Ben’s Column: The Boys In The Band (2020) – Review

The Boys In The Band (2020)

Premise: At a birthday party in 1968 New York, a surprise guest and a drunken game leave seven gay friends reckoning with unspoken feelings and buried truths.

The LGBTQ community is at a crossroads in America in 2020. The Supreme Court may have legalized gay marriage years ago, along with a handful of other civil rights victories, but the current administration has been actively working to roll those protections back since day one, all in the name of “religious freedom”. Seen through this lens, it makes perfect sense why now is a good time for a new adaptation of The Boys in the Band, the Tony-winning Broadway show. This iteration, directed by Joe Mantello, even assembles the original cast from the 2018 stage revival, which was notable at the time for its all-out gay cast – a sign of how far society had come since the play’s inception. Continue reading

The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 326 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) & 8 1/2 (1963) – Heartland Film Festival 2020 Preview, and Extended Patreon Clip (Feels Good Man & Possessor)

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OV326 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) & 8 1/2 (1963) – Heartland Film Festival 2020 Preview, and Extended Patreon Clip (Feels Good Man & Possessor)

Recorded September 22, 2020: In the latest installment of our Ebert’s Great Movies Review Series, our newly promoted recurring co-host Ben Sears joins me to discuss the classic horror/German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2020) and the Frederico Fellini film 8 ½ (1963) from Ebert’s “Great Movies” list. We also chat about the upcoming Heartland Film Festival.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 092 – OV B-Roll – “Whole Foods Hot Chocolate and Oatmilk” – Class Action Park (2020), Possessor (2020), HIFF2020 Screenings, Ted Lasso, and Hoops – Sept 22, 2020

Runtime: 1:33:29

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Ben’s Column: Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) – Review

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

Premise: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.

It’s not often that a film can be simultaneously considered a documentary, a drama, and a comedy, but director Kirsten Johnson somehow manages to achieve that feat with Dick Johnson Is Dead. Movies can be used as a director’s way to put their own personal ideas and experiences out into the world: Truffaut channeled his early adolescence in The 400 Blows; Fellini expressed his struggles with the creative process with 8 ½; and Spike Lee used his experiences with racial injustice for Do the Right Thing. Johnson’s latest is not only a loving tribute to her father, but an examination of the grieving process, even when the aggrieved is still alive. Continue reading

Movie Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Premise: What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest—including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale—were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.

Kicking off this crazy and horrid year’s awards season offerings is writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s solid historical courtroom drama, The Trial of the Chicago 7. In telling the story of the notorious trial following riots that broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Sorkin holds a mirror to our country’s continuing fight for social justice while keeping his camera focused on the historical struggle he’s depicting. Chicago 7 has a lot to say and is a confident entry in Sorkin’s still young directorial career. However, while it is a marked improvement over his directorial debut Molly’s Game, Sorkin seems to still be finding his footing behind the camera.

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The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 325 – The Social Dilemma (2020) & The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) – RIP Chadwick Boseman, The Batman, Dune, The Great Hack, The Social Network

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OV325 – The Social Dilemma (2020) & The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) – RIP Chadwick Boseman, The Batman, Dune, The Great Hack, The Social Network

In this episode, Tiny and I review the newly released documentary The Social Dilemma and McG’s sequel The Babysitter: Killer Queen. We also discuss Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing and his legacy, COVID-19 check-ins, The Batman and Dune trailers and more.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 091 – OV B-Roll – “Contactless Delivery” – Da 5 Bloods, The Boys Season 2, Sorkin – Sept 16, 2020

Runtime: 2:08:45

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Movie Review: Rodan (1956)

Rodan (1956)

Premise: A large mining accident sets loose prehistoric insects and giant pterosaurs on Japan.

Ishiro Honda’s Rodan certainly lacks some of the character and subtext from some of his other Kaiju films. But that’s not to say it is a bad film by any means. The rise of the pterodactyl-esque creatures and giant insects to wreak havoc on the citizens of Japan make for an engaging monster movie with some surprising (or not so surprising, given Honda’s pedigree) imagery. With each act of Rodan offering nearly its own movie premise, this creature feature is one that offers plenty of action, if nothing else. Continue reading

Movie Review: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 4

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Premise: A typhoon washes ashore a gigantic egg. It’s soon claimed by greedy entrepreneurs who refuse to return it to its rightful owner, Mothra. Soon Godzilla arises near Nagoya, washed ashore by the same typhoon.

In the aftermath of an intense typhoon, an enormous egg and a strange, radioactive piece of debris are discovered. Capturing the attention of Japanese citizens, the objects naturally kick off a tale of greed and a gargantuan fight of finders vs keepers. It all leads to a fight for the ages as Godzilla takes on Mothra!
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Ben’s Column: Cuties (2020) – Review

Cuties (2020)

Premise: Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers named “the cuties” at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process.

