Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Our reviews and thoughts on the latest releases, classics, and nostalgic favourites. Things we loved, things we hated, and worst of all, things we were ambivalent about.

Crazy Stupid Love

Poor Cal. He thinks he’s moments away from a creme brulee when his wife Emily hits him with a wallop: she wants a divorce. And that’s not all. On the tense car ride home, Emily (Julianne Moore) confesses that she slept with someone. Cal (Steve Carell) pulls a LadyBird out the car but it’s not going to save his marriage.

At a local bar, a very despondent Cal is attracting the wrong kind of attention. Crying in public will tend to do that. Resident lady’s man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him, and takes him under his wing to dress him up and teach him how to flirt. Best wing man ever? Suddenly Cal, who’s only ever been with his wife, is putting serious notches into his new, single guy Ikea bedpost. Which doesn’t sit well with Emily, but who is she to complain. Right?

Meanwhile, Jacob’s love life is going in the opposite direction. He’s met a woman he actually wants to not just sleep with, but wake up with. Hannah (Emma Stone) is the right mix of neurotic-quirky-cute and for the first time, Jacob’s falling in love.

Sure it’s a little too sweet sometimes, but Crazy Stupid Love is a legitimately funny rom-com with effervescent dialogue delivered by an A-list cast. Carell is likable as ever, making a convincing transformation both inside and out. For his part, Gosling is game for poking a little fun at his own image, punctuating some of the absurd if not ever quite crazy idiosyncrasies of dating, whether it’s the first or second time around. There’s a maturity (perhaps a pre-Tinder maturity) to it that gives it universal appeal.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Does the world need movies based on video game characters? Not really. But a good story can spring up from anywhere, except perhaps from the minds of screenwriters Josh Miller and Patrick Casey whose credits are so sparse they literally feature “community television” and yet Sonic The Hedgehog will still not make their highlight real.

Sonic The Hedgehog isn’t bad but it is speeding in the exact opposite direction of good, leaving only lightning farts and a blue blur in its wake. Is Sonic allergic to not sucking? Okay, so it’s kind of bad. The script is bland and overly familiar and exceedingly safe. There’s nothing new or exciting here, just a paint-by-numbers that any idiot could have written, and in the case of Sonic, we got two. I mean: someone got paid for this. Miller and Casey literally cashed a cheque for writing the line “Let’s go do some ROCK-conaissance!” and Jim Carrey got a much, much bigger one to say it.

And ugh: Jim Carrey. I was fine with him having disappeared off the face of the earth. I was never a fan of his annoying, rubber-faced schtick, the over-the-topness of his obnoxious expressions and over-enunciation. NOT. HERE. FOR. IT. I very kindly tolerate him when a director keeps a tight leash on him (Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) but Jeff Fowler is not that director. Not only is Carrey unleashed, it’s pretty clear he’s a very bad dog who’s probably pissing on Fowler’s shoes. Fowler, whose credits are no more impressive than Miller’s or Casey’s (ie, he’s never made a movie before), is quite content to simply point his camera in the right direction.

James Marsden, charming and inoffensive, is relegated to saying things like “Good grief!” which is not a thing for grown men to say, or anyone outside of Charlie Brown’s inner circle, really. Tika Sumptner, playing his wife, is given even less to do. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic, and though Schwartz is known for rather larger than life characters, you could go the whole movie without placing his voice, generic white guy à la Zach Braff.

Sonic The Hedgehog is the film equivalent of an oatmeal raisin cookie. Kids might reach for it simply because it is a cookie, but if chocolate or peanut butter or even plain old shortbread were on offer, it would be no question. But it’s just 6 weeks into this new year and it’s virtually the only family-friendly movie in theatres. This is how oatmeal raisin thrives: a complete dearth of options.

 

Thunder Road

Officer Jim Arnaud is having a personal crisis and a public meltdown. Recently separated and having just lost his mother, he’s perhaps got some excuses for his erratic behaviour and yet he’s so consistently obnoxious and unreliable that it’s hard to imagine this behaviour is entirely new. In fact, it’s hard to believe that he was ever a good cop or a good husband. He runs his mouth constantly and doesn’t know when to walk away. It seems he must have always been a lousy police officer and a lousy husband, but only recently have his wife and boss agreed.

Still, it’s hard to watch him flounder. And Jim Cummings, who wrote and directed this starring role himself, really, really allows us to wallow in his eccentricities. When he breaks out into an interpretive, music-less dance at his mother’s funeral, the scene goes on for an agonizingly long time – and the dance portion is only the final chapter to a nonsensical and often ranting eulogy. Some of you have a high tolerance for watching people embarrass themselves on screen, but I have an unusually low tolerance for that. And I know I can’t be the only one to feel Arnaud’s energy is just too much.

The guy just has a continual, disjointed stream of consciousness, his entire life is one run-on sentence that never ends. Not only does he never shut up, he never finishes a though, one sentence just trailing off into another random thought, leaving a frustrating trail of loose ends. I found him so irritating that I could never muster any sympathy or empathy for him. Cummings is absolutely committed to this character but personally I just kept trying to manifest a cement truck to come and cave his skull in.

How a man with zero impulse control was ever granted a gun is beyond me, but perhaps this film wasn’t meant to be logical or even likable, maybe it just serves as a performance showcase for Cummings, and as a director he certainly indulges in every actor predilection. I had to watch this movie over 4 nights. It’s only 90 minutes long but I just couldn’t sit with his energy for very long. It’s not so much aggressive as just needy and relentless. He’s the kind of toxic personality all the self-help books warn you to cut from your life, and if you shouldn’t tolerate this from friends or family, I’m not sure why I should take it from a fictional character. I stuck with this film because it has received awards and acclaim but its excruciating long takes and raw-nerve tragi-comedy just weren’t for me.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Lara Jean and Peter are officially girlfriend and boyfriend.

