OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022, Spain)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Satire is one of the most challenging cinematic genres to get right. The script and performances are crucial, and the director must walk a fine line between too subtle and over-the-top. The long-time collaborative filmmaking team of co-writers and co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, along with co-writer Andres Duprat, strike just the right chord and deliver a gem that is funny, insightful, and quite entertaining. The film was well received at last year’s Venice Film Festival, but is only now getting distribution.

We open on Don Umberto Suarez (Jose Luis Gomez), a wealthy pharmaceutical businessman, as he peruses the many gifts that have arrived for his 80th birthday. He’s in a reflective mood and wonders what he can do to secure his legacy so as not to be forgotten. Suarez debates between building a bridge or financing a “great” movie, one that will stand the test of time. He knows nothing of the film industry, and doesn’t bother to read the best-seller book he secures the rights to. He then meets with eccentric film director Lola Cuevas (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, 2008), yet seems oblivious to what we see – her vision runs contrary to his, as evidenced by her production notebook that looks like a teenager’s scrapbook from summer camp. She buys in to his “best cast” demands and leaves him believing “his” film is in good hands.

Ms. Cruz is so perfect in this role that even her giant frizzy flame-red wig is simpatico with director Lola’s intense personality as an auteur. Things really take off when rehearsal begins and her two lead actors arrive. Antonio Banderas plays Felix Rivero, a global movie star who lives the rock star life with women and sports cars. He’s the personality antithesis of his co-star Ivan Torres, played by Oscar Martinez, a self-absorbed stage actor who views his world as prestigious, while mocking the glitz, glamor, and money that rules Felix’s world. An architecturally stunning art institute funded by Suarez serves as the rehearsal site, since it sits empty and unused.

Felix and Ivan are to play rival brothers, and the tension that develops between the two men is hilarious … and further spurred by Lola’s acting exercises. She prods Ivan on the simple line, “Good evening”, forcing him to repeat it multiple times, just as she toys with Felix on his level of intoxication (a range of 1 to 10). To increase the tension, Lola has the men rehearse underneath a giant boulder dangling overhead by crane. As the two actors battle it out for respect from the other and favoritism from Lola, the humor escalates at the same pace as egos are wounded. After scoffing at the mention of Felix’s awards, Ivan secretly practices his Oscar-acceptance speech in his dressing room. It becomes clear that each of the men want what the other has: Felix wants prestige, while Ivan wants recognition.

There are so many terrific scenes and moments here, including a foreshadowed twist and a sequence that combines industry awards, an industrial shredder, and the strength of Saran Wrap. All three lead actors are having a blast, and the supporting cast lends authenticity to this skewering of wealth, ego, art, and the film industry. Especially effective in support are Irene Escolar as Suarez’s daughter who has been cast in the film, and Pilar Castro as Violetta, Ivan’s equally pretentious wife. This is satire at it’s finest, and the filmmakers (and Ms. Cruz) even nail the ending. Kudos to one of my favorite movies of the year.

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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (2022)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Normally when we see a movie where the focus is almost entirely on two characters conversing while in one room, we expect it to feel like something better served in live theater. But director Sophie Hyde does succeed in keeping it cinematic, despite the dialogue-centric script from writer Katy Brand and a setting that is 95 percent within the confines of a single hotel room. An extraordinary performance from two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson and solid complimentary work from Daryl McCormack keep us interested in the characters.

Nancy Stokes (Ms. Thompson) is a middle-aged woman fidgeting in a hotel room when Leo Grande (Mr. McCormack) knocks on her door and asks if he may kiss her on the cheek. It turns out Nancy is two years a widow and has hired sex worker Leo to assist with knocking a few things off her to-do list of unfulfilled intimate activities. See, Nancy has only ever had sex with her husband, and now she longs to feel young and excited again, and hopes this pay-for-it adventure will scratch that itch in just the right way.

Their initial meeting is fascinating to watch. Nancy, a former religious studies teacher, is a planner, list-maker, and steps-follower. She’s also filled with nervous energy and a bit embarrassed by the situation … clearly wanting to move forward, while trying to convince herself she doesn’t really want it. On the other side of this would-be tryst, Leo is the master of calm demeanor and smooth talk. He’s a professional who takes pride in the “service” he provides, and he recognizes what to say (and when) to try and put Nancy at ease. It’s clearly not his first rodeo. In this initial meeting, Nancy and Leo literally dance around the sex, and instead focus on conversation. She wants to know all about him, while he just wants to the job he was hired for.

Subsequent meetings (jobs, hook-ups, trysts?) between the two occur in the same room at The Duffield Hotel, and Nancy continues to poke the personal boundaries that Leo tries to uphold. As happens with human nature, barriers begin to break down. This intrusion changes the dynamics and causes quite the mood shift as personal lives and relationships open wounds that are probably best left to a situation where one hasn’t contracted for the sexual services of another.

Most of the dialogue seems believable and true to the characters, and Ms. Thompson does much of the heavy lifting. The only exceptions to this would be Nancy offering to talk to Leo’s mother (What the heck? That’s ridiculous even for a former teacher.), and when Nancy recalls asking her class about the impact of pay-for-sex … a discussion that seems a bit too on point for the film. A truly annoying song plays over the opening credits, but later an Alabama Shakes song plays with perfect timing. When Nancy’s real name is revealed, that too produces a cringe, but mostly we are reminded that the perfect fantasy sex partner will always be just that – a fantasy. Ms. Hyde’s film leaves us with this thought … will “empirically sexy” become the go-to compliment for romantic partners?

Opens in theaters on June 17, 2022

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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN (2022)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Scott Farnaby co-wrote the book with Scott Murray and then adapted that book into the screenplay directed here by Craig Roberts (ETERNAL BEAUTY, 2019). Mr. Farnaby also wrote the excellent screenplay for PADDINGTON 2 (2017), as well as for the upcoming Disney version of PINOCCHIO. Director Roberts is also known for his acting, taking the lead in the underrated SUBMARINE (2010).

We are informed that this is based on the true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a name you likely don’t recognize. Flitcroft (played here by Oscar winner Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES) is known for posting the highest score in history at the 1976 British Open. He shot 121. It was the first round of golf he ever played. Now if you wonder how that could happen, the filmmakers are happy to explain. We meet Flitcroft as an unassuming crane operator at the shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, a workplace he describes as “going in on your feet, and out in a box.” This is also where he meets and subsequently marries an unassuming secretary, and single mom, named Jean (played by the always great Sally Hawkins). The two marry and have twin sons to join Jean’s son, Michael.

There is really no need to dig in deep here as it’s a light-hearted, dry comedy based on an accidental celebrity who gained folk hero status over pursuing his dream … in a clueless and talentless manner. The big question remains: was Flitcroft a naïve man whose dream was inspired by watching a few holes of golf on TV, or was he a sly huckster who took a bit of enjoyment in sticking it to the system? Rylance gives the least subtle performance of his career as he dons a bucket hat and some protruding false teeth to create an exaggerated overbite that is as much of his character as the quirky facial expressions and down-to-earth philosophy he spews: “Practice is the road to perfection.”

Christian Lees and Jonah Lees appear as Maurice’s and Jean’s disco-dancing twins (and sometimes caddy), while Jake Davis stars as Michael, their more career-minded son. It’s an under-utilized Rhys Ifans who takes on the main villain role as the director of the British Open, and the man responsible for exposing and banning Flitcroft. Ash Tandon plays Lloyd Donovan, the journalist who sniffs out the Flitcroft story and actually follows through (like journalists once did) … even ten years later when the Flitcroft family is invited to the U.S. for the annual Maurice Flitcroft tournament, where the high score wins.

