September 9, 2020

“Teenage Bounty Hunters” Review: (Semi) Wholesome Fun, Grounded in Realism, Filled with Surprises

After a fun fantasy binge, I was in the mood to watch something a little more…grounded. Something down-to-earth, something that was fun, practical, and easy to understand.

So, I picked a show that was brand-new to Netflix. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve recently made.

Teenage Bounty Hunters has the premise summed up right in its title. The bounty hunters in question are fraternal twins Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair Wesley (Anjelica Bette Fellini), who take a job with more experienced hunter Bowser (Kadeem Hardison) in order to pay for the damage they do to their father’s truck.

August 26, 2020

“The Witcher” Season One Review: Dive Deep into a New Fantasy World

Up until recently, I’d never played a video game, and I’ve never been knowledgeable of the subject, but I knew some of the major ones; and one that I’d always heard of but never paid much attention to was the Witcher games, adapted by the Polish fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. As with any other game, they never interested me…until Netflix announced a big-budgeted episode series based on the stories of the novels and games.

Now, this didn’t exactly catch my fancy, but I saw news about it. It was given a massive budget, Henry Cavill (known to me then exclusively as the DCEU’s Superman) campaigned for the lead role of Geralt of Rivia, and he eventually got it. Until its release, I put it on my radar.

The week that it was released, a bunch of my friends had already binged the entire series. It was winter break, and so everyone had more time on their hands. On the first day of the new year, I watched the first episode to see what all the fuss was about.

August 20, 2020

“Lovecraft Country” (Pilot) Review: A Timely Tale of Racial Terror

You’d think that a story apparently based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft would be mostly horror-oriented. When Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams are involved, though, it turned out to be quite the opposite.

Aside from a signaturely weird HBO opening sequence and the final scene, the premiere of Lovecraft Country is entirely focused on a timely and important real-life horror: racism, in particular the injustices of the 20th century.

Set in 1950s white America, Black sci-fi fan Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) sets off on a road trip with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), the publisher of the Safe Negro Travel Guide, and his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) to find his missing father and claim a birthright he never knew he had. It’s a basic premise, but one that lends itself to a number of potential paths. If the rest of the series is anything like the pilot, I very much like the one it settled on.

August 11, 2020

“An American Pickle” Review: Defying All Sorts of Expectations

Despite being a comedy, An American Pickle manages to defy Seth Rogen’s genre.

How, you might ask? How does this new streaming film challenge the typically-R-rated actor’s method of entertainment?

To start off, most of his films are “rooted in realism.” This doesn’t mean their contrived conflicts and insanity could (and would) actually happen, but they’re set in a familiar time, or political climate, that the audience can relate to.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Sausage Party and This is the End, among others, don’t exactly scream ‘relatable.’ However, An American Pickle isn’t a part of that group, but it wouldn’t find a place among his other films either. Instead, it’s in a league of its own.

August 4, 2020

“The Umbrella Academy” Season Two Review: The Seven Stages of Fun

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in August 2020.

by Rowan Wood

Time travel is a tricky business, that arrives, much like the heroes in the latest season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, with a whole host of questions: how do you avoid cliché time travel pitfalls? How can these characters grow and evolve, beyond their first-season selves? Most of all, how do you keep things original, and unique to the world you’ve created?

Thankfully, Netflix’s big-budget, ten-episode format is the perfect medium to tell the story that the show needed to tell. After the massive cliffhanger of the first season, the superpowered Hargreeves siblings are stranded at different points in the early 1960s, and must reunite to stop a world-ending apocalypse on November 25, 1963.

July 31, 2020

“The Umbrella Academy” Season One Review: Addictive, Fantastical Hero Drama

Weird is the new norm for television. And while the first season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is certainly not as outlandish and far-reaching as the comic series it’s based on, it certainly (rather gleefully) buys into the strangeness that the world offers.

