Matt’s Movie Review Roundup

It’s a busy time for movies, and it’s only going to get busier as we launch into the summer movie season. Below are my thoughts on an interesting crop of new movies. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Theaters)
Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Bennie Safdie, and Kathy Bates
Synopsis: Judy Blume’s classic tale has moved and engaged audiences for decades. Now, with this new film adaptation, it’s reaching the next generation in a new form. The story remains, taking the action back to 1970 where an 11-year-old girl named Margaret (Fortson) is going through big changes. Her parents (McAdams and Safdie) move her from New York City to New Jersey. She has a new school, new friends and new challenges as she’s becoming a woman and navigating Sixth Grade. On top of all that, she’s on a quest to decide what religion to be and, more importantly, what religion means to her. This is a loaded question. Her father is Jewish. Her mother was raised Christian. And that difference led to a split between their families. All this is at play as we follow Margaret, and her back-and-forth with God, through a crucial year in her life. Kelly Freemon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) adapts this story and serves as director. She creates a beautiful, funny and moving story that is a pure delight. McAdams is wonderful as Margaret’s mother, while Bates does a beautiful job as her grandmother. But this film soars thanks to Fortson, who as Margaret has to carry a lot on her shoulders. While some of the specifics of Margaret’s experience will speak more to young women, the exploration of faith and family dynamics is universal. I thought this was a moving and beautiful film, one well worth checking out.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving sexual education and some suggestive material.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Covenant (Theaters)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Dar Salim, Johnny Lee Miller, and Anthony Starr
Synopsis: We’re just on the other side of the War in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 and concluded with a withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2021. This film, from Guy Ritchie, is meant to look at those who served, those who assisted the United States and the often-perilous position that act of service left them in as the conflict ended. The film sets the action in 2018, where Master Sergeant John Kinley (Gyllenhaal) leads a unit tasked with finding explosives in Taliban controlled territory. In need of a new translator, he goes with Ahmed (Salim), a man with skills but a prickly demeanor and a unique backstory. When things go bad, however, it’s Ahmed who sticks with Kinley, saving his life. Back in the States, Kinley is haunted by the fact that Ahmed and his family are forced into hiding, threatened by the Taliban and in danger of being killed before they can get the Visas they were promised to come to the United States. Unable to get help through official channels, Kinley uses connections to a private contractor to go on a mission to save his friend. This is a moving and dramatic story. The trailers and marketing campaign focus on Kinley’s efforts to get Ahmed and his family out, but a bulk of the early part of the film is focused on Ahmed’s efforts to bond with Kinley and, later, to save his life. It’s a beautiful, gritty and moving tale. Gyllenhaal gives a strong performance, but Salim is every bit his equal. Ahmed’s journey is one of the most moving aspects of the film. The action sequences are well directed and it’s clear this film is a labor of love toward those who sacrificed to help the United States and didn’t always have the promise of reciprocation returned. It’s a powerful and engaging film.
Rating: Rated R for violence, language throughout and brief drug content.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Evil Dead Rise (Theaters)
: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Nell Fisher, and Gabrielle Echols
Synopsis: Back in 1981 two friends—Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell—were young filmmakers who collaborated for a low-budget horror movie set in a cabin in the woods and driven by the Book of the Dead. That small film, The Evil Dead, spawned two sequels, a TV series and, in 2013, a spin-off franchise re-boot. Now, a decade later, Evil Dead is back, and it’s better than ever. This new film, from writer/director Lee Cronin, is bookended by stories connected to a cabin in the woods, but this moves the action into the city, specifically a dilapidated apartment complex on a rainy night in Los Angeles. An earthquake unearths a hidden vault, leading a teenager (Davies) to find the Book of the Dead and some audio recordings that will change their lives forever. The recordings unleash a demon that takes a hold of his mother (Sutherland), and forces his siblings (Fisher and Echols) and aunt (Sullivan) to fight for their lives. This is a stirring take on the franchise, unlike anything I’ve seen. It doesn’t have the campy qualities of the original, but it’s not a dour as the last re-boot. This one is tense and violent, full of moody visuals and solid performances. And there’s blood, lots of blood. In fact, it’s one of the bloodiest horror films I’ve ever seen. That works in its favor. The setting and story are tense and crisp, delivering a deeply unsettling horror adventure. I was impressed by what Cronin did with this installment, which is one of the best films to carry the Evil Dead banner.
Rating: Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and some language.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Polite Society (Theaters)
Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Nimra Bucha, and Akshay Khanna
Synopsis: The latest from writer/director Nida Manzoor is an action comedy with a lot of heart that puts a wonderful focus on a pair of sisters. Lena (Arya) is an artist who is in a rut. She’s dropped out of art school and returned home. But her biggest fan is her little sister, Ria (Kansara), who is committed to becoming a stunt woman. The two share a close bond of friendship and support as they pursue their dreams. Their parents would prefer the girls just find a nice husband. When Lena starts dating Salim (Khanna), Ria is concerned it will derail her sister’s pursuit of her dreams. She tries to keep them apart, but soon their engaged. As Ria continues her efforts to stop the wedding, she’s confronted by Salim’s mother, Raheela (Bucha), and a more nefarious plot than she’d ever imagined. I doubt you’re going to find a crazier story this year than the plot of Polite Society. Despite that, the delightful performances of Arya and particularly Kansara keep the whole thing grounded and engaging. Manzoor writes a crisp and engaging script, full of humor and heart. The action sequences work and even the crazy plot elements somehow feel natural in the world she’s built. It’s a beautiful story of the bond between sisters, friends and a fun exploration of this culture. The visuals here are eye-popping, with great use of color and sets to help tell the story. I enjoyed this ride a lot and think it’s a film worth seeking out even in a crowded theatrical landscape.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong language, violence, sexual material, and some partial nudity.

Rating: 3.5 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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: