The God Committee (2021)

I found the God Committee on Netflix this evening. It was a film released in July of the past year in limited release.

The God Committee is the story of a group of people at a hospital on a committee that make decisions on which patients receive transplants. Dr. Boxer (Kelsey Grammar) is retiring from the committee after years, being replaced by Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles). They receive a heart, but the patient it was intended for died when prepping. The committee had one hour to make the decision on who would get the heart instead.

The film also shows the committee members seven years in the future, dealing with the consequences of their decision.

I have to say, I was confused by the scenes in the future. It took me quite awhile to figure that out. I was especially confused since Kelsey Grammar had differing amount of hair. So much that I thought to myself…is he wearing a piece?

Once I figured out the time frame, the film made more sense. I’m not sure the story that they were telling was intense enough to spread over seven years. The acting was solid. Janeane Garofalo was on the committee as well.

There were plenty of moral decisions that the committee had to consider before rendering their verdict. The dialogue was strong and the debates in the office were the best part of the film. The interactions with the committee was the standout.

In the end, the film is okay. It has some good acting and some good pieces. The future story is the weakest part.

3 stars

Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania

I have not been a fan of this franchise. That is not going to change after Hotel Transylvania 4, either. I will say that I did not hate this movie., which might be the best thing I can say about it.

Even with Adam Sandler out as Drac (now voiced by Brian Hull, doing a Sandler imitation), I found little about the new animated feature debuting on Amazon Prime this weekend to be interesting or engaging. There were a few giggles in the humor, but there was not much for me. Like many animated films, I believe that younger kids would find this much more entertaining than anyone over, oh, I don’t know, ten.

Drac was preparing to announce that he is retiring and that he was going to hand over the hotel to Mavis (Selena Gomez), but the fact that Mavis’s husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) was a dweeb made Drac reconsider. He told Johnny a lie to cover his tracks and that lie led Johnny try and fix things by turning himself into a monster.

Then, somehow, Drac gets shot with the same ray and turned into a human as did all of the other characters. They then had to head out on a strange quest through the jungle to find a new crystal for the ray before Johnny turned into a raging, mindless beast forever.

So the plot is basically, Drac does something stupid. They have to go on an adventure. Drac learns lesson. Seems familiar.

However, a few voices are different this time. Noticeably, Frank is not voiced by Kevin James and instead is voiced by Brad Abrell. Of course, Sandler is gone too.

There are a bunch of top notch voice actors besides those I have already mentioned including Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Kathryn Hahn (always a joy), David Spade, Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan, and Molly Shannon.

The animation was fine, but there were a few spots where it almost felt unfinished. Then, the joke at the end of the film was bizarre and did not make much sense, unless there are plans to do an animated series and they are going to change up the animation style for it. Otherwise, I do not understand what the joke was about.

This was, at the very best, a middling movie. It was not something that I hated, and may not end up on a year end worst list, but I will never want to see it again. This is reportedly the final film in the franchise and that makes me happy.

2.3 stars

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Shakespeare has always been challenging. I remember reading Macbeth in college and enjoying it, but I have just a minor recollection of the content within it.

So when I heard about the new film adapting the play that would be shown on Apple TV +, I was intrigued. I was even more so when I heard that Denzel Washington was taking the role of Macbeth and that Frances McDormand playing one of the most manipulative and scheming characters in all of classic literature, Lady Macbeth.

The first aspect of the film that really stands out is the technical aspects. Shot in black and white, the settings and backgrounds are minimal. The limited background gives the movie a distinct theater feel, but still was designed to visually benefit each scene. Some individual shots are exquisitely lovely. I truly love the look of this movie.

It should go without saying, but Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand are brilliant in their lead roles. The dialogue is heavy and difficult, of course, but these are two of the best actors of this generation, especially when presented with two of the richest and deepest characters in literature.

Directed by Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth is the most recent adaptation of the Shakespearian tale of murder and madness and one of the best.

4 stars

Scream (2022)

It is interesting that they just called this movie Scream, even though it is basically a sequel of the previous Scream franchise films. Very much like Halloween (2018), although that film removed all but the original film and Scream (2022) brings them all previous Scream films into a nice, cozy hug before slashing their throats.

That may be taking personification to a new level, but there is not a better way to describe how meta and violently bloody this film is. It is also going to be a difficult film to talk about without spoiling, so I will be as careful as I can. I’ll start with this… I enjoyed this quite a bit. It takes the DNA of several of the films and makes it into something relevant for the movie going public of the last several years.

Scream has always been very meta in on itself, with the arrival of the Stab franchise within the movies, which was, of course, based on a true story in the world of Woodsboro. This fifth film takes that age of meta to a new level.

