Review – Dune: Part 2

Dune Part 2 (2024)
PG-13  ‧ Scifi/Adventure ‧ 2 Hours 46 Minutes
Written by Denis Villeneuve & Jon Spaihts
Based on a Novel By Frank Herbert
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

THE CAST

  • Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, the exiled Duke of House Atreides, who is called “Muad’Dib” by the Fremen
  • Zendaya as Chani, a young Fremen warrior and Paul’s love interest
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Paul’s Bene Gesserit mother and concubine to Paul’s late father and predecessor, Leto Atreides
  • Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, the former military leader of House Atreides and Paul’s mentor
  • Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s youngest nephew and planned successor of House Harkonnen
  • Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter
  • Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, the brutish nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and older brother of Feyd-Rautha
  • Christopher Walken as Shaddam IV, the Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe and head of House Corrino
  • Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, a Mentat loyal to House Atreides who is forced to serve House Harkonnen
  • Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot Fenring, a Bene Gesserit and close friend of the Emperor
  • Souheila Yacoub as Shishakli, a Fremen warrior
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, head of House Harkonnen, Feyd-Rautha’s and Glossu Rabban’s uncle, sworn enemy to Atreides and former steward of Arrakis
  • Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam, a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother and the Emperor’s Truthsayer
  • Javier Bardem as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen tribe at Sietch Tabr

THE STORY

(In their own words). Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the universe, he must prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.

THE BEST

The BEST things about the film

  1. Stunning Cinematography
  2. Incredible CGI. Sandworms are real, right?
  3. Its runtime of two hours and forty-six minutes feels much shorter than it is. This is thanks to excellent pacing and an engaging story. 
  4. The actors are great. 

THE WORST

The WORST things about the film

  1. TOO MUCH INFORMATION AND CHARACTERS. I don’t think I should have to watch a movie with a glossary by my side. 
  2. This is very much a Part 2, not a sequel. They just continue the story from the first one, and you need to remember what was going on, or you will be lost. They don’t do anything to help the audience out. I’d suggest watching the first one and then go the next day to finish the story. 
  3. As wonderfully acted as the leads are, the script does not serve Timothy Chalamet and Zendaya. Their relationship does not get the attention it deserves. I kind of left not caring about them.

THE COMMENTS

I feel somewhat like Judas saying how I feel about Dune Part 2. It is undeniably an impressive film. The cinematography, the special effects, the acting, the story. They are all larger than life and excellently done. I feel like I should love this movie, but I don’t. I feel like the main characters, played by Chalamet and Zendaya, had too many time jumps when I wanted to see their relationship grow. I imagine there’s probably a good forty minutes of footage of their relationship on the cutting room floor that I feel was desperately needed. 

I didn’t care about the film. 

That is so weird because this should be a Silas film if you know me. If you know me, you probably assume this film would be a lock for me. But it wasn’t. There are too many characters that I’m desperately trying to keep track of, too many subplots, too much of everything. I could never relax into the film and get swept away in the sandstorm. 

This movie has everything except heart. 

THE LESSON

You can either do what is best for your heart or best for the people. 

IS IT REWATCHABLE

You kind of have to to keep track of people. 

THE FINAL WORD

Dune: Part 2 is beautiful: Stunning cinematography and unbelievably realistic CGI. It is a well-paced epic sci-fi film that deserves a lot of praise. Remember, this is part two and not a sequel. The events of part one immediately precede this film, and it takes zero time or effort to get you up to speed, so make sure part one is fresh on your mind. Dune is the ultimate epic story with loads of characters and even more subplots, which ultimately bog the film down for me. Despite the beautiful acting by Chalamete and Zendaya, I didn’t feel invested in them as a couple. While I liked the film overall, I also didn’t care about it. Maybe I’m just not a Dune guy. 

THE VERDICT
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

I give Dune Part 2 a Like It. 

THE TRAILER

https://youtu.be/_YUzQa_1RCE?si=-HoPkpYZzETi2-Ps

THE MEME REVIEW

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Self Reliance – Video & Podcast Review

Self Reliance (2023)
R  ‧ Comedy ‧ 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Written by Jake Johnson

Directed by Jake Johnson

THE CAST

 Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Morales, Mary Holland, Emily Hampshire, and Christopher Lloyd.

THE STORY
(In their own words). In Los Angeles, a disillusioned man receives an invitation to win $1 million by taking part in a reality television game on the dark web. For 30 days, he must outwit hunters attempting to kill him. He realizes there’s a loophole to the game – the hunters can only attack him when he’s alone – so he attempts to convince friends, family and total strangers that the game is real, and that they must stay with him 24/7.

Video Review

https://youtu.be/Zueml_Eg29w

Audio-Only Podcast

https://audioboom.com/posts/8434068-review-self-reliance

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Review – Self Reliance

Self Reliance (2023)
R  ‧ Comedy ‧ 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Written by Jake Johnson
Directed by Jake Johnson

THE CAST

 Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Morales, Mary Holland, Emily Hampshire, and Christopher Lloyd.

THE STORY

(In their own words). In Los Angeles, a disillusioned man receives an invitation to win $1 million by taking part in a reality television game on the dark web. For 30 days, he must outwit hunters attempting to kill him. He realizes there’s a loophole to the game – the hunters can only attack him when he’s alone – so he attempts to convince friends, family and total strangers that the game is real, and that they must stay with him 24/7

THE BEST

The BEST things about the film

  1. Original and Engaging Premise: The concept of “Self Reliance” is unique and intriguing. A man participating in a deadly reality TV game on the dark web where he must outwit hunters for 30 days is thrilling and comedic. The loophole that hunters can only attack when he’s alone adds an exciting dynamic to the plot.
  2. Excellent Writing and Acting: Jake Johnson’s writing is sharp and witty and keeps the audience engaged. The humor is well-timed, and the dialogues are clever. The performances by the cast, notably Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick, stand out. Which is good since they are the leads. Their chemistry and comedic timing bring the characters to life.
  3. Impressive Directorial Debut by Jake Johnson: For his first feature film as a director, Jake Johnson shows remarkable skill. He successfully balances comedy with suspense, keeping the audience invested in the story. His direction enhances the film’s pacing and tone, making “Self Reliance” a noteworthy debut.

THE WORST

The WORST things about the film

  1. Unsatisfying and Abrupt Ending: The film’s conclusion is a significant letdown. After building an engaging storyline, the ending feels rushed and leaves many questions unanswered. It lacks the closure that the audience expects, especially regarding the main characters’ fate and relationships.
  2. Lack of Closure in the Romantic Subplot: The romantic angle between Jake Johnson’s and Anna Kendrick’s characters is developed throughout the film, but the resolution is either ignored or insufficiently addressed. This lack of closure in the romantic subplot is disappointing and undermines the emotional investment made by the audience.
  3. Limited Exploration of the Dark Web Setting: The dark web is a crucial element of the story and the film doesn’t really delve deeply into it. More world-building and exploration of the dark web could have added depth and intrigue to the film, giving it a more rounded and comprehensive narrative.

THE COMMENTS

For 95% of its duration, “Self Reliance” had me absolutely captivated. It’s hilarious and original and boasts excellent writing and acting. Jake Johnson, in his first feature film directorial role, really impresses. The premise is unique and engaging, making me laugh and keeping me hooked for most of the film.

However, it’s the last 5 minutes that utterly frustrated me. The film sets up a potential romantic comedy angle between Jake Johnson’s and Anna Kendrick’s characters, but the ending doesn’t deliver. It feels like the film abandons its build-up, leaving us with an unsatisfying resolution that left me going to bed angry. As much as I defend ambiguous endings, this one felt more like a lack of closure than a thought-provoking conclusion.

The film touches on important themes like loneliness and the need for a supportive circle of people in our lives. It’s a message that resonates, especially in today’s world, where connections are more important than ever. “Self Reliance” is worth watching for its originality and the first hour and 25 minutes of solid entertainment.

THE LESSON

The film highlights the importance of having a supportive circle of people in our lives and speaks to the theme of loneliness, emphasizing that everyone needs someone.

IS IT REWATCHABLE

Yes, but I don’t think I would because I’m so mad at the ending. 

THE FINAL WORD

“Self Reliance” is a wildly original and engaging comedy that hooked me for almost its entire run. Jake Johnson delivers both in front of and behind the camera, with witty writing and a solid directorial debut, complemented by fantastic performances from Anna Kendrick and the rest of the ensemble. The film’s concept – surviving a deadly game on the dark web – is cleverly executed with humor and suspense. However, the last few minutes left me frustrated, failing to provide a satisfying end to an otherwise excellent film. Despite its abrupt conclusion, “Self Reliance” is a comedy worth watching for its fresh take and laughs, but be prepared for a potential letdown as the credits roll.

THE VERDICT 

My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

I give it a ‘Like It’ – a film that captivates for the most part but doesn’t quite stick the landing. It’s a 90% “like it”and 10% “lose it” for me. 

THE TRAILER

https://youtu.be/Ocw_fVdr4_g?si=-UHo1j85IC-I9i3W

THE MEME REVIEW

Video Review

https://youtu.be/Zueml_Eg29w

Audio-Only Podcast

https://audioboom.com/posts/8434068-review-self-reliance

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I.S.S. Video & Podcast Review

I.S.S. (2023)
R ‧ Thriller ‧ 1 Hour  35 Minutes
Written by Nick Shafir.
Directed by  Gabriela Cowperthwaite 

THE CAST

The film stars Ariana DeBose, Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Maria Mashkova, Costa Ronin, and Pilou Asbæk.

THE STORY

(In their own words). Tensions flare in the near future aboard the International Space Station when a worldwide conflict breaks out on Earth. Soon, the U.S. and Russian astronauts each receive orders from the ground: take control of the station by any means necessary.

For the full written review, click here.

Video Review

https://youtu.be/2a8lsN_vb_s

Audio-Only Podcast

https://audioboom.com/posts/8433910-review-i-s-s

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Review – I.S.S.

I.S.S. (2023)

R ‧ Thriller ‧ 1 Hour  35 Minutes
Written by Nick Shafir
Directed by  Gabriela Cowperthwaite 

THE CAST

The film stars Ariana DeBose, Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Maria Mashkova, Costa Ronin, and Pilou Asbæk.

THE STORY

(In their own words). Tensions flare in the near future aboard the International Space Station when a worldwide conflict breaks out on Earth. Soon, the U.S. and Russian astronauts each receive orders from the ground: take control of the station by any means necessary.

THE BEST

The BEST things about the film

  1. Technical Achievement and Realism in Zero Gravity Simulation: The film excels in its technical prowess, especially in creating a realistic portrayal of zero gravity. The use of wirework and camera movements is first-rate. It’s fascinating how the film manages to make you feel like you’re actually in outer space, with elements floating and characters moving in a weightless environment. This aspect of the film truly enhances the immersive experience.
  2. Tension and Suspense: “I.S.S.” does an outstanding job of building and maintaining tension throughout the movie. As the narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a global conflict and the astronauts receive conflicting orders, the film keeps you at the edge of your seat. The combination of camerawork, dialogue, and acting effectively conveys this tension, making it a gripping thriller.
  3. Engaging and Thought-Provoking Storyline: The plot of “I.S.S.” is thrilling, engaging, and somewhat plausible, adding an extra layer of intrigue. The idea of a conflict breaking out on Earth while astronauts are in space presents a unique scenario that’s both nerve-wracking and thought-provoking. The film explores trust, authority, and human resilience, offering more than surface-level entertainment.
  4. Strong Ensemble Cast Performance: Each actor brings depth to their character, contributing to the overall intensity and believability of the film. Debose’s shift from roles in previous works like “West Side Story” to this space thriller showcases their versatility and talent.

