Movie reviews by
3 (out of 4)
Next to adolescent button-pushing of The Hunt, the award for the most unapologetically and skillfully centrist movie of 2020 decidedly goes to Jon Stewart. Following a personally important real-life drama in the underseen Rosewater six years back, the man has abandoned plans at HBO (which have resurfaced in a sync-up with AppleTV+ for a new Daily Show-esque current events program) in order to reconnect with the passionate political satire his now-legendary career summarized so perfectly.
With Steve Carrell as a reliable, pliable comic centerpiece, Irresistible manages to have its cake and eat it too as both a smattering of the contemporary ideas whirling inside Stewart's head and a decently delectable piece of entertainment. There are more jabs at liberal hypocrisy (maybe the most effectively since Get Out) than the obvious dead horses to beat: the social gulf between the conservative voters and their representatives, or just the stock TRUMP STUPID attitude ad infinitum.
Thankfully between Chris Cooper and Mackenzie Davis selling the smalltown sincerity while we enjoy the comic fortitude of Carell, Rose Byrne, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, there’s enough gravitas to aid the insight into the microscopic facets of government in action and the general gamesmanship of the whole election system. Irresistible should illuminate anyone looking for a dose of reasonable truth, particularly in an era so bankrupt of comprehensible normalcy or levelheaded bipartisan communication coming from either side.
The final twist has its own thematic worth justifying some of the trickery beforehand, mostly due to Stewart's deft anticipation of your own predispositions. Not every attempt at an impressionable argument lands gracefully and nor does every jab or joke. Nevertheless Stewart’s temperament is too recognizable and reasoned not to get swept up in politics as entertainment in the only place it belongs – the movies, not our “unbiased” news sources that totally don’t selectively embellish certain talking points to ensure the echo chamber keeps on banging and clanging.
As the man who set the stage for so many other left-leaning comedy pundits – Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and most famous of all CBS's Stephen Colbert – Irresistible could've been an ironic cluster of narrow political awareness. Instead it has the heat of that famous Crossfire interview, more or less Stewart's objective, almost apolitical mantre – the film has a lot on its mind without pulling out a condescending soapbox or prescribing how you should think. Stewart simply makes too much sense and his ridicules still deeply satisfy. This is the mainstream media doing its job.
1 ½ (out of 4)
You got me Disney, I’ve never read Eoin Colfer’s very popular young adult fantasy novels – I was too caught up in Alex Rider, Lemony Snicket and other rewarding tween distractions. But just because I skimmed a Wikipedia article on the first book in the eight-part series doesn’t mean I couldn’t have just as easily figured out at a glance how much you tampered with the spirit of the source material.
Whether it's several awkwardly inserted dialogue dubs, editing so hapless it's obvious 45 minutes were cropped out, or a narrative framework designed to force Josh Gad into yet another Disney debacle, this sterile fluke makes Percy Jackson look like a feat of filmmaking. Speaking of Gad, the man ruins everything – his horrid stamp marks not only both Frozen features and the Beauty and the Beast redo, but he even dismantled a potentially lovely Zoom reunion of the cast of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His gravelly narration and insulting improvisation renders a skewered, lifeless would-be blockbuster turned direct-to-streaming disgrace all the worse.
Apart from Gad the casting is decent. Colin Farrell (who only joined the film during reshoots) does what he can as Papa Fowl, an excellent Lara McDonnell makes you believe in fairies and Judi Dench, who is apparently hungry for silly supporting roles these days à la Cats, can't help but be a pleasure to watch. And young novice Ferdia Shaw, grandson of the late actor Robert Shaw, is undeniably tolerable as our prodigious titular descendant of legendary criminals.
