Review by Adam Donato
In a day and age where every single intellectual property needs to be pillaged for profit, it was only a matter of time before Beavis and Butt-Head got an update. Paramount+, for anybody who is unaware, is a streaming service which includes franchises from Paramount Pictures, most notably Nickelodeon, CBS, and MTV. The last being the home of the Beavis and Butt-Head series and big screen movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. This reboot jumps on the multiverse bandwagon in such a way that allows Beavis and Butt-Head to venture into modern-day Texas. A science fair gone awry leads to everyone’s favorite idiots going to space camp and being recruited to embark on an expedition. Does Beavis and Butt-Head’s humor translate after almost thirty years?
It’s easy to look at this entry into the franchise as a desperate attempt at content for what is one of the bottom dwellers in the streaming game. That being said, the audience that enjoys the first movie will certainly enjoy the new one. It’s more of the same, Beavis and Butt-Head ignorantly shit their way through the world in an attempt to “score”. They unwittingly find themselves in the middle of a serious situation because of their incessant need to be with a woman, who says if they help her then they can “do her”. Their ensuing journey leads to them being pursued by law enforcement. It’s the exact same movie as the first, but where it stands above modern reboots is that it’s not constantly referencing the original movie. This is such a breath of fresh air since most franchises will rely on the crutch of references and callbacks. Also, since we are dealing with the whole universe, this movie is far more epic and high stakes than the first.
If you are the type of person who thinks it’s funny when somebody says anything that sounds remotely sexual, then this is the funniest movie of the year. The humor is beyond juvenile and repetitive. Obviously, there’s an audience for these two morons as the show and movie were both very successful. It’s in no way high art, but it’s perfect for what it’s going for. In what some may refer to as a more sensitive time with “PC culture”, they don’t go over the line here. Honestly, one of the funnier sequences in the movie is when Beavis and Butt-Head go to a Gender Studies class. Since Beavis and Butt-Head are in modern times, there’s plenty of smartphone humor. They definitely make the most of the updated time period in this entry.
Ironically coming out just a month after another animated television show movie adaptation in Bob’s Burgers, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe are sure to fly under the radar due to the streaming exclusive release. Hardcore fans will be delighted at the sight of this new movie. After a couple decades, they haven’t aged a bit and have only taken advantage of modern times. Non-fans can avoid this movie like the plague, unless they’re thirteen year olds discovering the franchise for the first time.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe streams on Paramount+ beginning June 23.
Review by Adam Donato
Abandoned is the first feature film from actor Spencer Squire. Good for him getting a cast of known players such as Emma Roberts, Michael Shannon, and John Gallagher Jr. Squire had worked with Shannon previously, which might have been the connection. Roberts plays a woman who is struggling with postpartum depression. Gallagher Jr. plays her husband who moves with her to an old farmhouse. The couple is somewhat turned off to the house after hearing about the double homicide and suicide that took place with the previous owners by a mother very similar to Roberts. The horrors she experiences are personified by this haunted house in this horror thriller movie. Can she find peace with her new life or will she succumb to madness?
Not unlike Monstrous from earlier this year, Abandoned feels derivative of other horror movies. A woman struggles with her past trauma and her life is turned into a nonstop horror barrage. Speaking of horror, this movie is not very scary at all. Most of the scares are surrounded by flies. They’re always buzzing around her and surrounding disgusting things she finds in the house. There’s not much of a mystery whether or not the horror is more internal or external. It’s very clear this is a personal problem for Roberts's character so the external scary scenes are underwhelming to say the least. It’s nice to focus on the internal conflict, but nothing interesting is done with it. Erick Patterson is most known for writing R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour series and Another Cinderella Story, so the lack of an interesting story is not surprising.
The most noteworthy aspect of the movie is the cast. Roberts is no stranger to the horror genre with Scream 4 and Scream Queens. She’s pretty much the only thing holding this movie above a one star rating. Her relationship with Gallagher Jr. feels realistic. It’s depressing watching Gallagher Jr. try so desperately to make this new life work when most of the time it doesn’t feel like Roberts is on his team. Shannon is definitely in the movie. He plays their creepy neighbor who randomly shows up inside their house uninvited. Their house has personal significance to him and his relationship with Roberts helps bring her out of her funk.
Abandoned provides absolutely nothing new. It’s much more effective as a drama than it is as a horror movie. The cast adds some legitimacy to what is, in reality, a tepid experience of a movie. Roberts fans may enjoy it, but there’s not much here for other audiences. It’s more whatever bad than it is bad bad.
