Review by Adam Donato
After over a decade of acting, Cameron Van Hoy sits in the director’s chair for his debut film, Flinch. When a hitman has a witness to his last hit, he kidnaps her and starts to fall for her. Daniel Zovatto, who has small roles in the film It Follows and plays one of the leads in Penny Dreadful, stars as said hitman. Star of I Am Woman, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, plays the assistant turned unfortunate captive. Is this love story of Stockholm Syndrome closer to the romance of Beauty and the Beast or the creepiness of Passengers?
It’s extremely fair to cast judgment upon a forced romance. A story is nothing without conflict, therefore in romance movies, there needs to be some kind of obstacle for the main couple to overcome. The standard romantic comedy expresses this through miscommunications and convenience. Flinch is definitely not a romantic comedy. Being a dark crime thriller about a criminal who meets the romantic interest via being on opposite sides of a crime, things get dicey. For most, any romance that comes across at all as non-consensual is creepy, like Passengers. Those same people watch Beauty and the Beast and think it’s cute how the Beast threatens the captive Belle but is evil due to circumstance. It all comes down to how much the audience likes and cares for the oppressor in the situation. In this movie’s case, Van Hoy toes that line very well.
The style of the movie is reminiscent of a Nicolas Winding Refn film: a story about a seldom spoken anti-hero filled with neon lights and excessive violence. The plot is very simple, which allows time to develop Zovatto’s character of Joe Doyle. His arc throughout the movie borders on terrible until it’s pulled through in the end. It’s very enjoyable to see his relationship with Mia grow as we see what his relationship with his mother is. There’s an argument that this movie has a lot to say about the concept of how a man treats his mother is how he will treat his significant other. Tragic, yet disgusting, Joe Doyle is a sympathetic character.
The film is not without its faults. As much as a homage as it would like to masquerade as, it does come across as derivative. The second act falters in comparison to how solid the first act is and how great the third act becomes. Famous stand-up comedian Tom Segura plays the initial hit at the beginning of the film and is the most notable star attached to the film. His name is on the poster, despite being a minute part of the film. The title of the film and the entire concept of the girl not flinching overplays its hand. The audience understands the point, but the movie shoves it down their throats.
It’s honestly a shame to see this movie not get a big theatrical release. While it may start out as a pretty standard film, it gradually picks up as it goes along. It will be interesting to see where Cameron Van Hoy goes from here. His style is reminiscent, but a second feature would really give critics a chance to see his own voice in comparison. Sometimes coming across as standard, Flinch is surprisingly competent and wraps everything up in a nice little bow. Definitely check out Flinch if it ever comes up on your radar.
Flinch hits VOD on January 21.
Review by Adam Donato
The Delivered is written and directed by Thomas Clay, who has not directed a feature since 2008’s Soi Cowboy. It stars Maxine Peake and Charles Dance as they play an older couple, Fanny and John, living on a remote farm in England with their young boy, Arthur. One day, they discover a young, naked couple infiltrating their home and stealing their clothes. Fanny and John decide to help the young couple in need until chaos ensues. This dramatic thriller dives into history to explore themes about religion and gender roles.
The focus of the story is Fanny coming into her own as a woman. It’s clear from the start that she is dissatisfied with her life. She loves her son, but her relationship with John is less than ideal. This plotline is the most well-executed and compelling part of the movie. Peake has the best performance in the movie as she is given the biggest opportunity to shine. Her character is one that seems forced into submission, so her quiet manner gives her ample opportunity to visually express her feelings, rather than through dialogue. As she is put to the test, one can’t help but root for her and her innate goodheartedness.
Other than that, the movie is extremely below standard. It’s one big, long hostage situation that changes hands so much, you’ll be begging the characters just to kill each other when they get the upper hand. The action isn’t even exciting as every character is just so physically depleted throughout the entire movie. Also, get ready for some extended Biblical monologues. If someone watches this and takes away a whole lot of deep meaning from all the speeches concerning the moralities within a faith, that’s fine. Not to knock religion, but for the average viewer, it would be very difficult to follow the insane trains of thought the characters go down as they debate the role of sex within their faith.
