May 22, 2023

The Eras Tour is an Epic Showcase of Range, Style and Personality (Review)

“This is one of the reasons you’re on the Eras Tour,” proclaimed Taylor Swift, holding a sparkling microphone on the very first performance of her three-night run in Massachusetts.

“We refer to you as many things, one of which bring Foxy Foxborough!” Swift grinned, before doing a spin in her glitter-studded opening outfit. “Another reason we refer to this place, Gillette Stadium, as the most joyful place on earth!” That remark elicited cheers from the crowd, a move the famed singer/songwriter was clearly expecting — she threw her arms in the air, ready to dive into her rich catalogue of award-winning music.

I was lucky enough to attend opening night of the Eras Tour performances in Foxborough, one of fifty-two shows Swift will be performing during the five-month tour, which is her first since 2018. I used to consider myself only a casual listener of hers, and then her two COVID-era albums (folklore and evermore, both released in 2020) caught my attention and turned me into a fan very quickly.

The Eras Tour is not just a concert; it’s a performance. Over the course of three-plus hours, Swift took us through her entire discography, performing a range of songs from her different “eras” as a singer/songwriter, going in non-chronological order between her beginnings in country rock, her time as a pop icon, and her revolutionary rebranding during the pandemic. Despite seamlessly moving from one to another over the last seventeen years, Swift has kept the best aspects of each era, and utilized them to improve her music going forward. The Eras Tour also serves as an exhibition of just how far she’s come, and how she’s learned from everything she’s done.

May 17, 2023

“Book Club: The Next Chapter” is a Fluffy, Feel-Good Reunion with a Dash of Cheesy Charm (Review)

I was only a young, doe-eyed theater worker when Book Club was released in 2018, but it dominated my small community cinema. I myself saw it later in its run, and although my developing sense of film criticism appreciated its cheesy charm, I could not stop asking myself “how did this make over $100 million?!”

The (debatably) long-awaited sequel Book Club: The Next Chapter mostly abandons the titular element, instead taking the central ladies out of their comfortable homes and flying them to Italy, jumping from one unexpected adventure to the next. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen all make a triumphant return (and no, even though it might seem like it, this is not the same crew from 80 for Brady — at least not entirely) as seniors seeking a new lease on life. And since this is a feel-good comedy, that’s exactly what they find across the pond.

May 15, 2023

“Crater” Transcends the Direct-to-Streaming Standard (Review)

Disney+ originals are quite hit or miss for me, with the ones I enjoy the most usually being complete surprises. I hadn’t heard much about Crater, so I didn’t expect much. But to my delight, the tale of Caleb, a newly-orphaned teenager living on the now-colonized moon, teaming up with his friends to explore a crater that was significant to his parents, was unexpectedly delightful and earnest.

At its core, the film is about friendship and adventure, but it surprised me by exploring some intense themes. There’s an emphasis on class inequality that borders on critique of capitalism (because no one hates the exploitation of workers more than Disney). The parents of the children in the film are essentially trapped in a form of indentured moon servitude, which was not what I was expecting from this Goonies-esque kids movie about a group of friends on an expedition. Watching a movie geared towards kids explore these real-world issues from the point of view of relatable adolescent characters was a refreshing treat.

May 7, 2023

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is an Emotionally Devastating Final Ride (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is perhaps Marvel Studios’ most exciting project since Avengers: Endgame. It’s been long-delayed, and more newsworthy than most Marvel projects (especially considering writer/director James Gunn’s firing and subsequent rehiring), and as many consider the Guardians series to be among Marvel’s best sub-franchises, expectations are high.

Image courtesy of Marvel

I am one of those people who was absurdly excited for Guardians Vol. 3. It’s been my most anticipated Marvel movie since 2021’s No Way Home, and I (along with many others) were eagerly, and somewhat nervously, anticipating how Gunn would end his trilogy of wackos and weirdness. This is one of those rare Marvel films where anything can happen, and the stakes are exponentially higher than normal (after all, are they going to make any massive story swings in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, or save the big moves for the next Avengers movie?). With unpredictability at an all-time high, it’s time to return to a cosmic corner of the universe for a grounded space adventure with the capability to absolutely destroy me emotionally.

May 3, 2023

“Peter Pan & Wendy” Fails to Recapture the Magic (Review)

Most mornings in the shower, since I hate being alone with my own thoughts for too long, I listen to a podcast. One podcast I listen to frequently is a Glee rewatch show, And That’s What You REALLY Missed, and for a few weeks, the same ad played during every episode, advertising for Disney+’s newest live action remake, Peter Pan & Wendy. “If you think you know the story, think again,” the ad claimed. It called the movie an “all new adventure.” My hopes were high. My interest in poorly-lit live action remakes of movies that were always intended to be animated has never been high, especially in the last few years.

Still, the
Glee podcast had given me hope. Would this take the Cruella route of taking beloved characters and completely reimagining the story surrounding them? I thought perhaps. I was, sadly, disappointed. Instead of a creative new take on Neverland, I got yet another poorly-lit live action remake of a movie that was always intended to be animated.

May 1, 2023

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is a Classic Adaptation Done Right (Review)

I should start out by saying I have never read the classic Judy Blume book that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is based on. It was a valuable part of the childhoods of many, and so beloved that Blume was resistant for nearly half a century for the book to be adapted to film. It took the brilliant brain of legendary writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, Broadcast News) and the keen eye of writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig (who burst onto the scene in 2016 with the marvelous coming-of-age story The Edge of Seventeen) to convince her that it deserves to be brought to life on the big screen.

This is Craig’s first film in seven years, and what a fantastic project this is to mark her return to the directorial landscape.
Are You There God? tackles the struggles of a young pre-teen girl, and contextualizes them with other massive life changes happening, both at her age and in the early 1970s. It follows sixth-grader Margaret Simon, whose family moves from metropolitan New York to the suburbs of New Jersey, and who finds herself religiously torn within her family (one of her parents is Christian, while the other one is Jewish) and struggling with her oncoming puberty.