I'll preface this review first by saying that I've seen episodes of Tom & Jerry as a child, but it wasn't something I loved or watched religiously. For that reason alone, I wasn't all that excited for this film to begin with. I was curious enough because I quite enjoy when creators choose to use very cartoonish-looking animals in films. Sometimes CGI animals interacting with people doesn't mesh well, so when it's done in a style such as this, it feels more forgivable. With all of that said, even though this film is absolutely targeted at children, the jokes are still dated and there's not much for other audiences to enjoy either. It's not a terrible film, but here's why 2021's rendition of Tom & Jerry can easily be skipped.
The premise here is very paint-by-numbers. Both Tom and Jerry need to leave their homes. They both end up at a hotel where they feel they can make new lives for themselves. With a new hire at the hotel in Kayla and a royal wedding about to take place in the lobby, this puts their chances of living here in jeopardy. Tasked with exterminating Jerry as a mouse is a threat to the hotel, Kayla makes it her mission to outdo herself. She hires Tom as her sidekick and chaos ensues. This premise, along with how the overall film plays out, had me rolling my eyes, but there are some redeeming qualities to it.
As I said, I'm a sucker for the way this kind of animation blends with live-action elements and they definitely made that aspect enjoyable again here. On top of that, there are several moments where the classic slapstick humour is hit out of the park, but that also had me wishing the entire film had been that way. Like many other films of its kind, the story is very bogged down with the human characters when the focus clearly should have been on Tom and Jerry. Yes, there are some big highlight moments with them, but it wasn't enough, given the title of the film. As much as I would like to rip apart the human characters as well, they also have their moments.
Kayla, played enjoyably by Chloe Grace Moretz, isn't given a lot to do, but her quirky performances suited the film well. As always, I have to say my favourite performance in the film came from Michael Pena. I seriously can't get enough of how well his expressions suit this type of comedy. Whether it's the way he says certain lines or simply reacts to certain scenarios, I laughed on multiple occasions when he was on-screen. The entire cast is fun to watch here, but there's really not much else to the movie overall.
In the end, Tom & Jerry should have been solely about these two titular characters, but the film is bogged down by too many things to do with hotels and weddings. The storyline is just something that's easily written so that kids can enjoy the slapstick-nature of it all, which is completely fine, but it just doesn't make it stand out from every other film like this. Tim Story has been a director that has always shown potential to me, as I enjoyed his Fantastic Four films and even Barbershop, but he never seems to choose projects that will bring out those true talents. Tom & Jerry is a fun watch at times, but the overall premise just sort of deflates the fun scenes sprinkled throughout. Young kids will probably get a kick out of this film, but that's the demographic anyway, so for that reason, I guess it accomplished its goal.
Regardless of how good or bad a film may be, sometimes you remember it for odd reasons. In this case, I absolutely see myself remembering the experience of watching Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar. It's not very often that I watch a film with too many tonal issues to count, but still walk away having enjoyed myself. In nearly every other case, I would've said a movie with this many inconsistencies would be a trainwreck, and even though this movie is far from being praised by me, it truly does have some hilarious moments. I don't think this film will find a very large audience or even be liked all that much by those who do, but here's why I think it may be worth a shot on a rainy day.
After leaving their hometown for a much-needed vacation in Vista Del Mar, Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) find themselves caught up in a plot that may be an endangerment to everyone on their trip. The plot is simple, an evil woman and her sidekick are plotting to flood Vista Del Mar with murderous mosquitos and then comedy ensues. That's honestly the set-up for this film so I didn't want to beat around the bush when diving into this review. During the first scene, you're clearly being asked to forget wherever you think this film might be about because it's more ridiculous than you think. For this reason alone, it at least held my attention.
Creativity is definitely not in short supply here, but that's also an overall detriment. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't laugh quite a few times here, but I just as much found myself either cringing or wondering why certain choices were being made. There are times when the story is serious, times when it's silly, genuinely funny, and just downright random. Tonally, as I said, this film is all over the place. Yes, there is a throughline, but when a comedic beat is followed by a dramatic beat, only to then break out into a musical number, it just seems messy. There were multiple occasions where I just thought to myself that I was watching a very sloppily constructed film, which in hindsight just isn't true at all.