Speaking of sex, wow this movie gets really weird very fast. Not to be crude, but there is an extended cuckolding sequence in the movie and it is wildly obnoxious and goes nowhere. It’s built up for a while as the implications of Fanny’s dissatisfaction of her life with John arise, but it ends out of nowhere and it’s seldom dealt with for the rest of the movie. All that being said, if that’s your kink, The Delivered delivers!
It’s a wonder how or why someone who is as notable as Charles Dance is in this movie. He does a really good job at playing a similar role to his usual type. The movie looks very low budget though, which works to its advantage. Since the set is an old timey farm, it seems like the entire budget was spent on the wardrobe and, of course, Charles Dance. As one can see from the poster, the characters dress like what a child would think the pilgrims dressed like on Thanksgiving.
This movie masquerades as this deep religious tale when in reality it’s boring and crude. There seems to be more prioritization of shock factor than actual concrete storytelling. An opening quote precedes the film and without it, there would be no recognition of what any of the themes are whatsoever. It’s about sex and religion? So, if one is into that, don’t check out The Delivered because there are much better movies that pursue the same goals that execute these ideas much more efficiently.
The Delivered hits VOD on January 15.
Review by Adam Donato
January is known as the dumping grounds for new movies, along with the wide releases of Oscar hopefuls. The mercy of a pandemic plagued time is that there’s less January garbage to go around. The recipe for box office “success” seems to be nothing movies with a notable star. There’s an audience for Taken lite, just ask Honest Thief. Enter The Marksman, directed by Trouble With The Curve director Robert Lorenz. Is it quality enough to brave the storm of what is a dystopian theatrical landscape?
The Marksman succeeds as a movie because it prioritizes strengthening the relationship between Liam Neeson and Jacob Perez over gritty action. Neeson is cool and is known as this badass action star, but he’s also almost 70 years old. There’s no good reason, besides nostalgia, that Harrison Ford should return as Indiana Jones. General audiences don’t want an action hero who can break something just by moving. Neeson disproves this theory every year. Maybe it’s some kind of wish fulfillment for soon to be retirees, that maybe they too can still fight like an action hero. Call it movie magic, but there isn’t a soul out there who wouldn’t be threatened by a scorned Liam Neeson.
For a movie called The Marksman, there’s not too much marksmanship in the movie. Neeson is a down on his luck ex-Marine who is obligated to deliver an illegal immigrant child to his family in Chicago, while being chased by members of the Mexican Cartel. This story has fatalities, but it isn’t a bloodbath. Most of the movie is these two unlikely friends getting along, and it basically works. It’s less of an action romp and more of a road trip drama. What makes action hit hard is when the audience cares about the characters in action and The Marksman invests heavily in its leads.
There’s a lot to like about what the movie is trying to say. It’s about compassion and moral obligation. Neeson’s character is obnoxiously down on his luck from the start. His self righteous duty to fulfill the request of the child’s mother would come across as annoying if it wasn’t so admirable. Without spoiling anything, the ending brings these themes to their proper conclusion. What a bold movie, that is less worried about what’s “cool” and more worried about what makes sense for the story that is being told.
Is it Shakespeare? Obviously not. The story is quite generic, but works. There’s nothing special about The Marksman, but it does its job. Set ups are paid off. Character arcs are given precedence over action. The lead is strong and likable. When it comes to January fodder, it stands above as a very solid post-Taken Neeson flick.
The Marksman opens in theaters on January 15.
Review by Adam Donato
Would it be weird to say that Big Mouth is like a mash-up of South Park and Sex in the City? Netflix’s original series about middle school pre-teens going through puberty is back with a fourth season. Disregarding the argument of quality, Big Mouth is definitely a matter of taste. For some, the crude and outrageous nature of the subject matter is too much, but for others, it’s the best part. Everyone can relate to going through the awkward experience of puberty and that’s where the show thrives. So get ready for a lot of fast-paced humor and a handful of moments that are so cringe-inducing that you will shield your eyes. Puberty is horrifying, that’s why Big Mouth is about monsters.
