What We're Watching: June 18, 2021

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Brock: "Having already done the live-action redo of 101 Dalmatians in the 1990s, Cruella (2021) is a prequel tale like their two successful Maleficent movies. Yet, in a way this feels more like Disney's response to Joker, but obviously not going that dark; this one is part origin story, part caper movie, and part revenge flick and a ton of fun. Terrific art direction and costumes were to be expected, but the script, direction and performances are surprisingly stellar. Emma Stone does a Clark Kent/Superman dual role, showing some range, and Emma Thompson plays the Miranda Frost-type role so well you really get to hate her. And the best selection of classic rock music since Guardians of the Galaxy. And the nods to the original animated movie are cleverly peppered throughout without overdoing it. Simply put, everything about Cruella is spot on (see what I did there...)."

Jakob: "Creep (2014) and Creep 2 (2017) star Mark Duplass as a serial killer who preys on videographers (yes, these are found footage films). Duplass is clearly the draw as he creates a true creep to psychologically torture his victims, and yet is quite funny at times. Though, even at 80 minutes I found the first film struggling to justify its run time. And by the end, it didn’t feel like much was accomplished in understanding why the killer did what he did. But curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see how they could follow this up. I found the sequel to be even funnier as it follows up with the killer who is now experiencing a mid-life crisis and has lost his zest for murder. It was also more of a guessing game as the viewer tries to determine how sincere the killer is with his identity crisis. Though again, the conclusion doesn’t provide much insight. However, while feeling a bit inconsequential, both are fun rides."

Stuart: "I've learned since starting a graduate counseling program last fall that the big TV series all aspiring therapists watch is HBO's In Treatment. Over the last month I've binged the first three seasons (106 episodes!), and all that depressed New York shrink Gabriel Byrne taught me was 1) mental health professionals do indeed hate their patients, and 2) mental health professionals make shambles of their personal lives. Here's hoping there's more to admire about new counselor Uzo Aduba (aka Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black) as I dive into Season 4."

Jason: "Before the sequel drops this weekend, I caught up with 2017's The Hitman's Bodyguard, a buddy action film that relies -- or really, exists -- on the chemistry and charisma of leads Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Both are doing their usual schtick, more or less, in a story about a professional bodyguard and the hitman rival that is always interfering with his work. Bodyguard's story doesn't push any boundaries, but it doesn't have to. As long as Reynolds and Jackson do their thing (they do, muthaf***a!) and the action sequences satisfy (they do, too), the movie works. The 118-minute run time is a bit much, so it's a weak recommend."

Heath: "Gene Hackman is one of my all-time favorite actors and Loose Cannons (1990) is one of the few films of his I had never seen. After enduring all 94 minutes of this excruciatingly unfunny buddy cop film - I regret seeking it out. Hackman couldn't deliver a bad performance if he tried but he looks bored and disinterested here as a no-nonsense Washington DC detective partnered with neurotic Dan Aykroyd and tasked to find a pornographic film starring Adolf Hitler (!). I usually love Aykroyd too, but his obnoxious performance here sees him doing an endless stream of sub-par impressions (The Cowardly Lion, Captain Kirk etc.). A deplorable waste of talent that might be the worst film Hackman's ever been involved with (and yes, I've seen Superman IV and Welcome to Mooseport)."

Santiago: "To the Wonder (2013): Terrence Malick's follow-up to his marvelous Tree of Life did not garner the same critical acclaim (it currently has a 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). While I agree it never reaches the highs of that movie, I still thought To the Wonder is a beautiful, dreamy movie and one that is deeply personal to Malick and is felt in every frame. I understand that a lot of people found it boring and directionless, but I was deeply moved by the performances (particularly Ben Affleck and Javier Bardem), the voiceovers and Emmanuel Lubezki's mesmerizing cinematography. To quote Roger Ebert's posthumous review: 'It is a film that would rather evoke than supply'. And I think it's great."

Adam: "With Loki doing its level best to make the earlier Thor movies relevant again, I decided to revisit what is likely my least favorite MCU movie: Thor: The Dark World (2013). The movie is still one of the weaker of the series for me, but each time I revisit it, it does grow on me a little more. Hiddelston and Hemsworth stand out in good performances, and it’s nice to see more or Asgard (RIP). I must admit though, with Thor: Ragnarok (2017) being as strong as it was, Thor: Love and Thunder is my most anticipated MCU movie of the next few years."