Rebel Wilson in senior year.
Photo: Boris Martin/Netflix
As May brings rising thermometers, Hollywood embarks on the grand return of a quasi-post-pandemic summer movie season and Netflix switches to its own equivalent. Though it’s more of an anti-summer cinema season; As the big studios unload marquee titles, Netflix is offering more modest alternatives in genres that have largely been left behind. Sore for a bubbly rom-com senior year, in which Rebel Wilson wakes up from his coma and finishes high school. Get period piece enthusiasts Operation Mincemeat, a WWII espionage thriller that’s good to keep and move on. And viewers looking for something completely different should check out the noir western mashup mayhem thar, a Bollywood import that arrives in a hail of bullets. Give the AC unit a good slap and beat the heat with Netflix’s May lineup of original films:
Raj Singh Chaudhary’s epic of Bullets and Sand is a double homage, a nod to the genre extravaganzas that swept through the 1980s in Indian cinemas, which themselves paid homage to Hollywood’s classic westerns and noirs. It lives up to its influences with a sunburned mystery rich in hard-nosed Peckinpah style, from the nail-biting acting to the snappy running time, which is particularly surprising in Hindi-language cinema. We have a white hat man – Inspector Surekha Singh (the great actor and producer Anil Kapoor), the sheriff around here – and a black hat man – the sadistic antiques dealer Siddharth (Harshvardhan Kapoor) who roamed the desert and left behind a trail of corpses. A band of ex-military Pakistanis are also lurking in this northern hinterland, making for a great powder keg that Chaudhary gloriously ignites. The commendably relentless action and savvy iconography hits that are all too familiar to American viewers make this an inviting entry point for newcomers curious about the busy universe of Bollywood, and an edifying data point for longtime fans looking to interested in seeing the impact of its globalization.
Fans of the wild, chaotic Great Dane will be stunned and horrified to discover that their beloved pooch has been mutated beyond recognition by lousy computer animation in this deeply cursed feature vehicle. In its movement, textures, depth of field, and wacky, angular design (the mother figure’s hip-to-waist ratio dwarfs Mrs. Incredible), Cheapo’s style shatters any pretense of realism without finding a viable alternative . Instead, the elusive aesthetic goes hand-in-hand with all other aspects in an offensive against art, taste, and basic logic, culminating when Marmaduke’s green gas cloud makes a crowd of viewers vomit and die. At least this grossly miscalculated scene has the benefit of being funny (for the wrong reasons, but still), while the rest of the film boasts a perverse source of ghastly fascination, like a fish born with too many eyes.
Hotshot chef César (Erick Elias) has finally made his breakthrough by snagging a spot at the Grand Prix of Cooking Competitions, a showdown set in lovingly photographed, tourist-friendly Cancun. Victory will require all of his focus, so there couldn’t be a worse time for him to learn that the son (Ricardo Zertuche) he’s been raising for ten years was fathered by another man. As he tries to put his bags aside and cook through the fear, he’s helped by a sly vacation fling (Gaby Espino) that’s too perfect to exist in real life. Its tantalizing romance, its processing of heavy emotions, and the broad comedy that ties them all suffer from a lack of spice in the unimaginative dialogue and overlit cinematography, as bland and tasteless as a boiled chicken breast. Worst of all, the food porn isn’t even that tasty, its colors are too garish to be considered fresh. It should be sent back to the kitchen.
Gender equality means YA Dirt viewers should get their fair share of Manic Pixie Dream Boys to do justice to the girls, an initiative by writer-director Sofia Alvarez in her emotionally atrophied adaptation of Sarah Dessen’s novel. Auden (Emma Pasarow), who suffers from insomnia and just graduated from high school, is spending a magical summer with her father (Dermot Mulroney) in a cozy beach town, where she meets her night owl, Eli (Belmont Cameli). He does the shallow, typical teen-lit thing of fixing her whole life with his attraction, so smitten with this largely unremarkable jerk that he takes it upon himself to give her all the life experiences she wasn’t social enough for, to have her myself . As far as teenage wish-granting fantasies go, this one is more immature than most, particularly in the callous way she uses the death of an unseen figure as a means to add undeserved depth to the one-dimensional Eli. Netflix has set a low standard for teen date night fodder, but Alvarez manages to drag it down even further.
This French iteration of the standard edition buddy cop flick could technically be a 2012 sequel On the other side of the tracks, but the detached lot makes it a fully formed unit in its own right. The pairing of director Louis Leterrier (who just stumbled into the director’s chair on the tenth Fast and Furious movie) starring Omar Sy instead marks this as a continuation of the algorithmic spirit to the success of their heist series lupine. Sy and Laurent Lafitte (one-time star of ell) skillfully play off against each other when two cops are rounded up after finding separate halves of a single corpse, leading them to a town under the thumb of a local white supremacist gang. But their chemistry is wasted on a script that turns retro ’80s vibes into plain retrospective thinking, with gay panic and salacious horniness several decades old.
Seemingly Netflix’s zillionth period play expanding on a minor WWII subplot – Munich: On the verge of war was just a few months ago! – this retelling of a spy gambit to repel Nazi forces during the invasion of Sicily does little to enrich the facts with dramatic detail. Aside from the obvious hilarity of the thoroughly unkosher Colin Firth, who plays Jew-turned-lawyer-turned-spy Ewen Montagu, the script attempts to wed him through a limp love triangle with a widowed secretary (Kelly Macdonald) and the other Intelligence officer (Matthew “Tom out of successor” Macfadyen) running point on the mission. Tight upper lips and a bit of old British chewing gum get them through, but there’s little to invest in on an international or personal level, as screenwriting clichés are as predetermined as the events of the story. Except for the inevitable disappointment in an operation dependent on indirect action, there’s none of the lion-hearted intensity that History Channel fans would demand of a war story to motivate this niche subgenre.
Rebel Wilson, so adept at deadpan mode bridesmaids and how to be single and even Pitch perfectShe’s fumbling in her career swing to become a smiling, spirited leading lady. A cheerleader fresh out of a 20-year coma and eager to pick up exactly where she left off when she was 18, she weaves her way through the innocent girlishness that drives this fish-out-of-water premise as ob is trying to convince us that she’s less funny than she’s already proven. And the syllabus here is familiar enough that we know it by heart: you’ll recognize that the former class hottie (Justin Hartley) is a big naught and the good-natured nerd (Sam Richardson) is more deserving of crush status, with commentary on it , how times have changed the high school social pecking order, straight out of high school 21 Jump Street. Disappointingly normal where she should go all-in on oddball, Wilson’s not-“it” girl Stephanie is unable to keep up with Jerri Blank’s textbooks.