Matt’s Movie Review Roundup

We had a flood of new releases this week, among them Nicolas Cage as Dracula. Below are my thoughts on this week’s big new releases. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.

Mafia Mamma (Theaters)
: Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, and Sophia Nomvete
Synopsis: The latest comedy to hit theaters finds Collette as a bit of a fish-out-of-water. She begins the film as a wife and mother, with her son heading off to college, her job working for a drug company unfulfilling and her husband having an affair. She gets a call that her grandfather, in Italy, has died. Seeing it as a prime time to get away, she travels for the funeral. It’s there she learns she’s heir to the family business, which includes a vineyard and control of the organized crime interests in the region. Not only that, she’s been dropped in the middle of a war. Can she lead the family? That’s the challenge in this film, which finds her paired with a right-hand woman played by Bellucci. Much of the early laughs come from Godfather references, and homages, as well as the idea that this suburban housewife is now in charge of all family business. The beginning is a bit dry and a bit weak, but a funny thing happens here. As the film goes on, I got more into the story and the character. Collette is a great actress and while she probably deserves better than the material she got here, but at times this is amusing. I appreciated the Godfather references, particularly the closing shot. It’s not great but for what it was, it was entertaining.
Rating: Rated R for bloody violence, sexual content and language.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

One of These Days (VOD)
: Joe Cole, Carrie Preston, and Jesse C. Boyd
Synopsis: The path from production to being available for a mass audience can sometimes be a long one. That’s certainly the case for One of These Days, which shot in 2020, made the festival circuit and finally landed on VOD on April 14. The film is based on true events, taking the action down to Texas where a few lucky people are competing to win a new truck. Joan (Preston) is the PR woman for the dealership, trying to wring every bit of publicity about the annual event. One of the participants, Kyle (Cole), also has her support. He’s a young father who is desperately in need of a vehicle. But can he survive the elements and a particularly nasty fellow competitor (Boyd) in order to win the truck, he needs? This film asks the question of how far you’d go to win a vehicle, and more importantly what the pressure of a competition like this can do. In terms of the straightforward part of the narrative, there isn’t enough time spent building the characters in the competition for you to get hooked on what’s happening. Then, when the twist comes it feels rushed and unexpected. Also unexpected is a coda on the film, which rewinds to follow Kyle in the days leading up to the beginning of the competition. It’s a storytelling choice that doesn’t quite work, and actually somewhat mutes what felt like a natural ending for the story. I liked the performance of Cole and Boyd, but it didn’t all come together in the end. It had its moments, but the story construction let down the performances and the narrative.
Rating: NA

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Renfield (Theaters)
: Nicolas Cage, Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Synopsis: We’ve been telling stories of Dracula on film since its early days, with the first big theatrical production landing in 1931. We’ve seen the subject tackled in many ways and with many different casts over the years, but it’s fair to say we haven’t seen anything quite like Renfield. In this instance, the film has clear nods to the original Dracula film from 1931, telling the story of Dracula (Cage) and his Familiar Renfield (Hoult) from those early days all the way to the present, where Renfield is growing weary of his life of servitude. He has a convalescing Dracula hole up in an old hospital in New Orleans, as they continue a cycle of being found, being hunted, escaping and finding a new place to inhabit. Renfield is ready to have a life of his own, especially after attending a support group for those in toxic relationships. Soon, Renfield saves a local cop (Awkwafina) and finds a new friend, and perhaps a new purpose. This rankles Dracula, who turns to a local mother-son Mob duo (Schwartz and Agdashloo) to help him achieve his goals. Can Renfield stop him before it’s too late? That’s the premise here. If you’ve seen the trailers you know they wanted to go for comedy. Sadly, the funniest bits of the film—including some things that aren’t even in the final cut—are used in the trailer. That spoils some of the surprise here. The rest of the film is bloody and over-the-top. At times Cage is fun in this role but at times it feels like a bit too much. The rest of the plot feels a little too overstuffed, particularly the backstory for Awkwafina’s character and the whole mob angle. There are some laughs and some cool sequences, but this film is just OK.
Rating: Rated R for bloody violence, some gore, language throughout and some drug use.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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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