We’ve crossed from 2022 to 2023. We’ll start getting our first official 2023 releases next weekend, but until then it’s time to play catchup for me with a couple streaming films that dropped to end the year. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (Netflix)
Starring: Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Andrea Riseborough, and Stephen Graham
Synopsis: Released on Christmas Day, this Netflix film got a limited release in theaters before coming to streaming. It’s not the first time Roald Dahl’s classic tale has been adapted into a film, but it’s fair to say you’ve never seen it quite like this. It focuses on a young girl, Matilda (Weir), who has a rough home life and faces some challenges when she’s enrolled in a school run by a cruel and demanding headmistress (Thompson). This version adds original songs to the story and features a loaded cast. Thompson does a nice job as the primary antagonist who is buried under quite a load of makeup and prosthetics. Lynch, Riseborough and Graham play adults in Matilda’s life and all are solid. I was particularly taken with Weir in the lead role. There was plenty of fun musical numbers and some beautiful sets and show pieces. At the same time, the story feels overly familiar and like something we’ve seen played out many times before. It was entertaining for what it was but it didn’t feel incredibly compelling or special. It’s a piece of decent family entertainment over the holidays.
Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, exaggerated bullying and some language.
This Place Rules (HBO Max)
Synopsis: This was one of the last films released in 2022. It aired on HBO on Friday, December 30 and dropped to HBO Max the next day. It’s a new documentary produced by A24 from filmmaker Andrew Callaghan who spent months driving around in an RV capturing man-on-the-street interviews with people in the wake of the 2020 Presidential Election leading up to the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. This includes a one-on-one interview with Info Wars host Alex Jones. It’s the real people, sharing their real views. Callaghan captures interviews with people of all ages on all sides of the argument and it’s nothing short of stirring. I remember in the wake of President Obama’s election seeing a documentary with a similar idea that left me feeling shaken about the state of the world. In the 12 years since, things haven’t improved, clearly. These interviews reveal a deeply polarized world that is plagued by misinformation and individual definitions of truth governed by political passions and not grounded in reality. At times I laughed. At times I cried. At times I fretted. At times I felt a deep rage. It’s the power of Callaghan’s mission and his piece that brings the state of the world as it is to life and leaves you wondering what can be done to solve the underlying issues that continue to threaten the peace and prosperity of this nation. It’s an incredible undertaking and one well worth checking out.
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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