Emily the Criminal casts Aubrey Plaza as a young woman with several strikes against her. Those strikes include student loan debt and a felony conviction involving an abusive boyfriend. She tries to make ends meet as a food delivery worker. Her pay's so low she can't even keep up with the interest on her student loans. A friend introduces Emily to the world of credit card fraud. Handsome Theo Rossi as Youcef, a Lebanese immigrant, notices her hunger, and welcomes her into his world of black-market TV's, computers, and luxury cars. Their romance and her fearlessness build to a gripping finale. Aubrey Plaza dares you to look away as this thriller turns up the heat. 90 minutes of Emily the Criminal left me breathless.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Friday, August 12, 2022
Ok, maybe you need to grow up in Texas to love Vengeance, but I did, and I do. B.J. Novak plays an East Coast podcaster enjoying the single life. One night he receives a mysterious phone call informing him his "girlfriend" has died in West Texas. Novak can't remember her, but the caller insists he attend the funeral. So, a blue state podcaster lands in red state Texas setting up a "fish out of water" adventure. (I think we are supposed to assume this takes place in Alpine or Marfa although it was shot in New Mexico.) The family of the dead girl takes him into their home and pleads with him to investigates her death. They refuse to believe it as a drug overdose and claim the death resulted from a foul deed or even premeditated murder. Novak, in full media mode, elects to turn his investigation into a true crime podcast. The trail leads him to a very compelling Ashton Kutcher, who plays a record producer in the middle of nowhere. Kutcher's moments delight, as he spins his philosophy of performing creative work in a desolate environment. He also gives the story a nice twist. Vengeance is full of inside jokes and local references including a long riff on the Texas fast food favorite Whataburger. The movie feels like one of the great Woody Allen comedies of the 1970's with a touch of the remake of Raymond Candler's The Long Goodbye. B.J. Novak is a delight as an average guy surrounded by eccentrics. Vengeance made me laugh out loud more times than I expected. I watched in a theater with five other viewers, one of whom was a friend who came with me. If you miss it, catch it on demand. Vengeance is just the kind of independent creative fun the movies need.
When Jordan Peele makes a movie, fans pay attention thanks to his 2017 masterpiece Get Out, one of the most creative comic/horror films of recent years. Peele's new film Nope spins a UFO story with a few flourishes. Daniel Kaluuya, star of Get Out, plays a horse and animal wrangler working in Hollywood, enduring disrespect. His ability with animals will help him deal with a UO hovering above his ranch. Nearby, child star "Jupe" Park played by Steven Yeun operates a western theme park. Kaluuya discovers the UFO has a taste for devouring horses. Jupe hatches a scheme to draw the UFO out in front of a live audience. Of course, the scheme backfires with deadly results. Kaluuya uses his animal wrangling skills to ultimately defeat the menace. Nope feels slow and familiar. I watched hoping for the creative skill and pay off of Get Out. Did Nope deliver? I'm afraid the answer is in the title.
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Where the Crawdads Sing combines mystery, murder, romance, and the North Carolina swamp in a story that spans 75 years. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya, the youngest member of an abused family living deep in the woods off the edge of a swamp. One by one her family, including her mother, escape an abusive husband and father. His death leaves the ten-year-old Kya to fend for herself. Daisy Edgar-Jones (Of Normal People among other films) fits the role. As she grows into a budding teenage beauty, clean-cut Tate Walker, played by Taylor John Smith befriends the "Swamp Girl" teaching her to read and write. Friendship turns into love. When college time comes, Tate vanishes leaving Kya vulnerable to local rogue Chase Andrews played by Harris Dickinson. Tate returns after college. The resulting love triangle results in murder and a sensational trial. Where the Crawdads Sing fits the pattern of earlier romance stories. It reminds me of Fried Green Tomatoes or The Notebook or several of the other films based on Nicholas Sparks novels. The young attractive actors help divert viewers thoughts about the validity of all this. Where the Crawdads Sings knows its audience.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Writer/Director/Actor Cooper Raiff creates a charming young adult story in Cha Cha Real Smooth. New graduate Cooper returns with his degree to live at home with his mother and little brother and his mother's boyfriend. Unable to find a proper job, he sells hot dogs by day. One night his mother needing a break asks him to take his little brother to a Bar Mitzvah. At the party, he discovers his talent as a "party starter"---that is a guy who encourages kids to dance and mingle. He bonds with a young autistic girl named Lola played by Vanessa Burghardt. Their connection wins the attention of her single mother played by Dakota Johnson. Their meeting turns into an intriguing "will they or won't they" romance. Dakota Johnson gives one of her most charismatic performances. I will look forward to whatever Cooper Raiff does next.