Tuesday, June 18, 2024

"The Fall Guy" and My Movie Week in Reviews

[I review the new Ryan Gosling movie "The Fall Guy" as well as the tennis film "Challengers," and "Hit Man," a Top Ten movie on Netflix now]


The Fall Guy (2024)

Stunt man, Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), unwittingly gets involved in a murder conspiracy.

Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stunt man, is "livin' the dream" working as the stunt double for famous action star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). However, he breaks his back during a stunt gone wrong and abandons his career as well as his camerawoman and girlfriend, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt).

Fast forward 18 months. Colt is now a valet for a Mexican restaurant, no longer "livin' the dream."  However, out of the blue, he is contacted by Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), Tom Ryder's film producer, and she tells him that Jody is now a director and is directing her first film, a space cowboy film titled "Metalstorm" and starring Tom. Gail tells Colt that Jody needs him, so Gail wants Colt to fly to Sydney to join the production. Turns out Jody didn't know anything about Colt becoming part of the production and is still angry with him for ghosting her.  So...the real reason that Gail wanted Colt to come was to find Tom Ryder who has gotten into trouble with some drug dealers.  He needs to be found before the film goes over budget and gets canceled.

Well, that's her story, anyway. Turns out, Tom has been involved in a murder and Gail has some plans for Colt. Lots of action as Colt tries to extricate himself from the plot. In the meantime, there is a rekindling of Colt's and Jody's love affair, so we've got action, rom-com and a convoluted conspiracy plot.

Written by Drew Pearse and loosely based on the 1980's TV series "The Fall Guy" starring Lee Majors, this is a movie filled with action and stunts about movies filled with action and stunts.

What I liked - the action and stunts.  There are some very cool scenes with exciting stunts, and the film shows how many of the movie stunts we take for granted are done, which is quite fascinating. Cars rolling over and crashing, people falling from high places, fights, all of that. It's an insider look at how action movies are made. 

What I didn't like - everything else.

Sadly, the film is an action movie about action movies with a tedious plot that is supposed to be funny at times but really isn't.

I never think of Ryan Gosling as a comedy guy or a wise-cracking action hero.  I always think of him as a serious, moody actor.  Yes, I know he was nominated for an Oscar for playing Ken in the Barbie Movie, but if you really think about it, he played Ken straight and that was what made his performance funny.  Here, he has shtick that he has to pull off and wise-guy dialogue, and I just didn't buy it. But I can blame some of it on the script which wasn't very good.  It's an unbelievable, not very interesting plot.  The "fall guy" who does falls for a living is going to be the "fall guy" in a conspiracy plot.  Get it?  Duh.

Emily Blunt is always good but here doesn't have that much to do as an actress, though she does get to have some action scenes herself which, though not very believable, were kind of fun.  And I like Hannah Waddingham, who you may or may not recognize from "Ted Lasso" despite her black hair and, I swear, fake teeth.

Directed by David Leitch, I think this was supposed to be a satire on action films, and it definitely is an homage to those folks who thrill us with their stunts, but it just didn't come together.  Slow to get going, and when it finally did get going, lots of "huh?" moments. However, if you watch it, stay to the end.  An almost unrecognizable Lee Majors has a cameo.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like action movies and you don't care if there is a believable plot or not, you might enjoy this.  Otherwise, save your money, or if you really think you need to see this, wait for it to stream for free. (In theatres or for rent on Amazon Prime)

Challengers (2024)

It's all about a 13 year love triangle between an injured tennis star turned coach (Zendaya), her tennis player ex-boyfriend (Josh O'Connor), and her tennis champion husband (Mike Faist).

It's 2019 and Tashi (Zendaya) and Art Donaldson (Faist, best known for originating the role of Connor Murphy on Broadway in "Dear Even Hansen") are a wealthy married couple with a young daughter.  Art is a tennis champ and only one U.S. Open title away from a Career Grand Slam, but he is struggling.  Tashi, herself a tennis champ but retired due to injury, is his manager and coach and enters him as a wild card in a Challenger event in New Rochelle, New York in hopes it will help him get back on track.  

And then there is Patrick Zweig (O'Connor), another tennis champ, but one who has fallen on hard times.  He is living in his car and scraping by.  It just so happens he is also entered in the Challenger tournament.

So what do these three people have to do with one another?

In a series of flashbacks we find out.

In 2006, Patrick and Art were close friends and friendly rivals.  Together, they won the boys' junior doubles title at the U.S. Open.  It is there that they see Tashi Duncan for the first time.  She is a rising tennis star and both boys become infatuated with her.  They introduce themselves and invite her to their hotel room where a sort of threesome ensues.  But before things get really out of hand, Tashi leaves saying she will give her phone number to whichever boy wins the final the next day.  Patrick wins and the two start a relationship.

Later, Tashi and Art play college tennis at Stanford and Patrick turns pro and both boys continue a relationship with Tashi, though the relationship between the boys sours.  We already know that Art and Tashi end up together, but how that happens and what happens between Art and Patrick and their subsequent tennis careers is all played out in a series of back and forth flashbacks culminating in a final present day match between Art and Patrick.

