Tanzina Vega: It's The Takeaway. I'm Tanzina Vega. We're going to round out the hour by taking a trip to the movies, which in 2020 usually means sitting down on the couch and turning on the TV. There are some of the year's biggest movies have had their release dates pushed back during the pandemic, but there's still plenty of good stuff to stream from the comfort of your home this weekend. To figure out what those things are, I'm sitting down virtually with Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday; and Alison Willmore, film critic at Vulture at New York Magazine. Folks, it's so great to have you back on.
Rafer Guzman: Hi, Tanzina.
Alison Willmore: It's great to be here.
Tanzina: Hey, we usually do this in-person, but we'll take this as the next best thing. Rafer, most of the Hollywood movies had their release dates pushed back during the pandemic. Is it even possible to recommend new movies this year?
Rafer: Yes, there are things out there. I think you have to hunt them down. I think even before the pandemic, the streaming world seemed pretty overstuffed with series and limited series and films you'd never heard of with people in them that you'd never heard of. It was a real glut of content and I think it's an even bigger glut now. I guess there's good and bad to that. Some pretty great stuff is coming to streaming now. Wonder Woman 1984, the big sequel, that's going to come to streaming. There is stuff out there for sure.
Tanzina: We're going to break down what some of those options are for folks who are going to be home this weekend. Alison, your first pick is actually a series anthology called Small Axe from director Steve McQueen. We actually had Steve McQueen and the actor Letitia Wright on the show earlier this month to talk about that series. What stood out to you about the anthology?
Alison: Well, what stood out to me, in particular, is the upcoming episode here in the US called Lovers Rock, which is my favorite of the five. I think they're all very good films, but Lovers Rock is just a look at a party, just one night of a house party in which everyone crams in and it's vibrant. It feels incredibly nostalgic in the age of the pandemic to watch everyone have a great time in a crowded house party with incredible music. It also really feels like it brings together a lot of the themes of this anthology series, which deals a lot with systemic racism faced by the West in the community. In this case, it is this moment of glorious freedom and sanctuary. Who doesn't need that right now?
Tanzina: I was just going to say, that sounds like exactly what a lot of us need. Rafer, we go to you. Now, we go from Lovers Rock to one of your picks, which is On the Rocks. Tell us about On the Rocks.
Rafer: Yes, this was the reunion of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray after Lost in Translation. They're back together again. It's a fairly simple, little story. Rashida Jones plays this woman who thinks her husband might be cheating on her, and so she turns to an expert in that matter, which is her philandering father, Felix, played by Bill Murray, and the two of them decide to investigate. The husband is played by Damon Wayans.
They're going to investigate him and see if, indeed, he is cheating with one of his co-workers. It's a pretty simple, slender, little comedy. It reminded me a lot of Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery with him and Diane Keaton just romping around Manhattan investigating this mystery. I guess a couple of things I liked about this movie was it's a little deeper than it seems on the surface. Felix is this kind of aging playboy. He's an incorrigible womanizer. He's a chauvinist, but he's also very chivalrous.
He shows his daughter all these little attentions and little acts of love that she's not getting from her husband. They go around Manhattan. He orders her drink for her. He opens the door for her. He decides where they're going to have dinner. She loves that. She soaks it up. Although she knows that in the real world, there's also a price to pay for that sort of treatment. There's a little bit more going on there than you'd think initially.
I guess like Alison's choice, one of the things I liked about this movie is you get to ride around all over Manhattan again like you did before the pandemic. You've got Bill Murray as your guide. He's taking you to the Bemelmans Bar and he's taking you to 21. They're having martinis over a beautiful dinner. Like Alison, I just felt this deep, deep nostalgia for the days when you could do such things. Not that I ever went to the 21 Club a lot, but it sure would be nice to go and have a martini at a bar these days, I'll tell you.
Tanzina: I'll tell you, we spoke to Dr. Fauci earlier in the show, and so I think those days will come back hopefully. In the meantime, we are still in the middle of this pandemic and we have another holiday after Thanksgiving, which is Christmas. Alison, you have a Christmas movie selection. Now, a lot of these movies can be a little cliché, a little sweet, if you will. What makes the Happiest Season your Christmas movie pick?
Alison: Yes, it's funny. I feel like in recent years, the Christmas movie which I mostly associated with the Hallmark Channel and maybe Lifetime, Netflix has gotten in on the game, all of these other places. Suddenly, it's this whole sweeping competitive field. I think the Happiest Season, it has a twist, which is that it is a lesbian romantic comedy. It's directed by Clea DuVall, who's also an actor. It stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as the couple because there always has to be a twist in these movies.
They're about to go home for the holidays to be one of their families. The Kristen Stewart character learns that actually her longtime girlfriend who she was going to propose to is not out to her family yet and thinks that Kristen Stewart is her roommate coming home with her for the holidays. It delivers a lot of the kind of cozy clichés, let's say, that you expect from everyone crammed into a house Christmas movie. At the same time, it does tackle, I think, a lot of, actually, complicated emotional up and downs with the characters.
Tanzina: That sounds like a real issue that someone could actually confront at the holiday. It sounds more relatable than we probably think.
Alison: Absolutely. It really, I think, manages to straddle, giving you a bit of the cozy familiar feeling and a bit of the real and maybe sometimes little dark emotions that come up over the course of these hijinks.
Tanzina: Sounds like a normal holiday to me. Rafer, we're going to go to you for the final word here. You have a throwback for one of your picks. Beverly Hills Cop. Remind us. This was the Eddie-- You don't have to remind me, but remind our audience, Beverly Hills Cop. I remember it in its first iteration.
Rafer: Oh, of course. Well, I just recommended this to a friend of mine who has a family of a wide range of ages. It's him, his wife. He was looking for a crowd-pleaser. He's very much like me. I've got two boys. They're 10 and 12. Mostly, what they want to watch is comedies, action films, and of course, action comedies. We've run through all of those and my wife and I were debating, "Boy, rated R, Beverly Hills Cop, should we do it?"
We took a gamble and it was great. They just fell in love with Eddie Murphy again. He's so funny and cocky and tough in this movie. It was great to hear that old Harold Faltermeyer theme song Axel F again. Plus the Coming 2 America sequel is coming out pretty soon, so I thought this was a good way to introduce the kids to the magic of Eddie Murphy.
Tanzina: It is definitely magic. Rafer Guzman is film critic for Newsday and co-host of Movie Therapy with Rafer & Kristen. Alison Willmore is a film critic at Vulture and New York Magazine. Thanks to you both folks and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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