Wild Girls (Booksmart, 2019)

Booksmart_PosterRaunchy teen comedies with heart are the genre people love, but often, the genre falls kind of flat, especially when they start leaning into being shocking over a soul.

Molly and Amy are studious best friends who stayed focused on their studies so they could go off to a prestigious college and get high paying jobs.  But when Molly discovers that all the slacker kids who made fun of them got into the same school or other Ivy League schools, she snaps.  She convinces Amy they must attend the big pre-graduation party. There is one hiccup though, they do not know the address of the party.

The film follows the girls as they keep ending up at the wrong parties and dealing with crazy situations.

The film does something clever early on.  At the start, we are really led to see the girls as outcasts whose lives were ruined by the mean kids.  But as the story unravels, Molly and Amy start to question their friendship, with Molly being forced to question a lot about herself.  And the mean kids? Don’t turn out to be that mean.  Like, Amy and Molly could have been friends with these kids if they had not actually kind of looked down on them as dumb kids going nowhere.

When they get to the party, I kept waiting on a cliche that never came. I kept waiting for the scene where the mean kids humiliate them…and instead, the story flips it on it’s head. The heart of their friendship and self discovery takes over, rather than worrying about being outrageous.

Beanie Feldstein manages to really come close to the line of being obnoxious without actually crossing it, so Molly is flawed but still sympathetic. Kaitlyn Dever has the role that gives her an extra edge for being likable, as she is the straight man much of this film. But together, they really connect.

I really enjoyed Booksmart and am looking forward to Olivia Wilde’s upcoming career as a director.

The Family That Wrestles Together (Fighting With My Family, 2019)

Fighting_With_My_Family_PosterFighting With My Family is the story of wrestler Paige.  Coming from a lower class family obsessed with wrestling, Zayara and Zak dream of the big time wrestling.  When they try out for WWE, only Zayara is selected, crushing her brother.  But when she tells him she won’t go, he lets her know he cannot take this away from her.

And so, Fighting With My Family takes us on Zayara’s journey to becoming the WWE Diva Paige.

As someone who has little knowledge of Wrestling beyond knowing who the Rock is, I cannot verify the accuracy of the film.  What I can confirm is that this is a fun film with a lot of heart.  Florence Pugh is incredibly sympathetic and lovable. The film does not make her pure of heart, she learns some hard lessons, like not seeing the other women as enemies.  As she grows, she pulls others with her.

The relationship that becomes most strained is Paige and her brother Zak.  He struggles with the idea that he cannot be where she is at.  And it drives him away from everything good in his life for a time. The Rock is charming as usual.

This is a good little inspirational sports film worth a watch.

Same Old Story (Long Shot, 2019)

Long_Shot_PosterHave you heard about this movie where the schlubby guy hooks up with a hot chick out of his league? You know…the plot of, like, 77% of rom-coms? I mean…Seth Rogan? He is a type…

Rogan is Fred Flarsky, a lefty journalist who finds himself out of a job when his paper is bought by Parker Wembly (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis as a Rupert Murdoch type media mogul). At a party, he runs into his old baby sitter Charlotte Field, about to enter the ring as a presidential candidate.

Charlotte hires him to punch up her speeches and slowly, the pair find themselves falling for each other, in spite of the fact that her staff think this is a very bad idea, mainly because… well, Fred is a potential liability. He is a casual drug user, he has no filter and well…there is more.

And really? In the hands of less talented a less talented creative team and cast?  This might have been an embarrassment of cliches.  I mean, this film certainly follows all the tropes, right to the end.  And yet, I never found myself caring.  The film is funny, the characters endearing…I rooted for them to succeed. Theron and Rogan are great and I did not find myself questioning what she could see in him.

Long Shot is a terrific comedy that shows that you can actually follow the Rom Com template and make a very entertaining film.

Imitation of Life (Scoob!, 2020)

So, originally, May was bringing the first theatrical Scooby Doo film in over a decade.  Thanks to a Pandemic (and no doubt a hope by the studio to replicate the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD) it is instead reaching us in our homes.

Scoob_Poster

Opening with a tale of how the gang met, the film jumps to the present, where an investor wants to financially support the Mystery Inc gang…as long as they leave out Shaggy and Scooby. Before the gang knows what is happening, Scooby and Shaggy run off on their own. When the two are attacked by robots, they are rescued by the Blue Falcon and his trusty partners Deedee and Dynomutt.