Set contemporarily (though the timeline is ambiguous, and full of anachronisms), the superbly styled first season picks up thirty years after a number of women around the world mysteriously gave birth, despite having never been pregnant in the first place. Eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) manages to purchase seven of the children, and he raises them to be a profitable team of superheroes (given that, aside from one of them, the children all have extraordinary abilities).

July 29, 2020

“Deadpool 2” (2018) Review: Maximum Effort

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in June 2018.

Typically, when people think of superhero movies, they think of an action-packed thrill ride packed with shocking moments and witty one-liners. In 2016, Deadpool stunned audiences as a superhero flick that somehow contained all the foul language, sexual references, fourth-wall breaking and gory violence that it could fit under two hours, while also managing to be a heartfelt tale of true love.

Now, in 2018, a rather unimaginatively-titled sequel has been released (you guessed it, Deadpool 2) and it’s just as graphic and awesome as the original.

July 28, 2020

“Little Women” (2019) Review: Some Stories are Truly Timeless

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in December 2019.

Greta Gerwig, writer and director of 2017’s critically-acclaimed Lady Bird, has thrown her hat into the ring and adapted Louisa May Alcott’s classic 19th century novel Little Women for the big screen for the seventh time.

Gerwig’s adaptation stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen as sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth March, respectively. The film follows them at two different points in their lives: once during the Civil War, as they come of age, and then seven years later, as they’ve matured and are moving into the next phase of their lives. The non-linear style of storytelling is a strength of the film, and it’s very interesting to watch how the different timelines complement each other by answering some questions, but raising others.

July 19, 2020

“Shazam!” (2019) Review: Wholesome Superhero Family Fun

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in April 2019.

Have you ever wondered what Big might have been like if it had been a superhero flick?

Well, that’s more or less the premise of Shazam!

Foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is recruited by a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) to become his “champion” for righteousness. Transformed into a powerful older version of himself (Zachary Levi) every time he says the wizard’s name, Billy turns to his foster brother, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a self-confessed superhero fan, for help in controlling his newfound abilities. While they’re busy with that, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a man who was rejected by Shazam years ago for being too easily tempted, teams up with demons that are the physical forms of the Seven Deadly Sins to attain Billy’s power.

And so we have ourselves a superhero movie.

July 17, 2020

“Mary Poppins Returns” (2018) Review: A Spoonful of Nostalgia

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in January 2019.

“Close your mouth, Michael, we are still not a codfish.”

This remark is just one of the many callbacks that comes from Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who returns to the home of the Banks family from Disney’s classic 1964 film Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns to help Michael (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer), who are trying to save their family home from the greedy bank that Michael works for, spearheaded by William Weatherall Wilkins (played deviously by Colin Firth).

It seems like a by-the-numbers plot, but it’s enough of a story to create a thread to connect the many extravagant musical and dance numbers that this film contains; unfortunately, while the original’s iconic songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” are classic Disney tunes, the music of Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t resonate with the viewer as much as it should; however, it does contain a number of jolly tunes that will have you humming as you exit the theater.

July 15, 2020

“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) Review: Doing a Legend Justice

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in December 2018.

Queen is one of the most recognizable names in the music industry — they have brought to life such classic songs as “We Are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” and, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Every member of the band is still alive except for Freddie Mercury, who was the lead vocalist, and one of the most flamboyant performers the world has ever seen. He died at the age of 45 from the AIDs epidemic of the late 20th century, and his story has been immortalized in the biopic, also titled Bohemian Rhapsody.

July 7, 2020

Doctor Who Rewatch: S7E6 “The Bells of Saint John”

The reintroduction of Clara in “The Snowmen” proves to be a more than adequate springboard for “The Bells of Saint John,” the midseason opener that is just a little confused about whether it wants to be a clever social commentary or a straightforward action/mystery.

Allow me to explain.

After an unsettling pre-credits sequence, “The Bells of Saint John” begins with Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) trying to access the internet in a family friends’ house. Not understanding how Wi-fi works is a good gimmick for about thirty seconds (thank goodness they didn’t try to make her lack of technical expertise a major part of Clara’s character), but luckily, the Doctor (Matt Smith) soon arrives, ready to save the day.

