July 31, 2022

The 1st Lenient Critic Awards: Winners Announcement

There is a massive amount of content released every year, and 2022 is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever for film and television. The Lenient Critic Awards was created to recognize the best of the year on a biannual basis, because even the Oscars, the Emmys and the Golden Globes are unable to award everything that deserves it. With the Lenient Critic Awards, those films and television series have a fighting chance at the lasting acknowledgement they deserve, even those that don’t end up winning.

Image courtesy of A24

And now...the winners!

July 26, 2022

B.J. Novak Makes a Fitting Directorial Debut with “Vengeance” (Review)

Vengeance: a strong word, with potentially stronger significance. A promise to right the wrongs of the past, coupled with a rare sense of justice, no matter how poetic or cruel. It would feel more at home as the title of an action thriller starring Liam Neeson, so why is it instead the name of B.J. Novak’s feature directorial debut?

Somewhat unsurprisingly, instead of being a breakneck adventure, Vengeance fits in with Novak’s repertoire as a steadfast comedy/drama, without endeavoring to subvert genre or break the story mold that Novak has worked his way into.

Image courtesy of Focus Features

Last fall Novak, former writer and star of
The Office, debuted the first season of his anthology television series called The Premise, where each episode tells a single character-driven story about a current world issue. Vengeance feels like an extended episode of that bizarre series, exploring big concepts and the complexities of human nature in a story that defines itself on those merits, and not much more.

July 24, 2022

“Westworld” Hits Pause After a Showstopping Twist (Season 4 Episode 5 Review)

After the sucker punch of timeline-oriented reveals in the previous episode, Westworld is back in full force with “Zhuangzi,” the fifth episode of the marvelously inventive fourth season. You’d think that with momentum that strong, the season would keep on trucking to deliver whammy after whammy of big news — but bafflingly, “Zhuangzi” grinds to a halt for just about half an hour.

Image courtesy of HBO

July 19, 2022

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is an Unfortunate Misfire (Review)

There’s a reason that certain details and elements are changed when a novel is made into a film. It’s called an adaptation after all, and both should act independently as separate, perhaps even mutually beneficial experiences. I haven’t read Where the Crawdads Sing, which placed on the The New York Times Bestseller list for 135 consecutive weeks, and yet I still get the feeling that it falls into the opposite category.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Let’s discount anything floating around online about Delia Owens, author of the original novel — as I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge proponent of separating the art from the artist — and it shouldn’t impact anything related to the film, anyway. Where the Crawdads Sing is structured like a novel, filled with expositional narration from beginning to end, signaling that “show, don't tell” was not a thought oft had during production.

July 17, 2022

“The Boys” Has Become an Intensely Engaging, Reality-Driven Nightmare (Spoiler-Free Season 3 Review)

Rarely does a television series set itself apart so starkly from the rest of its genre, while simultaneously mastering what makes the genre special in the first place. When The Boys arrived on the scene in 2019, it led a resurgence of shows and films that asked “What if superheroes were real, and they were ruthlessly violent?”

And through the influx of sub-genre entries, The Boys is still king. In June, its third season burst onto the scene after a two-year hiatus, and it’s like no time has passed at all. The world still feels lived-in, with the characters fulfilling their respective roles — even though circumstances change faster than usual in Season Three.

Image courtesy of Amazon Prime

A year after the events of the previous season, the titular group has gone straight, working for the Bureau of Superhero Affairs to track down potentially dangerous Supes. The conflict with the major superhero group the Seven, led by the murderous Homelander (Antony Starr), is on hold, until Boys leader Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) decides to hit the “play” button when he begins searching for Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), one of the first-ever superheroes and a more bigoted version of Captain America. Butcher intends to find a way to kill Homelander for good, a nigh-impossible mission that could yield fruitful results. Meanwhile, Hughie (Jack Quaid) is working for mysteriously homicidal congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), and internal changes at superhero corporation Vought threaten the security of their confident facade.

July 12, 2022

Netflix Restores Life to “Resident Evil” (Review)

I’ve stated numerous times before that I don’t usually play video games. That’s why I’m definitely not qualified to comment on the accuracy when translating video games to films or television mediums, but I think that’s also a positive — it eliminates any frustration I might have with the lack of faithfulness in the source material, because I’m not anywhere close to familiar with said source material.

