8/16/2018

Netflix Movie Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)



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Accused of having "the references of an eighty-year-old woman," sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is a heroine after my own heart. An avid reader of romance with an overactive imagination and a passionate sensibility, Lara Jean is the second of widower Dr. Covey's (John Corbett) three tight-knit girls living in Portland, Oregon.

Opening the night before her beloved big sister, Margot (Janel Parrish) is slated to leave for college in Scotland, in the beginning of director Susan Johnson's first rate adaptation of Jenny Han's eponymous young adult novel, Lara Jean watches in shock as her sister breaks up with her boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard).


Still carrying a torch for the boy next door who was her best friend long before he became Margot's beau, even though she knows she'd never hurt Margot by confessing her feelings to Josh, the emotional upheaval throws her for a loop nonetheless.

Intelligent and resourceful, fortunately we discover that the introverted Lara Jean has developed a secret system for dealing with this very issue by writing an epic love letter to the four other boys for whom she'd fallen before. With a total of five letters hidden inside a hat box in her bedroom closet, Lara Jean is horrified when they're put in the mail and sent to the five objects of her past (and neighborly present) affection.


Hoping to avoid the emotional landmine waiting for her if she has a heart-to-heart with Josh (as well as Margot), she improvises the best way she can – grabbing and kissing Peter (Noah Centenio), the past crush nearest her – when Josh catches her line of sight, letter in hand.

Conveniently brokenhearted himself after getting dumped by Lara Jean's best friend turned frenemy Gen (Emilija Baranac), Peter agrees to help her out and hopefully make Gen jealous at the same time. Falling back on the familiar romcom trope of the “fake couple,” the two create a contract of rules and promises from no kissing to films they must watch, which is where a majority of the fun begins in this adorable teen romance.


Needless to say, given the aforementioned summary, Johnson's sophomore directorial effort is far more complicated than most grown-up romcom fare. However, right from the start of this instantly likable and surprisingly sophisticated feature, it's obvious that to her credit, Boys was made with the utmost of care.

From the attention to detail displayed in the intricate design of Lara Jean's colorful books and knickknack filled cozy bedroom sanctuary to the warm atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest setting (complete with a Gilmore Girls like diner), the film welcomes viewers to the fully realized world of author turned executive producer Jenny Han's YA series with ease.


Free of the rude humor usually relied upon in the romantic comedy genre, Sofia Alvarez's well-written, fast-moving, laugh out loud script is compelling enough to attract viewers of all ages. Suitable for tweens on up, despite some sexual references, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is vastly more wholesome than a majority of small screen teen shows.

Filled with an affable young cast, including our MVP lead Lana Condor who handles a wide range of emotions from embarrassment to determination admirably, Boys is so entertaining that I watched it twice in the months leading up to this review.


Referencing Sixteen Candles onscreen, it's evident that – although it will delight fans of '90s and '00s contemporary teen classics from Clueless to Mean Girls – much like those movies, on page and screen alike, the storytelling building blocks and the filmic roots of Boys can be found in the universally appealing era of John Hughes.

Coincidentally released on the very same weekend that another Asian-American film hits the big screen (in the form of Hollywood's splashy adaptation of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, which marks Tinseltown's first Asian-American film in twenty-five years), Boys makes a perfect stay-at-home follow-up film to create a Crazy romantic double feature.

The second female helmed title (after Lauren Miller Rogen's Like Father) and third terrific Netflix original (also including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) to hit the streaming site this month, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is further proof that for women in the summer of 2018, some of the most entertaining filmmaking is happening on your TV.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/14/2018

Blu-ray Review: Affairs of State (2018)


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More than a year after the death of the senator for whom he interned, Michael Lawson (an excellent David Corenswet) finds himself "living on borrowed time in a borrowed SUV," in desperate need of a job.

Fluent in the official language of Washington, D.C., which is telling people what they want to hear, Michael has also perfected the art of the charm attack. When he isn't hitting up his friends for leads (including his roommate Callie played by Thora Birch), he cashes in on his looks, regularly sleeping with the Ladies Who Fund in exchange for an invite or introduction to someone higher up on D.C.'s power ladder.