July 4, 2020

“Hamilton” Review: Say Yes to This!

“What’s your name, man?”
I don’t know of a single musical theatre fan that has never either longed to, or has been lucky enough, to see Hamilton live on stage. And the only thing more exciting than seeing a live performance of Hamilton is seeing the show with its original cast.

Now, finally, the latter is possible again, nearly four years after the cast’s exit. A professionally recorded version of a few 2016 performances (all spliced together) has debuted on Disney+, and even if you’ve seen the show once, twice, three times before, this is a completely new way to experience the show.

July 2, 2020

Doctor Who Rewatch: 2012 Christmas Special “The Snowmen”

Some say that Doctor Who is only as good as its guest stars. If that were true, then “The Snowmen” is golden — a perfect segue from Amy and Rory’s sudden exit to the fun mystery of the Impossible Girl.

Not only does it have fantastic guests, its setting is chillingly gothic. The wintry atmosphere of Victorian London not only perfectly communicates the Doctor’s depression at losing Amy and Rory, it also provides a great environment for a genuinely scary Christmas special, perhaps the first in the show’s history.

June 25, 2020

“Doom Patrol” Season One Review: A Wildly Insane Superhero Comedy with Heart

Where else have you seen a robot man fighting a giant alligator for his daughter, mere episodes away from a horde of butts on legs escaping a government facility and a sentient street having a massive sexual climax?

The creative team behind Doom Patrol is very obviously firmly committed to the weirdness that the creatively quirky superheroes brings to the silver screen. Couple that with actors that are as dedicated to the strangeness, and you get a highly entertaining introductory season to the most unconventional superhero series out there.

June 23, 2020

“Love, Victor” Season One Review: Squeal-Worthy Teen Drama

Love, Simon didn’t need a sequel. It was a perfectly self-contained story, so I must admit I was skeptical when Disney announced they were producing a TV series, set in the same world, that would follow new characters while also featuring a few returning ones.

Thankfully, my cynicism was not well-founded. Love, Victor is able to separate itself from the show while also involving some of its most important elements. There are a few returning characters (chiefly, Nick Robinson’s Simon Spier, one of the show’s narrators), but Love, Victor feels like a very distinct entry in this world, alike enough to its source material to satisfy fans of shared universes, while also being unique and introducing some new ideas.

June 21, 2020

“The Invisible Man” (2020) Review: A Hidden Gem

In the short history of blockbuster cinematic universes, none has been a more high-profile failure than Universal’s Dark Universe, which would have featured crossovers between well-known Universal monsters such as Frankenstein and Dracula. However, after the disastrous performances of Dracula Untold and The Mummy at the box office, Universal opted to go the standalone route. The Invisible Man is the first film to emerge from that endeavor, and if future films are as successful as this one, there’s hope for the series yet.

Horror movies have never been my favorite genre, but I’ve always been fascinated by the creative ideas they present and their ability to convey real-life concepts through their stories. The Invisible Man is a fantastic example, telling the story of Cecilia Kass (a crazily on-edge Elisabeth Moss), who believes that her controlling and abusive ex-boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has faked his death, figured out a way to turn invisible and is coming after her.

June 19, 2020

“The Lion King” (2019) Review: Another Pointless Remake

The visuals really are impressive.
Disney has clearly gotten it into their heads that if they remake their classic films, even from within the past twenty years, with the added twist of ‘live-action,’ that people will watch them — and they’re right.

The Lion King is the perfect example of that — a nearly carbon-copy of the 1994 original, only in the 2019 version everything is photorealistic, from the animals’ expressions to the (mostly empty) African landscape.

There are a few problems with this — namely, the mouths of animals, notably lions, aren’t made for human speech, so at times they look clumsy and awkward while speaking. Then there’s the issue that, since the lions’ faces don’t betray much emotion, the actors have to match that with their voices — and that creates a tedious amount of unemotional performances from actors that usually are dazzlingly dynamic while on screen.

