YUSUF HAWKINS: STORM OVER BROOKLYN -- An Essential Documentary About the Tragic Loss of Yusuf Hawkins
Review by Camden Ferrell
With the continued fight for racial justice and equality, it seems that Muta’Ali Muhammad’s newest film could not have come at a better time. His documentary Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn may revolve around the horrific events of August 23, 1989, but it bears strong relevance in today’s climate. With a moving subject, insightful interviews, and great organization, this documentary is a success in showing the extent one boy’s death has on his community.
Yusuf Hawkins was a black teenager who was murdered in Bensonhurst by a group of white teenagers. After his death, a community in mourning banded together to protest and start a revolution that would galvanize the public. Muhammad’s documentary has a solid foundation in a tragic yet well-known event that serves as a branching off point for exploring many different stories and themes.
Muhammad compiles plenty of interviews from Yusef’s family and friends as well as Al Sharpton, and he intercuts these interviews with archival footage and news clips that effectively tell Yusef’s story in real time while simultaneously being a retrospective look for the interviewees. He has a strong talent for organizing this documentary in a way that is coherent yet never cookie-cutter or boring.
The interviews are very moving, and it’s clear that these events are still emotional for the subjects, and that’s a sentiment that transcends beyond the screen and to the viewers. A lot of the archival footage of Yusef’s family is especially difficult to watch because it’s such raw emotion that is genuine and powerful. We see Yusuf’s mother and father as they must grieve their son’s death and also maintain a strong media presence as the fight for justice continues.
What’s important to note is that the dates of these significant events are shown, and they are very recent. We see the year 1989 and 1990 a lot, and it serves as a reminder that this racism and injustice is more recent than many would like to believe. It’s jarring to think that even my parents were older than Yusuf at the time of his murder, and it enforces the subsequent call to action this film has. In light of recent events, this movie’s message is even more relevant.
While the movie does a great job of honoring Yusuf’s legacy through the testimony of his family and friends, I feel the movie could have spent more time in exploring his character and the more intricate details of his life and personality. Regardless, this movie is a tragic story of a life taken far too soon, but it also serves as a reminder about the power of community, the power of protest, and how one person can start a movement.
Muhammad’s documentary highlights how far this country is from achieving justice, and it’s an enraging look at how this country continues to fail black people. While the frustration with the systemic racism in this country is recurring, Muhammad never strays away from exploring the positive actions of Yusuf’s community. He highlights how they remained fervent even in the face of adversity and prejudice, and it reminds the audience that there is strength in numbers.
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn is a necessary watch for all. Despite its TV-MA rating, this may be something to watch and discuss as a family. It is full of highly relevant messages and themes, and it’s also just a very well-made and entertaining documentary. It packs an emotional punch, and it reminds us that we’re still a long way from achieving justice and equality for all.
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn is premiering on HBO 8/12 at 9pm EST. It will also be available on HBO and HBO Max.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The Con is a new mini-series directed by Eric S. Vaughan that was written by Patrick Lovell and Vaughan. The series consists of five episodes which each explore the cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis. While this series is well-researched and very informed, it often suffers from its poor execution that muddles its ideas and extensive knowledge.
This series looks at the various aspects that led to the financial crisis, who was involved, and it really tries to uncover why the system failed, and why it’s bound to happen again. This topic is one that has been covered a lot in television in film in the past few years, and this series aims to take it a step further by reaching back multiple decades in its search for the true cause of the crash. While new information is presented, it does seem like it repeats a lot of similar points that are common knowledge at this point.
The organization of the series is mostly coherent even if there are some jumbled up ideas in each episode. Episode 1 focuses a lot on the death of Addie Polk who tragically committed suicide before she could be forcefully evicted from her home. From there, the Vaughan and Lovell start to branch out into related ideas and reoccurring motifs. Most episodes follow this format and have a central idea, but sometimes within each episode, its structure can be inconsistent and fairly draining.
