Review Roundup

April Powers: Sebastian Stan, Amanda Seyfried Lead Movie Crop

Published on April 28, 2021

I am writing this sentence a week before the 93rd annual Academy Awards. I’m also writing this in mid-April, which goes to show you just how looooooooong this Oscar season has been. To wit, keep in mind that I saw The Father — nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture — almost 15 months ago at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Same with Promising Young Woman! (Just to gauge it, Bong Joon-ho hadn’t even won a single Parasite trophy yet.) I’m exhausted hearing about Nomadland, and judging by the lack of buzz for the overly acclaimed blue-collar-widow-hits-the-road-in-her-van drama, you haven’t seen it anyway! So let’s turn the page and mix a metaphor with a fresh crop, shall we? There’s a 99 percent chance these newly released movies won’t be heading up the 2022 Oscars — sorry, Monday! — but at least they’re redeemable and interesting offerings, most of them playing both in theaters and on your living room screen. Go ahead and support them.


The Courier

3 stars (out of 4)

It was called Ironbark at its 2020 world premiere. Now I call it a surprisingly effective espionage drama. This is the true-life story of Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), an unassuming British businessman who, in the early 1960s, becomes an integral piece of The Cold War. At the request of the UK’s MI-6 and a (fictional) CIA operative (Rachel Brosnahan, a long way from the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), he forms a covert partnership with a Soviet officer in an effort to prevent a nuclear disaster and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first half plays like an old-fashioned cat-and-mouse thriller with Cumberbatch perfectly portraying the bemused man in the middle. (“Am I talking to spies?!” he asks excitedly in the first meeting with his recruiters.) Then the film artfully turns into a work more intense and sober — but no less engaging. See it on a rainy afternoon.  (In theaters and on demand).  



Together, Together

3 stars (out of 4)

The one-line plot to this quirky 2021 Sundance Film Festival favorite: A relationship unfolds between a caring single guy in his 40s (Ed Helms, showing his tender side) and the young, slyly funny introvert (I Think You Should Leave’s Patti Harrison) he hires to be his surrogate. But not that kind of relationship. In fact, the reason why this comedy works as a breezy feel-good charmer is because it excels past its sitcom-y premise. Instead of hooking up, the pair develop a strong platonic bond throughout the nine-month journey — he doles out adult wisdom while she helps loosen him up around his judgmental and slightly baffled friends and family. (His parents never do quite understand why he’s going through all this hoop-jumping.) With each challenge, a gentle humor prevails. Sweet sweet stuff. (Now in theaters; On Demand May 11)



Things Heard & Seen

2.5 stars (out of 4)

A rickety old house in the country. . . unexplained things that go bump in the night . . . a freaked-out child. Oh yeah, you’ve definitely seen this thriller at least a dozen times already. That doesn’t mean it’s not creepy as heck. (And it’s based on a true story). Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George (James Norton, Little Women) are a New York City couple who uproot upstate with their young daughter in 1980 when he lands a professor job. She feels uneasy in the new abode but can’t figure out why (though seeing another woman’s reflection in the window is never a cheery sign). Turns out the place is hiding a sinister secret — and so is her husband. Too many narrative boxes are dutifully checked off here, and it’s hard not to roll your eyes when George’s suspicious coworker (F. Murray Abraham) tells him that he’s going to be exposed as soon as the two finish their secluded boat trip out at sea! But the wide-eyed Seyfried sells all the scares, even the cheap ones. Seriously. (Netflix, now streaming) 


Godzilla vs. Kong

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Take the shameless fun of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island mashed with the dull dud that was 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters and you’ve got a box-office spectacle that lands right in the middle. Synopsis: The giant ape and his protectors take a journey to find his true home. But they soon find themselves in the path of the angry lizard cutting a swath of destruction across the globe. (Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler and Alexander Skarsgard play a few of the humans attempting to keep the peace.) Seeing this flick on a big screen (if you’re comfortable with it) allows for a truly immersive popcorn-fun experience. If you go the streaming route, you can skip the narrative nonsense and cut straight to the climactic face-off —which features a fight under the ocean, smashed buildings galore and the presence of something called a mechagodzilla. Is it an epic battle for the ages? Eh, not really. But in year when big-budget action is at a premium, size definitely matters. (In theaters and HBO Max)



2.5 stars (out of 4)

Here’s a steamy Greece-set romance starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough as a sexy, fast-living American couple in lust. But it’s not a love story. Or, um, a great one. In a wild weekend, these two go from total strangers who hook up on a beach to official pair planning their future together. Then reality (i.e., “Monday”) sets in, and the troubles begin. He’s selfish! She’s uptight! They’re both emotionally scarred because of past relationships! (Take a number, guys.) In fact, the pair’s connection is unstable from the get-go, resulting in a series of cringe-y, uninteresting squabbles. What’s the point of all this, other than to expose the dangers of riding a motorcycle in Greece while naked and high? Perhaps that happily-ever-after is no guarantee — and that Stan can be awfully fiery when he’s out of his Winter Soldier gear. (In theaters)