Trilogies are not common within the genre of romantic comedies. The formula of “boy and girl meet, they fall in love, they break up, they get back together” can only be stretched so far within a span of a two hour long story, it’s even harder to expand on that formula for another four hours worth of story. Sure, there have been attempts, such as “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, and “Before Midnight” (although they aren’t comedies), and other attempts focus on the three phases of the relationship: the budding romance, their wedding day, and the birth of the first child (see the “Meet The Parents” trilogy, or better yet, don’t). So I was hoping that when Netflix planned to make a sequel to their hit movie “To All The Boys I Loved Before”, I feared it would walk into all the tropes and cliches of rom-coms before it. Thankfully, they didn’t go far into cringe territory. But how does the film fair as a whole? Let’s find out.
Award season is upon us. While most of the previous calendar year was full of tentpole movies that were hit or miss at the box office, now is the time when the film industry pats itself on the back for the few weeks when they released good products upon unsuspecting audiences. And now that Netflix has officially been agreed upon as a studio worthy of being nominated for major awards (much to the chagrin of Steven Spielberg), the streaming service has not one, but two aces up its sleeve for Best Picture, among other possible awards. The first, I already reviewed, in the form of the much hyped “The Irishman”, but then there’s the more downplayed drama that I’ll be talking about in this review, “Marriage Story”.
There’s a meme going around online of Doctor Manhattan, the man-made god from Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”. He’s staring up at the stars in the sky, while three captions float around him. The captions read “It is May 25, 1983, and I am about to watch the last Star Wars movie”, “It is May 19, 2005, and I am about to watch the last Star Wars movie”, and “It is December 20, 2019, and I am about to watch the last Star Wars movie”. The lesson of the story being that there will never be such a thing as “the last Star Wars movie”, because its success won’t allow there to be a last movie. Now in the hands of Disney, it will be milked for profit until the end of time itself. Chances are, you will be dead before there is truly a “last Star Wars movie”. But for those in denial, we have what is being promoted as “the last chapter of the Skywalker saga”, a supposed conclusion to a story arc going back 42 years. Did Disney stick the landing, or will it have people wishing this was indeed the “last Star Wars movie”, period?
Way back when, in the far away year of 2003, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was released upon unsuspecting audiences. No one knew what to expect, considering it was based on an amusement park ride that was without a story or characters, and its lead actor was Johnny Depp, who was merely an artsy-fartsy character actor at the time, and not a proven box office draw. Needless to say, the movie blew away all expectations, turning out to be a legitimately well written, well acted, and well made movie. So naturally, Disney had to ruin it by making four sequels, each of lesser quality than the last, to the point the series is now in talks to be rebooted altogether. Fast forward to 2017, Sony decided to release “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, and while it isn’t as iconic as “PotC: TCotBP”, it was another movie that people had very little expectations for, and yet became a huge hit. So naturally, a sequel was made. Did it fall into the same trap as “Pirates”? Let’s find out together.
As I look back on the year 2019, one story I couldn’t help but notice that was being pushed in the entertainment news media was the meteoric rise of one Nora Lum, aka “Awkwafina”. This self-made rapper turned actress from New York starred in a half dozen movies within the last three years, and was promoted as a comedic genius of sorts, even being named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainers of the Year and Time Magazine’s 100 Influential People. I’ve seen some of her work, and while she is funny at times, she won’t be making anyone forget about the likes of George Carlin or Robin Williams any time soon. But then she took a serious turn and starred in an independent drama, and surprise, she can act, too. It’s a tale of culture clash, family matters, and the universal heartbreak of losing a loved one. The movie in question is “The Farewell”.
As a child of the 1980s, John Hughes was a staple of my early years of movie watching. He was the writer and director of some of the best comedies that the decade produced. To me, however, his legacy will always be two of the greatest teenager centric movies ever made, “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Unfortunately, Hughes died a decade ago, and the high quality of his teenager centric movies hasn’t been produced or matched since. Sure, we had “Superbad”, but that was all the way back in 2007. And there have been critical darlings like “Eighth Grade” and “Lady Bird”, but I didn’t find anything special about either movie. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered “Booksmart”, which is pretty much the female version of “Superbad”. Sure, it’s not on par with “Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller”, but it does capture the tone of Hughes’ work.