THE WORST

The WORST things about the film

Based on your transcript, the three or four aspects of the film “I.S.S.” that could be considered less favorable are:

  1. Predictability in Certain Plot Elements: While “I.S.S.” manages to keep the audience engaged, some plot elements are predictable. This predictability doesn’t necessarily detract from the film’s overall enjoyment, but it makes certain twists and turns less surprising. As a viewer, I found that even though these predictable moments were present, the film’s thrilling nature allowed me to overlook them most of the time.
  2. Lack of Rewatchability: I mentioned that “I.S.S.” is a solid thriller, but it loses some of its appeal once you know what will happen. The film doesn’t have standout moments or monologues that might draw me back for a second viewing. It’s a good film for a one-time watch, but it might not have the lasting impact that makes you want to revisit it.
  3. Some Liberties with Space Station Realities: “I.S.S.” takes certain creative liberties regarding the practicalities of life on a space station. For instance, the film includes elements that might not be entirely accurate or feasible in an actual space station setting, like the use of sharp objects. While these choices serve the narrative, they might not align with space travel’s real constraints and realities.
  4. Unclear Motivations and Background Logic: There are moments in the film where the motivations behind the conflict and the strategic importance of the space station are not fully explained or convincing. This lack of clarity can leave some viewers questioning the underlying logic of the plot. The film raises the question of why astronauts would fight over a space station that primarily serves as a science lab, leaving some room for speculation about the scenario’s reasons and realism.

THE REVIEW

Set aboard the International Space Station, tensions rise between U.S. and Russian astronauts as a global conflict erupts on Earth. Orders from their respective governments turn the space station into a strategic battleground, igniting a nerve-wracking power struggle in the void of space.

I found “I.S.S.” to be a compelling departure for Ariana DeBose, who, just before shooting this, dazzled audiences in “West Side Story.” Swapping whimsical dance numbers for the confines of a space station, DeBose and the rest of the cast deliver gripping performances that are accentuated by the film’s impressive technical achievements. The combination of cinematography techniques and the use of wires to simulate zero gravity is particularly noteworthy, creating an immersive and believable outer space environment.

The true strength of “I.S.S.” lies in its ability to maintain tension throughout its runtime. As the astronauts grapple with their orders and the looming threat of war on Earth, the film crafts a suspenseful atmosphere that kept me on the edge of my seat. Although some plot elements are predictable, the overall experience is so engaging that these moments can be easily overlooked.

Despite bending the truth about life aboard a space station for dramatic effect, “I.S.S.” offers an intriguing perspective on current geopolitical tensions, making it feel relevant and unsettlingly possible. The film explores themes of trust, authority, and the human spirit under extreme circumstances, posing thought-provoking questions about our responsibilities beyond Earth.

Regarding rewatchability, “I.S.S.” might not be a film I’d rush to see again, but it’s certainly a solid thriller that’s well worth the price of admission. It’s a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen, where its visual spectacle and immersive storytelling can be fully appreciated.

Overall, “I.S.S.” is a thrilling ride that combines high-stakes drama with a thoughtfully crafted space setting. It’s an excellent choice for a date night movie or anyone who enjoys a good thriller. The film may not be groundbreaking in cinema, but it’s a well-executed, engaging story that deserves a watch.

THE LESSON

  1. Trust and Communication are Key: The film highlights the importance of trust and open communication to resolve conflicts, especially under pressure.
  2. Question Authority and Consider the Bigger Picture: “I.S.S.” encourages viewers to think critically about the orders they receive and the broader implications of their actions, emphasizing the need for ethical decision-making even in complex situations.

IS IT REWATCHABLE

Yes, but don’t expect it to repeat its thrill.  

THE FINAL WORD

“Space, suspense, and stellar performances! ‘I.S.S.’ takes you on a thrilling ride aboard the International Space Station, where tensions soar as high as the stakes. With impressive zero-gravity effects and a gripping plot, this film keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sure, it has predictable moments and might not be a rewatch classic, but it’s a fantastic one-time journey into a plausible space scenario. Whether for a heart-pounding date night or to indulge in some sci-fi suspense, ‘I.S.S.’ delivers a cosmic adventure worth the ticket!”

THE VERDICT 

My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

I.S.S. gets a strong like it. It’s a film that successfully delivers tension, entertainment, and a bit of introspection, all wrapped up in a high-tech space adventure.

THE TRAILER

https://youtu.be/i48f4AvS-Pk?si=fNIS3uAyVL0gin8Q

THE MEME REVIEW

Video Review

https://youtu.be/2a8lsN_vb_s

Audio-Only Podcast

https://audioboom.com/posts/8433910-review-i-s-s

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ORIGIN – Video & Audio Movie Review

Drama, Genre, Podcast, Videos ‐ January 16, 2024
ORIGIN – Video & Audio Movie Review

A review of the new film Origin starring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor.

About The Film

“Grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, writer Isabel Wilkerson sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery as she writes Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”

Video Review

https://youtu.be/QPQ-LhenQOQ

Audio-Only Podcast

https://audioboom.com/posts/8433235-movie-review-origin

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Review – Origin

Origin (2023)
PG-13  ‧ Biographical Drama  ‧ 2 Hours 21 Minutes

Written by  Ava DuVernay

Directed by  Ava DuVernay

THE CAST

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, as Isabel Wilkerson along with Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash-Betts, Emily Yancy, Finn Wittrock, Victoria Pedretti, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Isha Blaaker, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Connie Nielsen, Blair Underwood, Nick Offerman, Stephanie March, Myles Frost, Suraj Yengde, Donna Mills, Jordan Lloyd, Franz Hartwig, Daniel Lommatzsch, and Gaurav J. Pathania.

THE STORY

(In their own words). Grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, writer Isabel Wilkerson sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery as she writes Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

THE BEST

The BEST things about the film

  1. Powerful Message and Impact: I found “Origin” to be an incredibly powerful film that could change how we see and treat race in the United States. The film goes beyond just depicting race issues; it delves into the concept of a caste system in America, drawing parallels with the caste system in India and the Holocaust. This perspective is eye-opening and thought-provoking.
  2. Outstanding Acting and Directing: The acting was phenomenal, especially by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson. I was impressed by the nuanced and powerful performances, not just from the lead actress but also from the strong supporting cast. Ava DuVernay’s direction and writing were top-notch, translating the book and Isabel Wilkerson’s life story into a compelling narrative.
  3. Educational and Engaging Storytelling: The film isn’t just a direct adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” but it explores her life and research process, making the story more engaging and personal. This approach helps in understanding the book’s complex themes and makes the film more relatable.
  4. Thought-Provoking and Emotionally Stirring: I appreciate films that make me think and feel simultaneously, and “Origin” accomplished this brilliantly. It presents complex ideas in a way that is both intellectual and emotionally resonant, a rare combination.
  5. Cultural and Social Relevance: The film’s exploration of the American caste system and its implications on racism is insightful and incredibly relevant to current societal issues. It encourages viewers to reconsider their understanding of race and caste and how these concepts shape our society.
  6. Encourages Further Exploration: The film was so compelling that it made me want to read the book it’s based on. It’s rare for a movie to inspire such a desire for further exploration and learning.

THE WORST

The WORST things about the film

  1. Last 30 Minutes Felt Preachy: One aspect of the film that I found less appealing was how the last 30 minutes came across as somewhat preachy. This shift in tone made the narrative feel more like a documentary and less like a cohesive story, detracting from the film’s overall impact.
  2. Loss of Narrative Focus: During the latter part of the film, there was a noticeable shift away from the personal story of Isabel Wilkerson’s grief and towards a more general exploration of the caste system. This change in focus resulted in a loss of the narrative line related to her personal journey, which was a compelling element of the film.
  3. Potentially Limited Rewatchability: Although I found “Origin” to be a powerful and influential film, its heavy themes and focus on traumatic events might limit its re-watchability. Films that delve deeply into trauma can be challenging to watch repeatedly, which could affect the film’s long-term appeal to some audiences.
  4. Potential Underperformance in Theaters: I am concerned that “Origin” might not have a long run in theaters, as films of this nature often don’t attract the same level of audience interest as more mainstream movies. This limited exposure could affect the film’s reach and impact.

THE LESSONS

  1. Understanding the American Caste System: The film highlights the importance of recognizing and comprehending the American caste system and how it influences societal issues, particularly race-related issues.
  2. Historical Context of Racism and Oppression: “Origin” draws connections between global caste systems, such as those in the U.S., India, and Nazi Germany, illustrating the historical roots and global impact of racism and oppression.

IS IT REWATCHABLE

Yes. Maybe every few years, though. 

