Weekend film reviews: ‘Mafia Mamma,’ ‘Suzume,’ ‘Renfield’

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Robin Estrin

The latest films include “Mafia Mamma,” “Suzume,” “Beau is Afraid” and “Renfield.” KCRW gets reviews from Christy Lemire, film critic for RogerEbert.com and co-host of the YouTube channel “Breakfast All Day,” and Shawn Edwards, film critic for FOX-TV in Kansas City and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association.

“Mafia Mamma”

In this comedy, Toni Collette plays Kristin, an Italian American mom who suddenly inherits a crime family. 

Edwards: “Hollywood loves these fish-out-of-water stories. And she's been assigned to run this crime family, and she makes it all seem as easy as booking a flight in a hotel in Italy on Travelocity.

… The thing that bothered me most about the movie is that — I don't trust movies that constantly reference other movies. They're referencing ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and ‘Eat Pray Love’ and ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather II’ constantly. … I'm like, ‘Be your own thing.’ Because they're trying to make a point about female empowerment, and I did appreciate that approach with the film. 

But the movie does prove one thing: Toni Collette can do anything, she can do no wrong. So she may just be the best actress of our generation. And she makes you believe that all of this is plausible. And she also convinces you that you just watched a solidly entertaining movie, despite the fact that this movie … it's cookie cutter. But calling it cookie cutter would be an insult to bakers around the world.”

Lemire: “It's wacky physical comedy. It's like one outlandish scenario after another. … I have to say also, it's got something deeper on its mind. … The idiocy that as a woman in America, you've got to deal with throughout your entire life every day, just people coming at you. I think it captures that.”


This anime follows a 17-year-old protagonist through various disaster-stricken parts of Japan. It’s written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and was the fourth highest grossing film of 2022 in Japan.

Lemire: “At its core, this is a movie about trauma — as so many anime films are [and] so many Japanese films are. It's about getting through that suffering and coming out the other side and the hope that can prevail ultimately. … And you see the devastation of places that happen all over Japan — it's a trip. It's really fun. It's really gorgeous. And then at the end, it is really unexpectedly emotional. But there are a lot of laughs along the way.”

Edwards: “The writing is as beautiful as the animation, and that's saying a lot, because the animation is incredible. … It completely sucks you into the film, and there's this seamless flow and rhythm to everything.

… It almost doesn't sound like it would be anime, but I think that's what makes this such a special watch. It’s because the power of this animation, it speaks so loudly to you while you're watching this film. It's just an amazing work of art.” 

“Beau is Afraid”

In this drama, Joaquin Phoenix plays an anxiety-ridden man who tackles his worst fears when going home after his overbearing mother (Patti LuPone) suddenly dies. 

Lemire: “It is a three-hour-long, just nightmare odyssey. … This is going to be very divisive. I found it way too long. … He goes on just this bizarre epic journey. And you don't really know what's real and what's in his mind. … Beau is such a passive figure. He's a passenger in his own existence. He is middle-aged and schlubby and meek and fearful. And it's hard to root for him to reach his ultimate destination because we're just in the miasma with him, we're just slogging through molasses with him. … It becomes increasingly difficult to care, and it ends with a shrug.”


In this horror-comedy, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has spent centuries doing Dracula’s (Nicolas Cage) bidding. Now, he wants to see if there’s life beyond being the vampire’s servant. 

Edwards: “[Nicolas Cage is] giving you all the familiar nuances and ticks that Nicolas Cage has become known for. And he overshadows Nicholas Hoult, who's trying hard to keep up with Nicolas Cage but just can’t. But both are let down by the script because the script abandons what would have been a great theme, and chooses to give us these subplots that don't make any sense at all and go off into a whole different direction.”

Lemire: “When it tries to be about something of actual substance, it really falters. The subplots are not nearly as interesting as the delightfully deliriously, over-the-top Nick Cage performance that we have here. I mean, what, 35 years after ‘Vampire's Kiss?’ He is fully wallowing and preening. … He's having a ball here, and it's really fun to watch him.”