Sure, the film is tonally all over the place, but I truly believe that was a creative choice. Jamie Dornan steals the show with a few sequences that had me laughing quite hysterically, Wiig and Mumolo are great as this duo, and I overall thought the look and feel of the movie were meant to remind you to not take it all so seriously. Nearly a full day has passed since viewing this film and I still don't exactly know what certain things were there to accomplish. When I say this film can be very random at times, I mean that. From talking crabs to leaping over canyons with a moped, it's been a while since I was able to watch a new film that was this weird.
Overall, as I said, this film is tonally all over the place. It's about three different movies in one, wrapped up in a visually strange package. Written by both Wiig and Mumolo, it was clear that these two just wanted to have a blast making a fun movie and there absolutely succeeded with that. There are many memorable moments here, but it's just hard to recommend this film without making sure you're extremely aware of how random of an experience it will be. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is now available on-demand. If you're looking for a quick laugh or to see something unlike anything you've watched in a while, check it out.
Films that make a statement and are done very well tend to stick with me for a while. Whenever big things happen in the world, movies about those topics are usually not far off. Promising Young Woman is the prime example of a film that very much needed to be made in today's day in age, but I wasn't expecting it to take things as far as it did. I will absolutely be replaying this film in my head when looking back at my favourite films of 2020. Reflecting on how this film plays out, there are some viewers who will probably hate the outcome of the finale, but I thought it worked very well for the most part. Here's why I believe Promising Young Woman deserves all the praise it's receiving.
Haunted by her past, Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) makes it her mission to go after those who are unlucky enough to pop back into her life. For reasons I won't get into here, these people deserve to be in the spotlight, but this film almost plays out as a fantasy as to what should and shouldn't be done about this kind of scenario. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mulligan's portrayal of Cassandra here, simply because her performance captivated me in ways I haven't seen in a while. She was both frightening and hilarious all at the same time. Her portrayal alone held my attention for the entire run time.
Take what I'm saying about her character with a grain of salt though because I'm not sure if I felt sympathy for any of the main characters by the end of the film. The way this film chooses to reach its climax felt a little messy to me. I appreciated the message and agreed with it overall, but the way the final moments played out just felt off to me and almost anti-climactic. Still, I found the rest of the movie to be pretty spectacular, so the conclusion was honestly a minor complaint to me.
Emerald Fennell both wrote and directed this film, and for a first feature film, I think she has made it very difficult to improve on her own work here. The statement she makes with this film, along with the razor-sharp subject matter, all tallied up to an incredible experience for me. I really liked the editing by Frédéric Thoraval as well, but I believe the cinematography by Benjamin Kracun was a big reason the editing looked so good as well. This is easily the biggest film he has filmed to date and I can't wait to see these framing skills continue.
In the end, Promising Young Woman briefly suffers from a conclusion that I'm still unsure about, but am otherwise utterly impressed by. From the second this film began to the moments that made it seem conventional at times, it does a great job in keeping you guessing. Certain aspects of this movie play out as you would expect, but I would check your expectations at the door in terms of where you think the character of Cassandra is going to end up. This movie sucked me in and didn't let me breathe until the credits rolled. Again, I can't say it's perfect due to the ending, but I otherwise think this is one of the finest and most eye-opening films released in 2020. Promising Young Woman is now available on-demand.
When it comes to one-location films, I'm usually cautiously optimistic every time. When this type of film is done right, it can really shine and be memorable for the filmmaking techniques involved throughout. The reason I'm usually cautious is due to the fact that there have been multiple films that don't do enough to hold your interest, leaving you bored with the scenery over and over again. Now streaming on Netflix, Malcolm & Marie is one of the latest films to take place entirely at one location. While it's very far from perfect, here's why I at least admired it so much.
After the premiere of his first feature film, Malcolm returns to his rental home with his girlfriend Marie. Feeling high and mighty after the stellar response, his cockiness gets the better of him. This in turn releases an endless number of thoughts about each other. Essentially, this film is 106 minutes of arguing. That may not seem appealing, but it all comes down to whether or not you believe these characters, and I absolutely did.
