It’s accurate to call “Happy Death Day 2U” a dumb movie, and accurate to call it a smart movie. It seems as if Blumhouse studio asked writer-director Christopher Landon (who also directed the 2017 original, from Scott Lobdell’s screenplay) to go hog-wild building on the premise from the first entry, and Landon does just that. This sequel isn’t nearly as much of a straight rehash as the horrible trailers suggest.
Fighting with My Family” doesn’t redefine the sports biopic genre, which in a way is too bad because professional wrestling is such an unusual thing, sitting on the border between athletics and entertainment. It might be fascinating to dig further into the mechanisms of how participants – and ultimately, champions — are chosen and how their narratives are written. As it stands, “Fighting” is a standard biopic in structure, but the story of Paige is so genuinely inspiring, and actress Florence Pugh (“The Little Drummer Girl”) is such a natural star, that the film is totally engaging.
Last season, when “iZombie” constructed its new reality wherein the U.S. government and the Fillmore Graves corporation team up to keep zombies and humans behind a wall in Seattle, I thought “This can’t last.” As “iZombie’s” fifth and final season (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on The CW) opens, we’re starting to see the specifics of why it can’t last. Meanwhile, creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are maintaining their delicate balance wherein Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and newly zombified Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) behave in humorous ways depending on whose brain they most recently consumed.
There are ’90s teen movies with more shock value, but “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998) is the one I point to as the “American Graffiti” of my generation – a sweet, universal story featuring every archetype under the sun, and darn near every notable young actor of the period. It doesn’t lean into the “end of an era” vibe as much as the purposely nostalgic “Graffiti,” as it’s much more of a comedy, but it ultimately strikes that note anyway, almost catching a viewer off guard after all the laughs.
The most fun-to-watch (and possibly the most fun-to-make) parts of “Bad Boys” (1995) are the action sequences, and that’s again the case in the sequel. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that returning director Michael Bay and the four writers of “Bad Boys II” (2003) came up with action sequences first, then strung a loose screenplay around them.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” recently wrapped an amazing four-season run with Rebecca Bunch (co-creator Rachel Bloom) deciding to pursue love – as in her love of writing songs, but now she’ll do it on paper instead of in her head. As fans know, not all of the 150 to 300 songs (depending on how you count them) from “CXG’s” run were in Rebecca’s head, meaning that Josh, Greg, Nathaniel, Paula, Heather, Darryl, etc. also did their share of internal songwriting.
Bad Boys” (1995) is one of those movies that all my friends watched 100 times (or at least parts of it 100 times) back when watching movies via flipping through TV channels was a thing. For whatever reason, I wasn’t in that group – I’ve never been a channel surfer, and I don’t have a hunger for cop-and-crime films – but I can see the movie’s appeal. As Miami Police Department partners, Martin Lawrence (who is actually top-billed) and Will Smith smoothly transition from sitcoms to the big screen and are totally into the spirit of a screenplay laden with off-the-cuff, curse-filled quips.
There’s something to be said about B-list superheroes. The average moviegoer (who doesn’t have a doctorate in comic-book lore) has lower expectations, and we also don’t have as many preconceived notions about what the movie should be. “Shazam!,” featuring a game turn by Zachary Levi and a cadre of good child actors, slots nicely into this space, calling to mind “Big” (and at one point directly referencing the Tom Hanks classic) but also making me hope the kid-on-the-inside Shazam can exchange dialog with the dour Batman at some point.
Writer David Mamet – with Barry Levinson directing – switches his focus from the small cons of “House of Games” and the like to the global con of “Wag the Dog” (1997), a delightful and sometimes hilariously absurd examination of the cover-up of a presidential scandal. It’s also harrowing enough now and then to be more than a straight-up comedy. Savvy followers of the news cycle know the adage: If a huge story breaks, look at what the previous big story was and ask if the new one has been manufactured as a distraction.
With his directorial follow-up to his noteworthy debut “House of Games,” David Mamet takes a step back with “Things Change” (1988). It does have twists that made me sit up and take notice in the final moments. But it’s short on memorable Mamet-speak, and it doesn’t illustrate the contrast between sweet-natured shoe-shiner Gino (Don Ameche) and low-on-the-totem-pole gangster Jerry (Joe Mantegna) as crisply as I would’ve liked.