Isobel Waller-Bridge (EMMA., big sister to Phoebe of “Fleabag” fame) composed the score, and we do get archival footage of Maurice and family over the end credits. Perhaps EDDIE THE EAGLE (2015) is the best comparison for this film, as Flitcroft bore the label, “the worst golfer in the world” … something he vehemently denied. Maurice did manage to inspire others to follow their dreams, and his six sugars in tea may correspond to the level of saccharine the movie develops as it strives to be this year’s feel-good story – and we all know we need one.

Opens in theaters on June 17, 2022

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HUSTLE (2022)

June 7, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. As a sports fan and movie fan, I approach every sports movie with trepidation and low expectations. Let’s face it, most actors aren’t great (or even good) athletes, and most athletes aren’t great (or even good) actors. We would have no interest in a western where the cowboys can’t ride horses, just as we have no interest in watching John Goodman portray a baseball legend in THE BABE (1992). I tell you this to convey my state of mind while preparing to watch this basketball movie from director Jeremiah Zagar and co-writers Will Fetters (A STAR IS BORN, 2018) and Taylor Materne. It gives me pleasure to say that even though the premise is kind of similar to Kevin Bacon’s 1992 film, THE AIR UP THERE, this one should satisfy most sports and basketball fans.

Adam Sandler stars as Stanley Sugermen, a long-time scout for the Philadelphia 76’ers. An opening montage gives us a taste of why he’s worn out and beaten down after so many years on the road. Rushing to catch flights, too many fast-food meals, crashing in one hotel after another, and chasing down tips on the next great player … it all adds up to frustration and too much time away from his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and teenage daughter (Jordan Hull). Feeling unappreciated and questioning his professional future, Stanley is ecstatic when the long-time Sixers owner played by (Oscar winner) Robert Duvall promotes Stanley to assistant coach. Unfortunately, the dream-come-true turns into a nightmare when the beloved owner dies, leaving his cocky son Vince (Ben Foster) in charge of the team. Vince has little respect for Stanley and promptly sends him back on the road.

It’s in Mallorca, Spain where Stanley stumbles on a nighttime game at a local outdoor court. Immediately catching his eye is an intense, lanky player in work boots. NBA player Juancho Hernangomez stars as Bo Cruz, a true previously undiscovered diamond in the rough. The dream of all scouts is to be the first to find a transcendent player, and once they hear the NBA minimum salary, Bo’s mother and young daughter are on board with Stanley taking Bo to the United States. Of course, things don’t go according to plan. Vince rejects Bo, and a history of anger issues comes back to haunt Bo. Stanley ignores the naysayers, trusts his instincts, and takes on the project of preparing Bo for the scouting combine. The training montage is very well done, as Sandler and Juancho are both believable and draw us in for support.

Cinematographer Zak Mulligan and director Zagar deserve credit for filming the basketball sequences in a style that highlights the athletic talent without resorting to cheap editing tricks. Of course it helps that the basketball sequences are loaded with actual NBA players and playground legends. These guys look like they can play because they CAN. I’ll leave the closing credit montage to highlight most of those involved, but a couple of standouts include Boban Marjonovich and Anthony Edwards, the latter playing Bo’s head-game nemesis, Kermit Wilts. Also making appearances are Kenny Smith as a player agent, and the great Julius “Dr J” Erving, who has a couple of scenes.

When most people think of Adam Sandler, his long list of sophomoric and absurd man-child movies come to mind. Certainly, he can’t be blamed for giving the masses what they want. It’s made him a very rich man. However, his talent in more dramatic roles should not be ignored. The recent UNCUT GEMS and THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES are examples, and going back further, his turn in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE remains one of his best. As Stanley Sugermen, Sandler injects humor into his love of basketball, tossing in a couple of ‘soccer’ and ‘geezer’ jokes. Overall, he successfully captures the essence of an everyman seeking redemption for his self and his family.

