12/1 Movie Trip
Movie critic Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies sat down with the stars of “Next Goal Wins,” plus he reviews two other movies out in theaters.
NEXT GOAL WINS (in theaters)
Next Goal Wins is based on a true story and takes a page out of the sports biopic playbook and centers on the American Samoa soccer team. They lost the 2001 FIFA match 31-0 against Australia. Things only got worse for the American Samoa team who continued to lose game after game after game in the following years. It would be another ten years, but things started looking better for the team when a new coach was hired. Michael Fassbender stars as Thomas Rongen who is fired from his current coaching position in the United States only to be given the coaching job for American Samoa as a consolation prize. He’s the grizzled and gruff alcoholic type who doesn’t settle into his new life easily. He’s in for a rude awakening by the culture, lifestyle, and by a transgender player named Jaiyah who gets him to rethink what it means to accept everyone for who they are.
-Next Goal Wins was written and directed by Oscar winner Taika Waititi who is giving the story his own fresh spin after a documentary was also made about the team. In true Taika fashion, he even pops up and opens the film as a goofy native priest who narrates parts of the film.
-Soccer has really grabbed audience’s attention since Ted Lasso became a huge pop culture sensation. You can feel Next Goal Wins trying to win over the same crowd.
-Waititi is known for adding a lot of humor to any project he works on and ingests that same joy and wacky comedy here aiming for as many laughs as possible from a cop who pretends to make siren noises to the copious pop culture references from The Matrix and The Karate Kid.
-It almost seems comical and unbelievably true that a professional sports team could be this bad, and Waititi amps that up in order to turn it around into the inspirational sports story that it is.
-There’s great care put in place to tell this story authentically hiring Samoan and Polynesian actors to play the soccer players and incorporate the culture into the film along the way.
-The heart of the film comes from actors like Kaimana who breathe harmony and determination into their characters. These moments work best, and I wanted even more of this to set the film apart.
-Michael Fassbender makes Thomas a fish out of water, but someone so aggressive and selfish, he’s hard to root for. There’s a scene with him being transphobic to Jaiyah that may be hard to watch.
– Taika Waititi has big ambitions for Next Goal Wins, but he almost gets in his own way by trying too hard with the humor. Kids will love so much of the banter and gimmicks. It makes for an easy family-friendly crowd pleaser which will be enough for a majority of the audience. That problem is that we’ve seen this type of story time and time again, and it’s not trying anything new with these characters.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
WISH (in theaters)
Walt Disney Animation Studios soars to new heights with their new film Wish which celebrates their 100th anniversary. Oscar winner Ariana DeBose lends her rich voice to Asha, who lives in the kingdom of Rosas. It’s an inclusive place where everyone is welcome. She wants nothing more than to be hired as an apprentice under their leader King Magnifico. He’s a sorcerer who holds everyone’s wishes in the castle and grants them at a wishing ceremony. During her interview, Asha realizes that Magnifico is not the almighty leader she was led to believe as he’s secretly holding wishes hostage only granting the ones he deems worthy. This sad reality directly affects her grandfather’s 100th birthday. Asha wishes upon a star to help the people and take their wishes back so they can be properly granted.
-Features the voices of Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Harvey Guillen, and Victor Garber.
– If you love any and all things Disney, you will fall in love with Wish from the very beginning as it stands for everything Disney has excelled at over the last 100 years. It’s truly a celebration story with a dynamic new character in Asha.
-The animators have chosen to go back to their classic animation style giving it that 2D look while keeping Asha and Magnifico contemporary in their character designs. She’s no damsel in distress princess pining over Prince Charming. She’s a strong brown girl with braids who is looking out for her community. Ariana DeBose makes Asha a fighter, the young rebel who stands up and wants to make things better. In true Disney fashion, she lives in a cottage in the middle of the woods and talks to her friend, a baby pet donkey.
-Magnifico has the slicked back salt and pepper hair with a goatee. You find out he’s essentially a con artist who has duped over the entire town with his lies and deceit.
-There are so many direct references to classic Disney moments like Asha literally wishing upon a star much like Pinocchio. She gathers seven friends much like Snow White, and so forth. I don’t want to give away all the surprises, but it becomes a treasure trove of Disney Easter Eggs all the way through the credits.
-Disney is known for their timeless music, and Wish is no different with new anthems written by pop vocalist and songwriter Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice. They’ve written catchy music that Ariana DeBose delivers with her powerhouse vocals.
–Wish is pure Disney magic in every way enchanting audience like they do best.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES (in theaters)
You’ll want to volunteer as tribute if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games as the new prequel movie The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is an equally thrilling entry in the franchise. Donald Sutherland played Coriolanus Snow in the original trilogy, and the current film goes back decades to a younger Snow, now played by Tom Blyth. He’s attending school in the Capitol and it’s time for the reaping in prep for the tenth annual Hunger Games in Panem. Game maker Dr. Volumnia Gaul is desperately wanting to shake up the games as the viewing audience has been dwindling. All eyes on are Coriolanus Snow who has a legacy to protect. He draws up a new plan for the games and becomes a mentor for Lucy Gray from District 12. Lucy is known for her singing voice, and thus, Coriolanus draws upon his new songbird to win. Lucy is no innocent tribute, she’s fierce, tough, and upends everything Snow thought about himself and his place in the games.
-Starring: Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, and Hunter Shafer.
-The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snacks is directly adapted from the novel by Suzanne Collins. It’s a meaty story with a long runtime, which makes sense given it’s the longest book in her franchise.
-Fans should also be pleased that director Francis Lawrence is also back to direct having directed Catching Fire and the two Mockingjay movies. Lawrence understands Suzanne Collins’ vision and you can feel the synergy between the prequel and the rest of the films.
-With this being a prequel, there has been an admirable job of making this film still stand on its own while connecting to the larger world at hand. Panem is being rebuilt after the Dark Days and the actual Hunger Games are played within in enclosed arena versus out in the wild. It’s just as epic in scale as the previous films.
-It’s a darker, more ominous world than the flashy eccentric world we’ve come to love about the series. However, It doesn’t shy away from the gruesome nature of the games and the seedy corruption at hand with the government.
-Tom Blyth brings good conviction to Snow who is forced to keep his game close to the vest if he wants Lucy to win. The film is told in three parts and the Hunger Games only makes up a third of this story and the back end of the film is a what comes next for Snow. There’s a romance bubbling under the surface for Corio and Lucy but it’s given time to breath instead of cashing in on what the audience is looking for.
-Viola Davis slays as Dr. Volumnia Gaul. She’s leans in hard taking full advantage of the hair and make up design.
-Rachel Zegler wowed audiences with West Side Story and brings her gorgeous voice to the many songs in this film. There’s an edge within her despite a soft outward quality to Zegler.
-I usually dismiss prequels that give a villain a backstory as they often seem pointless and remove any mystery about the character, but The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes makes for a compelling saga. Never once did it feel like a cash grab entry in a beloved franchise. There’s enough distance between these stories and it doesn’t rely on fan service or legacy cameos to pull the audience in.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS