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Review: Coming 2 America

Hard to believe it’s been more than 30 years since Crown Prince Akeem Jaffer (Eddie Murphy) and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) fled the palace – and an arranged marriage – in the wealthy African nation of Zamunda, and landed in Queens, New York, on a comical quest for true love. The 1988 comedy classic Coming to America was a real gem. Its sequel, Coming 2 America, is more like cubic zirconia. It has a bit of sparkle but pales against the original.

The trip is still worth taking, for nostalgia’s sake and a few good laughs. Just keep the expectations in check.

Quickie Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

The only opinion that really matters here would be that of a kid who likes animated movies. Especially Disney animated movies. And for that particular demographic, Raya and the Last Dragon is a pretty safe bet. The movie stays true to the conventional Disney formula with a story, animation and voices that kids can embrace and parents can easily tolerate. It’s not top-tier classic Disney, but it’s a pleasant enough family-friendly diversion if you have Disney+ with Premier Access (i.e. it’ll cost ya extra). It’s also being released in select theaters, but I still can’t suggest anyone of any age go that route before we reach something close to herd immunity.

Quickie Review: Fatale

When a Hilary Swank movie (Million Dollar Baby, Conviction, Boys Don’t Cry) rolls out this time of year, you’re inclined to think – Oscar bait? I know I did – without knowing anything about Fatale. Lesson learned. Timing isn’t everything – especially during a pandemic. The only award Fatale should be up for is a Razzie, for trying soooo hard to be Fatal Attraction. The performances are solid – elevated by Swank’s presence – but Fatale itself is purely middle of the road material. It’s a psychological thriller/murder mystery that relies heavily on its melodramatic score to intensify the convoluted stakes. It also attempts to pull racial injustice into the mix, though that message too gets lost in the muddled plot.

Review: The Prom

I miss Broadway. And while Hamilton certainly helped fill the void during this pandemic, the historical rapfest isn’t one of those big, splashy, colorful broadway musicals that you serendipitously try to catch after standing in the discount line at TKTS. The Prom fits that particular playbill. Director Ryan Murphy (TV’s Glee) saw the show on Broadway and immediately knew he could adapt it to the big screen (or small screen, as the case may be). Add a hefty dose of star power, make it available on Netflix, and let the party – or prom – commence.

Cinema Clash Podcast: The Climb, Come Away

I wasn’t blown away by Come Away. But I was somewhat entertained by The Climb. To find out why, tune in to this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast!

Charlie and I hash over the mash-up of two childhood classics (Come Away), find common ground on a wry dramedy about friendship and betrayal (The Climb), and chat about other new releases, his kid’s introduction to ParaNorman, a look ahead to Dune, and the possible return of the Has Fallen franchise.

Review: Come Away

I’m conflicted about Come Away. It presents an intriguing concept and has some visual appeal and a solid cast, but I just don’t think we need another spin on one classic, let alone two, that  has already been imagined and reimagined a gazillion times over the years. Plus, it’s tinged with such sadness throughout that I simply felt bummed out watching. Magical escapism as a survival mechanism failed to lift my spirits. 

Quickie Review of a Quirky Short: John Bronco

I have no idea what I just watched, yet I found it quite amusing. John Bronco is a comedy short (37 minutes) that tells the unbelievable story of the rise, fall and ultimate redemption of John Bronco, legendary pitchman for the Ford Bronco. Unbelievable, because it’s fiction. I thought so, but wasn’t 100% sure… until Tim Meadows appeared as Bronco’s manager Donovan Piggot. John Bronco is a mockumentary that creates a legend who never was, yet resembles vintage pitchmen who did exist. Think the Marlboro Man aka Bob Norris, or Robert Conrad pitching Eveready Batteries. Classics in a rugged, golden age of advertising complete with earworm jingles, loyal followers and guest appearances on Carson.

Quickie Review: Kajillionaire

Kajillionaire is flush with quirk. It’s an odd dramedy about a family of con artists comprised of Theresa (Debra Winger), Robert (Richard Jenkins), and their 26-year-old daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood). All her life, Old Dolio has been taught to swindle, steal and scam at every opportunity. It’s all she knows, because it’s all her parents know. But then, during a hastily-conceived heist, a stranger named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) enters their midst and turns Old Dolio’s world upside down. Melanie gives Old Dolio a chance to experience normal human interaction and childhood pleasures (pancakes!) for the first time, leaving Old Dolio to question whether her parents truly love her or simply view her as a pawn in their endless game of chicanery.

Quickie Review: Antebellum

Antebellum could have been a seminal film for the times – if the story made any sense. It aims high, but gets bogged down in a metaphorical morass about past and present issues relating to race, class and gender. The film is billed as a high-concept psychological thriller/horror movie from the producers of the Jordan Peele gems Get Out and Us. But it fails to measure up, and the ending is far from satisfying. Fortunately, it was under two hours so the time did not feel like a total waste. More like a disappointment.

Review: Made In Italy

What are the odds of two films set in Italy, where art plays a prominent role, both coming out on the same day? I guess, in a pandemic, all bets are off. The audiences are likely to differ though for the unpredictable adult drama The Burnt Orange Heresy and the predictable, yet harmlessly watchable father-son melodrama Made in Italy, starring real father and son Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson.