We’ve made it through Labor Day. While we didn’t get a ton of big releases this weekend, it’s the sign we’re moving toward Fall and Awards season. So, get ready. 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.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul (Theaters/Peacock)
Starring: Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall
Synopsis: This film, from Adamma Ebo, debuted at Sundance. I saw it and reviewed it in January. Now, it’s finally available for mass audiences, opening in theaters and on Peacock. The film was slightly re-cut, and I watched the final theatrical version. It’s still great. This one comes in with a comedic hook. It’s about a disgraced Baptist minister (Brown) and his wife (Hall) trying to rebound from scandal and re-open their church. Things don’t go as planned. There are fun and funny moments but this also has some incredibly dramatic sequences. It’s an exceptional showcase for its two stars. Brown and Hall each have some incredible moments in the film. It is those deeper, emotional moments that really stuck with me. I loved this film at Sundance and still do. I hope more people get a chance to see it.
Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content.
Love in the Villa (Netflix)
Starring: Tom Hooper and Kat Graham
Synopsis: To fair Verona, where we lay our scene. Julie (Graham) is a third-grade teacher obsessed with Romeo & Juliet. She’s been dreaming of making a voyage to Verona for years, and now she’s got the trip booked for summer break and plans to head out with her boyfriend, Brandon (Raymond Ablack). But things don’t turn out as she’s planned. She gets dumped on the eve of the trip, endures a terrible flight, lost luggage and a harrowing cab ride. When she finally arrives at the villa she’s booked, she finds that Charlie (Hooper) has booked the same villa for the same time. Charlie is a wine importer who has no interest in the romantic trappings of Verona. When the two are forced to share the villa, it’s clear they have different styles. But do opposites really attract? This is a basic set up. Netflix has spent considerable time dropping these smaller romantic comedy films, mirroring the success of content producers like Hallmark. This one comes from writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, who has both tackled films set in Italy (When in Rome) and Netflix romantic comedies (Love, Guaranteed). This one moves at a fine pace and features decent performances from the two leads. It’s fine but not as compelling or engaging as other Netflix films in this genre.
Synopsis: This documentary officially premiered on Showtime Sunday night, but it dropped to streaming on Friday. It focuses on tennis star John McEnroe, looking at his career and life from his beginnings all the way through the present. We hear different people share impressions of his career and he shares insight and memories. It’s also a bit about the man, his personal relationships and life as a husband and father. It’s a nice tribute and showcase for a player who famously left it all out on the court. This feels like a raw and honest look at his life and career, a strong offering for those fans of good documentary stories, especially tennis fans.
Three Thousand Years of Longing (Theaters)
Starring: Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton
Synopsis: The latest film from George Miller is something of a fairy tale. It’s based on the A.S. Byatt short story and finds Swinton as a professor whose main focus is narrative. She spends her life looking at the stories we tell. On a trip to Istanbul, she finds herself in a story as she acquires an antique bottle that contains a Djinn (Elba). He’s been trapped for years and offers Alithea (Swinton) three wishes in exchange for his freedom. First, she wants to hear his story. Through their exchanges, they find a connection in their deep longing for connection that changes them both. Miller, who co-wrote the screenplay with Augusta Gore, has a great feel for the story and what he’s trying to communicate. He gets wonderful performances from Swinton and Elba, both of whom are able to convey so much through wordless motions and expressions. It also tells a fascinating story that is meant to capture the imagination. The visuals here are impressive and really add to the presentation. I enjoyed this story and the way it was put together.
Rating: Rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity and brief 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.
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