Review by Camden Ferrell
In 2010, Despicable Me was released in theaters and Minions became a global phenomenon. One can see them in all successive movies as well as on merchandise and in theme parks. They had their first solo outing in 2015’s Minions and are about to embark on their second solo movie Minions: The Rise of Gru. You should know what to expect going into this movie, and for those who are willing to sit back and go along for the ride, you will be treated with a silly, adorable, and quite hilarious family film that surpasses its predecessor.
At the end of their first movie, the Minions meet their future boss Gru. This movie, as one can interpret from its title, follows the ascension of Gru to villainous prominence, but this is still a Minions movie more than anything. I think the introduction of Gru to the narrative helps things feel more grounded, but it’s great that the Minions still command the spotlight in their own movie.
While on the surface, the writing appears to be on par with other entries in this franchise, it seems that they’ve finally cracked the code to writing a movie starring characters who speak their own language. Since Minionese is their primary form of communication, the movie relies heavily on physical comedy and interaction, and this sequel does a great job of balancing this out with its own narrative and human characters. This prevents it from feeling tired or repetitive as the original could often fall victim to such a flaw.
This movie features familiar actors and new ones as well who are great additions to the series. Pierre Coffin lends his voice to the army of Minions and is just as good as ever. Steve Carell returns as Gru and is able to add a lot of comedy to the movie as well. New cast members that I really enjoyed consists of acclaimed actors like Michelle Yeoh, Alan Arkin, and Taraji P. Henson. The ensemble isn’t amazing, but they are fun and energetic additions to this movie.
While it doesn’t have Pixar levels of maturity, this is a movie that kids will definitely love due to its nonstop antics, but adults will also probably find much to enjoy in this harmless and hilarious film. Its message isn’t original or unique, but this movie never fails to make you smile thanks to a hefty dose of Minions in nearly every scene.
Minions: The Rise of Gru might be the best movie in this franchise so far, and it has plenty to enjoy from its great comedy, cute leading characters, and some fun cameos and easter eggs for fans of the series. As it gets hotter outside and schools are let out for the summer, this is definitely a good way to entertain yourselves in theaters this coming week.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is in theaters July 1.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Christos Nikou is a Greek director who has worked on great modern films like Before Midnight and Dogtooth, and Apples is his first time directing a feature-length film. It had its premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival and has been a part of numerous festivals since then. It was also Greece’s official submission for the Best International Film category at the Oscars in 2021. The movie boasts an intriguing premise that reminds one of the films of his contemporary Yorgos Lanthimos. However, the movie mostly fails to capitalize on the potential of its captivating and fresh ideas.
In a world that is both familiar and alien to the viewer, we see an unknown and unpredictable pandemic that causes people to suddenly develop amnesia. Aris is a man who is plagued with such an affliction. To combat this amnesia, he finds himself enrolled in a program that aims to help him recover and build a new life. From here, we see as he goes on this journey as he confronts memory and identity in this truly unique story. One thing that can’t be denied is how original and exciting this premise is as well as the potential for exploration of deep themes that it has.
One is instantly reminded of the movies of Yorgos Lanthimos from the start, and while it possesses an eerily similar framework and style, it often fails to capture the sensibilities and nuances of his films. It has more in common with a movie like Alps, a flawed movie with a highly original premise, than a film like Dogtooth for example. The script, written by Nikou and Stavros Raptis, is intentionally minimal, and its lack of dialogue isn’t supplemented sufficiently with material to uphold its message and momentum.
Its performances are decent more than anything, but they fail to make an impression. It’s a very deadpan and dour film that doesn’t always make it easy to showcase great performances, and this ensemble can’t do much to stand out in this world that was created. There are a handful of good moments from this cast, but this movie doesn’t really offer them much depth in these roles to truly be memorable.
The one aspect of the movie that was truly impressive was its cinematography. While there might not have been substance in the film’s execution, Bartosz Swiniarski proves how talented he is behind the camera. He is able to capture and frame this story in a way that is visually stunning and engaging to watch from start to finish.
Apples might not be the best feature directorial debut, but it’s one that draws inspiration from great movies. The set up and premise is top notch, but the film ultimately lacks in establishing substance and meaning through its execution. The cinematography is stunning, and the originality is admirable, but not much else stood out to me in this movie.
Apples is in theaters June 24.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard are both Emmy winning television veterans who have written for shows like Parks and Recreation, The Good Place, Master of None, among other modern classics. Their next outing is the new series Loot, a new series from Apple TV+. Despite having a strong leading actress, this show has all of the worst sensibilities of millennial culture and wastes its cast and premise on a show that falls into tired tropes and clichés.