Streaming on Netflix beginning June 8, 2022

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EMERGENCY (2022)

May 20, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. When we discover someone in the midst of a medical emergency, most of us wouldn’t hesitate to call 911 for assistance. In this film, developed from their Sundance award-winning 2018 short film, director Carey Williams and writer K.D. Davila remind us things aren’t always quite so simple. Two best friends and college students, return home to find a white girl passed out in their living room. Since the two young men are black, and their roommate is Latino, their discussion revolves around how the situation will be viewed by paramedics and law enforcement. It’s a terrific premise, and one handled deftly by the filmmakers and cast.

The first act is outstanding as we quickly get a feel for the friendship between Sean (RJ Cyler, “I’m Dying Up Here”) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins, “The Underground Railroad”). Sean is the fun-loving one who is constantly vaping for effect, but also paranoid and aware. Kunle is the strait-laced son of two African immigrant doctors. Kunle has been accepted to the PhD program at Princeton, while Sean’s big plan is ensuring he and Kunle become the first black students at Buchannan to attend that evening’s ‘Legendary Tour’ … seven invitation-only frat parties held over the course of one night. Kunle wants to hang with his buddy – just as soon as he finishes with his bacteria specimens (his “babies”) in the campus laboratory.

The early buddy-comedy banter is spot on, and leads us to make assumptions about the type of movie this will be. It’s only after Sean and Kunle stop by the house and discover the girl, that we realize this is a rare buddy-comedy loaded with social commentary. Their gamer-obsessed roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon, “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels”) joins the mission on how best to handle the situation. Carlos catches grief for his fanny pack, which is always filled with granola bars. Sean enjoys teasing Kunle, calling him an “Oreo” for being too white inside, and we hear Kunle described as “Black excellence”. As these three men of color debate the next step – how to provide care to the girl (who has since thrown up on their floor), while also protecting themselves from possibly dangerous racist reactions.

What they don’t know is that while they are arguing, the unconscious girl’s big sister (Sabrina Carpenter) has rallied two friends to go searching. Rather than improve the situation, racial profiling plays a part at just about every turn. The tone of the film shifts when Emma (Maddie Nichols) wakes up and freaks out at the situation. It becomes a comedy of errors in the mode of ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING (1987), only with fear and risk involved. Two sequences in particular standout: when they stop at Sean’s brother’s house to borrow a car, and when they do finally encounter the cops. Both scenes present the paranoia and constant uneasiness felt in these situations.

When utilizing comedy to express social commentary, there is a fine line between effective messaging and too-obvious. Both of these occur during the film, but for the most part, Williams and Davila and the cast are superb in making their points without preaching. The commentary on friendship and racism blends well into entertainment, despite the messages never leaving the screen.

In Select Theaters May 20th

Available worldwide on Amazon Prime Video May 27th

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TANKHOUSE (2022)

May 12, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. A couple of months ago I reviewed Tim Federle’s new movie, BETTER NATE THAN EVER, and described it as a real treat for young theater students. Now, just a few weeks later, comes the first feature film from writer-director Noam Tomaschoff and co-writer Chelsea Frei … one for the grown-ups still trying to make a go of it on the live theater scene. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes motivational, and sometimes painful to watch. While the film really boils down to finding one’s place in life and staying true to your own dreams, it takes quite an unusual path with oddball characters.

Sandrene St Jean (Tara Holt) and Tucker Charlemagne (Stephen Friedrich) lead a group of avant-garde performers in a display of rooftop immersive art. Things go swimmingly right up until a tragedy that results in the couple being booted from the company by their mentor, Burford Slezinger (Christopher Lloyd), and blacklisted from the NYC theater scene. Making things seem more hopeless for Sandrene and Tucker, a dinner with her parents (Andy Buckley from “The Office” and Joey Lauren Adams and her distinctive voice) leaves their free-wheeling artistic lifestyle lacking further funding.