As an aside, I have a rather personal relationship with tennis.  

My older sister was a rising college tennis star herself in the 1950's and went on to become a pro and teach tennis.  She and I both went to the same college and let's just say that when I took a tennis class and it was taught by one of the coaches who had coached my sister, I could see the disappointment on his face. I didn't have the gift. My sister called me a "motor moron," and I guess there is something to that when it comes to sports, though I can play the piano and am a really good ping pong player. There has to be some hand and eye coordination in there somewhere.  Anyway, I knew to pick my own lane.  I was an actress!

Speaking of which, Zendaya has made it as an actress and is hot right now.  She started out as a young actress and singer and at 16 was the youngest contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" but made her mark in "The Greatest Showman" in 2017 and later in the TV series "Euphoria." 

Faist and O'Connor, though good actors, are unlikely leading men. They do fine as callow young men in love with a goddess like Zendaya, but as men in their thirties, I wasn't buying it, which is strange because they are both in their 30's in real life. They worked better as college students. I just didn't buy O'Connor has a husband. And I hate to say it, but both are also just too ordinary looking to be leading men and objects of Zendaya's desires, but thankfully the story, written by Justin Kuritzkees and directed by Lucca Guadagnino, carries them. After awhile, I forgot about their looks and got into the story, though this is a 90 minute movie wearing a 135 minute bit of sheep's clothing. It didn't need to be that long and the soundtrack was annoying.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some good tennis sequences will satisfy tennis fans and a quirky romance might satisfy rom-com fans. (in theatres and for rent on Amazon Prime)


Hit Man (2024)


A college professor moonlights undercover for the New Orleans Police Department as a fake hit man to uncover murder plots.

Gary Johnson (Glenn Powell) is a mild-mannered professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of New Orleans who lives alone and just happens to also be working undercover with the New Orleans Police Department, pretending to be a hit man to assist in undercover sting operations. He is a self-professed "undercover murder stopper." He started out with the police department as a tech guy but when Jasper (Austin Amelio), their regular undercover guy is suspended, they recruit Gary to take his place. Turns out, despite the fact that Gary is a mild-mannered philosophy professor with an interest in birding, he is really good at the personification and disguises needed to be a believable hit man. He adopts the persona of "Ron," and Ron has many personalities and disguises that belie his real life. Let's just say that in real life, Gary is a bit of a nerd, but when he is Ron, he is a tough and scary hit man.

Ron/Gary meets Madison (Adria Arjona), a femme fatale who is trying to have her abusive husband killed.  Uh-oh.  You know how those things go. Gary is attracted to her and sympathetic.  He tells her to keep her money and use it to begin a new life. But as these things go, they meet again and begin a relationship, but Gary is worried that Madison is attracted to Ron, not Gary, but soon Gary is pulled into Madison's complicated life with her ex-husband, Ray (Evan Holtzman), who unknowingly tries to hire Gary to kill Madison! And it all gets more complicated with Jasper coming back and becoming a thorn in Gary's side.

Glen Powell is my new favorite handsome leading man. He is so totally my type.  Well, my type if I was 40 years younger!  I first noticed him in "Anyone But You," a bad movie that I didn't like, but I liked him, and now it seems he is everywhere. Guess I'm not the only one who liked him!

Written by Richard Linklater and Powell and directed by Linklater, who so beautifully directed "Boyhood," "The Before Trilogy" and others, this is a dark comedy that is a Top Ten movie on Netflix right now and it deserves that.  It's fast moving, darkly funny with witty narration, intelligent dialogue, original situations, an ending you won't see coming and based on a real guy (so don't miss the epilogue). You will enjoy it.  I promise.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A LOT OF FUN! And there is that handsome Glenn Powell! (Netflix)


Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, X, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critics Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Musical Biopics!

[I review "Back to Black," the new biopic about Amy Winehouse, as well as "Bob Marley: One Love" and "Beautiful Rebel," the story of Gianna Nannini, a rock star you have probably never heard of]

 Back to Black (2024)

The life and career of singer, Amy Winehouse.

Sadly, the life of Amy Winehouse was short.  She is a member of the 27 Club, dying too soon from alcohol poisoning.

This biopic follows Amy (Marisa Abela) from her adolescence, growing up in a Jewish family, with her father Mitch (Eddie Marsan) and her grandmother, Cynthia (Lesley Manville) aka Nan who herself had been a singer - to Amy's untimely death at 27. Though she had some early critical and commercial success in the U.K. with her expressive jazz, soul, blues and reggae vocals, it was when she wrote her album "Back to Black" that she found international acclaim.  In the meantime, she met the love of her life (more like an obsession), Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O'Connell), and it was a volatile love affair.  Blake was into cocaine and Amy disapproved but she had her own issues with alcohol and bulimia and possibly mental illness. It was when he left her and her beloved grandmother died, that Amy was inspired to write that second album, "Back to Black." It was a black time. That album was one of the best-selling albums in UK history and in 2008 she won five Grammys, tying the then record for most wins by a female artist in a single night and becoming the first British woman to win five Grammys.  She and Blake reconciled and got married but after he went to jail and then wanted a divorce, Amy fell further into alcoholism and drug addiction, and despite a stint in rehab, she relapsed and died of alcohol poisoning at 27.

Though the film, written by Matt Greenhalgh and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, covers all of that, there are no real earth-shattering revelations here. Interestingly, Amy's father, Mitch, who was a controversial figure in her life comes off as benign and seems to get a pass, and the film doesn't really offer much in the way of why Amy abused alcohol and drugs and died young, though there is an implication that her husband, Blake, wasn't much help to her (he was kind of a bad guy - he introduced her to crack). The film also implies that Amy relapsed when she found out Blake's girlfriend had a baby because, despite her success, Amy just wanted to be a wife and mother.  

We will never know whether that is true or not or what led Amy to drink herself to death, but what makes this film worth seeing is the Oscar-worthy performance by Abela. From the moment the camera sees her, she lights up the screen and you believe she is Amy.  She channels Amy from her beehive hairdo and tattoos to her singing, and believe it or not, Abela has said she didn't really think she could sing.  And the music throughout is wonderful.

Is this the defining story of Amy Winehouse?  Probably not, but it's an old-fashioned linear biopic, a small film with huge impact, a good story with great performances.  It's my kind of film and thank you to the British film industry for continuing to make these kinds of films and not completely pandering to fans of superheroes, horror and epics.  They keep putting out serious films for serious fans like me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tour de force performance by Marisa Abela that is not to be missed.  We will be seeing more of her. (In theatres)

Bob Marley: One Love (2024)

An homage to Bob Marley.

Watching this movie, I realized that as much as I enjoyed Bob Marley's music, I didn't really know that much about his life except that he died young.  Sadly, this movie doesn't really reveal that much about the man or his life.  I don't want to say it's a puff piece, but it is clearly an homage.  

The film itself is also confusing at times, telling his story in short flashbacks that are actually distracting and don't do much to enlighten about how Bob became famous and, if you don't know much about Rastafari or Jamaican history, it can be confusing.  

But this is what I got - In 1976 Bob, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, is already a star in Jamaica and wants to put on a concert called Smile Jamaica to promote peace because various factions are at war.  But as he prepares for the concert, he and his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), and Bob's manager are shot.  Though they recover and the concert goes on, Bob sends Rita and the children to the U.S. to stay with his Mom (never explained why that happened), while he goes to London to record an album, which turns out to be "Exodus," inspired by the film of the same name.  The album is a hit and popularizes reggae and brings the Rastafari movement to the forefront. Bob goes on tour, enjoys his fame but it is short-lived.  He develops skin cancer and dies in 1981 at the age of 36.

Written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zac Baylin, and Reinaldo Marcus Green and directed by Green, the film feels more like a moment in time  than a biopic. The story would have benefited from a more old-fashioned linear treatment.  It all just never really went anywhere nor managed much drama or had a point of view. Though the performance by Ben-Adir was believable, I didn't feel the film enlightened us much about the man.  Though there are hints about his peccadillos, as in philandering, nothing much is made of that or anything else, other than the guy was a good guy, and so good, he even forgave the guys who shot him! Lynch as Marley's wife, Rita, had little to do. Let's just say that the highlight of this film was the music.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Marley fan and like reggae music, you might enjoy this, but in general, the film was a disappointment. I came away from the film still not knowing much more about him than I already knew. (For rent on Amazon Prime. If you still want to watch it, wait until it streams somewhere for free). 

Beautiful Rebel (2024)

Meet Gianna Nannini, the most famous rock star you have never heard of!

Well, she is famous in Europe, anyway.

Directed by Cinzia TH Torrini, this is the story of what Gianna Nannini (Letizia Toni) went through to make it as a rock star in Italy. It's the typical story of a father who thought it was more appropriate for his daughter to play tennis than write and sing, but isn't that how many of our greats get going? They rebel. It's the old "I'll show you" thing.

Nannini went off on her own with no family support and endured setbacks and humiliations until she found her voice and industry support. She was a provocateur with such songs as "Death by Self-Inflicted Abortion." 

Nannini scored her first domestic hit in 1979 with the single "America" and the album "California," which became a success in several European countries. Her international breakthrough happened in 1984 with the release of her sixth album, "Puzzle," which peaked in the top 10 in the Italian, German, Austrian and Swiss charts.  

She was also sexually fluid, something not supported in the Italy of the 1980's, but when she had a mental breakdown, her family rallied round, she overcame that, too, and came back even stronger, later performing with Sting, Bocelli and others.  The film ends with actual performance footage of Nannini.

Brando is effective as Nannini and the story is dramatic and engaging, though it moves fast through her life and career and you might have some "Huh?" moments. It's an old-fashioned linear biopic, and you know by now, I like those, and, though it tries to cover too much ground without going too deep, it's an introduction to Nannini who deserves to be introduced.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sometimes poignant story of living life on one's own terms and making it. If you love music, expand your horizons into this world of European rock and meet Gianna Nannini. (In Italian with English subtitles - Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, X, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critics Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!