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Jon Hamm in Confess Fletch

Confess, Fletch

The best kept secret in movies these days is the new mystery-comedy  Confess, Fletch. Directed by Greg Mottola and based on the novels by Gregory McDonald, Confess, Fletch stars Jon Hamm as a traveling journalist turned rogue detective who tries to solve a murder, an art heist and a kidnapping all while dealing with a cast of eccentric characters along the way.

Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Ayden Mayer and Roy Wood Jr. in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Ayden Mayer and Roy Wood Jr. in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Annie Mumolo in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Annie Mumolo in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
John Slatterly and Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
John Slatterly and Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)

Fletch (Jon Hamm) has been traipsing about Europe covering the tempestuous world of art. He’s been hired by the Italian Count De Grassi (Robert Picardo) to solve an art heist and meets and falls for the Count’s daughter Angela/Andy (Lorenza Izzo). When he gets word that Harvard art professor Ralph Horan (Kyle MacLachlan) has recently sold two of the Count’s pieces, Angela helps Fletch out by booking him a luxury apartment in Boston so he can further investigate. Upon arrival, Fletch is greeted with a dead body at the apartment and police detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) immediately suspect him as the murderer. Fletch takes it upon himself to solve the murder, the art heist and the Count’s kidnapping. He takes on numerous aliases and is always one step ahead of the detectives . Fletch must contend with the lustful Countess (Marcia Gay Harden), the drug addict apartment owner Owen (John Behlmann), the pot smoking airhead neighbor Eve (Annie Mumolo), his old boss Frank (John Slattery) and many other quirky characters.

“I loved Mcdonald’s writing — the books are witty, surprising, full of lively, oddball characters and crackling dialogue. And a great, original protagonist: an irreverent, smart-ass investigative reporter as the stand-in for a detective in a murder mystery plot. Between the banter and the investigations, there’s also incisive social commentary.”

director Greg Mottola
Confess, Fletcher poster art

Confess, Fletch is pure delight. Jon Hamm is utterly charming as Fletch. He gives the role just the right dose of eccentricity without going too far. In fact, the entire movie does a great job balancing the comedy elements with the unfolding mystery. There are so many funny moments but it never feels cheesy. The supporting players all have excellent roles with their own story arcs and quirks. This really adds richness to the story. My favorites were Annie Mumolo’s Eve, a free spirit who is constant danger because she doesn’t take precarious situations all that seriously. Spotting the quirks is half the fun. These include Fletch’s penchant for taking off his shoes, Horan’s germophobia and love of EDM, Frank’s constant cursing, Griz’s bad luck and Monroe’s grogginess from too much work and being a new dad.

I wish there was more of Angela’s character and perhaps a bit less of the Countess. I felt that balance was a bit off. And of course we could have used even more scenes between Hamm and Slattery (a delight for hardcore Mad Men fans like myself). 

As a native Bostonian, I thought the film made great use of on location shooting. The living quarters shown are very luxurious, out of budget for someone like Fletch, but it is adequately explained given the fact that he’s being funded by rich patrons.

Overall, Confess, Fletch is pure comedy gold. Solid storytelling, a great lead, full realized quirky supporting characters and a fun murder mystery plot. And it’s even better on second viewing.

Confess, Fletch is currently in theaters and available to rent or purchase on VOD.

Watch on Apple TV

Carmen

Eat Pray Love (2010) meets Corpus Christi (2019) in this tender drama about a middle-aged woman reclaiming her life after years of service in the church.

Set in Malta during the 1980s, Carmen stars Natascha McElhone, the sister of the local priest. Per Maltese customs, when a priest is ordained, his oldest sister must make the sacrifice of abandoning any hopes of a career, relationship or family of her own in order to take care of her brother in service. Carmen has done since from the age of 16 until 50. When her brother passes away, she creates a new life for herself. With her newfound freedom, she pretends to be the new priest and takes confessionals in secret. She spends her days people watching and connecting with the locals. She forms a romantic bond with Paulo (Steven Love), a young Maltese-Canadian man to whom she tries to sell stolen goods from the church. Soon enough, Carmen’s new-found joie de vivre starts to have an effect on the community around her.

“Carmen is inspired by an old Maltese tradition… Many women’s voices were squashed, and their spirits dampened. This happened to my Aunt, now 95 years old… This film is for my Aunt and all the women who’ve suffered this tradition under the patriarchy.” — director Valerie Buhagiar

Directed by Valerie Buhagiar, Carmen is brimming with optimism despite the trials and tribulations endured by its protagonist. Natascha McElhone is absolutely charming as Carmen. She imbues the character with a sense of curiosity and wonderment that is quite fetching. When Carmen comes out of her situation, she receives a makeover and we see a raven haired beauty dressed in bright red emerge from her cocoon. Malta is its own character depicted both with a sense of beauty and a sense of social injustice. The plot can get a bit murky but doesn’t take away much from the overall experience.

Carmen is currently in theaters and available to rent on VOD.

