The third film in a franchise that began with the television series of the same name that first premiered in 1976, Charlie’s Angels is a fairly typical action Hollywood Blockbuster with some entertaining moments that is above average at best and did exceed my low expectations. Like the television series and the movies, the story revolves around a group of female spies working for the secret organization known as the Townsend Agency that is comprised of all female agents under the leadership of several individuals referred to as Bosleys. We first meet Angels Sabina, played by Kristen Stewart, and Jane, played by Ella Balinska, on a mission in Rio de Janeiro for the high-level operative John Bosley, played by Patrick Stewart, who is the original Bosley working for Townsend and is about to retire. A year later, they find themselves in London to investigate a new powerful technology developed by a large tech conglomerate owned by billionaire Alexander Brock, played by Sam Claflin, after it is brought to their attention by a brilliant programmer named Elena, played by Naomi Scott. The sometimes wild and terrifically smart Sabina and the beautiful former MI6 agent Jane are told to protect Elena who has knowledge that the technology she helped develop could be used as a deadly weapon if in the wrong hands. Eventually, the agents now working directly under Rebekah Bosley, played by Elizabeth Banks who also directed the film, are led to Istanbul to track down the devices that have been stolen by criminals and people working for Brock. Coming to be trusted by the Angels and Rebekah, Elena is recruited to become a Charlie’s Angel. The movie follows very much the formula of a light-hearted comedy action flick in that it is full of intense fight sequences, lots of plot twists, and fun and silly banter between the characters. Overall, I found it to be a mildly entertaining film that had its moments of thrills and laughter but with a feminist twist through the empowering portrayal of women secret agents taking down the bad guys. It was definitely not one of the best action comedies, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much better it was than what the promotional materials led the viewer to believe.
Written and directed by critically acclaimed New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi best known for 2016’s The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit is a terrifically well-made comedy drama that has the unusual premise of satirizing the Nazis to provide a powerful message about hatred while also being highly entertaining as a result of its very irreverent humor. The plot follows a ten-year-old boy living in Nazi Germany during World War II named Johannes ‘Jojo’ Betzler, played by the talented young British actor Roman Griffin Davis, who is a fervent follower of the Nazis and happens to have Adolf Hitler, played by the brilliantly funny Taika Waititi, as his imaginary friend. Jojo and his best friend Yorki are active members of the Hitler Youth under the local leadership of the foolish Captain Klenzendorf, played by Oscar winner Sam Rockwell. Often at the disgust of the imaginary Hitler, Jojo has to deal with his secretively anti-Nazi single mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson, who we eventually learn is hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa, played by the acclaimed young New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie. When he first discovers her, Jojo has great disdain for Elsa because of his fervent Nazi beliefs, but, over time, they strike up a friendship with Jojo’s understanding that it could help him learn about the so-called Jewish enemy. He often fights with the childish and ridiculous imagination of Hitler who somewhat uncomfortably becomes the comic relief of the movie, and they obviously disagree about befriending a Jew. In addition to the main characters, the film’s comedic nature is greatly assisted by a cast of rather buffoonish characters played by such highly talented actors as Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, and Alfie Allen. Despite all the preposterous shenanigans and over-the-top satirical portrayal of the Nazis, the film ends on a positive and important note by showing how someone so indoctrinated by hate like Jojo can come around to despise his previous actions and beliefs by simply getting to know the supposed enemy of Nazi Germany, Elsa as a Jewish girl. Overall, despite the fact that the movie is not for everyone as a result of its comedic depiction of the Nazis, I found it to be one of the more entertaining and incisive satires as a result of its terrific acting and very creative and irreverent script.
Winner of the highest award the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Parasite is a brilliant dark satirical drama that reaches the heights of filmmaking as a result of the truly extraordinary craft of the Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho who is already critically acclaimed for 2013’s Snowpiercer and 2017’s Okja. The film follows a poor working-class family living in a decrepit basement apartment in South Korea who are unable to find work, but, eventually, come up with a fraudulent plan to get themselves all employed at the residence of the wealthy Park family. The son decides to pretend to be a English tutor after his friend must take a leave from the job tutoring the high school daughter of the Parks. After his plan works, his family devises a plan to trick the extremely gullible mother of the extremely wealthy family to hire his sister as an art tutor, his father as a driver, and his mother as the housekeeper. In rather absurd fashion, all of the previous employees need to be replaced as a result of the lower class family’s shenanigans. Everything goes according to plan for a majority of the film until a rather shocking twist takes place in which the conniving family is put in jeopardy and could be caught by the Park family. The true artistry of the film is the filmmaker’s effective ability to mix satire and the twisted dark parts of the movie with the very dramatic and tragic elements of what impoverished families must struggle with on a daily basis. Overall, the movie is a cinematic masterpiece that takes a scalpel to better understand the deep wound of income inequalities that take place even in today’s modern society and does so by presenting a highly entertaining story that is both darkly humorous and painfully sad. Even if you do not usually enjoy subtitled foreign language films, I would still highly recommended seeing this movie for its mesmerizing use of cinema to tell a truly important story.
The follow-up movie to the 2009 movie Zombieland also directed by Ruben Fleischer, Zombieland: Double Tap is an over-the-top zombie comedy that relies on ridiculous graphic violence and absurd and often sarcastic humor, all revolving around a zombie apocalypse that has overtaken the United States. The plot follows the original cast of characters, including the tough and gun-obsessed Tallahassee who is played by Woody Harrelson, the talkative and smart Columbus who is played by Jesse Eisenberg, the sarcastic and female leader of the group Wichita who is played by Emma Stone, and the younger and rebellious Little Rock who is played by Abigail Breslin. Taking place ten years after the original, the group comprised of some rather difficult personalities find themselves in a relatively easy life of fending off weak zombies while living at the White House. Little Rock is obviously getting anxious and eventually sets out on a plan to escape the father-figure of Tallahassee and leave the group with her sister Wichita. Columbus is very much in love with Wichita and so decides to go with Tallahassee to try and bring back Wichita and her sister out of the dangers of the zombie-infested country. They eventually end up meeting up with a very attractive but dumb young woman named Madison, played by Zoey Deutch, and take her on the adventure to find Wichita and Little Rock who they discover are headed to Elvis Presley’s home Graceland in Memphis. Over the course of their cross country road trip, the group discovers that there is a new breed of super zombies who are much harder to kill. In one particularly funny sequence, Tallahassee and Columbus encounter a duo of fellow zombie killers who have a uncanny resemblance to them and are played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Over the course of the movie, there are quite a few moments of rather gratuitous violence as the characters come up with creative and grotesque ways of killing the zombies. The wicked sarcasm and funny banter between the characters definitely help make the movie more than just your regular zombie apocalypse action flick rather becomes more of a absurdist comedy. Overall, I found it to be a fairly entertaining film that is definitely not for everybody, especially those who are squeamish around violence, but it does add an interesting component to the overused zombie genre.
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria best known for 2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Hustlers is a surprisingly smart and entertaining movie for having a plot revolving around New York City strippers and is remarkable for undoubtedly the best performance ever given by Jennifer Lopez. Based on a real life story, the narrative is primarily told by a former stripper named Destiny, played by Constance Wu best known for her role in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, to a journalist, played by Julia Stiles. In a series of elongated flashbacks, Destiny first enters the world of stripping in 2007 as a means of financially supporting her grandmother but soon begins to want more money to live a more luxurious lifestyle. She meets a older yet extremely popular stripper named Ramona, played by the terrific Jennifer Lopez, who teaches her how to pole dance and the tricks of getting the most money from the male clientele. After the financial crisis only a year later, Destiny and Ramona part ways, with both women in financial distress due to the decreasing number of strip club attendance. Eventually, Destiny returns to stripping and teams up with Ramona once again but this time with a illegal scheme to steal money from their wealthy patrons. Two other strippers are also enlisted in the fraud in which they go to bars and restaurants to attract wealthy men and take them to the strip club where the women max out their credit cards. They are able to to get away with the scam because they drug the targets so they do not realize what is happening and lose memory of the events the next day. Over time, Ramona gets reckless in order to make even more money and ultimately gets her in trouble and harms her close relationship with Destiny. Yes, the film is visually dazzling as a result of the stylish and provocative strip clubs sequences, but there is unexpected depth to the storyline that explores the complex dynamics between stripper and patron. It also touches on the subject of wealth inequality in that the financially desperate protagonists decide to take advantage of mostly Wall Street wealthy patrons who only see the women as a means for their sexual gratification. Overall, I found it to be a terrific film, filled with powerful acting, that is able to tell a truly unique and nuanced story about a group of strippers taking control of their lives by using an an illicit scheme.
