Paul’s Trip to the Movies takes us to a couple romantic comedies out in theaters. If staying at home sounds good to you, Paul McGuire Grimes has you covered for that too.
ISN’T IT ROMANTIC (theatrical release)
Every since she was a young girl Natalie has despised rom-coms. She was led to believe they are unrealistic and spread terrible lies. She works for an architecture firm but is never taken seriously. Her subway ride home turns into disaster when she is mugged. She hits her head on a pillar trying to get away and is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up, she finds herself in her own romantic comedy. Everyone is super nice, men flirt with her, and New York City looks like a cozy city in a Hallmark movie. She believes she will have to fall in love with the rich executive at work in order to break the curse.
-Starring: Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin
-Opens with the theme song from Pretty Woman with a young Natalie being told rom-coms are unrealistic and full of terrible lies. The scene perfectly sets the stage for what to expect. Great to see Jennifer Saunders play her mother
-Fully self-aware with its playful take on the genre. The writers clearly did their homework filling it with big song and dance numbers, a blissful score, Natalie hearing her inner voice narrating certain integral moments, the list goes on as every cliché is written in the movie.
-Casting is pretty smart given this isn’t your traditional rom-com. It’s filled with actors normally stuck in supporting roles like Adam Devine and Liam Hemsworth and now gives them their chance to shine.
-Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine play to their strengths and recreate the chemistry they had in the Pitch Perfect movies. They get to be their charming, goofy selves that we expect from them.
-Brandon Scott Jones also stands out as the stereotypical gay neighbor. Jones plays him so flamboyantly he’s channeling Jonathan from Queer Eye or Jack from Will & Grace
-The movie works best when it is fully playing into the spoof nature of its concept. The city of New York is given an extra polish and sheen as it transforms into a cozy Hallmark setting. There are some CGI moments and the production designers clearly make it look like its filmed on a back studio lot with freshly painted sets and pretty foliage.
-I cared less about Natalie’s journey than I probably should have. It’s still a rom-com about rom-coms, but it seemed like maybe the writers were falling into their own traps and clichés of what they are commenting on. You basically know how it’s going to end fairly early on. That being said, I appreciated how they wrote Natalie’s ultimate discovery and realization
-Can’t forget to mention the late ’90s, early ’00s soundtrack that just hits all the right nostalgia buttons
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Honors and spoofs the genre without resorting to being a mindless parody.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Oscar Watch – in theaters)
Fonny and Tish are madly in love, committed to spending the rest of their lives together. They live in Harlem in the 1970s trying to make ends meet with Fonny always looking to better the life they have. It should be a celebratory time when they announce that they are pregnant for the first time, but Fonny is being accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman. This behavior is completely out of character, and it’s up to Tish and her parents to prove his innocence against the local white cop who’s out looking to take Fonny down. The same cannot be said of Fonny’s mom who is less than supportive of helping her son or being there for her future grandchild
-3 Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Regina King), Best Original Score (Nicholas Brittel), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins). It’s the favorite right now to win Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Score
-Starring: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Finn Witrock, Ed Skrein
-Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, best known for Oscar-winning film Moonlight, based on the book by James Baldwin
-Nicholas Brittel’s score puts you right in the place jazz vibe in Harlem in the 1970s
-Thanks for Stephan James’ earnest performance, you can feel the pain in Fonny wanting a better environment. He has dreams and aspirations for his family and career but aware that that’s hard to come by in his neighborhood. Wants to be a part of the change but doesn’t know how to get it
-Kiki Layne provides the film’s narration as Tish in a beautiful poetic way
-3 Time Emmy Winner Regina King gives another charged and determined performance. You cling to every word and piece of advice she has. She fights for Fonny and Tish hoping to prove his innocence.
-Full of pain and that sunken feeling in your heart and stomach.
-It shares similar themes to Moonlight as Barry Jenkins presents these characters who are trying to be more than a product of their environment yet suffering due to the prejudices at hand. Ed Skrein plays an integral part of this story as a white cop out to punish Fonny
-Quiet and thought provoking as Barry Jenkins lets the spoken word and his actors’ performances speak for themselves without showing the more graphic scenes that another director would.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It may be quiet, but it packs a punch.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
FYRE (Netflix Streaming pick)
The Fyre Festival was marketed to be the next great big music festival for the millennial generation. It was going to be held on an island once owned by Pablo Escobar. His notoriety combined with beautiful people, booze, musicians, yachts, and villas sounds too good to be true but people went for it. The idea sprung from Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur of Fyre and Magnisus who partnered with hip hop artist Ja Rule. Word about the Fyre Festival spread to models, musicians, and social influencers promising a weekend they’ll never forget. As the months and days got closer, the festival was nowhere near ready and soon concertgoers were going to be in for one massive surprise.
-Now streaming on Netflix
-Co-produced by Jerry Media, the marketing company that promoted the Fyre Festival and dealt with the direct behind the scenes business antics of Billy McFarland. The audience watching the documentary will have to decide if this is a smart strategy to get that inside voice and if the subjects are then treating themselves as innocent in the whole ordeal.
-Great interviews with a variety of McFarland’s staff at Fyre who worked for his app, various festival producers and investors, local Bahamians, and the marketing team behind it.
-Works in tandem with the Hulu documentary Fyre Fraud. Both deal with the festival but approach it with two different angles. I don’t think it matters which one you watch first, but the second one you watch may not seem as jaw-dropping as will you already know the story.
-Fyre’s angle is less about the social media influencers and the rise of millennials and more about the countdown to getting the festival up and running. You learn more about how the writing was always on the wall and how McFarland and Ja Rule ignored the warning signs.
-Fyre works better in its second half as it deals with the aftermath of the festival in how McFarland conned and scammed his business team, investors, the Bahamians, and so on.
-It lets you in to what it may have been liken working for McFarland. You do feel sorry for some of his employees who felt like they were left in the dark with what McFarland was trying to get away with.
-Reminder that a con artist will always be a con artist even if they are caught. You learn more about McFarland’s tricks and schemes post-festival with NYC Access that tried to scam investors all over again.
-Both documentaries succeed at drawing you into the intrigue and madness of the Fyre Festival. We left continuing to discuss the merits of both films and how Fyre’s direct connection leaves you looking at certain individuals in a new light.