Movie guy Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his review of a few new movies out. Plus, legendary actress Betty White recently passed away at the age of 99 so Paul shares where you can find her on TV.
THE TENDER BAR (in theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime)
George Clooney takes a big 180 as a director from going into space last year with the ambitious The Midnight Sky to a Long Island pub for the true story The Tender Bar. It’s 1973, and a young JR and his mom are forced to move into his grandpa’s house after his father left the family for a job in radio. JR’s only connection to his father is hearing his voice on the radio. Grandpa’s house is a revolving door of cousins, laughter, and Uncle Charlie. Uncle Charlie owns the local pub where JR spends part of his time. He decides to become a writer after seeing the wall of books at the bar. As JR grows up, we see him evolve and find his own identity while being inspired by his mentor, Uncle Charlie.
The Tender Bar is based off the memoir by J.R. Moehringer It doesn’t set out to be a brand new story or find a new angle to tell the “fatherless kid raised by his mom and uncle” story but Clooney gets to the heart of J.R.’s story and let that speak for itself.
The film covers a lot of ground in JR’s life going from youth to adulthood, attending Yale, his on-again-off again relationship with girlfriend Sidney, working for the New York Times, and struggling to write his book. We see JR struggling with those existential crises along the way. All the while, the character of Uncle Charlie is that grounded figure in JR’s life getting him through the rollercoaster of life.
Ben Affleck is a natural choice for Uncle Charlie and I couldn’t help but think of this character as a matured version of Chucky in Good Will Hunting and maybe Affleck was inspired by Robin Williams’ role in that film. We get to see the softer side of Affleck and his paternal instincts come into play. He’s also playing into the general restraint Clooney gives the material but knows the precise moments to show off that hot head side Affleck is great at playing.
Tye Sheridan is also commendable with his natural and engaging performance as the older JR.
The Tender Bar may have a familiar feel to it, but it’s a gently told story with strong performances. Sometimes you just need those relatable stories to boost your motivation.
RATING: 4 out of 5
THE 355 (in theaters)
Jessica Chastain assembles a crew of intelligent and tough actresses to join her for a female-led spy thriller in The 355. Chastain stars and produces the film playing CIA Agent Mason “Mace” Brown. She along with fellow CIA Agent Nick are desperate to get their hands on an all-powerful hard drive from a Columbian cartel. This hard drive has the power to detonate an airplane or wipe out an entire city’s communication grid and everything in between. When Mace and Nick’s plan goes awry, she’s left to think fast on her toes assembling a group of international agents and operatives and a Columbian psychologist to find the drive before it causes worldwide destruction.
Jessica Chastain wanted to pull together a fun group for an all-female lead spy thriller. It’s a fun concept having all these international agents working together for the common goal. As we see, their personalities clash at times as they all have a different style and roles to play in getting their hands on this drive.
The title itself refers to a code-name for a female spy during the Revolutionary War. Her identity has never been revealed to this day. -Like any good spy film, The 355 is a globe-trotting adventure taking this crew from Paris to London to Morocco to Shanghai.
There’s some minimal exposition that comes with Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyongo’s characters and the families they have back home, but that’s really all we have in terms of subplots. The script misses out on giving them unique, larger than life personalities to make all these characters stand out from each other or even separating them from other roles each of these actresses had played before.
The story is fairly generic, and the writers added in a few twists, but some are not as clever as you’d think if you know your way around the spy genre.
I think there may have been an attempt to keep this as real and grounded as possible, but the spy genre allows for some creativity in the storytelling and characters. We can bend reality a bit if we’re constantly having fun and kept on our toes. Rarely did I feel that in The 355 despite enjoying everyone in the cast as performers. The chemistry is there, but I’d love to see them tackle something different.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
The legendary actress Betty White passed away at the age of 99 on December 31, 2021. She was a pioneer in the world of television hosting her own show, appearing on game shows, and starring in three well-received sitcoms with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland. She won five Primetime Emmys and two Daytime Emmys making audiences laugh decade after decade.
Here’s where you can stream some of her work:
- Peacock – Saturday Night Live episode from May 2010
- Hulu – The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, Saturday Night Live
- Amazon Prime – Life with Elizabeth
- Paramount+ – Hot in Cleveland