Quickie Review: The LoveBirds

Oh, LoveBirds, how cruel you are! Setting us up to believe we’re in for a fun, engaging romantic comedy, then plunging us into the depths of stupidity for a solid hour before ending with a formulaic flourish. If you took only the very worst parts of Issa Rae’s recent romantic drama The Photograph and Kumail Nanjiani’s recent action crime comedy Stuber, then you’d have the bulk of The LoveBirds. The movie takes the likeable pair and puts them in the middle of a painfully absurd murder mystery that even by Netflix romcom standards is a major disappointment.

Review: Lucky Grandma

This dark comedy set mainly in New York’s Chinatown begins with curmudgeonly chain-smoker Grandma (Tsai Chin – Joy Luck Club, Casino Royale) visiting LeiLei the Fortune Teller (Wai Ching Ho – Hustlers). Her reading predicts a most auspicious day. So Grandma immediately empties her bank account and heads to a nearby casino. But it’s on the ride home to New York where things takes a truly fortuitous turn when a bag full of money literally drops in her lap, kicking the film into action, as Grandma becomes the target of one of Chinatown’s dangerous triads who want it back. Fortunately for Grandma, she’s a no-nonsense widow who knows just what to do. She hires a bodyguard from the rival gang. What could possibly go wrong?

Review: Military Wives

Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.

Quickie Review: The Wrong Missy

File this one under “lame escapism.” I’ve taken to watching new films that are trending on Netflix since that’s about as close as we can get right now to what’s new at the box office. If I’d gone to see The Wrong Missy in a theater, I’d probably want a refund. But as quarantine entertainment, The Wrong Missy gets a wide berth. It’s a formulaic, sometimes raunchy, sometimes absurd, occasionally funny adult romantic comedy starring an unlikely pair of romantic leads in comedic actors David Spade and Lauren Lapkus. It’s not suitable for family viewing: There’s significant over-use of the F-word; a lot of sexual content (albeit clothed); and some situational gags that clearly scream “don’t try this at home.”

Cinema Clash Podcast: Pandemic Edition 2

Sometimes it’s easier to talk about a movie than write about it, especially during a pandemic. My motivation to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) takes a hit with every long day at the computer doing ‘day job’ stuff. So in part out of laziness, and in part out of a desire to keep Chickflix fans ‘tuned in’ to what I’ve seen, I’ll periodically share the latest edition of The Cinema Clash podcast that I co-host with Charlie Juhl of CharlieJuhl.com. His tastes in film are generally more aligned with Arty Chick’s than with mine, thus the obvious potential for a ‘clash’ over particular viewing options. After a six-week hiatus, Charlie and I are back on the air with the podcast, and catching up on what we’ve seen in the interim. The podcast is also available on iTunes and other platforms, so feel free to subscribe and binge listen. On this second “Pandemic Edition” of The Cinema Clash, we talk about the teen-focused dramas Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Selah and the Spades, and How to Build a Girl; the British RomCom Love, Wedding, Repeat; the oddly entertaining French black comedy Deerskin; and the Chris Hemsworth action distraction Extraction. Plus, quick takes on The Half of It, Butt Boy, and the documentaries Becoming (which I screwed up the title on during the chat – my bad), Never Surrender, and Spaceship Earth.

Quickie Review: Arkansas

Arkansas is one of those indie flicks that somehow finagled a pretty impressive cast – Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox – even though it’s directed by a first timer, Clark Duke (actor from Hot Tub Time Machine, The Office), who also wrote the adaptation and took one of the lead roles. It’s the story of a couple of low-level drug runners Kyle (Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke) who bumble their way through the Southern drug world working for a mysterious guy named Frog (Vaughn). Along the way they meet Ranger Bright (Malkovich) who becomes their direct boss and local nurse Johnna (Eden Brolin, Josh’s daughter) who somehow falls for Swin. It’s a film that might have worked if the director/writer had a better sense of timing and character development, but it’s ultimately a waste of talent and time.

Review: How to Build a Girl

In this engaging coming-of-age flick, Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein – Booksmart, Ladybird) is a nerdy teenager living on a council estate in Wolverhampton, England in 1993. Her Dad’s a ne’er-do-well aging rocker. Her Mom’s suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of twins boys. And Johanna just wants to get away from them all. So when one of her other brothers shows her an ad for a writing job at a rock and roll magazine, she sends a sample article. She knows nothing about rock music, but she can write and what does she have to lose?

Quickie review: Working Man

In this time of sheltering in place anxiety, this indie flick touches a nerve. It’s the story of a Rust Belt factory closing down and the workers feeling lost without a job to go to. At the center of the film is Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety – Sneaky Pete) a man running from his pain by continuing to work past retirement age. But when his reason for getting up in the morning is taken away from him, he’s unmoored. So he returns to the factory, sneaking in and spending his days tidying up the place. But when the rest of his fellow workers find out, and urged on by his new friend and neighbor Walter Brewer (Billy Brown – How to Get Away with Murder), a movement is started to get the plant up and running again. And Allery is thrust into the uncomfortable role of leader.

Review: Extraction

It appears quite likely that battered and bloody mercenary-with-a-conscience Tyler Rake will live to see another day, and facilitate another extraction, amidst a barrage of gunfire, RPGs, exploding helicopters and myriad villains. If you’ve already watched Extraction, fast becoming Netflix’s most-watched feature film ever, then it’s possible you weren’t quite sure if the epilogue was designed to leave the door open for Rake’s return. Ka-ching. Wonder no more. Screenwriter Joe Russo has already agreed to pen another installment of the action thriller based on the 2014 graphic novel “Ciudad” by Ande Parks. But let’s be real. I didn’t watch Extraction for Russo or director Sam Hargrave’s footprint (embossed on several Avengers movies). I watched it for Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush). The Aussie doesn’t disappoint, even if the film itself does come off as a John Wick wanna-be. With John Wick: Chapter Four pushed way back to a post-pandemic (hopefully) May 2022 release date, Extraction serves as a serviceable placeholder.

Review: Deerskin (Le daim)

This has to be one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long while! It’s from Quentin Dupieux the writer/director who brought us Rubber. In case you missed that one, it was about a tire named Robert that terrorizes a desert community. This time it all starts with the purchase of a deerskin fringe jacket. And it’s an equally absurd premise that somehow sustains itself for just over an hour, thanks in large part to the central character Georges being played by the marvelous Jean Dujardin (The Artist.)