Fourteen years after Borat, co-writer and star Sacha Baron Cohen donned the famous oversized gray suit and lush mustache again for its sequel. While the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm prides itself in revealing the same American ugliness as Borat, it does so without the original’s deft touch. Where Borat allowed Baron Cohen to amble from one improvised moment to the next, the Subsequent Moviefilm is overplotted, worrying more about the connective tissue than the substance.
Yes, God, Yes Review: An Honest to God Sexual Comedy
Writer-director Karen Maine’s debut film conjures laughs, guilt, and nostalgia, particularly for young adults of a certain religious sect, or perhaps more accurately, former members of a religious sect. Yes, God, Yes is unusually sweet for a teen sex comedy, a feat accomplished through Maine’s perceptive script and Stranger Things star Natalie Dyer’s emotive performance. The semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story is refreshingly light fare in a somber year.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review: An Enduring Second Act
Peter Jackson and his army of cast and crew returned for a second trip to Middle-earth in 2002’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, based on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic of the same name. Centered around the breathtaking Battle of Helm’s Deep, a council of talking trees, and a band of hobbits on the perilous road to Mordor, the sequel surpasses the introductory Fellowship of the Ring. The Two Towers offers more swordplay, scares, and magic than its predecessor.
Boys State Review: Win at Any Cost
In response to the 2016 presidential election, a new documentary from A24 and Apple turns to America’s youth to explain how we got here and where we go next. Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss followed 1,000 sweaty, hormonal teenage boys during the American Legion’s week-long civics camp to figure out if the kids are alright. Boys State is an uncomfortable glimpse at partisan politics tinged with an unnatural concentration on toxic masculinity in adolescence.
Softness of Bodies Review: A Young Poet’s Egocentrism
Starving artist and expat Charlie is in desperate need of 800 euros in writer-director Jordan Blady’s darkly comedic first feature. To the audience’s great amusement, Blady’s narcissistic protagonist is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get ahead. The sonnet-length, 74-minute indie debuted at the LA Film Festival in 2018.
The Lodge Review: An Uneasy, Cerebral Surprise
Two children experience the inscrutable while trapped in a remote cabin with their stepmother-to-be. The Lodge doesn’t bend genre conventions or invent a wholly original horror premise, but the twisty, austere, and perturbing psychological horror movie is the genre’s finest release since Midsommar. The latest from Parasite distributor Neon is also a memorable American introduction for Austrian directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review: The Introduction to Peter Jackson’s Timeless Trilogy
The widely celebrated 2001 epic kicked off writer-director Peter Jackson’s landmark journey to Middle-earth. The Lord of the Rings series would influence decades of fantasy filmmaking on both the silver screen and the small screen. Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe all owe part of their size, rich lore, and (the newly coined) worldbuilding to Jackson’s trilogy, which introduced audiences to a complex world. Before The Fellowship of the Ring, intricate, episodic universes were reserved for lengthy novels and monthly comic books.
Shirley Review: Praising a Literary Giant and Challenging Gender Roles
Director Josephine Decker’s (Madeline’s Madeline) Shirley Jackson biopic was one of the standout films at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Set just before the author’s premature death in 1965, Shirley is the backdrop for a larger conversation about the author’s underappreciated work, her tragic life, and the mid-century role of women in the household.
Da 5 Bloods Review: Spike Lee Reclaims the Black War Film
Black troops accounted for 32% of the American military force in Vietnam, but only 11% of the country’s population at the time. Spike Lee has dedicated his career to identifying socio-political issues, venerating and participating in film history, and restoring Black history. In Da 5 Bloods, Lee sets his sights on the Black soldier’s rightful place in the war film genre. Generations of Hollywood whitewashing and historical erasure have minimized Black military history. Lee’s uneven, affecting film, which debuted on Netflix in June, engages Donald Trump and war’s long-term impact on its participants.
Jumanji: The Next Level Review: Despite its Title, the Sequel Fails to Level Up
Sony’s body-swapping adventure returned in 2019 for another nostalgic romp through the untamed frontier. Jumanji: The Next Level, the second Jumanji movie in as many years and the fourth since 1995, added Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, and Danny Glover, but the rest of the nostalgic franchise remains frozen in stasis.