It was a down week for films with no major theatrical releases and a few streaming options. It’s the calm before the storm, the week between Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion. Nevertheless, I watched a handful of films, and my takes are below. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+)
Starring: Grace VanderWaal, Judy Greer, Uma Thurman, Judd Hirsh, Al Madrigal, Elijah Richardson, and Tyrel Jackson Williams
Synopsis: When Stargirl premiered in 2020 I wasn’t blown away. VanderWaal was decent as a lead but the film was just OK. Seeing that the streamer made a sequel, my expectations were low. But expectations are made to be defied, and that’s what happened here. VanderWaal is still charming in the role, but this sequel—which moves the action to Hollywood—has a better cast and a better story. It’s a vast improvement on the first and a fun and engaging film in its own right. While in Hollywood, Stargirl connects with two brothers (Richardson and Williams) who are making a film. It sparks her creativity and her talent as a singer. She also crosses paths with a former producer (Hirsch) and one of her mother’s favorite singers (Thurman), inspiring them all with her talent and her upbeat approach to life. This film has some great and emotional moments. I particularly enjoyed Thurman, who is great in the role and has one of the best arcs. Richardson and Williams are fun, and VanderWaal shines with the musical numbers. This is a sequel that improves upon the original and creates a fun and enjoyable watch.
Rating: Rated PG for some mild language.
Starring: Elsa Pataky, Luke Bracey, and Chris Hemsworth
Synopsis: The latest action film from Netflix finds Pataky as an Army Captain whose career has hit a rough patch. She’s been shipped back to a secret base in the middle of the Pacific that stands as one of two bases charged with providing American missile defense. When 16 nukes go missing in Russia, and one of the defense bases is attacked, suddenly it’s down to this remote outpost in the ocean. When the base is attacked by a group led by a ruthless American mercenary (Bracey), Captain Collins is America’s last line of defense. This is a straight action film with a semi-ridiculous plot. That’s not to say there aren’t some fun moments. Hemsworth—a producer on the film and Pataky’s husband—has a fun cameo role that was one of the things I enjoyed most. Pataky is solid in the lead role and Bracey is fine as the antagonist. They are good enough to overcome a borderline ridiculous plot. If you’re looking for a little mindless entertainment, you could do worse than this film.
A Perfect Pairing (Netflix)
Starring: Victoria Justice and Adam Demos
Synopsis: This Netflix film comes right out of the Hallmark Channel playbook. It centers on a wine import executive (Justice) who quits her job after her deplorable boss tries to steal her idea. Striking out on her own, she tries to land a big Australian wine, and to do so she heads down to the owner’s sheep ranch to make her pitch. Once there, she takes a position as a ranch hand to prove her work ethic and ends up connecting with the ranch manager (Demos), who turns out to have a connection to the family winery all his own. And, naturally, sparks fly. This isn’t a complex or deep film. But it has its moments. There’s some humor and some romance. At the heart is Justice, who elevates the material. Her connection with Demos works and the story doesn’t wear out its welcome. For this format of film—of which I’ve seen many as a Hallmark aficionado—this one does a nice job bringing the story home.
Starring: Stephen Freidrich, Tara Holt, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard Kind
Synopsis: After a theater accident sullies their reputation in New York, a pair of maverick theater actors (Freidrich and Holt) are left with few options. When their mentor (Lloyd) turns on them and pushes them to go in a different direction, they head to Fargo. There, they hope to mount a production that will win over the town and net them the local theater. But, to succeed, they must beat the town’s resident drama teacher (Kind) and their own fracturing relationship. Hilarity ensues. Or, rather, it’s meant to. This one is a big swing and it doesn’t land its punches. There are incredibly creative moments but on the whole, the story flops. For a film like this to work, despite the lead being a cad we have to care about him and his success. Freidrich plays a decent cad but the script doesn’t give his character enough likeability to make the third act work. Instead, the film just sort of peters out. It’s an interesting idea with a few interesting moments but it’s mostly a dull final production.
Rating: Rated R for some sexual references
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.