Review by Camden Ferrell
Reggie Jackson is an icon in the sport of baseball. With his signature glasses and mustache, people would be remiss not to include Mr. October in a comprehensive history of America’s pastime. Reggie is a new documentary that details the career of Reggie Jackson and the struggles he has faced in his expansive time in baseball. This is a very informative movie that will reveal interesting things about Jackson that even major baseball fans might not know. However, the movie sometimes suffers from a lack of a clear vision that doesn’t know what it’s trying to say.
Reggie Jackson is an outfielder whose career started in 1967 and ended in 1987. In those two decades, he cemented his legacy as one of baseball’s greats. His story is also an interesting one due to the period in which he came to prominence. Beginning on the edge of the Civil Rights Movement, this movie is able to explore the nuances that came with being an athlete in turbulent times. He’s an interesting figure to examine, and he serves as a documentary subject with a lot of material.
The movie does one thing that many great documentaries do: it informs. This is as close to comprehensive as one can get to telling the story of Reggie Jackson and his rise to stardom. It feels like no detail is spared, and we are given a look into all of the major events of his career, what caused them, and what happened as a result. It does so without being exhausting which is the one danger of constantly delivering information and background in a documentary.
Jackson is also an interesting person even today. Currently working for the Astros, he is still a delight to watch on screen. His talking head interviews are insightful and entertaining. He is joined by other sports legends who help deliver commentary on their careers and the intermingling of sports and politics throughout their careers.
While great things are happening in this movie, the biggest flaw is its lack of focus. It begins by focusing strongly on the political landscape of the U.S. and how Black athletes navigated this period. It was fascinating to hear about all of the nuances they faced and how they tie their experiences into the many injustices faced by Americans today.
Unfortunately, the movie quickly shifts its focus onto Jackson’s career, seemingly abandoning all of its political commentary. It feels unfocused and abrupt, and it’s a tonal shift that could have benefitted from a more subtle or gradual transition. It feels like this flaw undermines both its political message and its exploration of Jackson’s career.
Reggie will be a great time for any and all baseball fans, but it’s still far from perfect. At 104 minutes, it can sometimes feel a little too informative, but it just feels unsure of what it wants to say as a film. Jackson had many strong opinions about the status of Black people in professional sports as well as in American society, but this gets muddled in the final execution of the movie.
Reggie is streaming on Amazon Prime March 24.
ALL THE WORLD IS SLEEPING -- Melissa Barrera is Quite Good in This Addiction Drama
Review by Camden Ferrell
Written and directed by Ryan Lacen, All the World Is Sleeping had its premiere at the 2021 New York Film Festival. What’s interesting about this movie is that it was made by Bold Futures New Mexico, a non-profit that works to incite policy change and the empowerment of women and people of color in the New Mexico area. Created with the help of 7 real life system-impacted and led by actor Melissa Barrera, this is an honorable attempt at telling a moving story of addiction that can sometimes fall short of its goal.
Charma is a product of generational addiction, dealing with the trauma of addiction through the memories of her mother. Now a mother herself, she finds herself falling into this same cycle of addiction, a force that threatens to separate her and her daughter. She must confront her past and find a way to move forward or risk losing her family and sending her daughter down a similar and devastating path. This is a story that details an issue that affects many people and deserves to be addressed. It’s nice to know about Bold Futures and their involvement with the story given its sensitive subject matter.
Lacen’s writing has some problems, but it is also indicative of a creative vision. He forgoes a traditional narrative approach to tell the story in a less conventional manner. It can have some cliché moments and beats that have been seen in this genre before. However, it does a decent job of alternating timelines and juggling with some of the more abstract scenes of internal monologue for Charma.
Most addiction movies live or die by its leading performance, and this is no different. Melissa Barrera has become widely known thanks to her roles in In the Heights and the two most recent installments of the Scream franchise. Viewers might be surprised to see a different side of her in this movie as she deals with the highs and many lows of drug addiction. She’s far from perfect, and she can sometimes oversell her performance, but she is quite great otherwise. I don’t think it’ll blow anyone away, but people might still be surprised.
Even though there is a lot working in this movie’s favor, it also takes some big missteps in its execution. It can be incredibly unbalanced at times and makes the film feel much longer than it actually is. While one must appreciate its attempt at abstract storytelling, it can also come off as a bit pretentious and jejune. The movie also seems to exhaust all of its best moments in its first act, and this can undermine everything that happens in the remaining part of the movie.
All the World Is Sleeping has commendable intent, but it has problems with execution that mitigate a lot of the great things happening throughout. Barrera is interesting to watch in this role, and while there is certainly more good than bad in this movie, it is also a bit disappointing. These are real people’s stories that deserve to be told, but it might have benefitted from a more balanced vision.
All the World Is Sleeping is in select theaters and on VOD March 17.
MONEY SHOT: THE PORNHUB STORY -- An Interesting Story Undermined by its Messy Execution
Review by Camden Ferrell
When it comes to online adult entertainment, there is one name that comes to mind for most people. It has been immortalized in modern culture for better or worse and has a signature drum intro that everyone from teenagers to middle aged adults will recognize. Money Shot: The Pornhub Story dives into the origins, functions, and controversy of the industry giant. From director Suzanne Hillinger, who most recently directed the COVID documentary Totally Under Control, her new movie is quite informative about certain aspects of Pornhub’s history but can often fall short of constructing a compelling and eye-opening narrative.
Despite bringing pleasure to countless people, one cannot deny that there is a darker side to Pornhub that has caused irreparable harm in one way or another. This documentary aims to dive into the controversy, the legal and ethical dilemmas, and the sex workers whose lives have been impacted by Pornhub and the industry as a whole. Even though the woes of this company has been featured prominently in the news, it is great to deliver a documentary that aims to create a comprehensive timeline of events. It’s a complicated issue with a lot of nuanced layers that viewers should learn more about.
With many documentaries, the way it constructs and tells its story is paramount to success, and I was disappointed by how disorganized it was in this movie. The different elements of the story being told weren’t flowing properly, and it mostly felt disjointed. There are some great ideas floating around but lose its effectiveness due to how messy the actually story was organized. It also bites off a little more than it can chew in a 90-minute runtime. It felt like it had to work in overdrive to try and cover all of the bases they included.
What it lacks in narrative competence it makes up for in its fairness. Pornhub and its controversies are a polarizing issue for many, and a movie like this could have easily swung in either bias’s direction. However, Hillinger does a fantastic job of giving ample consideration to both arguments about Pornhub’s actions and its effect on several groups of people. It doesn’t play like a persuasion piece, but it doesn’t skimp on its informative nature. No major revelations or bombshells are dropped, but it’s enough for the average viewer to take at face value to form an opinion.
One other thing I did appreciate was how tasteful the movie was despite its topic. It didn’t exploit any of the sex workers or victims of Pornhub in an emotionally manipulative way. It also doesn’t turn off viewers with gratuitous sexual content. Even though it is a movie about a pornographic website, the director makes sure that this documentary is as accessible to audiences as possible.
While I appreciate Money Shot: The Pornhub Story for its handling of complex and mature material, it mostly fails on a superficial level. The themes and intent were as strong as could be, but the movie just couldn’t take those elements to craft an engaging narrative, and that is a shame considering the material that was provided. It may be worth watching for general information about this story, but many might fail to be entertained in a way a scandalous documentary like this should do.
Money Shot: The Pornhub Story is streaming on Netflix March 15.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Bobby Farrelly has made a name for himself as a directing duo with his brother Peter, directing comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. Now, he is embarking on his solo directorial debut with Champions, based on the 2018 Spanish film Campeones. This movie is incredibly conventional and undoubtedly too long, but it’s hard not to be charmed by the film’s cast and feel-good story.
Marcus is a basketball coach, working as an assistant in a low-level league after losing his position at Ohio State years prior due to his behavior. After being arrested for drunk driving, he is court ordered to coach a basketball team of players with intellectual disabilities. What seems like an impossible and taxing chore soon proves to be a worthy experience as he learns to love his players and help them achieve success that he never thought possible. It’s a nice premise that has a formula that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it’s great that the movie showcases an interesting group of individuals in the process.
