‘Buffaloed’ and the making of a star in Zoey Deutch

'Buffaloed' and the making of a star in Zoey Deutch

Since the beginning of 2016, Zoey Deutch has acting credits in 15 films and TV series. She’s rising like a rocket through the comedy scene, starring in romantic comedies like Set It Up, post-apocalyptic comedies like Zombieland: Double Tap, and TV comedies like The Politician. Deutch’s latest release, Buffaloed, acts as the greatest vehicle for her growing starpower, morphing into a film that only works because of Deutch’s existence.

Buffaloed, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Fest, follows Peg (Deutch), a young, fast-talking hustler and recently incarcerated woman. After being released from prison for scamming hoards of Buffalo Bills fans through fake ticket sales, Peg takes a job as a debt collector, working from the scummy and grubby Wizz (Jai Courtney).  Written by Brian Sacca and directed by Tanya Wexler, Buffaloed works better as the film rolls along, as Peg deeper into the world of debt collection.

Soon after realizing Wizz is one of the worst people alive, Peg leaves that debt collection agency and opens her own, recruiting those that “have talent,” or several outcasts, religious fanatics, and ex-cellmates. Deutch, with a heavy amount of debt herself, is working to get rid of her own past mistakes, while also providing a new life for herself, her brother (Noah Reid), a local bar owner, and her mother (Judy Greer), a hairdresser that she lives with. Peg’s new business catches the attention of Wizz, and an all-out turf war follows. Peg (and Deutch) is at her best when she’s chatting with the other debt collectors, when she’s chatting with those on the phone, and when she’s wiggling out of an improbable situation.

'Buffaloed' and the making of a star in Zoey Deutch
source: Magnolia Pictures

Deutch’s performance lives on the line between incredible and off-the-rails crazy. It’s a haywire acting job that more people should see, for Deutch deserves a bigger and better audience. Her manic nature turns into pure comedy, and her likability only increases the more time she’s on screen, despite her awful decision making. It reminded me of Leonardo Dicaprio’s Wolf of Wall Street role or even Adam Sandler’s Uncut Gems performance. It’s closer to that tier of acting than you’d expect from an actor who’s young and largely new to bigger budget films.

The supporting cast fills their roles allowing Deutch to shine, with Courtney, Greer, and lawyer/love interest Jermaine Fowler doing a lot with a little. Courtney in particular dials up the scumminess to absurd levels, making him a formidable villain in the midst of the malicious business of debt collection. The writing gives audiences room and information to breathe, never moving too fast or leaving you in the dark, using The Big Short style of explaining the different elements of debt and all of the major players involved. By the end, it’s hard not to be endeared by the filmmaking, the script, and these characters, despite their flaws, their ulterior motives, and their chosen occupations.

Deutch is in the process of becoming a star. She looks one box office hit away from becoming a household name. Much of the general population will already recognize her from her Netflix appearances and her supporting roles on more expensive films, but her name is one that is on the tips of people’s tongues. Buffaloed shows what Deutch can do when given the chance to put her comedy chops on display, giving a physical acting performance that might blow you away. Seek out this film. She’s that good.

Buffaloed keeps you smiling at the end, with a relatively realistic and positive outcome. Deutch deserves the same. So let’s give her more chances to strut on-screen, more opportunities to lead a film, and more times to be the heroine we never knew we needed. I’m sure we’ll all be much happier with Deutch as the center of attention.

‘Downhill’ and how expectations can ruin a movie

"Downhill" and how expectations can ruin a movie

★★

There are certain movies that floor you. You can’t imagine getting up out of your seat as the final scene fades or cuts to black. The experiences feel ethereal, too good for this world. Downhill is not one of those movies.

The comedy from writer/directing duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and starring a killer pair in Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, starts with a strong premise, likely because it’s adapted from an already successful foreign film, the Swedish Force Majeure. The Swedish film, written and directed by Ruben Östlund, opened to massive critical acclaim, ending up on many critics’ top 10 movies of 2014. This version will not have the same fate, instead dying in people’s mind within 48 hours, if not as soon as a 30 minutes after the film ends.

Though the movie retains much of the fault, part of the blame rests on us. We hear about a movie with Ferrell, Louis-Dreyfus, and written by the duo behind The Way, Way Back and The Descendents, and our eyes widen. Expectations have been raised to insurmountable levels, especially with the success and prominence of Force Majeure. When we go into a film like this with specific ideas of what it will look like, frustrations only grow when expectations are failed to be met.

Looking at Downhill outside of expectations, originals, and past works by the comedians, the film is…fine. It looks good and features fine, if not good, performances by the supporting cast. Ferrell and Louis Dreyfus give admirable performances, with the Veep actor providing us the most amount of acting acting. She deserves more dramatic roles, and more opportunities to show her ability to deftly balance tense moments of dark comedy. A cameo by Kristofer Hivju, father of Force Majeure, might be the second-best scene in the film, behind a brief but hilarious plotline of Dreyful taking a personal day.

