January 29, 2022

A Selection of Sundance Film Festival 2022 Reviews

With Omicron rapidly spreading this January, Robert Redford’s historic Sundance Film Festival once again had virtual screenings of new (and mostly never-before-seen) independent films. This was the first opportunity I had to attend a film festival, so I definitely jumped at the chance and ended up seeing six films, solely on the basis of basic interest.

Some films were shown that ended up generating a lot of buzz, including After Yang, Cha Cha Real Smooth and Emily the Criminal, but unfortunately those showings were sold out before I had the chance to buy tickets. I’m sure they will eventually get distributions and I will be able to review them fully! Until then, here are a selection of my reviews from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

January 27, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 9: Scream, Brazen, The King’s Daughter, The Tragedy of Macbeth

See, January isn’t all bad! Bernard Ozarowski, founder of The Invention of Dreams and co-host of Final Review, joins Rowan to discuss Scream, the latest in one of the best horror franchises; Brazen, a paint-by-numbers new Netflix film; The King’s Daughter, a movie filmed 8 (eight!!!) years ago; and, finally, The Tragedy of Macbeth, the Coen Brother movie that you definitely know the plot of! They’ll also preview some upcoming releases, chat major horror franchises, and talk about what they’ve been watching in the last month. 

Dont forget to subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating on Apple Podcasts!

January 24, 2022

Review: “Flee” is an Extremely Unique Refugee Doc

“I’m glad you’re finally ready to tell this story.”

The first semester of my time at college, I took a film history course about Experimental Documentaries, and one of the takeaways from that class is that documentaries can be presented in any form. They are art, like any other film, and unorthodox documentaries can be as effective, if not even more impactful, than traditional documentaries.

Flee is one of the most unique documentaries I’ve ever seen. Beautifully animated using a fresh variety of styles, it is the story of Amin Nawabi, a man who had to leave his home in Afghanistan, and charts his path to eventual safety in Denmark. Scenes of Nawabi telling his story are intercut with vivid and surreal pictures of his home, including live-action footage of the world events happening at the time. It paints a complete picture, all while focusing on what Nawabi and his family endured.

January 18, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 8: The Best Film and Television of 2021

2021 was a big year, and a wide span of releases requires more than one cinephile. Foster Harlfinger and Chris Bakker join Rowan this week to break down their favorite film and TV (and the best performances) of last year!

Dont forget to subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating on Apple Podcasts!

January 15, 2022

“Scream” Review: Ghostface is back. Hope all is well. 🙂

Amidst a whole host of “legacy sequels,” the horror genre is catching up and, as usual, it’s subverting any trope it can find. The latest sequel-that’s-not-really-a-sequel is Scream — yes, with the same title as the first film — as the Ghostface Killer returns to Woodsboro once again for another murder spree. The final murder spree, perhaps? With the inevitable success of 2022’s Scream, not bloody likely.

Series mainstays Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette are back in action for Scream, but unlike the previous four films, they’re not the focal points. Melissa Barrera takes the reins as our “final girl,” Sam Carpenter, who returns to Woodsboro with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked and gravely wounded. True to form, a new killer has donned the by-now trademarked Ghostface mask and black robes, and seems to be targeting victims connected to the original massacre, depicted in the original 1996 Scream.

January 11, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 7: The 355, C’mon C’mon

And, thus, we have entered January, the first of the winter months that sees a string of likely-disappointing film releases. The first is The 355, a movie that has been pushed back multiple times, and for good reason. Then, we try to catch up on missed 2021 releases with C’mon C’mon, a philosophically-minded film from Mike Mills that is in black and white for some reason. Heath Lynch is Rowan’s guest this week, bringing a new perspective to the week’s films, as well as some of the best spy movies out there and a certain horror franchise which has a much-anticipated installment coming up.

Dont forget to subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating on Apple Podcasts!

January 9, 2022

Review: “The 355” Keeps the Bar Low for 2022

January is a well-known “dump month” for movies that studios just aren’t that confident in. Sometimes, that can work to a film’s advantage (like the upcoming Scream, which has been getting plenty of positive buzz and with little to no solid box office competition), but for every one of those there’s The 355, a big-budget studio flick destined to fail.

From the producer of the (somewhat) critically-acclaimed X-Men franchise and the director of the (definitely not) critically-acclaimed Dark Phoenix, Simon Kinberg, The 355 features a rather stellar cast in Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Diane Kruger and Sebastian Stan, and still somehow manages to be boring and uninteresting.

January 6, 2022

Expanding the Universe is Moving to Letterboxd!

As another year comes to a close, I find myself extremely satisfied with 2021 (aside from, you know, the COVID-sized elephant in the room). The Lenient Critic was revived, and quite effectively, with a number of new segments and a podcast now in its roster! But you know me, with hardly time to catch a break, I’ve been hard at work watching as many films and series as I could.

However, with the new year comes a change: the monthly Expanding the Universe segments will be moving to Letterboxd, and each review for every film and miniseries I see will be published there. As for episodic series, those will be reviewed on the blog (for the most part) as separate articles.

As a farewell to the regularly published article, here are some highlights of new releases I watched in December 2021. For a full list, see my Letterboxd diary, and from now on, my reviews will be published as Letterboxd reviews.

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)
Viewed from: November 25-December 2

Read and/or listen to my full review here.

Dune (2021)
Rewatched on: December 3

Read my full review here.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021)
Viewed on: December 4

Read my full review here and listen to the podcast review here.

Licorice Pizza (2021)
Viewed on: December 8

Listen to the podcast review here.

West Side Story (2021)
Viewed on: December 9

Read my full review here and listen to the podcast review here.

t Look Up (2021)
Viewed on: December 10

Read my full review here and listen to the podcast review here.

Encounter (2021)
Viewed on: December 11

Listen to the podcast review as well as some spoiler thoughts here.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Viewed on: December 16/18

Read my full review here and listen to the podcast review here.

The Kings Man (2021)
Viewed on: December 21

Read my full review here.

Matrix: Resurrections (2021)
Viewed on: December 22

Read my full review here and listen to the podcast review here.

Hawkeye (2021)
Viewed on: November 24-December 22

Listen to the podcast review here.

Nightmare Alley (2021)
Viewed on: December 26

Listen to the podcast review here.

January 4, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 6: The Matrix Resurrections, Nightmare Alley, Hawkeye, Being the Ricardos


There’s a lot of pressure on this week’s films for a variety of reasons. We have legacy sequel The Matrix Resurrections, intending to resurrect the entire franchise; Guillermo del Toro’s new film Nightmare Alley, his first since 2017; a Disney+ series about the only Avenger who had not yet received a solo project; and Being the Ricardos, a fictional film covering a true event from one of the greatest living screenwriters. Rowan is once again joined by his father to break down these three films and one series, and preview some that we will see (which some have already seen!) in the coming weeks!

Dont forget to subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating on Apple Podcasts!