All posts by Daniel M. Kimmel

About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

Review – My Spy


FILM REVIEWMY SPYWith Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Kristen Schaal,   Ken Jeong. Written by Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber. Directed by Peter Segal. Rated PG-13 for action/violence and language. 99 minutes. On Amazon Prime.

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Who did the producers of MY SPY imagine their audience was? The premise of having an action star paired with youngsters is not original––see “Kindergarten Cop,” “Tooth Fairy,” “The Pacifier,” “Mr. Nanny”––but this awkward vehicle wastes “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista in a film that won’t satisfy action fans and is utterly inappropriate for kids.

Bautista stars as JJ, a CIA agent who, in the prologue, is involved in a violent shootout with international terrorists. Following up on the case, he has to tail the family of single mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), whose daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman) is a bit of a misfit. Sophie figures out what’s going on and so JJ has to cooperate with the nine-year-old to uncover the plot.

While Bautistia and Coleman have a rapport, it’s not enough. The film, which is rated PG-13, is too violent for the kids it’s ostensibly pitched to and is too lame to appeal to those looking for a tough action film. It’s the sort of movie that will give children nightmares and leave adults yawning. Clearly the suits who greenlit this project are childless themselves.

To add to the problem, the casting is likely to turn off additional viewers. The film manages to cast not one but two of the most annoying actors out there in supporting roles. The singularly talentless Ken Jeong turns up like the proverbial bad penny as JJ’s boss. Fortunately, he’s only in a few scenes. Whiny comedian Kristen Schaal, alas, is cast as JJ’s sidekick and there’s no avoiding her throughout the film.

To pull off a movie like this requires some thought as to the intended audience. On the one hand, there’s something like “Leon: The Professional” (1994) with an assassin paired with a 12 year-old-girl. It was a tough, R-rated action film that made no pretense of playing to young viewers. On the other hand is something like “Spy Kids: 3D” (2003), which featured no less than Sylvester Stallone as the villain, but was a PG movie suitable for older children.

“My Spy” manages not to satisfy either extreme. It’s far too violent for youngsters and it’s far too tame for adult action fans. Bautista is a lot of fun in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, but he has yet to develop the range of, say, Dwayne Johnson. Seeing him on a seesaw with a bunch of kids is a sight gag, not a character moment. He may be capable of more, but this movie does not provide him the opportunity to show it.

Like the recent “Artemis Fowl,” the result is a movie that may distract uncritical younger viewers, but is not very good. Given its violent content, parents will be well advised to take a look and see if they deem it appropriate viewing for their own children.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 1.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Irresistible


FILM REVIEWIRRESISTIBLEWith Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace. Written and directed by Jon Stewart. Rated R for language including sexual references. 100 minutes.

Jon appétit

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Jon Stewart returns to political comedy in his second movie as writer-director with IRRESISTIBLE, a witty and clever satire about big-time consultants getting involved in small-town politics. Ultimately, it’s less about the left/right divide than the urban/rural one, but it’s one that should appeal to viewers of all stripes and locales.

Steve Carell stars as Gary Zimmer, a Democratic consultant trying to figure out how to adapt to the Trump era. A video of Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), a small-town farmer in the Midwest, goes viral. In it he’s seen calling out a move to cut benefits to non-citizens, noting that when flooding threatened the town, these neighbors were there filling sandbags and supporting the community. Zimmer sees this as an opportunity to field test a campaign geared toward people who seemingly have been lost by the Democratic Party.

He goes out there, the city slicker sticking out like a sore thumb, but manages to convince Hastings to challenge the incumbent mayor. The Republicans get wind of what’s going on and send in their own operative, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), to lead the opposition. It turns out that Zimmer and Brewster have a history that goes beyond working on opposing campaigns.

The satire is delicious, from the ad campaigns to a sequence where Zimmer takes Hastings to New York to raise money from wealthy liberals who couldn’t find his home town on a map. Stewart is an equal opportunity satirist, making fun of both the out of touch urbanites and the clueless townies with glee. This leads to a climactic resolution that echoes a classic 1950s satire which–if identified–might give too much away. Viewers should go along for the ride and let the story unfold on its own terms.