The film now has become a box office bomb, disliked by critics and audiences, two group that rarely agree. Its biggest problem is its lack of one, as the film doesn’t make you feel anything either way. There’s no highs or lows, only middling existence. No laugh-out-loud jokes or biting drama to make you cry. A lack of relatability and a lack of originality make Downhill a overwhelmingly average and competent piece of filmmaking, from the minds of two men known for their sharp wit and character development.

It makes me wonder how this film would be perceived outside of expectation, though. If I went in cold, seeing these actors for the first time, with no prior knowledge of Force Majeure or this directorial duo, would the movie still feel so utterly disappointing? This isn’t anything new to criticism, to moviegoing, or even to media consumption, but it felt like a reminder to me to limit my expectations. Sometimes, you don’t need to consume all of the reviews, the ratings, and the scores before you see a film. You don’t need the research.

Without expectations, Downhill still would be a film existing somewhere between good and bad, a purgatory of monotony between hating a film and being transformed by one. But it certainly would have been a more enjoyable experience, and sometimes at the movies, that’s all we’re looking for.

‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ and how love can refocus our attention [Review]

'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' and how love can refocus our attention [Review]

★★★★

I’ve seen countless movies revolving around the concept and execution of love. Far from a foreign concept in film, most of these love stories get recycled over and over again, with different variations cropping up nearly every weekend with new releases. Streaming services come out with these romantic movies and series constantly. All of this makes the love story in Portrait of a Lady on Fire that much more striking and important.

Something incredible happens about midway through Céline Sciamma’s lesbian love story: you find yourself wholly invested in this relationship. It takes up the most important corner of your mind. Cinematographer Claire Mathon and Sciamma work together to create special moments through the use of camera movements and focuses. In each scene of dialogue, of action, or even of pure stillness, the camera keeps each woman as the center of attention.

Their faces fill the dead center of the screen, and instead of using over-the-shoulder shots and other usual devices, Mathon continues to put them front and center. Even when both women are on the screen, she keeps only one of them in view, leading to this absolutely breathtaking couple of seconds.

By doing this, Sciamma and Mathon don’t allow you to think about anything else in the film. You only consider the face on the screen, with the weight of each of their emotions. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel use subtle facial expressions to break your heart, put it back together again, and break it once again. The cinematographer remains utterly fantastic and unmatched, giving you reason to be attentive and hyper-focused. Portrait of a Lady on Fire never loses you, or allows you to leave its world, and for the overwhelming majority of the film, you’re more than happy to sit, walk, and paint with these women.

The love in Sciamma’s film feels real in its forbidden nature. The timing is off. The circumstances are less than ideal, to put it mildly. Her intent to tell a forbidden lesbian romance story deserves an amount of admiration and immense respect. It’s a period piece focusing on those largely ignored in period pieces: women and particularly lesbians. Though there were definite similar themes in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, that film dealt less with love and more with power and status. In Sciamma’s film, the opposite is true, flirting with the notions of status within the world of high art, but focusing on the power of love, not the power of the crown.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire affects you. It takes ahold of you (and your heart) and doesn’t let go for the 121-minute runtime. With outstanding performances and a sharp script, Sciamma’s film becomes a rare piece of cinema in your mind: one that pushes you to refocus your life, and your moviegoing experiences, around love. It plays out like a painting itself, slowly becoming more gorgeous and telling as time goes on.

This film is special. It puts your gaze directly on the beauty, the ugly, the fantasy, and the reality of love, with varying intersection layered beneath. Portrait of a Lady on Fire has power, weight, and importance, and for many, will be one of the best films of the year and an early contender for the best love story of 2020.

 

‘Bad Boys for Life’ and why we can’t resist that one last ride [Review]

'Bad Boys for Life' and Why We Can't Resist That One Last Ride

★★★

As I sat in a sold out showing of Bad Boys for Life, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. The crowd cheered within the first 15 minutes, and kept the excitement for the entire 124-minute runtime. It mirrored some of the early Avengers movies, the way that people react to franchises with larger budgets, more films, and way more star-power. But, it didn’t matter, because the idea of one last run with these actors we’ve known for the entire 21st century gave all of us too much interest and in the end, too much joy.

The ‘Bad Boys’ franchise rests solely on the shoulders of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, two men in their 50s fluctuating between A- and B-list status. The original Bad Boys came out 25 years ago and Bad Boys II wasn’t far behind, released in 2003. Both of the first two films were panned by critics, with this new installment far surpassing the others on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and though this shouldn’t be the ultimate barometer, it is the most popular for the regular moviegoer. Bad Boys for Life is the first in the franchise to be certified fresh on the site, the first to be directed by someone other than Michael Bay (6 Underground), and becoming one of the highest box office debuts in the month of January.

For some reason, we love the idea of “running it back” one last time. We go to high school and college reunions 25 years later. We play endless video games against friends growing up. We eat the same meals over and over again. Jokes that were told 15 years prior still make us laugh with friends we haven’t seen in months. And so, movies about taking “one last ride” or “one last mission” or “one last chance at love” become irresistible. For example, Wild Hogs, a film with no real stakes, plot, or critical positivity, ended up making over $250 million at the box office. Almost every heist movie ever made follows the “one last job” mantra and trope, but we still head to the theater in droves. Bad Boys for Life was supposed to be that “one last mission” but because of its success, Bad Boys 4 is now already in the works.

'Bad Boys for Life' and Why We Can't Resist That One Last Ride
source: Columbia Pictures

We love these films and these circumstances in life because the stakes are at their absolute peak. It’s a Game 7 for a chance to be a world champion. It’s a do-or-die, a road back to prison or off to the beaches in the Caribbean. Somehow, the last time becomes the most important time. These high stakes sold audiences and critics alike on the Smith and Lawrence combination back again in Bad Boys for Life, with even the characters stating that this is 100% the last go-around.

Smith and Lawrence are joined in the film by old friends like Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard and new faces like Paola NuñezVanessa HudgensCharles Melton, and Alexander Ludwig as the team surround the two veterans. Introduce worthy villains in mom-and-daughter Mexican mobsters Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) and Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) and you have yourself a movie. Complete with a cheesy-turned-funny script helmed by Chris Bremner, the film leans heavily on the leads’ age, joking about their eyesight, their fitness, their technological issues, and their mutual understanding that retirement is coming fast.

More than anything, you buy into this film because it’s fun to watch. It’s a joy to reminisce and it’s a blast to be with these guys for one last time. Lawrence takes on the comedic elements, proving he’s still a commendable funnyman, and Smith shoulders the action scenes, giving us a glimpse at how incredible Gemini Man could have been. The two still show their top notch chemistry and play off one another to the audience’s satisfaction. The action sequences find the two in solid form, and the set pieces put against the Miami backdrop make for a gorgeous, ritzy landscape.

Directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah capture the Miami Vice style of a cool, crime-action buddy content, making these characters the best of the best, hilarious, and in this case, past their prime. The directors deserve credit for taking a franchise that looked dead in the water into a welcome, January surprise.

A film that shows its co-stars having 90s amounts of fun, Bad Boys for Life lets the audience in on the joke, and winks at moviegoers every chance it gets. The cast and crew looks to be having a ball, and the audience follows suit. Even if Columbia Pictures ends up making a sequel to Bad Boys for Life, we will always have this version of Smith and Lawrence for their (supposed) one last ride.

‘1917’ and the epic emptiness of war in film [Review]

1917 and the Epic Emptiness of War in Film

★★½

When I was just a kid, I remember seeing Forrest Gump, a film that most of have seen at one point in our lives. Tom Hanks’s portrayal and Robert Zemeckis’s film of a man lost in time, lost at war, and lost in love looked less at the spectacle of war and more at the specificity of this one man’s journey. Since then, in truth, I haven’t seeked out movies depicting war outside of the so-called classics, like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket. The rest of the war movies came to me due to awards buzz and subsequent success, like The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, and Dunkirk.

None of these films impacted me like Forrest Gump. In all fairness to these films, I watched the majority of them when I was either too distracted, too uninformed, or too young. At those ages, film stood as a way to pass the time, rather than a medium to now analyze and critique. Hollywood’s newest war drama, 1917 from director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty), has taken awards season by storm, becoming the shiniest piece of candy in the shop and the pearl of critics and audiences alike. 

In terms of technical achievement, 1917 deserves every nomination and award it can muster. The one-shot method of cinematography should give the beloved Roger Deakins another Oscar win, and you feel like you’re on this journey with the two young, British soldiers. Played by George MacKay and Dean Charles-Chapman, these Lance Corporals embark on a messenger mission to a group of soldiers heading into a trap, one of which is Lance Corporal Blake’s (Charles-Chapman) brother, giving us a glimpse of Richard Madden with little time left in the film. 

1917 and the Epic Emptiness of War in Film
source: Universal Pictures

Due to the camera’s constant movement, we walk with these boys, then run with them, even dying with them when the time comes. Deakins’s work provides an immersive experience, an epic one enhanced when seeing 1917 on the big screen in a dark and crowded theater. Only one distinguishable cut occurs in the film, after Corporal Schofield (MacKay) falls down a flight of stairs and knocks out, only to awake in the middle of the night with a ticking clock and a bloody back of the head. Other than that, this nearly one-take film looks seamless, and for the most part, gorgeous. 

The spectacle of war remains in the forefront, as the men wade through dead bodies, bunkers, and finally a massive battlefront. Deakins, who deserves a writing credit on this film, and Mendes show the macro toll of war on a micro scale through the eyes of two (but mostly one) soldiers. MacKay stays at the center of it all in a performance that won’t be given enough recognition but will be remembered for its quietness, along with the boyish naivete of his face and the hardness of his eyes that develops over the course of the film. 

The film features some moments that can be labeled as “traditional emotional” with the swelling of music, the men in uniforms resigning to their feelings, and the death of men, as well as innocence. Unfortunately, these moments felt empty in the grand scheme of the war. These moments are not hinting, but telling you, “This is the time to be emotional. Start crying now!” Subtlety falls away, the dialogue becomes heavy-handed, and our connection to these characters feels one-sided. By the end of the film, the audience has seen these characters through hell, but we still know very little about them. It became tough to believe that any of this mattered, and if my care for the corporals was heartfelt or manufactured. 