But trying to make a zoomer of the reclusive, mischievous 12-year-old mastermind from the get-go is just going to piss off everyone that cared about Fowl to begin with. Warping his character to fit some hackneyed Casino Royale-esque origin arc is not only stupid and unjustified screenwriting, but ultimately shortchanges the film's considerable production quality and Kenneth Branaugh’s unembarrassed direction. It actually feels like acting legend turned efficient director sold his soul to Disney during the 20th Century Fox acquisition to secure his Poirot sequel Death on the Nile.
3 (out of 4)
Greyhound is the ultimate dad movie forged by your pops' favorite actor – somewhere about halfway into this naval WWII exercise your own father might just combust from such finely tuned, matter-of-fact, masculine middle-aged media.
Though I would look for any reason to discount AppleTV+ (good God is that the name they went with?) as a vessel for cinematic content, as their first noteworthy theatrical procurement Greyhound works well enough at home even though it must have cost enough to have anticipated maybe nine figures at the box office. It’s the finest at-sea film we’ve seen in some time, and does well in elaborating on more rarely discussed areas of 20th century warfare by simply illustrating a few ships and some watery geography before throwing you into the mix and quickly pulling off a realistic relay race of fine editing and green screen trickery that passes by fairly cogently.
It’s not some kind of Master and Commander, Das Boot or even as good as Nolan's knotty, antimatter war flick Dunkirk – but there are so few genre greats because sea-fare is not the easiest to recreate convincingly or cheaply. What one would expect to be a middling military masturbation session is instead a period thriller that neatly reproduces the risk and treachery of crossing the Atlantic without air cover in the early day of the United States' involvement with WWII. The movie is ruthlessly compact and doesn’t waste a minute of your time – as more a summer flick than strained Oscar bait there’s not much else you could ask for. We’ll see if Apple’s major investments in Sofia Coppola and Martin Scorsese can increase the clout the streaming service with the least respect and the most to prove – unless you really want to count Peacock.
Regardless of any distribution strategy, it's amazing that after all these years Tom Hanks – who also scribed the adaptive screenplay – can still act his ass off so much that you seldom discredit the film’s believability or showmanship. He ably lets you enjoy the roughly ceaseless tension and convenience store history lesson.
The King of Staten Island
2 ½ (out of 4)
There is something to be said for wearing your heart on your sleeve – that is the purpose of tattoos after all and the most consequential asset of the latest star vehicle helmed by the relatively selective comedy auteur Judd Apatow.
But The King of Staten Island is more than just the Pete Davidson showreel like Trainwreck was for Amy Schumer. Remember Trainwreck? Better yet remember Amy Schumer? This feels like the closest thing to an arguably artistic attempt the stringently juvenile director has pieced together – or should I say DRAWN OUT for almost two and a half hours – since 2009's Funny People. Staten Island doesn’t quite touch the appeal, honesty or unflagging hilarity of The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up, nor does Davidson’s breakout role feel like the inception of a new comedy figurehead like Steve Carell and Seth Rogen. But the SNL heavyhitter gets to flex those scrawny muscles enough to satiate his fans and properly introduce himself to a general audience.
The film is pretty good; King is built on memorable, fleshed out characters and consistent enough laughter but it is predictably crude, indulgent and overlong. The biographical elements would feel a tad more personal if not for Davidson’s continued public disclosures concerning his late father – who, if you didn't already know, died in 9/11 – on SNL and his stand-up special, though the incorporation of real life gives Apatow some room to fashion a bit of humanity and prove he’s not a broken record when it comes to the screw-up subjects he always exhibits. Staten Island almost feels like a grander Davidson companion piece to the 20-something coming-of-age kicks of Hulu's Big Time Adolescence.
Bill Burr is hilarious especially with a fellow stand-up to knock around words with, and Marisa Tomei, who finally looks more or less her age (ENOUGH of the hot mom crap Hollywood), is in rare, sincere form. If the film didn’t eschew its considerations of mental illness by its end – something that affects both Davidson and his character Scott – I’d have kinder words to write.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
On the Rocks
I'm Thinking of
and many more
"So what've you been up to?"
and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice