May has been a busy month, both at the theater, and for me personally.
I graduated from college, started a new job, traveled out of the country, and still managed to squeeze in nine new movies. With everything going on, I wasn’t as strict about sitting down to write after every trip to the theater, so naturally, I fell behind on my reviews. I managed to still put out a few full reviews, like “The Hustle” and “Booksmart,” but not as many as I wish I had.
So, instead of completely skipping out on sharing my thoughts on so many films, this will serve as one big mega-review, with shorter musings on everything I’ve seen in the last few weeks.
Let’s get started.
The romantic comedy was once a staple of cinema, especially if it was one headlined by a well-known duo. Then rom-coms entered a period of limbo – and often the ones released didn’t fair well, financially or critically. While “Long Shot” may not have hauled in enough cash to officially declare the rom-com back, its critical acclaim certainly support the genre’s revival.
If there’s one takeaway from this movie, it’s this: Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s chemistry here is truly next level. The script is so smartly written, elevating Rogen’s traditional low-brow humor while never feeling unnatural. “Long Shot” plays on all of the stereotypical rom-com tropes, but never falls victim to them, expertly reversing the usual circumstances. “Long Shot” is incredibly charming and easily the best film on this list, so if you’re looking for something to make you cackle and leave you feeling giddy, check it out.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”
After debuting at Sundance Film Festival in January, Netflix decided to pick up the film, which was originally planned for a theatrical release this fall, and send it to millions of TVs around the world in May. Starring Zac Efron, “Extremely Wicked” chronicles the true story of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, only this time, it’s told through the eyes of his unsuspecting lover, Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). True crime has never been hotter, and it’s clear Netflix is all in on the trend, with tons of original content dedicated to the murder mysteries.
Efron’s performance is remarkable, there’s no denying, yet his portrayal begs some questions about the romanticization of truly horrible people. By telling the story from Kendall’s perspective, much of the film is spent looking at Bundy through rose-colored glasses, as she refused to believe the disturbing truth about him for so long. As a result, the film walks a dangerous line between showing the monster Bundy really was, and glorifying him as a charming gentleman.
Some other technical elements and jarring transitions hold the film back from being anything greater, but it’s a decent watch and easy to access at home.
Star Rating: 3 out of 5
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu”
Let’s get one thing straight… You take away Ryan Reynolds and this movie is absolutely nothing. Without him, it’s not worth the watch. Simple dialogue, an overly complex plot and subpar visual effects make what should be the creation of a major tent-pole franchise fairly underwhelming.
But thankfully, Reynolds is here. His never-ending wit and charm as the cute and cuddly Pikachu makes it worthwhile, as he channels almost Deadpool-level commentary, albeit far less vulgar.
It’s fun to see all the Pokémon creations come to life on the big screen, but a cast of relatively unlikeable characters, led by Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton can wear thin quickly, even on the most die-hard trainers.
Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Here we are again with another Disney live-action remake. After dismal performance of “Dumbo” and the looming success of this summer’s “The Lion King,” I think it’s safe to say “Aladdin” falls somewhere in the middle. I’m not sure if it was my overwhelmingly low expectations heading into the film, or if it was genuinely good, but I was extremely pleased with how much I enjoyed it.
The most worrisome issue that plagued the film’s promotional run was Will Smith’s Genie, but it turns out he was the last thing anyone needed to worry about. He looked great, sounded good enough, and was able to put enough of his own twist on the Genie to eliminate any comparisons to Robin Williams’ legendary performance.
Naomi Scott as Jasmine was easily the best part of the movie, as the only one capable of bringing both an excellent voice and compelling acting to the screen. Guy Ritchie added a modern twist to the classic story, working in a female empowerment storyline with Jasmine vying for the title of Sultan, which felt refreshing and natural, never coming across as forced.
Unfortunately, the film’s greatest struggles come with two of its biggest leads. Mena Massoud’s Aladdin may have the voice of an angel and dance moves like no other, but the acting just isn’t quite there. He may have been able to get by on his charm and pipes alone, but Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) wasn’t as lucky. Simply put, Kenzari wasn’t the right call for this role. He lacked the intimidating ruthlessness of Jafar, and with virtually no singing or dancing, he didn’t have any other skills to hide behind.
Star Rating: 3 out of 5
“Rim of the World”
Not much to say on this one… It’s Netflix Original film attempting to capitalize on the popularity of kids saving the world from supernatural monsters, but it doesn’t have any of the originality or charm of things like “It” or “Stranger Things.” Screenwriter Zack Stentz seemed to have a solid idea on paper, but director McG’s crude and over-the-top humor took hold and refused to let go.
Star Rating: .5 out of 5
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”
My relationship with the Baba Yaga is different than most. I didn’t experience the surprising success of “John Wick” in theaters back in 2014, and I missed out on jumping on the hype train for “Chapter 2,” but I knew I needed to get onboard before “Parabellum.” So, much like the boogeyman himself, I flew threw all three bloody adventures in less than a week.
“Parabellum” is certainly the series’ most ambitious, ultra-violent and outrageous entry yet, filled with massive set pieces and expertly-choreographed fight sequences. I mean, Keanu Reeves rides a horse through New York City while slicing up bad guys with a samurai sword. Talk about spectacle.
It’s extremely entertaining and a incredible amount of fun, but it fails to live up to the expectations set by its predecessors. Where the first film introduced viewers to Wick’s world, the seconded unexpectedly expanded it. “Parabellum” definitely further expands the universe, it’s not quite enough to feel fully satisfying.
Star Rating: 3 out of 5
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that everyone loves a good music movie. “La La Land,” “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (GROSS) have all achieved tremendous success, so why stop now?
The Elton John biopic, starring Taron Egerton, reminisces on the rockstar’s childhood and subsequent sex, drug and alcohol-fueled rise to international stardom, while adding in a bit of a fantastical twist.
“Rocketman” utilizes Elton’s discography excellently, incorporating quite a few of his signature hits into all-out musical-esque dance numbers. The whole film revolves around a series of flashbacks during an addiction meeting, which allows for easy navigation throughout his lifetime.
Egerton delivers a performance every bit as convincing as Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury, all while actually singing and putting a bit of himself into the character. Using that precedent, it would be surprising if Egerton doesn’t receive slew of Best Actor noms at the very least next year.
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.