It's been a rough stretch of busyness and preoccupation...yes, I've still been watching a lot of movies, but life just hasn't quite allowed me the time enough to properly write full reviews of some of the recent theatrical and streaming releases.
So instead of not posting anything, here are some quick blurb reviews of the movies I've seen in new release over the past few weekends, starting off with one of my favorite, funniest films of the year:
"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story"
I loved, loved, loved this movie, but then again I have always loved, loved, loved Weird Al Yankovic. Will people who don't like Weird Al like "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story"? The answer is...wait a minute, YOU DON'T LIKE WEIRD AL?? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?
This movie is the funniest film I've seen this year, an absolutely absurd, delightful deconstruction and parody of the biopic genre that fits its subject more than perfectly. It starts off conventionally enough, but soon makes it clear that it has no intention of taking itself seriously. Um, like why would it? This is Weird Al. And this is his story...no, not the story of his life, but the story of the parody of his life.
Daniel Radcliffe is perfect as Weird Al (Yankovic himself shows up as a stuffy music executive). There are cameos galore, including a scene at a pool party featuring every novelty act or gonzo performer of the past century (I won't spoil the surprises here). If "serious" critics had any courage at all, they would consider Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, who tries to court Weird Al (you know, the way that I'm sure it happened in real life).
Then there is the greatest irony of all: Over the end credits, an original Weird Al song called "Now You Know" plays...this from a guy who has built his reputation on song parody's. As the song mentions, it is Academy Awards eligible. And my goodness, all would be right in the world if he got to perform that song at the Oscars this year. Would it be weird? Oh for sure. But it would also be deserving.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Julianne Nicholson, Toby Huss.
Written by Al Yankovic and Eric Appel.
Directed by Eric Appel (feature-film directorial debut).
"Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me"
Not your average music documentary, "Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me" is really a film about mental health. Bravo to Selena, who allows the cameras to - as she promises in the film - expose her deepest, darkest secrets, and her struggles with both lupus and bipolar disorder. The sheer vulnerability and openness sets this apart from most, but even unlike other personal documentaries from some of her contemporaries like Billie Eilish or Katy Perry, Selena seems to despise the very thing that gave her fame and made her one of the biggest stars in the world.
This movie confirms how rare a celebrity she is: Endlessly talented but bursting with empathy and a longing to make a real difference in the lives of her fans, and the world. Sharing her journey in this film will make a difference, and it's impossible to not fall in love with her and root for her...not just the person on stage or in front of the camera, but that scared, insecure yet courageous and fierce human being buried within.
"Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me" is now streaming on Apple TV+.
"The Banshees of Inishirin"
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh reunites Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson - the stars of one of his earlier films, "In Bruges" - for "The Banshees of Inisherin." See it, as it's a film that is almost assuredly going to be in the mix this awards season, and rightly so, as it's one of the year's best films.
Set against the Civil War in Ireland circa 1923, the events of this film take place on the fictional island of Inisherin, translated literally to mean "The Island of Ireland." It's shot with beautiful authenticity, but it's the sharply funny and deeply constructed screenplay that's the real star here, along with one of the best ensemble casts of the year. While they were all at the top of their games, for me, this was Colin Farrell's best performance of his career, and the always incredibly Barry Keoghan should land on all Best Supporting Actor lists is there is any justice in the world whatsoever.
Colm (Gleeson) abruptly ends his friendship with the dim and dull Padraic (Farrell), which sends the latter spiraling on a quest to discover why he was so easily pushed aside. Colm is pursuing some sort of artistic realization, and Padraic was simply not helping.
There is a lot of meaning when you dive deep into McDonagh's script, but even on the surface, "The Banshees of Inisherin" is a crowd-pleasing dramedy. This one lives up to the hype.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan.
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh ("Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," "Seven Psychopaths," "In Bruges").
"The Banshees of Inisherin" is now playing in theaters.
"Enola Holmes 2"
Every bit as infectious as the first installment, "Elona Holmes" is one of the funnest film franchises going right now, that hasn't played in a movie theater. That's a shame, but even when viewed at home, "Elona Holmes 2" confirms that the character portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown - the younger, more ambitious and mischievous sister to her older brother, Sherlock - was not just a one-hit wonder.
The character and her story benefits from the fact that there was a lot of content to pull from (there are seven "Enola Holmes Mysteries," written by Nancy Springer), so the films thus far haven't felt stretched or like a gratuitous "cash-in." These are fun, family-friendly films and definitely worth your time.
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, David Thewlis, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer ("Enola Holmes").
"Enola Holmes 2" is now streaming on Netflix.
"The Return of Tanya Tucker - Feat. Brandi Carlile"
Despite me mixing up The GoGo's star Belinda Carlisle with Brandi Carlile, a star in her own right, "The Return of Tanya Tucker" is a nice tribute to an influential country music star who is too often overlooked and under-appreciated. This documentary chronicles Tanya's return to the studio for her first album in over 15 years, spurred on by the insistence of Brandi Carlile, who bonds with one of her musical idols and role models.
This is a nice love-letter to Tanya, and shows that she definitely deserves country music royalty, and that she is far from ready to hand up her spurs.
"The Return of Tanya Tucker - featuring Brandi Carlile" is in theaters now.
"Triangle of Sadness"
An effective and often times hilarious satire of the filthy rich, "Triangle of Sadness" is a GREAT film buried within a good one. At two hours and twenty minutes long, it overstays its welcome and by the end, you'll fee like you have watched three separate films, equally effective but in need of a real trim.
That doesn't take away from the wonderful cast of characters, or the many observations that director Ruben Ostlund makes. There are some great actors doing stellar things here, starting with Harris Dickinson (an absolute star-in-waiting, whose unknown, unseen film "Beach Rats" was among one of my favorite films of 2017). Woody Harrelson is perfectly cast as a luxury cruise captain, and it was simply unspeakably sad to learn that a breakout star from "Triangle of Sadness," the actress/model, Charlbi Dean Kriek, died tragically this past August at the age of just 32 years old.
There's a lot to like, but a sharper and more focused approach would have made "Triangle of Sadness" less square.
Starring: Charlbi Dean Kriek, Harris Dickinson, Woody Harrelson, Dolly De Leon, Zlatko Buric.
Written & Directed by Ruben Ostlund ("The Square," "Force Majeure").
"Triangle of Sadness" is now playing in theaters.
"All Quiet on the Western Front" (2022)
This is a harrowing, brutal, graphically explicit version of the classic novel of the same name, which was also adapted into the famous 1930 film. And yet, it is cinematically beautiful, a stellar achievement of both sight and sound and a film that will undoubtedly land on many award season "best of" lists in several categories like Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound, Score, Hair & Makeup and Production Design.
This is a story about the realities of war on the front line, told from the perspective of young German soldiers in WWI, and juxtaposed with the clean-uniformed politicking that was going on with top military brass at the time. Their pride and jockeying for political power cost millions of lives in real-time, and despite these events having happened over 100 years ago, they are potently relevant still today.
This is a German film, with subtitles, and is Germany's selection for Best Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's a brilliant work of cinema, and not easily forgotten.
Starring: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Bruhl, Edin Hasanovic.
Co-Written & Directed by Edward Berger ("All My Loving," "Jack").
"All Quiet on the Western Front" is now streaming on Netflix.
Do you prefer these short "blurb" reviews or do you prefer longer, full reviews for each film? Comment below and let me know!
Looking for a specific movie or review?