A new Ghostface has appeared in Woodsboro and continued the horror movie phone calls and the violent knife attacks. After Tara (Jenna Ortega) was attacked by Ghostface, her sister Sam (Melissa Barretta) came back to Woodsboro to discover what happened. With these Ghostface murders happening again, it was just a matter of time before the OG Scream team of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gayle Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) would get involved.

Part of the awesomeness of Scream is the mystery of who has now donned the iconic mask of the Ghostface killer and, while this one was not perhaps the most original reveal ever, the reasons behind the killings were something that I found hit the right button for me.

The new character of Sam is badass and she dominates the scenes that she is in. Melissa Barretta brings a ferociousness to the role and she showed the toughness one would have to have in order to try to survive a Ghostface murder spree. There is a hook with the character of Sam that really was an effective use of history.

Of the old guard, David Arquette stood out dramatically. His character had the biggest arc of the originals and he brought it. I actually thought his performance elevated the film more than any of the others from previous Scream films.

The kills are pretty good and definitely vicious. There was a lot of blood, but the people of Woodsboro must be a hearty crew because several people took stab wounds and just kept on kicking. However, with all of the knife attacks in the area, you would think that there would be more gun owners in Woodsboro.

There were a few moments that felt as if the characters were not using their brains, but there was nothing that truly took me out of the narrative.

The film does an admirable job of establishing the new characters while blending them in with our old favorites. However, there were a few of the characters that was short changed, and, of course, that was bound to happen.

Overall, I was entertained with this movie. Its humor, bloody kills and tension was on par with the best of the Scream films. There were a few moments that dragged the film down some, but it is still a very good entry into the franchise, proving that Scream still has some juice left.

4 stars

The Tender Bar

The newest George Clooney directed film with Ben Affleck popped up on Amazon Prime this weekend. It is called The Tender Bar and it is a coming-of-age story of a young boy, JR, growing up on Long Island with his mother (Lily Rabe), a father who was nothing more than a voice on the radio (Max Martini) and his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), who ran a family bar and filled the hole in his life.

The film started off with a voice over from an older JR talking about his life as a young boy (Daniel Ranieri). The problem with this is that it immediately reminded me of the movie Stand By Me, so much so that I tried to find out if the voice over was the same voice who narrated that movie (which was Richard Dreyfuss). This film was narrated by actor Ron Livingston. The problem was once you connected this film to Stand By Me in my head, you were going to have a huge difficulty trying to live up to that awesome film. Though The Tender Bar had some great moments and was an overall enjoyable experience, it came a long way from reaching Stand By Me territory for me.

I thought Ben Affleck was tremendous. He felt like a comfortable and wonderful character that works so well. He was amazing with both the young JR and the older JR (Tye Sheridan). His kindness and soft spoken nature comes through beautifully.

The rest of the cast was solid, but I would not say that anyone else specifically stood out. Christopher Lloyd was great in a minimal amount of screen time.

The story narrative is a tad thin, but it does find some strong scenes to string together. The scene near the end with JR and his father was especially strong. I’m not sure the overall reason for the character of Sidney (Briana Middleton), but the scenes are good.

As a film on Amazon Prime, this was worth a watch. It may not have been something that I would have cared for in a theater, but it works well enough at home.

3.5 stars

The Lost Daughter (2021)

Maggie Gyllenhaal and her directorial feature debut arrived on Netflix this weekend, a film that had been released in selected theaters to make it eligible for the Academy Awards. There is a lot to like in this one.

Speaking specifically is Olivia Colman, who is one of the best actors we have working today. Every time she goes on the screen, there are wonderful results.

In this film, Colman played Leda, a middle aged English teacher who had two female children. Leda is on vacation in southern Italy where she spends time on the beach. While on the beach, she sees another family on vacation, a family that were made up of some unfriendly people.

When the family loses track of a little girl, Leda finds her and brings her back. However, Leda also sees a doll in the water that she takes. The little girl was constantly crying over the missing doll, but Leda still took it back to her hotel room.

During this time, we had flashbacks to the time in Leda’s life where her daughters were very young and she was struggling to try and advance her career. Leda (young Leda played by Jessie Buckley) was having trouble with her girls’ behavior and the constant attention they required. She went to NYC and ended up in an affair with another professor (Peter Sarsgaard).

The film is filled with uncertainty and mystery. I know that I was not sure where the film was leading us and, even after seeing it, I am not sure exactly what had happened. I believe there are hints throughout the film that it may be more tragic than what it seemed like. And not just the conclusion either.

Olivia Colman is awesome as ever. She helped create the potential interpretations with the manner in which she approached the character. You may have some different ideas of what happened in the end and I do like the possible results.

The Lost Daughter may be a little long, but it is a fascinating film with a debate over the conclusion.

3.75 stars