Produced by comedian Seth Rogen and his producing partner Evan Goldberg, Good Boys is a well-done vulgar comedy that can be best described as a tween version of the 2007 comedy Superbad because it follows a group of adolescent boys going on ridiculous and cringe-worthy adventures involving very inappropriate subject matter, primarily of a sexual nature. The main characters are three sixth graders comprising of a relatively shy Max, played by Jacob Tremblay best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 2015 movie Room, wannabe singer and bad boy Thor, played by Brady Noon, and mama’s boy Lucas, played by Keith L. Williams. Their R-rated exploits begin with Max’s desire to attend a party hosted by the popular kids so that he can kiss his crush. Leading up to this anticipated party, the boys end up encountering high school girls looking for drugs and stealing alcohol while in pursuit of replacing a destroyed drone owned by Max’s father, played by Will Forte. Rather ironically, the actors who will obviously go on to promising acting careers would never be allowed to see the actual movie that they are stars in as a result of the risque material. Also, to my great surprise, there was actually a good message contained within the film: the special power of friendships and how such friendships evolve over the years as a result of the normal process of growing up. Even though close friends may grow apart, the bond they had at one time will always be a part of their lives and will help shape future good memories. Overall, it is definitely a movie that is not for everyone as a result of its ribald nature involving children, but it is a very entertaining and hilarious look at the things that a group of young boys experience as friends, albeit in an over-the-top fashion.
Written and directed by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo in his feature film directorial debut, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a hilarious comedy that has a surprisingly amount of dramatic depth as a result of its inspirational story of a young single woman living in New York City who decides to take on her overweight body by challenging herself to running the New York City marathon. Based on a true story, Brittany, played by the very talented and funny Jillian Bell, feels like she is at a crossroads in our life with the perception that all in her life is lost and she will forever remain without a boyfriend and with a severe lack of self confidence. After a doctor’s visit in which she is told that she must lose weight for her health, she joins a running group along with a recently divorced middle-aged woman and a out-of-shape thirtysomething gay father. Although they have almost always got along ever since becoming roommates, Brittany begins to have tension with her best friend roommate who is a skinny popular Asian girl with a good-looking boyfriend. The only place Brittany can find solace is when she is with her running friends who seem to understand what she is going through. With her newfound confidence, she also takes a new job as a housesitter for a wealthy couple where she meets the rather eccentric loud-mouthed Jern. Britney and her new lazy coworker have an unusual relationship that makes for some very funny moments between the two obviously talented comedians. Towards the end of the movie, Brittany does go through a depressed phase in which she thinks the marathon is hopeless and moves in with her sister and very loving brother-in-law back home in Philadelphia to distance herself from New York and her new friends. Overall, I found it to be a quite inspiring story of a person overcoming her own struggles in life in order to pursue a truly amazing achievement. However, it is not the sort of movie that is depressing and overly dramatic but rather engages the audience through its very entertaining comedy.
