FANTASIA21 REVIEW: What Josiah Saw [2021]

Never seen a boy so lost. Josiah Graham (Robert Patrick) doesn’t believe in God. To look at him and witness his actions is enough to know this truth, but his words have never been afraid to ensure those sentiments prove undeniable anyway. So he smirks when his youngest son dares to say grace before their latest meal. He starts telling a fantastical story about a dancing leprechaun that he saw outside his window that morning. Tommy (Scott Haze) laughs—both because it’s a humorous anecdote told in humorous fashion and because…

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REVIEW: Nine Days [2021]

Pull the chair. Will (Winston Duke) is one of an unknown number of interviewers at the edge of existence: men and women who were once alive that now have the power to choose which newly created souls are worthy of the same opportunity. The interview period lasts nine days and is composed of philosophical quandaries, observations, and hypotheticals meant to better understand who these protohumans are and will remain if their consciousness is transferred to a baby ready for its first breath. Will tests their resolve, their strength, and their…

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REVIEW: To the Stars [2020]

Welcome to Oklahoma. The whole of Martha Stephens‘ To the Stars can be summed up by a line in the director’s statement of intent: “Longing is part of the human condition: the ever-present awareness of what’s still missing from our lives.” It’s true. We all long for something. Sometimes it’s for something as simple and direct as love. Sometimes it’s for something as complex and harrowing as equality. We long to be seen as who we are and often for the escape that’s necessary to allow it to happen far…

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REVIEW: Toy Story 4 [2019]

She’ll be okay. It was said upon the release of Toy Story 3 that the franchise was done as far as Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear’s (Tim Allen) adventures were concerned. These sentiments made sense because it ended nicely on a logical breaking point wherein the boy whose name adorned their feet grew-up and gifted them to a new owner (Bonnie) who promised a warm future of happiness and play. Because simply retiring the characters would be dumb, Pixar decided to branch out into a trio of short comedic…

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REVIEW: Love, Simon [2018]

You’re still you. There have been crazier premises for coming-of-age romantic comedies than having the lead fall in love via email with someone they’re afraid they’ll never meet. Unrequited love is nothing new to the genre and neither is an escalating series of mishaps and intentionally misleading manipulation on behalf of the lead towards his best friends to keep that love secret. But despite these familiarities, director Greg Berlanti and his talented cast of funny and emotive actors finds a way to make it resonate. The relationships onscreen—good or bad,…

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REVIEW: American Ultra [2015]

“We fired the ugly one” When there are only seven basic plots—as the saying goes—to implicitly choose from as a screenwriter, genre-bending homage becomes the sole path towards creativity. So while Max Landis‘ script for American Ultra is The Bourne Identity meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith through a Pineapple Express filter, it’s a damn good ride regardless. He’s throwing common tropes on their head by making a government-trained agent into a paranoid stoner filled to the brim with anxiety. He’s creating laughs out of dramatic convention while director Nima Nourizadeh…

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REVIEW: Wuss [2013]

“Do these kids have parents? It’s still outer suburbia.” Writer/director Clay Liford knows a film titled Wuss better make sure its lead character is a living embodiment of the word. So even though he may be introduced as a self-deprecating nerd willing to laugh about living with his mom and working at the same high school he’s currently standing in to chat up a drunk, former “popular girl” at their ten-year reunion, his luck at cajoling her into visiting his darkened classroom can’t help but get interrupted by the vice…

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REVIEW: Happythankyoumoreplease [2011]

“Who says Santa’s pants have to be red?!” It only took about halfway through Happythankyoumoreplease before I began to think about the one thing I probably should have latched onto from the start. The comparisons between this and 2004’s Garden State are unmistakable. And it’s not just the obvious—or what should be obvious if my brain had been working—that each starred and was written and directed by the star of a hit television sitcom, it’s also the sense of heart behind every single moment, the off-kilter eccentricity of certain characters…

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REVIEW: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard [2009]

“Looks like a refugee camp for dirty men” Sometimes you just have to get over the fact that a film needs a good/coherent plot to be a success and let the stupidity flow over you. This is exactly what I did when sitting down to watch The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. You cannot argue the comedic talent involved, but you can make the point that Gary Sanchez Productions could bring the whole shebang down. I know I am in the minority on my feelings for Will Ferrell and his…

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