In-House Reviews #119: Under Paris, Longing, Jim Henson Idea Man, Haikyu & More!

Aaron Neuwirth has reviews for Under Paris, Longing, Jim Henson Idea Man, Flipside, MoviePass MovieCrash, and HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle.

We’re back to bigger releases this week, so whatcha gonna do? Well, in addition to the new Bad Boys coming out, there are a few smaller films, including some docs. This set of write-ups includes a shark movie, a family drama, a doc about the famed Muppet creator, a doc about saving a record store (and other things), another doc about a shift in movie ticketing, and a feature adaptation of an anime series. The following features reviews for Under Paris, Longing, Jim Henson Idea Man, Flipside, MoviePass MovieCrash, and HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle.

Under Paris: 7 out of 10

The Setup: To save Paris from a bloodbath, a grieving scientist (Bérénice Bejo) is forced to face her tragic past when a giant shark appears in the Seine.

Review: Having gone in relatively unaware of what to expect beyond there being a mako shark in the Seine River, I’m quite pleased to say director Xavier Gens managed to deliver a pretty solid shark movie. It has the right ingredients – a tragic back story that serves as a cold open, smart scientists being challenged by tough authority figures, including a greedy mayor, and various excuses to deliver on shark action now and again. That said, even if you’ve been raised to not appreciate a slow burn to a more action-packed finale, the final 20 minutes of this movie have a lot of wild ideas in store for anyone hoping for more than meets the idea. Things get crazy in a way fit for the SyFy channel, but this film has a decent enough budget to better realize what one can do with the notion of sharks finding their way into Paris. Plus, on top of all this, Bejo delivers more than what’s needed to help keep the human side of things strong enough to want to see where things may go. In the realm of shark movies, Under Paris swims its way up into a higher class.

Where To Watch: Now streaming on Netflix.

Longing: 4 out of 10

The Setup: Daniel (Richard Gere), a wealthy bachelor in his 60s, learns that a former girlfriend gave birth to a child 20 years ago and that his son has just died. Daniel explores his deceased son’s life, getting to know him vicariously through those closest to him, and he reevaluates his life choices.

Review: It can be interesting to see a director remake his own film, which is precisely what we have here with Savi Gabizon’s Longing. Now, I have not seen the 2017 Israeli original. Still, I have to wonder if it plays better based on the filmmaker’s experiences in his home country. As it stands, I did not much care for the characters or how the story unfolded in this version. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Gere fan (his early years are strong), but while I’ve enjoyed some of his later career work, the role he has here as a bland businessman faced with an emotional crisis basically embodies all the elements that do not interest me with him as an actor.

The script isn’t doing many favors, as the Daniel character comes off as a petulant weirdo at times, which can be explained away by sudden bouts of grief, but still finds the film struggling to make him seem like a protagonist we need to stand behind. Other characters enter in and out of this story. Still, despite the approach (which includes some oddly placed fantastical/dream elements), I never found myself caring any more than I had to, beyond a curiosity of how this would all turn out. Ultimately, the conclusion also left me longing.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters starting June 7, 2024.

Jim Henson Idea Man: 7 out of 10

The Setup: Step into the mind of this singular creative visionary, from his early years puppeteering on local television to the worldwide success of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and beyond. Featuring unprecedented access to Jim Henson’s personal archives, this documentary brings viewers a fascinating and insightful look at a complex man whose boundless imagination inspired the world.

Review: When it comes to biographical documentaries coming from streaming services, particularly ones dealing with well-known icons, it’s a tricky affair to expect anything that colors outside the lines. I’m not going to say a Disney-produced documentary covering the man who gave us the Muppets and Sesame Street is going any harder than one necessarily expects, but thanks to Ron Howard’s direction, along with his team, I got more out of Jim Henson Idea Man than the standard issue versions I’ve seen in recent years. This is a birth-to-death look at where Henson came from, his various accomplishments, challenges, and legacy, featuring plenty of talking heads. It’s not breaking many rules in that regard.

With that said, given the kind of man Henson has always been regarded as, sometimes it’s just nice to see the warmth he and his imagination offered for the world to embrace. Stories about his relationship with Frank Oz, ambitious efforts like The Dark Crystal, and, y’know, Kermit are all welcome. Even for major Henson fans, this doc offers more stories than some may have known. For a documentary hitting all of the conventional beats, this is still a good enough way to further cement Henson’s legacy in the eyes of so many he inspired.

