Cinema Clash podcast: Incredibles 2; Tag; A Kid Like Jake; Hearts Beat Loud; The Misandrists

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Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Cue up the sequel. I suspect Hollywood will see enough green from Crazy Rich Asians to justify a speedy greenlight for a second (and third) film based on the popular trilogy by Kevin Kwan. I haven’t read the book(s) but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the movie, which is basically a conventional romantic dramedy that happens to feature a majority Asian cast playing a variety of well-drawn characters, several of whom are crazy rich. It’s all very Dynasty-esque, tackling love, romance, pettiness, sabotage, scorn, humor, fashion, palatial digs and a lot of fantastic-looking food. The story revolves around Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV’s Fresh Off the Boat), a bright, attractive and very down-to-earth Asian-American Economics Professor who agrees to accompany her bright and charming boyfriend Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. En route she discovers that her longtime beau comes from money – lots and lots of money.

Review: BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee’s latest joint is about as far fetched as you could imagine. Set in the early 70s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes Colorado Springs, Colorado’s first African-American cop. While still a rookie, he infiltrates the KKK and fools Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) into welcoming him into the fold. But it’s a true story and one that resonates all the more loudly in our current political world with David Duke and his minions then as now proclaiming “America First.” It’s a deadly serious, yet at times hilarious story, and it’s scary how much has not changed in the intervening years.

Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

The difference between The Spy Who Dumped Me and Mission: Impossible – Fallout is that in a few months I’ll still remember seeing and enjoying MI, whereas Spy will barely register a flicker of recall beyond, “Oh, yeah… that movie with Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon? I saw it. It was okay.” Kunis and McKinnon play Audrey and Morgan, two best friends in L.A. who get caught in the crossfire of a deadly (yet comical) spy game – thanks to Audrey’s ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). He’s stashed a flash drive with vital information at Audrey’s apartment, and when he goes to retrieve it, he has a slew of assassins on his tail. So it falls to Audrey and Morgan to get the drive to the drop – in Austria. Game on, people!

Review: Sorry to Bother You

One of the best films I’ve seen lately, Sorry to Bother You doesn’t fit neatly into any of the usual genres. It’s an audacious anti-capitalist sci-fi comedy set in an alternate Oakland. The number one TV show has people getting punched in the face for money, and a nefarious mega-corporation called WorryFree has set up a program where people are being willingly enslaved. The central character is Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield, Atlanta, Get Out) known to his friends as “Cash” who lands a job as a telemarketer for WorryFree and quickly masters the secret key to success, moving him upstairs to become a power caller, where the pay is unbelievable if you can just get over what you’re doing. Meanwhile his friends, co-workers, and girlfriend downstairs are organizing a strike to force WorryFree to pay them what they’re worth. And Cash has to decide where his loyalties lie.

Review: Blindspotting

Every year, a few of those ‘smaller’ movies come along that you feel compelled to champion, in a concerted effort to make sure they don’t get lost in the barrage of major studio releases. Blindspotting is one of those films. And not just because I got to meet its co-writer/stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (photos below) and once worked with the film’s editor, Gabe Fleming (on America’s Next Top Model). It’s simply a darned good movie that’s provocative, entertaining and timely.

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

The story may be lame as heck, but who cares? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delivers exactly what I expected: a groovy movie musical with a simple plot built around lyrics to ABBA songs — just like the first Mamma Mia! nearly a decade ago. In some ways, the sequel is even better, thanks to the singing, dancing and acting chops of Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a younger version of free-spirited Donna Sheridan, the role inhabited by Meryl Streep in 2008. Streep is back for the sequel, but only for a brief yet poignant scene in the final minutes of the film (no spoilers). And oh yeah, Cher pops in too – as Donna’s showstopper (and scene-stealer) of a Mom.

Review: Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is a different breed of teen dramedy that plays so authentic and real that it could almost pass for a documentary. It’s also authentic and real enough to play like a horror movie for parents of girls between the ages of 13 and 15. Oh, to be 14 again. Not! Adolescence was hard enough with a landline and Instamatic camera. Imagine how tough it can be in this age of smart phones, YouTube, Instagram, emojis and social media mayhem. Eighth Grade takes us there. It follows eighth-grader Kayla (Elsie Fisher) as she struggles through her final week of middle school and prepares for that next big step on the education and socialization ladder – high school.

Review: Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

There are actually two storylines running concurrently in this very dark dramedy from Iceland. In one, everyman Atli is caught by his wife watching a sex tape in which she is not a participant, is kicked out of the house, and has to go live with his parents. In the other, Atli’s parents Baldvin and Inga are in an ever escalating fight with their neighbors Konrad and Eybjorg over a tree in the backyard. And while Atli tries to make amends with his wife and get to see his cute little daughter, he’s living with a mother who doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality and a father who is taking his cues from her in the battle over the tree’s future. The theme that runs through both stories is how easily people think the worst and act on their assumptions. And how nothing good ever comes from it.

Cinema Clash podcast: Incredibles 2; Tag; A Kid Like Jake; Hearts Beat Loud; The Misandrists

Incredibles 2 scored big at the box office in its opening weekend, and rightly so. It was a great family film for Father’s Day, and it’s certainly the early front-runner for best animated movie of 2018.

Review: Tag

Tag pretty much delivers on what the trailer and the promos promise: an entertaining adult comedy action movie featuring a diverse group of guys who spend one month out of the year continuing a highly-competitive game of Tag they started as kids. The movie was inspired by a true story that was featured in the Wall Street Journal and on a segment of CBS Sunday Morning. The stakes and physical gamesmanship are exaggerated for comedic and dramatic effect in the film. But it’s comforting to know that facsimiles of these guys really do exist, and their primary motivation is admirable: it’s not so much about the game as it is about having a reason – and creating the opportunity – to stay in touch (literally and figuratively) no matter where life takes you.