John David Washington has proven time and time again that he's a force on camera. Whether you're talking about BlacKkKlansman or smaller movies like Monsters and Men or The Old Man and the Gun, I've just loved his commitment to each role. On top of his great performance once again here, I think his co-star Zendaya actually stole the show from him on multiple occasions. Other appearing in Spider-Man films and being very solid in The Greatest Showman, I hadn't watched any of her earlier television roles as a child actress. It wasn't until her starring role in the HBO series Euphoria that I then told myself I need to see every future project that includes a performance by her. She has really come a long way as an actress and her performance in Malcolm & Marie felt incredibly raw and I loved every second of it.
Where I feel this film falls apart is actually in the greatness of these performances and the stellar filmmaking overall. From the unique cinematography by Marcell Rev to the great direction by Sam Levinson (both of whom worked on Euphoria with Zendaya), Malcolm & Marie is simply too long of a film for the material being presented. It takes place over one night and follows a couple arguing in different rooms. Everything about the movie itself is elegant, but by the time it reached the second act, I started getting hints of Déjà Vu. I was sucked in by the camerawork and performances in the first act, I even liked where the movie ended, but certain conversations or things the characters were doing just started to feel incredibly repetitive. It felt like different versions of the same scene were happening over and over again.
Overall, Malcolm and Marie is a massive showcase for how talented of a director Sam Levinson has the potential of being and also that John David Washington and Zendaya are both incredible performers. I feel disappointed in retrospect because there was so much potential on the table. It's not that the film fell apart, it's that after a while, there wasn't anywhere new to take this film on an intellectual level. Things are said later on in the film as a revelation, which I felt was already implied without saying a word earlier on. This movie was very confused with the notion of show-don't-tell. In the end, for film lovers like myself, it's absolutely worth a watch, but I really don't believe it was as good as it could've been.
Before The Social Network was released back in 2010, I never thought of Justin Timberlake as an actor. Yes, he was solid in the film Alpha Dog, but I believe that being directed by David Fincher really broadened his horizons. Starring in films like Friends with Benefits, Trouble with the Curve, or even In Time, he has proven that there's more to him than meets the eye in terms of acting. Palmer only furthered those thoughts for me. While Timberlake never seems to choose projects that will win him awards, he's always very, very solid in whichever role he does take. Palmer has many similar tropes to movies you've seen before, but here's why the subject matter, along with a great central performance by Timberlake, warrants a viewing.
After serving time for over a decade, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) returns home to live with his grandmother, only to see that a troubled family lives next door. Their young boy Sam eventually forms a bond with Palmer, even though Palmer wants literally nothing to do with him when the film opens. Struggling to fit in for being different than other boys in his school, Palmer slowly becomes the father figure that this boy may just need in his life. This sort of premise has been done time and time again, just in different variations. What set it aside from all the others for me though, was the fact that the screenplay by Cheryl Guerriero was far better than I expected it to be.
Yes, when breaking the overall movie down, there are some very rushed aspects of the story in the third act, but the dramatic elements to the film felt very authentic. You could tell this was a story that came from the heart. I believed the majority of the dialogue that nearly every character had, which is why I also feel that this movie sputtered slightly towards the end. As much as I loved the dialogue written for these performers, the meat of the story is whether or not Palmer is the right fit for Sam and certain elements of that are sort of thrown away in the third act. There is a resolution to everything, but it feels rushed in comparison with the rest of the film.
Now to dive into the performances, because this is a film that relies heavily on selling the premise at hand. As I said, I've always enjoyed the on-screen presence of Justin Timberlake and I truly believe that there is an argument to be made here that he's never been better. I was engaged in this film because of his committed performance. On top of that, young Ryder Allen played off him incredibly well and their bond made this film so much more likeable. Alisha Wainwright as Maggie was also excellent, and Juno Temple as Sam's mother Shelly has a couple of scene-stealing moments as well.
In the end, Palmer is the type of film that's designed to be a tear-jerker and those types of films can feel extremely heavy-handed, but I'm just glad to say this one doesn't. It took me on an emotional journey and I was in tears by the end, but it never felt forced. Sadly, the conclusion is far too rushed and revelations and answers are brushed over multiple times. It's almost as though this movie was too focused on creating dramatic scenes that it forgot how to properly reach a conclusion. Still, I really enjoyed watching it and I believe it's worth your time. Palmer is now streaming on Apple TV+.