Very quiet week in theaters but “Booksmart” in home video is a whip-smart comedy about teenage girls.
It’s Viewing the Videos.
Sometimes a movie comes out of nowhere with a jolt of excitement and energy to make viewers take a step back from its impact.
“Booksmart” is that kind of movie. It’s a breakthrough new take on a classic film genre.
There have been plenty of teen movies with male characters. This one is about females. It’s new, different and excellent, directed with style and perfect timing by Olivia Wilde, in her first effort as feature director.
High school super achiever best friends Amy and Molly realize on the last day of school that they missed out on all the fun in high school while focusing on academic achievement.
They decide to make up for all that they missed by partying hard the last day and night of school. Complications ensue.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) lead a cast that includes Jessica Williams, Will Forte Lisa Kudrow and Jason Sudekis.
“Booksmart” is solid comedy with plenty to think about without being preachy.
“Ma” is positioned as a horror film, coming from the Blumhouse company known for movies like “Get Out,” “Us,” and “Insidious.”
But it spends two-thirds of its time setting up the situation before getting down to the hardcore violence that the audience for these movies comes to see.
The story is relatively interesting, but if they wanted to be a horror film, they need to get to the gore faster.
The star of “Ma,” Octavia Spencer, buys alcohol for a group of high students, invites them to party in her basement but never go upstairs.
It takes forever for the kids to go upstairs and get to the gore.
So if they wanted to make a valid horror film, they needed to get to the point faster.
Men In Black: International
A movie is in trouble when a three-inch high computer-generated chess piece is the funniest thing about the movie.
His name is “Pawny” and he’s a pawn in a chess game who comes to life to help save the universe in “Men In Black: International.”
They should have let the Men In Black movies rest in peace after the third movie, which came out in 2012.
“Men in Black: International” is the fourth movie in the series. They seem to have run out of ways to save the world because this time, the plot twist is that there’s a double agent inside the Men in Black Headquarters.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor in the Avengers movies) and Tessa Thompson (“Creed,” as well as HBO’s “Westworld”) take over the leading roles.
They have a comfortable chemistry, which doesn’t turn into a romantic relationship. This might be the only unique thing about the movie.
Peanut Butter Falcon
A movie with Shia LaBeouf as a low-level criminal and an actor with Down syndrome playing a character with Down syndrome has the potential to dissolve into a festival of self-indulgent over acting, but fortunately that’s not what happened with “Peanut Butter Falcon.”
It also could have been overly sentimental and patronizing, but “Peanut Butter Falcon” is a buddy movie, the story of an unlikely pair who set off to find their destiny, although they wouldn’t know that.
Tyler (LeBeouf) is on the run along the North Carolina coast after causing trouble with his fellow crabbers. Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) is a grown man with Down syndrome who needs constant care. In his early 30s, he has ended up in an old age home because there’s no place even remotely able to take care of him.
He escapes with the help of his roommate, played by Bruce Dern, just one of the remarkable actors who make every role contribute to movie that is emotionally involving without being excessive.
He’s pursued by an employee of the home, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) who in spite of her considerable charisma, is totally believable as a kindhearted person who only wants the best for Zak.
Zak’s dream is to become a professional wrestler because he’s been watching ancient VHS tapes promoting a wrestling school fronted by the Salt Walter Redneck, another stunning performance in a small part by Thomas Haden Church.
Tyler’s goal is to escape his troubled pass and get set up crabbing in the Florida Keys.
Zak and Tyler start a journey down the Atlantic Coast. The movie is highlighted by spectacular photography of picturesque scenery that somehow brings the viewer closer into the Zak and Tyler’s quest. Eleanor eventually joins this unlikely quest.
The movie is about pursuing your dreams and finding family and overcoming obstacles.
Gottsagen makes a fine debut as an actor, fitting in with the rest of a high powered collection of actors.
You’ll meet interesting characters here and leave with some good feelings.
Four Palm Trees
After The Wedding
Unlike the majority of the assembly-line movies these days that are remakes or super hero movies, we don’t’ know what’s going to happen in “After the Wedding.” The plot twists are not jaw dropping or breathtaking, but they are surprising and add to the enjoyment of the movie.
Michelle Williams is Isabel, an aid worker at an orphanage in India. She is kind and dedicated and as an American halfway across the world from home, perhaps she is escaping from something.
Julianne Moore (Theresa) is a media mogul, preparing for the elaborate wedding of her daughter that she will host with her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) at their breathtaking lakeside estate.
Isabel is seeking a financial donation from Theresa for her work and in order to get the money, Theresa requires Isabel to come to New York, where Isabel forces her to stay for the wedding.
Here is where the secrets are revealed (no spoilers here). The lives of the characters intersect in unexpected ways.
Director Bart Freundlich (Moore’s husband) has remade a 2006 Danish film, but switched the sexes of the characters, giving Moore the central role.
This could easily have been a pulpy soap opera (the soundtrack is somewhat heavy handed) but things are in good hands with actors like Moore, Williams and Crudup.
In terms of scope, this is more of a streaming/home video movie, but the story will hold the viewers interest until the end.
Three Palm Trees.
DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD
Well done all the way around, but exclusively for young people. It’s not beneath adults, but adults are not the target audience.
The movie is a live action version of the wildly popular Nickelodeon series that began almost 20 years ago. In the series, Dora is a 7-year-old Latina girl. Her adventures took her around the world accompanied by a helpful monkey name Boots and occasionally overcoming interference from Swiper, a fox who steals things, hence the name.
In this movie, Dora is 16 and played with exuberance and charm by Isabela Moner, who is forced to stay behind in high school while her explorer parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena) search for an Incan city of gold.
Before she knows it, Dora and her pals are in the jungle as well, which is filled with scary creatures and booby traps.
The acting is good and director James Bobbin moves things along, making the outlandish seem normal and enjoyable. The movie has a tone that is perfect for children without talking down to them.
Four Palm Trees, but just for children.
FROM THE VAULT
One of our most talented actresses, Julianne Moore (“After The Wedding”) turns in a heartbreaking performance in “Boogie Nights” as porn actress Amber Waves who wants nothing more out of life than to regain custody of her child from her ex-husband. “Boogie Nights,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a great movie, and Moore richly deserved the Oscar nomination she received for her work in the film.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.