While the main emotional drive of the series come from the interviews that focus on individuals who were directly affected by the crash, the best interviews comes from those with inside knowledge. The interviewees from Wall Street, the SEC, and the like provide a lot of relevant insight into the actions that led to the crash, and this is typically the best part of each episode. However, one can commend Lovell’s own inclusion in the series since the crash personally affected him in drastic ways. There’s a lot of pathos in its rhetoric, but it’s an angle that loses its effectiveness with each episode.
The series quickly becomes a jargon filled mess that can lose focus. It’s clear that the writers are extremely knowledgeable about the events leading up to the crash, but they’re not always the most effective in communicating these ideas. Even though some basic knowledge of the crash will be sufficient, some viewers may still have a hard time with the concepts presented in the series.
The runtime is also very bloated. The five episodes span around six hours, and it doesn’t really feel warranted. Many ideas feel repetitive, and the series consistently feels overly long. There are sections that don’t feel necessary, and it doesn’t seem like time is always allocated properly. Again, this is a series that tries to reach far back into America’s economic history, but it still doesn’t feel like it earns its length.
The show comes off as the equivalent of a really dense textbook. The content is all there, the writers are very knowledgeable, but it’s not necessarily entertaining most of the time even if you are learning new information. It’s a noble attempt at exploring the crisis in depth and warning us of what’s to come, but it’s nothing groundbreaking.
The Con is informational if nothing else. It might be of interest to those who were affected by the crash and want closure or those who are interested in that aspect of the economy. However, this is a series that the average viewer will not particularly enjoy. It’s ambitious, but the result is a series that rehashes a lot of points and feels far too long for what it has to say.
The Con is now available virtually online. A list of participating theaters can be found here.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Yes, God, Yes is a coming of age comedy that had its premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It is the feature directorial debut of Karen Maine. This is one of the most refreshingly clever takes on adolescence in years, and it’s one that succeeds from Maine’s candid execution and Natalia Dyer’s fantastic leading performance.
In this movie, Alice is a teenager attending a Catholic school in the early 2000’s. We see the hallways lined with posters promoting abstinence and pro-life sentiments, her teacher is a priest who tells them that those who have premarital sex and masturbate will face eternal damnation, and she is as sheltered as it gets. However, after an AOL chat, she discovers masturbation and must deal with these urges while on a retreat with her classmates. This is a story that is so realistic and ripe for commentary and comedy, and Maine uses this premise to its fullest extent to create a great narrative.
Maine’s script is impressive to say the least. It makes it a point to really recreate the atmosphere of the early 2000’s without using nostalgia as a crutch. The way she crafts the character’s dialogue in regard to sex and her obliviousness to vulgar slang is charming and very tastefully done. It doesn’t overemphasize and exploit its racier themes and moments, and it frames it in a light that feels very reminiscent of the talks many of us have undoubtedly had at some point or another. The script is a triumph in realism, and it's full of plenty awkward and funny moments as well.
The acting throughout is very good, but the obvious standout is from Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) as Alice. Dyer takes on this character gracefully, and she really plays off all of the innocent qualities of Alice and convincingly portrays her increasing lustful desires throughout. I think it’s a unique role, and it’s one that requires a delicate and proper performance, and Dyer delivers on all fronts.
What’s best about this movie is how accessible it is to those who are unfamiliar with Catholic ideology and the retreats that are often part of that experience. Despite its religious themes and overtones, it’s still an honest teen comedy that allows all members of the audience to take part in Alice’s moral dilemma and really relate to it in one way or another. Maine has a special way of speaking to the audience and making us feel seen through the way she executes a scene.
Even though it’s accessible to all, this movie will definitely resonate with those raised in a Catholic household. Having been on some of these retreats in my adolescence, there are some scenes in this movie that made me cringe just because of how realistic Maine nailed these aspects of Catholicism. The movie is packed with awkward conversations and uncomfortable and hormone-soaked interactions, and it really makes the movie what it is. It may honestly be too authentic at times, but it’s very well-done.
The movie also does a great job of showing the inherent hypocrisy in Catholic organizations and its members as well as the need for personal choice and free will when dealing with religion. Maine does this without discrediting the idea of religion, and her themes and messages really aren’t objectionable. This movie is a letter to every teenager who feels like they’re lost, confused, or doomed to Hell, and it let’s them know that it’s okay to feel that way. Maine created this movie to tell their story.