Abandoned is now in theaters and on VOD.
Review by Adam Donato
Written and directed by Patrick Gilles, I’m Charlie Walker is based on the true story of the life of Charlie Walker. This story is set in the early 1970s in San Francisco. Walker runs a trucking business that is having a hard time flourishing due to bigoted racists of the time. When nobody else dares to take on the challenge of the oil spill down at the beach, Walker takes advantage of the opportunity and gets to work. Starring Mike Colter and Dylan Baker, I’m Charlie Walker is a biopic drama that feels like it was ripped straight from the time period it was set in. Does this movie do justice to the legend himself?
I’m Charlie Walker is an enjoyable throwback piece. The story only covers a short part of the man’s life, but they do a good job showcasing who he was as a person. With a runtime of only an hour and eighteen minutes, this feels like an elongated episode of a television series more so than a movie. That being said, the short runtime goes a long way to making this movie not overstay its welcome. By the end, everything feels wrapped up in a satisfying way. It’s enjoyable to watch this hero overcome the field, get the job done and bring different people together in the process. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing racists get what’s coming to them?
Colter is a very solid leading man. Most viewers would recognize him from the Netflix show, Luke Cage. The man clearly has experience playing a badass hero. In I’m Charlie Walker, he’s smooth, sympathetic, and in charge throughout. His best scenes in the movie are when he is opposite Baker’s character of the racist corporate drug addict. It’s already easy to hate his character because he’s openly racist, but Baker goes the extra mile to make this foe unabashedly slimy. The only other standout is being Safiya Fredericks, who plays Ann Walker, Charlie’s wife. The movie is narrated by her and this is the most awkward part of the film as her character plays such a minute role. Also, famous writer Boots Riley shows up as Bartender Ray, which is cool.
The beauty of I'm Charlie Walker is its simplicity. It’s a tight movie about an underdog who takes on the man. With solid lead performances and good source material to work off of, this movie is a good time to watch. Recommend this movie to anybody who enjoys stories tackling racism in the 20th Century.
I'm Charlie Walker is now available on VOD.
Review by Adam Donato
Anybody who knows anything about Adam Sandler’s personal life knows that he loves the game of basketball. Hustle is a Happy Madison movie that is a bit more dramatic than his usual fare. Ever since Uncut Gems, critics have started to take Sandler more seriously. Hustle is another step in a more respectable direction as it allows for his comedic chops to show out, but also requires some seriousness. Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. His goal is to become a coach in the NBA, but faces adversity in the form of the new head of the organization. When Sugerman is forced back into scouting, he discovers a young streetballer with mad skills that might just be good enough to make the NBA. Sugerman dedicates himself to coaching this kid to try to make it to the big time. Can Adam Sandler keep his hot streak going?
Sandler is pretty good in Hustle. This is definitely him in his element since, as previously stated, he’s a basketball fan in real life. Not only does Sandler star in the movie, but he also produced it with LeBron James, interestingly enough. It’s reasonable to assume that this was more of a passion project than his recent Netflix comedies. The role is not unlike his career defining role in Uncut Gems as he is sports obsessed and constantly struggling as it seems as though the entire world is against him. His character is very sympathetic and admirable despite his shortcomings. He’s got solid chemistry with his co-star, Juancho Hernangomez.
The plot was as generic as sports plots come. An underdog faces insurmountable odds to make it to the top, but montages his way through enough workouts to get himself into the right shape. What makes the standard plot feel fresh is the amount of actual NBA personalities they got to be a part of the movie. Anthony Edwards, up and coming star for the Minnesota Timberwolves, plays the antagonistic consensus number one overall pick. Funny enough, he has a good performance in his limited role. The end of the movie flexes the litany of stars currently in the league along with former legends of the game. This goes a long way into making the plot feel legit.
There’s enough of a genuine connection and NBA legitimacy to make Hustle a solid option. Let’s certainly hope Sandler continues the trajectory his career is currently on. He’s already in talks to star in the next Safdie Brothers movie, which is a great sign. Longtime fans of Adam Sandler know that he has genuine dramatic chops. It’s contagious watching his love for the game in this movie and overall a feel good sports movie. Fans of basketball make sure to check this movie out on Netflix.
Hustle is now in theaters and hits Netflix on June 8.
Review by Adam Donato
A Perfect Pairing is directed by television director Stuart McDonald and is written by Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett. It stars Victoria Justice as an upstart wine connoisseur who leaves her corporate office job to pursue her own company. She ventures out to Australia to nab one of her former employers biggest clients that she had already been working on. While she doesn’t even have her own license, her no-quit mentality compels her to take up a position working there where she’s saddled with the handsome groundskeeper. Though they’ve both gotten under each other's skin, maybe just maybe there might be something there.
Let’s get this part of the review out of the way: It’s the same romance TV-movie level content that has been made a million times before. That being said, someone who is not interested in superhero blockbusters may say the same about something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All the plots are basically the same. Instead of an uptight businesswoman forming a relationship with a down to earth guy, it’s a superhero origin story in which the hero fights the opposite version of himself. The only thing that’s really different about either type of movie is who are the two leads, where is the setting, and what is the tone. Anyone who has seen these types of movies knows exactly what’s going to happen, but the difference maker is the surrounding details.
The two main leads in A Perfect Pairing are Victoria Justice and Adam Demos. They start out on each other's nerves as she forces her way into working on their farm to which he insists she is not cut out for it. Once they accept their situations, they begin to bond during the time they spend together. As soon as they decide to cement their romance, there’s a misunderstanding that seemingly puts an end to whatever has just started. Only for a big romantic gesture at the end to wrap things up. Their chemistry is weak and Demos is more responsible than Justice, who has ample experience being a lead. She’s bright and personable, while he’s more closed off and his character transition is jarring. To his credit, he’s a hot, hunky, and humble man who works with his hands so that covers a lot of bases for the female fantasy.
These movies are nothing more than female fantasy. The concept of getting the gumption to quit your boring office job to make a name for yourself. Then not only do you accomplish your goal on your own terms, but there’s a dream guy to fall in love with on the way. Every movie says the same thing. Slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. Travel while you’re still young and meet new people. Take risks that make you learn more about who you are. If one enjoys this standard plot of a movie, then this is no exception.
It’s not the worst experience of a movie. Justice is an admirable character. There’s a good vibe surrounding the movie. There’s some musical moments in the film that feel forced, but any amount of personality is graciously accepted. The backstory from Demos is odd to say the least, but definitely plays into the fantasy. The setting in Australia on a farm definitely fits the formula for this type of movie. It comes into play a couple times as she has to deal with the terrain, wildlife, and hard decisions that come with farm life. A Perfect Pairing accomplishes everything it sets out to accomplish, despite the bar being extremely low.
All the Nickelodeon girls who grew up watching Victorious will certainly enjoy seeing one of their favorite childhood stars grow up with them will certainly enjoy this movie. A Perfect Pairing is the epitome of cliche TV movie romance with some flashes of personality. Nothing here of any significant importance that nobody needs to see. Sure to satiate the romance crowd, but to anyone else, it’s a bore.
A Perfect Pairing is now streaming on Netflix.
Review by Adam Donato
Monstrous is directed by Chris Sivertson, whose biggest project to date is the Lindsey Lohan horror flick I Know Who Killed Me. His latest entry stars Christina Ricci as Laura, a single mother fleeing from her abusive ex-husband to raise her son on her own. Despite her best efforts to make their new life work, her son Cody played by Santino Barnard is having social and emotional problems. On top of that, their new home seems to be under attack as Cody insists there is a monster preying upon him. Does this small-time horror picture have the right stuff to stand out this summer?
Ricci won the Jury Award for Best Actress at the Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival this year and it was well deserved. She won’t be nominated for an Oscar or anything, but she carries this movie on her shoulders. Her character is so likable and sympathetic. The situation she is in is less than desirable and she has very little support. Laura deals with so much grief and her journey to making things work is admirable. Horror works best when the audience cares about the subject in question. Her performance is not quite in the Toni Collette stratosphere, but Ricci proves she still has what it takes to lead her own movie.
Barnard plays a child struggling to fit in and accept his new living situation. The character is only a second grader so it goes without saying that he’s an annoying child. As far as annoying children in horror movies go, his performance is not obnoxious enough to stand out and there’s moments where his acting works. Nobody else in the movie has a substantial enough role to discuss besides Colleen Camp who plays the wife of the man renting the house out to Laura. Her character is successfully frustrating as she needlessly goes out of her way to continuously make Laura’s life harder.
The big complaint from people who saw this movie at FrightFest is that the story is a lesser version of The Babadook. This is a valid concern as they share characters, plot points, genre, and themes. Monstrous is certainly a worse version, but that’s not saying much as The Babadook is hands down one of the best horror movies of the 2010s. It runs at a crisp 89 minutes with pacing that makes the movie fly by. The scares aren’t impressive at all, but the practical effects used at times make them feel like they have weight to it. In reality, this is a drama masquerading as a horror movie and it’s all the better for it.
