Vic’s Flix Movie Review: What Men Want

Here we go again with yet another concussion-begets-enlightenment movie, in a role reversal of 2000’s What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson. That go-round was evidently before women realized they didn’t want…him.
This time we have Taraji P. Henson in the lead role as sports agent Ali Davis, competing in a male dominated occupation as the sole female combatant in a clearly cutthroat business. I must say, I have known only one sports agent and he was among the worst people I’ve ever met. But Ali develops the ability to read men’s thoughts as a result of her head bump, a useful advantage and vivid comic illustration that men are all idiots.
That brings up an interesting trend that I’m hopefully not just imagining. As women secure an increasing number of lead roles, their male co-stars seem to be turning into MeToo fantasies – docile, moral, soft-spoken and male model good looking. They are great dads and easily offended, unless they’re still old-fashioned jerks. The transition is clearly not complete. I won’t give examples. Just be on the lookout for this and let me know if I’m wrong.
Henson had a long run on the eventually tiresome and convoluted Person of Interest, a TV series that started in 2011 as strong as Mr. Reese (Jim Caviezel) but became hopelessly entangled and collapsed upon itself before cancelation in 2016. She moved on to Empire as Cookie Ryan, another strong dramatic role that spanned several seasons, giving her name and face recognition.
In What Men Want, Henson has proved herself a competent comedienne, summoning up enough F-bombs to get her a seat at any male-dominated table. Most notably, she crashes a secret men’s poker night and crushes the likes of Mark Cuban, Shaquille O’Neal and others, eventually allowing Tracy Morgan to win a big hand in a ploy to win his business.
Casting for this film was straight out of The Love Boat, including Tracy Morgan, Pete Davidson, Max Greenfield, Richard Roundtree and the poker cameos mentioned above. It allowed for faster capsizing than suffered by the SS Poseidon using similar protocols. Familiar faces did not shore up the weak and lengthy script, it just distracted from the otherwise pointless story line. Tracy Morgan is loud but unfunny. Pete Davidson’s character was unnecessary. Max Greenfield is one dimensional in his New Girl persona and really shouldn’t venture far from Zooey Deschanel.
Without revealing the setup for the funniest phrase in the movie, I laughed out loud at the line, “Welcome to Wakanda!” It was cute and well played.
Here I have to admit that I briefly fell asleep – twice – while watching What Men Want. Just short of two hours, it felt like three. I guess what this man really wanted was a nap, and this viewing was the perfect sedative.

What Men Want runs 1 hour, 57 minutes and is rated R.
 Should I see this movie?

Vic’s Flix Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic?

What more appropriate day to see this movie than at its theatrical debut on Valentine’s Day? Isn’t It Romantic is the latest in the alternate reality genre wherein dwell Big13 Going on 30 and even It’s a Wonderful Life. It shares a key plot line popularized in 2001’s Shallow Hal, another movie with a message about body shaming and love. In fact, this film is something of a cross between Shallow Hal and When Harry Met Sally
What Men Want, currently in theaters, and the upcoming Yesterday also begin with a physical trauma. I can only guess that the success of other scripts has led us to a plethora of movies that use this device, unless there was a recent lazy writers’ seminar on the use of an injury to launch a story into another universe. This is no Matrix.
Unlike I Feel Pretty, in which Amy Schumer’s head trauma leads her to be alone with the illusion of her own extreme beauty, Isn’t It Romantic reverses the paradigm, leaving Rebel Wilson mystified that others see her as a great beauty, living her life in a similarly beautified and sanitized New York neighborhood.
What we have here is a parody of a romantic comedy wrapped in a romantic comedy, and it works quite well. Early in the film there is an unfortunately necessary recitation by Rebel Wilson’s character, Natalie, of the lame, predictable events that occur within romantic comedies, on the chance that the audience has not seen their share of this genre. Let’s consider it a reminder, or foreshadowing. We then see those events acted out in glaring fashion after Natalie’s concussion thrusts her into a PG-rated version of her own life. She can’t even drop an F-bomb without a truck horn bleeping over her utterance.
Now comes the difficult portion of this review, the elephant in the room, which is an unfortunate metaphor in this case. You see, Rebel Wilson is making a career of being the latest large woman on the silver screen. In the style of John Candy, Chris Farley and other male comedians before her, and even Melissa McCarthy and the honest-bodied Amy Schumer, she seems prone to physical comedy about her size. At 5 foot three, she is morbidly obese on any ideal weight chart, and is unapologetically leveraging that attribute to her advantage as she did in Bridesmaids,the Pitch Perfect trilogy and 2019’s The Hustle. Sadly, her character in the Pitch series is known as Fat Amy.
In fact, she is very funny and quite beautiful, or shall we characterize her as “beguiling” as co-star Liam Hemsworth continuously describes her throughout the film’s lengthy dream sequence. It’s hard not to confuse this Hemsworth with his brother Chris, a beefed up version of the Hemsworth good looks dynasty that won him the part of Thor we are all now familiar with. Older brother Luke is also an actor in a litter of blue-eyed stallions.
Adam Devine, the endearing but dorky wannabe boyfriend of daughter Haley in TV’s Modern Family is perfectly cast as Natalie’s friend Josh, true-blue in any universe. He appears destined throughout the film to be Natalie’s rightful boyfriend, and perhaps the frog who would be prince. But here’s another twist, and ultimately the movie’s real message. Natalie needs to learn to love herself, a lesson that takes the full hour and a half to be revealed. Only then can she come out of her coma and accept Josh as something other than a friend and coworker.
This is a feel good movie that bends and shapes several underlying well-worn premises in a fun and engaging trip that is worth the price of admission. There are even a few fun music and dance sequences. You come out of the theater feeling thoroughly entertained and that you’ve also learned a couple of things along the way.