June 17, 2020

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Review: High Amounts of Flavorful Style

“Don’t flirt with her.”
To those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Wes Anderson’s filmmaking style, The Grand Budapest Hotel’s wacky vibe might throw you off. From the very beginning, you’re plummeted into a world that could only exist in the mind of a stylistic creative type, and it’s not exactly jarring…it just takes some getting used to.

The plot? Hard to explain. The production design? Difficult to do justice. There’s a lot held within the film’s surprisingly short 100-minute runtime, including a story-within-a-story-within-a-story set-up that on the surface seem purposeless and trivial, but actually contains immense depth (as Wes Anderson stories typically do). If you think about this film for a while, you might come to a conclusion that the story is about nostalgia and the significance of the past (hence the deeply layered storytelling), and the effects of the stylistic past on the present.

June 12, 2020

“The Wolf of Wall Street” Review: The Diminishing Stock of Morals

by Danial Cousins

What a smug bastard.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an excellent lesson on the downfalls of excess. Based on a true story, the film features Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) starts a brokerage under the name Stratton Oakmont, selling low cost penny stocks to the rich for way more than they are worth for a 50% commission. The director (Martin Scorsese), and writers Terence Winter (of the screenplay) and Jordan Belfort (of the book the film is based on), show the audience the absurd nature of stockbrokers in this firm, and the ludicrous and unnecessary amount of money each person makes.

June 10, 2020

“Space Force” Episodes 1-4 Review: Finding Its Footing

Space Force is a very interesting series, for a number of reasons. Created by Greg Daniels and Steve Carrell not long after the new branch of the United States military was announced, the Netflix show manages to be funny while also being politically inoffensive (a smart move on the writer’s part).

It would be very easy for this show to ridicule the current administration for the creation of such an absurd-sounding military branch, and true, some characters do. The writers’ feelings about the President are alluded to, but surprisingly, it’s a relatively politics-lite show.

Newly promoted four-star Air Force General Mark Naird (Steve Carrell) is put in charge of the brand-new Space Force and, much to his family’s chagrin, they have to move to a remote town in Colorado. Jump to a year later, where the Space Force has made leaps and bounds towards their goal to get “boots on the moon” by 2024. However, there’s still day-to-day trouble that Mark and his employees have to deal with.

June 3, 2020

“Ready or Not” Review: Something for Everyone

You drew the wrong card, Grace...
Is there any such thing as an original movie anymore? As in, are there any truly original ideas in today’s entertainment world? Some topics and subjects have been done to death, but some have been barely touched. However, it’s always possible to revitalize a certain topic, and put a new spin on it to create an incredibly enjoyable story that somehow makes you forget about where you’ve seen these elements before.

Take Ready or Not, a wickedly fun hybrid of a number of tropes: weird, darkly comedic in-laws (Meet the Fockers), human hunting (The Most Dangerous Game) and deals with the devil (Damn Yankees). As you can see, these are relatively widespread story elements; however, Ready or Not manages to meld them all together in an extremely entertaining fashion.

May 31, 2020

Drake & Wayne Episode One “The Earth-7 Shuffle” Review: A Brilliant Start to an Ambitious Series

I’m going to start off this review by stating a simple fact: it’s totally biased. I created the initial universe that Drake & Wayne is based in, and three of the main characters originally appeared in my web series. I won’t mince words, and this is a full disclosure that I have been wicked excited to watch this series for over a year. But before you read my review, you should watch the episode! What’s stopping you? It’s embedded right there, above this paragraph! There’s nothing stopping you!

Now that you’ve (ahem) watched the episode, I can jump in. Drake & Wayne is nothing short of professional, in more ways than one. From the very beginning it’s clear that you’re in for a wild ride; the cinematography and visuals suck you right in, and tease just exactly what you’re in for.

