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Quickie Review: Once Upon A Deadpool

There are multiple jokes in Once Upon A Deadpool about lazy writing. So I’m going to rip a page out of Deadpool’s book and compose a review befitting this feeble yet entertaining excuse for a limited (re)release. Once Upon a Deadpool is exactly what it claims to be: a comical retread that downplays the raunch of the R-rated Deadpool 2 just enough to transform it into a PG-13 flick that is, well, family-friendlier. There’s a ban on the use of the “F-word” word; judicious bleeping; strategic pixelating; and a few new zingers that simultaneously mock and celebrate an array of mutant and superhero movies.

Quickie Review: Dumplin’

‘Tis the season to squeeze in a few guilty-pleasure movies alongside the “art” that is your straight-up Oscar bait. Dumplin’ may not win any big awards, but it will warm your heart, and that’s gotta count for something. Plus, you can already stream it on Netflix! Dumplin’ is a formulaic, feel-good film that’s brimming with schmaltz, and topped with a dollop of Dolly Parton. It stars Danielle Macdonald (indie darling Patti Cake$) as Willowdean Dixon, the plus-size teenage daughter of a Texas beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston).

Review: Instant Family

Instant Family is an instant charmer. It’s a message movie that balances the funny with the feels and could very well raise critical awareness and interest in foster care and adoption. The film was written and directed by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home) who drew on his own family story for inspiration. Just like the main characters in Instant Family, Anders and his wife took in three siblings born to a drug addict mom. Their journey was fraught with challenges – and laughter. So they decided to put that experience into the cinematic universe to help demystify the foster care and adoption process and celebrate the true meaning of family.

Review: All About Nina

Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a foul-mouthed comedienne in New York struggling to make her mark. And she’s in a sick relationship with a married man. Something’s gotta change. Her only hope is a move to LA where there’s a competition that, should she win, she’ll get a one hour special all her own on a hit show called Comedy Prime. So NY girl heads to the coast. And she meets nice guy Rafe (Common) there. Only she’s really not that good at healthy relationships because she has all this baggage. So will she win the competition and figure out how to be with a guy who treats her right?

Review: The Sisters Brothers

It seems the western will never die. The allure of rugged men out there slinging guns and making their fortunes panning for gold was too much for French director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, The Prophet) to pass up. And he didn’t’ even have to come to the US of A to shoot this his adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s rambling, sometimes funny novel. Who knew Spain and Romania could stand in for the American West? What The Sisters Brothers has going for it mainly is a great cast — Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Riz Ahmed — and you’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s enough to make it worth your while.

Review: Night School

Pass or Fail? Depends on how high (or low) you set the bar for a formulaic comedy with the likeable yet totally predictable Kevin Hart. If really low (like, lower than Ride Along 2), then Night School eeks out a passing grade. Otherwise, skip it. Or at least wait until you’re stuck on an airplane or a long car/bus/train ride and want to kill a couple hours with a weak but relatively harmless ensemble comedy featuring Girls Trip breakout star Tiffany Haddish.

Quickie Reviews: The Wife; The Happytime Murders; Skate Kitchen; Support the Girls

The Wife is a slow-burn drama with a mystery twist that explores the relationship between Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce), a long-married couple who travel to Sweden to collect his newly-awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. The two seem to complement each other in style and temperament, with Joan playing the doting, charming, graceful and diplomatic wife and mother while Joe oozes vanity, selfishness and a philandering spirit. There does appear to be true love at the core of the relationship, but there’s a simmering resentment that threatens to boil over in Joan as the award ceremony approaches. We learn why through a series of flashbacks to Joan and Joe’s courtship and from their present-day interactions with a writer (Christian Slater) who is trying to convince the Castlemans to let him write Joe’s definitive biography.

Review: Juliet, Naked

Ah, what a breath of fresh air! Juliet, Naked is a charming and funny romantic drama that is pure and simple in its development of characters and story. In lesser hands, it might have felt like a Hallmark or Lifetime ‘second chance’ romance. But Juliet, Naked benefits from the talent and affability of its three lead actors – Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke. The screenplay is adapted from a novel by Nick Hornby (Brooklyn, About a Boy, Fever Pitch, High Fidelity) whose writing style lends itself well to the genre. There aren’t any real villains here; just humans wrestling with past regrets and coming to terms with who they are and who they want to be.

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.