|9/3/2021 2:25:00 PM|
Obviously as a movie reviewer, I love going to the movies as in “going” to the movies, especially the B&B Theatre in Venice. Face coverings are optional at movie theaters in Florida, but I feel more safe there than at the grocery store. Yes, I could pay $20, just over the cost of two tickets, and watch some first-run movies at home, but my screen is small and my cats don’t care if I’m engrossed in the latest drama. They want to eat now! And my couch is about one-eighth as comfortable as the recliners at B&B.
Plus, I’m a multi-tasker. If I’m watching a movie at home, I’m also folding laundry, checking my email and visiting the fridge. TV is good for catching up on movies that I missed or didn’t quite need to see on the big screen, like Cruella, which is free now on Disney+.
I saw Cruella (PG-13) for two reasons; the clothes and Emma Thompson, and I can unequivocally say that both are exceptional. Cruella is played by Emma Stone so be prepared for the most Emmas of any in Amanda’s history.
If you ever wondered how did 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella de Vil get so mean, this movie answers that question. Bullied for her black and white hair, orphaned and on the streets of London, Estella is befriended by two petty criminals Horace and Jasper. She creates the disguises they wear for their crimes, which leads Jasper to get Estella an entry-level job at a high-end department store. Her talent catches the eye of the Baroness (Thompson), the doyenne of 1960s London fashion, and spoiler alert! A not-very-nice lady.
It doesn’t take Estella long to see that her boss is a horrible but incredibly stylish human being. Thompson, wearing a series of fabulous form–fitting, sculptural suits and gown and impressive wigs, three dalmations at her side, frightens everyone in her perimeter, even before she opens her mouth, purring insults and death threats.
The most enjoyable part of Cruella is when Estella’s alter ego Cruella, disrupts the Baroness’s fashion shows with stunts that focus on her own cutting-edge, punk-influenced designs. The design duel heats up to a high-stakes battle for headlines and lives, both human and canine. There’s enough eye and ear candy with over-the-top heists, sets, and especially costumes by Jenny Beavan, who better win an Oscar, accompanied by a soundtrack crammed with hits from the 1960s and 70s. But Cruella isn’t exactly sure what it wants to be. Is it a redemption or revenge story? Stone’s Estella is far less developed than Stone’s’ Cruella. The screenplay is muddled and basically a vehicle for the Emmas, and Stone has to work very hard to keep up with Thompson who looks like she’s hardly working at all. Cruella is also occasionally dull and way too long. Ultimately, if you have Disney+ and enjoy a good fashion show and Emma Thompson (and who doesn’t), park yourself on the couch and watch Cruella.
My daughter Emma (will the Emmas ever stop?) chose Free Guy (PG-13) for our “real movie” of the week. We picked our seats and I claimed my free B&B Club member birthday popcorn/beverage combo, set our recliners to ahhhh and prepared to watch the number one movie in the country.
Free Guy is set in Free City, a popular video game. Ryan Reynolds is Guy, a resident of Free City and an NPC, or non-player character. Every day he greets his goldfish, puts on his khakis and blue shirt, gets his coffee and heads to his job at the bank where he banters with his best friend, security guard Buddy (Lil Rel Howery). He says things like “Don’t have a good day, have a great day,” and is relentlessly upbeat despite the car crashes, fights, shootings and general mayhem instigated by the avatars of the video game players around the world, addicted to Free City.
Right about now you might be saying, “Amanda, I haven’t played a video game since Pac-Man and I’m too old for this.” To which I reply, “Trust me, you don’t have to know code from an algorithm to enjoy this movie. You’ll care about Guy and his NPC pals even before Millie (Jodie Comer) enters the scene. She and her partner Keys, designed a game that was stolen by a narcissist named Antwan to create Free City. Now Keys works for Antwan and Millie is determined to prove this wrongdoing by sending her own avatar to Free City, where she teams up with Guy. Confused again? All you need to know is that when Guy moves from bystander in life to sunglass-sporting action man, it’s a very big deal.
Free Guy is charming, innovative and funny. Emma and I laughed out loud many times. There are a bunch of cool cameos I won’t spoil, and Reynolds is perfect in a role you might call Deadpool light. Think a better-looking, toned-down version of Will Ferrell’s Elf. Director Shawn Levy keeps things moving and ironically even though there is a good bit of cartoon violence, the message of Free Guy is decidedly anti-violence. It’s escapist fun in a time where we can surely use it.
Cruella 2.5 stars out of 5
Free Guy 4 stars out of 5
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