In-House Reviews #121: The Exorcism, Reverse The Curse, Thelma, The Imaginary & More!

Aaron Neuwirth has reviews for The Exorcism, Reverse the Curse, Thelma, Chestnut, Am I OK?, and The Imaginary.

Between the motorcycles and the kinds of kindness out there, things arrive at a smaller scale this week, but still plenty of options. This set of write-ups includes a horror flick, a family comedy-drama, a comedy posing as a thriller, a couple of queer relationship stories, and a fantastical anime. The following features reviews for The Exorcism, Reverse the Curse, Thelma, Chestnut, Am I OK?, and The Imaginary.

the exorcism

The Exorcism: 6 out of 10

The Setup: A troubled actor (Russell Crowe) begins to unravel while shooting a horror film. His estranged daughter (Ryan Simpkins) wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

Review: I can be upfront and say the ending doesn’t really work. As the film moves into its third act, things become more standard, and the intrigue that had been building dissipates. With that in mind, however, I’m willing to give this film a mild recommendation because I really liked what it was going for to challenge Crowe on some things. Being a film produced by Kevin Williamson and coming from director Joshua John Miller (writer of The Final Girls and son of The Exorcist’s Jason Miller), this ended up feeling like a somewhat meta take on the exorcist film minus the wit. It just plays things straight, and yes, that means jump scares and other familiar elements are deployed. Still, Crowe’s work as a struggling actor dealing with past addictions and family drama brought things to an effective level. I wish some more time was spent on aspects like the film’s cold open that features stage directions of a script and the actual feature mimicking each other, but there’s something about the tone of this whole endeavor that kept me interested, even if it can’t quite stick the landing.

Where To Watch: Opening in theaters on June 21, 2024.

Reverse the Curse: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Ted (Logan Marshall-Green) moves in with his father, Marty (David Duchovny), when he develops a fatal illness. To keep him happy and alive, Ted enlists Marty’s grief counselor, Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz), and friends to fake a Red Sox winning streak.

Review: It’s easy to label this film too maudlin for its own good, but I enjoyed it all the same. Originally titled “Bucky F*cking Dent,” Duchovny is directing a movie based on his own novel to express a certain general kind of love one can have for baseball rooted in the Boston Red Sox curse. However, it’s mainly a father-son story, focused on estranged people who come together during a difficult time and ideally make amends and go out swinging. Can it be obvious? Sure. Did it feel authentic to the times? I can’t really say so. But did it do enough for me anyway? Yes. I seem to be in and out on Marshall-Green with every other film he’s in, and his ridiculous hippie hair wasn’t doing much for me here. Still, he and Duchovny and a winning Beatriz bring what’s needed. Duchovny, most of all, as he’s not letting his directorial duties get in the way of leaning into the sort of sardonic attitude that’s made him a likable presence for all these years. Now, playing a cancer-ridden, regretful dad, channeling that once again is enough to take home the ballgame.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters and available on VOD.

Thelma: 7 out of 10

The Setup: Thelma Post (June Squibb) is a 93-year-old grandmother who loses $10,000 to a con artist on the phone. With help from a friend (Richard Roundtree) and his motorized scooter, she soon embarks on a treacherous journey across Los Angeles to reclaim what was taken from her.

Review: Back in January, The Beekeeper arrived with Jason Statham’s literal beekeeping assassin wanting vengeance based on a phone scam that affected Phylicia Rashad’s character. Thelma takes the latter half of that sentence and makes it all about the victim of the phone scam going on a revenge quest, and it’s pretty funny and oddly touching. Most notably, and very entertainingly, writer/director Josh Margolin shoots this film as if it were a high-stakes action/thriller. The score, camera work, and editing style are all in on the same joke of presenting Thelma and Ben (the late Roundtree) as though they are in a Bourne-style race against time. It’s all very fun. However, Thelma’s family (Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, and Fred Hechinger) is also trying to find her, which provides another layer of humor. Without getting into what this all leads to, the finale is a pretty perfect culmination of what we’ve been seeing, complete with an extended cameo from Malcolm McDowell and a level of understanding concerning what this film wants to say about the elderly population. Bonus points for Margolin clearly using inspiration from real life, although I can’t speak to the validity of grandmother + revolver.

Where To Watch: Opening in select theaters on June 21, 2024.

Chestnut: 5 out of 10

The Setup: Annie (Natalia Dyer) just graduated college and is stuck in her university town of Philly for the summer. She’s ready to start her new job in LA in the fall, but something is holding her back. As she falls into an aimless summer, she finds herself entangled with Tyler (Rachel Keller), a woman she meets at a bar one night, and Danny (Danny Ramirez), Tyler’s co-worker or best friend or…?

Review: It’s fitting that the plot describes Dyer’s character as aimless, as that’s what I felt about most of this feature. There’s a decent setup regarding the fluidity of relationships and the sort of drama that comes from not defining something. At the same time, however, despite good effort from the cast, it was tough to get on board with a movie that felt noncommittal about its choices. This leads to a plot that wants to remain loose enough to simply have the audience appreciate the atmosphere and the chance to hang, but to what avail if the whole idea rests on some sort of development, but ends up leaving us with more of an image of Summer being somewhat interesting before moving back into the normal swing of things. I suppose writer/director Jac Cron may have had more brewing in a manner I’m just not connecting with, but as it stands, I wasn’t quite as entangled with all of this as I would have liked.

Where To Watch: Opening in select theaters on June 21, 2024, and on Digital starting July 2.

Am I OK?: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) have been best friends for most of their lives and think they know everything there is to know about each other. But when Jane announces she`s moving to London, Lucy reveals a long-held secret. As Jane tries to help Lucy, their friendship is thrown into chaos.

Review: Given the general appeal of the cast involved and what this story is trying to do, I’m not sure how it took nearly two years for this film to go from a solid Sundance premiere to a direct-to-streaming release, but here it is. Directors Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s feature ends up being a little unfocused but enjoyable enough when realizing this is far more a feature about female friendship than in its exploration of an adult woman’s coming out story. The success comes from the chemistry between Johnson and Mizuno (who has been in every Alex Garland film and rarely gets to have fun). This film may show the two of them being best of friends, only to force drama between them at an inopportune time. Still, seeing a movie be so confident in its more approachable scenes concerning easygoing banter and honest awkwardness speaks to why being merely watchable can sometimes be enough.

Where To Watch: Now streaming on Max.

The Imaginary: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Rudger is a boy no one can see, imagined by Amanda to share her thrilling make-believe adventures. When Rudger arrives alone at The Town of Imaginaries, where forgotten Imaginaries live and find work, he faces a mysterious threat.

Review: Coming out of Studio Ponoc, a sort of offshoot of talent from Studio Ghibli, The Imaginary is still one of the studio’s early features, but it shows a lot of promise. The hand-drawn animation with some enhanced elements speaks to a more modern way of what Japanese animation can produce, which was largely striking. The more villainous element, in particular, led to some indelible imagery that I tend to hope for when looking at studios attempting to match up to the greats. From a story perspective, there’s enough here for this film to get by on, even if I did feel a sense of familiarity in a feature that lends itself to lots of creativity regarding imagination. Director Yoshiyuki Momose and his team try to make a meal out of the world in which these characters exist. I can’t say I would keep traveling down this rabbit hole, but there’s enough appeal taking place that can attract an audience.

Where To Watch: Available on Netflix starting July 5, 2024.

***

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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