Weekend film reviews: ‘Super Mario Bros,’ ‘Air,’ ‘Showing Up’

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Sarah Sweeney

In this animated adaptation of the beloved video game franchise, Mario and Princess Peach team up to defeat Bowser. Credit: YouTube.

This week’s latest film releases include “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Air,” “Showing Up,” “How To Blow Up a Pipeline,” and “Paint.” KCRW gets reviews from Amy Nicholson, a New York Times film reviewer and host of Unspooled, as well as William Bibbiani, film critic for The Wrap and co-host of the Critical Acclaimed Network.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

In this animated adaptation of the beloved video game franchise, Mario and Princess Peach team up to defeat Bowser. The highly anticipated film has a star-studded cast, including Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Jack Black. 

Bibbiani: “This is just watching a really expensively produced Mario game, you're watching someone else play it. There's a lot of very colorful sequences featuring very familiar locales from the game. And yeah, he's Super Mario, he's in the Mushroom Kingdom. He's gonna jump on some people. And then we're basically out after a go-kart race. … A lot of people are going to enjoy it because it hits that nostalgia button. But I don't think it's a very interesting or … good movie. It's just like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that intellectual property.’”

Nicholson: “This movie is too stupid to have anything close to an advanced degree. .. Is it good? I liked Jack Black playing piano and singing … songs because whatever, it's just surreal. … I like it where Kirby shows up, and he's just this demented existentialist hungering for their own death, just like ‘kill me now Kirby.’ Those are the only two parts of the movie that felt free, and they were my favorite parts by far.”


Matt Damon plays Nike employee Sonny Vaccar, who is looking to sign then-rookie Michael Jordan for a shoe endorsement deal. Ben Affleck directs this film and also co-stars, alongside Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, and Chris Tucker. 

Nicholson: “Michael Jordan, the most famous guy involved in this story, does not show his face in this movie in a way that becomes comical. They have a tall kid who is playing him, but he keeps hiding his face behind bushes and other people.

… I'm a kid of the 90s. So I have this queasy feeling about Nike and corporate lionizing, and I don't feel like the film really makes an argument why we should be comfortable with it. At one point, Jason Bateman, who plays Matt Damon's boss, is like, ‘I don't personally dig that we make our shoes in Taiwan.’ And that's it. The movie kind of moves on from there.” 

Bibbiani: “That exact same scene Amy pointed out — that drove me up the wall because he doesn't just say, ‘Yeah, I feel weird that we have sweatshops.’ He then goes to say, ‘But I really need to keep giving my daughter free shoes, or she won't love me.’ And the movie plays that scene out like … now we have stakes and we really, really care. And I'm like, can we get back to the sweatshops again? Because you really glossed over it, and you don't think we care? And I do a lot.”

“Showing Up”

This comedy-drama stars Michelle Williams as a sculptor who’s opening a new show, while juggling the drama of her family life. 

Nicholson: “It's this really naturalistic, modern-day, human drama about Lizzy, that's Michelle Williams, and she's this just unhappy, dour, struggling sculptor in Portland. You know, on one side of the theater, you have John Wick killing 200 people, and here the problems are that Lizzy's hot water doesn't work and her cat attacked a bird. And that's really the extent of it.” 

“How To Blow Up a Pipeline”

This thriller follows a group of climate activists who are taking action against the oil industry by blowing up pipelines in West Texas. The politically-charged film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. 

Bibbiani: “This movie is stridently political and really not okay with capitalism destroying the environment. … Watching it feels like you're watching a piece of truly rebellious cinema. This feels like it's trying to be part of the tradition of Gillo Pontecorvo’s ‘The Battle of Algiers’ or Lizzie Borden’s ‘Born in Flames.’ And it mostly succeeds on that level. It is tense. It is exquisitely crafted. The cast is excellent. I think this is one of those must-see movies that I think could potentially move people.”


This stars Owen Wilson as a painter and public television star named Carl Nargle. However, he questions his artistic talents when a newly hired painter comes in to bring new life to the TV channel.

Nicholson: “Underneath all the dumb jokes, it actually is a very satisfying satire of small-town Bohemianism. … And this idea of Carl … there's this really pointed joke in here about how he represents a certain type of … man that was considered progressive in the 70s. But being a 70s-80s hippie progressive man in today seems very retrograde. And so this film gets enlivened. When this actress … shows up as his younger rival artist who really punches up things at the studios and is very emotional in ways that he's not, so that's the bit of the film that I liked best. It's questioning what makes a good guy.”

Bibbiani: “The whole thing just feels a little poorly thought out to me. … I do appreciate that public access, public television tone to it. But ultimately, I just didn't laugh very much and I wish I would have.”




Marisa Lagos