4/14 Movie Trip
Paul McGuire Grimes, the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his reviews.
You’re next Netflix binge should be Beef starring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong. Sometimes you just have a bad day. That’s where we find Yeun’s character, Danny, after a bad exchange at a store. He leaves in a frustrated state and ends up in an escalated bit of road rage with Ali Wong’s character Amy. Both seem to be in precarious places with what life has thrown at them, and it’s all coming out in this incident on the road. They don’t know who the other driver was at the time, but Danny finds out where the driver lives and makes his way into Amy’s life adding fuel to the fire. Their beef with each other becomes a twisted little game of who can be the last one standing full of secret identities and love affairs. This gets all the more complicated when Danny’s brother, Paul, and Amy’s husband, George, get involved not knowing this feud with between them.
-Starring: Steven Yeun, Ali Wong, Joseph Lee, Young Mazino, Maria Bello, David Choe
–Beef defies genre as it’s part comedy, part drama, and it blurs those lines at any point in the show. It’s 10 x 30-minute episodes.
-This series reminded me of Netflix’s Dead to Me, which has a similar dark tone to it. Both have extremely flawed and complicated characters continually making bad choices as those oftentimes can feel the most satisfying in the moment despite the fallout that will inevitably happen.
-With this being a primarily Asian cast, they comment on Asian stereotypes and Asian culture that they are forced to deal with daily. Danny and Amy deal with family struggles, relationship struggles, feeling lonely, and finding faith. Danny says, “I’m so sick of smiling” in the first episode, and that emotional theme resonates throughout the season and is grounded in a reality so many people find themselves in.
-Much of the humor comes from the zany and cringe-worthy situations they get themselves into as part of their beef and the life of pretend Amy is portraying to keep it all together. There are a few twists and reveals that really makes you wonder if the walls are closing in on them and how they will mend their rage against the other one.
-Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Nope, Minari) offers so many layers and shades of Danny. We haven’t seen him take on this type of character yet in his career. Ali Wong may be best known for stand up comedy, but she’s so stunning as Amy. In the first episode, we see her carry a fake smile all the while telling the audience “I’m actually drowning inside.” We can all relate to that even if we would never make the same choices as Amy.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
RENFIELD (in theaters)
Imagine being in a toxic co-dependent working relationship with Count Dracula. That’s the premise behind the wacky new film Renfield. Director Chris McKay’s new film Renfield acts as a direct sequel to the 1931 film from Universal Pictures. There are even flashbacks with Nicolas Cage’s face imposed over Bela Legosi’s as he’s now in the Dracula role. It’s now present day, and Nicholas Hoult’s character, Robert Montague Renfield, attends an Al-Anon meeting to discuss the co-depending issues he has with his boss, Dracula. It’s his job to bring dead bodies to Dracula to bring him back to full power. Meanwhile, Renfield’s powers come after eating bugs. He finds himself caught up in the local New Orleans mob scene after saving a restaurant from a bunch of mafia henchman working for Ben Schwartz’s character, Tedward Lobo. He saves the day and ends up in a meet-cute with Rebecca (Awkwafina). She’s a local cop and the only one willing to take on the Lobo family.
-This film a wickedly clever concept with the updated versions we find with Dracula and Renfield and their relationship.
-The scenes with Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult are fantastic thanks to the commitment both actors bring to the film and the tone set by director Chris McKay.
-Cage is no stranger to playing wacky over the top characters, and he lets loose as Dracula with a juicy, devilishly fun performance literally chewing the scene and elongating every word he’s been given. He finds a good balance of scary with his razor-sharp teeth and decaying face prosthetics and then campy over the top in the dramatics.
-Nicholas Hoult is always a treat and here he’s desperate and hopeful of getting out of a bad relationship while stepping into a new one with Rebecca. He’s a great leading man while playing into character actor traits.
-McKay’s elevated direction of them is also brought out in the epic kills as the blood splatter, gun shots, and arms ripping out of sockets are Tarantino-level on the gore scale.
-This storyline all works, but the B-story with the New Orleans mafia and the entanglement with the police doesn’t fit with the Dracula story. It feels like two different movies that don’t mesh well together. I don’t blame Ben Schwartz or Awkwafina, but that story detracts from the humor and antics that come with Renfield at Al-Anon or dealing with Dracula.
-There was a point where I wondered when the stories would merge together, which they do, but it then felt forced.
-I’m recommending Renfield for Cage and Hoult alone, but it’s missing out on fully capitalizing on the concept.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE (in theaters)
Just this year we’ve seen movies related to Tetris and Dungeons and Dragons, now comes the animated film The Super Mario Bros. Movie hoping to win over the nostalgia of everyone who grew up playing the game. Mario and Luigi are two loving brothers who are excited about their careers as plumbers in Brooklyn. Chris Pratt and Charlie Day voice the iconic characters. Their mishaps lead them on a rescue mission where they meet Toad, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, and the evil Bowser.
-Featuring the voices of Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Keegan-Michael Key, Anya Taylor-Joy, Seth Rogen, and Jack Black
-Your eyes will naturally feast on the eye-popping animation from the very beginning. The animation team wisely creates different looks for each of the worlds and kingdoms Mario, Peach, and Toad find themselves in, and they’re all stunning from the magical pipes to the rainbow roads.
-It’s easy to get sucked into seeing the video game brought to life in a three-dimensional way from the very pixelated 2D game from childhood.
-This comes with a very thin and basic story that almost feels like an afterthought when you realize it’s just going from one action set piece to the next.
-The movie works best when it fully leans into the game recreating the actual challenges that we as gamers faced. There’s an obstacle course Mario does that’s just like Super Mario Bros 3, we find a Super Mario Kart sequence that’s clearly modeled after Mad Max Fury Road, and of course, a big Gladiator-style Donkey Kong duel.
– The creative team seems to rely heavily on the nostalgia and the silliness of it all over taking this in a bold and new direction like The LEGO Movie. There was a genius and clever twist there that this movie should have attempted.
-Despite a weak script, the voice work is admirable. Jack Black is clearly having a blast as Bowser even playing into his rock star Tenacious D side. Anya-Tayler Joy is perfect as Princess Peach, who is no damsel in distress. I love that the film as made her a powerful, kick butt heroine ready to save the day. And you can feel that brotherly love between Chris Pratt and Charlie Day as Mario and Luigi.
–The Super Mario Bros. Movie will be fun for kids and their parents who grew up playing the games, but this movie could have been elevated in so many ways.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS