As has been the case most of the month, the big action among new films is on streaming. I have a look at all the big new streaming releases for the week, including a thriller that moved at a snail’s pace. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Cheaper By the Dozen (Disney+)
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Zach Braff, Erika Christensen, Timon Kyle Durrett, Brittany Daniel, and Cynthia Daniel
Synopsis: We’ve seen this story a number of times, but that didn’t stop Disney from going to the well again. This time we get Paul (Braff) and Zoey (Union), who brought five kids into the marriage from previous relationships, had four of their own and adopted their nephew. They’re running a breakfast restaurant, trying to get a sauce empire going and dealing with their respective exes (Christensen and Durrett). As a chance to expand the business comes, Paul sees a chance to provide a better life for his family. But in the process, will he lose touch with what’s most important. It’s a Disney film, so you can probably guess where this is going and how it’s going to end up. This kind of film isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. I thought Braff and Union were great in the leads and this is the kind of heart-warming and fun story you expect from Disney. It’s not incredible or incredibly original, but it’s fun.
Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, suggestive material, and language.
Deep Water (Hulu)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, and Tracy Letts
Synopsis: Adrian Lyne’s latest is another dour drama about marital strife, affairs and deadly consequences. Based on the novel from Patricia Highsmith, this on focuses on a couple—Vic (Affleck) and Melinda (de Armas)—that are in a seemingly loveless marriage. Vic stews while Melinda takes lovers and flaunts them in front of him. But it turns out Vic has a coping mechanism that isn’t exactly legal. We see this saga play out over the cycle of a few different men and the course of two hours. And nothing happens. There is no spark between Affleck and de Armas on the screen—joining a long line of real-life couples that provide a flaccid onscreen romance. The story is also limp, providing no real context for Vic and Melinda’s relationship, why they got here and why they stay this way. It also provides no context for Vic’s fascination with snails, which is a seemingly huge part of this film. Anyway, there’s nothing to like here. It’s an erotic thriller that’s neither erotic nor thrilling. The only thrill I got was when the final credits rolled as I knew it was over.
Rating: Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language and some violence.
Master (Theaters/Amazon Prime)
Starring: Regina Hall and Zoe Renee
Synopsis: This new drama first premiered at Sundance and now is getting a release on Amazon Prime and in theaters. It centers on two African American women—one a professor who has received a promotion and one a new student—at a predominately white college in New England. They face myriad challenges from the supernatural to a culture that is racially insensitive. The film moves at a decent pace and has some good moody scenes, courtesy of director Mariama Diallo. Hall gives a great lead performance, while Renee was solid as Jasmine, a student who can’t find her place at the college. I liked parts of the film and I thought the basic idea worked but it didn’t quite hit the third act. It’s OK and a fascinating story but it wasn’t all I thought it could be.
Rating: Rated R for language and some drug use.
Rescued By Ruby (Netflix)
Starring: Grant Gustin, Camille Sullivan and Scott Wolf
Synopsis: This film, based on a true story, is about a State Trooper in Rhode Island and the rescue dog that changed his life. Dan (Gustin) deeply desires to be part of the K-9 Unit but he can’t seem to get past the leader (Wolf). Dan persists, turning to a rescue dog named Ruby and pouring himself into training her. He not only makes the squad but makes a big difference. Gustin is best known for his work on The CW’s Flash but does a nice job in a different kind of role here. Netflix has become a huge landing spot for a diverse lineup of new content and this one is a decent option that’s good for the whole family. It’s a sweet and endearing film, and a quick watch at just over 90 minutes.
Starring: Jason Segel, Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons
Synopsis: Netflix’s other new film is a black comedy and crime caper that is one of the biggest surprises of the first part of the year. Segel is a thief who’s broken into a remote vacation home. When the couple (Collins and Plemons) that own it arrives, his plan goes out the window. A simple breaking and entering turns into a kidnap situation as he holds them up for a large cash delivery. In the process, the couple’s own relationship issues come out as the three are forced to spend plenty of time together in seclusion. This film, directed by Charlie McDowell based on a story he and Segel came up with alongside screenwriters Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker, moves at a good clip. I liked McDowell’s direction and use of spacing and his performers. The quite moments here work well, as does the engaging score. This is a film that builds the tension throughout and offers some strong dialogue at times. I enjoyed the performances a lot, especially the work from Collins, and the third act is quite the fun ride. This is a fun film that slides into a reliably entertaining genre and is well worth checking out.
Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some violence.
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.