The Polka King (2017)

Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail. (IMDb)
Main man Jan Lewan is a compelling lead–optimistic and ambitious, a criminal who is misguided but without malice, one who in the end welcomes his karma and consequences. The script here never digs deep into any of the crime or character-related intrigue though (instead of a suspenseful cat-and-mouse plot we get 2 maybe 3 scenes with the investigator), and the stuff on the surface never has quite enough zip (pizzazz?) to carry the film in its place. Nothing terribly wrong here, just needed more.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Widows (2018)

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Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms. (IMDb)
Great cast, cool flourishes (see the car-convo tracking shot), but never gets into a good groove (maybe for a few minutes during its heist prep montage). There’s a grief-themed character study, a women-empowerment thread, a shady politics sub-plot, and a heist movie all thrown in there-all with potential, but focusing on just two of the four would’ve made for a more impactful film. As it is, it feels disjointed (the attempt at a plot-tying twist only raises more questions) and is hard to get into.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Life of the Party (2018)

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After her husband abruptly asks for a divorce, a middle-aged mother returns to college in order to complete her degree. (IMDb)
Much of the comedy is cringe-worthy, and save for that first oral presentation scene, in a bad way (the stereotypical mean girls are just awfully written and acted), but there’s a few hilarious bits (see the mediator meeting) and instead of the expected mom-embarrassing daughter plot it’s actually mostly an appreciable (if cheesy) thematic script about female friendship and mutual empowerment that strikes some good chords, save for the early makeover scene (be yourself! Just not with that hair).
6/10 (Mediocre)