By Sarah Payne
Brittany Runs a Marathon – August 23rd – If you are a fan of 22 Jump Street, you might recall one of the unexpected breakout stars of that film was Jillian Bell, who plays Mercedes, Maya’s uncomfortably blunt roommate. Her deadpan delivery is hilarious, and she steals every scene she’s in. That’s why I was surprised to learn she hasn’t been in many films since that was released in 2014 (with the exception of Rough Night in 2017). That changes this year, as she will star in Amazon Studios’ Brittany Runs a Marathon later this month, from relatively unknown writer and director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Deadline reported that Amazon Studios bought the rights for the film for $14 million after an all-night auction at Sundance back in January. It’s easy to see why Amazon paid top dollar for the film, as it’s one of the more original scripts I’ve seen in a while (why is every other film a sequel these days?). Bell plays an overweight partier whose doctor challenges her to change her lifestyle in order to improve her health. She decides to take up running and train for the New York City marathon. I’m a runner myself, so I’m excited to see the sport take the spotlight on the big screen and to get motivated to train for another race!
Murder Mystery – As I alluded to in my movie preview, it’s quite a sad state of affairs at the box office these days. I haven’t actually been to the movie theater this month because I just don’t have interest in watching another sequel or superhero movie. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen anything new lately. Netflix has been churning out more than enough original content to keep you glued to your couch for weeks. One its most recent releases last month was Murder Mystery, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. I tend to think that any movie Aniston is in – no matter how mediocre – is made better by her presence. This is generally the case with Murder Mystery, but the lack of chemistry between her and Sandler is what really holds the film back. Sandler plays a cheap New York City police officer with few redeeming qualities. His character is always complaining and he’s just not funny. If nothing else, this is a good movie to throw on as background noise while you fold your laundry.
Big Little Lies – Season 2 – I binge watched the first season of Big Little Lies on a flight back from Dublin a few years back after binging on the book by the same name. The first season really hooks you in because the whole time you know something truly tragic is about to happen. There’s a sense of foreboding but you’re not sure how and when the show will take you to the tragedy (I even felt that way having read the book first). That sense of anticipation doesn’t quite take hold in the second season – at least not yet. The big event has already taken place (I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t watched) and we’re just waiting to see if someone will be held responsible. A noted addition to this season’s cast is Meryl Streep, who plays Mary Louise, a nagging and socially awkward grandmother who wants justice for her son. Perhaps this is a sign of impeccable acting, but I cringe every time she’s on screen. While each of the other moms – played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz – have their own fun quirks, Mary Louise is just plain irritating.
Stranger Things – Season 3 – Unlike Big Little Lies, here’s a show that seems to know where it’s going, even its third season. The first season starred a cast of kids, who by now are teenagers. I’m about half way through this season and so far I’m impressed with the balance that’s struck between character development and the more thrilling/scary science fiction plotline. With Stranger Things, it’s always been more about the horror of the upside down, but the Duffer Brothers (the show’s creators) rightfully understand that no one will be interested in that storyline without first being invested in the characters. The one storyline I could do without in this season is the one between Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers. They both work low-level jobs at the local newspaper, where they’re clearly not respected by the “real” reporters – a bunch of white men in suits. None of the men at the paper seem like they could be actual people. The writing is a bit over the top for me and Nancy and Jonathan lack the chemistry they had in the second season before they got together.