The pretentious Sandrene and the brash Tucker admit they can’t possibly get “real jobs”, so they head to her hometown of Fargo, where a contest will decide which performance group will win the rights to takeover the historic downtown theater. The competition boils down to an established group led by Morten (Richard Kind), Sandrene’s former high school drama teacher, or the quickly assembled troupe of oddball locals she and Tucker cobble together from the local pub. Recruits are drawn in by Tucker’s proclamation of a “theatrical revolution” … one of his many articulate statements that carry no significant heft.

Most of the story takes place in Fargo, with the rivalry between the two theater groups driving things forward. There is a terrific parody of the WEST SIDE STORY gang face-off that involves high-speed dueling “Modern Major General Song” (from Pirates of the Penzance) versions – accompanied by finger-snapping! What we witness is how one person’s passion and commitment can both unite and divide, and how individual dreams should be pursued when the opportunity presents. Richard Kind’s Morten is a fine example of how bitterness can leech in when someone doesn’t achieve their goals and struggles, and still find happiness with the hand dealt. All of these life lessons are wrapped in a comedy with oddball characters that will likely appeal most to those who have chosen the theater life. In fact, the story is semi-autobiographical for writers Tomaschoff and Frei. While we would have liked more development for the supporting characters, this ‘personal’ aspect for the writers explains a great deal. Whether you view this as a parody or cautionary tale, it does remind us that each person must seek their lot in life.

Available May 13, 2022 on VOD

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THE DUKE (2022)

April 26, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It made headlines in 1961. Francisco Goya’s ‘Portrait of the Duke of Ellington’ was stolen from London’s National Gallery. Director Roger Michell, with a screenplay from Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, dramatize the story so that it’s part comedy and part love story, and thanks to screen veteran James Broadbent, full of charm.

Oscar winner Broadbent (IRIS, 2001) stars as Kempton Bunton. We first see him in the midst of his courtroom trial. Pretty quickly, the film flashes back to 6 months prior. Kempton hasn’t had much luck in keeping his job as a cab driver, or a baker, or any other. He’s a bit of a rabble-rouser, quick to share his unsolicited opinions, and on a constant mission to look out for ‘the little guy.’ He is also a would-be writer who cranks out novels (“Susan Christ”) and plays that never get published, all of which adds to the chagrin of Kempton’s wife, Dorothy, played by Oscar winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN, 2006). Dorothy works as a maid, and only desires a simple, steady, and predictable life with her husband … who delivers quite the opposite.

Living in a working-class neighborhood with one of their sons, Jackie (Fionn Whitehead, DUNKIRK), Kempton and Dorothy have an interesting relationship … one that includes contrasting methods of grieving over the death of their daughter. She internalizes while he writes about it. Kempton’s latest protest is against the government buying back the Goya painting while so many citizens suffer the indignity of paying a television licensing tax. He insists the government should spend the money on the people, not on frivolities like art. It’s during this phase when we wonder if son Jackie is learning more from dad than we originally suspect.

Director Michell includes some fascinating shots, including the theft of the painting, which leaves Edvund Munch’s “The Scream” in the video wake. We also see the scene in the 1965 James Bond film DR NO which features the Goya painting and a little inside humor. There are also numerous shots with Broadbent superimposed into archival footage of 1960’s London, and actual newsreels from the era. The tone shifts when Kempton turns himself and the painting into the authorities. His courtroom behavior plays like a stand-up comedy routine, while his barrister (played by Matthew Goode) uses Kempton’s everyman-likability to his advantage.

Director Roger Michell passed away in September 2021. He’s best known for NOTTING HILL (1999) and VENUS (2006), and unfortunately, he didn’t get to see his final film released in theaters. Broadbent’s charm is on full display here, and the film easily could have gone deeper into the topics of social inequality and governmental mismanagement. Instead, it’s more sentimental and funny than enlightening … an outlandish heist story that plays just as well as a gentle love story. And that’s a pretty good cause for Mr. Michell the filmmaker.

