A Man Called Otto (2022)

A Man Called Otto (2022)

Otto (Tom Hanks) is a Grump.  That much is clear from the movie’s opening scene.  First he argues with a sales associate who wants to help him cut the rope he wishes to purchase.  Then he argues with the checkout clerk who says he must pay for two yards of rope when he only needs five feet.  It’s not that Otto can’t afford to pay the extra thirty-odd cents, he doesn’t want to pay for what he doesn’t need.  When the clerk explains that the computer register can only ring him up for a per yard purchase, he asks, “What computer can’t do math?”  Otto’s argument  ultimately amounts to nothing, but he’s the sort of person who’s always ready to argue something on principle.  Even though what he’s arguing about–five feet of rope, is what he intends to use to kill himself.

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The Menu

The Menu

In the day’s twilight, a group of obnoxious super-rich types take a boat to a remote island for dinner.  This isn’t just any dinner, though.  It’s a $1,750 per head dining experience by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes).  Among the guests are Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a couple that doesn’t quite fit.  After they arrive, they are welcomed by hostess Elsa (Hong Chau), whose every smile and glance forebodes something devious is afoot.  Then, when everyone is seated, Chef Slowik appears.  With a firm clap and a voice tinged with growing condescension, he announces a progression of courses that bring delight and unease.  Unlike the rest of the clueless patrons, Margot can tell something isn’t right.  Each course, while immaculately prepared, brings recriminations from the Chef.  Then, shockingly and unexpectedly, things turn violent.  What does Chef Slowik have planned for everyone?  Will they survive until the meal’s final course?

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Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is one of the strangest comedies I’ve seen.  Written by Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo, the movie feels like two SNL skits mashed together and then filled out with a lot of comedic bits that range from quirky to inspired to hallucinogenic.  I’m really curious as to what drug(s) Wiig and Mumolo were on while writing the script, because I find it difficult to believe they wrote it stone sober.

The titular characters are a couple of middle-aged single ladies from Nebraska, portrayed respectively by Mumolo and Wiig.  With their Fargo-esque accents, drab outfits and helmet hair, I’d be hard pressed to categorize their characterizations of typical Midwestern women as affectionate.  Personality-wise, they’re a couple of dim bulb oddballs with a penchant for talking, and talking, and talking some more about ridiculously trite subjects (people in the 1800s stunk!).

When their dream jobs at the local Jennifer furniture store come to an abrupt end, they take a vacation at Vista Del Mar to add some spark to their lives.  After arriving, they hook up with the hunky Edgar (Jamie Dornan), the henchman of the evil Sharon Fisherman (Wiig, in a dual role).  Fisherman, a villain who owes much to Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers movies, has sent Edgar to Vista Del Mar to help carry out her plot of revenge against the city that wronged her as a child.

Barb & Star is chockablock with gags (sight, visual and physical), and most of them land.  The movie has a busy feel to it, a result of trying to do too much.  As is typical for screwball comedies, the art is in separating the wheat from the chaff.  The script would have resulted in a shorter but much better movie.  For example, the entire Fisherman subplot never takes flight and should have been cut out entirely.  Additionally, Barb and Star should have been given some differentiating characteristics (think Lloyd and Harry in Dumb and Dumber).  As it stands, they are so similar as to be interchangeable, and their shtick becomes annoying at times.  Still, Barb & Star has enough inspired comedy (and weirdness) for me to recommend it.  You may suffer from mild brain damage from the experience, however.  Mildly recommended.

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Free Guy

Free Guy is built on a great concept: Guy, a non-player character (or NPC) doesn’t realize he’s an NPC, or that he essentially lives in a video game world.  Guy’s lack of awareness in his Grand Theft Auto existence would have been funny on its own.  Ryan Reynolds trades in his passive-aggressive sarcasm for playful innocence, spinning comedic gold from Guy’s naivete.  As if that weren’t enough, Free Guy asks an intriguing question: what if an NPC became self-aware and fell in love with a player?  Filled with winning performances and a playful sense for anarchy not seen since the Looney Tunes, Free Guy is fun writ large.  Highly recommended.

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Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman is an in-your-face story of a woman taking revenge on men who take advantage of women.  Carey Mulligan stars as Cassandra, a woman whose motives become clear as the movie progresses.  Her performance is unlike anything she’s done before, and easily elevates her to the upper-tier of actresses working today.  If you’re a woman, I’d think there’s plenty in the movie you can relate to.  If you’re a self proclaimed “nice guy”, the movie is a splash of ice water to the face.  Highly recommended.

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Last Christmas (2019)

Even though my reviews typically discuss practically everything about whatever I’m reviewing at the time, I try to avoid spoiler territory by not posting a review immediately after something comes out. If you follow movies, you probably already know the big [insert your adjective here] twist in the third act of Last Christmas.  If you don’t know about it, and don’t want me to spoil the surprise, stop reading now.

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On the Rocks (Apple TV+)

On the Rocks is one of Sophia Coppola’s best films.  Released in a “normal” year, it certainly would have gotten positive notices from critics and several award nominations.  In 2020, however, the various critics circles may consider the movie as too lightweight to be taken seriously in these troubled times.  That would be a shame, because for me, the movie was perfect in almost every way.  I’m pretty sure I was smiling from beginning to end, and laughed many times at the hi-jinks of Bill Murray’s Felix and his exasperated daughter Laura, played by Rashida Jones.  I know that I’m giving this movie high praise, but honestly I don’t think I can praise it enough.

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Hubie Halloween (Netflix)

A friend of mine who reads my reviews said he couldn’t wait to read my review of Hubie Halloween.  Given that I am not a fan of Adam Sandler in any way, and have not watched any of his movies from beginning to end–or for more than a few minutes at a time, to be honest, reviewing his latest offering on Netflix would be an interesting challenge.  Even though I am not a film critic who gets paid for their work, and must see and critique films that they would gladly miss, I felt it was my duty to honor this request from my small, yet devoted audience.

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The Little Hours (2017)

In the beginning of this movie, two Sisters chat in modern voices about a donkey that wandered away from their convent and needed to be retrieved again this morning.  The convent’s handyman walks by and gazes a bit to longly at the Sisters.  They then proceed to drop F-bombs on him until he finally walks away bewildered.  As the credits rolled, I wondered to myself, how would I describe this movie in my review?

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