Premise: After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation.
Think back to your early high school days and how sex and sexuality felt ever-present in daily life. Then, if you weren’t already, imagine those same feelings in the setting of a Catholic school, where you’re taught to mostly repress or ignore those feelings. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. So is masturbation. What do you do when your body and society are telling you one thing and the church is telling you another? Oh, and if you go against what they’re teaching, you’ll spend the afterlife in eternal damnation. Continue reading →
Premise: Early in World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.
Throughout the running time of Greyhound, we learn more about Captain Ernie Krause’s (Tom Hanks) leadership skills, but shockingly little about his life outside the titular naval destroyer. The mission is simple: guide a fleet of Allied supply ships across the vast Atlantic Ocean, and sink as many Nazi U-boats as possible. The fleet remains unprotected from air cover for over 50 hours over the ocean, and this provides the ticking clock conceit to the film. Greyhound bears a striking similarity to last year’s 1917, in that there’s a clear endpoint objective at stake, and the characters we spend the most time with are frustratingly opaque. But whereas 1917 took time to reflect and add at least a little characterization between its video game-like checkpoints, Greyhound only stops and pauses for a scant few moments. Continue reading →
Premise: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.Continue reading →
Premise: A man’s obsession with his designer deerskin jacket causes him to blow his life savings and turn to crime.
It’s a tale as old as time: man buys a secondhand deerskin jacket. Man falls in love with said jacket and begins talking to it as if it’s a real person. Man begins converting his entire wardrobe to 100% deerskin. Man’s jacket tells him that it’s so great that it wants to be the only jacket left in the entire world. Continue reading →
Premise: Clancy, a spacecaster with a malfunctioning multiverse simulator who leaves the comfort of his home to interview beings living in dying worlds.
It’s hard to imagine what TV’s cartoon landscape (outside of Fox’s primetime lineup) would look like today without Cartoon Network’s already-classic Adventure Time. The show may not have been the first cartoon aimed at children that adults could appreciate, but was one of the longest-running and most unique offerings, thanks in no small part to the vision of its creator, Pendleton Ward. Ward left the critically acclaimed show after the fifth season and has now returned on Netflix with The Midnight Gospel, a nuttier, decidedly more adult-friendly version of what he started at Adventure Time. While the two shows share nothing in common beyond a colorful aesthetic, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider them in the same universe, so to speak. Continue reading →
Premise: Poppy and Branch discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.
Dreamworks Animation made history by adapting to the rapidly changing circumstances of the novel coronavirus and, instead of postponing its release of Trolls World Tour, the studio gambled by making the film the first to forego any kind of theatrical release by dropping it for home viewing on the same day it was scheduled to hit the cinemas. The strategy honestly makes perfect sense for a family-friendly film like this: rather than wrangling the kids, finding a babysitter for the siblings that are too young, shelling out major dollars for marked-up snacks, and all the other hassles associated with taking kids to a movie, families can sit down and watch the film at their own leisure, even having the luxury of pausing for a bathroom break. Just make sure your home internet connection is more reliable than that of yours truly.
As with most animated franchises aimed at a younger audience, the sequel is generally used as an opportunity for world building, and director Walt Dohrn literally makes it his primary objective from the opening minutes. Throughout the film, we’ll meet all manner of trolls, every size, shape, and color of the rainbow (including their signature hair). All trolls are united by their love of music, but separated by their respective genre tastes. The original cast has thankfully all returned here: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, and Ron Funches (Dohrn actually steps in and replaces Jeffrey Tambor as the voice of King Peppy, and brings some unexpected energy to his performance). Rachel Bloom makes a meal out of her character, the queen of the rock-n-roll trolls, whose mission is to eliminate all other forms of music and turn every other troll into guitar-shredding, leather-clad rock zombies.
Yes, the theme of Trolls World Tour becomes fairly evident early on, preaching the virtues of individuality and diversity over the drabness of hegemony. I think there was an episode of Doug that had the same message when it was on Nickelodeon. Easily the weakest aspect of this Trolls entry is its script, which takes the path of least resistance at nearly every turn. For instance, you have Timberlake’s Branch, whose character arc here is essentially the same as Poe from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (only here, the director at least remembers his character exists by the end of the film). The climax is literally recycled, beat for beat, from the first film when all color goes out and all hope is lost until the heroes discover the music within.
Dohrn at least deserves some credit, though, for wisely expanding the role of Ron Funches’ Cooper – the only troll that looks less like a person and more like a giraffe. Once his eyes are opened to the wider troll world, he sets out to find out if there are more out there like him. His arc has the most personal stakes, despite the character being a little thinly sketched, though it unfortunately gets cut short to make more room for the main plot.
It may be tired by now to praise a children’s movie as “fun for kids AND adults”, but such a feat is harder to pull of than just throwing in a few jokes – and maybe a visual Mad Max Fury Road reference – specifically targeted at the grown-ups and calling it a day. But with World Tour, you’ll probably find yourself digging a little deeper to find something to hold onto. The original film sneakily turned itself into a fun jukebox musical, mashing together hits both old and new. Here, the musical numbers are so overwhelming, you begin to wonder if more were added to pad out the already thin plot. Yes, the sequences are all animated spectacularly, and the singing is all top-notch, but how many of us were really itching for another cover of “Barracuda”?
It should be mentioned that all of World Tour looks great. The gloomy world of the Bergen’s from the first film is replaced with even more Technicolor vibrancy, as each troll world is given its own distinctive style. Not to mention the character designs of each musical region: the country trolls have gaudy, bouffant-style hair, while the techno trolls are glow-in-the-dark neon. The hilarious “Smooth Jazz Troll” sequence in particular is a visual highlight, bringing to mind a drug trip in a Lisa Frank factory.
Nobody at Dreamworks could have predicted the circumstances surrounding the release of Trolls World Tour. Who knows – maybe a year from now, we’ll hail them as pioneering geniuses. The quarantine has undoubtedly made me hungry for new content aside from the doldrums of Netflix’s typical winter and spring releases. 2016’s Trolls mostly worked because it wasn’t beholden to any particular mythology. With World Tour, it’s fun to explore the wider world, but it needs a better story to justify its existence.
FINAL TAKE: The cast list here is truly insane, but Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo was a personal favorite. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that he was definitely not cast against type.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.
Premise: Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly attempt to cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To conceal their crime, the sisters must go deep into the criminal underbelly of their hometown, uncovering the town’s darkest secrets..Continue reading →
Premise: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.
At what point should we start worrying about the original storytelling capabilities of Pixar? While the studio remains at the forefront of modern animation and earns plenty of major awards at the end of almost every year, the studio has loaded its docket lately with sequels to its most beloved franchises, some less successful than others. Look through their recent filmography and the last non-sequel put out was all the way back in 2017 with Coco. Go back even further and you won’t find any until 2015, with The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out – a mixed bag, as the former is one of Pixar’s worst, and the latter one of its best. Granted, most of their sequels have been mostly solid (Toy Story 4 was one of my favorite films last year and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature), but the studio’s reliance on existing property could be taken as a troubling sign. Continue reading →
Premise: After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord..
You would certainly be validated for being a little skeptical of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), especially after the unmitigated disaster that was 2016’s Suicide Squad. Heck, you’d even be validated based on DC Comics’ track record in trying to establish their own Marvel-esque connected universe. The studio stumbled out of the gate up until and including 2017’s Justice League, but has had some winners recently with Wonder Woman and Aquaman. But once DC leaned away from forcing the issue of a shared universe and focused on the characters within that universe, they found a way to make compelling films again. Rest assured though, Birds of Prey may contain some hidden Easter Eggs for diehard DC fans – which I missed entirely – but there were far from any overt references to other characters (besides the Joker, of course) or set-ups to future films. Continue reading →
Premise: A look at iconic pop artist Taylor Swift during a transformational time in her life as she embraces her role as a singer/songwriter and harnesses the full power of her voice.
Celebrities: they’re just like us! They eat spicy burritos! They wear denim overalls! They spill their steaks when there’s turbulence on their private jets! It’s hard to go into Miss Americana if you’re not slurping up the Taylor Swift Kool-Aid (like myself) without at least some level of cynicism. It’s not that I dislike Swift or her music – I thoroughly enjoy both the song and music video for “You Need to Calm Down” – I’ve just always been very clearly outside her target demographic (plus I’ve fallen way out of touch with contemporary music in general, but that’s a discussion for another essay). Continue reading →
Premise: On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.
Maybe it’s reductive – cliché, even – to say that there’s nothing quite like your first love. Maybe, for some, it’s not your first that you remember most, but someone who opens your eyes and shows what true human connection can be. These are only some of the themes explored in Céline Sciamma’s latest film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Heartbreaking but hopeful, complex but familiar, Portrait tells the story of a doomed romance between two young women in the 18th century – one a painter (Noémie Merlant) and the other her muse (Adéle Haenel), the daughter of a wealthy family who is betrothed to a man she’s never met. Continue reading →
Premise: Two young British soldiers during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldiers’ brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
There’s no denying that 1917 is a technical marvel. There’s also no denying that nearly every individual element of the film is impressive, from the score to the cinematography to the production design. Unfortunately, the elements that are left by the wayside are the ones it needs to be a complete experience that its audience can fully invest in, like memorable characters or an original story. Continue reading →
In the brilliant opening scene of 2010’s The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), argues with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) over his obsession with obtaining membership to one of Harvard’s exclusive finals clubs. As hard as she tries to steer the conversation to another subject, his brain is laser-focused on being admitted as one of the best in the best club at the best university, until it spirals out of control when she breaks up with him and he insults her. “There’s a difference between being obsessed and being motivated”, she says, sensing the darkness behind his eyes, the inherent need for him to feel accepted. It’s that obsession, the film argues, that leads Zuckerberg to create one of the largest, most influential but toxic social media sites in the world. Continue reading →
Loved this movie while I was growing up. It still has its charms, but the pacing is pretty off and the ending doesn't really land in any memorable way. But the comedy with Brendan Fraser's naivete is pretty fun.
This is a really interesting samurai film in that it's based on a play that adapted a real event and that it was commissioned as a wartime propaganda film. Mizoguchi made a more humanistic story, though. The 47 Ronin is mostly characters discussing what is happening and what they plan to do next. There's a lot of talk about the samurai code and wha […]