March 2021 Roundup
I Care a Lot
Amazon Studios // Directed by J Blakeson // Starring Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Peter Dinklage, Dianne West, Chris Messina
A satirical affair based on manipulating the old and vulnerable? Sounds like a hoot. That said, I Care a Lot carries a surprisingly promising premise alongside its extremely solid cast and, at times, stylish visuals. At nearly two hours, the movie starts well but rather quickly begins to peter out under the strain of a messy narrative and uneven tones - it’s probably about fifteen mins too long thus also adding a stretched feeling as the movie rolls on. The performances, though, are good across the board - Pike was strong as Marla though the character herself was confusing in terms of portrayal, I wasn’t sure what image she was attempting to portray. Dinklage has a menacing presence and González is a steadying presence in her supporting role. Behind the performances though, I Care a Lot just feels empty and hollow. It does carry good promise but just doesn’t follow up on it as well as it could do...I didn’t really care a lot.
Coming 2 America
Amazon Studios // Directed by Craig Brewer // Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracey Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones
Akeem, Semmi et al are back. It’s been over thirty years since Eddie Murphy delivered Coming to America and, being honest, I didn’t have high hopes for a potentially unnecessary sequel. As it turned out, Coming 2 America wasn’t all that bad but it also wasn’t all that good - it felt like the diet version of the original movie with an heir to the throne of Zamunda thrown in simply as a reason to get us back to Queens. Coming to America felt risky, it felt daring at times and here there are some good gags and sequences but also more that fell flat or were just tone-deaf, this isn’t a laugh-out-loud comedy. Wesley Snipes is fun in another comedic role and everyone in the cast is just fine - Murphy and Arsenio Hall slip back into their roles easily and the chemistry remains, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, and Nomzamo Mbatha are all fine additions to the new cast and the returning heads add some flavour and connectivity to proceedings. The biggest issue with Coming 2 America is that it does just feel a bit limp, a bit pointless. Nothing is really commented on and it doesn’t particularly advance the story of Coming to America - it just exists and is easily forgettable.
Apple TV+ // Directed by The Russo Brothers // Starring Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg
The Russo Brothers continue their post-MCU exploits with Cherry - an Apple TV+ original that clearly highlights how much they are trying to break free from their established image. In an attempt to shed their comic book skins, they attempt to cram in stories about war, addiction, a (crappy) romance, social issues, and societal failures as well as masculinity issues into an ambitiously stylistic affair that is split into chapters that shift tone and genre - the problem is it just doesn’t work. Tom Holland as Nico carries the film and delivers another performance that highlights his evolving talents and Ciara Bravo as his on-screen girlfriend is also strong. Without those performances, Cherry would really suffer - it’s very bleak which isn't surprising given some of the subject matters but it really is surprisingly boring and not engaging despite the spinning disks (Halfway through, I cursed audibly that there was SO much movie left to witness). To compound matters, the character of Nico has a framing device that spoon-feeds the audience exposition and explanations and it really isn’t a positive addition - everything around these scenes is simply average but it falls flat when the Russo’s attempt to get too experimental, nothing jumped out to tell me what the movie was really about or what I was supposed to be getting from it. Despite its lofty aspirations, Cherry is poor in almost every aspect.
Zack Snyder's Justice League
HBO Max // Directed by Zack Snyder // Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen
The long-awaited, once-mythical Snyder Cut is here (#SnyderCutReleased…?) after years of intrigue and anticipation. After the dumpster fire that was 2017’s Justice League, the pressure was on for this director's cut to prove it really was a superior effort and, happily, the Snyder Cut delivers on most fronts. It just feels bigger and better in comparison to Joss Whedon’s patched-up flick and, surprisingly, the four-hour runtime felt justified, it allowed for far greater depth of story and character development. Ray Fisher's Cyborg has become an actual character now, Batman and Superman are portrayed in a much more fitting light and everyone in the League gets at least something to do, however, Aquaman felt slightly pushed aside throughout. Additionally, the action scenes a lot better, and the villain of the piece Steppenwolf (alongside the cleverly restrained Darkseid) was given an actual motivation for wanting the mother boxes that were sorely lacking from the original. Junkie XL’s score lends extra gravitas and scale to proceedings and, truth be told, there wasn’t an awful lot that I didn’t like but, for me, the main issue is I never felt excited or my pulse never particularly quickened, I wasn't ever particularly sucked in despite some great sequences and character moments. I felt consistently satisfied throughout and actually rather pleased that Snyder had the chance to deliver his vision and that he was successful in delivering a decent epic at the same time. An upgrade to be sure and one that will delight Snyder fans, DC fans, and all comic book fans (surely!?)