Change of Heart

The-god-committee-movie-review-kelsey-grammer
Tribeca Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
The God Committee (2021)

Based on a Mark St. Germain play, “The God Committee” centers on a panel at the fictional St. Augustine Hospital in New York City that periodically makes the call on who receives an organ transplant from a waiting list of candidates. Each member of the panel is a caricature placed there to deliberate toward a “12 Angry Men”-type verdict: a star surgeon with a conflict of interest (Kelsey Grammer), an idealistic young doctor (Julia Stiles), a bureaucratic administrator (Janeane Garofalo), a no-nonsense old-timer (Patricia R. Floyd), a grief-stricken psychiatrist (Peter Kim) and a utilitarian disbarred lawyer/hospital board member/priest (Colman Domingo).

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Searching for the Real Love

Mary-j-bliges-my-life-movie-review-big-bub
Amazon Studios

MOVIE REVIEW
Mary J. Blige’s My Life (2021)

The first two credits that appear in the “Mary J. Blige’s My Life” documentary belong to the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs, one of the masterminds behind the seminal album referenced in the title. Those are a bit concerning given how Prime Video’s other recent music documentary “Pink: All I Know So Far” has turned out. Thankfully, Ms. Blige isn’t interested in a glowing profile of herself. During the film, she revisits an old TV interview during which she appeared evasive and seemed to be lashing out. This movie affords an opportunity to set the record straight and finally answer those invasive and uncomfortable questions with her guard down and the wisdom and introspection that only come with age and experience.

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Giving Pregnant Pause

False-positive-movie-review-pierce-brosnan
Hulu

MOVIE REVIEW
False Positive (2021)

“False Positive” is not body horror in the conventional sense, as the terrors visited on our protagonist, Lucy (Ilana Glazer), are from clinical procedures performed by fertility specialist Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan) with a hospital gown obscuring her view. Much like “Here Before,” “False Positive” casts its protagonist as an unreliable narrator suffering mental breakdown, only to reveal its own plot twist as she’s gaslit the whole time.

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Over the Borderline

I-carry-you-with-me-te-llevo-conmigo-movie-review-armando-espitia-christian-vázquez
Alejandro Lopez Pineda/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
I Carry You With Me (Te Llevo Conmigo) (2021)

Though based on a true story, the synopsis of “I Carry You With Me” nevertheless reads like a liberal guilt bingo card: It’s the story of gay undocumented immigrants from Mexico. To escape poverty, lack of opportunity and a straight family, aspiring chef Iván (Armando Espitia) illegally crosses the border. His well-to-do lover, Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), fails to obtain a visa and forfeits his university teaching job and generational wealth in order to join Iván in New York. Even as they work their way up, the lack of a path to citizenship necessarily means that they will never again visit their loved ones back home.

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Running Into the Ground

Never-stop-movie-review-ryan-zheng
China Lion Film

MOVIE REVIEW
Never Stop (2021)

China’s box office champion over the dragon boat festival long weekend, “Never Stop” seems to be emblematic of that nation’s contemporary cinema. Its plot revolves around two track stars, both with corny, clichéd names. Hao Chaoyue (Ryan Zheng), which means “surpass” in English, is a washed-up medalist who finds himself in financial ruins for peddling counterfeit sneakers. Wu Tianyi (Li Yunrui), which literally translates to “adding wings,” is a current titleholder and qualifying for the Olympics. In a desperate bid to salvage his business, Chaoyue reaches out to Tianyi, his former underling, in hopes of securing an endorsement deal. Meanwhile, Tianyi’s A.D.H.D. symptoms spiral into a full-fledged mental breakdown.

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Golden Mean Girls

Queen-bees-movie-review-ellen-burstyn-james-caan
Ray Bengston/Gravitas Ventures

MOVIE REVIEW
Queen Bees (2021)

The “Queen Bees” trailer pitches the film as “Mean Girls” for the geriatric set, but in actuality it’s a feature-length infomercial singing the virtues of the nursing home and brought to you by the AARP (which, incidentally, was the actual sponsor of the virtual preview this critic attended).

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Unlicensed to Kill

The-hitmans-wifes-bodyguard-movie-review-ryan-reynolds-samuel-l-jackson-salma-hayek
David Appleby/Lionsgate

MOVIE REVIEW
The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (2021)

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” finds Ryan Reynolds reprising the role of dimwitted Michael Bryce, who suffers an identity crisis due to his professional license being revoked and goes on a sabbatical in Italy per the suggestion of his therapist (Rebecca Front). However, the serenity is short lived as Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) from the 2017 original rudely disrupts to summon his help rescuing his former client and her husband, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).

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Father Imposes Best

Bo-gia-dad-im-sorry-movie-review-tran-thanh-ngan-chi
3388 Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Bo Gia (Dad, I’m Sorry) (2021)

In Vietnam’s all-time box office champ, “Bo Gia (Dad, I’m Sorry),” a deeply traditional extended family reckons with the generation gap and broader cultural shifts brought by modernization and Westernization. It’s the same well Ang Lee drew from exactly three decades ago to much international acclaim, yet this time it feels different. Whereas Mr. Lee became increasingly mindful of his international profile and audience as the “Father Knows Best” trilogy progressed, directors Tran Thanh and Vu Ngoc Dang are unabashedly Vietnamese in their approach, warts and all.

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Fleeing the Nest

A-quiet-place-part-ii-movie-review-emily-blunt-noah-jupe-millicent-simmonds
Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
A Quiet Place Part II (2021)

“A Quiet Place Part II” lives in the shadow of many great sci-fi horror flicks. Its predecessor revolved around blind creatures attracted to noises, like the cave dwellers in “The Descent,” but it felt original because of its theme of family dynamics related to responsibilities and guilt. The sequel seems to have drawn various plotlines from “The Walking Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Aliens.” It works for the most part, although it also feels comparatively derivative and tangential. Trailers and ads have played up the “Walking Dead” aspect, but it’s contained within only one scene.

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Inglorious Bastards

Final-account-movie-review
Focus Features

MOVIE REVIEW
Final Account (2021)

The documentary “Final Account” tracks down about 20 members of the last generation of Germans and Austrians from the Third Reich to glean their recollections. The typical responses: 1. We didn’t know! Nobody knew! 2. Everybody knew, but we were too scared to talk about it! 3. Ashamed. 4. No regrets.

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