‘Vacation Friends’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

What can be said about Vacation Friends? It is supposed to be a comedy, that brings two unlikely couples together, as they vacation in Mexico. It is always great to see Lil Rel Howery because I genuinely think, he has great comedic timing and is one of the funniest men working right now. However, this script, buried the jokes and nothing really landed. Yes, there was plenty of set up in regards to physical comedy or even the banter, but it just did not flow. It felt like they were trying too hard to make the jokes that were written, funny, but they just weren’t. It is hard to elevate a script, that continuously works against the freedom of the actors, to just enjoy delivering the lines.

The movie felt incredibly rushed, which made the second half of the film feel overly long. The structure did not really work too well because of the premise. You had a very uptight and reserved, Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) planning to propose to his girlfriend Emily (Yvonne Orji), during their stay at a beautiful resort in Mexico. There are a couple of mishaps with the hotel room and the proposal. Naturally, the free-spirited, wild cards they meet, Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner), help them in their time of need, and they experience an unusual week without inhibitions. Many of the crazy situations they got into, were cut short, so there was no comedic payoff. That is why this was a struggle to sit through. The scenes they should have shown, like any other comedy, should have been left in here to actually get the laughs.

It is almost like, Clay Tarver strayed away from being conventional because he wanted to do something different, but he also cut the humour very short in doing so. It is perfectly fine to change things up a bit, but when you remove an element in a comedic set-up, it’s quite noticeable. Lil Rel Howery was really working hard to make his character over-the-top, in order to save this script. While he was working overtime, John Cena tried his best as well, but the writing just did not allow him to shine, as he did in Blockers. They had some fun moments, but in the end, they both fell short.

Vacation Friends is a struggle to sit through, especially during cringe-worthy moments, and weak jokes. Lil Rel Howery and John Cena made an attempt to save this movie, but the poor writing worked against them. It’s supposed to be this wild comedy because of the whacky couple but instead it’s just a series of mishaps, with a major secret looming over their heads. The bones of this script would have worked if they let the funny moments breath a bit more, to actually get the laughs, especially the physical moments. Really wanted a new comedy to enjoy, and sadly, this one really disappointed me.

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has Kristen Wiig ‘SNL’ humour written all over it and it’s exactly what the world needs. Remember when we used to get comedies that were just fun for the hell of it? Well this is exactly one of those comedies. It has a far-fetched concept but for some reason it totally works. Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time ever! There are two stories that come together in this film that I do not want to spoil because it is completely out of leftfield. Let’s just say Kristen Wiig plays a dual role that is really fun and interesting.

Barb and Star have a really sweet friendship. They have been living together for a while now and are inseparable. They wanted to explore the world and have some fun because they got bored with living the same cycle over and over again. What is so wonderful about Barb and Star is that they are so optimistic and upbeat! If you are a fan of Kristen Wiig’s SNL sketches, the humour is kind of dry and awkward but it will have you laughing at how off-the-wall some scenes are. Their chemistry was great and they created a memorable duo.

The big takeaway from this comedy is that Jamie Dornan was hilarious in this! Wiig had him doing all sorts of wild things and it totally worked. Dornan rolled with the punches and gave a great performance. He had some musical numbers that I was rather impressed with and he had great chemistry with everyone. It was really great to see him so free and lovestruck in this comedy. You’ll see a totally different side of him and I’m really happy Wiig got this performance out of him. The movie is just such a fun ride that has so many twists and turns to carry it to the end.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a comedy that will take you back to the days where these films were made just to have fun. The whole cast is great and it just gets sillier as the movie goes on. The heart of this film is the friendship between Barb and Star. We all need those lifelong friends to always be there for you no matter what. Their relationship is what makes this film so special and there is so much to learn from Barb and Star.

Superintelligence Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Superintelligence is a Ben Falcone film in every aspect. It stars his wonderful wife, Melissa McCarthy and has a very unique concept that doesn’t quite stick. Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), a former corporate executive, has her life turned upside down when she is selected for observation by the world’s first super-intelligence – an A.I. that could possibly take over the world.

The premise does sound like something that could work but for an action comedy, the humour was severely lacking. Perhaps the slapstick comedy does not work for me anymore but I have to address the fact that it has been used with heavier set actors for as long as I can remember. It just doesn’t work for me at all but to each their own because comedy is personal. It just wasn’t funny, you could see the attempts to set up the jokes but they just didn’t land and it was a hard film to sit through because of it.

