Our Movie Grading Scale:
- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film One Has Ever Seen, Everyone Has An S Film
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd
- The Plot: A chainsaw-wielding George Washington teams with beer-loving bro Sam Adams to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.
- The Review: From what I understand this gory, R-rated animated comedic action flick is from the same minds behind the hilarious ARCHER show which makes sense given the sensibilities of the comedy in this. I’m all for that kind of humor and even though there are plenty of major films coming out for this July 4th weekend, I made sure to give this one a slot for this weekend’s slate of films for the Café to cover because I wanted to have a good time with an over the top comedic film based around the holiday.
And I would say during the first thirty minutes or so I was having a good time, laughing with the film and all of its absurdities that mixed knowledgeable historical and social humor with over the top action, gore, and homages to American culture, patriotism, and purposeful historical inaccuracies. It also features some really solid voice over work from an impressive cast that is clearly having fun with this. But after about the first thirty or so minutes that feeling like I was watching another episode of ARCHER started to become a feeling like I was watching an episode of the show that just didn’t know when to quit and I went from laughing out loud almost every minute to soft chuckles to just smiling at a humorous moment or two by the climatic battle.
There is some smart and witty stuff in this, even up to the final scene which lampoons the very real injustices the country would still have to spend the next two hundred plus years after its founding trying to right. There’s commentary here about the hypocrisy of the revolution while still giving a little reverence to what the founders accomplished and what the ideals are behind the idea of “America”. But its lost too many times in the over the top silliness that could easily turn off those who just don’t click with the humor. So while I was still entertained enough to see it through, while I still admired some things in here, while I had fun with the humor and the voice work at times, I did find myself thanking the film gods this was a straight to streamer Netflix flick (Though I wouldn’t have minded renting it either) and not a theatrical release. C+ for AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE. If you love the sort of comedy of an ARCHER this will be right up your alley as a stay at home watch for the holiday weekend, but its nothing groundbreaking or memorable beyond that.
- The Plot: In 1954 Detroit, a group of small-time criminals is hired to steal what they think is a simple document. When their plan goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them—and for what ultimate purpose—weaves them through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city.
- The Review: Fresh off the disastrous Oscars telecast he produced, Steven Soderbergh has a new film out exclusively released through HBO Max, following up a similar release with his experimental film from last year. However unlike that one this is more of a straightforward film regarding a heist gone wrong in 1950s Detroit with an impressive ensemble that includes an unmarketed cast member that will make you go “Wait, he’s in this?!” when he shows up on screen.
Two-thirds through this I thought this could be a contender for our Best of the Year list at the end of the 2021 movie watching season. The writing is sharp, the direction is competent, and the acting ranges from good to great. And the film doesn’t make you wait too long to become the thrilling mystery that it becomes as you follow these two criminals around and are just as befuddled as they are as to who’s using who. Every story beat has you on the edge of your seat wanting to figure out if these guys are going to get out of this alive and who in the hell they can actually trust.
The film however does have some significant flaws, really showing themselves especially in the third act. Chief being that there are times we shift away from our main protagonists to focus on other supporting players and at times we shift away from them so long that it can feel inconsistent enough that you find yourself going “Oh yeah, this so and so person is still relevant to this story?” when they pop up on screen again. There’s a real feeling like nobody cleane dup the script to make it feel better well rounded and not as if they were making it up as they went along. This culminates in a pretty messy third act that rushes the end of each character’s story arc and leaves you feeling like the movie itself wasn’t that sure how to exactly end this tale of deceit.
That said I did think this was an entertaining modern noir flick that did end on a high note. I would honestly not have minded seeing this on the big screen. B- for NO SUDDEN MOVE. A flawed and yet entertaining noir that does its job.
- The Plot: A waitress agrees to accompany an exotic dancer, her put-upon boyfriend, and her mysterious and domineering roommate on a road trip to Florida to seek their fortune at a high-end strip club.
- The Review: No matter what I or others may think about this film, its is hands down the only film this year that is currently a lock to be important to the history of cinema as the first ever film adaptation of a Twitter thread. A thread that I should have probably read for myself before going to see this because A24’s trailers and quite frankly plenty of movie critics who have decided to claim this as among the best films of the year, have marketed this a wild modern day road trip gone crazy film. What it ends up being is a film filled with such debauchery that the comedy falls flat after the turn the plot takes half way through, and makes this more of a sex horror flick than a sex comedy of terrors.
For one most of the film’s characters can come off grating, from the annoying Stefani to her clueless boyfriend that I came to have contempt for rather than feel sorry for. Though I will say I found our main protagonist easy to empathize with even if we won’t ever know how much truth there even is to this story. Colman Domingo stole the show for me playing a scary and intimidating antagonist role rather well, but he couldn’t single handily get me to like this.
The film is supposed to be a quick watch at less than ninety minutes long, but instead I felt like it dragged and felt longer than it should have been and what was marketed to me as a fast paced wild road trip is actually a rather slow watch as we shift from uncomfortable situation to uncomfortable situation with the comedic portions just failing to hit with me too many times. We even have a drawn out sex scene that boldly shows us male nudity that we aren’t used to seeing in these sort of films but it just plays out as a very uncomfortable watch.
I think the film does stand out though for great direction that makes you feel like you’re actually there with them during each step of the journey, and its all shot on location and as a Tampa Bay native I could point out all of the sights we get from the film when they reach Florida. The film also has pretty stellar acting, my beefs with some of the characters are in no way the actors’ faults and everyone here delivers in performing their roles. There’s also some really nice stylistic choices from Twitter chirps, to iPhone fonts, and even volume control graphics, plus an interesting short scene close to the third act where we get the perspective of Stefani for once over “Zola” herself.
But none of that can change the fact that what has been told to me to be a fun and crazy romp is really a pretty uncomfortable film that just left me feeling like I could have just appreciated the film making and good acting, but could not get much into the mediocre quality of the actual execution of the story itself. As I chewed on it coming out my screening with my wife, we both just admitted to one another that we were very underwhelmed and could have just rented this at home. And the cherry on top? The abrupt ending which even those championing this film have admitted is a weakness. Sorry, not sorry but I can’t in good conscious get behind this one as hard as others are. C+ for ZOLA. A rare misfire for A24. They should have just released this on Apple TV Plus or sent it straight to home media.