The Film Fix: Big-Screen Reviews and What’s New in May
By Jonathan W. Hickman, The Film Fix
Below are reviews of big-screen films in theaters now and what to look for later this month.
CURRENTLY IN THEATERS
Avengers: Endgame – Fix Rating 7/10
“Endgame” is a power-packed present for devoted fans. There’s more high drama at work in this team-up feature than anything in the series. But the soft and tender moments work best.
The manipulative, almost to the extreme, adventure finds the survivors from 2018’s “Infinity War” grappling with the consequences of Thanos’ crippling decision. What took but a snap of the finger, could, conceivably, be reset with another snap.
So, led by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Avengers search the stars and the heavens for Thanos in hopes of capturing the powerful Infinity stones and reversing his murderous deeds. But if they do get the stones, can they bring everyone back? Should they even try? These and other weighty questions hang over “Avengers: Endgame” as the heroes debate the right path to take. Oh, and there’s more than a few references to “Back to the Future.”
No character is left without a role in “Endgame.” This understandably makes for an overstuffed and busy movie that, at times, feels like a laundry list being checked off. Regardless, fans will cheer and, yes, cry with each character’s appearance, no matter how brief.
Epic in its sweep and intent on covering all the bases, “Avengers: Endgame” is fan service on steroids. And that’s not such a bad thing.
Long Shot – Fix Rating 7/10
In the mold of the screwball comedy (think a much more raunchy version of 1938’s “Bringing Up Baby”), “Long Shot” is a wacky romantic romp.
When Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) decides to run for President, she hires edgy journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) as a speech writer. The idealistic Charlotte used to babysit Fred when they were kids, and of course, he had a huge crush on her. Once the two of them begin to work together as adults, sparks fly. But can their “she’s hot/he’s not” romance withstand the pressures of a national political campaign?
While it’s hard to buy the political machinations at work in this movie, the sweet, comedic scenes prove to be awfully charming. And Theron and Rogen have real chemistry, as the power roles are effectively switched. In one raunchy scene, Charlotte takes control in the bedroom, and Fred’s reaction is classic. Be prepared for some disarming adult humor, that somehow rudely evokes tender emotion.
There’s no question that director Jonathan Levine (“Warm Bodies”) and his writers Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah are going for a Howard Hawks type vibe, with the uptight Theron taking a role that would have been played by Cary Grant over 80 years ago (yes, it’s been that long). And Rogen is in Katherine Hepburn mode but as an adorable slob, who breaks all the rules, but somehow comes out fine. Rogen’s physical comedy is very good here, even when he’s ridiculously depicted crashing head first out of a two-story window or falling down stairs unscathed.
Fast Color – Fix Rating 8/10
Director Julia Hart’s lean, dramatic sci-fi breaks the mold.
Moody and atmospheric, “Fast Color” is a subtle superhero movie shrouded in a post-apocalyptic mask. Its small, deliberate narrative is set in an X-Men “Logan” like universe, a world plagued by water shortages. Onto this arid landscape, we meet Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman in anguish, who has some sort of undefined superhuman ability. Ruth is on the run, and periodically, she has uncontrolled seizures that result in potentially dangerous earthquakes.
Ruth returns home to her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint), who has been caring for Ruth’s daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney). Like Ruth, Lila has abilities, but unlike Ruth, Lila can control them. And under Bo’s watch, those abilities have been sharpened. It’s now up to Bo to help the troubled Ruth reign in her unique powers.
On one hand, “Fast Color” might feel like something that would be at home in the Marvel universe. But on the other hand, it’s very much a movie that relishes its indie roots. And because the story is so focused and relatively small, it manages to one-up similar and larger films like Jeff Nichols’ good, but not completely successful 2016 movie “Midnight Special.” “Fast Color” will hit you as the big emotional moments bring the weight to its exciting conclusion. I was moved, and I saw the colors.
All-star, musician talent give voice to the ugly dolls. Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton, and Pitbull lend their pipes to a narrative that explores what it means to be different and why what matters most is who you really are.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Despite its “PG” rating, this movie might have a chance of unseating “Endgame” at the top of the box office. The story is set in the world of Pokémon, in which a boy finds a talking Pikachu, that wants to become a detective. In addition to rising star Suki Waterhouse, many will be interested in Ryan Reynolds’ voice work as the title character.
A gender switch update of 1988’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” this version has actresses Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson taking on the roles once inhabited by Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Back in 1988, the Frank Oz directed film may have starred Martin and Caine, but the late Glenne Headly stole the show. The trailers for “The Hustle” lean heavily on the slapstick energy of Wilson, who is often a force of nature.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Expect a cacophony of loud weaponry in this third Wick outing. Keanu Reeves returns as the unstoppable contract killer, who’s now on the run from the assassin’s guild. With the entire guild hunting him, Wick turns to the deadly Sofia (Halle Berry) for assistance, and the trailers show her in action with her dogs taking a big bite out of the bad guys. The “Wick” series is a surprising success story with each one better than the last. Let’s hope the trend continues.
Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes”) directs a live-action adaption of another Disney animated classic. The last one of these was the weak Tim Burton film “Dumbo,” so, maybe Ritchie’s hip energy will make the difference. Will Smith’s genie initially stirred up controversy when the blue character was revealed in teaser trailers. But subsequent trailers show Smith both with and without the blue genie skin, which might be a good way to approach the magical character.
Produced by “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, the superhero twist here is the question as to what would happen if Superman came to Earth and was evil? The trailers show a youngster mysteriously crashing on our planet where he’s raised by the Breyers (played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman). The boy, named Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), grows up with his powers hidden. But when the secret is revealed, Brandon isn’t too happy about it. The nature vs. nurture debate will definitely have thematic importance, as Brandon wreaks havoc.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Expectation is high for the third film in the revitalized monsters that further expand the “Godzilla” franchise, that was rebooted so well back in 2014, and extended in 2017 with the effective “Kong: Skull Island.” In “King of the Monsters,” Godzilla faces off against a bevy of other massive beasts, including Mothra, Rodan, and three-headed King Ghidorah. “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown makes the leap from the small screen to the big screen with this sure to be blockbuster.
After the remarkable success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” director Dexter Fletcher gets credit this time—he stepped in and finished “Rhapsody” without a directing credit, after Brian Singer was fired. “Rockerman” is a bio-pic of superstar singer Elton John (played by Taron Egerton). Clips released online show Egerton singing as part of his performance, which ain’t half bad.
Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor, and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting filmproductionlaw.com.