Category Archives: Ben Sears’ Columns

Ben’s Column: Da 5 Bloods (2020) Movie Review

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020) Movie Review

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)

Premise: A look at the final moments of a Las Vegas dive bar called ‘The Roaring 20s’.

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

And they’re always glad you came;

You want to be where you can see,

Our troubles are all the same;

You want to be where everybody knows your name. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Deerskin (2020) Movie Review

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Deerskin (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: The Midnight Gospel (2020) Season One Review

The Midnight Gospel (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: Trolls World Tour (2020) Movie Review

Trolls World Tour (2020)

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 isn’t more reliable than that of yours truly. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Blow the Man Down (2020) Movie Review

3.5 stars

Blow the Man Down (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: Onward (2020) Movie Review

Onward (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: Birds of Prey (2020) Movie Review

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

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

Ben’s Column: Miss Americana (2020) Movie Review

Miss Americana

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

Ben’s Column: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Movie Review

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

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

Ben’s Column: 1917 (2019) Movie Review

1917

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

Ben’s Column: Alfonso, Marty, and Oscar (Netflix’s Rise to Awards Prominence)

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

Ben’s Column: Bombshell (2019) Movie Review

Bombshell (2019)

Premise: A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.

In the final title card before the credits roll on Bombshell, it states that Roger Ailes was the highest-profiled figure to be taken down from sexual harassment, “and he won’t be the last”. This message of hope is certainly earned after the film that preceded it, but it’s the overall way it was handled that prevents it from really sticking. The film opens with a fourth-wall breaking monologue from Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) to get us all up to speed on the inner workings of the Fox News network where she anchors her own conservative talk show – Bombshell begins in the early days of the Republican presidential primaries and runs roughly up to the election. Because this is 2019 and we’re living in a post-The Big Short world (no surprise that Bombshell was written by Charles Randolph, the Oscar-winning co-writer of the former), I suppose it’s now mandatory for all films with semi-complex true stories to include some direct to camera speeches, breaking down the ideas at work into easily digestible chunks. But after the beginning, these self-aware moments, including some internal monologues from some characters and a weird visual moment, fall by the wayside in order to tell a more straightforward story. Which ultimately end up being a wise decision from director Jay Roach because those moments just feel like dead weight. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Top 10 Movies of 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: 2019 was a big year for us at ObsessiveViewer.com. One of the big things for us was bringing on our friend Ben Sears as a contributor on the website and recurring guest on the podcast. We’re extremely proud of the work he has done throughout the last several months and can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for him and the site alike. Here, Ben reflects on his top 10 favorite movies of 2019. Enjoy. – Matt Hurt  Continue reading

Ben’s Column: The Two Popes (2019) Movie Review

The Two Popes (2019)

Premise: Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict and the liberal future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.

When you have an event in the Catholic Church that hasn’t occurred in around 700 years, it’s almost inevitable for a film depiction of that event. In the case of The Two Popes, that event was the abdication of the papacy by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 and the ascension of Pope Francis. Director Fernando Meirelles, with a script from Anthony McCarten, depicts the event as a series of meetings between the Pope (Anthony Hopkins) and then-cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) as the two debate faith, and the role the church plays in helping its members. The film establishes within minutes, following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the election of a new Pope by the conclave of cardinals at the Vatican, the differences between the two and what is at stake for the church as a whole: one is all about reform, and one is more conservative. Pope Benedict (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) is the favorite, who is seen actively campaigning after the first vote, whereas Bergoglio is more reluctant and even seems relieved when he is not elected. Fast forward seven years and Bergoglio considers retirement when he is called to Rome. The bulk of the film takes place at the pope’s summer home in the Italian countryside where Bergoglio attempts to persuade Benedict to accept his resignation, and Benedict stalls, hoping that he will stay. The film is stripped of some of its drama because we already know the end result, but Meirelles uses these scenes to emphasize the differences between the two men; whereas Bergoglio sees himself as a servant of the people (a core teaching of the Jesuit sect to which he belongs), Benedict believes the church is a beacon on a hill, helping to steer people in the right direction while remaining at arms’ length. “Change is compromise”, Benedict states early in their meeting. Continue reading