Written by Mark Rizzo, it’s an honorable first feature screenplay, and it has its problems, but it also has heart. It’s clear that his intentions are noble, and while he addresses some of the more complex questions that arise from its premise, there are still some aspects of the disabilities that could have been handled slightly better. Occasionally, there are some funny moments but like many mainstream comedies, it definitely loses a lot of steam in its final half as the emotional drama starts to kick in.
The cast is quite enjoyable in this. Woody Harrelson leads the movie as Marcus and brings his typical abilities to the screen without doing much more than that. He co-stars with Kaitlin Olson who isn’t given a lot to do in this movie but is still decent. The standouts are the players with disabilities who have great comedic timing and are endearing to root for. Madison Tevlin and Kevin Iannucci are the highlights even though each of them have a unique energy they bring to screen.
The one complaint that I imagine will be universal is its two-hour runtime. It is undeniable that it could have possibly shaved off half an hour, and this problem becomes very evident in act two. It’s not bad enough to sour the rest of the movie, but there are several moments that drag and ruin some great momentum and comedy. Despite this, the movie is incredibly charming and is light-hearted fare that will leave you feeling better than you came.
Champions may not be a classic, and it may share the same narrative and emotional beats as Farrelly’s other movies, but it’s still a fun time at the theaters. General audiences will have no trouble rooting for our protagonists as they work together and find success on the court, and they will enjoy Harrelson’s relationship and emotional journey as well. Nothing is really amazing in this movie, but not much is particularly bad either. At worst, this will be a movie you enjoy but forget shortly after you leave the theater.
Champions is in theaters March 10.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The circumstances surrounding a thriller movie are already frightening enough, but this intensifies when our protagonist finds themselves without one of their senses. This has been explored in movies like Hush and Bird Box, and Unseen is aiming to be another entry into this subcategory of film. In their feature directorial debut, Yoko Okumura delivers some exciting and brief thrills even if it is content to never test the limits of the genre.
Sam is a jaded gas station clerk, dealing with rude customers and a faulty drink machine. One day, she receives a call from Emily, a nearly blind woman who is trying to run from her abusive and murderous ex-boyfriend. Left without her glasses, Emily must rely on Sam via video call to help her escape the forest before her ex can find her. This is a simple premise that isn’t complex but has an interesting angle to make for some creative conflicts and storytelling.
Written by the relatively inexperienced duo of Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins, this movie has all the elements needed for an entertaining and somewhat mindless thriller. The dialogue is adequate and does the bare minimum in terms of exposition and character development. It may not be subversive with its plot, but it does have passion and genuine excitement for the premise, which is very interesting to see. It’s far from great, but this duo has a lot of potential, especially in this genre.
The cast is quite enjoyable too and does a lot of heavy lifting throughout the movie. The movie is co-led by Jolene Purdy and Midori Francis who play Sam and Emily, respectively. They have solid chemistry and are able to fit nicely within this genre. They’re able to convey strong panic, terror, and anxiety in an entertaining way, and they are usually fun to watch even when the movie might be lacking otherwise.
One of the highlights of this movie is Okumura’s execution of specific scenes throughout. They try and emphasize the interconnectedness of the two leads, and this is achieved through some really interesting editing. Clever split screens and great execution and timing create some cool moments that work on an aesthetic and more deep thematic level. More than anything, it looks great from a visual standpoint which helps amplify the quality of certain scenes in this movie.
Unseen is very short and knows exactly when to leave before overstaying its welcome. A tad too predictable, playing safely within the confines of the genre, this is still an enjoyable thriller if you ever get a chance to watch it. Maybe not a cinematic priority, this is still a movie most general audiences can enjoy just for the thrills and narrative restrictions placed on its characters.
Unseen is available on VOD March 7.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon are an Israeli directing duo that has previously made films such as The Farewell and Flawless. Their newest movie together is My Happy Ending, based on a play from late Israeli playwright Anat Gov. This is a movie about a serious issue many people face that can pack an emotional punch when it needs to but can often find itself missing on its comedic beats throughout.
