October 18, 2023

“The Boy and the Heron” is a Return to Form for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (Review)

Legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki has “retired” several times, most recently in 2013 after his historical masterpiece The Wind Rises hit theaters worldwide. Even though he supposedly reversed his decision after working on a short film in 2018 for the Ghibli Museum, it’s worth mentioning that many of those reversals happened after his son Goro Miyazaki made films for Studio Ghibli that are not as well-received as his father’s are. Goro’s Earwig and the Witch, the first 3D animated Ghibli feature, was harshly panned by critics and audiences alike, and thus, Hayao must come out of retirement once again to make another masterpiece.

Image courtesy of GKIDS

That masterpiece is
The Boy and the Heron, Miyazaki’s first film in ten years and inspired by his experience reading the 20th-century novel How Do You Live?, which factors into the film’s story. I was lucky enough to see The Boy and the Heron at this year’s New York Film Festival, which marked its United States premiere, and as a Ghibli fan, I couldn’t have been more excited.

October 15, 2023

Flanagan’s “Fall of the House of Usher” is a Taut, Harmoniously Demented Horror Tale (Review)

I can’t believe I even considered doubting Mike Flanagan. He’s been my favorite horror director for years, mastering the genre both in film and on television, surpassing my expectations in following up The Shining with 2019’s Doctor Sleep and revolutionizing single-location cringe-inducing body horror with Gerald’s Game.

His new endeavor, The Fall of the House of Usher, is a miniseries of eight stellar episodes that chart the steadily building saga of a dynasty stained by blood, betrayal, and fear, combining the stories of Edgar Allan Poe into a wonderfully genre-mashed horror tale. Based on the opening, I wasn’t initially sold on the series, but it very quickly won me over, rapidly becoming my favorite limited series of the year.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Fall of the House of Usher doesn’t just adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s titular short story; it incorporates a multitude of his works, spanning stories, poems, and novels, wrapping them up into one grand story to conclude Flanagan’s five-year deal with Netflix that has produced critically-acclaimed hit series like The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. I recognized some and learned about others from post-series research, and it only gave me more respect for Flanagan’s skill. There are scenes where characters simply quote Poe’s poems, and they never feel out of place; in a gothic world of unnatural happenings, they’re right at home.

October 1, 2023

“Strange Way of Life” Couldn’t Convert Me to Into an Almódovar Fan (Review)

Pedro Almódovar did not direct Brokeback Mountain, and although he nearly did, his new short film Strange Way of Life proves he has the chops to make a great western.

Strange Way of Life, Almódovar’s second short-form English-language venture, stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as ex-lovers who live a desert apart and have not seen each other for nearly 25 years. Hawke’s character Jake is the sheriff of a small town, and Pascal’s character Silva runs a nearby ranch with his son. A recent murder complicates their reunion, and their relationship takes a drastic turn with the potential to become a permanent roadblock.

We never saw Almódovar’s Brokeback Mountain…until now. Strange Way of Life was touted as his “answer” to the award-winning 2005 drama, and while it shares many similarities, it feels restrained. Its 30-minute runtime holds it back from being the western epic that it wants to be, which is frustrating because I want to like it. I even want to love it.

September 27, 2023

Stylistically Stellar “Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” Lacks Substance (Review)

You’d think that the quirk of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl would be a match made in heaven, meshing perfectly and complementing each artist in turn, and yet it still feels like both refuse to compromise and let the other dominate the project — an odd thing, considering Dahl has been dead for over thirty years. I think that speaks to the testament of his writing and how unique his style actually is.

Image courtesy of Netflix

The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar
is the first of a series of short films that Anderson had adapted from Dahl’s stories that will be released on Netflix this week. This particular short follows the eponymous Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems right at home in the signature Wes Anderson style), a rich man who learns about a guru (Ben Kingsley) who can see without using his eyes. Sugar sets out to teach himself the skill in order to cheat at gambling.

September 25, 2023

“Dumb Money” is a New Take on the GameStop Revolution (Review)

I should have expected it — after all, the world has been crazy enough these last few years — but it’s still surreal to see major studio releases about events that happened not only within my lifetime, but during a time when I was actively paying attention to the news. The pandemic has ensured that this has increased over the last few years, but no new release feels more familiar than Dumb Money.