Stewart gets a wonderful performance out of his old “Daily Show” colleague Carell, who is earnest and focused and occasionally smug but honestly believes he’s helping Hastings and his town with the campaign. Cooper, a veteran character actor who has been exceptionally (and deservedly) busy of late, has a plum role here as the veteran Marine/farmer who goes along with the consultant’s plans but turns out to be something more than a patsy for the big city operative. Byrne, who scored as Gloria Steinem in the recent Hulu/FX miniseries “Mrs. America,” makes the most of a supporting role, playing Mary Matalin to Carell’s James Carville.

There’s no question we are in divisive and surreal times, what with COVID19 (which hasn’t gone away), a crashed economy, and protests against systemic racism. “Irresistible”manages to skewer several sacred cows without going to the left or the right, but instead–in the best tradition of satire–holds up a mirror to ourselves, making us laugh and think.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Mr. Jones


FILM REVIEWMR. JONES. With James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard, Joseph Mawle, Kenneth Cranham. Written by Andrea Chalupa. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Not rated. 118 minutes. Released on Digital June 19th and on Demand July 3rd.

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Director Agnieszka Holland is able to handle difficult material. She is the director of one of the finest films on the subject of the Holocaust, “Europa, Europa” (1990), and she is up to the task in MR. JONES, a tale dealing with the Stalinist ordered famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. However, she is saddled with a script that doesn’t trust the story enough to let it be––and it’s hard to say what they were trying to achieve.

The main plot involves Gareth Jones (James Norton), a one-time aide to former British prime minister David Lloyd George (Kenneth Cranham) turned freelance journalist. In 1934, having previously snagged an interview with Hitler, he now wants to speak with Stalin, the dictator who is bragging about the economic miracle of the Soviet Union. Jones gets permission to go to Moscow, but getting the facts proves difficult.

For one thing, there are stories that the Russians are seizing wheat in Ukraine––the region’s breadbasket––to underwrite the costs of the industrialization. For another, the Western world, in the throes of the Depression, isn’t paying much attention, instead relying on the reporting of Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard) of the New York Times. Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is committed to painting a rosy picture of the Communist regime while enjoying his own decadent lifestyle. As depicted here, he is a powerful figure protected by the Soviet regime because his reports are propaganda about their supposed successes and taken at face value by his editors and readers.

With the help of Ada (Vanessa Kirby), a German reporter who works with Duranty, Jones goes to Ukraine and discovers the horrible truth. It’s a harrowing sequence with corpses in the street and the starving people driven to extremes. What he does with that information leads to the climactic third act of the film, where he has to decide whether to tell the truth or submit to the pleas of the depraved Duranty.

If that was the whole film this would be powerful drama, but for some inexplicable reasons, the movie then wants us to believe that Jones’ journey inspired another writer, George Orwell (Joseph Mawle), to write one of his classic works, Animal Farm. It may well be true, but as shown here it’s strained to the point of being a pointless distraction. It’s possible that this was further elaborated upon in the movie’s original 141-minute running time at festivals last year, but in its current 118-minute version, it makes no sense at all.

Norton is effective as the earnest and sincere Jones and Sarsgaard is chilling as the effete and self-absorbed Duranty, with a hint that he’s playing ball in order to protect his Russian-born son. When “Mr. Jones” focuses on one or both of them, it’s absorbing. When we have to figure out what anyone of this has to do with Orwell writing his book, it’s a puzzlement.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – 7500


FILM REVIEW7500With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Murathan Muslu, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger. Written by Patrick Vollrath, Senad Halilbasic. Directed by Patrick Vollrath. Rated R for violence/terror and language. 92 minutes. On Amazon Prime.

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Alfred Hitchcock was a veteran director by time he made “Lifeboat” (1944) and “Rear Window” (1954), both movies in which the audience’s point of view is largely limited to a single setting. For his feature debut, Patrick Vollrath attempts the same thing. The result is a taut thriller with a strong performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who spends a good portion of the running time alone on screen.

7500 is code for an airline hijacking. The film starts slowly–even dully–as we see passengers arriving and going through checkpoints to board a flight from Berlin to Paris. Tobias Ellis (Gordon-Levitt) is the co-pilot, and he engages in chitchat with the captain (Carlo Kitzlinger), and the crew, including Gökce (Aylin Tezel), his girlfriend with whom he has a young son. The plane takes off and, in an instant, everything changes, as a group of terrorists attempt to storm the cockpit.

Tobias manages to close the door on them, except one he has to knock out. However, he and the captain have both been stabbed by the terrorists who were armed with shards of glass in order to avoid detection. The ones stuck on the other side of the door attempt to break in and tell Tobias through the intercom that they will start killing passengers if he doesn’t unlock the door.

Almost the entire film takes place within the confines of the cockpit as Tobias has to deal with ever-threatening crises while trying make an emergency landing. The script, by Vollrath and Senad Halilbasic, focuses on Tobias struggling with keeping the passengers safe and the hijackers out while he’s trapped. Gordon-Levitt shows a man trying to hold it together as he becomes the only one who can prevent a disaster.

Late in the film, he finds himself held hostage by the youngest of the terrorists, Vedat (Omid Memar). This further tightens the screws as Tobias has to stay calm while trying to convince Vedat to allow him to land the plane in order to refuel. Now that may not make much sense, as the plane had only taken off a short time before, but that simply increases the tension. Whether it’s true or not, the pilot has to make Vedat believe it’s the only possible choice.

Told tightly and efficiently, “7500” is a harrowing ride premiering on Amazon Prime on June 19. If you want to see it, you’ll have to catch it there. It’s not likely to be turning up as an in-flight movie, even when things return to normal.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Shoot To Marry


FILM REVIEWSHOOT TO MARRY. Written and directed by Steve Markle. Not rated. 74 minutes. On iTunes, Amazon, and other VOD platforms.

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Thirty-five years ago, filmmaker Ross McElwee released a documentary called “Sherman’s March,” in which he recorded his attempts to make a Civil War documentary but instead focused on his complicated love life. Now, Canadian filmmaker Steve Markle explores similar territory, but omitting the Civil War. Billed as a real-life romantic comedy, it’s a meandering and often amusing take on looking for love in the 21st century.

Markle introduces himself as a nerd, including showing some embarrassing home movies from his youth. Now 41, his love life is at a crossroads, having just ended a relationship with the woman to whom he proposed marriage and at a loss as to where to turn. As he sardonically notes, he should be divorced by now, looking for his second wife.

What he decides to do is use his camera to meet women in hopes of finding his true love. This ranges from tracking down the woman on whom he had a crush in grade school – she had no idea – and exploring everything from computer dating to a “sex club.” He also meets a variety interesting women and comes to realize he has to stop being so needy and start listening to them.

Some of the women he meet are as weird–if not weirder–than him, including one who designs her own artistic hats, and who gets him to go out in public with her wearing only underpants and body paint. Another, identified only as “Goddess,” is someone he hires simply to cuddle with him for an hour, while others are more out there in other directions, such as one woman who’s a lumberjack/lumberjill.

Through it all he wonders why life can’t be like the movies, or at least like his parents, married for many years. What he admires is not only their obvious love for each other, but their ability to be boring together. Along his journey he occasionally meets a potential partner, only to find out that his real project is figuring out who he is and what he needs to bring to a relationship to make it work.

There’s some funny and poignant twists late in the film–not to be revealed here–that brings it to a satisfying conclusion. True love, it turns out, can’t be planned or mapped out, but needs to happen when two people connect and are both committed to making it work. Romantic comedies (and this critic is both a fan and the author of a book on the subject) can be enjoyable but are unrealistic. In movies we know, if not from the casting than from the “meet cute” of the two leads, how things have to end up. That’s not the case in real life.

“Shoot to Marry” is a charming addition to a well-trod genre.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, including I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of Hollywood’s Great Romantic Comedies. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Artemis Fowl

FILM REVIEWARTEMIS FOWLWith Ferdia Shaw, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench, Lara McDonnell. Written by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some rude humor. 95 minutes.

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There’s no question that we’re in a golden age of YA (young adult) fiction, yet very few of the successful series–notably the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books–have made the transition to the movies. Indeed, Hollywood is littered with the corpses of failed adaptations, and now it is time for ARTEMIS FOWL to be tossed onto to that scrapheap.

Originally intended for release last year, it has now emerged on the Disney+ streaming service where the studio had such faith in the result that they declined to make review copies available in advance (blaming Covid is a too-convenient excuse). While it may divert uncritical children–no small thing, to be sure–it is not likely to lead to any sequels. Indeed, even those children who like it may soon forget they saw it.

As is all too typical, Hollywood has learned nothing from its successes. Yes, some of these YA series have turned into successful movie franchises, but no one seems to have asked why. At risk of stating the painfully obvious, Harry Potter and Katniss (in “Hunger Games”), are finely etched protagonists who are portrayed by actors capable of providing some depth to their performances.

Here we’re given the sketchiest of plots. A wealthy Irishman, Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell), is kidnapped by supernatural forces. His son, Artemis Jr. (Ferdia Shaw), endeavors to get him back. Neither the script or the young actor give us much more to go on in terms of motivation, and the film instead relies on fantastical characters and special effects to make up for this lack. It doesn’t work.

Josh Gad, Lara McDonnell, and Judi Dench appear as various fantasy characters helping Artemis Jr., while providing little in the way of dramatic support. Indeed, Dame Dench, who similarly was embarrassed by her appearance last year in “Cats,” might ponder if she’s risking her long distinguished career by showing up just for the paycheck. Laurence Olivier got away with it late in his career. One can only hope Dench does as well.

Perhaps the biggest embarrassment is that the film is directed by Kenneth Branagh. Deservedly hailed for his Shakepearean adaptations, including “Henry V,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and  “Hamlet” – he has been relegated to second rate movies like “Thor: Dark World,” “Cinderella,” and the middling remake of “Murder on the Orient Express.” His work here is at the level of the 2011 “Thor,”  which is to say utterly forgettable. It’s hard to believe that his talent has evaporated. More likely, this is the best for which he can be hired, and that’s a sad commentary on today’s film industry all by itself.

“Artemis Fowl” may distract children for an hour-and-a-half, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with the book upon which it’s based, and that that’s the best that can be said about it may be the sorriest indictment of all.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Raising Buchanan

FILM REVIEWRAISING BUCHANAN. With Rene Auberjonois, Amanda Melby, Cathy Shim, Terence Bernie Hines, M. Emmet Walsh. Written and directed by Bruce Dellis. Not rated. 96 minutes.

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RAISING BUCHANAN is an off-beat, often wacky and occasionally touching comedy that offers one of the last performances by the late René Auberjonois. You don’t have to know much about history to appreciate it, but you will find yourself knowing more about our 15th president of the United States than you could have imagined.

James Buchanan (Auberjonois) is widely regarded as the worst president in American history. Although the current officeholder is never mentioned, there are several pregnant pauses during the movie that suggest he may have some competition for that title. The reason Buchanan is held in such low regard is that he stood by as the Union fell apart, leaving to his successor–Abraham Lincoln–to deal with what turned into the Civil War.

The story is set in the present where Ruth (Amanda Melby) is a 40-year-old woman with a lot of problems. She’s on probation and deeply in debt, her father Larry (M. Emmet Walsh) is dying, and one of her jobs is playing cello for pretentious ventriloquist Errol (Steve Briscoe) who performs in German (phonetically, as he doesn’t actually speak German). Through a friend, she learns that the casket containing the remains of Buchanan has temporarily been shipped to Arizona for medical tests. She hatches a scheme with her roommate Cathy (Cathy Shim) to steal the corpse and hold it for ransom. That’s where the farce really begins as she discovers that no matter how much she keeps lowering her demands, no one wants to claim the body.

What makes it touching is that she starts researching Buchanan and engages his spirit in conversations where he defends his record, although admitting his failure as president probably overshadowed his many accomplishments before then. Through these chats, Ruth starts to realize that she has similarly lost control of her own life. The difference is that it’s not too late for her.

Shot in Arizona with a mostly unknown cast,  it has its rough edges but is helped by Melby as the hapless kidnapper–who insists she’s really a grave robber because her captive is dead–and the rest of the supporting cast, including Briscow, Shim, and Terence Bernie Hines as Ruth’s kindly parole officer. It is Auberjonois who really makes it work, stiffly resenting criticism yet softening as he and Ruth are forced to confront the dilemmas of the respective lives. Buchanan, the only bachelor president, had a male roommate for 13 years, but refuses to discuss such private matters. In one scene, Ruth offers the body to a campus gay rights group only to be told that, like most other college students, they don’t have any money.

A first feature for director Bruce Dellis, who also wrote the screenplay, “Raising Buchanan” is the sort of quirky independent comedy that one stumbles upon when looking for something different. Like its title character, it’s not destined for greatness, but proves to be better than one might have expected.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Becky


FILM REVIEW
BECKY
With Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald. Written by Nick Morris and Ruckus Skye & Lane Skye. Directed by Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and language. 93 minutes.

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It’s hard to imagine a stranger mixing of genres than BECKY. It’s a cross between “Home Alone” and “Straw Dogs,” a violent R-rated thriller of a minor fending off criminals by herself. Those who go for this kind of vengeance story may be diverted, but it’s definitely not for the squeamish.

Surly teenager Becky (Lulu Wilson), having lost her mother to cancer, is unengaged in school and barely talking to her father (Ryan McDonald). It doesn’t help that her father has announced he’s remarrying. Becky runs out of the family vacation house to go and sulk, and that’s when four dangerous prison escapees arrive and take the father, and his fiancée and young son, hostage. They are led by Dominick, sporting a black beard and a shaved head, with a swastika tattooed to the back of his scalp.

What may grab your attention is that Dominick is portrayed by comic actor Kevin James (TV’s “The King of Queens,” “Paul Blart, Mall Cop”) in what’s being billed as his first dramatic role. He can be calm and rational, but he’s ruthless and will let not anything stop him from achieving his goal, recovering a mysterious item he had hidden at the house. How and why he did it and what recovering will achieve is never explained. It is, as Hitchcock would have put it, the MacGuffin – the plot-driving thing everyone in the film is concerned about that we should not pay so much attention to.

Dominick eventually discovers that Becky is nearby and has the item in question. What follows is a cat and mouse game where, one by one, the gang go after her, starting with Jeff (Joel McHale), who tries to convince Becky if she’ll just turn it over, they’ll go away. When the boy in “Home Alone” abused the two thieves trying to break into his house in slapstick fashion, Becky is playing for keeps. There’s an implication that, should there be a sequel, we’ll learn that in unleashing this violent side Becky is discovering her true self, but our concern here is with her surviving this home invasion.

Without revealing too much, her tactics may be justifiable but they are unpleasant to watch: blood flows, people are chopped to pieces and, in a scene even Quentin Tarantino may find to be a step too far, someone’s eyeball is dislodged. It says something about the movie rating system that this level of violence is rated R (under 17 allowed with parent or guardian) and not NC-17 (no one under 17 allowed, period). Consider yourself warned.

In terms of performances, young Wilson is effective as the moody Becky who is determined not be pushed around by these adults anymore than she listened to her father. Former wrestler Robert Maillet has some moments as the conflicted member of the gang, who warns Becky that he carries the burden of the lives he has taken. However, viewers familiar with James will be surprised that he can play such a malevolent character in contrast to the lovable schmoes he usually portrays. It’s often been noted that it’s easier for a comic to turn serious than for a dramatic actor to play comedy. His performance here won’t be on any Oscar short lists next year, but just might get other filmmakers to consider him in a new light.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Inheritance

FILM REVIEWINHERITANCE. With Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton. Written by Matthew Kennedy. Directed by Vaughn Stein. Unrated. 111 minutes.

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INHERITANCE is the sort of potboiler thriller that only works if you’re willing to play along and don’t know what’s coming. Only one key plot point will be revealed here and it happens early on, setting the main plot in motion. So you’ve been warned.

Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins) is district attorney who goes after corrupt corporate executives. Her brother William (Chace Crawford) is in a tight race for a congressional seat. The Monroes are wealthy and powerful family, shaken when their father Archer (Patrick Warburton) dies of an apparent heart attack. When his will is read the bulk of the estate is left for William, while Lauren is give a mere million dollars… and an envelope.

Inside is a digital video and a key. On the video Archer tells Lauren that her inheritance includes a buried family secret which must never be revealed. Here’s the first surprise, without which the review will make no sense. In what appears to be a bomb shelter hidden in the woods, Archer has been keeping a prisoner chained to a wall. Morgan (Simon Pegg) has been trapped there for decades and when Lauren discovers him, asks to be set free. Before she does so, she insists on knowing who he is and why her father has kept him there.

That’s where the plot synopsis will stop, because what follows are a series of reveals and twists and quite a few red herrings as Lauren pries the story out of Morgan and learns more about her father than she ever knew. In flashbacks we see that she did not have a close relationship with him, although others keep reassuring her how proud he was of her. It’s understood that her young brother was the favorite.

The lure for many will be the casting of Pegg, known primarily for his comic roles in fan favorites like “Shaun of the Dead,” is deadly serious as the chained captive, appearing at first so unshaven and unshorn that viewers longing for a trip to the barber shop or salon should be able to relate. It’s long been noted that it’s harder for a dramatic actor to do comedy than the other way around, and Pegg plays it absolutely straight.

The other cast members have more one note roles, although Connie Nielsen gets her moments as the grieving widow. Collins gives it her all as the heroine but never quite convinces that she would be a powerful D.A. given that at 31 she looks half that age. It’s not a flaw on her part, but she looks more like she should be in the cast of “Riverdale” than being a hard-hitting prosecutor. She’s game, though, and carries through the demands of the plot in unravelling the film’s mysteries.

Director Vaughn Stein isn’t concerned with the incredible nature of the story, but goes for a realistic look as opposed to the more surreal take he had in his 2018 debut “Terminal.” Writer Matthew Kennedy’s first feature script has a bit too many red herrings and could have been tighter, straining to keep the twists coming to the end. “Inheritance” is the cinematic equivalent of the paperback you leave at the beach or airport after you finished it, diverting but forgettable. Sometimes that’s enough.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – James Vs. His Future Self


FILM REVIEWJAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELFWith Jonas Chernick, Daniel Stern, Cleopatra Coleman, Frances Conroy, Tara Spencer-Nairn. Written by Jonas Chernick, Jeremy LaLonde. Directed by Jeremy LaLonde. Not Rated, but equivalent to an “R.” 94 minutes.

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Mixing time travel and romantic comedy is an unusual premise, but not unheard of, as in “Happy Accidents” (2001) and “About Time” (2013). The Canadian JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF is a pleasant if somewhat uneven mix of genres, but despite its rough edges, the pluses outweigh the minuses making for a sometimes sweet, sometimes raucous movie.

James (Jonas Chernick) is working on developing a process to travel in time. He’s so obsessive about it that another researcher at the lab, Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman), remains just-a-friend with whom he’s afraid to go any further. The story is set in motion with the arrival of Jimmy (Daniel Stern) who announces that James will succeed in inventing time travel, and he’s the proof. He’s the older James from the future and he’s come back in time to convince himself not to do it.

Some of the comedy is lowbrow: Jimmy proves who he is by demonstrating that he has James’s distinctive genitalia (thankfully out of camera range). On the other hand, some of it is quite smart, as when James finally gets the nerve to ask Courtney out on a date using the quantum physics metaphor of “Schrodinger’s Cat,” which gets increasingly awkward. The whole point of the story is less about time travel than about Jimmy convincing James to “live in the moment” instead of obsessing about the past or the future.

The performances are as uneven as the script, which Chernick co-wrote with director Jeremy LaLonde. Chernick and Coleman are delightful as the young scientists, showing that being brilliant doesn’t make one any better at courtship than anyone else. Indeed, Courtney notes she hasn’t dated in quite a while because men are intimidated by how smart she is. Their scenes together are the standouts in the movie.

Stern, on the other, seems to have been encouraged to play his character over the top, as his character gets increasingly desperate. His best moment is not in his broad actions but in a quiet moment with Coleman, revealing who he is and how he’s always felt about her. Frances Conroy steals her few scenes as the head of the lab where James and Courtney work.

The double climax of the film is of a piece with the rest of the story. The first is an over-the-top (and not really believable) showdown as Jimmy tries to prevent time travel from being invented, and the other resolves the James/Courtney love story in a quiet and quite touching way. If the uneven tone is sometimes grating, it’s the comic love story that will linger. Perhaps some future Chernick and LaLonde can come back and convince the filmmakers to tone it down a bit. In the meantime, “James Vs. His Future Self” is worth a look for those seeking a different sort of romantic comedy.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.