Opens in NYC and LA on April 22, 2022 and nationwide on April 29, 2022

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“Bring a Friend Back to the Movies” will provide one complimentary ticket to customers who purchase a ticket directly from the Angelika website, app or in theaters to see “The Duke” during the first week of its release. Select Angelika locations will also offer each ticket holder for “The Duke” a specially priced split of bubbly to share with their friend in celebration of their return to the movies


THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT (2022)

April 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Calling all Nicolas Cage fans! Put the bunny back in the box and get ready for the most fun you’ll ever have with Nicolas or Nic or Nick or Nicky. And if one Cage isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck. This film has Nicolas Cage playing the (somewhat) fictional Nick Cage, and Nicolas Kim Coppola (Nicolas Cage’s birth name) playing imaginary alter-ego Nicky, a younger version of Nicolas Cage from the WILD AT HEART era who spends the movie constantly reminding Nick that he’s a movie star.

If you can’t make much sense out of all that, don’t worry, writer-director Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten have created a film that is sure to strike a chord with Nicolas Cage fans. What we see is a parody going meta in a surreal way. Very few get to star in the tribute to their own legend, but that’s what happens here. Nicolas Cage goes ‘inside baseball’ on the career of Nicolas Cage … only he does so as struggling actor Nick Cage, an actor so desperate for “the role of a lifetime” that he improvs a reading for director David Gordon Green (Cage’s director on JOE) in the parking lot of Chateau Marmont.

Having been kicked out of his rental after falling behind $600,000 in rent, Nick agrees to take a humiliating job pitched by his agent, Fink (Neil Patrick Harris). For one million dollars, he is to fly to Mallorca and hang out at the birthday party of rich super fan, Javi Gutierrez (a terrific Pedro Pascall, “The Mandalorian”). The twist here is that CIA agents played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz suspect Javi of being a notorious gun dealer who has kidnapped the young daughter of the Catalonia President. Spy-type shenanigans ensue as Nick and Javi develop a bromance that finds the two new buddies writing a film script together. And if that’s not quite enough subplots, you should know that Nick is at a breaking point in his relationship with his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and teenage daughter Abby (Lily Sheen, real life daughter of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale).

The zaniness includes nods to more than a dozen Nicolas Cage movies, and much of the fun is derived from recognizing these. Easter eggs are everywhere for fans, and Nic expertly plays Nick (and Nicky) as a loving tribute to the characters we’ve seen in so many iconic films over the years. Additionally, on screen love is provided for the 1920 classic, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, as well as the more recent gem, PADDINGTON 2 (2017), making this a tribute to cinema lovers, Nicolas Cage fans, and comedies in general. I will admit to disliking director Gormican’s 2014 movie, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, so much that I hoped he was done as a filmmaker. It turns out, he’s back (and much improved) … not that he ever went anywhere.

Opens in theaters on April 22, 2022

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FATHER STU (2022)

April 12, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Well, if you are going to make a movie about redemption and bettering one’s self, who better to cast than Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson? Both men are stars who on multiple occasions have needed redeeming. Writer-director Rosalind Ross’ first feature film is based on the true story of Stuart Long, and Mr. Wahlberg was so committed to the project that he funded production when others chose not to.

OK, so maybe it’s a bit of a stretch having Mr. Wahlberg play the guy who becomes a priest, but that’s why they call it, “the magic of Hollywood.” Stuart Long was a real person and his story is compelling and worth sharing. Wahlberg so believed this that he self-funded the production, and clearly gave his all in the performance. My advice to anyone watching the movie is to stay seated. Things move extremely fast … and it’s that expeditious approach to storytelling that gives this a bit of a movie-of-the-week feel. Here’s what I mean by fast: We see Stu (Wahlberg) as a boxer. His parents are long-divorced, and after an injury, Stu decides to head to California to be an actor. He falls in love with a girl who convinces him to get baptized, and the experience inspires him to become a Catholic priest. Severe health issues ensue, yet he persists. That’s a whole lot to cover in two hours, and it explains why each piece skims only the surface and feels rushed … and this is only a partial list!

