This week, I think I found the two most medium movies I have seen, by which I mean they are not great, but also not bad. Maggie Moore(s) and 65 both strike the perfect note of unchallenging watchability, satisfying if not especially creative. Allow me to explain.
In Maggie Moore(s), Police Chief Jordan Sanders (Jon Hamm) and Deputy Reddy (Nick Mohammed) investigate the mysterious deaths of two women both named Maggie Moore (Mary Holland and Louisa Krause). Although both women’s husbands (Micah Stock and Christopher Denham) behave suspiciously, one of the Maggies’ neighbors, Rita Grace (Tina Fey) and a cashier at the drugstore they visited, Sammi (Oona Roche), may crack the case. Meanwhile, Chief Sanders and Rita start a romance.
Maggie Moore(s) starts the audience in the middle of a decent mystery that may have been better were it more of a whodunnit. Instead of feeling suspense, the audience watches the bumbling plotting of the murders and then watches the police one step behind the killers. The film may have been more exciting if we did not have all the answers to the mystery along the way, but instead, we get the character study of both Chief Sanders and the criminals. In that character work, Jon Hamm has some meaty scenes in which he performs well, but Tina Fey is shamefully underused, especially considering the bantering chemistry she and Hamm have.
Without the tension of a true procedural or the depth of an excellent character study, the film depends on that chemistry between the leads and the quirky side characters. Oona Roche shines as Sammi, a curious, chatty cashier. Her performance simultaneously conveys boredom and nosiness, which helps set the scene for what kind of town the drama unfolds in and made me happy to see her whenever anyone walked up to her register.
In his direction, I imagine John Slattery was influenced by Fargo, but the script for Maggie Moore(s) is not strong enough to make that connection. Even still, I felt engaged and invested in the story and enjoyed the performances. I just wanted more suspense. It was a happy medium between a good indie film and a trashy murder mystery.
Out in select theaters, Maggie Moore(s) is also available to rent on Amazon Prime and Vudu. It was written by Paul Bernbaum and directed by John Slattery. It runs 99 minutes and is rated R.
On Netflix, 65 takes place in the distant past, when a pilot, Mills (Adam Driver), takes a long delivery job to finance treatment for his very ill daughter, Nevine (Chloe Coleman). To do so, however, he has to make a dangerous two-year journey away from Nevine and her mother (Nika King). When his ship crashes on a distant planet, Mills must navigate dangerous, monster-ridden terrain with Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), the girl he was hired to transport.
65 has a great concept. I can imagine the pitch meeting. The planet Mills crashes on is Earth and the monsters are dinosaurs. So, essentially, the movie is The Last of Us meets Jurassic Park but with space travel and blaster guns. Sounds fun, right? It was created by the team behind A Quiet Place, and the DNA of that film comes through in the tense, touching family drama at the story’s heart.
Aside from being a good vehicle for Adam Driver to bank some of that Pedro Pascal “daddy” energy, 65 is just so-so in the delivery of all those good ideas. The movie is perfectly diverting and it was fun to see the elements coming together, but the result was so derivative that I was ultimately not that interested in the plot or the performances. A+ idea; C execution.
If, however, the viewer is a big fan of special effects and monster movies, 65 does good work with the dinosaurs and features a scary Tyrannosaurus Rex sequence that manages to sidestep looking like a total rip-off of the jeep scene in Jurassic Park. It comes close, but the blaster gun saves the day.
65 was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. It runs 93 minutes and is rated PG-13.
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