The horror movie genre is alive and well with this latest entry. It’s less than original concept is held up by a dynamite performance from Ricci. A horror movie with solid scares, a main character audiences actually care about, and themes that hit home? That already puts this film above the litany of passable horror flicks made these days. If one likes The Babadook, be sure to check out Monstrous.
Monstrous hits VOD on May 13.
Review by Adam Donato
Liam Neeson is about a month away from being seventy years old. It’s the last weekend of April and he is going on his second action flick of the year. Blacklight came out around Valentine’s Day the same weekend as two other pretty decent entries. Unexpectedly (or perhaps not), it was a massive bomb. With a $43 million dollar budget, which is absolutely insane, the worldwide box office total of $15 million is just pathetic. Memory should fare much better for a few different reasons.
First of all, it has the weekend all to itself. That being said, this weekend is the calm before the storm in the form of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Not to mention, last weekend saw three movies release to much critical applause, which is not ideal for Memory at the box office. Maybe the saving grace of Memory is the director, Martin Campbell. Many will be quick to mention that Campbell directed Casino Royale almost two decades ago. Even though the director is more recently responsible for Green Lantern, the last few years have been kind of a resurgence with The Foreigner and The Protegé. Can Memory keep the ball rolling for Campbell?
The film is a remake of a Belgian film called The Memory of a Killer back in 2003. This may be the reason why this premise feels so tired. It doesn’t help that Liam Neeson once again suits up as an assassin who wants out of the game because he loves his family. At least this movie has his age play a factor into the plot besides the idea that he wants to retire. It’s hard to say that Liam Neeson does a bad job in this. He’s just doing the same crap that he does several times a year for at least the last decade. I can’t imagine anyone feeling passionate about this movie in particular in any way, shape or form.
The interesting aspects about this movie are the supporting players. Guy Pearce is always a delight. He carries the majority of the movie despite his character being such a standard detective. Monica Bellucci is an all-time babe, but she turns in the weakest performance of the big names. Campbell’s direction is definitely above average in comparison to the pantheon of stock Liam Neeson action flicks, but there’s still nothing special about Memory.
Memory is certainly not the worst of the Liam Neeson action flicks, but there’s little to make it stand out amongst the bunch. If you see this movie, expect to be in a theater with a few scattered elderly couples. This movie will bomb at the box office and while it may not be the most deserving, it does not deserve to be defended. It’s old people wish fulfillment and if Neeson is your cup of tea then this would be a fine trip to the theater. Hopefully a second box office flop will deter Neeson for making audiences sit through the same exact movie twice a year.
Memory hits theaters on April 29.
Review by Adam Donato
The acclaimed director of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, continues her hot streak by writing and directing Petite Maman. In the film, Josephine Sanz plays a little girl named Nelly who moves into her grandmother's old home to clean the place out. As she struggles with her grief, she explores the grounds and finds another girl her age building a treehouse in the woods. This French film was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language. But just how good is Sciamma’s latest picture?
Petite Maman is such a sweet and genuine movie. It's a very depressing subject matter, but seeing it through the eyes of a child allows for moments of happiness as she is easily distracted by exploring this new place. Where this movie shines brightest is through Nelly’s relationship with Marion, played by Gabrielle Sanz. Their conversations about her feelings toward her situation are so vulnerable and real. As the girls learn more about each other, they realize how much they have in common, and this connection is certainly the heart of the movie. Child actors usually aren’t the best, but this movie makes it the crowning achievement of this story. The kids are so natural and full of personality, making it very hard not to care about them.
The runtime is a crisp hour and twelve minutes, so nothing is dragged out. The movie is over before you know it, without sacrificing any of the substance. The third act is where the movie really shines. Once the realization of the story kicks in, the audience is launched into this blissful fantasy land that is as divine as it is grounded. This movie is like Bridge to Terabithia, but without any of the magical creatures. While it is a sad movie, this is definitely a movie that is suitable for the whole family with themes that are poignant for all ages. It's an easy watch and is sure to satisfy all audiences.
Sciamma has certainly cemented herself as one of the premiere independent filmmakers working today. Petite Maman may not gain a cult following like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but it’s sure to keep the momentum of her career going forward. It will be interesting to see what she does next. Petite Maman is comfort food for the soul and is sure to leave hearts warm. NEON absolutely outdid themselves with their film slate in 2021 and this is a proud entry in their catalog for the year.
Petite Maman hits theaters on April 22.
