Everyone wanted to offer something during Valentine’s Day weekend, and everyone did. We had a couple theater releases, while seemingly every streaming service also offered a new release. But which were worth checking out? I saw them all and have reviews of a packed weekend slate below. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Death on the Nile (Theaters)
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Russell Brand, Annette Benning, Tom Bateman, Leticia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, and Emma Mackey
Synopsis: This mystery, based on the novel from Agatha Christie, centers on the famed literary detective Hercule Poirot. Branagh returns as Poirot and as the director, just as he did with Murder on the Orient Express. This film was shot in 2019 and faced a number of delays due to the ongoing pandemic. But it finally opened on Friday with a packed cast and plenty of interest. And it was, OK. It’s about a wedding party in Egypt that takes to a boat along the Nile where a murder—or three—take place. Poirot is left to deduce who did it before more people fall prey to the killer’s plot. The production here is solid in terms of an overall look and feel, though some of the shots felt a bit showy. I enjoyed the introductory sequence, shot in black-and-white, which gave some more of Poirot’s background. Sadly, it didn’t seem to tie back to the rest of the story in a satisfying way. The rest of the narrative moves mostly as expected. It drags in a few places but the central mystery, derived from the source material, mostly works. It’s OK and feels on par with Orient Express, but it’s nothing spectacular. I’ll be curious to see if Branagh continues in the role.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, some bloody images, and sexual material.
The In Between (Paramount+)
Starring: Zoey King, Kyle Allen, Kim Dickens, and John Ortiz
Synopsis: In the latest original film dropped on Paramount+, Tessa (King) is a talented photographer with a bright future. During an accident, she nearly dies. Her boyfriend, Skylar (Allen), is killed. She’s left mourning his loss, while feeling his spirit is still present in some way. The film, through flashbacks, shows the evolution of the relationship between Tessa and Skylar as they move toward that fateful night. At the same time, it depicts how Tessa struggles to move forward, clashing with her father (Ortiz) and stepmother (Dickens) as she tries to make contact with Skylar’s spirit to understand the final message he has for her. As she does, supernatural things begin to occur until she can find the way back to him. All that seems like a decent idea but the script from Marc Klein meanders in some ways and feels flat and under-developed, particularly the relationship between Tessa and Skylar. Allen and King have decent chemistry but their relationship feels rushed and oddly constructed at times, and that saps the third act of some of its power. The film is OK but doesn’t really connect or deliver anything that feels fresh and compelling.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief strong language, and some thematic material.
I Want You Back (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Jenny Slate, Charlie Day, Scott Eastwood, Gina Rodriguez, Manny Jacinto, and Clark Backo
Synopsis: In the latest romantic comedy from Amazon Prime, Peter (Day) and Emma (Slate) have recently been dumped. Worse yet, their significant others (Rodriguez and Eastwood), have moved on. Peter and Emma meet in the stairwell of the office building where they work and find comfort and a friendly ear in each other, and eventually hatching a plan to help each other get their significant other back. As expected, things don’t go according to plan, but might Peter and Emma find what they were really looking for anyway? It’s a romantic comedy released around Valentine’s Day, so you can probably tell the question answers itself. This one has a strong cast and I enjoyed Day and Slate in the lead roles. The plot moves in some unexpected directions and it sometimes works well, sometimes it falls flat. The first part of the film feels like it drags to a certain degree, then the last act feels awkward and sometimes rushed. The ending is cute but doesn’t completely satisfy. Still, this was for the most part enjoyable and hit the right notes for the genre.
Rating: Rated R for language, sexual material, some drug use and partial nudity.
Kimi (HBO Max)
Starring: Zoe Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Devin Ratray, and Jamie Camil
Synopsis: A new film from Steven Soderberg, the second straight released direct to HBO Max, focuses on a young woman, Angela (Kravitz), who works fixing bugs for an Alexa-like home system named Kimi. She’s mostly confined to her apartment, the result of trauma that has made her weary of the outside world. When she hears a recording of a crime, Angela is forced to confront her fear and trauma to try and bring it to the authorities. Soon, she finds herself in the crosshairs of a dangerous man and his associates that want to keep the recording hidden and she must fight to survive. This is a tight 89-minute film that makes the most of its run time, building Angela’s character, building the central conflict and bringing things to a boil. I liked the way Soderberg laid out the story and he’s blessed with a great lead performance from Kravitz. The build up helps sell the tension, and when Angela finally leaves the security of her home, things really heat up. I enjoyed the third act a great deal, and that helped Kimi turn into a solid and enjoyable thriller.
Rating: Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity.
Marry Me (Theaters/Peacock)
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Sarah Silverman, John Bradley, and Maluma
Synopsis: This time of year, we expect to get romantic comedies. Some are more spectacle that substance, but with Marry Me we get one that’s both. The film focuses on Kat Valdez (Lopez), a successful singer who’s on the cusp of marrying her fiancé Bastian (Maluma) during a live concert event. During that event, she quickly learns Bastian cheated on her. On stage, in the midst of grief and confusion, she pulls up a random attendee, Charlie (Wilson), who happens to be holding a sign that says Marry Me, the title of her new song. They get married and a whirlwind ensues. Charlie, a divorced single dad and math teacher, finds himself pulled into a world he never expected with a woman that soon captures his heart. If you’ve seen the trailers for this, you know the basic set up and you’re probably wondering if it can really work. The answer is yes, it does. Wilson and Lopez play off each other beautifully, and their differences work really well in this film. The story moves at a good pace and keeps the humor strong as it moves toward a satisfying and beautiful ending. It also features some great original music, specifically the song Kat Valdez writes and performs in the film’s third act. This was one of the most fun times I had at a theater this year, and the film is available both on the big screen (where you should see it) and at home on Peacock. I enjoyed it a lot and was impressed with how the filmmakers made the most of a simple story and a couple great leads.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive material.
The Sky is Everywhere (Apple TV+)
Starring: Grace Kaufman, Jason Segel, Cherry Jones, Pico Alexander, and Jacques Colimon
Synopsis: This new film from A24, released on Apple TV+, is a meditation on grief and loss. But it looks radically different from other films that have tackled the subject. Lennie (Kaufman) is a talented musician whose sister passed away suddenly. That leaves Lennie lost and unable to find her music again. She makes a connection with her sister’s boyfriend, Toby (Alexander), as well as with another musician at school, Joe (Colimon), all of which leaves her more confused as she tries to find a way through grief. Kaufman was a delight in the lead role and I really enjoyed the different cinematic style brought to this story by director Josephine Decker. I also appreciated the supporting work from Segel, as Lennie’s uncle, and Jones, as Lennie’s grandmother, and the way they crafted this family all struggling to get over the surprise loss. Some may not gravitate to the style or approach taken in exploring this subject, but I thought it was a unique and clever way to tell a story. The story itself felt thin in spots, but it sometimes also called forth powerfully emotional responses. It’s a unique and engaging offering, a nice addition to the Apple TV+ library.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references and drug use.
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.