What was even worse was that they cast James Corden as the voice of the A.I. The film honestly had this obscurity to it that I can’t even explain, it just felt off from the second it started and then it just went on without any substance. It’s upsetting to watch a comedy and not laugh at all and I love Melissa McCarthy. There are moments where it does get better but then it falls apart again. What was the most frustrating was that Bobby Cannavale and Brian Tyree Henry (who have great comedic timing) were wasted in this film.

Superintelligence has a strong premise and a message about technological advancements eventually becoming a dangerous problem in our lives but the execution was lacking. For an action comedy to lack proper form in a joke set up is very telling about the experience you will have while watching this. Again, comedy is personal but this was the first miss for HBO Max.

Palm Springs Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Palm Springs had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year and it instantly created buzz in the film community. It is directed by Max Barbakow, written by Andy Siara and it is a Lonely Island Classic picture. The film brings together two characters, Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) who have questioned their own existence and the decisions they have made. When they meet at Sarah’s sister, Tala’s (Camila Mendes) wedding, the night takes them on an interesting journey, which leads them to a cave and changes everything.

The film is unique to the time loop subgenre that has developed over the years. It has a refreshing structure and the editing is a huge part of it. The reason why this film is different to the genre is because there are more people involved in the time loop storyline. As we have seen in the past, majority of the time, it is only one character processing the idea of reliving the same day, over and over again. In this comedy, it has Nyles informing Sarah, how to approach the time loop in very humorous ways. There is a nice surprise with the addition of Roy (J.K. Simmons) to add an origin story for Nyles and his time loop journey.

It has a nice mixture of comedic moments and realistic discussions about life, which I really appreciated. The perception of loneliness, is always something that should be explored and how life can sometimes seem meaningless, if you do not have someone to share it with. That is why placing the central event, as a wedding day, in this film was extremely beneficial because of the weight it holds on everyone’s lives. It is very well crafted because they address so many different ideas of love and relationships.

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti had excellent chemistry and solid comedic timing. They bounced off of each other extremely well and you could feel the freedom they had with these roles. The pacing was really strong because of how the story builds. Instead of just reliving the same day, in the same location, Barbakow and Siara explored different moments in the day and had them react differently to new information. The way they slowly revealed different aspects of their lives, was really well done and continuously surprised me.

Palm Springs adds so much depth to the time loop subgenre and it is a wonderful edition to The Lonely Island production library. It is probably one of the most charming films I have seen in a while and it will capture your heart. It is also constructed to always keep you on your toes because even though you are stuck in a time loop, life still comes at you fast and you have to adapt to every situation in the best way you can.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a fun Netflix Original Film, that takes Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) on a musical journey, to the iconic Eurovision stage, in order for them to achieve their goals. The film captures the essence of Eurovision perfectly and shows the world united through music. Director David Dobkin, does some great work in this film with his musical numbers and song choices throughout. It is a typical Will Ferrell movie and that should be taken into consideration, before anyone watches it.

It starts out as a dream for young Lars, who hears ABBA on television for the first time ever and starts dancing in his living room in front of his family. He is so overjoyed by their music because of their Icelandic heritage, finally being represented on screen, at the Eurovision main stage. His family laughs at him and his dream but Lars stops at nothing to get what he wants. Lars and Sigrit have been together since they were kids and have been singing as a duo, named ‘Fire Saga’ for a very long time. Lars, as a middle aged man, finally thinks he has the perfect song to enter for Eurovision and Sigrit joins him on this crazy journey.

It is a simple story about a small town dreamer, making his way to the big stage, with some magical elves helping him along the way. It was pretty humorous to see Sigrit bringing goodies, to the magical elves and hoping they bring them luck for Eurovision. With the magical elves being a prominent spirit in this film, they conveniently placed disastrous events so Lars and Sigrit could advance in their journey. Yes, this movie is very unrealistic but it is so much fun and the humour definitely distracts you from impossible situations.

The entire cast is really strong and the chemistry between Lars and Sigrit was great! There were many surprises with the performances, especially Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, who was the Russian singer in the competition. He was just so electric in this role and I don’t think he has ever been better. Rachel McAdams was also really strong in this and was stunning as per usual. Will Ferrell was being Will Ferrell, I missed seeing him in this kind of role because that’s where he truly shines. If you do not like his humour, then this movie isn’t for you.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has its comedic moments and will keep you intrigued because Eurovision is that exciting. There is plenty of drama, great song medley’s that will surprise you and a couple of cameo’s, that will make you do the Rick Dalton, pointing at the screen meme. The costume design was probably one of my favourite aspects about this as well because each country had their own design. It is vibrant, energetic, funny and what Eurovision is all about, bringing people together through music.