Review by Adam Donato
Choose or Die is like a cross between Truth or Dare and Stranger Things, but without the humor of either. A young woman finds herself committed to an old and cursed video game that presents her with painful decisions in her real life. The nostalgia comes from the fact that it’s an old video game voiced by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. This is the feature debut of Toby Meakins, who has directed a few shorts and an episode of the television series Bite Size Horror. Is nostalgia enough to prop up such a derivative concept?
Remember the '80s? The main character of this movie certainly doesn’t, which begs the question, as time goes on what will be the new decade future generations will venerate as the glory days of popular culture? Thanks to superhero culture monopolizing the blockbuster industry, it seems to be that the 2000s will reign supreme with genre stalwarts like Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight still being referenced today. That being said, there will always be rose tinted goggles for the 1980’s. All the movies that seem to be made these days are either referencing movies that came out then or they’re direct sequels/reboots of them. This is the sequel generation. The 80’s icon being exploited for this throw away horror flick is The Nightmare on Elm Street. With this and being the villain of the new Stranger Things season, Englund hasn’t been this popular in decades. Ironic how this movie drops on Netflix the same week the trailer drops for the new Stranger Things season. Hope his fans think his best feature is his voice because that’s all they get here. He’s a non factor in this.
The main duo being followed in this movie is played by Asa Butterfield and Iola Evans. If one were to look up the cast on IMDb, Evans would be the seventh name listed despite commanding the most screen time in the movie. The two have decent chemistry and the audience is sure to feel for them as they endure cruelty at every turn. Eddie Marsan plays the godfather of the Choose or Die video game and is one of the bigger names in the movie, despite his maybe twenty minutes of screen time. Nobody is particularly good or bad in this movie.
Somehow, the nostalgia is not the most unoriginal aspect of this movie. The concept of this movie is nonsensical and stupid. Think garbage films like Nerve or Escape Room. There’s a mysterious and certainly omniscient force that is causing this “game” to happen as the main characters are tortured scene after scene. Besides rooting for the final girl to persevere and make it out alive, there’s nothing to be invested in here. There is no greater truth behind it all and the movie has absolutely nothing to say. Enjoy watching characters struggle and decide at home whether you’d choose or die along with the movie. It’s inoffensive, but movies like this are a dime a dozen and this one is nothing more than background noise.
There is no genre with a more dedicated fanbase than horror. People who enjoy suspense and gruesome situations will be satisfied with this movie at the least. Besides that there is little to no standout value here. If it happens to play automatically after rewatching the older seasons of Stranger Things in preparation for the new one, this is purposefully vanilla and on brand.
Choose or Die hits Netflix on April 15.
Review by Adam Donato
The Contractor is about the story of an ex-military man, James Harper, who finds himself in a tight spot when the family bills start piling up and he is out of a job. In a moment of desperation, Harper takes a gig as a private contractor in an effort to save his family from financial ruin. Chris Pine stars as Harper, with Gillian Jacobs from Community playing his wife. Ben Foster and Kiefer Sutherland round out the rest of the stars as they are the men who work with Pine on his mission. Can Chris Pine complete his mission and get back to his life with his family?
Every single year, Liam Neeson makes a movie or two exactly like this, but this one is much better. First of all, Pine is of the appropriate age to pull off an action role like this. Not to mention it’s nice to see Pine leading a movie again as he has mostly been reserved for supporting roles as of late. He does a very good job in this role as his character is really put through the wringer here. His character is relatable and brutal at times, but when he shines is when he is emotionally freaking out due to his circumstance. It’s a very sad movie and his character is ultimately sympathetic.
Ben Foster acted opposite Pine in Hell or High Water, where they were electric together. Here, their chemistry remains the same. His character finds himself in a similar situation as Pine and their scenes together are the best in the movie. Sutherland plays their commanding officer in this mission and his worldview is interesting enough to justify his reason for sending these men on this mission. Jacobs is the standard wife who is concerned about her husband going off to war.
Running at just over 100 minutes, the brief runtime of the movie is one of its strengths. The mission, despite taking place over a couple days, feels like a non-stop rollercoaster. The quick pace of the movie compliments the action well. It would be very easy for a movie like this to have an extra thirty minutes of filler, but this generic action flick gets straight to the point. This makes for a solid viewing experience.
There’s nothing new here at all. The Contractor is a very standard action flick every step of the way. Chris Pine works well enough as the lead that viewers should be invested in his character. Slap Tom Clancy’s name on the poster and would be the perfect movie to throw on cable for your dad. It's nothing special, but not bad at all.
The Contractor hits theaters and VOD on April 1.