Isn’t It Romantic runs 1 hour, 28 minutes and is rated PG-13
Should you see this film?

Vic’s Flix Movie Review: Glass

It has been nineteen years since Bruce Willis emerged as the sole survivor of a horrific train crash in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. Somehow, Willis’s character David Dunn was unaware that he was a superhero with super strength, but as I recall, it was a pretty good movie.
In 2016’s Split we were introduced to the two-dozen personalities of the main character whose name is, well, he has two-dozen names. His 24th personality is a psychopathic superhero called The Beast (James McAvoy), who is out to kill several young girls. It was also a pretty good movie.
It seems that M. Night Shyamalan felt compelled to produce a trilogy rather than just leave well enough alone. Two good movies do not a third guarantee.
Glass is the final chapter in this triad. At least, it should be. The main characters all meet very ordinary ends. Who knew that holding a superhero’s face in a sidewalk puddle is all it takes to destroy him. Yep, that’s the end of David Dunn.
And all you have to do is wait until The Beast is in one of his non-bulletproof personalities to take your shot. Bye bye Beast.
Mr. Glass, the very breakable evil genius played by Samuel L. Jackson is otherwise known as Elijah Price. He spends almost the entire film trying to convince us that he’s not faking his drug-induced zombie-like sedated self. But of course he is. Surprise! And one hard shove is all it takes to shatter him like…glass.
By now we know that a surprise in the form of a climactic mind-bending plot twist is M. Night Shyamalan’s trademark. Unfortunately we now expect to be surprised, so it had better be good. But how can it be when you know it’s coming? The bar continues to rise, and M. Night continues to fall short.
I won’t reveal the twist here, but when it is revealed the viewer finds himself asking, “Is that it? Seriously?” Well, ok.
There was almost no plot in Glass. Three quarters of the very long 129 minutes you’ll never get back is spent building toward an eventual escape from the psychiatric facility run by a woman who looks like Kristen Wiig’s humorless red-headed sister, Ellie Staple, played by Sarah Paulson. She tries to convince the superheroes that they are not at all super.
Along comes Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She is the only girl released by The Beast in Split. She must have survivor’s syndrome, or didn’t feel that Tinder was an effective enough means of finding the perfect psychopath.
If you saw the first two films in this series and really enjoy the characters, perhaps you’ll appreciate this reunion. Otherwise, go to a movie that features more conventional superheroes – the ones who wear cool costumes.
Glass (2019) runs 2 hours, 9 minutes and is rated PG-13

Should you see this movie?

