January continues to be a fun month of hit-or-miss options. OK, it’s mostly been a miss. But we did get the biggest release of the year so far, and I’m continuing to make my way through award contenders. So, let’s see what I got to this week! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Starring: Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, and Malachi Weir
Synopsis: Woof, we have an early contender for the Bottom 5 of 2022. It most likely won’t stay there, but this isn’t good. Netflix had some great original films in 2021, and I’m sure they’ll have some great ones in 2022, but this isn’t one of them. It centers on a mystery writer (Milano) whose sister is a dominatrix for hire that gets murdered, along with others in the profession. Said writer becomes part of the police investigation while starting a romance with the lead detective (Page). So, yeah, it’s a very deep story. It’s based on a Nora Roberts novel and perhaps this is the kind of thing that someone gets really excited about. I didn’t care for it or the flat performances throughout. It’s dull and poorly constructed. In short, feel free to skip this train wreck.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, and Brian Hull
Synopsis: The fourth and presumably final film in the animated franchise bypassed theaters and went straight to Amazon Prime. It also bypassed getting a return from star Adam Sandler, who voiced Dracula for the first three films. In his place is Hull, who does an admirable job trying to bring the same style and voice to it. But it doesn’t quite work. The story also isn’t great. If you were a fan of the franchise you’ll likely be happy to see the film. It also will likely still work well for younger viewers. But I thought it felt overly long, despite being less than 90 minutes and the story didn’t really work.
Rating: Rated PG for some action and rude humor including cartoon nudity.
Parallel Mothers (Limited)
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit, and Israel Elejalde
Synopsis: The latest from writer/director Pedro Almodóvar is a complex and engaging tale about two single mothers, one approaching 40 (Cruz) and the other a teen (Smit), who meet at the hospital sharing a birthing suite. Their lives become intertwined in surprising ways as their stories move forward. This one has a lot of layers to the plot, twisting in surprising ways and serving as a great showcase for the actresses, particularly Cruz. It ends with a powerful historical message as well that really comes home in the third act. The film is a strong contender for Best Foreign Language feature and figures to remain that way. It’s well worth seeking out for something powerful and unexpected.
Rating: Rated R for some sexuality.
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, and Jack Quaid
Synopsis: It’s been more than 25 years since Scream debuted in theaters. The series made stars of Campbell, Arquette and Cox, and spawned three successful sequels—all directed by the late Wes Craven. In this age of what’s old is new again, Scream is back. It has the same title and the same three main stars but focuses on a new generation and comes from a new directing tandem of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. This one introduces new characters, sisters (Barrera and Ortega), in the lead roles. I enjoyed some of the set up and the humor in the early going. The opening sequence differed from previous iterations in a fun way that worked. However, the film felt a bit too much like it wanted to take the plot of the original and re-do it. The original stars, though they got high billing, were shoehorned into the story in a way that didn’t feel organic. And, finally, the third act—particularly the reveal of the killer—didn’t work. I’d go so far as to call it a disaster. So, the new film was a mixed bag despite being fun at times and one of the most anticipated releases of the first part of the year.
Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references.
Sex Appeal (Hulu)
Starring: Mika Abdalla, Fortune Feimster, Rebecca Henderson, Margaret Cho, and Jake Short
Synopsis: The latest comedy original from Hulu centers on a brilliant high school student (Abdalla) who has everything figured out but her personal life. When she’s tasked with creating an app to better her personal life for a school competition, she decides to figure out how technology can help her sex life. She enlists her best friend (Short) for research and gets plenty of advice from her three mother figures (Henderson, Feimster and Cho). This one goes in some unexpected directions and has some fun creative choices brought to life by director Talia Osteen from writer Tate Hanyok’s script. I enjoyed the performances, particularly from Abdalla in the lead role. This one also defied some genre conventions at the end, and I thought that worked well and turned out mildly surprising. This is a nice addition to the Hulu lineup of original films.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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