Yes, God, Yes may not be for everyone, but this is one of the best movies this year, and it’s one of the most honest portraits of adolescence and religion in a very long time. Maine’s film is one of the best directorial debuts in recent memory, and this movie benefits significantly from her fresh perspective. It’s a movie about a teenage girl, written by a woman, and it’s a story that only she could tell so convincingly.
Yes, God, Yes is currently available at virtual cinemas (a list can be found here) and will be available on VOD July 28.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The Kissing Booth 2 is the sequel to the successful albeit offensively problematic Netflix film The Kissing Booth. With Vince Marcello returning to direct, this sequel is a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it is still an extremely flawed film that once again fails to craft a meaningful story or characters.
In this film, Elle is now high school senior who must juggle the demands of her life with her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. This film doesn’t focus as much on the titular booth, and it instead opts to explore multiple plot lines including Elle’s best friend and a new handsome student at school. This premise is once again logically flawed, but beyond that, it’s a cliché set up that is half-baked at best.
To be fair, the writing is still quite abysmal, but Marcello and Jay S. Arnold’s script avoids many of the problematic moments of the first. It doesn’t sexualize Elle nearly as much, and it doesn’t have a creepy aura like the first one that merely writes-off moments of sexual harassment and misogyny. However, even though its slow progress, there are plenty of ways for the script to be better. The dialogue is stale and predictable, and it features all of the lazy tricks and plot devices that have been used countless times before.
As the lead, Joey King still gives it her all even if it comes off as a bit over the top. I imagine that this is just the style of the movie, but it isn’t always executed very well. The rest of the cast is quite forgettable and supporting actors like Jacob Elordi feel like they’re completely phoning in their roles. The addition of actors like Taylor Zakhar Perez are welcome, but they still can’t stand out from the rest of the cast in any meaningful way.
After the commercial success of the first film, it seems there wasn’t a lot of effort put into making this a more virtuous feature. It still possesses the same teen comedy tropes and antics that you would expect, and it still features some heinous interactions and pandering that feel quite cheap even for a teen movie. Even its improvements fail to succeed on its own, and it merely makes the film look better only when being compared to its predecessor.
While the film definitely does a better job at not explicitly and disgustingly objectifying its female characters, it still doesn’t develop them. There is no meaningful growth; it’s all superficial, and every female character is only presented through their relationships to the male characters. To say it’s misogynistic like the first film might be a stretch, but the film has no interest in properly telling stories from the woman’s perspective, and this leads the film to becoming forgettable at best.
The movie also bites off way more than it can chew. There are quite a few separate plot lines to the point where the actual kissing booth is hardly mentioned throughout. Some of these plot lines seem like overkill and really lazy and forced inclusion and diversity. This directly contributes to the film’s bloated runtime, and it never really feels earned at all. Even though some of these moments have some mildly entertaining crescendos, it doesn’t make up for a lot of wasted time.
The Kissing Booth 2 may be an improvement, but it is still a movie that will appeal to a very specific demographic and not much else. King tries her best as a leading actress, but it doesn’t make up for a weak premise, lazy writing, and a cast that has already outgrown this series.
The Kissing Booth 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Days of the Whale had its premiere at the 2019 SXSW International Film Festival. It has also played at other festivals such as the Chicago Latino Film Festival. This film is the directorial debut of Colombian writer and director Catalina Arroyave Restrepo. This film uses its simplicity and brevity to its advantage to tell a story about artistic spirit and rebellion through its protagonists.
In this film, Cristina and Simon are two young graffiti artists in Medellín, Colombia. When a local gang paints a threat over a wall, they both set out to defy them by painting over it with a mural of their own. This movie wonderfully captures many universal ideas and themes through its simple premise while also infusing some aspects of modern Colombian social relations and culture.
