In this week’s Cronick’s Couch, discover if TNT’s “Snowpiercer” matches up to the film that spawned it, learn if you should take a chance on Amazon’s quirky “Upload,” find out if “The Wrong Missy” is a right choice and unearth a hidden gem of a movie.
”Upload” (2020, Not rated, 10 30-minute episodes, Amazon Prime Video) — Talk about a good surprise. If you saw any of Amazon’s trailers advertising this original comedy by “The Office” creator Greg Daniels, “Upload” looked like absolute schlock.
It may take a bit of settling in to the quirky world that is “Upload,” but after two or three episodes, “Upload” will absolutely overwhelm your heart and make you laugh thanks to its sharp, witty writing, imaginative storytelling, great characters, an impressive ensemble of unknown actors and use of technology.
“Upload,” probably best described as a cross between “The Good Place” and “Parks & Recreation,” which is another creation of the Emmy Award-winning writer/creator. The story follows Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell), a narcissistic but soft-hearted hunk who winds up in the hospital after a car accident in his self-driving car. Presented with the quick decision to enter surgery or “upload” into a virtual afterlife, he is persuaded by his overbearing girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) to choose the latter.
The hasty decision puts Nathan in the Horizen company’s “Lakeview” luxurious virtual afterlife, where he can still have a relationship with Ingrid while he still experiences life mostly as we know it. He golfs, eats like crazy, has an amazing view and can even have sex. But things get complicated quickly when he falls for his “Angel” Nora (Andy Allo) and realizes that his death may have been a murder plot.
Make no bones about it: “Upload” is cheesy fun, very similar to “The Good Life,” full of moral lessons and romance, all with an edge. But it’s also very funny, surprisingly so, and the futuristic fun of 3D food printing, exploring the dark web, hologram phones and sex suits is just cool stuff. Once you start binging, you will blow through the 30-minute episodes in record time. It’s irresistibly contagious fun and a great break from the seriousness of our pandemic life.
”The Wrong Missy” (2020, Not rated, 90 minutes, Netflix) — Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison Productions has certainly had an awful track record since signing a deal with Netflix. While well watched, they are just terrible movies: “Murder Mystery” with Sandler and Jennifer Aniston (44% on Rotten Tomatoes), “The Week Of” with Sandler and Chris Rock (27%), “The Do-Over” with Sandler and David Spade (10%), “Sandy Wexler” with Sandler, Jennifer Hudson and Kevin James (27%) were barely watchable and only outdone by the 0% — that’s right, 0% — scores for Spade’s “Father of the Year” and the western “The Ridiculous 6” with Sandler and Rob Schneider.
“The Wrong Missy” isn’t breaking the trend when it comes to bad reviews, currently at 36%, but unlike all of those atrocities mentioned above, this Spade-led flick is not only watchable but really funny.
In fact, I can’t say the last time I laughed out loud from start to finish than when I watched “The Wrong Missy.” Part of it is that it will absolutely remind you of the comedy classics “Tommy Boy” and “Black Sheep” because it lets Spade do what he does best: play the straight man to a hilarious sidekick, in this case the talented comedienne Lauren Lapkus (“Crashing”).
Like most other Sandler-produced flicks, you can throw away the plot. This one is about Spade hooking up with Lapkus with disastrous results that ultimately lead him mistakenly inviting her to a company retreat in Hawaii where he is trying to get a promotion.
Lapkus, of course, plays the spoiler to that plan as her insane antics and politically and socially incorrect hijinx lead to Spade pulling out his wig hair. She will remind you of Jim Carrey in a good way, offering a very funny physical performance that steals the show.
Spade has his moments, too, as does a cast of Sandler friends and family, including Sandler’s wife, Jackie, as Spade’s competition, and Rob Schneider in one of his more memorable, odd character roles.
“The Wrong Missy” is stupid humor, a throwback to the “Billy Madison” days when Sandler was funny on screen. If you’re looking for some high-brow entertainment, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a great flick to watch with your significant other to take your mind off things, “The Wrong Missy” is the right choice.
”A Most Violent Year” (2015, Rated R, 125 minutes, Netflix) — If there is one positive about the pandemic, it’s that it gives me time to go back and find some great movies and shows that I somehow missed along the way. Today’s discovered gem is “A Most Violent Year,” a slow-burning crime drama that is reminiscent of classic ’70s and early ’80s films like “Once Upon a Time in America” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” ... films like this just don’t get made anymore.
The plot is so mundane it’s amazing that it received a $20 million budget and theatrical release. In just five years, it’s hard to believe a movie like this would be green-lit except for a streaming platform.
The good news is that Director/Writer J.C. Chandor was able to get it made. Set during 1981 — statistically one of the most crime-ridden of New York City’s history — “A Most Violent Year” follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant owner of a surging oil truck business whose attempt to legally and morally find the American Dream is disrupted by his trucks getting hijacked, a corrupt investigation of his business and a land deal gone wrong.
Chandor’s story is deliberate, dark, foreboding, uncomfortable and tense.
It moves very slow but is never boring thanks to perhaps Isaac’s (the latest “Star Wars” trilogy) best performance yet and an amazing supporting cast led by Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”). Both performers earned Golden Globe nominations for their roles here, and they earned it.
Isaac plays the complicated Morales similar to the way Al Pacino played Michael Corelone in “The Godfather.” Despite his best attempts to keep his hands clean, his competitors, the government and his family pull him into muddy waters that he has refused to enter his whole life.
“A Most Violent Year” is not full of thrills — the most action you will get is a foot chase and a gun whipping — but it is full of great acting, brilliant, thought-provoking writing and work by a confident, talented filmmaker.
Not worth your time
”Snowpiercer” (2020, 10 hour-long episodes, airing 9 p.m. Sundays on TNT) — If there was ever a movie that shouldn’t be made into a TV show, it’s Bong Joon Ho’s 2014 stellar sci-fi flick “Snowpiercer,” the closest thing the Academy Award-winning director of “Parasite” has come to making an American blockbuster.
Why? Well, Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” based on a graphic novel about the last post-apocalyptic survivors of humanity on a train track around the world after an attempt to stop global warming had a horrendous effect, basically freezing the earth, was propelled by Bong’s unique, crazy, stylistic vision and bizarre storytelling. It brought you into an uncomfortable world for two hours as the back of the train revolted against the front, representing the societal classes.
And, as expected, TNT’s attempt to prolong Bong’s vision is just a complete mess. The basic story is still there, but gone are Bong’s amazing visuals and quirkiness and fun acting performances. In is a watered-down story, a bunch of bad acting from good actors and cheap-looking visuals with zero artsy creativeness.
To make matters worse, the main plot of this “Snowpiercer” isn’t so much about the class system but a detective from the back of the train being asked to solve a murder for the upper class. I guess it’s like a post-apocalyptic Agatha Christie story. And that’s not good.
The cast is better than the material. Daveed Diggs (Broadway’s “Hamilton”) leads a cast that also includes Academy Award-winner Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”), who must have really needed the cash. And as strange as Allison Wright (“The Americans”) may be, she just can’t live up to Tilda Swinton’s insane performance in the movie.