‘Shotgun Wedding’ Review: Jennifer Lopez’s Altar Condition
The action-comedy is way too strong in its first 20 minutes, introducing an all-star cast in scratchy crowded scenes that contain an abundance of fast-paced, amplified babble. But once the action begins and the characters separate (and settle down), Shotgun Wedding becomes a lot more entertaining, highlighted by the comical back-and-forth between the two leads, Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel.
Lopez plays Darcy, a nervous lawyer who disappointed her father (Cheech Marin) and mother (Sônia Braga) years ago when she called off her engagement to handsome Sean (Lenny Kravitz). When her new fiancé – a failed pro baseball player Tom (Duhamel) – invites their two extended families to an over-the-top wedding on the island, Darcy panics again. The couple finds themselves in a good groove under extreme pressure when pirates come ashore and take the guests hostage, while the bride and groom work together to figure out a way to outsmart the bad guys.
Shotgun Wedding fizzles down the track as the explosions and gunfire overwhelm the banter. But the middle hour is snappy, aided by the chemistry of Lopez and Duhamel, who play two over-analytical, over-prepared guys who have different ideas on how to slow down their attackers. And, as she often does, Jennifer Coolidge gives a hilarious performance as Tom’s perky mother, Carol, who miraculously keeps the hostages alive by trying to befriend her captors. Carol is an inspiration, heroically determined to keep enjoying a tropical paradise even with a gun pointed at her head.
‘Duty marriage.’ R, for speech and some violence/gory imagery. 1 hour 40 minutes. Available on Prime Video
Director Jérôme Salle’s stirring melodrama dramatizes the escalating nightmare of Mathieu (Gilles Lellouche), a French diplomat whose life in Siberia is turned upside down when rumors spread that he is a child abusing pedophile. Loosely based on a true story, the film tackles one of the most annoying aspects of life in the social media age, when people who blatantly lie and manipulate facts end up changing public perception.
Salle and co-writer Caryl Ferey jump around in the story’s timeline to capture the audience’s attention early on with tense scenes of Mathieu’s arrest, jail time, and eventual escape attempts. The filmmakers then jump back to reveal details that could explain why their hero was targeted. Is it because he embarrassed his Russian hosts by sponsoring a homoerotic modern dance performance? Did he get under the wrong person’s skin while flirting with a disabled veteran’s wife, Svetlana (Joanna Kulig)? Is his own estranged wife to blame?
Ultimately, the answer doesn’t matter. The purpose of “Kompromat” is to put the viewer in Mathieu’s shoes, frustrated and confused. This is a well-crafted chase image that doubles as a fiery warning of the dangers of an authoritarian government that can create its own reality, unaccountable for error or malevolence. Salle shows how Mathieu must tap into every resource he has to fight for his freedom. But his film has just as much sympathy for the Svetlanas trapped in other ways.
‘Kompromat.’ In French and Russian with subtitles. Not rated. 2 hours, 7 minutes. Available on VOD; also plays theatrically, Laemmle Glendale
“Nest of the Condor”
Unlike horror films, crime films, action thrillers, and even westerns, war films are no longer a common genre for low-budget productions—perhaps because armed combat is difficult to stage cheaply. But with 2019’s Point Man and now Condor’s Nest, writer-director Phil Blattenberger has attempted to bring back the stripped-down, two-handed war flick, eschewing epic proportions and instead telling character-driven stories with pulpy overtones.
In “Condor’s Nest,” Jacob Keohane plays Will Spalding, a World War II veteran who has spent the decade since the war tracking down the Nazi officer who gruesomely wiped out Spalding’s bomber crew. In doing so, he violently pushes potential allies away and makes deals with morally shady people until he finally finds a secret Nazi stronghold in South America, which he tries to reach with the help of a Mossad agent (Corinne Britti) and a fugitive German scientist ( Al Pagano).
The lack of explosive action hampers Condor’s Nest, as does its reliance on remote, nondescript locations like bars, offices, and open fields. But Blattenberger can write powerful dialogue; He also wisely spends some of his money on standout character actors Michael Ironside, James Urbaniak, Jorge Garcia, and Bruce Davison, each of whom appears in a memorable scene or two. There’s a bit of war at play in this film, but that might ultimately prove more endearing than cheesy, especially for viewers familiar with reading old “Frontline Combat” and “Sgt. Rock” comics.
“Condor’s Nest.” R, for violence, language, and short-term drug use. 1 hour, 39 minutes. Available on VOD; also plays theatrically, Laemmle Glendale
“Life Turned Upside Down”
The opening scene of writer-director Cecilia Miniucchi’s indie dramedy takes place not long before the COVID-19 shutdown at an art exhibition where the go-getting gallery owner Jonathan (Bob Odenkirk) is having a hilarious affair with political science professor Clarissa (Radha Mitchell), a colleague , begins one of his wealthiest clients, Paul (Danny Huston). Then they all get separated and stay at home, and their relationships become strained. Clarissa feels abandoned by Jonathan, who only seems to call her to complain about his sexless marriage. Jonathan can’t get Paul to commit to a purchase he desperately needs to stay in business. And Paul finds he’s not getting the intellectual stimulation he needs from his much younger dream girl, Rita (Rosie Fellner).
The idea that the pandemic is making chaotic personal lives more chaotic should be a strong anchor for an ensemble piece, even one with an ensemble as small as this one. But the changes in these characters’ attitudes and understanding of the world from the beginning to the end of this film are so marginal that “Life Upside Down” pretty much says it all after the first half hour. And there’s not enough novelty and creativity in the way the film was shot – with the actors isolated in their own places and doing much of the filming themselves – to make up for the sparse plot. If anything, the guerrilla approach only makes the film look more stunted. This is a stifling film about solipsistic people.
‘Life turned upside down.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 28 minutes. Available on VOD; also plays theatrical, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica
Tania Anderson’s documentary follows a group of college-aged Mormons on a two-year missionary journey to Finland, a country where locals are always polite but generally uninterested in a stranger’s religious testimonies. Approaching a fly on the wall, Anderson watches these kids try to take what they’ve learned in church and language classes to the street, only to find they’re having trouble holding long conversations – and that when they do make connections, Finns would rather talk about Americans’ private lives than their spiritual message. Less about Mormonism or Finland, The Mission is a poignant and relatable portrait of loneliness that takes an intimate look at these kind-hearted youth who are cut off from their culture and loved ones and struggle to find it – and sometimes optimism fails for one accomplish what appears to be an impossible task.
‘The mission.’ Not rated. 1 hour 35 minutes. Available on VOD
Michael Madsen injects a much-needed jolt of bad-boy energy into this dreary psychodrama that squanders good performances and a sharp twist midway through the movie. Hannah Christine Shetler plays Karma, a smart, hip teen who has struggled her entire life with the knowledge that her mother Sunny (Kimberly Alexander) fathered her with the notorious leader of a demonic cult, Paul De Grendel (Madsen). When Sunny flees with her daughter to a remote compound, Paul finds her and subjects Karma to a series of tests to prepare her for an arcane ritual. Shetler is very sympathetic as a child as she sees her worst fears come true when her bright future is derailed by her mother’s horrifying past. But the writer-director team of Liz Fania Werner and Carlos Montaner frame their premise as a sob family drama rather than a thriller. Only Madsen seems to be on the right track and enjoying being willfully evil.
‘Awakening Karma.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 27 minutes. Available on VOD
“Tar” was nominated for six Oscars this year, including Best Picture, Best Director and Original Screenplay for writer, director and producer Todd Field. But the biggest reason so many people have been talking about this film since its debut last fall is the stunning performance of Leading Actress nominee Cate Blanchett, who plays a manipulative and charismatic orchestra conductor who sees her career and reputation collapse When her private life becomes messy it spills out into the public eye. Available on Peacock
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray
“This is not a burial, it is a resurrection” is a strikingly beautiful blend of earthy realism, dreamy expressionism and underdog melodrama, and tells the story of an elderly Lesotho villager (Mary Twala Mhlongo) who rises from her deathbed to visit the homes and graves of her neighbors and relatives before being destroyed by to save a new dam. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray includes a commentary track from director Lemohang Jeremiah Moses and producer Cait Pansegrouw, along with previous Moses films that showcase his unusual artistry. criteria
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-01-27/review-shotgun-wedding-jennifer-lopez-kompromat-bob-odenkirk-life-upside-down ‘Shotgun Wedding’ Review: Jennifer Lopez’s Altar Condition