1917 and the Epic Emptiness of War in Film
source: Universal Pictures

If 1917 sweeps the Oscars, it won’t be surprising. The Academy has long rewarded war depictions. Though Dunkirk disappointed in its awards campaign, the buzz surrounding Mendes’s film is real. The accomplishment is laid bare for all to see, but for all this impressive filmmaking, the story, like that of Dunkirk, doesn’t provoke, emote, or stick into the corner of your mind like other films this year. Looking past the technical elements, you find a film that struggles in moments of raw emotion, putting the merry-go-round of British talent in to distract you from its lackluster dialogue and surface characters. 

I’ll always prefer films like Forrest Gump to films like 1917. We live with Gump, while we just pop in with Schofield. Unfortunately, we don’t see how all of this affects Schofield like we do with Gump. We don’t see what happens after the one-take ends and the bodies are cleared. We’re too focused on the pileup, on the mission at hand. We keep looking at the spectacle instead of the faces of those running so we can see movie magic. 

If the smoke clears and Mendes stands on stage at the end of the night, it will be a win for technical and athletic filmmaking, a win for a solid film with solid actors, and a win for empty epics pretending to be full of emotion. The swell of the music got the best of us once again. 

Daniel Craig’s accent and why you should watch ‘Knives Out’ in theaters

Daniel Craig's accent and why you should watch 'Knives Out' in theaters

Something incredible happens in the middle of Rian Johnson’s new whodunit Knives Out. You think you know all of the twists and turns. Much has already been revealed. You’ve already heard Daniel Craig talk with an incredible Southern accent. But then, he starts chatting about doughnuts, holes, and doughnut holes.

The monologue lasts for about three minutes, but it remains the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in 2019. Craig gives everything he has to play detective Benoit Blanc, the famed sleuth with a French name, a molasses accent, and a nose for the truth. Craig himself looks to be having a Logan Lucky amount of fun, another film featuring an accent from the Englishman. Just watch 30 seconds of this clip.

Pretty incredible, right? Now multiply that by a million and you’ll get Craig’s accent in Knives Out. Watching an actor who plays James Bond speak with such silly freedom and joy cannot be understated.

Craig’s counterparts join in on the fun, though. Johnson’s cast fills your heart with stars of varying degrees taking their familial roles seriously, regardless of the absurdity surrounding them. You can’t help but smile along with Craig, and you assume that Johnson is smiling behind the camera as well.

Knives Out is an oddity, though: a murder mystery that stays coherent until the final shot, a riotous one at that. Though Craig shines, Ana de Armas steals scenes, giving a warm and thoughtful performance throughout the film. The rest of the family, a solid Jamie Lee Curtis, a hilarious Toni Collette, a terrifying Michael Shannon, and a jaded Chris Evans fill in the gaps.

The cast reaches near perfection, and we have casting director Mary Vernieu to thank. Not enough casting directors get thanked in articles. So, Mary, this one’s for you. With nearly 400 credits to her name, Mary Vernieu was the casting director on 27 films and series this year, including HBO’s Euphoria, The Beach BumDolemite Is My Name, and even John Wick 3: Parabellum. No doubt that she is one of the best in the business.

Quick aside: Craig’s accent most closely aligns with another comedic performance for the ages: the beloved but sometimes hated Andy Bernard of The Office.

To see Craig’s accent as well as this entire cast having a ball, I implore you to see Knives Out in theaters. If you’re in a somewhat full theater, the audience helps carry you along, providing ample laughters for you and everyone around you. You can bring your whole family, as Johnson’s film provides something for everyone. The movie itself is a family affair, and seeing it should be the same.

Watching this film felt like an experience. People showed up to the theater 15 minutes early to get a seat, everyone had popcorn, and there wasn’t a cellphone in sight. It enveloped me, my fellow moviegoers, and the entire theater in its enjoyable and intriguing mystery, a rare accomplishment.

The act of going to the movies should be fun. You need to leave happy that you spent two hours in that dark room, glad to have left the house and spent a bit of money. Knives Out checks each and every one of those boxes.

Why Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins are the best comedic duo in film

Why Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins are the best comedic duo in film

The most enjoyable double-feature of 2019 doesn’t feature any Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt, or Adam Driver. These films likely won’t win any awards or even be nominated for any Oscars. These films trade mobsters and marriage for swords and salads. Sword of Trust followed by Brittany Runs a Marathon will bring you laughter, and four hours of pure joy.

These films star the top (and my favorite) comedic duo currently working in Hollywood: Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins. In Sword of Trust, the duo joins Marc Maron for an exploration of conspiracy theorists and the Wild West of those who believe the South won the Civil War.

Bell and Watkins play a lesbian couple in possession of an old sword, one they are trying to pawn off for a large sum of cash. Maron plays the pawn shop owner, who is roped into the whole affair in pursuit of money himself. The whole film is absurd, and absolutely hilarious.

Bell and Watkins balance each other out as a couple in that film, with Bell being unknowing, a bit ditzy, with a confused look splattered onto her face. Watkins is the firmer of the two, doing the talking in high-pressure situations and taking control in steering conversations. They complement one another in every scene, and their banter-laced chemistry feels unrehearsed.

