Tag Archives: Ben Sears

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

The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 307 – Oscars 2020 Nominee Rundown (Guest: Ben Sears)

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OV307 – Oscars 2020 Nominee Rundown (Guest: Ben Sears)

This week, Ben joins me to rundown the 2020 Oscar Nominees! We also commiserate on Joker’s success, Star Wars’ whatever, and some of the snubs from this year’s Academy Awards.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 057 – OV B-Roll – “AARP Movies for Grown Ups” – For Sama, Letterboxd Conversations, Bradley Cooper on Netflix – January 23, 2020

Runtime: 2:26:57 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

Ben’s Column: Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review

Uncut Gems (2019)

Premise: A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

Meet Howard Ratner. He’s Jewish, in his 40s, married with three kids but is in the midst of divorcing his wife. He runs a successful* jewelry business to the stars in Manhattan, and has what can laconically be described as a gambling addiction. Almost everyone is tired of Howard’s shtick as soon as they come into contact with him, including his wife and daughter. The only people he has genuine connections with are his teenage son and his girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox, a breakout star in the making). Physiologically speaking, he has to sleep at some point, but there is no evidence to suggest he does. His mind is constantly racing, moving from one deal to the next, trying to get ahead and hit the jackpot. He’s a machete juggler where all of the machetes are on fire, and he’s prone to dropping them a little too frequently. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Movie Review (Non-Spoiler)

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Premise: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tells Rey “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” The line, along with many other plot developments, was read as director Rian Johnson’s overt message to fans to let go of any preconceived notions of what a Star Wars movie should be. It was a bold move, considering fans have done nothing but look to the original films, hoping to reclaim the glory and joy that they felt when Star Wars was at its peak. Continue reading

The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 303 – The Report & Marriage Story – Dickinson, Servant, Truth Be Told, Unbelievable, and Little Women (Guest: Ben Sears)

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OV303 – The Report & Marriage Story – Dickinson, Servant, Truth Be Told, Unbelievable, and Little Women (Guest: Ben Sears)

 

In this week’s episode, we welcome back our friend and OV contributor Ben Sears to help Tiny and I with double Adam Driver review of Amazon Studios’ The Report and Netflix’s Marriage Story. We also lightly touch on the Golden Globe nominations and the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Then, in Potpourri, we talk about Little Women, Netflix’s Unbelievable, Dickinson, Servant, and Truth Be Told.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 055 – OV B-Roll – “Status of Our Top Ten Lists” – Ben Fell Asleep in Knives Out, Screener Season, Frozen 2, and Plans for the Rest of the Year – December 10, 2019

Runtime: 1:59:03 Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Frozen II (2019) Movie Review

Frozen II (2019)

Premise: Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.

Look. When you’ve got one of the most profitable films of all time like Frozen in your back pocket, there’s bound to be talks of a sequel. This is 2019 after all, and the studio that made Frozen is Disney, who’s never met an original property it couldn’t shoehorn into a prequel, sequel, or spin-off. Not to mention the untold millions Disney has raked in from merchandising ever since – if you’ve gone a single Halloween since 2014 without seeing an Anna or Elsa or Olaf costume, you’re either lying, or weren’t paying attention. None of this is surprising. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Parasite (2019) Movie Review

Parasite (2019)

Premise: All unemployed, Ki-taek and his family take peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks, as they ingratiate themselves into their lives and get entangled in an unexpected incident. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: The King (2019) Movie Review

The King (2019)

Premise: Hal, wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life.

The King may not be the longest, the most plot-heavy, or even the most complicated movie of 2019, but it may be the most tedious to get through. Here’s a fun parlor game you can play with your friends: gather everyone together and turn on The King. The first person to either nod off or check his or her phone loses. Best of luck to you, because I would have failed this challenge within the first 30 minutes. Continue reading