March 29, 2020

“I Am Not Okay with This” Review: A Violent, Profane, Bloody Good Time

The series boasts a strong soundtrack.
Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen these days, but most of the genre newcomers manage to put a new spin on it that makes for decently entertaining and original viewing. I Am Not Okay with This is the latest of these offerings, from streaming giant Netflix, and thankfully it’s able to establish itself as a unique enough story to be worth your time.

Adapted from a comic series by Charles Forsman (who also wrote “The End of the F***ing World,” another comic adapted into a critically-acclaimed series by Netflix), I Am Not Okay with This is narrated by Syd Novak (Sophia Lillis), whose adolescence was hijacked by the untimely death of her father. The all-too-short seven-episode series chronicles Syd’s journey as she deals with her budding feelings for her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant), a hesitant romance with the boy next door (Wyatt Oleff) and a sudden case of alarming telekinetic abilities.

March 27, 2020

“Frozen II” Review: A Sequel Worth the Wait

The sequel builds upon the characters established by the first film.
Disney caught lightning in a bottle with Frozen in 2013, and after its massive success one question remained: what could possibly top the billion-dollar blockbuster in its inevitable sequel?

The answer to that question is Frozen II, which picks up three years after the events of the first film. The now-iconic characters, including ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and talking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) return for a brand-new adventure that brings our heroes to a mysterious enchanted forest where they are pushed to their very limits in their quest to discover the source of Elsa’s powers.

March 25, 2020

“Maiden” Review: An Applause-Worthy Documentary

Tracy Edwards aboard the Maiden.
Documentaries aren’t typically my cup of tea, but every so often, one comes along that catches my attention. Maiden was one of those such films.

The film tackles the story of Tracy Edwards, a girl with a rocky adolescence, who eventually became a cook on charter boats, grew determined to compete in the Whitbread Round the World sailing race (recently renamed The Ocean Race) in the late 1980s. Tracy made it her mission to assemble an all-female crew, an endeavor which attracted the scorn and contempt of the press, the public and especially the other racers (almost entirely comprised of men).

March 23, 2020

“The Plot Against America” (Episode One) Review: A Relevant and Engaging Introduction

In today’s age of competitive streaming services and premium television networks, HBO is held to a high standard as a reliable producer of intriguing and powerful original series and films. After the rocky ending of Game of Thrones, HBO has come back into the fray with strong series such as The Outsider, Avenue Five, and now, The Plot Against America.

Like most HBO dramas, The Plot Against America tackles intense and hard-hitting themes. It does it earnestly, though, without an obvious direction or path that will keep you glued to your television with cautionary involvement and rapt attention.

March 22, 2020

“The Upside” Review: Band of Merry Remakes

Is there a point when a movie has been remade too many times in the span of only a few years?
Contrary to popular belief, Bryan Cranston is not a quadriplegic.

“The Upside” is the third remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables,” which is itself based on a true story. I haven’t seen either the original or the two remakes, so the story that presented itself in “The Upside” was completely new to me.

Dell (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con who’s trying to make a new life for himself out of prison; while looking for signatures for his parole sheet, he’s hired by billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) within minutes of meeting him, which baffles Dell. Phillip is paralyzed from the neck down, and as Dell takes up the job as his carer, they both learn lessons about connection and friendship.

March 21, 2020

“Joker” Review: Put on a Happy Face

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker look was devised by makeup artist Niki Lendermann.
The iconic Batman villain Joker has been known by several names over his seventy-nine years of life on the page, among them the Clown Prince of Crime, the Ace of Knaves, the Jester of Genocide, the Harlequin of Hate, and many more. However, unlike most comic book villains, he’s never had his “true” origin story firmly established. Until now.

Todd Phillips’ take on the painted-faced maniac stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a man (literally) beaten down by a society that doesn’t care for him. Arthur is affected by a chronic condition that causes him to sporadically laugh uncontrollably, which not only causes him physical pain but is a detriment to the social life he dearly wants to have. Aspiring to be a stand-up comedian, he has a job as a clown-for-hire, while also tending to the needs of his mother (Frances Conroy), whose misplaced hope in Trumpian businessman Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is affecting her mentally and indirectly causing her family financial ruin. On top of all that, Arthur’s one chance at stand-up comedy is being mocked by his favorite late-night talk show host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). It seems that life itself has conspired against Arthur, and it takes a toll.

March 20, 2020

“Yesterday” Review: The Beatles Get a Jukebox Musical

Patel did all of the singing and playing himself in the film.
It’s safe to say that almost everyone knows the music written by the Beatles — ‘Let it Be,’ ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ and ‘Help!’ are some of the most iconic songs of all time, and they’re only some of the band’s biggest hits. They’re also among the vast number of Beatles songs featured in the film Yesterday, which is itself named after one of their songs.

Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling musician, in Yesterday. Jack intends to retire from doing small gigs in pubs and local festivals, much to the chagrin of his manager and best friend, Ellie Appleton (Lily James). The following night, when Jack is biking back to his house, he’s hit by a bus at the exact same time as a twelve-second blackout all around the world. When he wakes up, he’s missing two teeth — but more pressingly, no one remembers the Beatles.

To some, it might sound like a silly or simple premise, but it proves to be an entertaining one as Jack debates whether he should pass off the Beatles’ music off as his own. Since they didn’t exist in this alternate reality he woke up in, there should be no harm done, right?

March 18, 2020

“Knives Out” Review: A Spark of Life for the Mystery Genre

Daniel Craig stars as eccentric detective Benoit Blanc.

It’s a premise seen thousands of times before, both on the page and screen. But this time, it’s not as simple as Colonel Mustard in the Drawing Room with the Revolver. Rian Johnson’s latest film, Knives Out, is a complex and layered whodunnit with an ensemble cast that brings a fresh and exciting take to the debatably exhausted genre.

The excitement starts after Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead by his housekeeper. The death is ruled a suicide, but a police investigation, spearheaded by detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, sporting a thick Southern accent), might prove otherwise. At the center of it all is Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), who was closest to Harlan and is therefore key to the investigation.

March 17, 2020

“Parasite” Review: A Riveting Commentary on Social Class

The film's sweeping night at the Oscars was a lovely surprise.
Parasite is the first film since 2013 to be unanimously voted to win the highest honor, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019. It’s won over fifty awards and has been nominated for over a hundred (including being the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards).

If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. Parasite came roaring into the US months after its win at Cannes, and since then, accolade upon accolade has been lauded upon it. It reached the tops of many critics’ best of the year list, and some best of the decade. It’s being adapted into a television miniseries for HBO and is one of the highest-grossing films in South Korea.

It’s a wonder that not many people know about it. It was never given a well-publicized wide release (in the United States, at least), and has a plot that can be seen as confusing if not explained properly.