Season four maintains momentum in the series. There’s a new villain of the season akin to the Shame Wizard and it drives the season. The Anxiety Mosquito is such a clever personification of anxiety and what a place to pick it up, summer camp. Anxiety feels like the logical next step in the franchise as we’ve tackled shame and depression. Speaking of the logical next step, it’s nice to see time actually progressing in this season. Not only has the show delved into the distant future, but moving from 7th grade to 8th grade gives the show opportunities to see how far the characters have come. It doesn’t feel long ago where Nick boldly asked an 8th grader to the dance. It’s just nice to know they have a direction of where they’re going next with the show.
One of the shining spots of the new season is the new character pairings. Andrew, Nick, and Jessie are back in full force this season and each of them has solid arcs. Ancillary characters are given more of a spotlight this season and it’s only to the series’ benefit. Missy, Matthew, and Lola each are given time to shine on their own, without the help of the core three. One of the wonderful things about the show is how Coach Steve is always just around. He’s a crucial character because he is probably where a lot of people draw the line on the show as he is the most obnoxious, that is besides Maury. Speaking of Hormone Monsters, Rick makes a solid comeback, while on the other hand, it still feels like Mona does not have much to do. Connie is the most underrated of the Hormone Monsters as she shines in this season. Maury commentates from the side with a lot of jokes, but Connie actually feels like a character who impacts the plot and for that, she is appreciated.
Another aspect of the show that is polarizing is the songs. If someone thinks the humor is too obnoxious and they don’t like the songs, then it’s easy to see why they wouldn’t like the show. The songs usually hit, but this season feels as if there are less and they are lacking. Some ancillary characters are given solos and it’s nice to see them have their moment, but besides that, the songs are few and far between, not to mention lacking in comedy. Still, it’s just nice to have a show that features random musical numbers.
Season three’s cliffhanger is handled very well. Going to summer camp was a great idea for this show from the start. It would be great to see the gang return to camp after they finish eighth grade because there is so much that can be done there. Not to mention, the season starts with a musical number akin to the Valentine’s Day episode, which is great for the big fans of the show. When they sing to the audience, as if to say “we know how excited you are”, is such a joy. Next season, it will be interesting to see where they go with everyone as most of the cast leaves the season off in a state of resolve.
If one already does not like Big Mouth, this season is more of the same. For returning fans, it’s no better or worse than any season preceding. Filled with plenty of laughs and much to say about the trials of the pubescent experience, Big Mouth season four continues its’ crude legacy. Don’t have anxiety about what’s going to happen to your favorite group of middle schoolers because you can check out the newest season of Big Mouth on Netflix this December.
Big Mouth streams on Netflix beginning December 4. All ten episodes reviewed.
By Adam Donato
The most important type of people to educate in this world are those in early childhood. No Small Matter explores the benefits of children receiving quality learning and the consequences of ignoring their most crucial hour of development. This documentary is narrated by Alfre Woodard (of Star Trek fame) and features interviews with childcare professionals, real-life children and parents, and most notably, Sesame Street's Cookie Monster. Does this documentary inspire action to enhance schooling for early year children, or is it just an exercise in the cuteness of toddlers?
The documentary begins and ends with this simple, yet effective, metaphor for how important it is to lay down a solid foundation. This translates to the importance of everyone having access to quality child education. It builds a very compelling case, even going to the extent that saying all political parties have the majority opinion that childhood education is a priority. It becomes so much of an obvious thing that needs to be implemented into all schools in America, that it’s hard not to ask the question “why not?”.
There are four personal stories that show the consequences of the government not investing in child education: a family with two parents who have good jobs can barely pay for quality education for their only child, a divorced mother who has to work two jobs round the clock just to get her children into childcare, a struggling couple stuck with a million dollar receipt for hospital bills for their child, and lastly, an all-star preschool teacher who doesn’t come close to earning a livable wage at her school and must take a second job and live with her parents. This country punishes the people who do one of the most important jobs and hearing this woman’s story breaks your heart. These personal stories allow you to see how the system is directly affecting real-life people and putting them at a disadvantage as they stare down the barrel of a stacked deck. It’s a very effective way to draw sympathy for the overarching cause of the documentary.
This documentary is important for new parents to watch as the most critical time for a child to develop is during the first three years of life. It’s informative as well as adorable since the movie is mostly one big montage of babies having fun. The cause of the documentary is presented in an inarguable way and explains why society is so dysfunctional. For teachers, this documentary is like the gospel, preaching how their job is so important to the development of the most impressionable type of people.