Molly Novak ends her marriage of twenty years to an influential billionaire and suddenly finds herself 87 billion dollars richer. She attempts to enter the next stage of her life while also trying to adapt to her new environment and hopefully do some good with her money through philanthropy. Centering a show around an unfathomably rich billionaire definitely isn’t the most believable premise, and it’s not one that will initially elicit sympathy from its audience, but there’s still potential for wholesome themes and timely messages in this premise.
Unfortunately, the show makes it clear early on that it is content at being a barely superficial exploration of the issues at its core. It covers this in meandering subplots that don’t do much to progress its story and fail to inspire laughter more times than not. The script is riddled with overused dialogue, unfunny pop culture references, and an emotional core that doesn’t try to understand its characters particularly well.
The only saving grace of this show is its performances which still teeter on the cringe side a fair number of times. I personally, really enjoyed Maya Rudolph leading the show as Molly, but the mileage her performance gives will vary by viewer. Out of its large cast the other actors who stand out as being entertaining are MJ Rodriguez and Ron Funches. However, regardless of how charismatic these actors are, they are still fighting an uphill battle as the material they’re given isn’t particularly memorable.
This show features the most insufferable aspects of millennial television comedies, and it undermines that natural talent and chemistry of its cast. It will briefly touch on the social implications of its premise but fail to do anything substantial with that. It’s a show that doesn’t feel like it came from its creators who have been a part of some of the biggest modern T.V. comedies.
Loot might find itself a loving fanbase especially for those who are partial to its cast and style of humor, but some will find this comedy show to be lacking in laughs and depth. The jokes never land properly, the dialogue is unoriginal, and it doesn’t do much with its well-assembled cast.
The first three episodes of Loot will be available on Apple TV+ on June 24, and new episodes will come out on subsequent Fridays. All 10 episodes are reviewed.
Review by Camden Ferrell
It has been nearly a decade since Baz Luhrmann’s last feature film, The Great Gatsby, came out. For his newest movie, he has decided to make a movie about one of the biggest names in music history. Elvis is a biopic about the King of Rock and his rise to fame and prominence. The erratic pacing and Luhrmann’s signature style may polarize some viewers, and it suffers slightly from its bloated length, but it’s a mostly enjoyable movie with a great leading performance from Austin Butler.
Elvis is still one of the most famous pop culture icons decades after his death, and there’s a lot about his story that audiences might not know. In this movie, we see Elvis’ beginnings as a young boy and as an adult when his career begins to skyrocket. The movie is told from the perspective of his manager Colonel Tom Parker while he’s at the end of his life. This set up is fairly standard for a musical biopic, and its execution is where it really manages to set itself apart from other similar films.
The writing of this movie is decent but nothing remarkable. Nothing in its script is particularly bad, but it can feel too safe and boilerplate to really stand out in this department. It could have also been a little more comprehensive of his life as it seemed to focus heavily on certain periods and gloss over large sections of his life and career.
The thing that people will talk about most with this film is its performances. Specifically, people will talk about the leading performance from Austin Butler. In his first major starring role, he is quite great as Elvis. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing or Oscar-worthy, but he embodies the role very well, and I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from him in the future. Tom Hanks plays Colonel Tom Parker, and his role is surprisingly forgettable for him, and it never really impresses.
Luhrmann’s style is definitely all over this film, and this may be good or bad news depending on who you are. The direction is what makes this film unique, and its flashiness works more than it doesn’t. As a result, the pacing is incredibly inconsistent which unexpectedly makes for a very entertaining first half. However, this problem starts working against the movie in the final half which drags significantly.
At nearly three hours, Elvis could have definitely been shorter while still retaining the charm and eccentric style of Luhrmann. It may not be as comprehensive as one would expect, but Butler is fun to watch, and it definitely sets itself apart stylistically in order to compensate for a somewhat mediocre script.
Elvis is in theaters June 24.
Review by Camden Ferrell
It’s not a secret that making stop-motion animated films is no easy task, and the immense dedication in each frame is what makes them so interesting to watch. Phil Tippet has done visual effects for iconic movies like Jurassic Park and Robocop and his feature directorial debut is Mad God, a stop-motion movie that has been in the making for many years. While the story isn’t always as cohesive as it needs to be, it’s hard not to love the passion and skill in the craft of the movie in its animation, world building, and ambition.