Dumb Money tells the story of a group of amateur investors who were able to put a short squeeze — look it up — on two hedge funds that bet on video game retail company GameStop to fail. The effort was led by YouTuber and financial analyst Keith Gill (played in the film by Paul Dano), a financial broker from Massachusetts who led a ragtag campaign to invest in GameStop to ensure the hedge funds would not succeed in profiting from the company’s demise. The movement led to an SEC investigation and a Congressional hearing, all of which is depicted in the film.

September 16, 2023

Nostalgia Crossing and Horror Cinematic Universes: Revisiting My Unabashed Love of “The Nun”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that movies we watch as children define us and stick with us in ways that are impossible to replicate. There are others that I wish I had seen earlier, but in the end, it’s the childhood favorites that remain among my favorites to this day, oftentimes due to the nostalgia factor…more on that in a moment.

For what felt like years, I bugged my parents for years about letting me watch R-rated movies, until I had to take my fate into my own hands and find my own way to see what I wanted to see. When I hit high school, I was finally allowed to go to the theater alone and watch whatever I wanted, and I took full advantage of that. One of those films that I saw early on in high school was The Nun.

Despite my best efforts, nobody wanted to see it with me, and I don’t blame them. It was a horror movie, for starters, and connected to a cinematic universe that not many people my age (and certainly not my friends) had any interest in seeing. So I sat in an empty theater on September 7, 2018 — I still have the movie ticket — and found myself cowering behind my own hands as I sat through 97 minutes of gothic terror. And I loved every second of it.

July 28, 2023

Barbenheimer is the Cinematic Phenomenon of the Summer

What began as petty revenge is now the blockbuster phenomenon of the summer.

To be clear, we can never be entirely sure of the “revenge” part, but it sure seems like there’s some triviality involved. Writer/director Christopher Nolan, whose acclaimed masterpieces include Memento, Interstellar and the Dark Knight trilogy, parted ways with Warner Bros. in 2021 after a nineteen-year partnership, which included the production and distribution of the majority of Nolan’s films during that time.

Nobody was shocked — Nolan’s comments about Warner’s streaming service HBO Max and his public denouncement of their 2021 release strategy made the split all but inevitable — and Nolan’s next film was almost instantly set to be produced and distributed by Universal Pictures. Eventually, it was revealed to be a biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the nuclear bomb.

Elsewhere in the entertainment world, a live-action film about the iconic Barbie doll has been in various stages of development since the mid-2000s. It cycled through various writers, directors and stars, and eventually was set to be directed by Greta Gerwig (fresh off of hits Lady Bird and Little Women), co-written by Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach, and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, respectively.

July 1, 2023

Risk-Averse “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is Still a Home Run (Review)

The most recent three films in the Indiana Jones franchise have had perfect endings that could (and should) act as the closing moment of the series. But when there’s money to be made, there is sequel potential, no matter how many years pass in between.

I think, even though the film itself has been divisive, they could have done a lot worse than Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the franchise’s fifth entry, which has finally been released after years spent languishing in development hell (fifteen years after the last Indy adventure, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Dial of Destiny largely plays it safe, without explicit willingness to take risks, which does remove some of its efficacy — you might expect a legacy sequel in one of the more consistent long-running franchises to diversify itself in some unique ways, but Dial of Destiny sticks relatively closely to the script that has made the series successful for decades. I can’t fault it; after all, why mess with a winning formula?

June 29, 2023

“Nimona” is a Thrilling New Standard for Family Entertainment (Review)

As a queer, gender-fluid person with big thighs and a tendency to talk more than I should, I’ve always identified with cartoonist ND Stevenson’s work. Netflix’s futuristic fantasy Nimona, an animated adaptation of Stevenson’s 2015 graphic novel by the same name, is no exception.

Image courtesy of Netflix

follows the journey of Ballister Blackheart (voiced by Riz Ahmed of Rogue One and The Sound of Metal), a former knight misbranded as a villain, as he joins forces with a spunky shape-shifter named Nimona (Hugo’s Chloë Grace Moretz) to clear his name.

I was impressed with how the animators translated the 2D drawings from the graphic novel into 3D animation for the film. The art is unique and the animation feels very fluid. It’s a different spin on Stevenson’s characters in a new style, while preserving important parts of the character design. I loved seeing Nimona as a punky delinquent covered in piercings, but I also love that she retained her big thighs and partially shaved head from the comic. It feels fresh and new, while still true to the source material in the ways that matter.