No Small Matter hits VOD on June 26.
Review by Adam Donato
This film is written and directed by Korean filmmaker Sung-hyun Yoon. It takes place in a dystopian future version of Korea due to an economic downfall. The cast includes Jae-hong Ahn, Lee Jehoon, and most notably, Woo-sik Choi (from last year’s best picture winner, Parasite). The story follows three young men who have to pull off the robbery of a gangster-run casino so they can move off to a tropical paradise.
The bright spot of this movie is its intensity. It has a very much edge-of-your-seat kind of vibe. Watching this relentless bounty hunter stalk these three miserable and desperate young men feels like watching a Korean version of Terminator. While many of these hunting sequences seem very contrived, it’s a perfectly fine action movie to turn your brain off to and enjoy the thrill.
The film starts slow and is too long. The only benefit of this though is that you do feel a lot more for the main trio as they try to get away. The performances by Ahn, Jehoon, and Choi are palpable and they have very good chemistry with each other. Their character resolutions are quite unsatisfying, though.
It's also very hard to understand what’s going on in the background of this movie. The main thread follows the three boys trying to steal their way to a better life. The antagonist tries to hunt them down, but lets them get away just for the fun of it? Where does this deep-seated connection between the hunter and the trio come from? Why does Jehoon throw everything he ever dreamed about away to go after the hunter? It’s all very confusing and over-complicated for a story that should be very simple.
This film would’ve benefited from a smaller scope as the world-building isn’t very fleshed out. The majority of the movie is people running through empty cities. It’s not really explained why the world is why it is and where all the people are. Everything is just run by gangs and corrupt cops. There’s a very interesting moment that goes nowhere. The trio escapes from the hospital after an intense elevator chase scene and steals the hunter’s car. Once they get away, they realize it’s a cop car. This never goes anywhere as they face no consequences or even threat from the law and the movie just keeps going.
As a filmmaker, Yoon exceeds as a director by building tension throughout the film but fails as a writer to any sort of understanding with the plot. The characters are all likable and it’s hard not to be with them as they try to finish their last job. It’s an intense rollercoaster of a movie that really picks up in the second half. Time to Hunt is nothing special, but competent enough to be entertaining.
Time to Hunt is now streaming on Netflix.
Review by Adam Donato
Coffee & Kareem is the newest Netflix movie out this week. It is directed by Michael Dowse, who is fresh off of Stuber, and written by freshman writer, Shane Mack. The film stars The Office and The Hangover comedy star, Ed Helms, along with Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Little Gardenhigh. It’s about a cop who gets wrapped up in a case while trying to bond with his girlfriend’s son.
It really shows that the film is written by a first-timer. This movie is generic garbage. The jokes in this movie are utterly cringe-worthy. A good majority of the humor in this movie comes from topical references about racist cops. At a certain point in the movie, it feels like they are beating you over the head with it. There isn’t even a point to be made except that not all cops are racist. That’s nice, but it’s not saying anything well and definitely without any sort of subtlety. The plot is your standard buddy cop fare. Two people have to team up to solve a case even though they don’t like each other. Along the way, they bond and become friends at the end. The character arcs are “been there, done that” and aren’t done with any kind of quality whatsoever. The stereotype in movies is that child actors are not very good, but with this movie, the writing wasn’t doing the kid any favors. This movie should’ve not been let go past script lock.
All that being said, this movie isn’t too terrible. It’s perfectly digestible to watch in a surface-level kind of way. The best part of the movie is the cast. Helms is a very good comedian. His physical acting and general over-the-top style make this movie tolerable. TV actor Gardenhigh does a solid job with what he is given. He has a lot of personality and brings that to the table in this movie. Henson is an experienced actress who steals every scene that she is in. For anyone who experienced Vine, it’s hard to see Andrew Bachelor (King Bach) in a movie without it feeling cheap. That being said, he does a good job in this movie as he was very held back in comparison to his other comedic performances. Betty Gilpin, who was also in Dowse’s Stuber and more recently starred in The Hunt, is a lot of fun to watch on screen as per usual.