Julia is a once-famous actress on the verge of a comeback. However, one day she finds herself at a nondescript hospital, seeking treatment due to her recent cancer diagnosis. Despite attempts to stay incognito, she meets a group of women who are all battling cancer together. With friendship, humor, and perseverance, these women come together over the course of one day to help Julia come to terms with her diagnosis and what to do next. This is an interesting premise that has the potential to speak to a lot of viewers while also delivering on some earned emotional moments throughout.
This is written by Rona Tamir, and it’s a noble attempt even if it isn’t great. This is her first feature screenplay, and that definitely shows at certain points in the movie. There are moments where the dialogue and flow of certain conversations can feel out of place with the structure of the 90 minute movie. Despite its flaws, there are still some great things happening with the writing and this is mostly shown in conjunction with the performances of the lead actresses.
Andie MacDowell leads this movie as Julia, and she gives a solid if forgettable performance. She does what is asked and nothing more, but for a movie like this, that’s all that an actress really needs to do. She doesn’t go above and beyond, but that is commensurate with everything else happening on screen. The movie has other decent performances from the likes of Sally Phillips and Rakhee Thakrar, but if anyone is the highlight, it’s Miriam Margoyles. She brings an adorable charm that can only come from someone of her age and experience and her moments throughout are the most delightful.
It's difficult to properly execute a comedic film dealing with a grave illness like cancer, and I want to say this movie gave its all. The directors are able to pull off surprisingly emotional moments, but the movie starts to show its weaknesses when it has to balance the comedy with those moments because it doesn’t always land as intended. Nothing in this movie was particularly bad, but it seems as if most people working on this movie were just operating a decent but not great level throughout.
My Happy Ending might be a cute escape for 90 minutes, and it might genuinely be helpful to those going through similar issues. It has its charms, and it certainly has a target demographic that will enjoy it more than others, but I’m afraid there isn’t much in this movie to make it memorable. It’s harmless, but it’s not something that will persist with me very long.
My Happy Ending is in theaters February 24.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA -- Jonathan Majors is a Perfect Kang in Another Solid MCU Entry
Review by Camden Ferrell
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is kicking off its Phase Five with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, its 31st movie overall. There have been universe-altering events since the last Ant-Man movie, and it’s time to finally give him another solo outing, and he is now exploring the Quantum Realm, something that has been teased for years now. Featuring an absolutely astounding turn from Jonathan Majors as Kang, this movie is playful and riveting even if it can be a little messy and unbalanced with its tone at times.
Scott Lang is now a household name thanks to his heroic actions in the last Avengers movie, but he still is dealing with the loss of five years of his life. His daughter, Cassie, is now an impassioned and intelligent teenager and also dealing with this loss of time. This movie sees Scott, Cassie, Hope, Hank, and Janet sucked into the dangerous and mysterious Quantum Realm where they must survive while also being pitted against the menacing and powerful Kang the Conqueror. This is an exciting premise since we know so little about the Quantum Realm and because Kang is such an iconic character that people have been dying to see adapted to the big screen.
From the start, the writing definitely embodies the same lighthearted tone from previous Ant-Man movies. However, one distinct difference is how fast paced it is from the start. It also doesn’t feel totally intentional. It almost seems like they’re rushing certain elements of the story to fit a certain time constraint which is strange considering the credits roll before the 2 hour mark. Regardless, fans of previous films will also enjoy the writing and jokes of this new entry.
The MVP by a mile is Jonathan Majors who plays Kang the Conqueror. When his casting was announced, nobody doubted for a second that he was the perfect choice, and Majors further confirms that with his performance. He’s daunting and takes command of every scene he’s in effortlessly. He has such subdued power but isn’t afraid to lash out in anger and show his range. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return to their titular roles with the same quality as they always have, but it would have been nice to have more screen time between the two of them. Kathryn Newton is a newcomer as Cassie, and she’s a nice addition to the cast that we should be seeing more from in the future.
