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.