Gore Crenis -- a major player in future episodes, to be sure...
The first of six Drake & Wayne episodes begins with Drake (Maximus Papsadore), a recent graduate from the Multiversal Police Academy, sent on a contraband bust on his first day in the field. He’s teamed up with detective Richard D. Johnson (Caleb Petty) and narcotics expert Triglav Hattrick (Jack Sullivan), but during the bust Drake recognizes his old MVPD roommate, Wayne (Patrick Morahan) who’s become a purveyor of rare interdimensional items (such as some mysterious toothpaste from Earth-20).

May 27, 2020

“Men in Black II” Review: The Very Picture of an Underrated Sequel

My family’s been marathoning the Men in Black movies in the past few days, and of all four, I felt as if the original sequel was worth reviewing purely for one glaring reason: it’s highly underrated.

With unfortunately negative critical reviews and embarrassingly low ratings on aggregator sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, Men in Black II got stuck with the short end of the stick when it was given the momentous (and difficult) task of following up the hit 1997 sci-fi comedy Men in Black. The original stars and director returned, but I guess the sequel just had a hard time attempting to live up to its predecessor.

May 24, 2020

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season Two Review: At the Top of Their Game

Season 2 was the first time the Legends participated in the annual crossover.
I find it fascinating which sequels can pull off the “bigger and better” goal, and which ones fall flat while trying. Aliens, The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back are strong examples, with  Terminator: Genisys and Independence Day: Resurgence proving that sometimes it doesn’t always work.

Whether it’s different for television series is an interesting matter of discussion. TV has more time to flesh out its story and its characters, and there’s room for more buildup to the season’s big ideas and climax(es). However, the second season can be the most difficult, largely because once you’ve had a successful first season, it can be hard to maintain the momentum and you risk falling into a bit of a “sophomore slump.” Thank god this has never applied to Legends of Tomorrow, in any of its seasons so far. 

May 23, 2020

“Little Miss Sunshine” Review: The Judgement of a Smile

by Danial Cousins

Little Miss Sunshine is a film containing many heavy moments, and poor methods of coping. The film makes it clear to the audience that we are all judged in our daily lives, and we see this most clearly through the hopeful eyes of the young Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin). At the start of the film, Olive finds out that she has proceeded into the second round of a beauty contest named “the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant.” As the contest is in California, the entire family, including the uncle Frank Ginsburg (Steve Carrell), who is currently staying with the family (because he attempted to kill himself), must travel across states to California for the competition. This film deals with such difficult topics, and approaches to life in a skilled, and yet highly comedic manner that truly makes the story shine.

Dark and “inappropriate” humor is a constant throughout the story. The concept of death is dealt with by true vulnerability, however, comedy is used as a method to release tension and bring humanity to moments where it is otherwise lost. Each dark moment within the film is dealt with to its full extent. The comedy is not used to cheapen the moments of loss, pain, and frustration, rather as an afterthought the audience is able to laugh along with the characters through shared experiences and growth.

May 22, 2020

The Difficulty with Recasting Main Television Roles

Australian actress and model Ruby Rose was cast as the CW’s Batwoman in 2018, and since then has been featured in two of the annual crossovers and a full television season. However, a few days ago, the news broke that Rose would not be returning as the character of Kate Kane in the already-ordered second season of Batwoman, which is the first time the star of a CW series has left after only one season.

Maybe they could cast someone with naturally red hair.
Personally, I enjoyed the first season of Batwoman (I may review it in the near future), and Rose’s performance was one of its strongest points. This is why, admittedly, the news of her departure shocked me. I know this has happened before, but to me, it’s unprecedented. I’ve never watched a full season of a show, only to see its star replaced after one season (except for Doctor Who, but I’m not sure how much that counts).

Not to say that Rose was “replaced.” In fact, barely a day after her departure was announced, word got out of possible reasons why she left. Apparently, it was a “mutual” separation, with Rose being unhappy about the long hours of work that the lead role required. This unhappiness made her unpleasant to work with, so it seems that there was friction between the actress and the studio that led to the split. Rose also suffered at least one major injury while doing stunts, and although the internet has pointed out that that was not the reason for her departure, I have a feeling it may have contributed to it.

