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.