The biggest problem with the movie is how it tries so hard to juggle its comical nature with the more serious aspects of the Quantum Realm. More times than not, this consists of comedic scenes that can somewhat undermine serious moments especially in scenes with Scott and Kang. However, the movie is extremely playful with this new world and creating unique and sometimes hilarious new characters that could only exist in this realm. Some of the effects early on are pretty bad, but for the most part, the VFX work for the Quantum Realm is quite good.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is going to please fans of the character’s previous films and might win over some new converts with the inclusion of Kang. The credits scenes are great and have me excited for the future, and there’s plenty to enjoy for comic book fans and general audiences as well. It might very well be the best Ant-Man movie and Jonathan Majors has already gone down as one of the best MCU antagonists of all time.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters February 17.
Review by Camden Ferrell
When You premiered on Lifetime in 2018, I don’t think anyone expected it to become the hit phenomenon it is today. Since then, we’ve followed Joe Goldberg on his deadly and obsessive path to find love, and it has riveted audiences with its endless twists. Season 4 of You is its weakest yet by a slim margin, but that doesn’t mean its not full of blood, steamy passion, and genuinely shocking moments.
Joe is no longer in Madre Linda. That life has been left behind, and he is now in Europe with a new name and new occupation. However, a new start doesn’t mean a relaxing life. He quickly finds himself involved with a group of obscenely wealthy socialites in London, but things take a deadly and mysterious turn very quickly. Following Joe has been a crazy journey thus far, but the show has to evolve to avoid becoming repetitive, so this premise is a decent change of pace for the series.
The biggest concern coming into this season is if the show would suffer due to one specific character not being with us anymore. This particular character, who I’m not naming to avoid spoilers to potential new viewers, was the highlight of the past two seasons, but this new season doesn’t suffer greatly in their absence. While it is hard saying goodbye to that character, their omission opened the door to a lot of interesting possibilities that the season explores occasionally.
Penn Badgley delivers another beguiling and sinister turn as Joe Goldberg. He’s as good as ever in this season, and he hasn’t lost any of his charm or calamity, and he definitely shines even where this season falls short. The new cast is decent for better or worse. I wasn’t sold on Charlotte Ritchie at first, but she definitely grew on me a lot by the end of the season. Lukas Gage also has a sizeable role that is hit or miss but has a chaotic energy that meshes well with the show’s style.
The main pitfall of this season is that it takes a gamble on a new type of story, and it works but not nearly as well as the past few seasons. More concerned with mystery than thrills and romance, this new season shakes things up for better or worse. It may not have viewers on the edge of their seats, and it might not satisfy their appetites for carnal passion, but it still is quite enjoyable and hard to turn off. The show has never been prestige television, but among all the changes, they still remember that entertaining their viewer comes first.
Even though the show is still quite bingeable (even more so than some television shows that I actually like better), it can feel a little slow at times. All episodes clock in under an hour, but it feels like the show wastes time occasionally. The pacing could be better throughout the season, and it feels like its climax is definitely rushed in some regards, but it manages to compensate for that with some excitement that made this guilty pleasure show so popular in the first place.
Dividing the season into two parts works really well, and the one month break will leave viewers with questions for sure. And even for viewers with the skills of an accomplished sleuth, the second half of the season has plenty of tricks up its sleeve that you will not see coming. Like most shows, there are a handful of moments that could have been executed better or changed for better effect, but this is the season we have, and it’s still far from unenjoyable.
You season 4 is different for better or worse. Despite being its weakest season, you never really long for previous seasons, because these new episodes still have a lot to enjoy throughout. The cast may not live up to the high bar set by previous characters, but Badgley looks as good as ever as he tries to navigate his new life in as bloodless a way as possible. Even though I’m against binging television, I found these 10 episodes to go down pretty smoothly.
The first 5 episodes of You season 4 are on Netflix February 9 with the final 5 episodes coming out on March 9. All 10 episodes are reviewed.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Full Time is a French drama movie that had its premiere at the 2021 Venice Film Festival where it won the Venice Horizons Award for Best Director and Best Actress. Since then, it has played countless festivals around the world and is set for a U.S. release this weekend. Led by a strong performance from Laure Calamy, this movie tells a simple yet compelling story about one mother against the backdrop of bigger and more timely issues.