Far from a cad, in this awkward yet ambitious feature from director Eric Bross, Corenswet's calculating but still seemingly sincere protagonist morally resides somewhere between Warren Beatty in Shampoo and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

Tired of relying on sex as his only skill set, Lawson makes a Faustian deal with Adrien Grenier's devilish political wunderkind Rob Reynolds by trading a thumb drive worth of blackmail material on a judge in exchange for a job working on the presidential campaign of Texas Senator John Baines (David James Elliott).


Looking to use this position as a stepping stone towards his own eventual congressional career, Michael gets much more than he bargained for when he falls under the spell of not only the senator's sexy but intimidating second wife, Judith (played by Mimi Rogers) but also his beautiful daughter, Darcy (Grace Victoria Cox), who has a complicated relationship with her stepmom.

Opening with Michael's timely voice over as well as a like-minded speech by Baines that addresses our divided country, Affairs of State tries to square its politics somewhere to the right of dead-center by having the candidate run under Rob's newly launched conservative-leaning United Party.


However, just like the film's bland politics and the way that Michael is with everyone he meets, instead of giving us something assured and compelling, Tom Cudworth's script falters as it tries on various genres in the hopes of delivering something for everyone.

Missing not only the cloak and dagger style intrigue – let alone suspense – needed for a potent political thriller as well as more time spent building up the love triangle aspect to create either D.C.'s Graduate or a gender-reversed play on Damage, Affairs of State unsuccessfully fuses the two half-developed plot arcs together to create something roughly average and in between.


Spending too much time with characters and subplots we could care less about and not enough time with the ones we do, by the end, we feel very little connection to any of them. And that is unfortunate indeed as I was very impressed by the way Eric Bross and Tom Cudworth handled character driven storytelling in their 1995 debut Ten Benny, starring Adrian Brody.

Watchable in a "it's late, it's on cable, and the remote's on the other side of the room and I'm too tired to get it" kind of way, while State has its moments and the cast does their best to turn their underwritten one dimensional roles into three-dimensional ones, it isn't too long before this predictable house of cards comes tumbling down.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/10/2018

Movie Review: Elizabeth Harvest (2018)


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We open on an eye – Elizabeth Harvest’s eye – newly awakened but taking in her surroundings as if still in a dream, as her romantic voice-over reveals.

A new bride being stolen away to her husband's "secret world," the image of the beautiful Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) in a car being driven by her husband (Ciarán Hinds) on the edge of a cliff on a lonely mountain road is idyllic only for an instant. But as her voice drops away, the shot expands, recalling the opening credits of Kubrick’s The Shining and an ending that's anything but happily ever after.


And the fact that, upon carrying his decades younger bride across the threshold, the wealthy older widowed scientist Henry (Hinds) gleefully points out out that they’re "participating in a kidnapping ritual," only adds to our sense of foreboding as does the fact that he's often framed above her in a powerful position as if he's a teacher ready to scold.

Pulling back from the happy couple to unveil the household staff, including the cryptic housekeeper Claire (played by the always compelling Carla Gugino) and the loyal, blind, obedient Oliver (Matthew Beard), Venezuelan writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez follows up his allusion to Kubrick with a structural nod to Hitchcock’s Rebecca in his sumptuous slow burn spin on the French fairy tale Bluebeard.

Frequently translated to film, it's a work that even Hitchcock himself couldn't resist adapting with Cary Grant in the lead in Suspicion, which studio head David O. Selznick sanitized in a happy ending which took place on a lonely mountainous road that could've doubled for the one at the start of this film.

Determined to tell you a story you know both in a way (and within a world) that you don't, Gutierrez blurs the edges of Gothic romance, science fiction, and suspense in this genre blended experimental effort.


Not interested in making Brides Dead Revisited (sorry, I couldn't resist), in a progressive change of pace, our unusual eponymous lead not only fuels the bulk of the increasingly complicated mystery but is also given more than a fighting chance to take on whatever crosses her path.

Leading her through his labyrinthine estate early on into the film in a sequence that echoes the fairy tale, Henry explains to Elizabeth that much like him, her thumbprint is the only passkey she'll need to enter any one of the luxurious rooms on the premises, before that is, he stresses that the only room she must promise never to go in is the one so bright it gives off a bridal diamond-like glow.

Dazzling her with the sheer amount of jewelry and fashion she now has at her disposal, while Elizabeth is understandably overwhelmed, we're not only curious as to the origins of their unlikely relationship but also distracted by the suspicious clues that production designer Diana Trujillo, art director Francisco Arbelaez, and set decorator Juliana Barreto Barreto have hidden in plain sight.


