Marry Me


Do you take this pop star to be your unlikely wedded wife?

(2022) Romantic Comedy (Universal) Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma, John Bradley, Sarah Silverman, Chloe Coleman, Michelle Buteau, Khalil Middleton, Kat Cunning, Taliyah Whitaker, Diego Lucano, Brady Noon, Connor Noon, Ryan Foust, Léah Jiménez Zelaya, Tristan-Lee Edwards, Scarlett Earls, Olivia Chun, Jim Kaplan, Jameela Jamil, Hoda Kotb. Directed by Kat Coiro

Rom-coms have their own peculiar kind of logic. They play on our romantic fantasies of finding true love despite apparently insurmountable odds. One of the most popular sub-genres is what I call the Pretty Woman effect, in which a ridiculously wealthy and/or famous person falls for an ordinary person from an entirely different world, and we get to see those worlds collide. But, like all rom-coms, true love eventually prevails – and that shouldn’t be a spoiler to any fan of the genre.

Pop star Kat Valdez (Lopez) came up from the streets of Brooklyn to become an international pop sensation, whose every move is chronicled on social media. She is about to hit a publicity bonanza; her hit song “Marry Me,” performed with her fiancée Bastian (Maluma) has spawned a huge tour, at the conclusion of which she and Bastian will perform the song together live, and then have their wedding ceremony onstage, live-streamed to more than 20 million viewers and an in-house audience at the venue.

In that audience is Charlie (Wilson), a middle school math teacher who doesn’t even want to be there. He got tickets to the exclusive event through the school’s guidance counselor Parker (Silverman) – who also happens to be his best friend – whose two guests had bailed on her. Charlie’s daughter Lou (Coleman) is a huge fan, so he agreed to go for her sake.

But just before the ceremony is to take place, word races through social media that Bastian cheated on Kat – with her assistant, no less – and the devastated bride-to-be comes onstage with a tearful excoriation of her love life, which had been carefully planned, only to end up with three divorces and now this never-happened. When she sees Charlie holding his daughter’s sign that says “Marry Me,” she is inspired in her grief and pain to propose to him. Charlie, thrust into the spotlight unwillingly, goes with the moment, not wanting to humiliate the already-devastated pop star further and says yes. The two are then married.

Kat’s manager (Bradley) wants to make sure this is spun in a way that doesn’t make Kat look more psycho than she already does, so they convince Charlie to hang in there and play husband for a few months, at which time she would make a generous donation to his school. He agrees…for the kids, of course. And if you know rom-coms at all, you know how this one will go.

The formula is so ingrained that Da Queen and I even before the movie started had bet that certain things would happen – and every last one of them did. To say that this movie is predictable is to underestimate predictability; unless you’ve never seen a romantic comedy before, you are just as likely to figure out how this movie will turn out and what steps it will take to get there.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing if the filmmakers pull off the steps with a certain amount of style (they do) and the leads are interesting and root-worthy (they are). There’s nothing here that’s surprising or innovative, but Coiro is a good director who knows that she’s making a movie written by algorithm; rather than fight it, she goes with it and even revels in it to a certain degree. I’m not a particular fan of Lopez, but she’s essentially playing herself here, or at least a version of her, and so she makes the character at least reasonably charming. The soundtrack is mostly performed by her (and in duet with Colombian pop star Maluma) and is fine if you like modern top 40 music, which to be honest I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that the songs are bad for what they are. It’s just not my taste. Anywho, getting back on track, Wilson has relied on a certain amount of frayed-around-the-edges charm since his career began, and he in many ways is the best thing about the movie, delivering the kind of performance we have come to expect and appreciate from him.

It can be said that both actors are a bit long in the tooth for their roles (both are in their fifties, playing characters who appear to be in their thirties) but that doesn’t really matter; they may be middle-aged at this point in their careers, but they have the experience to pull off this kind of movie without putting up much of a sweat. The result is a movie that has enough charm to see it through, but not enough to make you realize that you’ve seen this before and done better.

The movie is currently playing in theaters but is also available on the Peacock streaming service. Choose your method of seeing it according to how willing you are to drive to your local multiplex and see it.

REASONS TO SEE: Wilson has the kind of warmth to carry the film and Lopez has enough charm to get audiences to root for the couple.
REASONS TO AVOID: Encumbered by too many rom-com cliches.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some mild profanity and sexually suggestive material.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Believe it or not, this is the first time Lopez has used her own singing voice in a film; the only other film she sang onscreen in was Selena in which she lip-synched the songs of the title character.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Peacock
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/18/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 58% positive reviews; Metacritic: 50/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Music and Lyrics
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
The Highwaymen

Insidious


Insidious

Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are skeptical this "breathing in the ear amplifier" will improve their sex lives.

(2011) Supernatural Horror (FilmDistrict) Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lyn Shaye, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Corbett Tuck, Heather Tocquigny, Ruben Pla, John Henry Binder, Joseph Bishara, Philip Friedman. Directed by James Wan

The things that happen to us when we sleep are mysterious, even with all the technology at our disposal. Nobody really knows what awaits us when we close our eyes.