Charcoal/Carvão

Set in the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil, Charcoal/Carvão tells the story of an impoverished family who make an almost Faustian bargain to lift themselves up out of their situation. Irene (Maeve Jinkings) cares for her ailing father but between that, raising her son Jean (Jean Costa) and dealing with her husband Jairo’s (Romulo Braga) reckless behavior, she is overwhelmed. When a nurse, Juracy (Aline Marta), offers Irene a shady deal to help the family, after much consideration Irene agrees. The plan involves getting rid of Irene’s father and secretly replacing him with  Miguel (César Bordón), an Argentine drug lord who faked his own death and is now in hiding. Irene and her family keep up appearances. Jean goes to school, Jairo continues to work harvesting charcoal and Irene sells her chicken dinners. But the influx of cash and the looming danger that hangs over this volatile stranger, threatens to push the family over the edge.

“Charcoal is my attempt to understand how violence, religion and hypocrisy have taken over our lives and bodies in a way that we don’t’ even notice any more.”

Carolina Markowicz

Written and directed by Carolina Markowicz, Charcoal/Carvão is an unrelentingly brutal film about the lengths people will go to escape their situation. The film is deceptively quiet which makes certain scenes all that more shocking. Bookended with religious scenes and music, the story aptly explores how desperation takes away our morals and basic humanity. The performances came across so natural that it’s easy to forget we’re watching actors playing roles and not real people living their lives. Markowicz does a brilliant job enveloping the audience in the world of her characters that it feels like we are right there with them. 

Charcoal/Carvão is emotionally devastating and draining. It’s a film to watch. But only once.

Note to add: both Portuguese and Spanish are spoken in the film.

Charcoal/Carvão premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

“There is no story about wishing that is not a cautionary tale”

Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) embraces solitude. When she’s not teaching at the university, she spends her time reading and studying and feels the independence of not being attached to a spouse, child or family network. As a scholar of mythology and storytelling, she often travels to faraway lands to be in the world of the fantastical stories that she teaches. On one trip to Turkey, she finds a unique looking bottle in a shop. Upon opening it in her hotel room, suddenly a Djinn (Idris Elba) appears, offering her three wishes for whatever her heart desires (with a few rules of course). But Dr. Binnie knows better. Wishes never turn out how the asker intended them and Djinns like the one she conjured are often tricksters. Djinn taps into Dr. Binnie’s hunger for engaging storytelling and recounts the times he’s been released and trapped in a bottle. As the Djinn tells his stories, Dr. Binnie must come to terms with whether she should or should not ask for the three wishes offered.

Directed by George Miller, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a fanciful meditation on the power of human connection and stories. It’s light on the world building, focusing on small stories to tell a bigger tale of humanity and desire. Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are fantastic in their individual roles but ultimately lacked chemistry with each other. The movie is based on A.S. Byatt’s short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and adapted to the screen by Miller and Augusta Gore.

The screening I attended began with a message from the director thanking the audience for watching the film on the big screen. It’s definitely a film best viewed on the big screen. It’s a visual spectacle with some amazing cinematography by John Seale, who also worked with Miller on Mad Max: Fury Road. I do think it’s a film that could also be enjoyed at home. There are some subtle details, especially with Dr. Binnie’s mannerisms that can be seen with the female characters in Djinn’s stories. Repeat viewing will enrich the experience, finding those subtleties that were missed the first time around.

Three Thousand Years of Longing premiered at the 2022 Cannes FIlm Festival and is currently in theaters in the U.S., distributed by MGM.

Free Puppies! The True Story of Rescue Dogs

Directed and produced by Samantha Wishman and Christina Thomas, Free Puppies!: The True Story of Rescue Dogs explores the lives of abandoned and neglected dogs in the rural South and the extraordinary efforts made to rescue them and to control the ever-growing population in the community.

This documentary focuses primarily on the work of Monda Wooten, a small business owner and city commissioner for Trenton, Georgia, who has made it her life’s mission to help rescue dogs in her area.  We follow along as Wooten and other rescuers as they work with locals to get dogs spayed and neutered and to place abandoned dogs in loving homes. 

This film really touched my heart because my dog Rollie is a rescue from a rural region of West Virginia. He and another dog were abandoned on the side of the road and with the help of a nice lady they were rescued, fostered and ultimately transported up to New England where they were adopted.

A rescue puppy arrives on transport and meets her new owner at the Vince Lombardi Service Station in NJ, as seen in Free Puppies!, a film by Samantha Wishman and Christina Thomas. A First Run Features release. (Photo courtesy of First Run Features)

The work Wooten and the rescuers do is invaluable, especially all of their efforts to make spaying and neutering affordable for low-income families. In the doc we see a veterinarian whose sole job is to spay and neuter which keeps her overhead costs down so she can offer the service to these communities. This is such a fantastic idea.

Free Puppies! will take viewers on a gentle rollercoaster ride of hope and heartbreak. It’s both rewarding to see the rescuers at work and sad to see the state of things. This film offers an abundance of empathy for both the dogs and the people in the community.

Free Puppies! is distributed by First Run Features. It hits theaters across North America on August 12th, 2022. Visit the official website for more details.

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