Perhaps foreshadowing Henry's nefarious intentions and the way he sees his bride in the predatory art that hangs on the wall alongside some of the primal objects littered throughout, since the film is set in and around one location, it's intriguing to note the ways in which our relationship to the darkly lit rooms evolve over the course of its running time.

Subconsciously linking the brightly lit room to sexual desire, Henry kisses her passionately within range of the warm glow. Told to be "a good girl" by a man old enough to be her father, we know what's coming even before he turns around as, much like Pandora and the box, when Henry leaves for the day, the mystery room is one place she’s bound to go to "be bad."

Turning the fairy tale on its head, while of course, the entry to the room places Elizabeth in peril, it also resets the narrative in an ingenious way at the same time by giving the audience (and additionally our viewer surrogate, Elizabeth) a startlingly vital clue to a puzzle that will take the rest of the film's running time to solve.


In doing so, it relies rather extensively on the introduction of a character’s diary as well as substantial expositional dialogue in order to help untangle the ambitious web woven throughout. But fittingly, just like the many twist filled books and films that must've influenced the work from Frankenstein to Brian De Palma's '70s and '80s tales of Hitchcockian obsession and beyond, Harvest practically demands a second viewing to help make sense of it all.

Hindered slightly by a noticeable lack in tension once a major obstacle is cleared from our heroine’s path, although the last two acts could've benefited from tighter editing as we process the film's extended flashbacks to catch up, to both the filmmaker's credit as well as the sensational cast, we remain fascinated throughout.

Giving his longtime love (and one of my favorite actors) Carla Gugino one of her best roles in years, in past productions we've often looked to the empathetic Gugino to help guide us in an uneasy situation or take the temperature of the room. Fighting against that, Harvest tests Gugino’s range (not to mention her potential as a poker player) by asking her to reveal little and instead stay relatively still.


Unable to read various responses from a side eye to a laugh the "right" way early on, Gugino's character and her relationship to Lee's blank slate-like lead makes the most sense in hindsight, similar to the way that Christopher Nolan's Memento uncovered different sides of the performance by Carrie-Anne Moss both in retrospect and as the film went on.

Enhancing the dreamlike feel established in Lee's voice-over early on, Gutierrez and his longtime cinematographer Cale Finot move away from the ethereal light of Harvest's beginning by placing a painterly emphasis on bright primary and secondary color contrasts and chiaroscuro to offset the darkness throughout.


Ideally suited to play alongside this year's other brilliant Gothic fairy tale release via Matt Pearce's Beast, from Elizabeth Harvest's use of homage to the way it puts its source material through a genre blender before bringing it into the twenty-first century, Gutierrez's exceptionally well-made opus is as creatively daring as it is wondrously told.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: Dead Night (2017)


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Original Title: Applecart

Opening with a scene of traditional horror movie date bait as a couple is attacked at a lover's lane in the 1960s before jumping ahead fifty years and settling into a haunted cabin in the woods storyline, the first act of Dead Night gives viewers the feeling that first time feature filmmaker Brad Baruh is aiming for a Genre's Greatest Hits mixtape vibe.

Built on a deposit of iron oxide said to have the ability to "realign everything that's wrong with you," even though she practices western medicine as a hospital nurse, Casey Pollack (Brea Grant) rents the desolate cabin as a last ditch effort to try and cure her dying husband, James (AJ Bowen).

Arriving with the couple's two teenage children (Sophie Dalah and Joshua Hoffman) and their daughter's friend, Becky (the most likable teen of the lot, played by Elise Luthman) also in tow, as the family settles into what we fear might be their final destination after the long drive, we realize that both inside the cabin and out in the woods, something is very, very wrong.


An old-fashioned yet compelling start, rather than let the story unfold naturally as a work of slow burn horror, Dead Night inexplicably cuts to an Unsolved Mysteries style true crime series airing simultaneously on a handful of TV screens in the middle of the woods that suggests that one or more of our characters might not be as innocent as they seem.

Revealing far too much too fast, including at least one (potentially) major plot twist, while the dueling narrative gimmick might've sounded good on paper, onscreen it just comes across as laughably, pointlessly cheesy given the sight of those old-fashioned TVs in the snow.

Losing us just as Night's suspense should've reached its peak after the family discovers local politician – and rudest houseguest ever – Leslie Bison (well played by Barbara Crampton) face down in the snow, although there’s some initial excitement when things turn violent and the remaining survivors try their best to fight, run, and hide to stay alive, sadly, it doesn't last long.


Given a major narrative overhaul after the film – then called Applecart – bombed at Fantastic Fest, I can only hope that this configuration makes more sense. Unfortunately because Irving Walker's script boasts nearly as many ideas as it has disparate threads, without some new reshoots to fill in for Dead Night's spoiler filled, tacky TVs (just to name one problem), all the editing in the world will be unable to bail this one out.

With a script you can't follow from Points A to B because it keeps looking for a shortcut in Y or Z, despite some strong (though admittedly gruesome) special effects and a talented cast of genre veterans, in the end, Dead Night feels like a five-part anthology horror movie chopped up and spliced back together as one.

In other words? If you have a deposit of iron oxide, I have a movie that needs to be realigned.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Netflix Movie Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)


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Like the pet that found its way into your home that you wonder how you ever lived without, have you ever stumbled on a book when you needed it the most and thought that it was written especially for you?

The power of books to unite and inspire us is at the heart of director Mike Newell's lush adaptation of the 2008 number one New York Times bestselling novelThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.


No stranger to ensemble pictures or literary adaptations given his work on Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire respectively, in Guernsey (which is largely set on that very Channel Island), through the use of both flashback and dialogue, Newell and company breathe fresh life into the 1940s period movie while showing us a side of WWII largely overlooked onscreen.

Adapted by a trio of talented scripters, including Don Roos, Kevin Hood, and Thomas Bezuchua, all of whom worked on it at different stages, Guernsey centers on Juliet Ashton (Cinderella and Mamma Mia sequel star Lily James), a London based writer who tries to keep up a good front while dealing with the stressful after effects of World War II in 1946.


With half of her time devoted to book readings and apartment hunting with her best friend and publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode) and the rest spent dining and dancing with her dashing American GI beau, Mark (Glen Powell), Juliet’s daily routine is shaken up for the better when she receives a warm and insightful letter from a farmer from Guernsey named Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman).

Having come across her name and address in one of her old Charles Lamb books, Dawsey asks Juliet where he could perhaps track down more of the author's work for his eponymous book club, which he and a handful of other Islanders had created out of necessity when they were caught out after curfew by German soldiers who took over Guernsey during the war.

Initially forced after their run-in to keep up appearances with the club, eventually the small group of friends and neighbors found themselves welcoming both the escape from the realities of war and conversational debate that each literary meeting delivered.


Fascinated, after she sends Dawsey the book he’d been searching for and a letter of her own, the two correspond back-and-forth a short while before Juliet impulsively writes back once more. Inviting herself to their book club meeting, Juliet kisses her bewildered boyfriend goodbye and catches a ship to Guernsey before she can change her mind or Dawsey says no.

Thrilled to have a real writer in their midst, over the course of an evening of lively Brontë discussion and a taste of potato peel pie, Juliet discovers there's much more to the story of the literary society than meets the eye.

Becoming fast friends with the group (including her smoldering pen pal), Juliet extends her stay, determined to locate the society's missing founder, Elizabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay) and learn more about exactly what happened on the island during the war.


Unable to film on location in Guernsey due to both the logistical nightmare of sending cast, crew, and equipment back-and-forth across the English Channel as well as overhauling the island to make it look like the 1940s, Newell's talented behind-the-scenes crew – especially production designer James Merrifield, costumer Charlotte Walter, and cinematographer Zac Nicholson – transport the viewer nonetheless by filling the frame with exquisite detail.

Instantly inviting and richly atmospheric, Guernsey recalls the warmth and ensemble camaraderie of Chocolat. Featuring four actors from Downton Abbey in key roles, Guersney benefits from the chemistry of its cast, not only in terms of its romantic leads (in the love triangle of James with fellow up-and-coming movie stars Huisman and Powell) but especially within the Guernsey book club itself.


While we do have more questions about some of the film's supporting characters – chief among them regarding Penelope Wilton's Amelia – that I’ll eagerly look to the book to answer and resolve, by working in a compelling wartime mystery, the film's screenwriters remind us that this is much more than a traditional love story.

Boasting a boldly feminist heroine (exceedingly well played by Lily James) and a moving storyline, Guernsey caps off a terrific summer of female oriented Netflix fare with one of the streaming giant's strongest features.