You may recall in the first film, Lara Jean’s little sister sent out a bunch of love letters that she’d been writing to her crushes to release some of your tortured young passion. The love letters were personal and confessional and never meant to be read by anyone, but most of all not by the people to whom they were addressed. And yet they were.

Which brought Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) together, superficially at first. They pretended to date because they each had certain needs their high school hearts could justify but you might guess that they eventually found themselves falling in love. Cue the sequel!

Everything is right with the world, except for the fact that Lara Jean can’t quite forget Peter’s ex and jealousy doesn’t exactly become her. But there are worse things to come. One of the other love letter recipients finally resurfaces: John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) and man is he cute. In fact, he and Lara Jean end up volunteering together and circumstances are perfect for dying embers to reignite.

There’s a sweet innocence to these movies that holds some sort of universal appeal – perhaps because we’ve all had a first love and not only can we relate, but it’s sort of fun to revisit. But we also get wrapped up in Lara Jean and Peter’s romance because it’s a lived fairy tale. How does Peter have money to take dates to 5-star restaurants and why does Lara Jean have a series of cocktail dresses? They’re babies. They should be going on awkward group dates to the movies, getting dropped off by whomever’s mom had the biggest mini van, or hanging out in each other’s living rooms with their siblings not only watching but actively trying to humiliate.

Anyway, I’m finding it impossible not to be charmed by this franchise. The leads are exceedingly likable and the whole thing goes down as easily as a box of chocolates on Valentine’s day, so why resist? To All The Boys is one indulgence I’m not going to feel guilty about.

 

 

Top 5 Netflix movies to watch on Valentine’s Day.

15 quirky romance movies that don’t suck.

Valentine’s movies for single people.

 

10 Minutes Gone

Sometimes even our “Sucks Ass” rating seems too generous. This is one of those times.

MV5BYTcwNjNkOGMtNmQ1MS00NzdmLWJmNDAtOWU4ZTFhZDgyODRiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,962_AL_Frank (Michael Chiklis) is the safe-cracking heart of a crew looking for a big score in Cincinnati, that will pay the crew $500,000. The opening credits make clear that Frank and his brother have spent a lot of time planning the heist using army men. Their crew is working for Rex (Bruce Willis), a big shot in a suit who’s overseeing the job from an empty floor in an office building. It’s supposed to be easy money but of course things go wrong. Frank gets knocked out during the chaos, and wakes up next to his brother’s dead body. The box they stole is also gone, and Frank is left to figure out who double-crossed them to keep the whole $500k for themselves.

You may remember a bad idea from a few years ago called MoviePass. The initial pitch was that for a set monthly fee you could see as many movies as you wanted. One small flaw in the scheme was that no movie theatres were participating, and in fact they actively spoke out against it. MoviePass pressed on anyway. The result was that MoviePass was buying tickets at full price from the theatre and giving them away for almost nothing (MoviePass’ monthly subscription fee was equal to one regular price ticket).

So after a while of giving away tickets while misleading their investors about their chances of making a profit (which were literally zero), MoviePass found itself millions and millions of dollars in debt. Not even changing the terms repeatedly without notice solved the problems caused by MoviePass’ horrible business model.

Most would have given up at that point, but not MoviePass. Its ace in the hole? Making its own movies and giving away tickets to them! 10 Minutes Gone was one of MoviePass’ first films, and it also happens to be the last.  That’s because MoviePass is now dead and gone, and it’s probably best if we agree to bury 10 Minutes Gone alongside it. Everything about this movie is awful. It is an abomination. It was probably MoviePass’ worst idea. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

TIFF19: Ford v Ferrari

Full disclosure: I saw Ford v. Ferrari at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival. I enjoyed it. It was probably in my top three movies there. But you know what? I never got around to writing a review for it. I just wasn’t inspired. I still haven’t figured out why.

Ford+V+Ferrari+Movie+PosterI loved the cars. I remember chasing after the Ford GT40 in Gran Turismo and/or Forza (driving games from the late 90s or early 2000s) and it being totally worth the “work”. And like those games, Ford v. Ferrari puts the viewer in the driver’s seat at the legendary 24 Hours of LeMans (which, coincidentally, was one of the races I had to win in my video game quest, with lots of pauses).

I love the story. It’s based on true events as designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) team up with the Ford Motor Company to build a car that is able to compete with Ferrari’s racers. It’s a classic underdog tale twice over, as Ford had no racing pedigree at the time, and Ford wanted no part of Miles. But as often happens in movies and in real life that becomes movies, these spare parts were thrown together and triumphed against all odds – sort of. Ford got its trophy, Miles got the short end of the stick, and Shelby made a whole lot more classic cars, many of which you’ve seen in other movies (Bad Boys’ Shelby 427 Cobra and Gone in 60 Seconds’ Shelby GT500).

I liked the film. Damon and Bale have a nice chemistry. The script is clever and funny. The story translates well to the big screen. The effects are great.

And yet, Ford v. Ferrari would never have been in my list of best picture nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. It makes sense; it is a deserving nominee. I guess there were just a number of other movies this year that appealed to me and connected with me more than Ford v. Ferrari. Us, The Farewell, Knives Out, Ad AstraBombshell and Honey Boy, to name a few. But there are only so many spots. Ford v. Ferrari is really good, so I guess just make sure to see the others too!