In this movie, we see a character called The Assassin as they trek through a hellish landscape full of tortured souls and other monstrosities from the mind of Tippet. We follow this journey as The Assassin tries to complete his goal and navigate this world that is not at all what it seems. This is an interesting foundation which makes a lot of room for unique characters, lore, and world-building which is where this movie seems to thrive the most.
Written by Tippet, this movie has the framework for a compelling narrative. However, the way it tries to tell its story with minimal dialogue can sometimes be an impediment or an advantage. Some ideas or plot points aren’t effectively communicated visually as opposed to verbally and that can lead the film to not feeling as coherent as it could have been. I understand that being a fully stop-motion movie, this can pose a creative and practical restriction, and I think with that in mind, the movie handles it well.
Even if some elements of its story don’t always flow together, the movie does a great job of pacing itself not too slow as to lose interest, but slow enough to allow the audience to fully take in the various intricate details in this nightmare landscape. At a brief eighty minutes, this movie goes by quickly and leaves before it has a chance to overstay its welcome. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eager to see more of this highly unique world Tippet created.
The most admirable thing about this movie is how as an audience member, you can deeply feel how much love, work, and passion went into each frame. Knowing how arduous stop-motion filmmaking is, it really allows you to appreciate what you’re seeing on screen. From a technical standpoint, what Tippet and his team have done is nothing short of brilliant. It may not have the big budget look of some major stop-motion films, but it’s visually stunning and impressive nonetheless.
If you’re a fan of stop-motion films or really the craft of filmmaking in general, this movie is a must-see if only for its technical achievement. The narrative doesn’t always work or convey its intentions in the most effective manner, but it’s still an interesting story that plays second fiddle to a world that is immaculate and captivating in all of its horrific splendor.
Mad God is now streaming on Shudder.
Review by Camden Ferrell
From the opening shot of a dictionary entry for the word “vagina”, it’s clear that Wyrm is not your typical coming of age movie. This movie had its premiere in 2019 at Fantastic Fest, and it is the feature directorial debut of Christopher Winterbauer who also wrote the movie. This movie is reminiscent of an eccentric style that other filmmakers have done before, but this movie is able to still be fresh due to its offbeat nature and creative premise.
Set in an alternate reality resembling the aesthetic of the 90’s, this movie follows Wyrm, an awkward young boy, and his twin sister as they navigate growing up. In this world, the school has a mandated sexuality requirement that sees that the kids wear an electronic collar until they have their first kiss. Wyrm, being one of the last kids in his grade yet to satisfy this requirement, sets forth to grow up and avoid being embarrassed. This is a very interesting premise that feels unique and captures a lot of the awkwardness of growing up at that age.
When watching this movie, one is instantly reminded of the films of Todd Solondz or even the recent film Greener Grass. Like those movies, this one also follows an uncanny suburbia and tells its story as it revels in its awkwardness and slightly uncomfortable nature. While it might not always nail the themes and character development like those movies did, it still exceeds far beyond imitation to be its own thing.
The acting is strong from the main players. Theo Taplitz leads the film as the titular teenager, and he embodies this shy and awkward persona very well and is able to work well within the film’s unique style and tone. Azure Brandi steals the show as Wyrm’s twin sister, and in her first feature role, she proves that she is an actress to keep your eye on. She nails her eccentric and offbeat delivery while maintaining great chemistry with the rest of the cast.
There are a few moments where the movie can feel like it’s losing steam, but it is usually able to supplement this with some really touching moments that are more noticeable when the rest of the movie is intentionally covered in layers of cringe, awkwardness, and hormonal angst. While the overall message might be something we see often, the real charm of Winterbauer’s film is the way in which he tells it in a way that has never been done before.
Wyrm is offbeat, eccentric, and a fittingly cringe experience for the audience. We are able to be put in the protagonist’s shoes as he deals with the confusing nature of adolescence and growing up. Despite being dissimilar from our world in many ways, there is still a lot to relate to in this coming-of-age story that will hopefully make a name for its director and actors.
Wyrm is in theaters and on VOD June 10.
Review by Camden Ferrell
The Score is a crime musical that is also the feature directorial debut of Malachi Smyth. This British movie had its world premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia in 2021. Featuring some great music from Johnny Flynn, this is an above average heist movie that relies heavily on dialogue and chemistry that works more often than not.
Mike and Troy are two small-time crooks who are in pursuit of a titular score, one that could transform their lives entirely. This heist involves a rendezvous at a small café. While waiting at the café, Troy falls in love with a waitress named Gloria, and he begins to question the decisions he has made in his life. All of this unfolds through song while real danger approaches. This premise limits the scope of the movie which can work as long as you have actors and a script that can maintain interest despite taking place in primarily one location.