May 21, 2020

“DC’s Stargirl” (Episode One) Review: A Welcome Bit of Hope

Brec Bassinger’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“I wonder, how many coming-of-age clichés can one jam into a teen superhero series?” That must’ve been said by someone at least once at a Stargirl production meeting, because there’s no way it didn’t come up at least once.

Granted, Stargirl isn’t consumed by clichés, but the brand-new superhero series certainly doesn’t have a shortage. Single parent? Check. New stepparent? Check. A difficult relationship between the protagonist and their new stepparent that is eventually ameliorated over time as they bond over some sort of discovery? Check and check.

May 19, 2020

“What We Do in the Shadows” Season One Review: Vamps on the Town

In my viewing experience, television series adapted from films have had a high success rate. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance honor their source material and are all thoroughly enjoyable on their own. However, they’re all adapted from relatively high-profile films and stories; what about the series based on smaller movies? Are they less enjoyable because their parent films aren’t as well-known?

The answer to that is a resounding “No!” One of my favorite shows to come out in recent years has been “What We Do in the Shadows,” a half-hour comedy that follows a group of vampires that live on Staten Island in the modern day. It’s based on a film of the same name, which was co-directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords). The film, set in New Zealand, is hilarious on its own, but the spin-off TV series is clearly having a lot of fun expanding the lore and building upon the world established by the film, being one where vampires live together in homes around the world.

May 14, 2020

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Season Seven Review: A Masterful End of an Era

Having not watched any network television until 2015, I was never a regular viewer of the Star Wars animated TV series. The Clone Wars has ended, Rebels never caught my full attention, and I never bothered to dedicate time to Resistance. But when Clone Wars was acquired by Netflix, I knew this was my chance to explore that area of the Star Wars universe.

I never had enough time to watch the full series, but I saw most of the episodes that mattered to the core story. That’s why, in 2018, when a full seventh season was set to premiere on the then-untitled Disney streaming service, I was filled with a rush of excitement. The only issue is, we had to wait until 2020 to finally see the concluding episodes.

And boy, was it worth the wait.

May 12, 2020

“Upload” Season One Review: Sitcom or Edgy Drama?

Once again, pop culture and streaming television have predicted the future, and while we’ve seen a lot of apocalyptic scenarios on screen, the future depicted in Amazon Prime’s new series Upload is one I wouldn’t mind living in.

As is the case with most future worlds, technology has essentially consumed society. Cars are nearly fully automated (with built-in artificial intelligence), virtual reality is widely used, and watches do everything your phone can (sound familiar?). But if you had the choice, would you “upload” your consciousness to a digital afterlife instead of dying?

May 7, 2020

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season One Review: A Highly Creative Superhero Mashup

Season One of Legends of Tomorrow gets a lot of hate, and I understand why. It’s tonally choppy, overloaded with characters, the villain is boring and cliché, and it has to make everything up as it goes along due to a lack of source material (one of the biggest differences from the other CW superhero series). But I’m willing to forgo those shortcomings, and in this review I’ll explain why.

Conceived as a spinoff of The Flash and Arrow (the prominent two Arrowverse series at the time), Legends of Tomorrow introduces Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master from the 22nd century. Hunter forms a team of B-list superheroes to take down Vandal Savage (frequent guest star Casper Crump), an immortal tyrant who eventually conquers the world and murders Hunter’s wife and son. He recruits them with the promise that, in the future, they will be remembered as not just heroes, but “legends.” That’s enough for (most of) them.

May 4, 2020

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” Review: An Exciting, Yet Nonsensical, Saga Conclusion

When the first reviews for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrived, I was confused, but unsurprised, to find that they were largely negative. Allow me to explain.

The previous film in the franchise, The Last Jedi, was received very well by critics but utterly panned by the average audience. The Rise of Skywalker is the opposite — so far largely beloved by audiences, but disliked by critics. That’s where the confusion came from.

