And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: I Want You Back

While the just-released Marry Me boasts some major global starpower, the just-released I Want You Back is the smarter choice for a circa Valentine’s Day romantic comedy. It’s quirky, engaging and refreshingly clever. And you can watch it on Amazon Prime Video! I Want You Back is a post-breakup meet cute about 30-somethings Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) — two strangers who find each other crying in the stairwell of their Atlanta office building just after being dumped by their significant others. The two quickly bond over their grief, declare themselves “Sadness Sisters,” engage in some drunken karaoke, and then hatch a plan to break up their exes’ new relationships and win back the former love of their lives. Theirs is a tale of desperation fueled by social media envy.

Review: Venom

I don’t think the trailer does this film any favors. It makes Venom look way worse than it is, at least for anyone (like me) who doesn’t have a clue about this Marvel Comics character that is part human, part superhero, part alien blob. Don’t get me wrong. The film is a hot mess if you try to add up the sum of its parts. But a few of the parts are surprisingly entertaining. Okay, one part is surprisingly entertaining: Tom Hardy as disgraced investigative reporter Eddie Brock and his parasitic alter-ego Venom. When the two chat internally amongst themselves, the film is downright funny. Is it supposed to be? No clue.

Quickie Reviews: Hotel Artemis; American Animals

If Ocean’s 8 feels too safe a bet, and Hereditary looks too darn creepy, have no fear — you’ve got a couple of quirky alternatives to choose from in a crazy crowded weekend at the box office. Hotel Artemis stars Jodie Foster as “The Nurse”, the caretaker of a secret “members only” hotel/ER that caters to wounded criminals. The rules are simple and few: No guns. No cops. No killing the other patients. But on a single night in riot-torn Los Angeles 2028, rules are broken – and blood is shed.

Quickie Reviews: Atomic Blonde and Landline

Atomic Blonde is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. As the Cold War appears to be nearing its end, the spy game is hot as ever. British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve a stolen list that threatens to expose the identity of all Western spies. It’s a familiar plot line in espionage thrillers, and in this case, the convoluted plot is a mere vehicle for launching a tangled web of deceit among Broughton’s contacts (including James McAvoy as embedded station chief David Percival) and triggering a whole lot of extended fight scenes. Lorraine’s weapons of choice include anything she can get her hands on – from guns and knives, to keys and high heels – all swung with lethal force. The film is like a hyper-violent Jason Bourne or Bond movie with a lead that happens to be a badass chick.

Gifted

Gifted is admittedly schmaltzy and formulaic, but it fits a current void in our cinematic options for chick flick dramas. It plays a bit like a Nicholas Sparks movie – but with a smartass kid, a scene-stealing one-eyed cat, and the hunky Chris Evans (Captain America) as what one character describes as “the quiet damaged hot guy” at the bar. Evans plays Frank Adler, a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (McKenna Grace) in a quiet coastal town in Florida. He’s been home-schooling the girl, but wants her to socialize more with other kids. So he sends her to public school, where her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) soon discovers that Mary is a math prodigy. That discovery sets in motion a debate over Mary’s education, and a custody battle between Frank and his domineering mother Evelyn (Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan).