There’s the princess, the pauper (who is now a princess), and the evil twin of the princess. Because why not?
It’s been two years since Stacy the Baker (Vanessa Hudgens) switched places with Margaret the Princess of Montenaro (Also Vanessa Hudgens) and ended up falling in love with Prince Edward Wyndham (Sam Palladio) and becoming a princess herself. Margaret is now set to become Queen, but the stress has put a halt to her relationship with Stacy’s former partner Kevin (Nick Sagar), much to the chagrin of Kevin’s daughter Olivia (Mia Lloyd). Margaret wishes to fix this with Stacy’s help, unaware that there is also a plot by one of Margaret’s cousins, Fiona (Vanessa Hudgens) to steal the royal coffers.
I genuinely didn’t expect a sequel to this movie, but I really didn’t expect the second film to use “there’s actually a THIRD identical person” as the plot device. I now hope they keep this going until we get to Princess Switch 8: Kansas City Royals, in which Vanessa Hudgens plays 9 different roles and the princesses are forced to start a baseball team in order to avoid an economic crisis.
If you liked the first movie, you’ll probably like this one. It’s still got a cute Christmas romance, only this time it’s focused on Margaret and how she is having legitimate problems keeping a social life due to her duties. The plot about Fiona keeps everything a little more tense, particularly when the switches start getting a bit out of control, but you ultimately know that everything is going to end up fine because that’s how these movies go. It does have some fun scenes and Vanessa Hudgens clearly loves playing characters who are pretending to be other characters. She goes really over-the-top at times and that’s what we need for this kind of film.
Overall, it was an okay sequel. I also like that they bring back the magical guy who helps with romance in the first one.
Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister gets her own adventure.
Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the youngest child of the Holmes family after her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Raised alone by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is taught to be independent (particularly for a woman in the 1890s) and is educated in cryptography, strategy, and even martial arts. When her mother disappears, the older Holmes brothers attempt to send Enola to a finishing school under the abusive Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), but Enola escapes. In her flight, she encounters a young man who is revealed to be a missing Marquess, Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is being pursued by a menacing man. The pair escape together before getting separated. Enola now wishes to find the Viscount as well as her mother while avoiding the eyes of the greatest detective in the world and his smarter older brother.
While I do read a number of Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, I don’t think I’ve read the source material which inspired this movie. I’ve heard that the books are better, but I can say that it is hard to write a character that can match Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal. It’s not just that she does such a great job of portraying a smart outcast woman in Victorian England, it’s that she is unbelievably likeable. Even though her character often breaks the fourth wall and falls back on some overused tropes, she’s so charming that you don’t even care. A big strength is how much she can convey to the camera with just a look. Comedy, concern, caring, things that don’t begin with C. She also has great comic timing when she does her breaks and the deliveries of the lines in them, but she also nails the more somber emotional moments. It reminded me of Fleabag, something that wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d realized that Harry Bradbeer, the director of this film, was also the director of that show. Given the heavy feminist themes of both, I feel like this is almost the young persons’ introduction to the same humor that Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought to the screen. If they want to cast Waller-Bridge as an older Enola Holmes in a future movie (or as Irene Adler), I want everyone involved to know I will throw money at the screen with such force that Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate will feel it.
Henry Cavill portrays a different version of Sherlock Holmes than we usually see. He’s more grounded than Robert Downey, Jr.’s version and more human than Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He is still brilliant, but since he’s not the focus, it comes off almost more impressive because we just see him working things out in the background. He also seems more caring, possibly because this is the first version we’ve seen interacting with a family member who actually likes him. However, Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Mycroft, who is essentially the villain of the piece, stands at odds with most interpretations of the character. He’s a misogynist, a classist, and tends to shout loudly. Additionally, he’s often wrong, which is probably the biggest difference from the canonical version. But, I will say, he’s a fun villain, because he’s really just a representation of an archaic mindset and watching Enola rebel against it is cathartic to everyone’s inner teenager.
The actual mystery of the film is pretty great, particularly in watching Enola slowly unraveling it. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t have the practical experience of Sherlock Holmes, nor does she have the ability to operate independently, due to her status as a woman. She does a good job to try and overcome it, but often ends up just dressing as a boy to get by. Still, it’s fun to watch her work.
Overall, I really liked this movie, but now I need a movie with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Irene Adler. I’m going to start #IreneWallerBridge on Twitter and see if anyone cares (they won’t).
Almost all of the women on Earth die, but misogyny does not.