April 30, 2020

“The Willoughbys” Review: Quirky Fun for the Whole Family

The best word to describe The Willoughbys, a new animated film on Netflix, is ‘random.’ It’s all over the place, but in the best possible way. If you’re a fan of chaotically fun stories with an emotional core, this film is for you.

The Willoughbys scheme to get rid of their parents.
The titular family is a tumultuous one. The Willoughbys were once a proud and honorable family, but they’ve since fallen from grace under two horrible parents, simply known as Mother and Father (played with amusing Britishness by Martin Short and Jane Krakowski). They are criminally neglectful of their children, Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara) and two identical twins named Barnaby (both voiced by Seán Cullen). With good reason, the children become fed up with their parents, so they hatch a number of schemes to orphan themselves and gain better lives.

April 28, 2020

“Emma.” Review: Funny, Charming and Witty

by Grace Ripley

We have seen Emma, the novel written in 1815 by Jane Austen, adapted for the screen countless times, how does this version make room for itself in the extensive lineup?

Emma is the story of an indelicate but well-born matchmaker Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy, who portrays the iconic character with an unmistakable grace and haughtiness) living with her father (Bill Nighy) in early-1800s England. She befriends Harriet Smith, who lives at the local school, and takes it upon herself to guide Harriet to who she believes is the right lover, and away from the one she thinks is unfit — although he is the one Harriet would choose. Harriet looks to Emma for everything, and Emma — often misguided, although she believes herself the most fit in every situation — tends to abuse that.

April 26, 2020

“Training Day” Review: A Compelling Trigger

by Danial Cousins

Training Day is a groundbreaking film about power and ethics within law enforcement. Nominated for 23 awards, and winning 17 (including an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Denzel Washington), Training Day takes absolute control of a narrative unfolding the realities of people in power. Training Day follows the story of Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a rookie cop on his first day working in a specialized narcotics division in L.A., supervised by Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). From Alonzos very introduction, it’s clear he will absolutely dominate the film.

Alonzo dissociates himself from the academy at which Jake was trained because “It’ll get [him] killed.” We learn some of Alonzo’s main priorities from their first conversation: he believes that the most interesting story Alonzo could tell about his career would be about him sleeping with his female partner in the back seat of the squad car. Contrasting Alonzo, Jake is young and hopeful, he wants to “chase down bad guys” and get criminals off the street for a better world.

April 24, 2020

Community 2x11 “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” Review: A Series Acme

I started binging Community the day it went on Netflix, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Somehow this show is the most unique sitcom I’ve ever seen, and it just keeps getting better. One of the standout episodes in my viewing binge so far came midway through Season 2, and I’m sure this episode will continue to stick out in my brain whenever I think of Community’s trademark “special episodes.”

The episode in question is, of course, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” Brought to life entirely through stop-motion animation, the episode stays true to its title by focusing on Abed (Danny Pudi), who is having ‘delusions’ that the entire world is now animated. This continues the running joke of Abed being constantly aware that they exist in the world of a TV show, and allows for the show to accommodate situations that a live-action budget wouldn’t cover.

April 20, 2020

“Swiss Army Man” Review: Songs of the Silly

by Danial Cousins

Swiss Army Man is a bizarre and silly film with dark and difficult themes dealing with self acceptance and relationships. The film begins with Hank (Paul Dano) alone on a beach as he attempts to hang himself, he hums to himself and closes his eyes before he notices a body wash up on shore (Daniel Radcliffe). The story then follows Hank and the body (who is named Manny) as they traverse the woods to find civilization, but also as Manny comes to life as a friend of Hank’s and with abilities that allow their survival.

Swiss Army Man’s silly nature becomes clear from the first moments in which Manny is introduced. Though he starts out as an inanimate corpse washed up on the beach, he brings irony and childish humor as he interrupts Hank’s hopeful monologue by farting. These opening moments enforce this whacky and ridiculous tone with even more clarity when Hank uses the gas coming from Manny to jet ski across the ocean, immediately establishing a comedic and relationship with death in the film. Swiss Army Man constantly attacks the notions of shame in the face of natural bodily functions and emotions.