Film Reviews: New Releases for June 9 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Film Reviews: New Releases for June 9

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Flamin' Hot, Mending the Line

Posted By on June 8, 2023, 9:16 AM

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click to enlarge Jesse Garcia in Flamin' Hot - SEARCHLIGHT FILMS
  • Searchlight Films
  • Jesse Garcia in Flamin' Hot
Flamin’ Hot **1/2
Evidence seems to suggest that this “inspiring true story” might not actually be true, but creatively, the bigger problem is how little it does with the “inspiring true story” narrative template. It’s based on the life of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), a Mexican-American high-school dropout who tries to turn his life around, first by getting a janitorial job at the local Southern California Frito-Lay plant in the mid-1980s, then by (according to him) coming up with the concept for spicy snack foods that became a marketing sensation. Montañez’s rise to corporate management (which nobody disputes) is still an interesting American success story, and the screenplay subtly mixes a faith-based component into the tale of someone trying to overcome both racist assumptions about him and his own internalized lack of self-worth for a chance to succeed. But while Garcia’s performance makes him a protagonist worth rooting for, and director Eva Longoria tries to get playful with some fantasy sequences built around Montañez’s culturally-specific POV narration, Flamin’ Hot still feels mostly locked into tropes and rhythms that allow for little sense of discovery. Since it’s more content to tell a story where the villains are individual people rather than structures, the feel-good goofiness comes off as a little tone-deaf, which is perhaps fitting when it starts out with an ahistorical “print the legend” mentality. Available June 9 via Hulu. (PG-13)

Mending the Line **
I hope it never stops feeling uncomfortable to knock a movie that is so very sincere, yet also so very clumsy, so here we are: Director Joshua Caldwell and screenwriter Stephen Camelio tell a story of grief and trauma that just can’t get out of its own way. After a tragic final day of his tour of duty in Afghanistan, USMC Sgt. John Colter (Sinqua Walls) is recovering at a VA hospital in Montana, where part of his therapy involves learning about fly-fishing from fellow Marine veteran—and fellow PTSD veteran—Ike Fletcher (Brian Cox). Also central to the story is Lucy (Perry Mattfeld), a local librarian grieving the death of her fiancé, but it feels like a major structural mistake trying to give that leg of this three-legged stool equal standing with men traumatized by war. And that’s just one place where Mending the Line just doesn’t feel like it has a handle on how to approach this sensitive material, from the exaggerated freak-out Colter experiences while out at a bar, to framing early interactions between Colter and Fletcher as a variation on The Karate Kid’s unconventional teaching methods. Walls and Cox turn in solid performances, and the Montana landscapes get ample opportunity to shine. It simply never feels like any of the growth, learning and catharsis central to this narrative evolves in a way that feels organic. It’s a bunch of stuff that happens, compiled awkwardly, and dependent on an audience responding to its good intentions. Available June 9 in theaters (R)

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts **
See feature review. Available June 9 in theaters. (PG-13)

About The Author

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw has been a City Weekly staff member since 1999, including assuming the role of primary film critic in 2001 and Arts & Entertainment Editor in 2003. Scott has covered the Sundance Film Festival for 25 years, and provided coverage of local arts including theater, pop-culture conventions, comedy, literature,... more

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