“The Witcher” is Running Low on Bloodlust (Season 3 Vol. 1 Review)

Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher has, in the last year, been through the promotional ringer. For a variety of reasons, it was announced that star Henry Cavill (a self-admitted fan of the show’s source material, and one of the series’ initial draws) would leave the show after its third season, to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth. That news, and the fact that it was announced so early, casts a long shadow over Cavill’s last season, which has been split into two parts by Netflix, undoubtedly (among other reasons) to milk his remaining time as Geralt of Rivia. I speak for many other Witcher fans that he is usually one of the best parts of the show, and his exit has the potential to strip it of what made it great in the first place.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Alas, we won’t know for sure how Cavill’s tenure ends until the second half of the season drops in July, but until then, we have a definite jumping-off point for his final arc. And it pains me to say it — I liked Season One, and adored Season Two — but The Witcher is rapidly losing a lot of the steam it gained in the first two seasons.

June 28, 2023

“You Hurt My Feelings” is an Inoffensive, if Lackluster Relationship Dramedy (Review)

It can be tricky to know what type of story can sustain a film’s runtime, especially one with a basic premise that sounds more like a short film or a sitcom episode. Such is the case with You Hurt My Feelings, a new comedy-drama from A24 that makes no apologies for its capacity of brevity.

You Hurt My Feelings features Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) as therapist Don, husband to novelist Beth, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who still finds time to star in more modestly-budgeted films, even as she begins to make her mark on the blockbuster Marvel movies). They have a near-perfect marriage, anchored by great communication, an adult son (Mrs. Fletcher’s Owen Teague) still in their life, and a close relationship with Beth’s sister’s family. But that begins to unravel when Beth inadvertently hears Don’s honest opinion of her latest book, which doesn’t align with what he had told her about it. A misunderstanding follows, and you might be able to figure out how the rest goes.

You Hurt My Feelings runs a tight 93 minutes, and packs every facet of relationship drama it can into the time it has. It’s the latest feature from Oscar-nominated writer/director Nicole Holofcener, who made her mark on the film scene with 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Like that film, You Hurt My Feelings is driven by its central cast, all with commanding presences and the ability to expertly juggle comedy and drama, oftentimes in the same scene.

June 24, 2023

“Asteroid City” is a Methodical Filmmaker at the Top of His Game (Review)

Given time and opportunity, the best filmmakers are able to hone their craft and create a unique reputation for themselves within the cinematic sphere. It’s difficult to think of a modern director with a more recognizable visual style than Wes Anderson. A slew of AI-generated videos have recently attempted to capture said style, but what those lack are the soulful core of what Anderson imbues every frame of his films with, and that sort of thing is impossible to digitally replicate.

Anderson’s latest is Asteroid City, which I see as the culmination of years spent establishing and sharpening the aforementioned style. It features an impressive cast of both Anderson regulars and newcomers alike, all of whom are fully committed to the very particular way of speaking and acting that has come to define Anderson’s characters. What sets Asteroid City apart is that, while some of his other films occupy a specific world all their own, here there is a narrative purpose behind the strangeness, which brings a whole new dimension to what we’re seeing. There doesn’t always have to be a story-motivated reason behind the design, but in this case, I find it fascinating that Anderson has decided to go that route, and I wonder what it could mean for the stories he decides to tell in the future.

June 4, 2023

Go “Across the Spider-Verse” in an Astounding Multiversal Sequel (Review)

In 2018, Into the Spider-Verse blew away any preconceived notions of how a Spider-Man movie, and even a superhero film in general, should operate. It introduced Miles Morales, the first Black Spider-Man, to mainstream filmgoing audiences. It completely flipped the expectations of how animation can behave on the big screen.

Unsurprisingly, it also cleaned up at the box office. A sequel was inevitable, and after a hefty half-decade wait, Across the Spider-Verse is now upon us. Nearly half an hour longer than its predecessor with a monumental weight on its shoulders, this may be the most pressure a superhero sequel has ever been under (excepting, perhaps, Avengers: Endgame). It had to deliver in ways that were previously unprecedented.

May 22, 2023

The Eras Tour is an Epic Showcase of Range, Style and Personality (Review)

“This is one of the reasons you’re on the Eras Tour,” proclaimed Taylor Swift, holding a sparkling microphone on the very first performance of her three-night run in Massachusetts.