The pedigree here is beyond question. Wahlberg has twice been Oscar nominated. Two-time Oscar winner Mel Gibson plays his father, while 2-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is Stu’s mother. Screen legend Malcolm McDowell plays the local monsignor who finds himself in a pickle, and the always-great Colleen Camp has a brief appearance as a seen-it-all motel clerk. Teresa Ruiz is terrific as Carmen, Stu’s reluctant love interest who first think she understands him, then learns she doesn’t, and then ultimately respects what he’s made of himself.

Catholicism plays a big role here, and there is plenty of guilt to go around. Wahlberg leans heavily into his charm to help us relate to Stu, but he and Gibson both have cringe-inducing moments for those familiar with some of their off-screen activities. Gibson’s ‘Hitler’ crack seems to walk an especially fine line. On the other hand, Gibson delivers a couple of memorable lines: one early on when he’s watching young Stu dance, and another later on when the two are re-connecting as grown men. Filmmaker Ross includes some actual Stuart Long audio recordings, photographs, and video over the closing credits.

Opens in theaters April 13, 2022

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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (2022)

April 5, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s bonkers, I tell ya’! Co-writers and co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively (by their choice) as “Daniels”, follow up their ‘farting corpse movie’ SWISS ARMY MAN (2016) with one that is somehow more bizarre, more audacious, and more fun. It’s one of the most innovative films I’ve seen in a while, and although I can point out influences, I’ve yet to come up with a movie comparison that seems just or fair.

Every small business owner can relate to the stress Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is under as she attempts to organize her documents in preparation for an IRS audit of the laundromat she owns with her husband Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan). As if that’s not enough, her father is scheduled to arrive the same day. She knows Gong Gong (James Hong) is disappointed in his daughter for the husband and life she chose. And while being crushed with those two events, Evelyn’s strained relationship with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) continues to fracture as Evelyn wants to keep Joy’s girlfriend status with Becky (Tallie Medel) a secret from dear old conservative dad/grandfather.

That’s just about the end of the “normal” part of the story, other than Waymond has had divorce papers prepared, not for the purpose of ending the marriage, but with the hope that the threat might force Evelyn to have a real conversation with him about their relationship. Things start to get weird even before they head to the IRS meeting with an agent played with gusto by Jamie Lee Curtis, but while there, we get our first real taste of the fantastical trip we (and Evelyn) are about to take. Of course, I can’t really offer any description of the action that occurs, but nothing is spoiled if I tell you that some characters cross multiple dimensions and universes in an attempt to ‘save the world’. While doing this, they mix in some acrobatic martial arts that would make Jackie Chan envious.

It’s the rare film where the frenetic pace of dialogue keeps pace with breakneck action sequences. A fanny pack, trophies with an unfortunate shape, and blue-tooth type devices all play unusual roles here, and this film challenges everyone from the actors to the directors to the editors to the fight coordinators. You’ll likely recognize Evelyn’s husband as the grown-up version of the child actor who played Short Round in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984), and daughter Joy is portrayed by Stephanie Hsu (a contributor to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), who gets to cover just about the widest range of character we’ve likely ever seen on screen. The estimable James Hong is a riot as Gong Gong. Mr. Hong is now 93 years old with an incredible canon of 450 credits in his 8 decades of work. His presence is quite crucial to the film. It should also be noted that, as we would expect, Jenny Slate shines in her brief role as “Big Nose”, a regular customer at the laundromat.

As terrific as the cast is, this is really a chance for Michelle Yeoh to bring her full arsenal to the role of Evelyn. She’s angry, frustrated, scared, courageous, and even adds her comic timing. Ms. Yeoh flashes her CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON fighting skills, while also brining a regal presence to a film that requires a strong core. It’s no mystery that family and love can solve many of the world’s issues, and Daniels have delivered a wild ride that defies simple description. It’s a long one at 139 minutes, but you’ll thank me later for not saying much more than … it’s bonkers!

Opens in select markets on March 25 and April 1, 2022 and nationwide on April 8, 2022

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