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.

April 18, 2020

“Breaking Bad” Season One Review: Darkly Gripping

The White family
Before I began to watch it, I’d heard a lot about Breaking Bad. I knew the premise, I knew some of the characters, and I knew a choice few key moments, simply from references around the vast universe of popular culture. I didn’t expect that I’d ever have the time to thoroughly and carefully watch the show, but of course life has a way of working out. Quarantine doesn’t exist so I could watch Breaking Bad, but it’s certainly one positive thing that could come out of self-isolation.

The first season of Breaking Bad, while shorter than all of the series’ future seasons, work effectively to introduce the viewers to the primary characters and their motivations, which will inform the plot for the following four seasons.

April 16, 2020

“Onward” Review: A Fun Fantasy, But Doesn't Live Up to All Pixar Standards

Barley (Chris Pratt) and Ian (Tom Holland)
Crying at the movies isn’t all that uncommon. If something’s sad, and it causes emotions to surface, it’s worth it just to get it all out. But there are some movies that you don’t expect to evoke melancholy, that impress you with their ability to bring tears to your eyes.

The latest to do this for me was Pixar’s latest, Onward, set in a world where fantastical and magical creatures evolved into a modern society in place of humanity. Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is a young elf who is trying to figure out who he is on his sixteenth birthday. His brother Barley (Chris Pratt) tries to make it a special day for Ian, but only served to embarrass Ian with his boisterous and unabashed love of the enchanting ways of the past, where wizards handled problems through magical means. That was centuries ago, though, and modern technology has taken over the world, creating potential for an interesting bit of social commentary.

April 12, 2020

“Dumbo” (2019) Review: An Unnecessary (Yet Magical) Remake

At least the elephant is cute.
We’re getting to a point in which Disney films from 25 years ago are being remade as live-action films, but thankfully, they’re not completely ignoring their most classic films, dating all the way back to the mid-20th century.

One of these films is Dumbo, originally released in 1941, which features an elephant born with rather big ears that soon discovers he has the ability to fly (seemingly magically) through the air. This cute film that ran barely over an hour is the latest film that Disney has remade in the style of live-action.

April 8, 2020

“Diary of a Future President” Season One Review: Have Fun With It

Elena (Tess Romero) and Bobby (Charlie Bushnell).
Disney+ is on a roll. The Mandalorian was the most in-demand streaming series (domestically) multiple weeks in a row, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is lauded by critics and audiences alike, and they’ve already adapted popular children’s books Timmy Failure and Stargirl into feature-length original films. But there’s another new original series on the streaming service, albeit one that isn’t getting as much attention as it should.

April 6, 2020

“Her” Review: Glowing With Moments of Warmth and Frost

by Danial Cousins
This review contains (minor) spoilers.

Her has a simple, yet unique premise. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a paid writer of “Beautiful Letters” on a website, falls in love with an Artificial Intelligence, or OS (Operating System, as they are referred to in the film) named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Writer/director Spike Jonze immediately creates a beautiful yet seemingly empty world in the opening moments. Most every shot in the film is filled with color and light, which either juxtaposes or brings vibrancy to the emotions of Theodore. The combination of visuals, music, and actors’ performances are enrapturing throughout the film.

April 2, 2020

“Vice” Review: Stylistic and Unashamedly Liberal

It’s a well-known fact that George W. Bush held the American Presidency during the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. But what isn’t as well-known is Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, was wielding his own, quiet power during this time, using his abilities to extend a major influence on the budding Iraq War. All this and more is covered in Vice, a biopic that explores Cheney’s life and motivations.