At first glance things look pretty good for Josh Lambert (Wilson) and his wife Renai (Byrne) – pronounced “Renee” but spelled differently. They have just moved into a pretty spiffy old house. Josh works as a math teacher at the local high school – or is that college? We’re never really sure. I’m betting the latter because it’s a really spiffy house and Renai isn’t working. Well, she’s writing songs…but she’s also unpacking, taking care of two energetic young boys and a baby. Okay, she’s working harder than Josh is.

But there are some odd things going on. Things are being moved around. There are odd sounds that can be heard at night. Things disappear. Of course, some of it might be due to the chaos of moving. The sounds, well, it’s an old house, spiffy as it is.

Then things turn darker. Their eldest son Dalton (Simpkins) takes a tumble in the attic. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be anything particularly serious; a little bump on the noggin. But he doesn’t wake up the next morning and nothing can rouse him from his slumber.

The doctors can’t explain it. His tumble didn’t produce any brain trauma. There’s no inflammation, no infection, nothing that would explain his coma, but he is most assuredly in one. After a few months of fruitless tests, the boy is sent home to lie in his own bed. A home nurse (Tuck) explains to Renai how to lubricate his feeding tube while Renai muses how the universe must be testing her to see how far she’ll bend before she breaks. It’s an honest moment but the universe isn’t done with her yet.

Things go from bad to worse. The paranormal activity in the house increases. Sinister figures are half-glimpsed and then fully seen. Things don’t just go bump in the night, they go CRASH BANG!!! Security alarms go off without reason, while the security company that installed them doesn’t respond.

So they do what any sensible family would do. They move. Josh’s mom Lorraine (Hershey) welcomes them to the neighborhood. Renai is relieved; at last the nightmare is over. But it’s not – it’s just beginning. The apparitions are showing up in the new place, more menacing and more solid than ever. At last, the couple in desperation calls a psychic that Lorraine recommends – Elise Rainier (Shaye). But before she shows up, she sends a couple of paranormal experts – Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson), who show up with elaborate homemade equipment. The looks on the face of Josh and Renai are pretty easy to read although they’re polite.

Then Elise herself shows up and makes the pronouncement that it isn’t the house that’s haunted, its Dalton. You see, apparently he astral projects at night while he’s asleep and like most young boys, he goes a little farther than he’s supposed to, ending up in a realm she calls The Further (yes, it’s capitalized). That’s where people go when they die. That’s where Dalton is. That’s where dear old dad has to go to fetch him (you see, Dalton inherited his skills). And Josh needs to do it fast; there are some real bad dudes out there who have plans for Dalton’s empty shell of a body.

The movie was written and directed by the team who did the same for the Saw series, and produced by the guy who directed Paranormal Activities, so the pedigree is good. Wan does a good job bringing out the chills and that all-important sense of dread that haunted house movies need to have in order to be successful.

He’s got a decent cast to work with. Wilson is most often cast as a baddie but here he plays a troubled father with a skeleton in his own closet (and yes, that’s pretty literal) who is weak in moments when he should be strong. That makes him a little bit more likable in an odd way – he’s like, normal and not some Hollywood superdad. Byrne’s best scenes come early after which she’s mostly supposed to scream, cry and beg. She can do hysterical as well as anybody can.

For my money, Shaye steals the show as the psychic who is something of a nod to Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist. She knows far more about the afterlife than anybody alive, and is able to reach into the other dimension and communicate. Like Rubinstein, she knows trouble when she sees it and is well aware the other side has some things in it that should stay there – not that they’ll stop trying to cross over at any opportunity mind you. Whannell (who wrote the script) and Sampson add much-appreciated comic relief, looking at magnetic fields through View Masters. Priceless, I tell you.

Now, despite the twist (which is given away in the trailer so I don’t have a problem revealing it here) that I thought could have really been a game-changer much the way the twist in The Sixth Sense was, the movie doesn’t really add too much to the genre. What happens is that Elise Rainier goes off to explain the Further in great detail, with a whole lot of paranormal technobabble until all you can do is throw your popcorn at the screen and yell “enough!” The movie would have worked better without the explanation and left the cast to work it out on their own. I also thought the sending of the dad in to fetch his son was a little too reminiscent of JoBeth Williams going into the closet to rescue the late Heather O’Rourke from the light – I half expected Wilson and Byrne to start calling “Carol Ann!” in reference to the character.

Even with all that, this is still a crackerjack of a horror flick. It scares you properly; none of these false scares or red herrings; they come right at you and put the horror right in your face where it’s supposed to be. There’s no overt gore (although there are certainly some disturbing images of dead things) and the movie is the better for it. The humans act like rational people other than a couple of slight miscues but still in all this is as good a horror movie as I’ve seen for awhile.

REASONS TO GO: Some very effective scares and a nice performance for Shaye. Some of the off-beat humor is very welcome.