A comet passes Earth and its ash (that somehow makes it onto Earth and through the atmosphere intact) carries a virus that kills almost all of the women on Earth. Eva (Freida Pinto) is one of the last women alive and is traveling with her boyfriend Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) to live out her final days after being exposed. She and Will travel to a waterfall that they saw when they were first dating while trying to avoid those who would try to take Eva to be dissected or to have her eggs harvested.
If you’ve never read Y: The Last Man, well, it’s much better than this. The premise of that series is that everything on Earth with a Y chromosome dies at the same time except for a guy named Yorick. A tv-show adaptation is set to come out next year. It will almost certainly be better than this movie.
Part of it is that much of the movie tries to feel “serious,” but comes off as “slow.” Having a lot of quiet scenes can sometimes be good for character development, but here it just felt like they hadn’t figured out how to actually fill 90 minutes. Much of the film is flashbacks of their relationship and subsequent quarantine mixed with somber moments of their journey to the waterfall, but the flashbacks are frequently repetitive and the scenes in the present just feel like a slog.
What’s most annoying about Only is how close it came to having a solid point. There are a ton of things this movie could have addressed, from a woman’s right to bodily autonomy to right to die with dignity to government overreach to the callous way people act in plagues if they aren’t personally affected (this one would have REALLY been prescient) to the way religion starts to dominate during times of crisis, but it instead chose to pay some slight lip service to feminism and then do absolutely nothing real. At the end of the film, I feel more like it was a giant misogynist mess, rather than a movie that was supposed to subvert or criticize that exact thing. Most of the flashbacks of Will and Eva’s relationship show Will being extremely controlling, particularly while they’re in quarantine. He spies on her texts, calls her emotional when she says he’s being overbearing, and basically gaslights her on any decision she makes. Meanwhile, the camera frequently treats her like a sex object, even when she’s supposed to be pretending to be a guy. It’s ridiculous that anyone is fooled by that disguise.
Overall, even though the two leads are both skilled actors, this movie can’t be saved by a good performance or two. Skip it.
Well, they could not have timed this film worse, on many levels.
It’s sometime in the future and Bricke (Édgar Ramírez) is a career thief. Unfortunately for him, the US is rolling out the American Peace Initiative (API), a device that sends out a signal that makes it fundamentally impossible for people to do things that are illegal. Bricke is recruited by Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt), the son of a major crime family, to help his hacker girlfriend Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster) find out where the government is liquidating a ton of currency in preparation for a transfer to digital commerce and steal a billion dollars. They then plan on fleeing to Canada right before the API goes live so that they can spend the money, because spending stolen goods is, itself, a crime that the API prevents. Meanwhile, William Sawyer (Sharlto Copley), a policeman in the last days of police, is trying to deal with the changing of Law Enforcement and trying to make up for some mistakes.
F*cking hell, this movie is a waste of potential. I’m not sure I really should have expected better from a director who mostly specializes in taking franchises on after they’re already successful (Transporter 3, Taken 2, Taken 3), but I feel like Olivier Megaton (cool name, though) just did not know how to craft a story. I also think he didn’t have anyone telling him “no” enough on set.
This movie is 149 minutes. To put that in perspective, you can watch the original Frankenstein twice and make a drink. What We Do In the Shadows is an hour shorter. The Dark Knight is roughly the same length and has like… I dunno… 7 acts in it? This movie is way too long, is my point. You’d think that in 149 minutes there would be enough time to play with the, admittedly really interesting, premise… but no, not really. There’s not a lot of debate about the morality of forcing people to obey, nor any real consideration of why people are okay with this in America, or even what the hell happened that made this seem necessary. I’d even take a joke about the fact that having politicians subject to a wave that makes illegal conduct impossible would mean there’s no chance in hell this passed Congress. Bribery would, presumably, be covered in the no-no list (although wage theft, being civil, would still be kosher). Instead, the movie really just uses the API for a few scenes in which the police use it on targets and to give the movie a ticking clock.
You’d think a lack of exploration would mean that the film focused on character development or plot, but you would be wrong. Bricke has two facial expressions and they both suck. Rather than worry about things like explaining the heist or having developed characters, the movie instead decides to try to have a large number of action set pieces… that are unbelievably generic and forgettable. At least Extraction went big and bold with its action sequences, but this film just kind of forgets to push any particular envelope.
Another big problem with this movie is that they released it during a wide-scale protest about police violence and the film contains a number of instances of police violence, including a scene in which guards use API to disable a criminal and then beat him to death as he lies there helpless.
Really the only thing that stands out in the film is Michael Pitt’s performance, because he DOES go all out at points, just being a complete and utter sociopath at times. However, that really just drives home how painfully uninteresting and bland the rest of the characters are.
Overall, I can’t recommend this one. If it was 60 minutes shorter, it might have been tolerable, but it isn’t.
The comedian who brought us Nanette gives us a completely different experience.
It’s a comedy special. There are jokes. There are also parts that have fewer jokes. I don’t want to describe it too much, because then the jokes won’t be as funny.
I know that it’s tough to do a review of this kind of thing. Humor will always come down to a matter of personal taste and, having been a failed stand-up comedian, I can say that audiences told me my taste was terrible. However, the thing about this, much like her previous special Nanette, is that it isn’t so much about entertaining as it is about making you feel something inside yourself that changes you a little.
If you didn’t see Nanette, it is one of the most impressive stand-up routines of all time. The main thing that Nanette pulls off that differentiated it from other specials is that it manages to draw the audience into the mindset of a human being in a discriminated class in the middle of an extremely vulnerable time, compelling a degree of empathy that can really hit anyone at their core. This performance is very similar, but it’s designed to put you in the mindset of Hannah Gadsby as a person who is autistic. It’s trying to get you to recognize that the way she sees things is just different, but that it is not worse or better than how neurotypical people see the world. She’s still trying to create empathy, but instead of trying to just make people feel the fear and anxiety of others, she’s also getting across the confusion that comes from thinking in a different way than the rest of the world.
This isn’t to say that the show isn’t also hilarious. I was laughing pretty much the whole time, including having an awkward laugh at Gadsby’s statement that she blew all of her trauma on Nanette. Since trauma is often a great source of comedy material, I admit it was almost more impressive for her to say that and then do a routine that was based less on trauma than on just personal exploration. The only thing I really think she messed up was not mentioning the statue of Gattamelata, which is a funny sounding word that has never fit into any other stand-up routine.
Overall, I cannot help but say this is recommended, bordering on required viewing.
It’s not The Big Sick, but the leads carry the movie.
Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) have been a couple for several years. After their arguments come to a head, the two agree to break up, only to hit a man on a bicycle (Nicholas X. Parsons) a few moments later. The man on the bicycle flees. They are then commandeered by a police officer (Paul Sparks), who runs down and then shoots the bicyclist. He flees, leaving two bystanders to discover Jibran and Leilani over the body. The bystanders call the police and, worried that they’ll be the suspects, the couple flees. Now they need to find the murderer and clear their names, while also dealing with their own awkward situation.
I almost loved this movie. I really wanted to, if I’m being honest, because I loved the last collaboration between director Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick. But while that movie had the heart of a tragic relationship to fall back on to break up the comedy and nailed the tone of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (because they wrote it), this movie doesn’t quite pull it off.
A big part of what this movie doesn’t get right is that we don’t get a lot of time with Jibran and Leilani as a couple before they’re fighting and breaking up, so we don’t ever really have a connection with them. I’m not saying that I needed an Up-style intro depicting the happy couple living together, but for a four year relationship, we really only get a short picture of them being together, going from the end of their apparent one-night stand which, within two-and-a-half minutes jumps to them fighting four years later. We then get six minutes of them fighting and breaking up. Less than nine minutes into the movie, the people we’re supposed to root for are not together and we spent most of that nine minutes just hearing them bicker, most of which was over nonsensical crap. Since this is a rom-com and we know they’re going to be back together at the end, I guess it’s good that most of their complaints are crap, aside from the marriage issue from the last thirty seconds of the fight. Again, it’s hard to root for people that we don’t know and don’t really have a reason to like, and the timing on this is so formulaic, I found multiple screenplay guides that describe it.
Then there’s the plot, which appears to just borrow from other films whenever they had an idea for a scene that would be funnier with the addition of these two characters, going from weird torture to awkward shopping to police chase to Eyes Wide Shut. I’m pretty sure I followed the plot, but it was so dumb that missing out on it really wouldn’t have made a difference.
The thing that almost makes this movie work, though, is that the leads are just that funny. No matter how weird or awkward or stupid the situation, they play off of each other perfectly. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are both charming, they’re both likable, they’re both attractive, and, even though the film is dialogue heavy, they actually do a good job of adding levels with their performances. Acting is, supposedly, reacting and they both nail it when dealing with each other.
Overall, if you like either of the leads, you’ll like this movie. If you just want something on in the background to laugh at while you do other stuff, this movie’s a good choice. It’s got some pretty solid laughs at times, but there are much better comedies out there.
Everyone knows kids can be really creepy. If a small child looks me in the eye and says “The specter of death looms large over your future,” then I say “How did you get in my apartment and why are you floating and oh god the burning has already begun.” Pretty sure everyone has had that happen before. Anyway, the point is: Kids can be f*cking creepy.
This is a movie about a creepy, creepy child. It’s not original in that aspect, but I’ll say that the way they handle it actually is.
Stephanie (Shree Crooks) is a child who has been abandoned in her home by her parents. She plays around with a toy turtle, watches TV (which occasionally mentions something about an apocalypse happening before she flips it to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), makes her own food, tries to befriend a bunny, and starts swearing because her parents aren’t there. Remember Home Alone’s montage when Kevin realized his family was gone? It’s that, but with a young girl.
Then, we start to find out that things are wrong. Stephanie is stalked by a shadowy figure that never seems to catch her. The body of a young boy, revealed to be her brother, Paul (Jonah Beres), is in a bed in the house and is decaying. Stephanie at first appears to be talking to it sadly, but then starts to blame it for her parents leaving and hits the body repeatedly.
Eventually, her parents return, but that only starts adding to the mystery of what happened with this world.
SUMMARY OF THE END (Spoilers)
Eventually, her parents (Frank Grillo and Anna Torv) return and apologize for leaving. They bury Paul, but Paul’s body is thrown back into the house that night. Stephanie’s dad asks her what she thinks happened when Paul died. It’s revealed that Stephanie killed Paul using telekinetic tentacles that appear to be made from her shadow. The apocalypse is actually a dark force possessing children around the globe. The monster that’s been stalking her is a manifestation of her own powers. Her parents knock her out and try to perform a procedure to disable her powers, but she awakes and destroys the makeshift lab.
Her parents try to poison her, but her tentacles save her. Her father then shoots her multiple times, killing her. He returns home to his wife, but Stephanie reappears, revived. She brutally murders both of her parents, destroys the house, throws away her stuffed turtle, and walks away psychically destroying her entire neighborhood. A shot of the Earth reveals this to be happening everywhere.
END SUMMARY (End Spoilers)
This is a Blumhouse picture, which means that the budget was probably so small it hurt parts of the film. However, as Get Out proved, this can encourage some really inventive filmmaking with a focus on good story and concept to compensate for the lack of effects. This movie comes so close to that, but it just can’t quite keep it going. Admittedly, the lack of quality of the effects at the end is a little bit of an issue, but it’s mostly the way the film tries to handle the third act.
At the beginning of the film, the mystery of what is happening to Stephanie is delivered slowly, with some odd hints surrounding the fact that we’re seeing a small child living on her own. She makes a lot of bad decisions and does goofy things, because she’s an unsupervised child, but we also see some slowly building evidence that the situation is much direr than it seemed. This part of the film is great. Since the director is A Beautiful Mind’s Akiva Goldsman, there should not have been any doubt that we’d really be able to grasp that we’re watching a kind of madness progress.
As far as the performance goes, Shree Crooks does a phenomenal job. She conveys all of the nervousness blended with excitement that you’d expect from a child who finds themselves allowed to do what they want. The scene where she first realizes that she can swear is perfect, with every line and action and look building to something that’s both hilarious and adorable, which gives us a break in the tension while still reminding us of the situation. It’s a great scene, and there are several like that at the beginning of the film.
The progression of Stephanie’s disturbing behaviors is solid, going from mostly innocent behavior that shows she might be haunted by something to showing that she herself is frightening and unhinged.
The movie really just starts going downhill when her parents return, with much of the mystery being revealed with too much exposition and too little demonstration. Then, the ending was intense, but it still felt hollow. It feels like all the weight of the film has been removed by that point, instead replaced by some generic horror mixed with some, admittedly clever, deaths.
I liked the movie for most of it, I just wish that the ending had felt more profound or more like a continuation of the first act rather than a completely different movie that had been stapled on. I don’t know what exactly caused this, but the fact that the beginning of it, and some parts of the end, are so well-done says that this team could definitely make a hell of a film if they had a little bit more consistency towards the end. Since Goldsman’s next film is an adaptation of Firestarter by Stephen King, given the parts of this movie that worked, I think that movie should be amazing.