Film Reviews: New Releases for June 13-14 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Film Reviews: New Releases for June 13-14

Inside Out 2, Tuesday, Treasure, Firebrand, I Used to Be Funny, Brats

Posted By on June 13, 2024, 7:36 AM

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click to enlarge Inside Out 2 - DISNEY/PIXAR
  • Disney/Pixar
  • Inside Out 2
Brats **1/2
In some ways, it’s more interesting to approach the phenomenon of the “Brat Pack”—the mid-1980s cohort of young actors who became stars through such ensemble vehicles as The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire—through the insider’s-eye-view perspective of actor Andrew McCarthy than a conventional documentary would be, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better movie. McCarthy directs here in a documentary that’s really about the “Brat Pack” designation itself, as he reaches out to former co-stars—including Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore—in part to processes his own sense that being grouped under that designation hijacked the trajectory of his acting career. Along the way, McCarthy also talks to pop-culture writers who reflect on the enduring legacy of mid-’80s youth cinema, dabbling in topics including the lack of racial diversity in those movies and the songs they turned into hits. But mostly it feels like a filmed therapy session for McCarthy and the others, as they try to come to terms both with feeling pigeonholed and how association with the term may be a “forever” legacy, and a little of McCarthy’s navel-gazing goes a long way. Things get most compelling when McCarthy talks to David Blum, the New York magazine journalist who coined the phrase “Brat Pack,” and tries to get a mea culpa—but that also serves to make one wish the whole movie had been as spiky. Available June 13 via Hulu. (NR)

Firebrand **
Did you ever get the sense that a movie was named by marketing people who hadn’t actually watched it? That’s at least one takeaway from this historical drama set during the final years of the reign of King Henry VIII (Jude Law), as his sixth wife, Katherine Parr (Alicia Vikander), navigates the perilous path between loyalty to the monarch and her association with religious reformer/old friend Anne Askew (Erin Doherty). The narrative is generally at its most interesting when Henry himself is at the center, as Law serves up an entertaining performance capturing how Henry’s increasing infirmity drives his capricious behavior. Unfortunately, this is theoretically a story with Katherine at the center, one that suggests she was the strong personality who ultimately shaped the personality of the princess/future queen Elizabeth (Junia Rees). And it’s pretty hard to extract that conclusion when Katherine spends most of the second half of the movie not so much standing up to Henry and conservative advisors like cleric Stephen Gardiner (a terrific Simon Russell Beale) as trying desperately not to get caught, and hoping that a late pregnancy might protect her; there’s not a heck of a lot of firebrand-ing going on. It’s also fairly weird that director Karim Aïnouz tries to build tension into Katherine’s ultimate fate when it’s betrayed by the tagline on the movie’s posters (or, really, reading a Wikipedia entry). Those marketing folks really didn’t do this one any favors. Available June 14 in theaters. (R)

I Used to Be Funny **
Clearly this is a “your mileage may vary” situation, but: I’m 100% over movies that tease a protagonist’s traumatizing event, only to wait until the third act to show it. This one is the story of Sam Cowell (Rachel Sennott), a Toronto stand-up comedian who learns about a missing-persons case involving Brooke (Olga Petsa), the 14-year-old girl for whom Sam was once a nanny, and who is tied up in an incident that has derailed Sam’s career and her life. Despite proving once again how hard it is to write convincingly funny material for a stand-up comedian character, writer/director Ally Pankiw does try to show us the “before” and “after” of Sam’s existence, with Sennott’s performance effectively capturing both the free spirit she once was, and the basket case she has become. The problem is a narrative structure where the exact nature of Sam’s trauma is clear from about the 10-minute mark, as Pankiw weaves back and forth in time in a way that certainly evokes a fragmented state of Sam’s mind, but also makes everything a painful build-up to The Bad Thing That Happened (trigger warnings galore). Would it be so hard to decide that the audience can grasp the awfulness without depicting it? Or if it must be shown, to opt for simple linear chronology? Just spitballing here, but screenplays can deal with trauma, and not become a cruel waiting game before laying it out there. Available June 14 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)

Inside Out 2 ***1/2
There’s a running joke in this follow-up to the 2015 Disney/Pixar hit about all the emotion characters telling Nostalgia (June Squibb) that she needs to go away—and the creative team follow through by figuring out how to make something with its own voice beyond appealing to fond feelings about the original. As Riley (Kensington Tallman) hits her teenage years, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and the other emotions in her head try to keep her level while all Riley’s new emotions—particularly Anxiety (Maya Hawke)—threaten to completely take over. There’s plenty of visual imagination on display, not just in expanding on the original’s physical universe but in creating new characters, like the hand-drawn toddler show memory Bloofy (Ron Funches) or a video-game hero whose hair glitches out when he turns his head. But most impressively, the screenwriting team of Dave Holstein and Meg LeFauve shift the perspective so the story becomes less about parents having to adjust to a new understanding of their kid’s evolving personality, as was the emphasis in the original, than about the kid adjusting to a new understanding of her own personality. It’s possible some folks might balk at the idea that coming to terms with every part of one’s self—good, bad or neutral—is simply a matter of will and “good vibes,” but Inside Out 2 certainly takes a chance on a different approach to the complexity of identity, and how hard it can be not to let Anxiety run your internal control panel. Available June 14 in theaters. (PG)

Treasure **1/2
It’s a little weird to realize that this is the second movie of 2024—after the Sundance hit A Real Pain—in which American descendants of Holocaust survivors travel to Poland to understand their family history, and that the spiky energy of A Real Pain might be part of why this one feels underbaked. Set in 1991, when the recent collapse of the Soviet bloc allows Westerners to visit Poland for the first time in decades, it finds New York-based journalist Ruthie Rothwax (Lena Dunham) joined by her father Edek (Stephen Fry), a survivor of Auschwitz, on a trip where their respective approaches to the experience leads to friction. The premise begins from a tricky place, as it effectively tries to place on an equal psychological footing the direct trauma experienced by a 1940s Polish Jew and the generational trauma—including eating disorders—faced by his daughter as a consequence of her parents’ never-expressed feelings about their experiences. Fry struggles to find the sweet spot between Edek’s repressed feelings and the part of him that becomes an extroverted bon vivant, while Dunham is much more effective capturing a different kind of wound and her efforts to heal it. It just always feels like a relationship out of balance, both from a narrative structure standpoint and within the movie itself. Its ideas about this event rippling through time already got a more effective treatment this year. Available June 14 in theaters. (R)

Tuesday **
First-time feature writer/director Daina Oniunas-Pusić offers up a bold allegorical premise in this strange fantasy, but it never quite feels like she’s in full control of how to explore it. Set in contemporary England, it finds terminally-ill 15-year-old Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) encountering a physical manifestation of the Angel of Death in the form of a mottled parrot (voiced by Arinzé Kene)—and the two form a kind of friendship that alarms Tuesday’s mother, Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss). That narrative heads in some wild, best-not-to-spoil directions, some of which suggest that Oniunas-Pusić might have found her greatest success at making the whole thing a dark comedy. Instead, Tuesday veers through multiple tones and points of view, short-changing the potentially fascinating notion of the psychological and existential burden of being Death, and even a cockeyed view of what the apocalypse might look like, in favor of something much more simply focused on grief. Louis-Dreyfuss certainly nails her performance, recognizing the complex ways that a mother can deal with the prospect of losing a child, ranging from avoidance to ferocious protectiveness. The pokey pacing and overly-convoluted plot simply never feel in synch with the story’s more fantastical elements, leading to the sense that this filmmaker took a big swing and didn’t quite make contact. Available June 14 in theaters. (R)

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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