2022 Movie Reviews: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy / The Tender Bar / Together Together

An anthology romance from Japan, a coming-of-age tale from George Clooney, and a pseudo-rom-com about surrogate birth.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

A chance encounter in a post-Facebook age.

Some of the most gorgeously nuanced and affecting writing and acting you’ll see all year is in Japanese filmmaker, Ryusuku Hamaguchi‘s relationship anthology, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. While it has nothing to do with Pat Sajak or Triple Toss Up sweeps, it has everything to do with how people navigate different romantic entanglements in three narratively-unrelated short stories. The first titled “Magic (or Something Less Assuring)” follows a model (Kotone Furukawa) who realizes through conversation that her best friend is dating her ex (Ayumu Nakajima) and his take on their break-up is pretty different than hers. The second titled “Door Wide Open” follows an older woman going to college late in life (a stunning Katsuki Mori) who is fucking a younger college dude and gets manipulated into honey-trapping a famed literature professor (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) that failed the younger college dude. Finally, the third story takes place in an alternate reality where a vicious computer virus has forced everyone to go back to telegrams and letters. Without Facebook, how are you going to keep up with your high school friends? That’s what a late 30s woman (Fusako Urabe) realizes when she chance encounters her first love (Aoba Kawai) while in town for her 20th high school reunion. Anthologies are usually hit or miss, but I’ve never seen one with this good of hit ratio. The first story is merely great but the second and third stories are flat-out brilliant. Those expecting thunderous Bravo TV relationship drama will be sorely disappointed, everything here is very dialed in and realistic, most times painfully so. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is driven by exquisite performances and dialogue and at two hours in length, it never overstays its welcome. This is also filmmaker Ryusuku Hamaguchi‘s second film this year with the other being the three-hour Oscar hopeful Drive My Car. That film is supposed to be even better than this one and when it opens at Camelview in two weeks I’m going to be the first one there. Grade: A- ($4.99 rental on Amazon)

The Tender Bar

“Let me tell you about women, kid.”

The king of cinematic schmaltz is back. Actor-turned-filmmaker George Clooney crafts this predictably lethargic adaptation of what I’m assuming is a wildly uninteresting memoir of a kid (Tye Sheridan) from a rough neighborhood with a kookie family who grew up to be a writer… who writes about how kookie his family is. His deadbeat dad abandoned him and his mom (Lily Rabe), but still works as a radio disc jockey. This means the kid hears his dad on the radio all the time and thinks his dad might even live inside the radio. That’s a fascinating concept the movie does next to nothing with. Instead, we get two eccentric family members – a cool uncle (Ben Affleck) and an insane grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) — offering the kid mediocre to bad advice. The other characters of the family are so underdeveloped they might as well be background extras. Seriously, tell me one personality trait of the grandma or the kid’s cousins. I don’t think you ever even see the other kids living in the house. Who the fuck edited this? Anyway, the cast all give adequate performances with the exception of Affleck who is perhaps better than he’s ever been. He’s excellent in this role, he’s so good in fact it kills you the character and performance are wasted on a movie so seemingly uninterested in three-dimensional characters and authentic human interaction. It’s also completely uninterested in being entertaining. At one hour and forty-five minutes or so, it felt as longer than any 2021 release I’ve seen. It makes the candy-coated, Zaleplon-fueled melodrama of Belfast seem like John McTiernan‘s Die Hard. Every time Affleck isn’t on screen, which is quite a bit seeing as though it’s only a supporting character, it’s borderline unwatchable. And the dumpster cherry on top? It’s all framed by the tritest “back when I was growing up” main character-as-an-adult voice-over you could ever imagine. What a turd. Grade: C– (Amazon Prime)

Together Together

“So, do you want to tell the director the script is horseshit, or should I?”

I had high hopes for this little indie comedy about the inherent awkwardness of surrogate pregnancies. Mostly because it starred two of my favorite contemporary comedic actors – Ed Helms and the human tornado that is Patti Harrison. Imagine my surprise when two of the funniest people in the industry can barely deliver a laugh throughout this entire movie. Neither gives a bad performance, they just seem to be in a constant struggle with uninteresting and downright innocuous material. Everything about this is played so safely and politely, without a dash of chaos or actual character insight, that the whole thing sinks pretty fast until basically opting out of having an ending and merely stopping. On the other hand, there’s nothing terrible about it, it’s competent around every corner and Patti Harrison gives us just enough of a glimmer where we realize she’s about to hit the film world by storm when she lands a part up to her capabilities. For the most part, you watch this and constantly ask yourself, “Why do should I give a shit?” That is if you manage to stay awake. Grade: C (Hulu)

Also Streaming or In Theaters

SPOILER is the killer in the latest Scream reboot/sequel, or as it describes itself – a “requel”

Scream 5 (In Theaters)

Licorice Pizza (In Theaters)

Don’t Look Up (Netflix)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (AppleTV)

The Matrix Resurrections (HBOMax)

Rachel Sennott has had enough of this fucking Shiva bullshit.

Shiva Baby (HBOMax)

Pig (Hulu)

Being the Ricardos (Amazon Prime)

West Side Story (In Theaters)

Spider-Man: No Way Home (In Theaters)

Vinette Robinson and Stephen Graham plate the dinner from hell in Boiling Point.

The Power of the Dog (Netflix)

The Lost Daughter (Netflix)

Parallel Mothers (In Theaters)

Boiling Point ($4.99 rental on Amazon)

Novice ($6.99 rental on Amazon)

Last Night in Soho is a trippy psychological horror mystery from Edgar Wright

Mass ($4.99 rental on Amazon)

Last Night in Soho ($5.99 rental on Amazon)

Benedetta ($6.99 rental on Amazon)

Passing (Netflix)

Spencer ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

The biggest cast of the year belongs to Wes Anderson‘s ultimately disappointing The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ($5.99 rental on Amazon)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (HBOMax)

Titane ($4.99 rental on Amazon)

Jungle Cruise (Disney+)

The Last Duel (HBOMax)

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