The same is true for Resident Evil, which Netflix has adapted for long-form television. This is the story about a pandemic that ravages the world and drastically reduces the sane and living population — and that makes it feel a little too real. The dystopian setting naturally lends itself to the horror genre, but it’s less traditional jump scare-focused horror and more along the lines of something you could genuinely see happening; perhaps not to this extreme, but it’s all become much more tangible after the events of the last two years. It’s more relatable, and therefore scarier.

July 11, 2022

The 1st Lenient Critic Awards: Nominations Announcement

There is a massive amount of content released every year, and 2022 is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever for film and television. The Lenient Critic Awards was created to recognize the best of the year on a biannual basis, because even the Oscars, the Emmys and the Golden Globes are unable to award everything that deserves it. With the Lenient Critic Awards, those films and television series have a fighting chance at the lasting acknowledgement they deserve, even those that don’t end up winning.

Your opinion matters. The form to vote can be found HERE!

July 8, 2022

Travel the Galaxy with Space Vikings in Refreshingly Unique “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Spoiler-Free Review)

2022 is the year of divisive Marvel Cinematic Universe projects. Doctor Strange split audiences down the middle, with some praising its campiness while others reject it. Moon Knight dazzled audiences when it premiered, but the internet fan presence quickly turned on the series as soon as it was over. Ms. Marvel is perhaps the best MCU entry this year so far, but nobody seems to be watching it or preventing its review bombing.

Image courtesy of Disney

And now
Thor: Love and Thunder has arrived on the scene, proving that the Marvel universe is heading in an inescapable new direction that some will hate, and some will adore. With no new multi-film saga to anchor it (for now), the MCU has settled into depicting self-contained adventures, tangentially connected to the rest of the universe but mostly concerned with telling their own stories. Characters will occasionally cross over — for example, the Guardians of the Galaxy are front and center in the beginning of Thor, only to depart very quickly for their solo adventures — and the rest of the film is very focused on the characters established in the mini-franchise’s previous three installments.

July 6, 2022

“SIX” and “The Book of Mormon” are Strong Reminders of What Musical Theater Can Be (Review)

Broadway and the West End work in perfect tandem, each debuting shows that — if success allows it — will eventually make their way across the pond. During my recent trip to the UK, I was lucky enough to attend two musical productions that have both enjoyed a fair amount of critical acclaim.

The first is SIX, which unites the six wives of King Henry VIII for a modern musical extravaganza that blends genres and breaks down walls. It’s not story-driven, as it functions more like a pop concert. The Queens tell their stories and compare horrible life experiences, which seems pretty par for the course in the era that they lived. However, this is actually a competition; they’re trying to see who suffered the most, and therefore who should become the group’s lead singer.

takes back the power and establishes the Queens as characters separate from Henry. Historically, they’re always bundled together with the King, because he’s the only thing that ties them together — when in fact, his wives are the only reason Henry is as famous as he is. I couldn’t tell you a thing about his religious reform or his investment in the Royal Navy, but even before seeing SIX I was well aware of his Queens, their basic life stories, and how they died. SIX gives them the agency they deserve as main characters, and not just supporting players in the Royal narrative.

July 1, 2022

“Stranger Things” Season 4 Vol. 2 Raises the Stakes and Brings the Emotion (Spoiler-Free Review)

Though I always find myself falling for the gimmick, I am generally not a huge fan of binge-watching television. Of course, when Netflix split the fourth season of Stranger Things in half, I knew that both premieres would feel like special events. I would wake up early, and (reasonably) watch every episode as soon as humanly possible. And while some long-form entertainment wears on me after a while, Stranger Things has never had that effect. That’s the benefit of being an incredible show with three seasons of already-fabulous television under its belt.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Not to mention that the second half of
Stranger Things 4, which runs just under four hours, is essentially a non-stop ride to the finish line. There are natural pauses (perfect for taking breaks), but I never wanted to turn it off. It amazes me that four seasons in, Stranger Things is still one of the most addictive series I’ve ever seen. Part of it is the characters, whose chemistry and arcs are as electric as ever, and part of it is the fact that anything could happen next. The season doesn’t take as many risks as it could have — perhaps they’re saving the biggest whammies for Season 5, which will be its last — but my astronomical interest level means that the ending is eternally satisfying no matter which way the cookie crumbles. In the Duffer Brothers we trust.