In Brittany Runs a Marathon, Bell fills the title role of couch-potato-turned-marathoner and Watkins plays her slightly older and motherly upstairs neighbor, a recent divorcee. Though the film is inherently less funny than Sword of Trust, it provides more inspiration and feelings of warmth, leaving you with a feeling that the world is a better place than it was two hours prior.

Again, Bell and Watkins act as opposites, though we find out they’re much more similar than we originally thought. Bell is carefree with a individualized resolve, while Watkins is bound to her children and her past, looking for friendship and support from those around her. Both actors continue to be funny, endearing, and understanding in each and every role they play, especially in these two films.

The key to the Bell-Watkins duo is in their conversations together. In every scene in which these women communicate, they speak like old friends who are catching up. They converse as though they’ve known one another for ages, yet could be meeting for the first time and enjoying one another’s company. They talk over each other in Sword yet listen intently in Brittany. They look to actually make each other laugh, and their genuine smiles warm up the screen.

Yes, they’re funny and their timing deserves applause, but the duo provides heartfelt moments in each film. The sincerity shines through and you’re left feeling happy that the duo exists at all. Though these films might not be the best films of the year, they certainly make for the most pleasant way you can spend four hours. These women are to thank.

Though both actors have been in Hollywood for quite a few years now, they are seeing more leading roles and deservedly so. Their established rapport shouldn’t be overlooked or understated, and if you see their names on a movie poster, you most likely won’t be disappointed with the film.

All of this might be speculation on my part, but from the looks of the video below, this friendship is lovely and we should finance any filmmaker who wants to put these two actors in a movie together.

The last 3 weeks: a writing bonanza

The last 3 weeks: a writing bonanza

I spent the last few weeks in a groove. It became a busy end of November and now I’m into early December having seen 80 movies that came out in 2019. The big 8-0!

For Film Inquiry, I interviewed one of my childhood acting heroes in Glynn Turman.

For Ready Steady Cut, I reviewed A24’s new indie Waves.

For Cinema Sentries, I interviewed producer Brian Volk-Weiss, reviewed the Italian Christmas film Feast of the Seven Fishes, as well as the indie film The Planters.

For The Playlist, I did a few trailer write-ups, for the upcoming films Trolls: World Tour and Just Mercy.

For MediaVersity, I did a criticism of The Peanut Butter Falcon, looking at the way the film handles gender, race, and body image.

For Filmotomy, I reviewed the sort of lovely, sort of weird Last Christmas.

Finally, for Crooked Marquee, I wrote about A24, and why I think the production company is so popular.

Busy times with many more articles in December!

A ranking of the JetBlue in-flight entertainment ‘New Releases’

A Ranking Of The JetBlue In-Flight Entertainment New Releases Tab

You’re sitting on an airplane. A JetBlue airplane to be exact. The perfect airline when you don’t want to spend too much money, but you still would like the illusion of luxury. You’re flying from New York to Los Angeles or vice-versa. You forgot your book at your apartment and your Kindle just lost power. Your phone, laptop, and aforementioned Kindle chargers are in your checked baggage. You have six hours to kill.

You really only have one option in this scenario. Maybe it was your first option anyways. You turn on the in-flight entertainment system, stapled to the back of the seat in front of you. You adjust the brightness, because it might be a red-eye flight and you’re a little sleepy.

Like every other person on the plane in your situation, you start the search for the perfect in-flight movie. You jump from the different tabs, and if you’ve had a busy year, you hop onto the “New Releases” tab on the mini monitor.

For the sake of this ranking, we’re throwing documentaries out the window-side window. But, if we want to rank the docs on the JetBlue “New Releases” tab, this would be the list in terms of watchability:

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
  3. Apollo 11
  4. Meeting Gorbachev
  5. The Panama Papers

Now, what’s the criteria for the best movie while watching on an airplane? For this, we are going to look at a few different factors.

  1. How comfortable do you feel while watching the film? You don’t want to be watching something that will make your seat neighbors feel awkward, which makes you feel uncomfortable, which makes asking for them to move so you can go to the bathroom even more horrible. For example, Her is a fantastic film, but a horrible in-flight watch. The surrogate scene is the epitome of uncomfortability. You score this out of 5. Her would have received a 1/5.
  2. How engaged are you during the film? No one wants to watch a boring film while on a flight. Flying, even though it’s an amazing technological achievement, are inherently boring. You’re watching movies out of necessity, simply because there’s nothing else to do. You want to be entertained. You score this out of 5 as well. For example, Fast Five would score a 5/5 in this category. It’s entertaining as hell.
  3. If turbulence occurs, will this film distract you? Turbulence was awful, is awful, and will remain awful. You want a film that will distract you from that turbulence, not add to the nausea. You score this out of 5 as well. For example, a space movie like Ad Astra or Gravity or really any space movie would score 1/5 in this category, because you’d feel more nauseous if there was unexpected turbulence. Comedies score high in this category.
  4. Will you feel like you adequately used your time by watching this movie? Basically, this is asking is the movie is good or not. A bad film is still a bad film, even if you’re on an airplane with nothing else to do. Score this out of 5.

