Capsule film reviews: “Confess, Fletch”, “Clerks III” and “Pearl”.

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Reviews by: Jonathan W. Hickman

Confess, Fletch

Evaluation score: 6/10

Movie details:

Director: Greg Mottola

Cast: Jon Hamm, Roy Wood, Jr., Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan, Lorenza Izzo, Annie Mumolo and John Slattery

MPAA Rating: R

Duration 1 hour, 39 minutes

Available on Paramount+

It’s a strange coincidence that the reboot of the “Fletch” series is launching the same weekend that “Fletch” champion Kevin Smith releases the latest chapter in his “Clerks” franchise. Smith had long wanted to direct an adaptation of Greg McDonald’s popular series of novels about the recurring investigative reporter. Alas, we may never see Smith’s vision on screen, but in the meantime, “Confess, Fletch” from “Superbad” director Greg Mottola should whet the appetites of voracious fans.

“Confess, Fletch” is an update of the novel of the same name. Having read almost all of the books in the series, I was eager to see a new incarnation of the character that saw the light of day in the 1970s. In “Confess”, Fletch (Jon Hamm) returns to the United States after spending time in Italy. When he arrives at his rented brownstone, he discovers the body of a murdered young woman on the living room floor.

Fletch, still unfazed, makes a drink and calls the police. Instead of dialing 911, he calls the administrative line to give the details to a detective. After all, explains Fletch, the emergency has already passed and the young woman is long dead.

After the police arrive, Fletch meets with Detective Monroe (Roy Wood, Jr.). His somewhat unusual title of “investigator” was bestowed upon him by the mayor after solving the murder of a politician. Monroe is a great stand-in for the enigmatic character in the novel Investigator Flynn, who got his own book series in 1977. Monroe wants Fletch to confess, although you get the impression he doesn’t sincerely believe Fletch did the crime.

This new movie is a fun reimagining of the character previously brought to the screen in 1985 with Chevy Chase in the lead. Where Chase went for sarcastic laughs, Hamm plays him more in keeping with how the protagonist was originally written, but with a modern twist.

Although Fletch is in his mid to late twenties and a Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star winner in the book, Hamm’s Fletch is understandably older and doesn’t have much history. But he’s charming as hell nonetheless, which helps overcome some of the film’s more awkward elements.

As an introduction to the Fletch universe, “Confess, Fletch” does indeed give viewers something to lean on. Hopefully Hamm will have the opportunity to continue in the role as more of Fletch’s adventures are brought to the screen.

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Clerk III

Rating: 5/10

Movie details:

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Rosario Dawson and Ben Affleck

MPAA Rating: R

Duration: 1 hour 55 minutes

Available in cinema release

Kevin Smith’s latest film in the “Clerks” series returns to the grounded yet sophomoric humor that launched his career in 1994. This popular debut film has captured the imagination of nerds everywhere. And while Smith moved on to more sophisticated storytelling with films like 1999’s excellent “Dogma,” “Clerks III” returns to less nuanced narratives.

“Clerks III” returns to the convenience store owned by Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson). One of the movie’s funniest gags is that the video store in the same mall as the convenience store is now a marijuana dispensary run by Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). And even though it’s legal to sell their product, they still insist on pushing outside their establishment like a couple of comedic drug dealers. Jay and Silent Bob are fun, but the humor is undermined by too many fake moments.

When Randal has a heart attack, he decides it’s time to follow his dream and make a movie about his life. Accomplished cinephile Randal hammers out a script in one passionate night. But his story could alienate the people who matter most to him.

“Clerks III” takes a good 30 minutes to engage the viewer. The weather has not been kind to the world of “clerks”. The cardboard acting and lead jokes fall awfully flat throughout the film. Things take a significant emotional turn when Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) shows up at the store to air her grievances. But it’s a compelling performance that exposes the limited skills of his fellow cast members. However, the gripping sentiment is short-lived, as the film’s conclusion leaves us happy to say goodbye to the “Clerks” franchise.

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pearl

Rating: 8/10

Movie details:

Director: Ti West

Cast: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Alistair Sewell, Matthew Sunderland and Tandi Wright

MPAA Rating: R

Duration: 1 hour 42 minutes

Available in major theatrical release

There’s something wrong with Pearl (played by a fantastically polished Mia Goth). The creepy aged slasher who scared the crap out of us in 1970s horror movie “X” has his own film, and it’s truly remarkable.

I’ll say it: 2022 is the year of the Goth. The distinctive-looking actress wowed audiences in March in (SPOILER ALERT!) a surprising dual role in the introductory release of this horror franchise. In this inventive prequel, she plays the main character, who lives on the farm in 1918. In “X”, the farmhouse was somewhat dilapidated; in “Pearl”, it’s clean and tidy.

Pearl’s German immigrant mother, Ruth (a fantastic Tandi Wright), rules their home with an iron fist. But Ruth’s Puritan discipline has an essential purpose. Her husband (also Pearl’s father, played by Matthew Sunderland) is confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate due to the effects of the Spanish flu. In 1918, masks were commonplace and Ruth was determined to keep her home clean from the menacing germ.

The farm is a depressing environment for Pearl’s stargazing, which has only gotten worse because her husband, Howard (Alistair Sewell), traveled to Europe to help the Allies during World War I. Alone and isolated, Pearl longs to leave the farm and become a film actress. The little girl’s dark side may take over when Ruth won’t let Pearl try out a traveling dance troupe. And that means wielding an ax and a little help from his pet alligator.

“Pearl” is not for everyone. Its Technicolor-rich cinematography gives us bright, highly saturated and bouncy images that play a biting contrast to the great bloodshed that marks the film’s violent conclusion. But the Grand Guignol that director Ti West is making is something special to see.

Goth is a star here. His guttural screams and cracked expressions are so terrifying they’ll make you laugh uncomfortably. And as “Pearl” draws to a close, the promise of the next episode, which would have been titled “MaXXXine,” can’t come soon enough.

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