As savory as it is hearty, while avid readers and book club veterans are sure to stream the literary adaptation on day one, in spite of its clunky title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is sure to become a word-of-mouth hit before long.

Inspiring us to scour our bookshelves for that one book that brings a world full of possibilities to life as well as find a Guernsey-like group of our own to be with, connect with, and read with, Newell’s admirable feature is as in love with ideas as it is romance.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/03/2018

Netflix Movie Review: Like Father (2018)



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The first of two excellent new female directed features to premiere on Netflix this month, Lauren Miller Rogen's Like Father begins with the tried-and-true romantic comedy premise of a bride being left at the altar before things move in a delightfully unexpected direction.

Opting to leave strategic voice mail reminders instead of walking down the aisle on time, when her husband-to-be realizes that his fiancée has chosen her phone over him once again, Kristen Bell's workaholic bride Rachel finds herself without a groom.

However when one man leaves, another arrives. Surprised to be face-to-face with Harry (Kelsey Grammer), the estranged father she hasn't seen in decades, the two spend a spontaneous night of drunken commiserating after which, she's even more shocked to discover that they've wound up on her honeymoon.


Trapped on a cruise ship together, while on one level the film works very well as an upbeat, feature length ad for Royal Caribbean – in stark contrast to the way that Adam Sandler has freely admitted he chooses exotic settings for his films as a way to vacation with family and friends – Like Father's setting serves a crucial role.

Had the two reconnected and found themselves in say, Hawaii, they would've gotten on the next available flight back to reality as soon as they sobered up. But trapped in close quarters on a vessel where they don't know anyone else and are constantly congratulated by strangers who believe they're newlyweds, Rachel and Harry are forced to interact. Like two people stuck on a desert island, on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, Rachel can run but she can't hide.


Addressing some of the practicalities of their instant vacation right away (like the fact that they'd left without luggage), as a storyteller, Miller Rogen is smart enough to know that they're not going to be able to dive right into the rift of their relationship without a serious push.

And in Like Father, this comes in the form of an entertaining and wisely diverse ensemble of fellow travelers, including scene stealer Paul M. Downs as a new family therapist and one half of a gay couple as well as the filmmaker's husband Seth Rogen as a Canadian schoolteacher in a small but hilariously understated role.


Calling Rachel out for her incessant cellphone use and pushing her and Harry into a number of the ship's activities – from appearing as contestants on a newlywed game show in one of the film's comedic highlights to hiking around Jamaican waterfalls – it's only a matter of time before emotions, grudges, and secrets erupt.

Written over the course of six years (and seventeen drafts!), following her the release of her first co-scripted effort For a Good Time Call..., after life dealt Miller Rogen a cruel hand following her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, she was inspired to turn that darkness into light, resulting in an ultimately sweet yet surprisingly moving, multilayered feature filmmaking debut.


While the decision to incorporate some of the real world issues facing people today gives Father an unexpected sense of gravitas, Miller Rogen takes a cue from mid '80s John Hughes and (along with her charming stars) keeps things moving at a fast pace, knowing that it works against the her upbeat, sunshine bright summer picture to dwell on things too long.

Likewise working against some of the genre's stereotypes by taking Like Father out of the realm of romantic comedy and into the mainstream, despite some unavoidable predictability in plot, Miller Rogen does her best to take an unexpected approach. And one of the most impressive examples is in the way the writer/director makes sure that, although she needs to find a balance, Rachel isn't treated like a villain for (much like her father) loving her job.


Immediately believable as father and daughter, in what – despite the fun ensemble vibe – is a terrific two-hander, the always likable Bell and Grammer serve and volley one-liners with ease, nicely adapting to changes in tone.

Delivering some of the staples of other Netflix movies including multi-generational appeal and a killer soundtrack, Like Father adds in cruise friendly karaoke tunes, knowing that when your film stars a Disney princess, you've absolutely got to get her to sing.


While, yes, Royal Caribbean couldn't have paid for better advertising, in Like Father, Miller Rogen combines real world problems with traditional screwball and romcom building blocks to create a solidly entertaining summer comedy you're sure to stream more than once. And who knows, you might just call your relatives to come over and watch.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/01/2018

Blu-ray Review: Overboard (2018)


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Directed with a "look ma, no hands!" approach by Garry Marshall, 1987's screwball romantic comedy Overboard is memorable mostly for the chemistry of real life couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and Marshall's ability to keep things moving fast enough so that you don't dwell on the sexist goings-on (see also: Marshall's Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, just to name a few). Essentially a rich bitch comeuppance picture, from the very first time I saw Overboard as a child, I thought it was ridiculously out-of-touch.

