Movies of the Week #52 (2021)

The French Dispatch (2021): Wes Anderson is one of the most stylistically distinctive directors out there – and you either love the style or love it much less than you usually love things. In his latest, he becomes idiosyncratic to a fault – a series of three stories, the first of which entices, but the latter two fall rather flat. As usual, a star studded cast with some fancy performances are there for your entertainment, but this is no Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s still fine stuff, nonetheless, particularly seeing how quotable it proves. 7

Don’t Look Up (2021): Every year there’s a year brimming with high-profile actors that…just doesn’t work. Usually it’s a mushy rom-com, but this is an allegorical doomsday movie that’s about as heavy handed as a slap from aunt Jemima. Sure, it’s nice to watch LDC, JLaw, MStree et al., but everything is so on the nose, so blunt, that I found it off-putting. Thankfully, the first part of the movie has some humor and wit to it, so that was almost enjoyable, but it sours towards the predictably preachy ending. 6

Last Train to Christmas (2021): If you’re up for a not-so-Christmasy-Christmas-movie, this might be something for you. Set…on a train, it does a bit of a time shuffle in telling the story of Tony Towers, a self-aggrandizing promoter in the 80s. After seeing the consequences of his poor life choices, he starts trying to fix them by nosing around in the past, to mediocre results. If you accept the idea that changing one thing can so fundamentally change your life’s path, then the only thing you’ll have to tolerate is some confusing back-and-forth in the latter part of the film. Thankfully, it all sticks together on the merit of Michael Sheen’s performance and the landing is smooth and, one would say, in the spirit of Christmas. 6

She’s All That (1999): So how about a golden oldie? Or, well, just an oldie, because the movie sure ain’t all that. It presents, however, a well trodden path of teen-com terrain, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook, whose chemistry is…non-explosive. But they are young and fit, as are most pseudo-high-schoolers around them, and when you add in a bet, an “ugly duckling” turned prom queen and a bit of drama, you’ve got yourself a story of cinematic reference. Ah, but it did propel a sweet tune to fame (which is actually how I ended up watching it on Christmas day for the first time in my life), so there’s at least that. And an all around unmemorable movie, beyond the throwback to the affection I nurtured for RLC when I was a teen. 5

We Broke Up (2021): It doesn’t help much that WBU features two independently likable leads in Aya Cash and William Jackson Harper, because this is a movie that actually goes to make a point of the incompatibility between them. The set-up is simple – a marriage proposal goes wrong, our duo tries to survive another wedding because of a prior engagement, drama finds its parallels and then everything plays out. And by everything, I mean not much, really, as is often the case in a faltering relationship. So while there are a few solid scenes and crumbling feels, the movie is just boring and doesn’t really reward the viewer’s emotional investment. 5