REASONS TO STAY: Doesn’t really add too much to the haunted house genre and the twist is mostly a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

FAMILY VALUES: There are plenty of creepy images and big time scares, as well as some foul language. The overall theme that involves a child vulnerable to demonic possession might be way too much for small children.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first release from the new distribution company FilmDistrict.

HOME OR THEATER: While the big scary noises do enhance the movie and work best in a theater, the intimate nature of the movie is just fine at home.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Cold Souls

The Tourist


The Tourist

Johnny Depp can't get over Angelina Jolie; Angelina Jolie can't get over venice; the bellman can't get over that he's actually in this scene.

(2010) Thriller (Columbia) Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff, Timothy Dalton, Rufus Sewell, Christian De Sica, Alessio Boni, Daniele Pecci, Giovanni Guidelli, Raoul Bova, Bruno Wolkovich, Ralf Moeller. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

A beautiful mysterious woman on a train. A math teacher from a Podunk junior college in Wisconsin. All the ingredients for a wonderfully crafted thriller in the vein of Charade or any one of a number of Hitchcock movies, and in the hands of an Oscar-winning director could be the makings of a marvelous two hours at the movies. 

A beautiful, sophisticated Parisian woman named Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) is being watched by the police, in particular a Scotland Yard police inspector by the name of John Acheson (Bettany) who seriously needs to consider a decaffeinated brand. She receives a note from Alexander Pearce, a brilliant larcenist on the run from not only Interpol and Scotland Yard but also from Reginald Shaw (Berkoff), a notorious British gangster who has a predilection of surrounding himself with Russian muscle. You see, Pearce stole more than two billion dollars from Shaw and that kind of thing tends not to sit well with gangsters. Elise is apparently the connection to Pearce that everyone is looking for.

The note tells her to get on the train to Venice and pick out someone with a similar height and build as Pearce and make the police believe that the man she is with is actually Pearce. It appears that the thief has used some of his ill-gotten loot to change his face and even his voice. Nobody knows what he looks like now, not even Elise.

She chooses a very unlikely sort; Frank Tupelo (Depp), the aforementioned Math teacher from the junior college in Wisconsin (making Jolie the mystery woman on the train). The two of them wind up flirting. He is surprised; things like this never happen to him. Still, they share a fine meal and then as the train pulls into the station, they go their separate ways. Frank is certain he’s seen the last of her.

But he hasn’t. As he fumbles with a map in St. Mark’s Square, she pulls up in a boat and offers him a lift. She takes him to a five star hotel, and checks him in as her husband. It is clear they are mutually attracted, but she loves someone else – and his heart has recently been broken. He sleeps on the couch, she sleeps in the bed.

In the meantime, both Interpol and the gangster are closing in on them. Frank has no idea what he’s in for but as thugs with guns come after him and the police sell him to the mobster, he only knows that the deadly game he’s playing he must win because the consequences of losing are fatal.

There are definitely elements to a variety of old-fashioned thrillers, not the least of which are Charade, The Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest. Director von Donnersmarck previously directed the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner The Lives of Others knows his way around a thriller, and while this isn’t the most energetic ones in terms of suspense, it nonetheless keeps the audience on their toes.

Jolie is channeling Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly here simultaneously – not an easy feat I can tell you. Her Elise is cool, sophisticated and elegant – she even wears long formal gloves, not something most people wear these days. This is Jolie at her most attractive, and she uses her beauty as a deadly trap. She is the very embodiment of the femme fatale.

Depp can act the stammering, stumbling nincompoop when he chooses to; in fact, it’s part of his charm. I think the part might have been better served with a suave Cary Grant type – not that there are any around like that (maybe George Clooney comes close). Depp fulfills his role competently but there isn’t much chemistry between him and Jolie; a little more passion might have made the movie work better.

The supporting cast is solid, with Bettany as the obsessive cop, Dalton as his angry boss (what is it about superior police officers that they always have to have a bug up their asses?) and Berkoff as the baddie, a role he has more or less perfected.

This is a competent thriller that takes full advantage of its Venetian location, and the charm of Venice is where the charm of this movie lies. Von Donnersmarck has the makings of a great director, although The Tourist won’t go down as one of his signature films. It is, however, at least entertaining and if you’re into watching Angelina Jolie, she is at her best here. Actually, between her work in Changeling and this film, I might have to revise her position on my list of favorite actresses in a more upwards direction.

REASONS TO GO: You can’t get much better in the star power department than this. Magnificent Venetian vistas and the kind of upper crust lifestyles of the rich and shameless we all adore.

REASONS TO STAY: The plot twist at the end isn’t nearly as jaw-dropping as it should have been.

FAMILY VALUES: There is violence a’plenty and a good bit of strong language as well.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jolie stated in an interview that the only reason she agreed to do the movie was because it would be a “quick shoot” in Venice.

HOME OR THEATER: The movie is on a grand scale that demands a big screen.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: How Do You Know