What We're Watching: April 2, 2021

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Arnie: "With Black Widow delayed yet again I decided to finally watch Red Sparrow (2018). I always thought the story of a Russian girl brought into a secret spy school and sent on her first mission was very Black Widow-esque. It even follows the naming pattern with <color> <animal>. The problem with the Sparrow school, though, is that it seems to teach spies that their best tools are between their legs. I can't decide if this is an action film or misogyny passing itself off as female empowerment. 'But other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?' Sadly, there was little to enjoy in this movie. The spy plot is convoluted and confusing. Jennifer Lawrence's Russian accent is distracting and inconsistent, and her character arc seems quite rushed. I won't go into details for fear of spoilers, but knowing Red Sparrow is based on a novel, I could see how this extreme arc would work on the page. On-screen, in a two-hour film, I have trouble following character motivations. So this is an easy not recommend and I hope the proper Black Widow movie is much better."

Brock: "Watched two more Oscar hopefuls this week. My reaction to Mank (2020) was much the same as I had toward Nomadland; I appreciated aspects of the film more than actually enjoying the experience. Quite enjoyed David Fincher's choices and production designer Donald Graham Burt's work. I think Burt has the best chance of all the films 10 Oscar noms. Only bothered to watch Borat's Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) because of its Academy Award nominations. Surprisingly fun to revisit the character all these years later and there were some truly funny and enjoyable scenes, however the rehash feeling is inescapable. Maria Bakalova is hysterical and how great would it be to see the rare comedy performance win this year." 

Stuart: "City On The Hill is the best series Showtime has ever produced, and now the second season is here! Kevin Bacon is awesome as a shady FBI agent trying to prevent Boston's first black district attorney from making substantive changes to local police tactics. While set in the early 1990s and often drawing on real events, the show ultimately has a lot to say about contemporary struggles and sentiments. It's The Wire and The Departed all rolled into one."

Jakob: "I was living in New Zealand when they celebrated 100 years of cinema with their postage stamps. There were four total promoting New Zealand films. The one I remembered most (this was pre-Lord of the Rings) was for Goodbye Pork Pie (1980). Now, decades later, I finally found a copy to watch. It’s a road trip movie with three characters with nothing in common having to work together and end up becoming friends. It isn’t terribly original. However, the real joy of the film is whenever the road trippers piss off the cops and have a crazy chase in their Mini Cooper. Anytime the trio needs some money, they strip parts from the car to sell. As the film progresses the poor Mini is reduced to basically an engine on wheels. Again, not the most groundbreaking stuff but I had a good time with the vehicular destruction."

Jason: "The Suicide Squad trailer had me itching to see more of the gang, and since I can't bring myself to revisit the 2016 mess, I pulled up the animated Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018), in which the Squad is chasing down a "Get Out of Hell Free" card for Amanda Waller and faces off with Vandal and Scandal Savage, among others. The voice cast is strong, especially Tara Strong's Harley Quinn and Vanessa Williams as Waller, with the only weakness being Christian Slater's Deadshot. You can picture the actor putting on his "mean face" for the character but it's just not working. The film, however, has plenty of humor, and it's not afraid to kill its characters in spectacularly bloody ways. Turns out there is a sequel comic series (with the same title). I'm a couple issues in, so far it's an entertaining read."

Adam: "With Falcon and The Winter Soldier giving me nostalgic pangs at the loss of Captain America, I decided to go back to follow Chris Evans' early career, and revisited Not Another Teen Movie (2001). Seeing our 'Star Spangled Man with a Plan' covered in whipped cream and with a strategically placed banana was certainly not the manner we have become accustomed to see him in. Nevertheless, the film is a delightful skewering of teen classics such as 10 Things I Hate About YouShe’s All That, and Varsity Blues. Some scenes have admittedly not aged well, but it is still a delightful time for those who are perhaps less easily offended. Don’t take it seriously, turn off your brain and you will have a great time!"

Santiago: "Quentin Tarantino named The Intern as one of his favorite films of 2015. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I'll agree that it's a really fun time. The story has very low stakes, but it's funny, endearing, charming, Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro have very good chemistry and it's nice to be reminded that De Niro is still a great actor and isn't sleepwalking through roles. I'm not sure if I'll remember it in the coming years, but it's a definite recommend for any fans of Nancy Meyers or anyone looking to kill a couple of hours with a really nice, easy to digest movie."

Heath: "I was probably the last person in Australia to see a film which has recently become one of the biggest Aussie box office hits of all time, The Dry (2020), based on a local best seller. Starring Eric Bana, it's a laconic murder mystery about a detective investigating a murder-suicide in his remote former home town. While formulaic and with more than a few plot contrivances, it is redeemed by absolutely beautiful cinematography of some drought-ridden regional locations. Fans of the genre might enjoy this more than I did but it's still worth a watch."