Arroyave’s script is one that revels in its ability to be subtle. It’s not a flashy script full of complex dialogue and excessive banter. It finds beauty in the simple exchanges of its characters, and it creates tension through its limited dialogue as well. In her first movie, she has already proven she knows how much dialogue is sufficient in telling her story. She never explicitly explains anything that she doesn’t have to. It’s well-written, and all of the dialogue helps characterizes its protagonists and progress its plot forward.
The acting in this movie is mostly really great. Newcomer Laura Tobón, who plays Cristina, gives a fantastic debut performance. She has a rather captivating screen presence that succeeds mostly due to her natural ability as an actress and the nonchalant nature of her character. She has a special way of conveying emotions in such an authentic way, and it’s one of the film’s best traits. Alongside her, David Escallón plays Simon, and while he is mostly decent, he does often pale in comparison to Tobón’s performance.
The movie also comes off as energetic thanks to Arroyave’s direction as well as the cinematography of David Correa. He knows how to wonderfully capture the scenes in which the protagonists are painting and creating the mural, and he also can capture the manic energy that arises from the gang-related violence and tension in the film.
However, this movie isn’t perfect. While it succeeds in many regards, there are moments that feel less crucial than others in this movie. The home lives of the protagonists are interesting, but it seems like we’re not getting nearly enough context through them, and the film may have benefitted from extending these moments or cutting it down to the minimum. The film’s quick runtime also doesn’t give a lot of room for the plot to grow incrementally, and this leads to the film ending with audiences craving more, which is arguably a good problem to have.
Fortunately, the movie makes up for its flaws with how it uniquely captures what it means to grow up, rebel, and love, but it also manages to incorporate aspects of Medellín’s gang culture and social problems. It’s a poignant story that feels relatable mostly due to Tobón’s performance, and it’s one that suggests an incredibly bright future for her as well as Arroyave.
Days of the Whale has its flaws, but it succeeds in being a great coming of age film as well as a great exploration of the spirit of youth. Arroyave’s debut film is an impressive one that proves she will soon become a truly great director that’s worth keeping on your radar.
Days of the Whale will be having its virtual premiere on July 24, and locations can be found here.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton premiered off-Broadway in 2015 and has since become a global phenomenon, winning 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2016. Now, it has arrived on Disney+ as a live stage recording directed by two-time Emmy winner Thomas Kail (Grease Live!). This live recording utilizes stylish and confident cinematography and editing to brilliantly capture the mesmerizing performances in one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all-time.
Compiled from live recordings in June of 2016, this musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, from his beginnings in the Revolutionary War all the way to his role in the infancy of the United States. This story is told using music that is rooted deeply in genres of hip-hop, pop, and R&B. This is a historically rich story that is further elevated by its unique approach, consistent wit, and its profound exploration of its themes.
Written by Miranda, this is one of the most impressively written musicals that I have ever seen. Not only does it consolidate a sizable portion of American history in a comprehensive and accessible way, the musical also succeeds in its characterization of historical figures. The songs of this musical range from being comical to empowering and to being heartbreakingly human. It’s a juggling act that has never been executed so masterfully, and this is mostly due to Miranda’s lyrical prowess that doesn’t falter throughout the musicals 160-minute runtime.
Every performance in this musical is captivating, but there are some actors that definitely stand apart from the crowd. Daveed Diggs’ (Blindspotting) dual turn as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson is as convincing as it is infectiously enjoyable. He makes his mark with one of the musical’s best numbers, Guns and Ships. The musical also benefits greatly from its soulful and superbly talented actresses. Renée Elise Goldsberry gives mesmerizing performances as Angelica Schuyler in songs like Satisfied while Phillipa Soo does some remarkable things as Eliza Hamilton in songs such as Burn.
This is one of those rare musicals that have no weak links. Every aspect of the show is finely tuned down to its transitions, choreography, and blocking of each scene. It flows in such a way that the film quickly becomes immersive, and its lengthy runtime passes like a breeze. Kail’s direction allows the camera to move around with purpose without taking us out of the experience, and it allows the audience to become more acquainted and emotionally invested with its characters. It’s a live recording done right, and it’s a perfect example of elevating the source material through cinematography and consistently brilliant editing.