Vic’s Flix Movie Review: Eighth Grade

How did we miss a movie that was included in The Week magazine’s list of the top ten of 2018? Perhaps MoviePass never included it in their own list of allowable films at our local theater. That particular program was one of our favorites for part of the year, until it became utterly useless and we left it behind. And that’s probably good, since we were substituting movie theater snacks for our dinner an unhealthy number of times.
But I digress. Eighth Grade was indeed a movie worth seeing, and one to recommend, with one caveat: if you hated the year in school chronicled in this film as much as I did, you’ll be curled up in a fetal position by the time the movie reaches its mid point. Writer and director Bo Burnham masterfully portrays that awkward time in our development from the perspective of lead actress Elsie Fisher’s wonderful portrayal of Kayla Day, a pimply faced middle-schooler who broadcasts her thoughts and advice on YouTube to an audience of perhaps zero to one.
In 2006 Bo Burnham himself burst onto laptop screens as a real life YouTube sensation, playing piano and singing funny original songs about his own insecurities. Now only age 27, he has since attracted over 250 million views and has achieved award-worthy recognition for his first feature film.
The role of social media in this film, and in our lives, cannot be overstated. Burnham knows it and nails it. Josh Hamilton, playing Mark Day, struggles to connect with tuned-out Kayla at the dinner table. He is able to gain only one-word responses from his social media distracted daughter, who is horrified at the idea of having a conversation with her father. He digs himself into a deeper and deeper hole by insisting that she unplug just long enough to talk at length about one thing – just one thing. Later he seals his fate by secretly following her on a trip to the mall where she hangs out with new friends for the first time.
Kayla’s transformation from sixth grader to high-schooler by way of middle school becomes a tangible and painful trip down memory lane when the graduating class is presented with individual time capsules created two years earlier. The brightly decorated shoebox is filled with memorabilia and a video message-in-a-bottle carried from the past by a SpongeBob thumb drive. A surreal video from sixth grade Kayla asks future Kayla, “Do you have a boyfriend? Are you an amazing person?” Confronting her former self results in a scene that I won’t entirely divulge here. It is a heartwarming father/daughter exchange over a backyard bonfire in which Dad finally gets it right.
There are pivotal moments in life, if you’re a self-aware deeper thinker, not unlike the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. I recall a time in fifth grade when some of my friends first became interested in girls. Suddenly, it seemed as if they got on a bus that several of us hadn’t even seen coming. It was the day I asked my friend Bill, “Hey, you wanna play baseball” and was met with, “No, I’m hanging out with Kelly, Barry and Andrea today.” Not everyone morphs at the same time or in the same way. Bill was also the first person I knew to get a divorce, well before our ten-year high school reunion. The rest of us got on a bus too. Just not that first one.
Along Kayla’s journey are Aiden, played by Luke Prael. He’s the sleepy-eyed cool kid who strolls through scenes to a music track of Kayla’s own imagining. Her crush leads her to boast to him about her library of nude selfies. That gets his attention, and he then asks if she does another very specific attention getting thing. She runs home to do some research and is essentially grossed out by what she finds on Google. 
The transition to high school comes complete with a shadow program. Enter Olivia (Emily Robinson), a wonderfully positive role model who includes Kayla in her own group of friends, but inadvertently sets in motion a situation that potentially heads toward date rape. This is a painful scene that leaves the viewer wondering just what kind of turn this movie is going to take.
Along comes Gabe (Jake Ryan), an awkward chance encounter at a pool party scene slightly reminiscent of The Graduate, whose snorkel and diving mask certify his membership in nerd culture. He is more at Kayla’s level, and eventually has her over for a dinner of chicken nuggets and french fries. He adorably presents Kayla with a row of every flavor of dipping sauce in a neatly arranged line of brightly colored containers. His heart is right where it belongs at this critical time in Kayla’s evolution.
I’ve frequently thought about going back to school. I think second or third grade would be about right. It definitely wouldn’t be eighth grade. But if you’d like to immerse yourself for ninety minutes in that particular crucible of terror where budding adolescents are locked away for two years for lack of a better institution, you’ll thoroughly enjoy being there. It's the womb where mean girls are born, hormones begin to boil over and childhood ends. Just be glad when you move on to high school. Of course, that’s an entirely more horrifying story. Perhaps Burnham’s next project? By all means, see Eighth Grade. But don’t watch it with your own eighth grader. They’ll run screaming.
Eighth Grade (2018) runs one hour, 33 minutes and is rated R.
Should you see this movie?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Marvel fans are pushing this film to huge box office receipts. I’m not sure it’s deserved.  I recommend that you see  Iron Man 3  before see...