With temperatures warming up some, we start the week off with one of the biggest surprises of 2019, Uncut Gems. Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a once successful and well respected New York gems dealer whose gambling addiction has left his personal and professional life in ruin, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Howard is convinced he can finally hit it big when he buys a rare uncut Ethiopian gem but as Howard starts to juggle all the elements of his life, trying to keep his family together, fending off the thugs sent to collect his debt, and trying to control his own gambling urges, his whole world starts to spin out of control.
Directors Benny & Josh Safdie not only crafted a fast paced and dizzying thriller that constantly makes you want to scream at your screen, but they pulled one of Adam Sandlers very best performances out of him. Uncut Gems is maddening as you watch Howard make bad decisions one after the other, even when it seems so incredibly obvious it is the wrong move for him. But Sandler pulls of the acerbic character with a charm that makes you really want to know where exactly this guy will end up when the consequences of his actions come to light. Uncut Gems is taut, frustrating, entertaining and brilliant. Highly recommended.
Next up is the new animated feature from Blue Sky Studios, Spies in Disguise. Will Smith voices super spy Lance Sterling, the greatest spy in the world. But when evidence points to Lance stealing a valuable drone weapon, he goes on the run with the help of a socially inept 15-year-old MIT graduate and outcast scientist Walter (Tom Holland). When a new gadget of Walter’s goes wrong, Lance is turned into a pigeon and must use his new form to covertly find out who has set him up. Now Lance and Walter must work together to stop the weapon from ending up in the wrong hands and endangering the whole world.
For some reason I was not expecting much from Spies in Disguise, I guess maybe the trailers didn’t do much for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it almost on the level of Pixar’s Incredibles movies. Smith and Holland both do amazing jobs lending their voices to the lead characters and have good animated chemistry. The animation itself is beautiful to look at which is not surprising considering it comes from the studio that made the Ice Age films and the underrated Epic from 2013. The humor is great for kids and adults, especially the comic relief of the two pigeons that accompany Lance and Walter, and the action scenes are brilliantly staged and tons of fun. Give Spies in Disguise a shot, it’s a solid choice for family movie night.
Lastly this week is the newest big screen incarnation of Charlie’s Angels. Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) is a tech developer for a company about to launch a new versatile smart device that could revolutionize how the world is powered, but when she points out potentially dangerous elements of the device to her boss, she is fired. Soon after the device is stolen and Elena finds herself working with two spies, Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska), who work for an international spy organization called Townsend Agency. Along with their handler Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) the Angels must find out who stole the smart device and retrieve it before it is weaponized and used to disrupt the entire planet.
One very cool element of Banks’ version of Charlie’s Angels is her decision to connect it to all other version of the franchise from the past and to deepen the backstory behind Charlie’s Angels. The movie itself is pretty much a by the numbers action comedy with standard bad guys, a standard plot device that the heroes are after and solid if not very unique action sequences. The real star of the show for me was Kristen Stewart who seems to really be letting go and having fun here, something we rarely get to see her doing. The role actually made me thing the right filmmakers should seize upon her talents and try her out in some more serious and adult action fare. But Charlie’s Angels is still passable action comedy entertainment, especially if you have pre-teens or teens that dig this sort of thing. It’s a great gateway movie into the action genre.
Also of note this week is the true story of the Fox News scandals in Bombshell starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, the new action flick John Henry with Terry Crews and the bombastic new Korean action movie The Witch: Subversion.
Until next week movie lovers!
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday March 10, 2020
A Quiet Place 4K Mondo X SteelBook Edition
Bamboozled (2000)* - Criterion Collection
Beauty and the Beast (1991) 4K
Beauty and the Beast (2017) 4K
Bleach (TV) Set 6
Charlie's Angels (2019)
Day the World Ended (1955)*
Inherit the Viper
Man in the Shadow (1957)*
Masked and Anonymous (2003)*
Salesman (1968)* - Criterion Collection
Seven Worlds, One Planet
Spies in Disguise
Super Bowl LIV Champions: Kansas City Chiefs
The Affair: The Complete Series
The Affair: The Final Season
The Bolshevik Trilogy*
The Ten Commandments (1923 & 1956) Digibook Edition
The Witch: Subversion
Whisky Galore! & The Maggie: Two Films by Alexander Mackendrick
*Catalog Blu-ray debut