A new superhero film and a romantic comedy starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts highlight this week’s new films. I give my thoughts on those and other 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.
Black Adam (Theaters)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, and Noah Centino
Synopsis: The latest film in the D.C. Extended Universe has been a long time in the making. Johnson takes the titular role, a slave named Teth Adam who is granted superpowers by the same wizards who gave them to Billy Batson in Shazam! In fact, they use the same catch word, too. Teth Adam fights an evil king and defeats him before he can use a magic crown, then both he and the crown were sealed away. Now 5,000 years later, Teth Adam is released. He comes out ready to fight and that draws the attention of the Justice Society—led by Hawkman (Hodge) and Dr. Fate (Brosnan)—who are committed to keeping Teth Adam from wreaking havoc and being a killing machine… if they can. Can Teth Adam learn to be a hero or will he remain a danger? That’s the stakes set out in the film. It’s not only an origin story for Black Adam but for the Justice Society, including younger heroes Cyclone (Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Centino). There is action a plenty in this film, from director Jaume Collet-Serra. I enjoyed some of the action sequences but it was more about discovering these characters. Shahi does a nice job as the entry to the world and culture, while Johnson does well in the titular role. I particularly enjoyed Hodge and Brosnan as the members of the Justice Society. Ultimately, the film is OK but not great. The villain is far too under-developed, coming off as a two-dimensional figure that pops up twice in the third act. This film does more in terms of developing what might come—including a fun surprise cameo in a post-credit sequence. It’s OK but like much of the DCEU, it feels like some wasted potential.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, intense action and some language.
Raymond & Ray (Apple TV+)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor, Vondie Curtis Hall, Oscar Nunez, and Maribel Verdu
Synopsis: This character piece from Rodrigo Garcia centers on a pair of brothers who come together to travel to their estranged father’s funeral. Both were named Raymond by their father, who was spiteful and abusive. Now as adults, Raymond (McGregor) and Ray (Hawke) have a somewhat distant and estranged relationship, and both carry deep wounds from their upbringing. Despite their feelings, they travel to the funeral, learning more about their father and the last years of his life. They strengthen their bond and, more importantly, begin to heal from long-standing wounds. This is a quiet character piece, one driven on the performances from Hawke and McGregor. Both do strong work, building their characters through the quirky twists and turns of the story. I enjoyed some of the humor and the emotional moments. Hawke, in particular, struck me with some of his work. It’s not an incredible film but it pulls you in and takes you on a journey with a satisfying resolution. I enjoyed it for the performances.
Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual material.
The School for Good and Evil (Netflix)
Starring: Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wiley, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, and Laurence Fishburne
Synopsis: Paul Feig’s latest film is an adaptation of the book from Soman Chainani. It features a world where there are two schools—one a school of good, training future prince and princesses, and the other a school for evil, training future witches and warlocks. The schools were begun by a pair of brothers, Rafal and Rhian (Kit Young). After a falling out, one brother was killed and the other was left to run both schools alone. A young girl, Sophie (Caruso), dreams of being a princess and petitions to get to the school. When the request is granted, it sets her at odds with her friend Agatha (Wiley), who fears being left behind. Both girls end up getting transported, but Sophie ends up at the School for Evil and Agatha ends up at the School for Good. Neither girl is happy, but might they be in the right spot after all? That’s what much of the film explores. The supporting cast is also quite good—with Theron, Washington, Yeoh and Fishburne among the faculty of the schools. This feels something like Netflix’s answer to Harry Potter, and that’s not a bad thing. The film moves at a good pace despite running nearly two and a half hours. Meanwhile, it offers a satisfying conclusion while leaving the door open for more from the world, which feels like a good thing.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and action, and some frightening images.
Ticket to Paradise (Theaters)
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd
Synopsis: David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) were once in love and married. That was a long time ago. Now, they can barely stand to be in the same place together, and they almost never are except when it comes to their daughter, Lily (Dever). After graduating college, Lily and her best friend Wren (Lourd) head to Bali for some recreation and celebration before beginning their adult lives. There, Lily meets Gede (Maxime Bouttier), and they decide to get married. Learning their daughter is getting married in four days and staying in Bali, giving up a career in law, David and Georgia make their way to meet the would-be bride and groom. Though they don’t agree on much, they agree that Lily is making a mistake and decide to join forces to thwart the marriage. You can guess where this is going. When it comes to this kind of films it’s not about the specific plot points, it’s about the characters and the journey. You hope for some fun along the way and characters you can root for. With Roberts and Clooney, who still have a natural chemistry, you get that. They elevate the material and have a great natural rapport. You root for David and Georgia, enjoying their antics and wild situations along the way. The supporting cast is solid, too. I enjoyed Dever as Lily and had fun with Lourd as Wren. It’s the perfect kind of light-hearted date night film.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief suggestive material.
Hallmark Christmas Movie Corner
We Wish You a Married Christmas
Starring: Kristopher Polaha and Marisol Nichols
Synopsis: The most wonderful time of the year is back. Hallmark began its Countdown to Christmas, featuring new movies on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, last weekend. As I did in 2021, I’ll be taking a moment at the end of each review roundup to offer my thoughts on the Hallmark Christmas Movie Corner. This week we have We Wish You a Married Christmas, which was the Saturday night feature. Robby (Polaha) and Becca (Nichols) are a long-married couple, 13 years to be exact. They both lead demanding lives that have them mostly missing each other on a daily basis. An ongoing renovation project at home isn’t helping. They turn to a marriage counselor, who encourages them to take a small getaway to an Inn in Connecticut for Christmas. There, Robby and Becca are still struggling and feel like it’s time to separate, possibly for good. Fate intervenes—dropping a Christmas ornament on their car and forcing them to stay in the small town. Over the course of a few days in a cozy Christmas wonderland, can Robby and Becca find that magic spark again? It’s Hallmark. It’s a Christmas film. The question ultimately answers itself. I will say, one of the things I enjoyed about this film was that it offered a different kind of Christmas movie formula. As with most, this comes down to the characters and performers. I enjoyed the Christmas trappings… even though we’re more than a week from Halloween. Polaha and Nichols have good chemistry together and the film plays out mostly as you’d expect. It was a nice, light return to the world of Hallmark Christmas films.
Rating: TV G
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.