Where To Watch: Now streaming on Disney+.

Flipside: 8 out of 10

The Setup: When filmmaker Chris Wilcha revisits the record store he worked at as a teenager in New Jersey, he finds the once-thriving bastion of music and weirdness from his youth slowly falling apart and out of touch with the times. This story documents his tragicomic attempt to revive the store while revisiting other documentary projects he has abandoned over the years.

Review: Not entirely important, but one of my main takeaways from Flipside is that I really want to see Wilcha’s first documentary, The Target Shoots First. I am one step removed from Gen X-er Chris Wilcha, but I appreciate how he seems bent on exploring that sort of mind space in a new documentary that essentially deals with an average guy with plenty to be happy about. Granted, this is also a film that wants to detail the work of a famed music photographer, but that’s just the beginning of that thread. There’s a good amount of humor in Flipside, and much of that extends from Wilcha’s long list of projects he never completed. There’s meaning to all of this and why this doc has ended up coming out the way it does, although it’s also worth being vague about those details. Suffice it to say, there’s time that can be well spent taking a look inside the work of a man who took lots of looks inside different subjects, and came away with this.

Where To Watch: Available in select theaters across the U.S. throughout June 2024.

MoviePass, MovieCrash: 6 out of 10

The Setup: This documentary explores the rise and fall of movie subscription service MoviePass, starting at the company’s founding, followed by the implosion of the business by outside investors who took over the company and ultimately left it bankrupt and under investigation.

Review: As one who enjoyed many more trips to the theater with little concern for the cost, I was one who embraced MoviePass during that wild spike in 2017 when the company lowered its price to ten bucks a month. It blowing up, given that magical subscription number, felt inevitable. Naturally, there’s a story behind this, but the only thing that’s more compelling than how crazy it could be is that it’s actually a fairly typical tale. Broadly speaking, it amounts to two Black entrepreneurs, Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt, developing a company that was on a slow and steady path to success. They would go on to bring in a couple of white men with a history of plunging companies into bankruptcy and add them to the board, only for Spikes and Watt to be forced out while those now in charge pushed for the crazy price drop idea, with no plan for next steps beyond watching stock prices go up, leading to disaster (with legal adverse ramifications to go along with it).

Hearing all this laid out, with many talking heads from all types, provides a strong enough doc. It’s a bit plain, but director Muta’Ali Muhammad does what he can to make this juicy story as flashy as possible by utilizing a lot of movie clips to convey both the right sort of information connecting to the story being told, and the genuine love for movies all involved with this doc has.

Where To Watch: Now streaming on Max.

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle: 5 out of 10

The Setup: Based on the original Weekly Shonen Jump manga series from Haruichi Furudate, Haikyu!! is a slice-of-life sports anime revolving around Shoyo Hinata’s love of volleyball. Inspired by a small-statured pro volleyball player, Hinata creates a volleyball team in his last year of middle school. Unfortunately, in their first tournament, the team is matched against the “King of the Court,” Tobio Kageyama’s team, and inevitably loses. After the crushing defeat, Hinata vows to surpass Kageyama. After entering high school, Hinata joins the volleyball team only to find that Tobio has also joined.

Review: Last year, I took a look at The First Slam Dunk on a whim and found it supremely enjoyable. It mattered not that I had never even heard of the anime series it was based on, as the film did all it needed to get me on board. I was hoping I could get something similar out of Hazikyu!! The Dumpster Battle (excellent subtitle), but while compelling enough, I didn’t find myself as attached to what was happening. This film is also based on an anime television and manga series, with this particular story rooted entirely in one game of volleyball, while various flashbacks during the competition help fill in the context. For those devoted to this series, I’m sure it is far more effective. For me, I appreciated the high energy and went along with the story well enough, but I can’t say I was all the way with it. The animation also felt a little thin, with many static shots often feeling as though it took away from the kinetic volleyball action taking place. If it’s still a step up from the television series, then good for writer-director Susumu Mitsunaka. Again, a solid match, but not quite a champion for me.

Where To Watch: Now playing in theaters.

***

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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