages to offer a candid gaze at the opioid crisis in the United States.
Novak plays Ben Manalowitz, a journalist and podcaster for The New Yorker. He travels from New York City to Abilene, Texas. There, he attends the funeral of Abby Shaw, a former casual fling who died of a drug overdose. Abby’s family believes Ben and Abby were a couple. After the funeral, Ty Shaw (Holbrook), Abby’s brother, reveals he invited Ben to Texas to help the family find those responsible for his sister’s death. The Shaw Family Wants Vengeance.
“Vengeance” starts clumsily but it quickly becomes a very engaging movie after about 35 minutes pass. It does this by exploring opioid addiction in the United States and regional cultural differences in the United States.
Novak manages to act and direct. He does so effectively that “Vengeance” becomes better as it progresses. The cast intrigues as much as they irritate but Ashton Kutcher surprises as a small city record producer. His character, Quentin Sellers, is shady as he is charismatic.
Actor-writer BJ Novak (“The Office”) makes his directorial debut with “Vengeance.” Although a dark comedy, Novak takes a very serious observation of this country’s opioid crisis. He does so, by exploring the differences between people in Texas and those in New York. The contrast works with gratifying humor.
Grade: B (A worthy reward.)
“DC League of Super Pets” (Animation/Action: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Kate McKinnon
Directors: Jared Stern and Sam Levine
Rated: PG-13 (Action violence, crude humor and language)
Movie Review: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are quickly becoming the new odd couple for comedy, in much the same way Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau became opposites in “The Odd Couple” (Gene Saks, 1968), which was based on Neil Simon’s 1965 play.
Here, they play dogs that are part of a superhero team of pets. Even animated, the acting duo provides laughs commensurate with their personalities and acting styles. They and the talents of other big names of this cast provide good adequate entertainment.
Johnson plays Krypto the Super-Dog, the canine of Superman. Hart is Ace, the hound leader of a rag-tag group of animals in an animal shelter. PB the potbellied pig (Vanessa Bayer), Merton the turtle (Natasha Lyonne) and Chip the squirrel (Diego Luna). Krypto must work with the sheltered animals who are still developing their newfound super abilities to rescue the human members of the Justice League from Lulu the guinea pig (McKinnon).
Like many of the DC superhero flicks, “Super Pets” is nowhere near super. It does, however, provide entertainment for families looking to escape the heat of summer. It is also enjoyable for those who like pets, especially dogs. What scores nicely are the mixture of characters and their vocals by big talents such as Keanu Reeves, John Krasinski, Olivia Wilde and others.
Grade: B- (Not super but good enough.)
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” (Animation/Comedy/Family: 1 hour, 30 minutes)
Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp and Isabella Rossellini
Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Rated: PG (Some suggestive material and thematic elements)
Movie Review: A touching tribute to humanity is the observation through the eyes of Marcel (comedian-writer Slate), a mollusk living with his grandmother, Connie (Rossellini), and their pet lint, Alan. They live in an Airbnb house currently rented by Dean (Fleischer-Camp), who encounters Marcel and begins filming the anthropomorphic seashell’s daily life in the house.
Comedy and keen insight into humanity are present with a nice screenplay by writers Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp and Nick Paley. This by evident by Marcel’s words when asked what a documentary is. Marcel answers, “A documentary is like a movie, but nobody has any lines, and nobody even knows what it is while they’re making it.”
That line naturally causes laughter because of the nonchalant manner Slate utters the line voicing Marcel.
Even more, Fleischer-Camp’s style works here. Direction for short films and television documentaries has been the bulk of his career. His past resume entries work to make “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a well-done family movie that is emotive as it is comical. Fleischer-Camp makes Marcel an interesting character study.
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is a mockumentary. It is a faux documentary that is a stop-animation family comedy. This screenplay is a follow-up adaptation to short films (2010, 2011) entitled the same. It puts Marcel and his grandmother in a live-action world — one where “60 Minutes” anchor Leslie Stahl interviews the shell wearing shoes.
Marcel is a seashell with a googly eye and outfitted with a pair of miniature shoes, yet the diminutive being manages to inspire humor, love and adventures. The acting through this animated character is better than many cast members in other, non-animated movies. Jenny Slate voices the character in an affecting high-pitched but agreeable manner. She delivers a genuine voice that soothes and promotes Marcel as a tangible creature.