Directed by British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha best known for 2003’s Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light is a feel-good comedy drama that revolves around a story of a young British Pakistani living in an economically depressed town in England with his conservative Muslim family and is inspired by a real-life individual with similar circumstances. The protagonist feels very isolated from the rest of the English community that often bullies him for his ethnicity and has no creative or social outlet for his insecurities and desire to break away from his strict family life. After a chance encounter with a fellow British Pakistani at his school, Javed Khan, played by Viveik Kalra, the music of Bruce Springsteen whose lyrics closely resemble what he is feeling in his own life and feels inspired to spread the music of Bruce Springsteen whose popularity peaked several years prior. Set in the 1980s as a economic downturn greatly affects Great Britain, the film encapsulates the feeling of anxiety across the United Kingdom, especially with immigrants and the rise of the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The movie is full of funny moments in which Javed’s sheer enthusiasm for Springsteen takes over parts of his life. The filmmaker also makes the creative and effective decision to superimpose the real lyrics of Bruce Springsteen as Javed is listening to the music on his Walkman. But, the movie is primarily a wonderfully uplifting story of a young man who is finally confident in his love for writing poetry and is able to find a British girlfriend, all because of an American musician who makes a connection with his own unique life living in an immigrant family. Overall, I found it to be a touching movie that shows the power of music and art to truly inspire people to do their best in life and is able to relay this message of hope while still being entertaining and creative.
Winner of the 2019 South by Southwest Audience Award for a narrative film, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming and quite beautiful comedy drama that has the feel of a Mark Twain adventure story that follows an unlikely friendship between two very different protagonists. The movie follows 22-year-old Zak, played by Zach Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome and lives at an elderly nursing home under the tender care of an employee named Eleanor, played by Dakota Johnson. Tired of his lack of freedom, Zak, with the help of his elderly roommate played by Bruce Dern, is finally able to escape and go on an adventure throughout North Carolina where he lives. Eventually, he meets a down-on-his-luck fisherman named Tyler, played by Shia LaBeouf in one of his best acting performances, who begrudgingly takes Zak on a wild adventure to meet Zak’s wrestling idol who lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eleanor is desperately trying to find Zak who she worries is all alone and in need of help. Eventually, she finds Zak with Tyler and is convinced to join their journey on their makeshift raft floating in the Outer Banks. Throughout the course of the film, Tyler matures through his developing close relationships with Zak, and they both have wonderfully fun times together and encountering eccentric people, including a blind minister. Overall, I found it to be one of the best movies of the year because of its truly inspiring and uplifting story that is full of genuine love and joy. The filmmakers do an amazing of creating a film that does not take pity on Zak because of his disability but rather uplifts his story to be one of perseverance, courage, and normalcy.
Directed by Danny Boyle who won the Academy Award for Best Director for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday is a very clever and endearing romantic comedy that is remarkable for its extremely creative story in which the protagonist is the only person in the world who has heard of The Beatles after a freak accident. We first meet Jack Malik, played by the talented British actor Himesh Patel best known for his role on the BBC television show EastEnders, struggling to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a successful singer-songwriter but is always encouraged by his childhood friend and manager Ellie, played by Lily James best known for her role on Downton Abbey. While riding a bicycle in his small seaside English town one night, he is involved in a freak accident after a mysterious worldwide power outage and soon discovers after playing a Beatles song to his friends that no one in the world has ever heard of The Beatles, it is as if they never existed. He decides to record as many of The Beatles songs that he can remember and pass them off as his own works, which eventually makes him a major musical star after he catches the attention of singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, played by himself. Over the course of the movie, Jack embarks on a whirlwind and quite entertaining journey to worldwide fame, all set to the greatest hits of The Beatles sung in a different way by the actor himself. However, his recording and tour schedule strictly dictated by his new Los Angeles recording agent Debra, played by Kate McKinnon, pushes him away from his beloved friend and secret love Ellie. Besides the wonderfully nostalgic soundtrack, the film has several moments of humor, including the overall premise of the plot and additional parts of our daily lives that also magically disappeared, as well as the buffoonery yet sweet nature of his roadie and sometimes assistant Rocky, played by the very funny British actor Joel Fry. After his experiences with the glamorous lifestyle of the famous, Jack gradually comes back down to earth, and the film becomes more of a romance after he realizes that he missed out on his chance for true love with Ellie and dedicates the rest of the movie to trying to win her back. Overall, I found it to be a light-hearted and joyful cinematic experience that has truly one of the more innovative and unique storylines and is perfectly set to everyone’s favorite Beatles songs.