Is 'Yesterday' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Have To Say
COULD'VE GONE WITH 'IT'S ONLY LOVE'

· Updated:

From its trailer, the high concept of "Yesterday," (out June 28) a Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire," "Trainspotting") and Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") team-up about a man who discovers he's woken up in a world where The Beatles never existed, got people buzzing. Does the full film live up to its elevator pitch? Here's what the reviews have to say:

A Global Blackout And A Fateful Accident Trigger The Beatles' Erasure And Our Lead's Rise To Stardom

A struggling musician named Jack (Himesh Patel), still barely hanging onto his passion in life thanks to the unwavering support and encouragement from his best friend/manager Ellie (Lily James), gets hit by a bus and is knocked out on the night when all power mysteriously gets cut off across the globe for a minute. He wakes up in the hospital to a new reality where The Beatles never existed, and he's the only one on the planet who remembers their songs.

[Paste]

Jack scrambles to memorize as many Beatles lyrics as he can recall[…] Eventually, with the help of Ed Sheeran (who appears as a version of himself) and this faux Sheeran's faux manager, Debra (an overwound Kate McKinnon), Jack becomes a huge star by performing songs he didn't write and passing them off as his own.

[TIME]

The Film Doesn't Explore No-Beatles World To The Fullest…

It's very intriguing early on when Jack plays Beatles songs at coffee-shop gigs, and nobody even looks over. The music has zero impact on these people. What if things had developed so differently in the Beatles' absence that people would have no idea what they were missing, and, frankly, wouldn't care, because how can you miss what you've never had?

[RogerEbert.com]

Here my inner pedant will not shut up: What if the popularity of the Beatles' music was as much a product of a specific time and set of circumstances as the music itself? What if, on first hearing "Yesterday," Jack's friends took it for an obscure Mumford & Sons B-side?

[The New York Times]

Only toward the end, when the implications of a world without the Beatles are taken to a wild and unexpected extreme, does Yesterday briefly hint at the sort of film it could have been beyond this fluffiest of musical tributes.

[Slant]

… Instead, It Quickly Veers To Well-Tread Rom-Com Tropes

In true genre fashion, Jack and Ellie have had feelings for one another for a decade, but never acted up on them until Jack gets snatched away to tour the globe, leaving him to decide whether or not he should pursue his career or choose Ellie. The plot points are expected, but Curtis' sharp dialogue and the palpable chemistry between Patel and James should satisfy those looking for that Notting Hill or Love Actually feeling.

[Paste]

Everyone in the audience can surely agree that Jack and Ellie should get together, but no obstacle is more narratively inert than an argument over why they haven't. Curtis, it seems, can't resist leaning on his old formulas even when he tries to branch out, and that tendency ends up doing Yesterday a disservice.

[The Atlantic]


Luckily, Himesh Patel & Lily James Are Natural Charmers

Patel and James are extremely likable, together and separately; you want to see them get together. In fact, you want it so badly, you find it hard to believe it didn't happen years earlier. We're asked to believe the fiction in which the stunning, kind, unselfish woman pines away for the cute but clueless guy who, conveniently, doesn't appear to be interested in dating or sleeping with anyone, even after he becomes a star.

[TIME]

It's a shame, because Patel deserves all of the recognition that Jack doesn't. Not only does he sound exactly like a young Paul McCartney when he sings, but he radiates charisma in a way that makes him easier to believe as a superstar than it is as a school teacher. James, a brilliant singer who's become the secret weapon of every movie she's in, never even gets a crack at a duet.

[IndieWire]

James acts the hell out of a stale patient-love-interest role, the kind of part that requires dutiful patience and a speech about choosing love over fame. Not much you can do with lines like "I'll always just be Ellie with the frizzy hair," really.

[Entertainment Weekly]


Danny Boyle's Direction Helps Some, But Don't Expect The Heights Of 'Yesterday' To Match Even His So-So Efforts

Every time Jack plays a Beatles song, Boyle is asking the audience to imagine they're hearing it for the first time, and some of the film's reinterpretations evoke the goosebumps he's looking for. Boyle has long excelled at injecting music-video surrealism into his feature films, from the kinetic Trainspotting to the symphonic Steve Jobs. Wherever he forgets the arcane setup of Curtis's script and lets the extremely charming Patel belt out the classics, Yesterday succeeds.

[The Atlantic]

Danny Boyle, flexing his Millions muscle, builds what may be the optimal delivery system for what transpires to be cut-rate material. It avoids the close-proximity shooting style of TV sitcoms, and Boyle really does his best to make sure that every gag has an odds-on chance of landing. The impression is that there was no single-take improv here – the scenes, the lines and the delivery were repeated until they worked.

[Little White Lies]

Thing is, as shiny and well-polished as Yesterday ends up looking in Boyle's hands, his style doesn't necessarily add any substance to its overarching narrative.

[Screen Rant]


Missed Opportunities Abound In 'Yesterday'

Despite having the elements for an unusual star-is-born saga that flirts with potentially fascinating aspects of authorship and maybe the most epic case of imposter syndrome ever diagnosed, "Yesterday" is nothing more than a classic story about some dumb boy chasing his chintzy dream instead of recognizing the reality that's been staring him in the face the whole time.

[IndieWire]

While I typically cringe at critics attempting to provide a new plot to a movie rather than judging the film on its own merits, the wastefulness of Yesterday is undeniable and unavoidable. As you watch the protagonist churn out Beatles songs as his own, you see that Yesterday has no love for The Beatles, their impact, or even music. It's a story about love and fame, and The Beatles are merely a means to an end.

[Collider]


Even Ed Sheeran Deserves A More Interesting Take On The Fictionalized Version Of Himself Than The Movie Provides

Sheeran is great in an unexpectedly significant role, hostile but helpful as the self-described Salieri to Jack's Mozart, but he's no substitute for legible character growth.

[IndieWire]

The concept of Sheeran as a Salieri-esque figure consumed by Jack's apparent genius is a devilishly funny one, but even when playing an exaggerated version of himself, the musician is too flat and friendly to sell the role.

[The Atlantic]

It Can Play The Hits Quite Well, But It Leaves You Wondering If The Filmmakers Really *Get* The Beatles

I guess I'm as much as a Beatles fan as the next person, insofar as I sung along to their music when I was a kid, sought deeper meaning in their weird period during dazed college days, and now frequently turn to the Beatles Sirius XM radio station when there's nothing else on the hundred other channels. So I appreciated the songbook quality of Yesterday, and found something profoundly disquieting in its drugless, sexless version of the Beatles.

[Entertainment Weekly]

The Beatles were larger than life, but at least part of their greatness was built on subtlety. That's a language Yesterday doesn't understand, even though it spends a great deal of time mouthing the words.

[TIME]

I'm sure the filmmakers have a good reason for taking the easy way out, but "Yesterday" is more of a novelty earworm than a classic. It's appealing and accessible in a way that the Beatles never really were. If it took itself — and them — a bit more seriously, it would be a lot more fun. But it wasn't made to last.

[The New York Times]

Yesterday is the cinematic equivalent of people whose favorite Beatles album is 1. You could make pretty much the same movie if Jack woke up into a world where only he remembered advertising jingles and became a successful ad executive.

[Collider]


TL;DR

Yesterday is a fluffy and ultimately half-baked 'What if?' fantasy that partially gets by on its zestful storytelling and endearing performances.

[Screen Rant]

Watch The Trailer

 


<p>Mathew Olson is an Associate Editor at Digg.</p>

Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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