The writing is fairly strong but can sometimes be inconsistent in its quality and pacing. The dialogue between Mike and Troy works well to establish their relationship, and it works at feeling natural and authentic. Once the movie shifts to the café, the dialogue is still relatively strong even if there are patches throughout that don’t work particularly well. The movie also does a pretty good job of structuring its narrative around Flynn’s songs.
The acting is strong throughout thanks to the natural charisma and talent of its main cast. Johnny Flynn and Will Poulter lead the film as Mike and Troy respectively. Naomi Ackie joins them in a supporting role as Gloria. All three of these actors have proven throughout their careers that they are talented individuals, and more times than not; this talent is on display in this movie. My one qualm is that despite being lovers in the film, the chemistry between Poulter and Ackie isn’t great always, but it’s still mostly believable.
The real standout of this movie is the music from Flynn. The songs are all catchy and it’s lifted up by some surprisingly great singing voices from the cast. Smyth also executes these scenes in an interesting and creative manner that make these moments excel significantly over the rest of the movie. Even when the pacing is questionable, the songs are reliably great and can help carry the film despite its flaws.
The Score is a simple story of crime, love, and music, and most audiences will find at least one thing to enjoy about it. The writing, acting, and direction isn’t perfect, but it’s still mostly commendable. If nothing else, the movie can at least prove these actors are also quite musically inclined which I definitely wasn’t expecting.
The Score is available in theaters June 3 and on VOD June 10.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Based on the comic book series of the same name, The Boys premiered in 2019 and is about to enter its third season. After the events of the previous season, audiences are eagerly awaiting to see what lies in store for everyone’s favorite group of vigilantes and corrupt heroes. This season maintains the quality of previous seasons with its sharp commentary and ultraviolence, and it still manages to shock its audiences with some of the most graphic stuff the show has offered thus far.
After the revelations regarding Stormfront last season, Homelander has reached a personal and emotional impasse, Hughie and Billy are working for the government, and the world continues to change with the times. However, our protagonists find themselves chasing the legend of the world’s first superhero: Soldier Boy. This season sees this large cast of characters grow for better or worse and deal with a whole new set of threats and conflicts. The driving force of this seasons is just as engaging as past seasons and gives the audience multiple reasons to keep watching every episode.
This show has always surprised viewers with both its narrative and content. This season is no different, and from the start, you will be kept on your toes non-stop. There is so much unpredictability in the story, but everything feels motivated and well-written. The show also supplements this with its usual dose of violence and graphic content. This season is yet more proof that shock value with actual meaningful commentary and plot can make some truly riveting television.
A lot of familiar faces return this season, and they are just as enjoyable as they were when we last saw them. Jack Quaid, Karl Urban, Erin Moriarty, and Antony Starr take up a lot of screen time as Hughie, Billy, Starlight, and Homelander respectively. They all still have the same chemistry audiences enjoy, and they are joined by the usual supporting cast of vigilantes and heroes alike. The character everyone is excited to meet this season is Solider Boy. He is played by Jensen Ackles who gives the best performance this season as the legendary superhero and makes for a fine addition to this talented ensemble.
The show seems to have doubled down on a lot this season and its commentary and satire is one of them. The show is more scathing than usual in the way it addresses current issues regarding BLM, the LGBT community, and political extremists. There are some not so subtle references to real-life people and events that range from hilarious to scarily accurate. After three seasons, you would think the show has exhausted all of its commentary about what happens when people with power don’t have the public’s interest at heart, but this season proves there’s still a lot more they can say.
In addition to the commentary, the show has proven that they can go to new extremes with its violence and sexual content. While most of the season is on par with previous ones when it comes to its brutality, season three has a handful of moments that are just utterly filthy and violent even by their standards. It’s no secret that they’re going to have “Herogasm” this season, and it’s about as sexually depraved as one would expect. Audiences are definitely not ready for some of the surprises the show has in store.
All of these elements come together to provide us with another great season that has not lost its touch quite yet. These actors are still giving their all into every performance, and it’s abundantly clear that everyone on and off screen are firing on all cylinders for this season. There might be a few small problems with certain character arcs, but these are miniscule in the grand scheme of things this season.
The Boys is one of the most sharp and provocative shows of its time, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The story is insane, the acting is strong, and the shock value is through the roof with this one. Expect the unexpected and enjoy the ride.
The first three episodes of The Boys will premiere June 3 on Amazon Prime with new episodes premiering subsequent Fridays. All eight episodes are reviewed.