Marcel has feelings, desires and strong opinions about life. Roasting a dog for barking at the same thing often, Marcel quips, “What a sad type of idiot.” His lines cause laughter because the truth within comedy is addictively revealing.
Hats off to Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp and the cast and crew for this brilliant family photoplay that inspires with good comical lines and endearing characters. If you want an inspiring movie that leaves you refreshed, put on your shoes and go see “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”
Grade: A (Marcel is adorable.)
“Easter Sunday” (Comedy: 1 hour, 36 minutes)
Starring: Jo Koy, Eugene Cordero, Tia Carrere, Brandon Wardell and Lydia Gaston
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Rated: PG-13 (Some strong language, violence and suggestive material)
Movie Review: Sometimes, a movie is bad to the point it becomes comically engaging. This is the case with “Easter Sunday.” It debuted in August, which is not the traditional month for what should be Christianity’s holiest day. Yet, this comedy creates a comedy around the holiday.
A mostly Filipino-American cast led by comedian Jo Koy, playing Joe Valencia, gathers for Easter Sunday. However, family secrets, family arguments and dangerous encounters jeopardize the lead-up to the day’s main dinner event.
At the heart of the movie exists a nice message about the love of one’s family. Its shows a family that remains intact despite individual flaws. This is the good part of the movie.
The bad part is the jokes that fall flat at the beginning of this movie. Similarly, some become repetitive to the point they make this movie predictable.
Despite that, Jo Koy and the cast make this interesting enough that one can easily sit through it and just enjoy the shenanigans. It has a weak start but gains strength during its latter half.
Grade: B- (Not the best holiday movie, but it contains comical family hijinks.)
“Bullet Train” (Action/Mystery/Comedy: 2 hours, 07 minutes)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Joey King and Sandra Bullock
Director: David Leitch
Rated: R (Strong violence, pervasive language)
Movie Review: Much happens via multiple sub-stories during this movie and it’s all fun. As the title suggests, this movie’s setting is a Shinkansen, a bullet train, in Japan. It features several characters on that train, including Brad Pitt’s Ladybug, who are assassins for hire. They all discover they are all pursuing the same objective, a highly sought-after briefcase.
“Bullet Train” is an adaptation of Kotaro Isaka’s 2010 novel “Maria Beetle.” This tries to incorporate too much from its source while packing as much graphic violence as possible.
Director David Leitch is no beginner when it comes to violent action movies. He directed “Deadpool 2” (2018) and “Atomic Blonde” (2017). He and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz have an abundance of characters and sub-stories in their screenplay. They attempt to make every persona via relevant backstories. The diversions are intriguing concepts on their own but distract from the good comedy and action scenes that make up the main story.
Still, the action sequences are bold and very enjoyable scenes. The characters are richly engaging. Brad Pitt is at the top of his game with action sequences and humorous quips. He’s part of a large cast. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and Joey King are especially fascinating personalities as they are violent.
Moviegoers who appreciate the action genre will not be disappointed. “Bullet Train” has a lot happening but one can never cite it for being boring.
Grade: B- (All aboard for fast and furious entertainment.)
“Mack & Rita” (Comedy/Fantasy: 1 hour, 34 minutes)
Starring: Diane Keaton, Elizabeth Lail, Taylor Paige and Dustin Milligan
Director: Katie Aselton
Rated: PG-13 (Language, drug use and sexual references)
Movie Review: “Mack & Rita” appears like one of those 1970s and 1980s fantasy movies such as “Freaky Friday” (1976), “Big” (1988) and “Teen Witch” (Dorian Walker, 1989). However, “Rita & Mack” is nowhere as endearing.
A 30-year-old Mackenzie “Mack” Martin is a writer who rarely gets out to have fun. While at the bridal get-together for her longtime friend, Carla (Paige), Mack leaves the group to try a contraption of sideshow tent operator Luka (Simon Rex). When Mack exits the machine, she is now a woman aged 70 who disguises herself as Mack’s Aunt Rita (Keaton).
“Mack & Rita” is a temporary break from reality but this lite “Golden Girls” screenplay never manages enough of a solid plot that the younger and older versions of Mack can score. The older version of the same woman is much more interesting but seems an all-too-familiar role for Oscar recipient Keaton as an eccentric and free-spirited woman.
Grade: C (Neither woman can save this dichotomy.)
Adann-Kennn Alexxandar has been reviewing movies for more than 20 years in South Georgia.