While Act 1 of the film is easily its most energetic and most musically catchy section, Act 2 is a human and thought-provoking testament to Hamilton’s legacy that makes the musical what it is today. Miranda creates a dichotomy that is seldom seen in musicals, and it is one that is pulled off so elegantly. Act 1 boasts powerful and musically epic numbers such as Alexander Hamilton, My Shot, and Right Hand Man, but this is balanced by Act 2’s selections such as The Reynolds Pamphlet, It’s Quiet Uptown, and The World is Wide Enough. Miranda has an amazing gift for showcasing the significance of Hamilton on U.S. history and his relationships with the other founding fathers while also presenting his shortcomings as a person in multiple aspects of his own life.
In addition to the brilliance of its musical complexity, relevant themes, and its performances, this movie’s success will hopefully usher in a new age of Broadway musicals being available to viewers at home. This is a show that isn’t the most financially accessible for many people, but this live recording has bridged the gap that exists between the musical and its audience. While it may not be the same as seeing the show live on Broadway, it’s still a captivating and endlessly entertaining experience that will amaze audiences this holiday weekend.
Hamilton is a musical triumph that stands out as one of the best Broadway productions, and it is one that benefits from Miranda’s one of a kind exploration of its fascinating subject. It is great for first-time viewers (such as myself), but it is evident that this musical will have immense potential for repeat viewings. This musical alone justifies the cost of creating or continuing your Disney+ subscription. This is the best film of 2020, and it’s one that can provide much needed entertainment during this difficult time.
Hamilton is currently streaming on Disney+.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Mope is the feature directorial debut of Lucas Heyne. The film had its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. This movie adapts an absurd but true story with a B-movie aesthetic that doesn’t always work, but it does boast some decent performances and shocking imagery.
In this film, we see the expansive and intimidating world of pornography through the perspective of two mopes. A mope is conveniently defined as someone who is a bottom-tier porn actor who typically has to do the dirtiest most undesirable work available. These two mopes, Steve Driver and Tom Dong, are seeking fame and glory, but they quickly realize they are in over their heads.
This film has a fascinating premise. The world of porn is seedy in multi-faceted ways, and it’s a captivating and not often seen backdrop to many movies. Since this movie is based on real life, it makes the depravity of its characters and the shock value of its imagery all more effective. Heyne’s first feature has plenty of faults, but his fearlessness in venturing into this world is highly commendable. It’s daring nature is one of the film’s most admirable attributes.
The acting in this film is fairly decent throughout. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Steve, and he is definitely the film’s most prominent character. There’s a lot of pressure put on his character to carry the movie, and while Stewart-Jarrett doesn’t always hit the mark, he continuously delivers some raw and ferocious energy that elevate the film. Kelly Sry’s performance as Tom isn’t nearly as energetic, but it does have its moments. The film also features some great supporting performances from Brian Huskey and a brief but derogatory David Arquette.
The script, written by Heyne and Zack Newkirk, isn’t especially strong. It tries its best to emulate the bland and exaggerated dialogue in the porn industry, but it’s a style of writing that is still present in some of the non-pornographic scenes. A movie like Boogie Nights is able to feature purposefully bad porn dialogue with some well-written scenes, but Mope usually fails to do the same. The dialogue doesn’t do too much to develop its characters, and some situations don’t work within the context of the narrative.
It is undeniable that Heyne had a particular vision when crafting this film. It’s brave, and it’s unfiltered pornographic insanity. It’s one of the most graphic films that I have seen in many years, and there are definitely some intense scenes throughout. It’s a provocative film that will put off a large number of viewers, but for those who are willing to stick with it, there may be some joy to find in this director’s creative choices. While the film is riddled with flaws, this is still a promising debut from Heyne.
The film doesn’t always make the most effective use of its time, but it does convey a clear message. It’s a typical story about the dangers of ambition, greed, and its ensuing moral corruption. Its easy to forget that this movie is based on real events especially during its crazy final act. There are a lot of aspects that this film doesn’t execute well, but it’s still made up mostly by its themes, energy, and vision.