Review by Camden Ferrell
For better or worse, 1986’s Top Gun is one of the decade’s defining films. Upon its release the amount of people joining the Navy to be Naval Aviators skyrocketed as did the sale of aviator sunglasses and bomber jackets. Now, over thirty years later, the sequel we never knew we needed, Top Gun: Maverick, is coming to theaters. This long-awaited film is a brilliant technical and cinematic marvel that will put the original to shame all while gracefully concluding the story of America’s favorite hot shot pilot.
After multiple decades of service as a Navy aviator, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell finds himself as an instructor for a group of Top Gun graduates as they prepare for a perilous mission. Here, he must confront his past and his future while helping a new generation forge their path in the Navy. This is a premise that perfectly sets up the continued development of its protagonist while providing a set-up for some high-stakes, enjoyable action.
Tom Cruise returns the iconic role as if no time has passed at all. He stills maintains all the charisma of Maverick, and he interacts quite well with the rest of the cast. The movie features newcomers to the series in Miles Teller, Glenn Powell, and Monica Barbaro among others. Teller and Powell stand out the most and fit perfectly in the series as Naval aviators alongside Cruise and the rest of the cast.
This sequel improves upon the original in every way imaginable. It is written better, and it actually has a strong emotional core that carries the movie on more than one level throughout. It also feels like the stakes are much higher and palpable than the original. In addition to this, Joseph Kosinski directs this movie very well. He is able to create scenes that are exhilarating and mesmerizingly captivating. There is so much energy and emotion in the way that this movie is executed that it’s hard not to love.
Obviously, when people see this movie, they’re going to want to see some great action in the air. I’m happy to say this movie delivers on that in surprising ways. The sequences in the air are absolutely phenomenal and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The shots from inside the cockpit are fantastic and demand to be seen on the biggest screen possible. This is a technical marvel and one of the finest examples of blockbuster filmmaking this century, and you’re going to want to be in an environment that fully immerses you into all of the excitement.
Top Gun: Maverick is a sequel done right, and with any luck will be more iconic than its predecessor. Kosinski directs a masterful popcorn flick that audiences of all ages will love. This is a movie that’s made for the big screen and will remind audiences why theaters remain and important part of cinema today.
Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters May 27.
LOVE, DEATH & ROBOTS (Season 3) -- Another Set of Wonderfully Animated Shorts with Some Execution Problems
Review by Camden Ferrell
Love, Death & Robots is an anthology show for adults that premiere on Netflix in 2019. It had its second season in 2021 and is about the release their third season. While David Fincher has been a producer from the start, this season sees him sitting in the director’s chair for the first time on the series among other creators. This season features another batch of enjoyable shorts of differing quality, and it’s clear that there are some episodes that are significantly better than the others this season.
In this season, there are 9 episodes, and I was able to watch four of them: Three Robots: Exit Strategies, Bad Traveling, Night of the Mini Dead, and Jibaro. Fans of the show will recognize the first title, which is a continuation of those same robots we met in season 1. The rest of them are about radically different things like the open sea, zombies, and a reimagining of a folktale. Like previous seasons, these ideas are really unique, diverse, and interesting on paper, but the show has also had some problems with developing and properly executing their exciting and original premises.
The writing in the four episodes I watched are decent. The writing has never been the strong suit of the show, and these episodes let other aspects take the reins. I will say that Bad Traveling was particularly well written more so than the other episodes and tackled some really interesting themes and ideas as well. I will say that while this season isn’t perfect in this regard, there is a noticeably reduction in the amount of casual and subtle misogyny that was so prevalent throughout the first two seasons.
As always, the actors they cast are above average, but the real star of the show is the innovative animation. This is a show that experiments with different styles and types of animations more than anything else streaming today. I particularly liked the animation of Bad Traveling and Jibaro as they both aimed for realism in their animation and achieved it with great results.
As mentioned before, Fincher made his animation directorial debut with his short Bad Traveling, and it’s easily one of the best episodes the series has put out thus far even if it still has some minor flaws. I also enjoyed some of the execution in Night of the Mini Dead and Jibaro even if they weren’t as memorable as Fincher’s episode. While I enjoyed all of the episodes so far to some extent, it doesn’t seem like a big step up in quality for the series, and it remains a show full of beautifully animated and average to great anthology shorts.
Love, Death & Robots will please its fans in its third season but for those who had a hard time getting into the show previously, this one will still probably not satisfy you. It’s worth watching for Fincher’s episode alone, but as always there’s always at least one thing to enjoy in each episode.
Love, Death & Robots season 3 will be available on Netflix May 20.