It was a strong week of new releases, including a football-centric comedy and the latest from M. Night Shymalan. Below are my takes on this week’s new releases. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
80 For Brady (Theaters)
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Tom Brady
Synopsis: This anticipated comedy is based on a true story. It focuses on a group of women who are best friends and have bonded through their shared love of Tom Brady and the Patriots. Now, on the cusp of the Super Bowl, the quartet are headed to Houston to seize the moment before it’s too late. There, the ladies confront the issues in their lives, share an adventure and, ultimately, meet their hero, Tom Brady. The trailer for this film gives you a decent idea of what to expect. What makes this special isn’t the surprises in the narrative but the chemistry of the cast and the way the whole thing comes together. Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno and Field are great together. Each brings the comedy and the emotional heft. This was surprisingly emotional. It had great laughs, a fun story and a lot of heart. I was taken with the story and the characters. It’s a film that delivers and was the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far in 2023.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some drug content and some suggestive references.
Knock at the Cabin (Theaters)
Starring: Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Dave Bautista, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Rupert Grint
Synopsis: M. Night Shyamalan is a unique filmmaker. We are used to his detailed stories and twist endings. In this latest film, Shyamalan serves as director and co-writer with Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, but this isn’t an original screen story. It’s based on a novel, which is a bit of a switch for Shyamalan. This film focuses on seven people who hold the fate of the world in their hands. Eric (Groff) and Andrew (Aldridge) are on vacation at a cabin with their daughter (Cui). Their private retreat is interrupted by four strangers, led by Leonard (Bautista) who tell them they have to make a choice to sacrifice someone in their family or the world will end. As the strangers go to desperate lengths, and the news shows images of a burgeoning apocalypse, Eric and Andrew have to fight through their fear and doubts to consider what they truly believe. If you’re expecting a big twist, this might let you down a bit. This is more of a straightforward narrative than what we’re frequently used to seeing from Shyamalan. But the signature cinematic style is here, and the film features some decent performances, especially from Bautista and Aldridge. But it’s the story that ultimately doesn’t completely work. It’s strange and introduces threads that don’t feel completely tied to the narrative. The ending also feels a bit abrupt, coming quickly and fading without much of an impact. The end product is OK and has strong moments but ultimately falls short of being something compelling.
Rating: Rated R for violence and language.
One Fine Morning (Theaters)
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, and Melvil Poupaud
Synopsis: This limited release, which comes out in select theaters this Friday, finds Seydoux as Sandra, a young widow and mother whose father (Greggory) is in need of long-term care. As she and her family wrestle with this change and decision, she connects with an old friend (Poupaud), which sparks a new flame. But her new beau has commitments of his own. Can they make it work and find a happy ending? That’s the question in this film, which comes from France. Seydoux is solid in the lead role and there are some quietly beautiful moments with Greggory and Poupaud that bring out the emotions in this story. But it meanders some as well. I enjoyed the film at times but ultimately it felt a bit unsatisfying in how things come together and just sort of end. The performances are solid but the narrative is just OK.
Rating: Rated R for some sexuality, nudity and language.
True Spirit (Netflix)
Starring: Anna Paquin, Cliff Curtis, Josh Lawson, and Tegan Croft
Synopsis: Based on a true story, this new Netflix drama focuses on Jessica Watson (Croft), the Australian teen that became the youngest to sail solo around the world. The film focuses on Watson, her family, her crusty sailing coach (Curtis) and the journey into the record books. It’s a simple story but it’s told well. Paquin and Lawson work as her parents, and Curtis does a nice job as her coach. But this lives or dies with the star, and here Croft does a nice job. She spends a lot of time on her own, battling the elements and the doubts in her head. You get sucked into this journey and the emotional way the film comes together. That’s a credit to Croft, but also to director Sarah Spillane, who does a nice job bringing the whole narrative together. I enjoyed the ride here and think this is a nice piece of family-friendly entertainment.
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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