Starring in director Rob Greenberg's gender reversal remake, while Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez do not have the chemistry of the original leads (though few romcom teams do) let alone that of the Titanic alter-egos of their character namesakes Kate and Leo, they're two genuine, funny, affable pros who know how to work with even the most basic of comedic material and use it to their advantage. And that's exactly what they do here, resulting in a remake that manages to surpass the original in terms of sheer comedic storytelling alone, while coming up short as a romantic comedy.


Perhaps recognizing that, the film's trio of writers including Leslie Dixon (who penned the original and also came up with the new story), Greenberg, and Wedding Crashers and We're the Millers scripter Bob Fisher make the wise decision to make this Overboard less of a romcom and more of an ensemble family comedy which plays to the strengths of its cast.

Led by Mom's Faris, Overboard is filled with small screen veterans like Eva Longoria, Swoosie Kurtz, and Mel Rodriguez. And while Rodriguez in particular is as much a scene stealer here as he is on Fox's sadly canceled The Last Man on Earth, he's got some competition in a welcome return to film for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sliding Doors favorite, John Hannah, who has plenty of experience stealing focus and working with talented, diverse ensembles.


Playing around with not just gender but also culture, class, ethnicity, Overboard uses the same daffy screwball era inspired premise of the original, only with Eugenio Derbez in the Goldie Hawn role as the spoiled, egocentric son and heir to one of Mexico's wealthiest family businesses, Leonardo Montenegro who spends most of his time most of his time drinking and partying aboard his super yacht.

Busily studying to become a nurse, Faris's Kate works a number of jobs to provide for her three daughters. Crossing paths with Leonardo after she boards the yacht as a cleaner, Derbez's playboy hits on, insults, and belittles Faris within seconds of meeting her – later firing Kate and dumping her employer's expensive carpet cleaner in the water when, instead of fetching him a snack, she had the gall to tell him off.


Falling off the yacht and hitting his head in the middle of a powerful storm, in a karmic twist of fate, Leonardo winds up with no memory off the coast of Oregon. Desperate after receiving an eviction notice, in a twist that wouldn't have been out of place in a Myrna Loy or Doris Day movie, Kate's friend Theresa (Longoria) talks her into claiming Leonardo as her husband, in order to give her a hand until she can pass her upcoming nursing exam.

Feeling (slightly) better about her decision after – like something straight out of a telenovela – Leonardo's sister walks away from him in order take his eventual place in the family business, Kate and her three daughters eagerly play along.


Welcoming "Leo" home with chores, a job working construction alongside Theresa's husband Bobby (Rodriguez), as well as an amusing backstory to keep him out of her bedroom, the film rebounds from a rocky start before perking up considerably in its last two acts.

Moving past the original's Taming of the Shrew premise, as an ensemble family comedy, 2018's Overboard benefits from the stronger foundation. Building in more backstory for the characters which pays off in delightful ways, in addition to a few sea movie Easter eggs, whether just in spirit or through comedic nods, this one is recalls past hits from Arthur in an early scene with Derbez and Hannah to Mystic Pizza and Return to Me in the way it delightfully weaves in Theresa and Bobby.


Distinctly international in flavor, from Leonardo's Norwegian crew to his Scottish right hand man, Overboard scores some great laughs while reflecting our global melting pot. And while that could've been played up even more, you have to hand it to producer Derbez and the filmmaking team, for daring to think big while moving past predictable American and Mexican culture clash jokes.


Made with the best of intentions, while it easily rises above the original in terms of its overall plot, from the lukewarm romantic chemistry of its otherwise charming leads to a few bumps in the film's open and close, Overboard suffers from an overall rushed feeling. Nonetheless slightly above average as a film you can bring your family to see – tweens and up – and feel good about, much like its predecessor, Overboard plays best when, like Leonardo, you're feeling down, out, or under the weather and need cheering up.

The first planned remake announced by Derbez, Fisher, and Greenberg, the team will return with their take on Francis Veber's hilarious 2006 comedy The Valet.


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