There you have it. That’s the scoring system. The maximum number a film can receive is 20 and the minimum number a film can receive is 4.

Here are the 14 films: Annabelle Comes Home, Godzilla: King of Monsters, Late Night, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Plus One, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Sword of Trust, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Lion King, Ugly Dolls, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Yesterday. 

A Ranking Of The JetBlue In-Flight Entertainment New Releases Tab

Movies Scoring 0-10: That Was The Longest Flight

We aren’t going to spend lots of time on these movies so let’s just run through them.

#14: Ugly Dolls — A bad movies with ugly animation and unfunny jokes. You want to be laughing, not cringing while on a flight. 5/20

#13: Annabelle Comes Home — You might already be scared because you’re on a plane, so why would you intentionally scare yourself more? 6/20

#12: The Art of Racing in the Rain — You either a) read the book and so you already know what’s going to happen or b) have not read the book and are watching a story narrated by a dog played by Kevin Costner.  8/20

#11: The Lion King — This live-action remake falls under the “I already know what’s going to happen” category which makes it much less engaging. It won’t leave you feeling like you spent your time on the flight wisely, making you wish you started your laptop. 10/20

A Ranking Of The JetBlue In-Flight Entertainment New Releases Tab

Movies Scoring 11-15: Eh, I Survived My Flight

Let’s give these some scores on some categories, shall we?

#10: Spider-Man: Far From Home — 11/20

  • Comfortable: Very much so. No one will judge you for watching Tom Holland and Zendaya save the world, while Jake Gyllenhaal crushes his villainous role. Sort of a movie catered to teens, though. 4/5
  • Engaged: The film does a good job of keeping your attention. It has some laughs, some big set pieces, and some decent-sized stakes. You won’t be glued to the screen though, and you won’t mind taking a bathroom break in the middle. 3/5
  • Turbulence: This is a major problem. As Spider Man is swinging through the air, you are also metaphorically and physically bumping through the air. 1/5
  • Time: You won’t feel bad for watching it but you won’t go running to tell your friends. 3/5

#9: Godzilla: King of Monsters — 12/20

  • Comfortable: There have been so many Godzilla and King Kong movies that you really won’t be judged. Your neighbors could think you’re watching any one of them. They’ll understand. 4/5
  • Engaged: Somewhat. The huge action sequences will be great and the actors are giving far-too-committed performances. 3/5
  • Turbulence: Again, not great. If it’s during an action sequence, you’re in for a bad time. If it’s during one of the “let’s save the world” monologues, you’re safe. 2/5
  • Time: Just fun enough to watch that you won’t be regretting it. 3/5

#8: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu — 13/20

  • Comfortable: For the most part, yes. Will some people think you’re a little nerdy? Yes, but who cares. Will most people not care? Also, yes. 4/5
  • Engaged: During the time I was watching this film, the snack and drink carts came by. I never paused it. 2/5
  • Turbulence: Yes, almost the whole time. There’s a shocking amount of non-action in this film. Unless you’re watching the part where the ground starts moving, you’ll be more than fine. 4/5
  • Time: It’s a Pokemon world. We’re just all living in it. 3/5

#6: The Last Black Man in San Francisco — 14/20

  • Comfortable: Yes, yes, yes. It’s a fantastic film with high critical praise about gentrification and community and family and belonging. Fantastic. 5/5
  • Engaged: Unfortunately, if you’re tired, it might put you to sleep, as it’s a dialogue-heavy film. It lacks action and/or comedy to keep you awake. It might be one of the best films on the in-flight system but not for plane-watching. 2/5
  • Turbulence: You’ll feel about the same. It won’t help you tons or hurt you tons. 3/5
  • Time: It’s a super solid film with a beautiful score and gorgeous cinematography, what else can I say? You’ll wish you were in a theater. 4/5

 

A Ranking Of The JetBlue In-Flight Entertainment New Releases Tab

Movies Scoring 15-20: Wait, That Flight Was So Short!

#5: Late Night — 15/20

  • Comfortable: Mindy Kaling is beloved in many circles of life, as The Office and The Mindy Project are highly watched, highly acclaimed shows. 4/5
  • Engaged: Not as engaging as you hope for, but still engaging enough. The story has some lulls, but keeps your attention for the most part. Kaling and Emma Thompson are quite lovely. 3/5
  • Turbulence: It will make you laugh and so you’ll feel better about the turbulence. You won’t feel like the situation is nearly as awful. 4/5
  • Time: A solid film with a solid premise with a solid cast with solid jokes. 4/5

#4: Plus One — 16/20

  • Comfortable: A rom-com pretty comfortable. And it’s all about weddings, which is a situation in at least 50% of all movies. 4/5
  • Engaged: Though this movie is largely enjoyable, you won’t be stuck in your seat, watching without distractions. You won’t rewind if your headphones fall out. 4/5
  • Turbulence: No action, all talk. You’ll (hopefully) laugh through the bumps. 5/5
  • Time: A truly inventive and heartfelt romantic comedy that makes you want to watch more romantic comedies. Enjoyed the hell out of it. 4/5