Mope is intense, shocking, and not for the weak of heart or stomach. It’s a movie that doesn’t let the audience rest for more than a few minutes before subjecting them to more aggressive visuals. The script may be lacking, and the execution isn’t all there, but this movie may be worth checking out for its sheer ability to take risks.
Mope is available on VOD June 16.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The British comedy-drama, Sometimes Always Never, serves as the feature directorial debut of Carl Hunter. This movie had its premiere back in 2018 at the London Film Festival. Even though the movie doesn’t make the most of its brief runtime, a confident and consistently strong Bill Nighy gives this movie a strong backbone.
After the disappearance of his son decades earlier after a heated game of Scrabble, Alan has spent years looking for him. When Alan needs to identify a body at a morgue, he is joined by his other son, Peter as they try and repair their damaged relationship. This premise is interesting, but it is most useful in giving its characters depth and long-lasting wounds that the film aims to explore throughout.
Frank Cottrell Bryce’s script does a decent job of using these events to underly the main focus of this movie which is the character’s emotional baggage and their own interactions. Despite its fairly serious subject matter, the film’s protagonist is an avid Scrabble player, and this gives the film its own unique quirk. The game quickly becomes metaphorical in more ways than one, and it proves to be a creative way to establish character traits.
The film succeeds in large part due to its performances. Bill Nighy plays Alan, and he is the driving force behind the movie. He plays a deeply troubled man, but the way the Nighy masks it through his affinity for Scrabble and his attitude towards his family is rather interesting. The film also benefits from the great supporting performance from Sam Riley who plays Alan’s son Peter. His rocky relationship with Nighy’s character is clearly strained, and both actors do a great job of portraying this turmoil.
The movie does aim to balance its comedy and drama with mixed results. Bryce’s script is undoubtedly witty, and Hunter does employ some quirky visual techniques, but there are times when its comedy can somewhat undermine the serious themes of the film. Luckily, the movie doesn’t go out of its way for a punchline, so the script does feel more natural as a result.
Hunter’s first outing as a feature film director is far from perfect, but it is definitely promising. He has a distinct visual style that sometimes evokes a rather famous idiosyncratic filmmaker. Some moments come off as derivative of an overused style, but there are some really creative visual choices that give the film a unique style.
The biggest flaw with this film is how it allocates its brief ninety minutes. There is a subplot about Alan’s grandson and his love life (the title of the movie comes from these scenes), but it feels inconsequential to the events of the rest of the film. The movie doesn’t devote nearly enough time to Alan and Peter’s strained relationship or the long-term effects of trauma. This is a choice that makes the movie narratively inconsistent and somewhat shallow. Regardless, the movie does have enough virtues in its acting and visual style to overcome these shortcomings.
Sometimes Always Never isn’t the profound family drama that it could have been, but it’s a sweet and simply story that is propelled by Nighy’s fantastic leading performance. It’s a promising albeit imperfect debut from Hunter, and it may be worth a watch upon release.
Sometimes Always Never premieres via Virtual Cinema June 12.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Premiering at the 2019 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, iHuman is the newest film from Norwegian director Tonje Hessen Schei. This film makes an ambitious attempt at consolidating a complex topic for viewers, and even if the results can be mixed at times, this is a timely, informative, and troubling documentary.
This film deals with the rise of artificial intelligence, how it is being used presently, and its future capabilities. It includes interviews from some of the leading experts in this field, and it features some examples of the current uses of AI. It’s a timely premise that needs to be explored thoroughly as we enter this unprecedented and uncertain age of technology in the years to come.
The direction of this movie was generally solid from start to finish. It’s a fairly well-organized film in terms of its structure, and Hessen Schei has a knack for creating some interconnections between all of the film’s elements. The message and agenda of Hessen Schei is noble and significant, and the way the film was pieced together is able to convey these ideas effectively.
The interviews themselves are hit or miss. Some of the interviews, like with the father of modern AI Jürgen Schmidhuber, are really interesting. However, there are some other interviewees that aren’t nearly as interesting and don’t add much to the film qualitatively. Luckily, the topic is far from tired, so all of the perspectives are at least directly concerned with a fascinating topic.