Julie is a single mother, raising two young children. She wakes them up early every morning and drops them off with a family friend as she catches the early train to work as a maid at a luxurious hotel. Barely able to pay her bills and support her family, she gets the opportunity to interview for a more desirable job. This job would give her the opportunity to support her kids and give them a better life. However, as she tries to navigate her current job, her prospective job, and her kids, she finds her situation is made all the more difficult by a national transit strike.
Written and directed by Eric Gavel, this script is minimal in its setup and plot, but that allows for the audience to focus on Julie as a character more. While her frustrations with her current situation and the country’s transportation problems are compelling and add layers of suspense to the story, more than anything, this is a story about one woman. It’s not so much a story about what she does but why she does them. It’s simple yet endlessly endearing, and it’s a case study in less being more in terms of screenwriting.
Laure Calamy leads the film as Julie, and she is a perfect fit for this role. She has proven herself to be a charismatic actor who can handle drama and emotion very well. She has an inviting screen presence which allows the viewer to empathize more and feel her frustration. She compels the audience to be invested in her constant problems and revel in her small victories. The supporting cast is decent, but they really aren’t given much to do. The entire burden of the movie almost falls entirely on Calamy as a performer.
The movie briefly takes notice of the national issues that affect our protagonist, but it never is the focus of the movie. It’s conscious of the struggles workers face, but the movie isn’t interested in making some grand political statement but rather examining the effect it has on a single woman over the course of an imperative few days. It’s large scope and small focus is what makes this such an interesting movie. It may not be perfect, and it may have some slower moments, but it’s captivating to join Julie on her quest for a better life.
Full Time is a great sophomore feature from Gravel and another showcase for Calamy’s charming talents. It’s minimal, but it will resonate with most audiences as Calamy delivers a convincing lead performance that propels the movie through its brief run time.
Full Time is in theaters February 3.
THE CIVIL DEAD -- A Quirky Indie Movie With Creativity and Occasional Shortcomings
Review by Camden Ferrell
Sundance is one of the most famous indie film festivals in the world and while this yearly festival goes on, there is another festival happening in Utah at the same time. The Slamdance Film Festival is a festival that specializes in low-budget independent productions, giving a voice to creators who might otherwise fly under the radar. The Civil Dead is one such movie that premiered in January 2022 at Slamdance. Directed by Clay Tatum, this is a movie that feels like the epitome of quirky indie productions which is both its biggest virtue and its occasional flaw.
Clay is a jaded photographer living a life of mundanity in Los Angeles. While his wife is out of town, he tries to combat his creative block and unemployment and runs into an old friend from back home named Whit. However, he soon discovers something about Whit that leads to an unsettling series of events for Clay. This is a great and simple setup that is actually quite creative for an indie production, but it’s an angle that I’m not going to divulge in this review.
Written by Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, this movie is charming and fresh. The humor in this script is more subtle than explicit and this works at times but not at others. Regardless, it’s hard to deny that this script was written by two people with a passion for creation that counteracts the protagonist’s own ennui. It is far from perfect, but it at least strives to be unique and distinguish itself from the large amount of indie movies that come out every year.
This movie stars Tatum and Thomas as the two leads, and their chemistry is what really makes this movie shine. Even when the script has its problems and there are problems with execution, they both still play off of each other very well. Their performances aren’t revolutionary by any means, but they fit perfectly with the characters they’re playing.
Despite a really interesting premise, there are times where the film’s monotony can become too much for the viewer. It’s full of quirky indie sensibilities that make it interesting but can also be too indulgent for its own good. It has interesting themes that will resonate with certain demographics better than others, and it has more working for it than against it.
The Civil Dead is an indie movie that gives one hope for the future of independent cinema even if it is flawed. It’s far from great, but it’s a nice indie feature that shows off the creative talents of its writers and director, and even if you don’t like this movie, you will probably be rooting for these guys and their careers in the future.
The Civil Dead is in theaters February 3.