#3: Sword of Trust — 18/20

  • Comfortable: It just looks like any other comedy. If anything, people will ask you what you’re watching because truly no one has seen this movie. 5/5
  • Engaged: If you buy into the plotline, it’s an enjoyable movie with pace. You’ll laugh a ton and be invested in the story. Not lots of action but it’ll keep you eyes on the screen. 4/5
  • Turbulence: Again, you’ll be laughing. Wait what turbulence? 5/5
  • Time: You’ll feel like you found a gem of a film. You’ll tell your friends about it when you get off the flight. You might even use the in-flight Wifi to post on Twitter. It’s not the best film of the year, but it’s real good. 4/5

#2: Once Upon a Time In Hollywood — 18/20

  • Comfortable: This is possibly the most recognizable film on the list, outside of The Lion King or Spider Man. It has major star power in Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie. The only issue is the violence towards the end of the film. 4/5
  • Engaged: To me, this is the highest quality film available during your JetBlue flight. The actors give incredible performances, the cinematography explores different perspectives of Los Angeles, and the story grabs your attention. 5/5
  • Turbulence: If you were watching the last 20 minutes during turbulence, it’d be unfun. Everything else is more than ok. 4/5
  • Time: This film will be nominated for Best Picture, and millions of people watch the Oscars so you’ll feel like it’s time well spent. Also, the film is over two hours so you’ll have made a real dent in your flight time. 5/5

A Ranking Of The JetBlue In-Flight Entertainment New Releases Tab

#1: Yesterday — 19/20 — THE BIG WINNER

  • Comfortable: With friendly faces like Ed Sheeran, James Corden, and Kate McKinnon in the mix, people will know you’re watching actors they also enjoy. 5/5
  • Engaged: It’s just not the greatest film overall. The seemingly endless amount of Beatles songs will keep you watching, though. It has enough comedy, enough romance, and enough goodness. Himesh Patel offers a fantastic performance. 4/5
  • Turbulence: Nothing gets you through Turbulence like the music of the Beatles. 5/5
  • Time: You’ll feel much happier after watching the film and that is the greatest gift an in-flight movie can give you. For a bit, you might even forget you’re flying. You’re just along for the ride. It’s the perfect in-flight movie. 5/5

Shockingly, JetBlue is not yet a sponsor of Peach Fuzz Critic. What’s your go-to in-flight movie?

We shouldn’t forget about ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’

I saw Joe Talbot’s directorial debut The Last Black Man in San Francisco about three months ago.  It was a Sundance award-winner with rave reviews, an A24 darling, and high on my list of 2019 movies I needed to watch on the big screen. I saw it on opening weekend, which was a limited release to seven theaters. My theater was filled, not packed. If it was a salad, we amounted to the croutons, not the lettuce.

What transpired over the course of the next 121 minutes left me speechless. There are several reasons a movie can transfix you. The acting can be spectacular. The cinematography can be sweeping and beautiful, finding angles you thought impossible. The story can resonate with depth that didn’t previously reside within your body. Or you can see art in a way you haven’t seen before. Talbot’s film accomplished all the above.

The 2-hour affair chronicles the futile attempts of Jimmie Fails, played by Talbot’s childhood friend and co-writer, the real-life Jimmie Fails. Both men grew up in San Francisco, soaking up the Bay Area’s gentrification even when they wished the fog would roll over the sunshine. The story is their collected experiences: their love towards a hometown and their uncertainty towards its unstoppable changes. It’s one of the most gorgeous pieces of art I’ve ever seen, and the shot of Fails dropping leaves onto Mont remains etched into my brain. Fails’ singular mission, though, unfolds like clothes thrown into the wash, locked, messy, and jumbled together with a speed that doesn’t allow your eyes to adjust.

Fails and his best friend Mont, played or rather achieved by Jonathan Majors, are in a movie-long tug-of-war to take back Fails’ childhood home, the one he believes was built by his grandfather, a Victorian mishmash of beauty in the Mission District of San Francisco. Fails’ effectiveness can’t be understated, as every scene has the feeling of a home-video, watched by an intrusive audience. There’s a power in telling your own story, a command that is rarely on display and hardly considered for opportunity.

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Currently, the film festival season is in full swing. Toronto, Venice and Telluride, along with NYFF later this month, have been vehicles for new films to garner widespread praise, gravitate performances to create Oscar-buzz, and shift the discussion to a select few directors and stories that the film community have deemed important. Last Black Man has been put in the back of the pantry, and to me, that’s a problem.

The relevance of these characters is not forced, but given to the audience. The effect of change emanated from this portrait of a hometown continues to cause me to stop on busy streets in New York City, just to remember to look at what surrounds me. I watched this film from a different state than my hometown, from a different state than my family and friends. I grew up driving up the coast to San Francisco, spending weekends there through college, appreciating the city more with each visit. It’s a painstaking painting of a city that’s been in flux for the entire 21st century.

Fails and Talbot spent close to a decade making this film. Their journey as filmmakers is as worthy of praise as their finished product. Every interview they give is inspiring for those that don’t have it all figured out. They’ve certainly become indie idols for young people across the country, especially those in the Bay Area.