The main problem with this film is how broad its aim is. It tries to explore a sizeable chunk of the field of AI and modern technology, that it can feel intimidating. The film seems to bite off way more than it can chew in its runtime, and some sections feel superficial as a result. The topic is so interesting that the runtime could have well-exceeded two hours without losing its momentum or insight.
With what information it does present, it’s absolutely captivating and relevant. Even if its presentation isn’t as polished as it could have been, the themes and ideas discussed are important for this exact moment. There are a lot of great sections about current facial recognition technology and how this can be used against the public.
Even though it’s a documentary, it’s a tense film that will make you feel uneasy. It begs the question of what governments and corporation are capable to do with this revolutionary technology. It makes us question our own safety and security in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. The film allows you to see that AI can either be the greatest invention ever or mankind’s final invention.
There are some moments that feel hollow, and the exploration of its subjects are somewhat superficial, but iHuman is an undoubtedly relevant documentary. It’s worrying, but it’s supposed to be. There is much more the learn about AI after watching, but this film should be a decent starting point for viewers.
iHuman is premiering as a part of the online edition of the 2020 Hot Docs Film Festival.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Scoob! is the newest animated movie featuring the beloved Mystery Inc. This movie comes from veteran animation director Tony Cervone. While this movie earns a few points for its attempt to set itself apart from previous incarnations of these characters, but it ultimately fails at being as funny and charming as one would hope.
In this newest adventure, our characters find themselves faced with their greatest threat yet. With the help of superheroes Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, the gang must stop Dick Dastardly from unleashing a “dogpocalypse” on the world. This story is a departure from the typically more contained adventures of Mystery Inc., but it still had the potential to explore our characters while amping up their stakes.
The overall execution of most of the scenes feels mostly uninspired. The timing feels out of place in a lot of its scenes, and the physical comedy doesn’t land with its intended impact. The scenes of action aren’t particularly enthralling either, and they don’t properly take advantage of its grandiose potential. It’s not bad in any way, but these scenes could have been carried out in a more engaging and lively manner. Luckily, this is somewhat made up with its occasionally astounding animation and color pallete.
The acting in this film is a heavily mixed bag. This movie unfortunately mostly opts for onscreen talent in place of traditional voice actors. Zac Efron gives a forgettable and pretty underwhelming performance as Fred. Amanda Seyfried and Gina Rodriguez are equally forgettable in their roles as Daphne and Velma respectively. Thankfully, Frank Welker returns to give a fairly decent performance as Scooby-Doo even if it pales in comparison to some of his other work. One of the more interesting performances comes from Will Forte who plays Shaggy. This is a hard character to nail, and it’s one of the most iconic characters in animation. While Forte is a talented voice actor and his performance is solid, it feels slightly out of place as Shaggy.
The movie does have some fun additions as well. It includes Blue Falcon and Dynomutt from their 1976 series, and they are played by Mark Wahlberg and Ken Jeong. Wahlberg gives a surprisingly great performance as Blue Falcon, and he’s a funny and charming addition to the cast. Unlike the rest of the actors, Wahlberg has great comedic timing and vocal inflection that makes the role more memorable than the others.
There are a lot of creative departures, but the movie seems to always make attempts at capturing the charm and spirit of the series. These attempts are rather unsuccessful, and it deviates to levels that make the characters feel significantly distant from the ones with which we grew up. Despite being able to speak in full sentences since the 2010 series, Scooby-Doo’s dialogue in this movie feels misplaced and gimmicky.
The film is also overfilled with pop culture references from Tinder to a brief rendition of “Shallow” from A Star is Born. It feels like the writers lazily throwing adult viewers a bone to satiate them as they watch with their children. It gets tired, and it doesn’t do much to enhance the film’s already week script.
Scoob! is not a movie that will make you feel nostalgic or greatly entertained. While it has its occasional virtues, it is a mostly lifeless and derogatory animated adventure that will probably appeal mostly to young viewers.
Scoob! is now available on VOD.