February 28, 2022

Taika Waititi’s “Our Flag Means Death” Takes No Prisoners (Review)

If we’re talking about once-in-a-generation talents, Taika Waititi absolutely deserves to be in the conversation. From semi-dramatic works like Hunt for the Wilderpeople to straight comedies like What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok, there isn’t anything the man can’t pull off. It’s no surprise that his latest venture, the HBO Max period pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death, is another winner.

Waititi didn’t technically spearhead Our Flag Means Death — it was created by David Jenkins, he of the TBS sci-fi comedy People of Earth — but Waititi serves as executive producer, and stars as legendary and feared pirate Blackbeard. The series is very much in tune with Waititi’s comedic sensibilities, so this should tide over his fans before Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters this summer.

February 26, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 14: Death on the Nile, Uncharted, Marry Me, Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Does Death on the Nile guarantee continued success with Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot fixation? Rowan seems to think so, and so does this week’s returning guest Heath Lynch! Together, they will discuss Death on the Nile, Uncharted (desperately vying for the title of BEST VIDEO GAME MOVIE), Marry Me (one of the most paint-by-numbers romcoms you will see in the 21st century), and Netflix’s new Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plus, their top five straight-to-streaming films, and more of what they’ve been watching lately. 

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

February 23, 2022

With Romance and Music, “Cyrano” is Optimistically Transformative (Review)

I love Urban Dictionary. Aside from including fantastically inappropriate terms that would never make it into the actual dictionary, there are words made into verbs and adjectives for no conceivable reason. One of those words is ‘Cyrano,’ for which the top definition is:
“...a situation when a nerdy guy helps a handsome guy date the girl that he loves by telling him what to say and what to do.”
The adjoining example (for how to use the word) is:
“Our boss asked us to meet him here and he is not here yet, he just tried to put us together, he cyrano’d us. Let’s make him win, kiss me.”
After my inevitable Urban Dictionary rabbit hole, I was able to laugh at the total absurdity of the word “Cyrano” being used in that context. I would be willing to bet money that no one has ever used the word like that in the entire history of the world — and how would we know? Let’s just say that I win.

Jokes aside, the definition is the bare basics of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a real-life poet whose life was dramatized by Edmond Rostand in 1897. The play was subsequently adapted into a musical in 2018 by Erica Schmidt, which led to the creation of the movie musical starring Peter Dinklage.

The Urban Dictionary definition is surprisingly accurate. Commonly taunted soldier Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) is in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett), and uses the man that Roxanne loves, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) to communicate his own love with her through letters. Christian himself is not very romantic, and seeks Cyrano’s help, and as events become more complicated, Cyrano must decide whether to reveal his own feelings for Roxanne.

February 21, 2022

“Family Squares” Confronts the Reality of Virtual Living (Review)

At this point, it’s a cliché to say that COVID-19 has impacted our lives in ways we never thought possible two years ago. Now, it’s the new normal, and Family Squares proves it.

Written and directed by Stephanie Laing (director of HBO Max’s Made for Love), Family Squares is set almost entirely over various Zoom and FaceTime calls, chronicling a family’s process of grief and acceptance after their nearest and dearest, Grandma Mabel (June Squibb) passes away live on a video call, leaving behind a series of clues that could reveal one of the family members is not who they claim to be.

The main selling point here is the cast — the Zoom-oriented premise means that barely any of the actors have to film together, and seemingly anyone is fair game. Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Judy Greer (13 Going on 30), Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods), Scott MacArthur (The Mick), Ann Dowd (Mass) and Henry Winkler (Happy Days) are among the family members, with Sam Richardson (currently starring in Apple TV+’s The Afterparty) appearing as Grandma Mabel’s attorney. It’s one of the best non-murder mystery casts I’ve seen in a while, and it may not have been possible had this been filmed anywhere but virtually.

February 19, 2022

Review: Scarily Effective “The Cursed” Brings Back Werewolf Horror

Writer/director Sean Ellis’s werewolf movie The Cursed, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival under the (far superior) title Eight for Silver, begins rather unassumingly for a period horror movie: we’re thrown into the trenches of the First World War, as a cloud of mustard gas descends upon a crowd of French troops. One of the soldiers is taken to a field hospital where his wounds are attended to, and a bullet is pulled from his chest curiously not of German make or model.

We’re left to puzzle this out-of-context question as we’re taken back twenty-five years to rural France, as the property of land baron Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) is occupied by a non-threatening Romani clan who purports to have a claim to the land as well. Laurent mercilessly slaughters them, unknowingly unleashing a curse on his family and their village.

February 18, 2022

Review: Violent, Gory and Exciting “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a Legacy Sequel Done Right

Modern horror’s oldest franchise is back, and this time it falls victim to what is rapidly becoming a progressive problem in long-running horror series — it copies another franchise’s story approach. This seems like a bad omen, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre somehow defies all odds and makes it work.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Forgoing decent set-up or too much explanation, Texas Chainsaw Massacre really goes for it. Our main characters, and future corpses, are moneymaker Melody (Sarah Yarkin), her sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) and her partner Dante (Jacob Latimore). They travel to a small Texas town on a business trip, ignoring all omens of doom along the way, and find only violence and blood waiting for them in the form of unhinged cannibal Leatherface (Mark Burnham).

February 17, 2022

Review: “Uncharted” Fails to Break the Video Game Movie Curse

At a certain point, it feels like if you’ve seen one action movie, you’ve seen ’em all. Occasionally, there are exceptions that give me hope for the action genre, and prove that the market is still alive for original material. Uncharted, adapted from the PlayStation video game series, is unfortunately not one of those.

It’s not for a lack of trying. There are some decent enough set pieces, and the action is well-shot by director Reuben Fleischer (Zombieland, Venom), but there’s just not enough that I haven’t seen before to make me invested.

Tom Holland plays Nate Drake, a fortune hunter (and future adventurer) who is recruited by Victor “Sully” Sullivan — played by a miscast Mark Wahlberg — to track down the lost treasure of the Magellan expedition. They are racing against Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and mercenary Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), so their mission does have a ticking clock. It’s just a shame that the stakes are virtually nonexistent.

February 10, 2022

Review: “Death on the Nile” Continues Branagh’s Streak

The ending of 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express had one of the most obvious and needy set-ups for a sequel that I’ve ever seen. After solving the titular crime, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) travels to Egypt for, and it becomes increasingly apparent that another mystery will soon be on his hands.

Five years (and a whole host of COVID-related delays) later, in 2022’s first murder mystery set on a boat in an exotic location (I have a sneaking suspicion the sequel to Knives Out will eclipse Death on the Nile this fall), Poirot is back, and it turns out the case from the end of Murder was just, shall we say, a red herring. The real case comes about two months later, when Poirot is invited to a Nile cruise on the honeymoon of a wealthy heiress (Gal Gadot) and her husband (Armie Hammer). Little do they know that soon enough, murder will strike again!

February 9, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 12: Moonfall, The Worst Person in the World, The Fallout

Is Moonfall any good? Roland Emmerich’s recent track record may say otherwise, but Foster Harlfinger is here to help give the definitive Lenient Critic review and rating! Foster and Rowan also discuss The Worst Person in the World, a strong contender for Best International Feature Film, and The Fallout, an under-the-radar streaming original about tragedy and emotional trauma. Plus, their top five alliteratively-titled films, and more of the films they’ve been watching.

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

February 8, 2022

2022 Oscar Nominations Breakdown

Note from 3/29: The Academy Awards have now come and gone, and many of the following predictions are embarrassingly wrong. Please direct all ridicule to the comments. Now on to the original article!

The time is upon us again! Film Twitter has been engaged in some civil (and some uncouth) discourse throughout the day, as the nominations for the 94th Academy Awards were announced today!

The ceremony is being held later than usual this year so as to avoid attention conflicts with the Olympics, which end February 20. The Oscars ceremony will be held March 27, which will make it one of the latest Oscars shows (behind last year’s, held April 25). I will be watching live, but we have a little under two months before the actual show — so let’s make our predictions now, shall we! In this article, I’ll also discuss what I believe should have been nominated that wasn’t (and vice versa), with some commentary in between!

Review: “Moonfall” Misses Every Mark

Let's all be honest here…was this anything less than we expected?

Moonfall is the latest from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, and if his recent track record was any indication, we were in for a wild ride. Maybe not a fun ride, or a rewarding ride, but a crazy one nonetheless.

John Bradley (Game of Thrones) stars as K.C. Houseman, a conspiracy theorist who discovers that the moon is slowly edging out of its orbit, bound for a collision course with planet Earth. Former NASA astronauts Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) and Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) team up with Houseman to figure out exactly what is wrong with the moon as disasters on Earth get worse and worse (and more Emmerich-friendly).

February 3, 2022

Review: “The Worst Person in the World” Examines Life, Love and Everything Else

Occasionally a film comes along that is so simple in its premise, yet so intelligent in its execution that it manages to stand by itself in the pantheon of genre films. The Worst Person in the World, a Norwegian film directed by Joachim Trier, is one of those movies that has broken through and made itself notable among the countless romantic comedy-dramas out there.

Divided into twelve chapters (bookended by a prologue and an epilogue), Worst Person follows Julie (Renate Reinsve), a medical student-turned-writer who is finding her own way in the complex world of relationships, conflicting feelings, and the brutality of the real world. It’s more a series of interconnected vignettes, further punctuated by the use of chapter titles, showing us what may be the most important four years of Julie’s life.

I’ll just say it right out of the gate — if I had seen this last year, my rankings for 2021 would definitely be different. Reinsve is giving one of the year’s best performances, and the film is genius in its depiction of the feeling of being in love, side-by-side with the practicality of reality, which can sometimes be unfortunate and disappointing.

February 1, 2022

The Lenient Critic Podcast Episode 10: The Most Anticipated in Film and Television of 2022

2022 is shaping up to be one of the biggest years EVER for film and television. Alice-Ginevra Micheli is here to discuss with Rowan what we’re looking forward to this year! 

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