“We refer to you as many things, one of which bring Foxy Foxborough!” Swift grinned, before doing a spin in her glitter-studded opening outfit. “Another reason we refer to this place, Gillette Stadium, as the most joyful place on earth!” That remark elicited cheers from the crowd, a move the famed singer/songwriter was clearly expecting — she threw her arms in the air, ready to dive into her rich catalogue of award-winning music.

I was lucky enough to attend opening night of the Eras Tour performances in Foxborough, one of fifty-two shows Swift will be performing during the five-month tour, which is her first since 2018. I used to consider myself only a casual listener of hers, and then her two COVID-era albums (folklore and evermore, both released in 2020) caught my attention and turned me into a fan very quickly.

The Eras Tour is not just a concert; it’s a performance. Over the course of three-plus hours, Swift took us through her entire discography, performing a range of songs from her different “eras” as a singer/songwriter, going in non-chronological order between her beginnings in country rock, her time as a pop icon, and her revolutionary rebranding during the pandemic. Despite seamlessly moving from one to another over the last seventeen years, Swift has kept the best aspects of each era, and utilized them to improve her music going forward. The Eras Tour also serves as an exhibition of just how far she’s come, and how she’s learned from everything she’s done.

May 17, 2023

“Book Club: The Next Chapter” is a Fluffy, Feel-Good Reunion with a Dash of Cheesy Charm (Review)

I was only a young, doe-eyed theater worker when Book Club was released in 2018, but it dominated my small community cinema. I myself saw it later in its run, and although my developing sense of film criticism appreciated its cheesy charm, I could not stop asking myself “how did this make over $100 million?!”

The (debatably) long-awaited sequel Book Club: The Next Chapter mostly abandons the titular element, instead taking the central ladies out of their comfortable homes and flying them to Italy, jumping from one unexpected adventure to the next. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen all make a triumphant return (and no, even though it might seem like it, this is not the same crew from 80 for Brady — at least not entirely) as seniors seeking a new lease on life. And since this is a feel-good comedy, that’s exactly what they find across the pond.

May 15, 2023

“Crater” Transcends the Direct-to-Streaming Standard (Review)

Disney+ originals are quite hit or miss for me, with the ones I enjoy the most usually being complete surprises. I hadn’t heard much about Crater, so I didn’t expect much. But to my delight, the tale of Caleb, a newly-orphaned teenager living on the now-colonized moon, teaming up with his friends to explore a crater that was significant to his parents, was unexpectedly delightful and earnest.

At its core, the film is about friendship and adventure, but it surprised me by exploring some intense themes. There’s an emphasis on class inequality that borders on critique of capitalism (because no one hates the exploitation of workers more than Disney). The parents of the children in the film are essentially trapped in a form of indentured moon servitude, which was not what I was expecting from this Goonies-esque kids movie about a group of friends on an expedition. Watching a movie geared towards kids explore these real-world issues from the point of view of relatable adolescent characters was a refreshing treat.

May 7, 2023

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is an Emotionally Devastating Final Ride (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is perhaps Marvel Studios’ most exciting project since Avengers: Endgame. It’s been long-delayed, and more newsworthy than most Marvel projects (especially considering writer/director James Gunn’s firing and subsequent rehiring), and as many consider the Guardians series to be among Marvel’s best sub-franchises, expectations are high.

Image courtesy of Marvel

I am one of those people who was absurdly excited for Guardians Vol. 3. It’s been my most anticipated Marvel movie since 2021’s No Way Home, and I (along with many others) were eagerly, and somewhat nervously, anticipating how Gunn would end his trilogy of wackos and weirdness. This is one of those rare Marvel films where anything can happen, and the stakes are exponentially higher than normal (after all, are they going to make any massive story swings in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, or save the big moves for the next Avengers movie?). With unpredictability at an all-time high, it’s time to return to a cosmic corner of the universe for a grounded space adventure with the capability to absolutely destroy me emotionally.

May 3, 2023

“Peter Pan & Wendy” Fails to Recapture the Magic (Review)

Most mornings in the shower, since I hate being alone with my own thoughts for too long, I listen to a podcast. One podcast I listen to frequently is a Glee rewatch show, And That’s What You REALLY Missed, and for a few weeks, the same ad played during every episode, advertising for Disney+’s newest live action remake, Peter Pan & Wendy. “If you think you know the story, think again,” the ad claimed. It called the movie an “all new adventure.” My hopes were high. My interest in poorly-lit live action remakes of movies that were always intended to be animated has never been high, especially in the last few years.

