The last weekend in February was a sparse one when it comes to film. We got a couple streaming releases, and it was a time to catch up with films we might have missed. But brace yourselves, The Batman is coming… along with a million other things in March! Until then, here’s a look at the new movies I saw 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: Channing Tatum, Ethan Suplee, and Bill Burr
Synopsis: Tales built around animals can be tough. You have to rely on a lot of different pieces to come together. That’s the challenge Tatum took on as an actor and a first-time director, co-directing this film with Reid Carolin. The film centers on a former Army Ranger (Tatum) who is struggling to find direction and purpose after an injury ended his Army career. When a friend and fellow Ranger dies, he’s tapped to get his service dog to the funeral. It isn’t easy—for either of them. This film doesn’t overstay its welcome, but at the same time presents an interesting journey of friendship and healing for these two warriors that need to find their way into the next phase of the journey. This falls mostly on Tatum, who does a nice job carrying the narrative, embracing the different phases of the journey and the different actors who pop up throughout the film. I really appreciated the supporting work from Suplee, as a soldier who helped Tatum’s Jackson Briggs see things differently, and Burr as a brusque cop that created a bit of humor in his interactions. But, mostly, this works because of the dog at the heart of the series. The dog emotes and works well in the narrative, and Tatum plays off his animal co-star beautifully. This film has surprising emotional depth and ends up being a beautiful and satisfying journey.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements, drug content and some suggestive material.
A Madea Homecoming (Netflix)
Starring: Tyler Perry, Brendan O’Carroll, Cassi Davis, David Mann, Gabrielle Dennis, Brandon Black and Isha Blaaker
Synopsis: At this point in time, you know what you’re getting from a Madea film. Perry has been starring in the title role and directing these tales for two decades. They have passionate fans and can be a creative diversion. This one finds Madea (Perry) preparing for her great-grandson’s college graduation and hosting the roommate’s family from Ireland. That includes the roommate’s great aunt (O’Carroll), who clashes with Madea. There is a lot of other personal stuff going on, but the question is if the family can pull together in love to support Tim (Black). Again, you know what to expect here. I thought this adventure was more amusing at times than most. The film isn’t incredible and at times feels like it runs a bit long at an hour and 45 minutes. But Perry seems to be having fun, as are the rest of the cast. I liked the back-and-forth with O’Carroll and some of the twists in the story. This was a nice get for Netflix and likely a fun film for long-time fans.
No Exit (Hulu)
Starring: Havana Rose Liu, Dennis Haysbert, Dale Dickey, David Rhysdahl, and Danny Ramirez
Synopsis: The latest film from Hulu is a thriller set in a snowy refuge in the middle of nowhere. Darby (Liu) is a drug addict who escapes from mandatory rehab to try and get to her ailing mother. Instead, she finds the highway closed by a blizzard and is forced to take refuge at a community stop. There she encounters four strangers (Haysbert, Dickey, Rhysdahl and Ramirez), all in the same situation. When she finds a little girl kidnapped and tied up in a van, she must discover who took her and how to bring her to safety while trapped in a building by weather and no cell service. That’s a decent set up, and director Damien Power works to build the tension. Liu does a decent job in the lead role as well. That being said, the premise and the setting were the most appealing thing about this film. The characters are thinly drawn, as is the plot. The film moves quickly with a 95-minute run time, but it doesn’t suck you in and hook you as much as it should. Even the twists don’t land with the expected power, likely due to the shallow script. In the end, this turns out to be a middling thriller that hits all the right numbers but doesn’t feel overly compelling.
Rating: Rated R for strong violence, language and some drug content.
The Tuck Rule (ESPN+)
Synopsis: This latest entry in the long-running 30 For 30 Documentary series centers on the infamous playoff game in January of 2002 between the visiting Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. It featured a young Tom Brady, who had taken over during the season for veteran starter Drew Bledsoe, trying to guide the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game in snowy Foxborough. In the Fourth Quarter, with the Patriots trailing 13-10 and time running out, Raiders’ corner Charles Woodson, Brady’s Michigan teammate, came around the corner and hit Brady. The ball came out. The call following defined careers and team trajectories for years. Anyone who has watched football for a long time will remember the game and the infamous Tuck Rule, which gave the Patriots new life and kick-started a dynasty. This film, which brings Woodson and Brady together to re-watch and re-live the game is a lot of fun. The interviews and exploration are fun. Directors Nick Mascolo and Ken Rodgers do a great job of bringing the story to life. It also helps to fill a bit of the void left by the end of the NFL season. I enjoyed this one a lot and I think it will appeal greatly to those who enjoy these sports documentaries.
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.