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  • Crimes of the heart – ‘The Lovebirds’
    Crimes of the heart – ‘The Lovebirds’

    When the central relationship of your movie – particularly if it’s a rom-com – really pops, it can make up for considerable shortcomings in other respects. If there’s genuine chemistry in that dynamic, then viewers will forgive a lot.

    There’s no denying that Kumail Najiani and Issa Rae have that easy chemistry in “The Lovebirds.” Directed by Michael Showalter (who also directed Nanjiani in the excellent “The Big Sick”) from a script written by Aaron Abrams and Brendon Gall, it’s the story of a couple who, in the midst of what may be the end of their relationship, wind up entangled in a complex and weird mystery.

    As far as this sort of action-adjacent rom-com goes, “The Lovebirds” is pretty familiar stuff. We’ve more or less seen this structure with these beats before – there’s nothing new here. But it still works, thanks to what Nanjiani and Rae bring to the table. Their energy elevates the movie to a significant degree, turning something that could have been generically forgettable into a worthwhile watch.

  • ‘Scoob!’ a doggone good time
    ‘Scoob!’ a doggone good time

    Full disclosure: it is difficult for me to be objective with regards to Scooby Doo. I have had a deep-seated love for all things Hanna-Barbera since I was a kid; those characters are all beloved parts of my childhood pop culture consumption.

    That being said, I was unsure how to feel about “Scoob!” The latest attempt to bring the character to the big screen – now available for rent or purchase via VOD – was an unabashed update, an origin story that I wasn’t at all sure that I needed or wanted. Of course, no IP is safe in the current cinematic landscape, so an update/reboot was all but assured.

    Surprisingly, “Scoob!” is … not that bad. It’s an engaging enough take on the source material, making an effort to stay true to the spirit of the original. There’s a whiff of the formulaic here, but everything is executed with good faith effort. It’s certainly not going to alienate nostalgic fans, while also having a shot and bringing new ones into the fold.

  • Damn it feels weird to be a gangster – ‘Capone’
    Damn it feels weird to be a gangster – ‘Capone’

    Sometimes, you have a movie experience that is unlike any that you’ve ever had before. It’s not about whether the movie is good or bad – we’re talking about something that can’t be so simply defined. We’re talking about a movie that is bad-good or good-bad, a wildly uneven project featuring elements both excellent and execrable.

    We’re talking, ladies and gentlemen, about “Capone.”

    “Capone” transcends the very idea of good and bad. The passion project of writer/director Josh Trank is such a jarringly weird viewing experience that it’s hard to use general terms in describing its quality. The storytelling choices are often vividly unpleasant and the narrative flow is inconsistent – all of which is exacerbated by a needle-pinning performance from Tom Hardy in the titular role.

    This is a film that fails to work in a multitude of ways, yet remains eminently watchable. Granted, it’s peek-through-the-fingers watchable at times, but watchable nevertheless. “Capone” is a roadside accident of a movie – unfortunate and potentially gruesome, yet still oddly fascinating to look at.

  • Feel free to miss ‘The Wrong Missy’ – I wish I had
    Feel free to miss ‘The Wrong Missy’ – I wish I had

    Sometimes, you just know.

    When you’ve been reviewing movies for as long as I have, you start to have pretty good instincts with regards to what kind of film you’re getting even before you sit down to watch it. That isn’t to say that movies are incapable of surprising me – that’s not the case at all – but the reality is that experience gives you the ability to make some fairly accurate educated guesses.

    All this is to say that I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into with Netflix’s “The Wrong Missy,” the new Netflix original from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company. In truth, all you really need to hear is “David Spade vehicle” to have a general sense of what you’re in for.

    However, it’s difficult to articulate just how off-the-rails terrible this movie actually is. Casting David Spade as anything resembling a romantic lead is a mistake on its face, but when you incorporate the lackluster script, disinterested direction and a checklist of the Sandler formula playbook, you’re left with a movie driven by sheer cringe and little else. It is dumb, generally unpleasant and woefully unfunny.

  • Into the woods – ‘Blood and Money’
    Into the woods – ‘Blood and Money’

    Maine-made movies are a relative rarity.

    It’s surprising, really – in a state with an abundant variety of natural beauty ranging from coastlines to mountains to forests, you’d think more filmmakers would take advantage. Of course, there are a number of reasons we don’t see movies made here – some economic, some logistical – but even so, you’d expect a little more frequency, though the truth is that many people may simply not understand the true breadth of opportunity here.

    John Barr understands.

    The Maine native and film industry veteran has made his directorial debut with “Blood and Money,” set and filmed in Maine and available on VOD on May 15. The thriller – also written by Barr – takes advantage of the verdant and untamed forests found in the norther parts of the state, constructing a tale of taut tension about a lone man battling his demons and fighting for his life.

    Tom Berenger stars, bringing his well-earned gravitas to almost every single frame of the film. His stoic quietude matches the looming intensity of the winter forest through which he makes his way; it’s a good match, one that is served well by the gentle pacing of the narrative and the sere serenity of the setting.

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