Perhaps you’ve already heard of Cuties because you saw it advertised on Netflix. Perhaps you heard of it through word of mouth. More likely, you’ve heard of it because of the controversy the film has stirred up which has caused it to be shared on social media and even, yes, Ted Cruz. But to really talk about Cuties is to talk about America’s political discourse in 2020. Continue reading

Movie Review: Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes (2020)

Premise: When Enola Holmes (Sherlock’s teen sister) discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord.

Based on the YA series of books by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is a solid period adventure with aspirations for a franchise. Those aspirations are warranted by the performance of Millie Bobby Brown as the titular Enola, sister of the famed Sherlock. Brown’s talent and range continues to impress as she simultaneously does narrative heavy lifting through fourth wall breaking monologues and carries the film’s sense of fun and adventure. The end result is a solid vehicle for the gifted young actress and a fun mystery.

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Movie Review: Mothra (1961)

Mothra (1961)

Premise: A giant, ancient moth begins to attack Japan when coming to the rescue of its two, foot-tall worshippers who were taken by shipwreck survivors.

Mothra, a giant moth monster, made her entrance into the kaiju scene in her eponymous 1961 film directed by Ishiro Honda. The queen of the monsters’ debut on film is a lackluster one, unfortunately. There are impressive scenes of monster chaos to be found in the film’s last act, but the road to that destruction is paved with uninteresting characters and a plot line that, for the most part, plays like a lazy riff on 1933’s King Kong.

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Movie Review: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 3

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Premise: A newspaper and television station funded by a pharmaceutical company want a sensation, which happens to be the discovery of King Kong on an island. He is captured and brought to Japan, where he escapes from captivity and battles Godzilla.

The US version of King Kong vs Godzilla is certainly a less piecemeal repurposing of its Japanese original than Godzilla, King of the Monsters was to 1954’s Godzilla. Instead, the film plays into the spectator sport aspect of this monumental confrontation. Bringing Godzilla into color film and taking Kong to Japan to do battle with him, King Kong vs Godzilla, while over the top in its silliness at times, provides a worthy payoff to the hour (and then some) of set up and contrivances to get these two monsters to duke it out. Continue reading

Movie Review: All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)

All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)

Premise: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.

A call to action against voter suppression in the lead up to this year’s divisive and objectively bizarre presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy aims to educate and inspire. In its approach, the documentary makes its point clearly and thoroughly as it informs its viewers of both the history and the modern practices of voter suppression in the United States. Backed by data, archival footage, and filled with vibrantly animated visual aids, All In gives the viewer the knowledge needed for its call to action to fight voter suppression while also being eye-opening to the rampant practices occurring today.

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Ben’s Column: Tenet (2020) – Non-Spoiler Review

Tenet (2020)

Premise: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Tenet feels like the kind of movie Christopher Nolan has been building towards from the beginning of his career – at least on a surface level. It’s easy to spot some of the elements he’s pulling from, elements that have helped to define his aesthetic as a filmmaker: you of course have the incredible mind-bending visuals like in Inception and Interstellar, the action sequences from the Batman trilogy, the third act reveal from The Prestige, the perplexing chronology of events like in Memento and Dunkirk, and the complicated romantic entanglements of The Dark Knight, to name a few. Typically when a filmmaker cribs the best of himself to be put into one film, the result is an unbridled success, but Tenet just can’t make all of its puzzle pieces into an enlightening picture. Continue reading

Movie Review: Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Premise: To save her small law firm, earnest lawyer Susan takes a high-paying case from Nick, a charming new client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees love. But as the case heats up, so do Susan and Nick’s feelings for each other.

The romantic comedy phase of Netflix’s plans for world domination continues with the release of Love, Guaranteed, a legal backdropped meet-cute between hard working lawyer Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) and serial dater/client Nick (Damon Wayans Jr). The movie is about as formulaic as they come in the romcom genre. Sparks fly between two unlikely people, they experience a hardship, they each confide in eccentric supporting characters, and well, you know the rest. However, that’s not to say Love, Guaranteed is all that bad. On the contrary, it’s a pleasantly sweet distraction from the world and thankfully doesn’t demand much commitment from the viewer. Though it misses a couple of swings along the way, it still delivers that feel-good warmth that is at the very heart of the romantic comedy genre.

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The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 324 – Desert One (2020) & Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump (2020) – AMC Has Reopened, Will We See Tenet?, The Stand CBS All-Access Release Date

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OV324 – Desert One (2020) & Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump (2020) – AMC Has Reopened, Will We See Tenet?, The Stand CBS All-Access Release Date

In this episode, Tiny and I review the newly released documentaries Desert One and Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump. We also discuss AMC Theaters’ reopening, Tenet’s upcoming release, and The Stand CBS All-Access release date announcement. Note: This episode was recorded before news broke of Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing. We will cover it in the next episode.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 090 – OV B-Roll – “A Croc of Bullshit” – Pitchstorm Card Game, Buy Our Masks, Tiny Buys a New Car, Vote Biden, Black Lives Matter, Save the USA, Training Like We Fight – Aug 26, 2020

Runtime: 1:35:45

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