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I’ve never watched a film that encapsulates loss like Last Black Man. As Jimmie’s frustrations burst and fester, the realization of pain and loss we’ve encountered grows stronger in each of us. It’s unshakable and for me, undeniable. It captures the emotion and realization we normally can’t put into words: when you don’t recognize your hometown, you don’t remember the roads, and your childhood home, full of the memories you made, belongs to another. The city, his home, has changed without Jimmie Fails. We’ve all been outgrown in our lives, unable to stop natural forces, unable to understand what went wrong, and desperately reaching to conjure up the past.

Jonathan Majors, as the feeble yet loving Montgomery Allen, deserves words of praise at this point. He deserved it much higher in article. Majors is remarkable, and is worthy, though not likely to be recognized, of a Best Supporting Actor nod by the Academy. His presence almost steals the movie from Fails, and it feels to be his hometown as well. He doesn’t fit in, either, and that’s what drew me to him. While Fails shows us what happens when you don’t fit into your city, Majors shows us, with immeasurable grace and ingenuity, what happens when you don’t fit into your community.

The supporting cast, Danny Glover particularly, are worthwhile in contributing to the mood of the film. An ensemble, with this many newcomers, with this talent is a feat in casting, directing, and pure opportunity. The dialogue is smart and a couple of lines are sure to be remembered by all who see the film. The chief of these being said by Fails to two griping (and new) San Francisco residents. “You can’t hate something if you didn’t love it first.” Truer words are sparsely spoken without an element of insincerity.

As big budget films with big budget actors shove into your timelines and into the larger public sphere, don’t forget about Talbot’s tale of loss. Don’t forget about Fails’ and Major’s human performances. And certainly don’t forget the way The Last Black Man in San Francisco made you feel. It’s one of the warmest love letters written this century.  It will and should last longer than the rest.

It certainly has the heart.

★★★★

The ‘Good Boys’ joyride: too recognizable and too streamable

During one of the film industry’s “worst” summers at the box office, first-time director Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys stood out above the rest. It broke through the flop-machine of comedies from Seth Rogen’s other project Long Shot to Mindy Kaling’s Late Night and everything in between: movies with big names that received rave reviews, yet failed to reach the audiences they hoped to snatch up.

The budget for Good Boys was $20 million. How much it made on its opening weekend? $21 million. The almost-perfect storm of Rogen’s stamp of approval, middle school humor that grosses its viewers with both sweetness and a slew of sex jokes, and a well-made trailer signifying the end of summer led to a surprise success, a feel-good film that both critics and audiences have gushed over.

It was easy and enjoyable. The performances from the bean bag boys along with the entire supporting cast were just lovely, and the ending provided a gentleness I could feel coming yet still led to a smile on my face. The ridiculousness of the boys taking sips of beer and running through crowded highways made me laugh just enough for me to leave the theater feeling it was money well spent.

Yet 20 minutes later, I couldn’t tell you all three of the main characters names. I couldn’t recall specific lines of dialogue, or even tell you what the conflict (or the overcoming of that conflict) of the story turned out to be. I forgot it almost immediately, looking back with fondness on a memory that feels vague because of its age.

It felt like a movie from my childhood, relatable in terms of the feelings associated with seeing the film and all the now disassociated scenes and songs, but not recognizable and certainly not memorable. To me, it was a Netflix movie you decide to watch because it’s simply there, and you forget the next day because it’s not in front of you anymore.

I’ve seen Good Boys before. We all have. We’ve seen it in theaters, and we’ve certainly seen it on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Iterations of middle school boys doing dumb shit pass more frequently than we even realize. This doesn’t make it less enjoyable, nor does it make it less necessary. At this time, it might even have a larger impact in creating a ray of light on another awful news day. The originality of the bean bag boys feels a bit washed, dried, folded up, and shoved right back into the machine, and that doesn’t sit well.

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Compare this film with Booksmart for example. Both films were made with first-time directors: Stupnitsky and Olivia Wilde. Both films were released by mid-major studios: Good Universe and Annapurna. Both films are raunchy comedies focused on young friend groups having one wild day (or one wild night). Both are “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. Both films even have doses of Molly Gordon, for good reason, peppered in.

Though differing marketing campaigns and distributors should be noted, it’s a harsh comparison once you look at the box office results. Booksmart, made by a female director and showcasing a fresh (and mostly) female cast, operating on a $6 million budget, grossed a total of $23 million after 77 days in theaters. In contrast, after 22 days in theaters, Good Boys, made by several hordes of white men, has grossed $75 million and counting. I’m glad a mid-major comedy is making money. I just think it’s the wrong one.

Not all critics lauded Stupnitsky’s film, though. It was hardly enough to garner an R-rating. The 25th “FUCK” by the bean bag boys was an endless echo. The runtime was 89 minutes yet it could have been 60, maybe even a clean 30. The heralded kissing party was, somehow, underwhelming. And I’m skeptical that these boys would even be friends.

I liked Good Boys and I look forward to half-watching it on Netflix while making dinner 3 months from now.

★★