We’re into May with a small lull before some of the biggest films of summer start to drop. Last week we got a bunch of smaller releases, and I saw nearly all of them. Below is the review of the new films 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: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, and Michael Greyeyes
Synopsis: Stephen King has long crafted stories that have appealed to the masses. His novel Firestarter has been adapted before, but this newest take was dropped just in time for Friday the 13th. It got a release in theaters but dropped on the Universal Streaming platform, Peacock, on the same day. No matter how you got to see it, likely you were underwhelmed. The adaptation wasn’t particularly tense or frightening, nor was it particularly compelling. Efron feels miscast here while the rest of the story is a snoozer. This is the second big release of the summer season but it’s one you can safely skip.
Rating: Rated R for violent content.
Montana Story (Limited)
Starring: Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson
Synopsis: This new independent film, which dropped on May 13, tells the story of a pair of siblings who are coming to grips with past trauma. The film—directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel off a script their wrote with Mike Spreter—is a beautifully shot and intimate portrait of these two finding a way forward as their father nears death. Cal (Teague) is caught between trying to be strong and settle his father’s affairs and wanting to live his own life with his own dreams. When his sister, Erin (Richardson), arrives, it stirs up old wounds and forces them both to confront a painful past. The film acts as a showcase for the performers, with both Teague and Richardson offering strong work in a series of deeply emotional sequences. All of it is framed against the stark beauty of a Montana landscape, and way of life, that’s rapidly changing. This is the kind of smaller, character-driven film that’s become harder to find. I appreciated the way this was put together and the emotional moments throughout the film. It’s well worth checking out if it is playing somewhere near you.
Rating: Rated R for language.
On the Count of Three (Limited)
Starring: Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott
Synopsis: Mental health is a crisis in our country, but it’s not often the subject of conversation, especially among men. With his directorial debut, Carmichael dives headlong into the subject. On the Count of Three debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021 and has taken a long time to make it to wider audiences. It still didn’t get an exceptional roll out, releasing in limited on May 13. But at least more people can stumble upon this story and, hopefully, think about what it has to say. The film centers on two friends (Carmichael and Abbott), both of whom are mired in depression and ready for it to be over. The make a pact to kill each other, but first they get to enjoy one last day. During the course of the day, both are challenged by their past and present. Abbott is fantastic in this film, given a heart-breaking character arc that was the most emotionally weighty part of the film for me. Carmichael has a strong eye as a director and adds some beautifully comedic moments as well. Ultimately, I wasn’t as taken with the story arc for his character, which dampened some of my enthusiasm for the film as a whole. Despite that, it is a film that should be seen and a dialogue that we should be having. Make it a point to check this film out.
Rating: Rated R for violence, suicide, pervasive language and some sexual references.
The Quest: Nepal (Limited)
Synopsis: As a boy, Alex Harz made a vow to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. In this new documentary—a film that serves as the start of a series of adventures—Harz fulfills that promise. Along the way, he takes a look at Nepal, the people, culture and religion, and gives viewers a front-row seat as he and his team make their way up the daunting mountain. It’s an interesting and engaging look at this journey, one that spends as much time sharing the history and culture of the region as celebrating this difficult feat. Harz makes for a strong narrator and guide and I enjoyed this journey and learning more about the area. This one is available in limited release and is worth checking out if you want to learn a little more about the region.
Senior Year (Netflix)
Starring: Rebel Wilson, Sam Richardson, Mary Holland, Zoe Chao, and Chris Parnell
Synopsis: The latest comedy from Netflix finds Wilson as a 37-year-old woman who is finishing her senior year of high school. Twenty years earlier she was one of the most popular girls in school, the head cheerleader and on track to be homecoming queen. An accident caused her to fall into a coma and when she wakes up, she finds a lot has changed. Her best friends (Holland and Richardson) are now working at the school, while her nemesis (Chao) is married to her high school boyfriend. To recapture her mojo, Stephanie heads back to school hoping to fulfill her vow to become homecoming queen. Along the way, she finds what’s really important. And hilarity ensues. At least that’s what the formula is supposed to offer. We get a few amusing moments, but it feels like by-and-large the talents of Richardson and Holland are wasted. Wilson is fine in the lead role but her character and the script feel like a stretch. This wants to be Billy Madison, but it lacks the personality. It also tries to wedge in a few too many emotionally cathartic moments that pull it away from the ridiculousness of the premise. In short, it’s fine but it’s nothing special, and not worth going out of your way to find. All the parties involved probably deserved a better script.
Rating: Rated R for sexual material, language and brief teen drinking/drug use.
Starring: Chosen Jacobs, Lexi Underwood and John Salley
Synopsis: The story of Cinderella is well-worn ground to cover. It’s a tale that’s been told and re-told a number of times in many different ways, from animated to live action to modern day retellings. Into that well-worn path comes Sneakerella, the latest feature from Disney+ that again tells the story of Cinderella. This time, it’s a gender-reversed modern musical set in the world of sneakers in New York. This gets points for creativity and Jacobs is a decent lead. There are some decent musical numbers and moments here but mostly it feels a bit too familiar and stale. It’s OK for what it is, and likely will play best with younger viewers, but it isn’t overly compelling. Cinderella is probably a story we don’t need to keep telling.
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.