It’s time for more 615 Notes, your best way to suss through the noise out there and find out how recent movies are in a fraction of the time.
Gerard Butler has settled nicely into doing the movies that Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis used to do once they stopped being hot commodities, and that’s an endearing route for Butler’s career to go.
This one is more solid than you’d expect it to be, refreshingly straightforward and knowing in what it’s job is and how to execute it without much fuss. It’s a workmanlike “what if?” thriller with commitment from all involved to play it as seriously as possible so that it never gets pulled in by the magnetism of 21st century meta narrative.
It feels like it could’ve gotten ratcheted up just a bit to maximize the drama of the hostage situation a bit more, but for a January Gerard Butler movie, not half bad! I dug it quite a bit.
Also, more Mike Colter! Justice for Luke Cage!
Where to Watch: Theaters
A Man Called Otto
It’s the kind of schmaltzy, big performance studio drama that used to get a billion Oscar nominations, and darn it, I kind of miss those being in vogue. When the Thomas Newman score hits, you know what you’re in for, and that’s a comfort food I wasn’t aware I missed.
But! It’s also got a lot darker of an underbelly than any of those films, and Hanks really weaves between both tones effortlessly. He’s just one of the best to ever do it because he makes this meshing work.
You absolutely feel the length of the repetition, but I’m glad I took the trip. Man Called Otto, it was nice to meet you.
Where to Watch: Theaters
Missing is an absolute blast. Such a smart way to play the true crime game while cutting the culture around it to pieces. The willingness to add panache and freedom to the “tech view” storytelling hook…Will Merrick and Nick Johnson should get a blank check after this.
Where to Watch: Theaters
It’s all at once a pretty solid spin on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and a colossal letdown that’s this is all we got from an Eddie Murphy/Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Jonah Hill team-up. The concept gets way too obvious as it goes on, and the tone becomes shaky as a result. There are some very funny moments, but they don’t necessarily add up into a consistently funny movie.
Kenya Barris isn’t a bad director by any stretch, but what this could’ve been with a better script. Oh well, good for what it is, even if the potential was tantalizing. We only get so many Murphy vehicles, so you take what you can get.
Where to Watch: Netflix
When You’re Finished Saving the World
I appreciate what Jesse Eisenberg is going for here, studying the careful balance of service and self-fulfillment and how they don’t always mix (or need to mix, for that matter). In that respect, it’s sharp-minded. However, the characters are a bit too obtuse to always keep the film centered. It’s a solid first feature, brimming with ideas but not always able to communicate those clearly. Still, I admire the hustle.
Where to Watch: PVOD
Nida Manzoor is going to be a rockstar. I really enjoyed this as a Bollywood/martial arts-influenced riff on Scott Pilgrim/Tarantino, built on a really moving foundation of how hard it can be to watch someone you love go through a major life transition.
There are two paths this movie could’ve taken, and while I’m endlessly fascinated how the first one could’ve gone, the other one is plenty satisfying. I wish the production value had more to lean on, but this is a blast. See it with an audience! it won’t quite hit the same on the couch (which is where I was).
Little Richard: I Am Everything
For a documentary about Little damn Richard, you’d think they’d … try to hype it up a bit more?
Even so, it’s an informative sit. I wish they’d stretched this out into a few hours. Still feels like there is so much more to tell about his life. In 90 minutes, you get what you need, but a legend like this deserves a lot more. All music icons get the solid, standard doc treatment, though. Oh well.
Landscape with Invisible Hand
Cory Finley takes a gigantic swing here, and I so appreciated the gusto to make this one. It’s a very strange sci-fi romance with tinges of comedy and melancholy strewn about. It’s too weird to really grab a wide audience, but it’s too irresistibly dry and heartfelt to let die on the vine. It’s a good one to go into relatively fresh. Certainly a better meditation on capitalism than Triangle of Sadness was. Finley is always good in my book.
I really appreciated the thesis in this one, that coal is so ingrained in Appalachia’s culture that it’s going to be near impossible to pry it away from the hills. The beauty pageant and school assembly really struck how … it’s just everywhere. It’s what you’re born into, and what you may die with. Coupled with the hauntingly beautiful landscape shots, this one will hit home, particularly if you live near the area.