At first the duo are thrilled at the idea of hanging out with their favorite super-hero, but as Scooby seems to be drawn towards the Falcon’s adventure, Shaggy starts to become jealous. At the same time the Blue Falcon is doubting himself as a hero, fearing he can never match up to his father, the previous Blue Falcon. All the while the rest of the gang is trying to locate Scooby and Shaggy before the villain Dick Dastardly does so that he can unveil his evil master plan.

Scoob! is entertaining, though probably, kids will enjoy it far more than adults. The plot gets a little convoluted, eschewing the traditional Scooby Doo format of a simple mystery that needs unmasking and goes for a big and over the top plot.  It is pretty clear that part of the purpose of Scoob! was to set up a Hannah-Barbara extended universe of films. And that sometimes overtakes the film.  Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley are here…we meet Captain Caveman and the end credits suggest future appearances by characters such as Jabberjaw and Atom Ant.

The film is trying really hard to be current and hip, which generally fails to work. I watched Scoob! with my nephews.  They actually liked the film…but when we are introduced to the Blue Falcon, he dabs.  My nine year old nephew states (and this is a direct quote) “He dabbed!!! That is SO SAD!!!! Nobody dabs anymore!”

Another area that hurt the film for me a bit was the voice cast. Since the death of Casey Kasem, Matthew Lillard has provided the voice of Shaggy.  And he really is the voice (and managed to really capture the feel in the live action films as well).  Grey Delisle Griffin has been the voice of Daphne Blake for nearly twenty years.  I get that they are trying to be a new youthful take, but kids don’t see movies for the voice actors. And no disrespect is meant to Will Forte…but the end result here is that Shaggy sounds like someone trying to approximate the sound of Shaggy. I feel like it is a bit of a loss on our part that Lillard and DeLisle Griffin were not invited to return.  It is pretty clear both love the characters and that is just missing here. While it is very clear they were disappointed, both actors have responded with a lot of grace.

One thing I did really like is the basic animation style. It walks a nice line of bringing the 2D animation to life.  I really enjoy how they recreated the original opening Scooby Doo, Where Are You? title opener in the new style, so we get some fun throwbacks to the classic Scooby Doo monsters. And there is some neat 2D art used with the end credits.

Overall, Scoob! is not a disaster, but it is a whole more likely to entertain kids more than those with affection for the classic mystery solving team.

Soldiers for Life (VFW, 2020)

VFW_PosterWhen a young woman runs into their VFW with a bag of stolen drugs a group of veterans find themselves have to fight vicious drug addicts hell bent on getting the drugs back.

I don’t have a lot to say here.  The main draw is a really good cast of “Old Tough Guys” and George Wendt (who is a great actor, just not known for his tough guy roles).  It is a pretty standard siege movie along the lines of an Assault on Precinct 13.

This is a violent and bloody film, but does a good job leaning into it’s tropes and not worrying too much about being some sort of heady exploration of themes.  You just watch this for a wild and crazy action flick.

Super Cops III (Bad Boys for Life, 2020)

Bad_Boys_For_Life_posterWho wasted a perfect title for a fourth film???? Seriously people… Bad Boys 4 Life.

Seventeen years after the last film, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are back. A little older, a bit…um…thicker…but they are back. Burnett is desperate to retire and spend time with his wife and new granddaughter. Mike wants to keep being the badass cop.

But when there is an assassination attempt on Lowrey, they are called into action to try and determine who the killer is.

Bad Boys for life focuses on the impact of past choices, getting older, family and trust. Like, this is the first film to not make a joke about the closeness of these two men.  It treats their friendship as noble and good, not something to be embarrassed by.

The stakes get raised and while certain twists are not super original, they do work. The action sequences are incredibly easy to follow along with, yet still exciting.

Seriously, this is the best film in this franchise and I found myself curious for the clearly set up fourth film.  Bad Boys for Life is exciting, has depth the other two films lacked and was just a lot of fun to watch overall.

Super Cops II (Bad Boys II, 2003)

Bad_Boys_II_POsterThe Boys are back. The bickering couple stuff returns.  The hot babes as props returns.  The Gay subtext of the relationship of Lowrey and Burnett is here again. The fast and confusing visuals are back.

Honestly, I found the second Bad Boys film painfully tedious. There are few bright spots. I mean, Gabrielle Union is good. Peter Stormare is always fun. But this film tired me out quick.