Still, the
Glee podcast had given me hope. Would this take the Cruella route of taking beloved characters and completely reimagining the story surrounding them? I thought perhaps. I was, sadly, disappointed. Instead of a creative new take on Neverland, I got yet another poorly-lit live action remake of a movie that was always intended to be animated.

May 1, 2023

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is a Classic Adaptation Done Right (Review)

I should start out by saying I have never read the classic Judy Blume book that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is based on. It was a valuable part of the childhoods of many, and so beloved that Blume was resistant for nearly half a century for the book to be adapted to film. It took the brilliant brain of legendary writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, Broadcast News) and the keen eye of writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig (who burst onto the scene in 2016 with the marvelous coming-of-age story The Edge of Seventeen) to convince her that it deserves to be brought to life on the big screen.

This is Craig’s first film in seven years, and what a fantastic project this is to mark her return to the directorial landscape.
Are You There God? tackles the struggles of a young pre-teen girl, and contextualizes them with other massive life changes happening, both at her age and in the early 1970s. It follows sixth-grader Margaret Simon, whose family moves from metropolitan New York to the suburbs of New Jersey, and who finds herself religiously torn within her family (one of her parents is Christian, while the other one is Jewish) and struggling with her oncoming puberty.

April 24, 2023

“Sisu” is a Wickian Action Story of Epic Proportions (Review)

I always respect when a film is willing to commit to a bare bones narrative. Not only does that instantly set it apart from most complex blockbusters of the modern era, but it allows the filmmaking team to focus on making the final product as aesthetically appealing and narratively satisfying as possible. This isn’t to discount complex stories (that umbrella comprises most of my favorite movies), but there’s something special about keeping things simple.

That is exactly what Sisu does. At risk of calling it “the Finnish John Wick” (especially because the studio is very content to promote it that way), I will say that Sisu shares only the broad strokes with its counterpart, and that is the arc — the mostly silent protagonist has a personal mission, and that mission involves killing several bad guys along the way. These two movies are proof that you can have a brilliant, incredibly simple story to work with, but you must have the filmmaking prowess to back it up and ensure that it gets told in a visually interesting way.

April 20, 2023

Little Richard Documentary “I Am Everything” Spares No Expense in the Life of a Superstar (Review)

I am ashamed to admit that before watching Little Richard: I Am Everything, my awareness of the rock and roll legend was limited to Kennedy Davenport’s portrayal of him on the Snatch Game during Season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. When given the opportunity to watch this documentary about the life and influence of the queer, black icon, I was excited to expand my knowledge and regretful that it took so long for me to truly become aware of his legacy. To my surprise, the documentary eased my guilt, highlighting exactly how important Little Richard was to rock and roll while also acknowledging the lack of recognition he has received over the years. If the film’s primary goal was to convince the audience why Little Richard was a trailblazer despite never being given the credit he deserved, I would call it a success.

Little Richard’s complex relationship with his own sexuality, made even more complicated by his relationship with his father and with religion, is at the forefront of the documentary. In a tactful choice, the film chooses not to pass judgment on Little Richard’s later attempts to denounce his homosexuality, but instead contextualizes them and encourages the audience to empathize with his position. The discussion is not lacking in nuance however, with the ultimate conclusion being that even though Little Richard was unable to accept himself, his existence and self expression was liberating to so many.

April 18, 2023

“Renfield” is a Fun, Tonally Uneven Gore-Fest (Review)

Universal hasn’t been doing well with their monster-related cinematic universes since the 1950s, when the overlapping and screen-sharing came primarily in Abbott and Costello crossover movies. The “Dark Universe,” which was supposed to kick off with 2017’s The Mummy (a favorite of both critics and fans), was a catastrophic failure. It’s astounding when you think about it — you’d think that a studio that owns the rights to such iconic characters and stories would know how to handle them, and give them the films they deserve.

The solution? Begin again, of course — but not overtly. Start off with a film that establishes the world in a unique and exciting way, but could function as a one-off if it all goes south. Throw in Chris McKay, director of The LEGO Batman Movie, and Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley and you have a certifiably bonkers movie on your hands.

April 16, 2023

You’re Not Ready for the Final Season of “Barry” (Review)

There have been very few times in my life that I have been so floored by a television series that I want to sit with it for a while before going out and telling everybody about how absolutely incredible it is. The only show that has done that more than once (to the best of my knowledge) is HBO’s Barry, which is now in its fourth and final season.

