In-House Reviews: Shotgun Wedding, To Leslie, One Fine Morning & More!

Aaron Neuwirth has reviews for Shotgun Wedding, One Fine Morning, Close, To Leslie, Life Upside Down, and Kids vs. Aliens.

shotgun wedding

With the Oscar nominations out and the month still being January, here’s a mix of new and recent releases that hardly go together and yet wholly do, as far as I’m concerned. This set of write-ups includes an action-comedy, a French drama, a Belgian coming-of-age drama, a character study, a pandemic comedy-drama, and a sci-fi-horror-action-comedy. The following features reviews for Shotgun Wedding, One Fine Morning, Close, To Leslie, Life Upside Down, and Kids vs. Aliens.

Shotgun Wedding: 5 out of 10

The Setup: Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel) gather their families for a destination wedding, but the ceremony gets put on hold when gunmen take everyone hostage. Now, they must do everything they can to save their loved ones — if they don’t wind up killing each other first.

Review: There’s a fun premise here that is unfortunately hampered by the lack of much visual imagination to elevate the material above sitcom-level plotting and stakes. Not that I need a grittier version of Shotgun Wedding to work, but director Jason Moore’s focus is so much devoted to making sure the one-liners shared between the various comedic players on hand work that some genuinely clever ideas aren’t given their proper service. Lopez and Duhamel have good enough chemistry to keep things moving; however, it’s the surprise of rock star Lenny Kravitz who truly shines as an ex-boyfriend who knows how to steal attention away. Get this man in more comedies. Otherwise, as a streaming comedy, it’s bordering on decent but not one to save the date for right away.

Where To Watch: Available to stream on Prime Video starting January 27, 2022.

One Fine Morning: 7 out of 10

The Setup: Sandra (Léa Seydoux), a young mother who raises her daughter alone, pays regular visits to her sick father (Pascal Greggory). While she and her family fight tooth and nail to get him the care he requires, Sandra reconnects with Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a friend she hasn’t seen in a while. Although he is in a relationship, the two begin a passionate affair.

Review: Director Mia Hansen-Løve is not specifically making autobiographical films, but between this and her previous (and very good) feature, Bergman Island, there is a grounded and bittersweet quality to them that calls to mind the experiences of real individuals, as opposed to the heightened reality of other romantic dramas. If anything, I also thought a lot of The Worst Person in the World, in relation to this film, although it doesn’t have the magical realism. In its place are a series of characters connected to Sandra (well-played by Seydoux, who is much better suited here than as a Bond girl). Watching the everyday struggles Sandra goes through as a mother and daughter allow the film to pursue multiple avenues that reflect life. While some tragedy goes with it, there’s also enough significance to be found in its emotional honesty.

Where To Watch: Opening in select theaters starting January 27, 2022.

Close: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele) are two 13-year-old best friends whose seemingly unbreakable bond is suddenly and tragically torn apart.

Review: This newly minted Oscar nominee has plenty of things to praise, as it’s telling the story of children in a manner that requires very strong child performances, and the film delivers. Dambrine is quite the find, as he must navigate foreign territory, making a certain loss of innocence come to life effectively while letting the film witness him behaving like the child he is. And yet, co-writer/director Lukas Dhont still seems to be holding back. Events occur that are bound to provoke emotion, but I couldn’t help but feel as though strong implications were not matched with a proper resolution. Solid visual storytelling and how the film captures friendship and heartbreak work as they need to, yet this sensitive drama doesn’t fully dare to delve into what it seems to want to get at.

Where To Watch: Opening in select theaters starting January 27, 2022.

To Leslie: 7 out of 10

The Setup: Leslie (Andrea Riseborough), a West Texas single mother, struggles to provide for her son when she wins the lottery and a chance at a good life. But a few short years later, the money is gone, and Leslie is on her own, living hard, she is forced to make a difficult choice.

Review: Another newly-minted Oscar nominee, but for a much more notable category. Riseborough’s rise to the top of the acting pile has already managed to stun many. Regardless of the tactic taken, one can see where the praise comes from. The story isn’t anything new, and even the prospect of seeing another beaten-down character trying to do better may not inspire all to race out to watch. It doesn’t matter, though, as this sort of messy character would fit right at home in a gritty 70s drama. With that in mind, the tonal balance does well to keep the film from being an emotional mess, and the presence of other notable actors works well. Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Owen Teague, and Andre Royo do their part. However, Marc Maron (also a producer) is providing not only the best work of his career (drawing on his own past for the role) but possibly delivering even better than Riseborough. Regardless, this is an affecting drama playing in its field quite well.

Where To Watch: Now available to rent or buy on digital and VOD.

Life Upside Down: 4 out of 10

The Setup: Three couples who know one another are stuck at home during the beginning of lockdown. Jonathan (Bob Odenkirk), Clarissa (Radha Mitchell), and Paul (Danny Huston) will see their lives turned upside-down, forced to look at each other and ultimately at themselves.

Review: By the time this film reaches its end credits, it becomes clear that writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi wants credit for crafting a movie filmed entirely on phones and computer screens during the COVID lockdown. The problem is, nothing about this movie is all that impressive. It’s a downbeat character comedy that lacks much in the way of witty humor, moves at a poor pace, and looks pretty awful. We’ve seen what shooting from a phone can produce – note Tangerine or High Flying Bird. Life Upside Down has very little to offer by comparison. It does have a talented set of players though, and I wish they were afforded a better script. As it stands, the story is so low stakes regarding the romantic entanglements at play, but at least Mitchell has time to do what she can. Odenkirk is a bit more out to sea, however, and Huston just seems pleased to not be playing a villain.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters and on VOD starting January 27, 2023.

Kids vs. Aliens: 7 out of 10

The Setup: All Gary (Dominic Mariche) wants is to make awesome home movies with his best buds. All his older sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex) wants is to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town on Halloween weekend, an all-time rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings to band together to survive the night.

Review: Setup and delivery – exactly what we’re given from director Jason Eisener. Expanding off of his very fun short from his segment in V/H/S/2 (still the best overall feature in that horror anthology series), at 75 minutes, the film quickly establishes the stuff we need to go and then turns into a wicked alien invasion movie. Despite the presence of children, the film gets pretty gruesome, and yet the film’s tone and even the lo-fi look of things allow for a very playful attitude that makes the film all the more endearing. I only wish the final beats went a different way, but it matters little. This is the sort of “kids on bikes” movie that focuses less on how to cash in on certain kinds of nostalgia and more on delighting in ways to stretch a limited budget into something that looks pretty cool.

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

***

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of 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 We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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