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Ben Sears' Columns

Ben’s Column: CODA (2021) – Review

Heder’s script has a few plot hurdles that keep it from greatness, but her heart is in the right place, and the film represents a promising step forward for her and Emilia Jones.

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Ben’s Column: Nine Days (2020) – Review

Nine Days is a refreshingly unique film that announces Oda as an exciting voice with important things to say. The film could have easily slid into familiar sci-fi territory, devoting less time to the more existential issues and more time on structural bureaucracy.

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Movie Review: John and the Hole (2021)

John and the Hole, the debut feature from Pascual Sisto, is a psychological thriller that’s filled with a disturbing coldness with a sliver of dark comedy undertones. For the most part, John and the Hole works as a mood piece, showcasing just how disassociated its central character is with his actions. It’s a film that sees a 13 year old boy drug his family, trap them in an open hole in the ground, and then go about his newly independent life without much thought given to his captors. Aside from a couple peculiar and out of place side tracks, John and the Hole manages to stay compelling and unsettling throughout.

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Ben’s Column: Ted Lasso Season 2, Episode 2: “Lavender” – Review

Here’s hoping that every episode title this season refers to a different flavor of tea.

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Movie Review: Jungle Cruise (2021)

Jungle Cruise, Disney’s latest film based on one of its theme park rides desperately wants to be the mouse house’s next Pirates of the Caribbean style box office juggernaut. Unfortunately, the film fails on this endeavor almost every step of the way. Whether it’s jumping from contrived set piece to contrived set piece, or in the uninspired and incessant bickering among the film’s central triumvirate (not to mention the utter lack of romantic chemistry in its leads), Jungle Cruise just doesn’t work as a complete experience.

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Ben’s Column: Jungle Cruise (2021) – Review

If you’ve seen The African Queen, or Indiana Jones, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or The Lost City of Z, that seems like as safe a place as any to start when discussing Disney’s latest live-action adventure. Because Jungle Cruise feels largely indebted to all of those films, and pulls elements from each one, but still struggles to stand on its own.

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The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 349 – Old (2021) – Mythic Quest and Star Wars: The Clone Wars

In this “parking lot special” episode, Tiny and I review M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, Old immediately following a theater screening of the film.

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Movie Review: Freaky (2020)

Following his work delivering slasher hijinks to the time loop trope with Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, Christopher Landon affixed his horror-comedy eye on the body swap genre with 2020’s Freaky. The film stars Kathryn Newton as Millie, a teen whose family suffered the loss of her father a year ago. Vince Vaughn co-stars as the nameless Blissfield Butcher, a deranged killer whose urban legend has him operating for decades in the Everytown (well, in California, at least), USA hamlet of Blissfield. When an ancient Aztec artifact causes the two to switch bodies, gruesome killings and funny misunderstandings ensue.

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Movie Review: Settlers (2021)

Settlers, the debut feature from writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller, is a sci-fi character study that never quite gets off the ground. Set on a lone Mars colony, it tells a tale of frontier desolation and isolation in a meandering and slightly unfocused way. A single family lives on the land and has to face the threat of people who appear to be marauders at first glance. As the film progresses, not much backstory (save for the bare essentials) is given as to who these people are or why they have staked their claim on the land. It becomes a moot point, however, as the film immediately becomes a 3-person character study with not much energy to the plot.

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Movie Review: Old (2021)

Throughout his tumultuous career, M. Night Shyamalan has been singularly focused on trying to surprise audiences. What’s most surprising about his latest film however, is just how little has changed in his bag of tricks. Old has all the hallmarks of Shyamalan’s storytelling style. There’s a preponderance of silly, inauthentic dialogue, tons of on the nose exposition, awkward comic relief that rarely lands as intended, and what seems like an active hatred for ambiguity. Yet, for all of Old’s silliness and lack of depth, it does provide a decent amount of suspense and is home to one really interesting concept.

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Ben’s Column: Old (2021) – Review

If you’re one of the few remaining stalwarts of M. Night Shyamalan’s films in 2021, you probably already know if you’re going to enjoy his newest film, Old. It’s been a bumpy road for the writer-director ever since the breakout success of The Sixth Sense in 1999. Virtually every new project feels like it’s treated with reserved skepticism, given Shyamalan’s largely floundering genre exercises, and I’m sorry to report that Old does him no favors.

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Movie Review: Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)

Concluding a trilogy is a tricky proposition in any context. When it comes to the Fear Street trilogy however, its weekly release schedule means the first two entries are incredibly fresh in the audience’s’ minds going into the final chapter. So it stands to reason the conclusion had a lot to live up to and the potential for a lot of scrutiny to be levied at it. To add to that pressure, Part One and Part Two had the benefit of mostly disappearing into their respective time periods  whereas Part Three had the unenviable task of serving as both an origin story and conclusion. Fortunately, Netflix’s ambitious gamble of releasing its Fear Street trilogy (based on the teen horror books by R.L. Stine) in weekly installments has paid off with a fun and satisfactory end in Fear Street Part Three: 1666.

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Ben’s Column: Pig (2021) – Review

A funny thing happened on the way to the truffle forest: writer and director Michael Sarnoski has crafted a deep, soulful film, one that has grander ideas on its mind than what audiences may originally think, and a film that manages to use Cage in a way that few directors have been able to tap into. Cage’s best performances come in films that underplay the rage that always seems to be bubbling below the surface, and Pig is a film that uses his gravely monotone to perfection, one of the year’s best performances so far.

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Movie Review: Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

In the 1990s, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street was like a big brother horror book series to Goosebumps. While Goosebumps was geared toward preteens, Fear Street catered to a more mature (relatively speaking) teen audience and featured more gruesome scares than its kid brother counterpart. Set in the town of Shadyside, Fear Street told anthologized stories of gore and horror throughout the cursed land. Now director Leigh Janiak (Honeymoon) and Netflix are delivering a trilogy of Fear Street films, with each entry telling a Shadyside story from a specific year. The trilogy is releasing weekly and is off to a terrific start with its bloody and energetic first entry, Fear Street Part One: 1994.

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Movie Review: F9: The Fast Saga (2021)

What started in 2001 as a street racing, DVD player heist movie shamelessly patterned after Point Break (Point Brake, anyone?) has become a globe-trotting, doomsday device stopping, spy team-up franchise. It’s nothing short of commendable (and, to some, probably perplexing) how this franchise managed to become a box office juggernaut. But nine movies and one spin-off is enough to wear down the tread on any long-running franchise. And while F9: The Fast Saga does deliver on plenty of ridiculous physics-breaking spectacle moments, there’s no mistaking that everyone’s favorite film family is showing signs their adventures may need to be parked for good.

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Ben’s Column: America: The Motion Picture (2021) – Review

Given the seemingly arbitrary nature of the curriculum within America’s current school systems on the subject of our own history, it’s not entirely implausible to believe that America: The Motion Picture will be taken as more fact than fiction. Netflix’s first animated film is a veritable who’s who of this country’s most notable figures and founding fathers, all mashed together with no discernable logic or reason behind most of it.