Image courtesy of WarnerMedia

Barry, which premiered in 2018, stars former SNL star Bill Hader as the titular ex-military hitman who struggles with anxiety and focus in the very profession he’s gifted in. After a job goes awry, Barry decides to dedicate his life to acting, choosing to forsake the world of crime in favor of taking a class with washed-up performer Gene Cousineau (Happy Days’ Henry Winkler). Soon after, Barry begins to learn it’s not that easy to quit the world he’s so deeply ingrained himself in, and maintaining a life in both of his chosen worlds is only viable for so long.

Through a complex web of events, Barry has found himself in prison by the beginning of the show’s fourth season, as his relationship with nearly every single other character has been irreversibly changed and, in some instances, destroyed entirely. There’s an air of seriousness and solemnity settling over this season, as every choice that every character has made thus far comes back to haunt them. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Barry’s final season, and it’s the last chance for bold tonal swings — but maybe it’s because everything that has happened in the show’s first three seasons causes the stakes to feel so real and grounded (and sometimes downright scary), in addition to being even more crucial for the eventual outcome. The words ‘final season’ only add more urgency.

April 4, 2023

Disney+ Original “Chang Can Dunk” is What a Kids Movie Should Be (Review)

Whether or not Chang actually can dunk I will not reveal, but this movie is about what hard work can achieve in the abstract. It’s not about whether or not a miracle will occur, it’s about a boy working the hardest he possibly can to reach his goal. At least ten minutes of the runtime is just dedicated to Chang doing workouts.

Chang is one of the easiest-to-root-for protagonists I’ve seen in a while. Despite the classic “main character gets so overhyped on his success that he forgets to prioritize the people he cares about” trope that I tend to despise, Chang spends the majority of the movie effortlessly making you fall in love with him. He’s passionate, driven, and a little bit dorky about it. He’s articulate about his needs and his feelings, and he’s respectful of others (except for a notable few, but to be fair they are actively bullying him). He also does a fantastic job throughout the film of taking accountability and apologizing when he needs to, and then he follows those apologies up with actions that prove his sincerity.

March 27, 2023

The Final Season of “Succession” Arrives with a F***ing Bang (Season 4 Premiere Review)

Succession is my latest obsession. For years, I’ve been hearing all sorts of talk around every corner of the internet about how incredible it is, how it outpaces nearly every other HBO original series, and how it elevates every single one of its performers to the next level of their acting careers. In the second week of March, with three weeks until the premiere of the fourth and final season, I decided I would stop missing out. I pressed play, and my perception of what makes a dramatic series succeed irreversibly changed.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

On average, I watched two episodes a day, somedays so much as five. I became enthralled with its characters and fascinated with its penchant for playing out its biggest drama off-camera, instead primarily dealing with the way the characters react to these events. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it’s one of the things that sets Succession apart from the rest in an incredibly unique way.

The final season premiere turned into an event. Even though I had just finished the show-stopping third season two days before, it felt like I had been waiting far longer to see how it would all resolve. And just like that, it’s back to live TV again — no more binging, no more auto-play that would resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger in an instant. We have to wait a week to see how it all turns out, and that’s part of what makes shows like this work so well. They make you wait, they make you theorize, and they make you excited to see more.

March 14, 2023

Spy Comedy “Operation Fortune” Entertains Despite No Surprises (Review)

I have a special relationship with Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. It was originally slated for release in January 2022, before a standard push-back two months to March. Then, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, it was “indefinitely delayed”…a sentencing with the potential to kill a film’s release entirely. I was assigned the review for SiftPop in December 2021, and I have been eagerly awaiting the film ever since.

It would eventually come out that Operation Fortune was locked back in the vault for a bit due to the presence of some notably Ukrainian bad guys, and its release may have seemed in poor taste (or, at the very least, badly-timed) due to the inception of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which began to dominate headlines on nearly every major news site.

But now, a year later, Operation Fortune, the latest from action director Guy Ritchie, is finally in theaters. Comparatively, a year’s delay isn’t too much (The King’s Daughter, the last film to feature William Hurt, was finally released in 2022, a full eight years after it was filmed), but I didn’t let the delays hinder my excitement. I like Guy Ritchie, and the cast seemed like nothing to scoff at. I kept my faith, and I was rewarded for it.