The Persian Version
Solid! The shifts in perspective can be a bit jarring, but this feels like the classic Sundance movie that gets released in the summer that you go see for a matinee at the drop of a hat and enjoy by surprise. I wish we could get more mainstream movies like this, ones without big names in the cast but a lot on the mind and in the heart.
A very solid, depressing piece of accessible documentary journalism about a very troubling trend. Netflix feels like the right home for a movie like this, and it’s much better for the streamer to tackle mainstream documentaries like this than all that Tindler Swindler nonsense. This one feels like it could do some legitimate good.
A very sweet and funny meet-cute, akin to the great lineage of walk-and-talk romcoms. Everyone involved will go on to do bigger, better things, but this is a really nice “say I knew you when” first feature. Also, killer cameo.
I didn’t peg Randall Park be the one to make High Fidelity for Film Twitter, but here we are!
While I’m not exactly sure all of this works, what’s working here works really damn well. It’s such a fun satire of the film bro and of what making advancements in inclusion really means for the movies. It’s a rich screenplay, but it also feels a little undercooked with some of the ideas. I really appreciate why the film chose to build its unlikable lead like it did, and there’s a refreshing realism in which the guy’s story plays out. However, there are moments here and there where it begins to get so talky about theme that it loses its gravitational pull. However, for a first feature with a lot on its mind, Park deserves real commendation.
Entire cast is great, and the decision to use that casting to dismantle the manic pixie dream girl was the most inspired decision in the whole movie. Like dang!
The Starling Girl
Lewis Pullman might be better than his dad.
This is quite good, even if it’s an uncomfortable sit. It’s just sad to see someone’s faith get so wrecked by fundamentalist garbage. You feel a lot of empathy for the main girl, of course, but I appreciate that they just let her make her mistakes and figure out life the best she can in such a closed-off world. Eliza Scanlen is also pretty commanding as the Starling Girl.
I really dug the filmmaking and the performances, but the movie purposefully going off the rails kind of lacked the control to make its venom settle. A pair of very strong performances and some solid supporting turns can’t really mask that the film isn’t able to close the deal. Although, it’s worth attention, even if I’m not really sure it’s fully capable of living up to the creative risks this takes. Great to see Anne Hathaway in this mode again, though!
It’s 80ish minutes of a clever “nowadays” dating satire flanked by one of the most self-defeating third acts I’ve seen in a long, long time. The horror elements work in the film’s favor until they don’t. I’m not sure who the hell thought expanding the short story into whatever this was at the end was a good idea, but … it was not.
Good performances, though. What’s with all the Harrison Ford hate?
A Still Small Voice
Having been married to a nurse for some time now, this rings pretty true of what life can be like in intense medical care. It’s a sobering watch but an important one all the same.
Dude, Where’s My Car?
What a whirlwind it must’ve been for the studio executive who greenlit this, watched the final cut, spent the weekend puking in the bathroom, and then took the next few months applying to jobs before this took off as a box office hit and they got a nice Christmas ham from the studio.
This is horrible, but it’s also offensive as hell, but also I laughed at some of the jokes that weren’t horrible and/or offensive.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
I love Tim and Eric with a passion, and some of this is just as funny as the best material from the heyday of the Adult Swim show. Stuff like Dobis is right up the alley you’re used to. However, the transition to R-rated material and a feature-length format isn’t quite as seamless as you’d hope. John C. Reilly is hilarious as you’d think, though.
This is still a very fun time, and seeing David Liebe Hart make a cameo in the end made my heart soar. James Qualls’ doing standup at the bread restaurant was also a delight, as were those interludes about the lessons you’d learn during the movie. The Shrim promos, also good.
Gosh could they have just made this PG-13.
If Joker, Euphoria, Kill Bill and The Purge did the same TikTok dance, but Sam Levinson was the one who came up with the moves…yeah. Where was the National Guard?!?
Y’know, this was pretty solid. Kind of a funnier riff on The Shawshank Redemption, if not … well … as good. It’s no Harlem Nights, that’s for sure.