This week was extremely crowded, packed with new releases on nearly every streaming service as well as a big new release in theaters. I had a chance to take it all in, and below are my thoughts on this weekend’s packed slate. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Father of the Bride (HBO Max)
Starring: Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Adria Arjona, Isabelle Merced, and Diego Boneta
Synopsis: The tale of Father of the Bride has been told before, twice in fact. The first time was in 1950, with Spencer Tracey in the lead role. Then, in 1991, Steve Martin stepped into those father of the bride shoes. Now, it’s Andy Garcia’s turn. This new version doesn’t go for the straight comedy approach of the 1991 film, and it’s also no longer about the Banks family. This is a modern update, beginning with the fact Garcia’s Billy Herrera is a proud Cuban American, whose daughter (Arjona) is marrying a man (Boneta) of Mexican decent. The culture clashes between the two are a big piece of the plot here, as is Billy’s marital woes with wife Ingrid (Estefan). In fact, the two were about to announce a divorce when the engagement—and a wedding in a month—jumped out in front. There’s a lot going on in this re-make. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the film would have done better to operate with an original title instead of inviting direct comparisons. This is a different film. It has a different story, a different culture and a different approach. That hampers the early going, where the comedy isn’t free flowing. This is more of a dramaedy. But, in the end, the third act has charm and Garcia does well in the lead role. It’s not a great film but it’s a satisfying wedding tale that offers the happy ending audiences are hoping to see.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hulu)
Starring: Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack
Synopsis: Nancy (Thompson) was held back in her life. She was held back in her marriage. Held back in her career. In some ways, she’s held back by her children. She’s never felt a sense of adventure and fulfillment, and never had the confidence to go after what she wants. Until now. With her husband passed on, Nancy hires Leo Grande (McCormack) to help change all that. But it isn’t easy. Nancy is stiff and afraid at first, but Leo’s calm demeanor and willingness to open up helps Nancy be seen for the first time. Through a series of meetings, the two get to know each other and, in the end, help each other grow. The idea of a middle-aged woman hiring an escort seems like a simple, off-beat premise. But in the hands of Katy Brand, we get characters and a script that crackles. Director Sophie Hyde does a great job of setting the mood and building the story, but mostly it’s about these performers. Thompson has never been better. In a lot of ways this is a raw, honest performance that requires her to bare a lot of emotions, as well as everything else. And she finds a great scene partner in McCormack, whose easy confidence carries the film in the early scenes while his quite vulnerability is beautiful in the third act. This is a film that plays the plot brilliantly and features some incredible performances. It’s one of the better offerings of this year so far.
Rating: Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and some language.
Synopsis: This new documentary takes a look at a defined period in the life and career of Jennifer Lopez. It comes as she’s landed the Super Bowl halftime show, while her new film, Hustlers, is also taking off. The film gives some background on Lopez’s life and career, but mostly it follows her journey of preparation for the Super Bowl show while running the gauntlet of the awards circuit for her film. It’s a fascinating look into her life and craft. It also served as a reminder to me that Lopez is an under-rated performer. Her work in Hustlers was strong, and she should have received an Academy Award nomination. It was tough reliving some of that and remembering the time. I was also fascinated at the work that went into the halftime show. This documentary does a good job of showing the process and appreciating the artist. I enjoyed the film and the story it told.
Jerry and Marge Go Large (Paramount+)
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening, Larry Wilmore, Rainn Wilson, and Michael McKean
Synopsis: This comedy is a straight-to-streaming film is based on a true story, which was written about in the HuffPost. It focuses on Jerry (Cranston), who recently retired after 42 years working at a plant in a small town in Michigan. Jerry and his wife, Marge (Bening) are struggling to find their post-retirement rhythm. Jerry has a gift for math, and when he realizes on of the lottery games has a flaw that almost guarantees turning a profit, he begins to test his theory. Soon, he lets Marge in on the plan, and before they know it the whole town is going in. The winnings help them revive their small town, as eventually they exploit the loophole to the tune of $27 million. Along the way, Jerry and Marge find the joy in their time together, and Jerry learns how to better connect with those around him. This is a fun and touching film. I enjoyed the story and the journey, along with the quirky characters. Bening and Cranston are great in the lead roles, with a comfortable magic between them that was endearing. I also enjoyed Wilson in a supporting role, as well as a few other characters. The secret MVP for me was Wilmore, who applied his wry comedy style perfectly in this film. There’s a subplot involving an entitled student at Harvard that wasn’t my favorite, but for the most part I enjoyed the ride of this film.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive references.
Starring: Chris Evans, Uzo Aduba, Taika Waititi, Peter Sohn, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Keke Palmer
Synopsis: In 1995, the world was introduced to Buzz Lightyear. He was a leading part of Toy Story, one of the films that helped define Pixar as an animation studio. Over the years since that time, we’ve seen three sequels to Toy Story. Now, we get the back story for the man behind the toy. As we learn at the outset, Buzz Lightyear was the action figure based on Andy’s favorite film. This is that film. Here, we have Captain Buzz Lightyear (Evans), Space Ranger. He’s on a mission that gets marooned on a remote planet, due in part to Buzz not being able to save the day. Racked with guilt, he commits to doing whatever it takes to get the rest of the crew—particularly his friend Alisha (Aduba)—back home. It takes a lot longer than he expects and, along the way, everyone learns to make a life, except Buzz. This latest entry from Pixar breaks the string of straight-to-Disney+ releases, dropping one of the more anticipated films of summer on the big screen. And it delivers. It’s a story that’s got fun and, most importantly, heart. It doesn’t feel like Toy Story, and yet it builds on that legacy. Evans is solid in the lead voice role, while many of the supporting voice actors build warm and lovable characters, including Aduba, Palmer, Soules and Waititi. But it is Sohn, as the voice of Sox, that stole the show, and many scenes in the film. Much has been made of some of the narrative decisions made by the creative team, and I suppose I understand those that are annoyed, but I thought it organically fit in the story this film is telling. I enjoyed the ride and the animation. This was a fun, family film that delivered as intended this summer.
Rating: Rated PG for action/peril.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett, and Mark Paguio
Synopsis: A secret island prison where there are no bars but plenty of hurdles to overcome. Spiderhead, based on the short story from George Saunders, is set at a special island prison where the inmates have agreed to become test subjects for new drugs in exchange for a shortened sentence. Here, Steve (Hemsworth) leads the trials with the help of assistant Mark (Paguio). What most don’t know is he’s also testing the drugs on himself, which is never advised for a scientist. Jeff (Teller) is a part of the trial. He’s racked by guilt as his crime—a DUI accident that claimed two lives. He makes a connection with a fellow trial participant, Lizzy (Smollett), and soon they both find themselves drawn into a deadly game where Steve has more influence and control than the subjects are led to believe. This film, with a screenplay from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, tries to weave the story and build the tension. There are times when Hemsworth’s Steve is kind of fun and cuts loose. But mostly the film is kind of a downer and awkwardly produced. Director Joseph Kosinski knocked it out of the park with Top Gun: Maverick, released in May, but this film feels more like a limp, by-the-numbers take on this type of story. There’s a decent cast and an OK premise but this film falls short.
Rating: Rated R for violent content, language and sexual content.
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.
Leave a Reply