Overall, this movie is fine... if you can look past all of the cringe and focus on the cast, that is. It’s hard to recommend this movie to anybody who isn’t a big Ed Helms fan, or maybe the niche audience that gets into racial humor about cops. Coffee & Kareem has very little value and doesn’t deserve the hour and a half it takes to watch it.
Coffee & Kareem is now streaming on Netflix.
Review by Adam Donato
Lost Girls is directed by Liz Garbus and stars Amy Ryan (The Office), Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects). The story centers around a mother who is hellbent on finding out what happened to her missing daughter, despite the lack of help from the police. This movie was released on Netflix, which is a great idea due to the subject matter being something that has flourished on the streaming format and wouldn’t be a big, widespread success if it tested the waters in theaters.
Right from the start, it is very obvious that this is a sad town movie with the words “An Unsolved American Mystery”. This movie is very enticing and has the viewer trying to solve the mystery, while tragically knowing that there is no answer. The subject matter of this movie is very touchy and will hit some people harder than others. For that reason, it’s hard to say who to recommend this movie to. This movie is a nightmare for anyone, especially mothers and daughters.
Throughout the movie, it’s heartbreaking watching this woman do everything she can and not get anywhere with it. Not only is the investigation going south, but it’s negatively impacting the rest of her life. It’s a very depressing watch, but some people are into that. In their defense, it is easy to get sucked into this movie as it’s hard not to feel for everyone involved.
The performances were solid in this movie. Ryan does a very good job portraying a mother who is in distress. McKenzie does fine for what she is given, but this is a disappointment after seeing her talents used so well in Jojo Rabbit. Byrne as the lead investigator brings a solid veteran performance to the movie that worked very well. Not to mention, Dean Winters, whom most people will recognize as Mayhem from the Allstate commercials, is also in the film and does a good job. The entire cast does a very good job portraying the overall sadness of everyone involved in a situation like this.
Lost Girls does not rise above other movies of this subgenre, but also succeeds in telling a compelling story. The brevity of the runtime works in favor of the movie as nobody wants to linger in sadness for too long. The message of holding your loved ones close is an admirable one. It’s hard to recommend this movie to anyone, but it does have value nevertheless.
Lost Girls is now streaming on Netflix.
Review by Adam Donato
Spenser Confidential tells the story of a former cop and recently ex-con from Boston, who brings it upon himself to solve a mystery concerning corrupt cops. Mark Wahlberg reunites with Peter Berg for the fifth time in this crime thriller loosely based on a series of mystery novels called Spenser. The film also features Alan Arkin, Winston Duke, and Bokeem Woodbine. This film works well for three reasons: solid direction from the very capable Berg, a strong lead in Wahlberg, and a distinct cultural setting in Boston.
Ignoring Battleship, Berg has made several solid action flicks with Wahlberg, like Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, and most notably Lone Survivor. He is a very capable director who knows how to make a type of film very well: Mark Wahlberg action-thrillers. Seeing the duo pull off this small release is no surprise. A runtime of less than two hours helps the pacing. The performances are all solid for a movie like this. Berg delivered an enjoyable film.
Wahlberg, whether one dislikes him for personal reasons is fair, can carry a movie. His performance is very much one that he has done before. Wahlberg, while good, is usually just Mark Wahlberg in his movies. This works very well for Spenser Confidential as he plays a rebellious tough guy with a chip on his shoulder and a moral duty to solve a mystery. He’s funny and charismatic. It fits this role very well. Additionally, Wahlberg's has a very weird relationship with his love interest and it’s hard to know how to feel about it, but it works.
John Mulaney once said that New York is like a character in a movie. The same goes for movies set in Boston. There’s a lot of songs and references in general that are very much so Boston. This goes very well with the tone of the movie. Hearing "Sweet Caroline" play over an action scene is a delight. It’s stereotypical Boston stuff, but it gives this movie a lot of personality and it’s enjoyable.
Overall, Spenser Confidential is a solid crime-thriller. There’s nothing special about it unless you’re a big Mark Wahlberg fan. Is it worth going to the theater to see? The world will never know since it was released on Netflix, which is very convenient.
Spenser Confidential is now streaming on Netflix.