Review Roundup

‘Cherry’ Bomb? Tom Holland, Amy Poehler Lead So-So March Movies

Published on March 22, 2021

The answer is Tenet. The question is what is the one movie I have seen in the theater over the past 12 months? That’s a pathetic statistic, one that I could never fathom exactly one year ago when we all went into lockdown. (P.S. I didn’t even love, let alone understand Christopher Nolan‘s latest opus.) But as I write this, the movie theater industry is slowly yet surely seeing the light and opening up. And frankly, this news couldn’t come soon enough. I love the convenience of walking 50 feet and pressing play, but Lordy do I miss the experience of going into a dark room and being enveloped by sight and sound and only sneaking a peak at phone at off-peak stray moments. I never thought I’d say this, but I even sorta long for the annoying strangers whisper-shouting behind me. I’m also certain that some of these March releases that play just so-so on my laptop or Apple TV would seem infinitely better in a communal atmosphere. (In fact, I first watched The Father back at its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.) So take this reviews with a little grain of salt. And hopefully soon you can put that salt on your popcorn.



The Father

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Even during a tumultuous year in movies, some things remain constant — like, say, Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman delivering extraordinary Oscar-nominated performances in a powerhouse drama. The story revolves around a harried woman in London trying to cope with the effects of her live-in father’s progressive dementia. The narrative is told from Hopkins’ point of view, giving audiences a sense of unbalance as the disease takes a devastating toll on his memories. In some scenes, for example, a different actress (Olivia Williams) plays the role of the daughter; the timeline is also discombobulated. Just note the plot pieces don’t quite fit together because they’re not supposed to. The answer is yes, this film is admittedly tough to watch. It’s also impossible to shake. (Prime Video on Demand, now streaming)



3 stars (out of 4)

This one is for all the girls who have a thing for ‘zines and alt-music — and for those who wonder what all the fuss was back in the day. Introvert Vivian (Hadley Robinson, Little Women) tries to keep head down in school, but the arrival of a bullied new student (Alycia Pascual-Pena) inspires her to take some action. Inspired by her rebel mom (Amy Poehler), she starts an underground paper called Moxie (think a cooler, wiser Gossip Girl) and bands together with other female students to stop the unacceptable behavior. Poehler also directs the film, and she clearly aims to 1. Empower young girls 2. Keep it funny, in that order. She mostly succeeds, though she could have done without the very 90s big climactic speeches. Also, enough with casting Patrick Schwarzenegger as the high-school jock. The guy is 27! (Netflix, now streaming)



2.5 stars (out of 4)

The latest actor to take a page out of the Keanu Reeves action-star playbook is . . . Bob Odenkirk?! Yup, the Better Call Saul star is laying down beatings in a balls-to-the-wall violent revenge flick via the writer and producer of John Wick. His character starts out as a mild-mannered suburban dad and husband. But in the aftermath of a home invasion, he summons his dark past and his long-suppressed talent for kicking butt (and every other part) in extreme form. He eventually tangles with a Russian drug lord — but at that point, you’ll either be too mesmerized, too put-off or too numbed by the relentless bloodshed to care about the outcome. Odenkirk’s presence is actually the novelty here: Though he’s not the most credible vigilante in the world, he can still drop a line like “don’t call 911” with dry-as-burnt-toast wit. That’s the work of a comedy somebody. (PVOD, March 26)


Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

2 stars (out of 4)

In these trying times, is it too much to ask that a documentary about the 2019 college admissions scandal be a potent mix of hard-hitting and tea-spilling?! The answer is yes. Part- reenactment, part-parade of talking experts, this disappointing take features various actors speaking in dialogue taken directly from government wire-tapping. Only the uneducated will learn something new from the story: Matthew Modine plays counselor/ringleader Rick Singer, who illegally wheels and deals to ensure that the kids of his wealthy clients get accepted into top-tier colleges. Alas, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman (and their daughters) are a footnote in this saga; there’s no insight — let alone fresh revelations — into how and why these actresses decided to break the rules. (They’re also left out of the dramatizations. Casting cowards!!!) Someday there will be a definitive no-holds-barred account of this controversy; until then, this feels like a cheat. (Netflix, now streaming)




2 stars (out of 4)

You can’t blame Tom Holland for wanting to expand his web beyond Spider-Man. But he chose a taxing and bleak 140-minute drama that spins itself in too many directions. Based on the memoir of Nico Walker, it follows his journey from disenfranchised Ohio college student to traumatized Army soldier to opioid addict to desperate bank robber. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame) treat the film’s many chapters like mini-movies, each with a different tone and visual style. There’s a lush romance with a lovely fellow student (Ciara Bravo) and horror film-like battle scenes in Iraq and so on. It’s an overambitious decision with only mixed results: Niko’s issues are rarely probed deeply from an emotional standpoint — and given that he survived his ordeals to tell his story, the stakes are too low. At least Holland, a world away from a wide-eyed superhero teenager, makes him a mildly compelling character. (Apple TV+, now streaming)