Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Me Before You
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Coole
Synopsis: There are certain movies that you know what’s going to happen before you even begin. You know how it’s going to end, and likely how it’s going to make you feel. But it’s OK because the surprise in the plot isn’t the hook, it’s the characters. It’s the journey of the film that matters, not the destination. “Me Before You,” which opened on June 3, is one of those kind of films. If you’ve seen the trailers or read the book, written by Jojo Moyes, then you pretty much know what’s going to happen. It’s one of those sappy love stories doomed for tragedy, like a William Shakespeare play or a Nicholas Sparks novel. But you go anyway, hoping the characters and performances will pop and suck you in. In the case of “Me Before You” they do. Not that the film isn’t without its flaws or controversy. “Me Before You” has drawn a lot of criticism for its depiction of people afflicted with quadriplegia and for a specific plot turn at the end that I won’t spoil here. I will say that this is a story that touches on some controversial topics and wades into a very serious discussion without much of a focus. It doesn’t add to the discussion, but rather seems to use these issues as a plot device, which is probably what causes some of the friction with those organizing boycotts. Additionally, I didn’t feel like this film painted the prospective life of all those that suffer quadriplegia in a negative light. I came away from the film seeing this as one individual’s story, and how the mindset of that individual impacted the decisions made. I think it’s a bit of a reach to say this film is trying to say anything sweeping about the topic. Instead, its aim is to be more of a date movie. It’s emotional and upsetting, but so are Nicholas Sparks adaptations and movies like “The Fault in Our Stars.” The question is whether you’re moved by the characters and their journey. As I said earlier, it’s hard to imagine many going into this film not knowing where it’s all leading. From that standpoint, I thought the film was effective. Director Thea Sharrock, working on her first feature film, does a nice job with pacing and getting the most out of her actors and the story. Again, nothing groundbreaking here, but the use of color and outfits for Clarke’s character work well, and the film tugs at your emotions about half way through and never lets go. That’s the mark of a director making the most of the story she’s been given. But what really works best here are the performances from Clarke and Claflin. Claflin is probably best known for his work in “The Hunger Games” franchise. His character has severe physical limitations, but he lets his charm work as he builds the character. Most of the heavy lifting, though, is done by Clarke, best known for playing Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones.” This is a much different kind of role, allowing her to play goofy and vulnerable, while generating laughs and tears. Clarke shines on the screen and, for me, was the best part of the film. If you are looking for a meaningful exploration of quadriplegia and the other questions touched on in this story, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for an engaging date movie during the heat of summer, this film fits the bill.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some suggestive material.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, and Tim Meadows
Synopsis: This latest comedy comes from the Lonely Island trio and feels a lot like a "Saturday Night Live" movie adaptation. There is the germ of a funny idea here, and some of it kind of works, but it feels too long and loses steam quickly. I like Samberg, who is a talented performer. And I'm sure he, Taccone and Schaffer — who co-directed the film — had fun making it. But not all that fun translates to the screen. It's overly crass at times and falls flat at others. For only being 87 minutes it feels pretty long. I wanted to like this movie, and I wanted to be entertained, but I wasn't really. Some of the jokes are funny and some of the songs are funny, but it lacks consistency.
Rating: R for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Friday, June 10 — "Warcraft," "Now You See Me 2," "The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Experiments"
Friday, June 17 — "Finding Dory," "Central Intelligence"
Friday, June 24 — "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Free State of Jones"
Wednesday, June 29 — "The Shallows"