THE FINAL WORD

 “Origin” is a profoundly impactful and thought-provoking film. Based on Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” the movie delves into the complexities of the American caste system, drawing compelling parallels with global systems of oppression. The narrative not only adapts Wilkerson’s work but also explores her personal journey and the challenges she faced while researching and writing her book. The performances, particularly by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Wilkerson, are exceptional, bringing depth and nuance to the film. Ava DuVernay’s direction is masterful, seamlessly blending personal storytelling with broader social commentary. While the film’s latter part feels somewhat preachy and deviates from the narrative focus on Wilkerson’s personal loss, its educational value and emotional resonance are undeniable. “Origin” is a significant film that challenges viewers to reconsider their understanding of race and caste, making it a must-watch for its cultural and social relevance.

THE VERDICT
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

Origin gets a Love It 

THE TRAILER

https://youtu.be/pAweg5PaMuw?si=8vvAJn19_gmYTsJx

THE VIDEO REVIEW

https://youtu.be/QPQ-LhenQOQ

THE PODCAST AUDIO-ONLY REVIEW

https://audioboom.com/posts/8433235-movie-review-origin

THE MEME REVIEW

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Review: American Fiction

American Fiction (2023)

R ‧ Comedy/Drama ‧ 1 Hours 57 Minutes

Written by Cord Jefferson

Directed by Cord Jefferson

THE CAST

Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, and Keith David.

THE STORY

(In their own words). Monk is a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment that profits from Black entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish Black book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.

THE BEST

The BEST things about the film

  1. Solid Writing – You can only hope a film about a writer is well-written. And this one is. Fully fleshed-out characters, an engaging story, and wholly original. 
  2. The Acting – Jeffery Wright delivers his best performance in this film. Sterling K Brown is also excellent, with a remarkable ability to slide the film between drama and comedy.
  3. The Comedy. It’s a very funny film and at all the right moments. 
  4. The Blackness – It’s almost ironically addressed in this film. It’s nice to have a movie that is more about Black excellence rather than the trope stories and characters that Black actors are usually shoved into. And that’s part of the point of the film itself. 

THE COMMENTS

One of the best films to come out last year is now coming out for wide release. 

THE LESSON

Let people like what they like. 

People love what they assume is the

IS IT REWATCHABLE

Yes.

THE FINAL WORD

American Fiction is one of the best films to come out in 2023, and it is only now out for wide release. It is wonderfully acted, funny, well-written, and poignant in its messaging about the exploitative nature of Black people in art. It’s important to support Black films/art that don’t rely on tired tropes or overdone characters. That’s one of the points of the film. Black people exist as sons and siblings of regular middle-class people who are just trying to get through their day. It’s so pleasant to not see a Black film centered around trauma. This one centers on family, art, and the desire to be valued as a creator and have a voice.

 

THE VERDICT 

My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

American Fiction gets a Love it

THE TRAILER

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_4RlHpqVWM

THE MEME REVIEW

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Silas’ Top 12 Films Of 2023

I don’t do a top 10 list; I do a top 12 because there are twelve months in the year. And I do things differently, and you can’t stop me!

It took a lot of work to narrow down these films and create an order. I could move up or down several depending on my mood. But here it is. My list of the best films of 2023.

12. You Hurt My Feelings

 

Rated R ‧ Comedy/Romance ‧ 1h 33m

Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Jeannie Berlin.

A novelist’s long-standing marriage suddenly turns upside down when she overhears her husband giving his honest reaction to her latest book.

Why did it make my list? 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus shines while starring in this honest film that explores honesty in relationships. A very well-crafted film from writer/director Nicole Holofcener, this is one of those films that lingers in your mind long after the movie ends.

The writing is beautiful, and the acting is top-notch. It’s a film I just kept thinking about, which means it really impacted me. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/20GWk5cWPBs?si=yhKO5jQtvg1cUNCU

11. Eileen

Rated R ‧ Thriller/Mystery ‧ 1h 38m

Directed by William Oldroyd

Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anne Hathaway, Shea Whigham, Marin Ireland, and Owen Teague

In 1964, in Massachusetts, a young secretary becomes enchanted by Rebecca, the glamorous new counselor at the prison where she works. Their budding friendship soon takes a twisted turn when Rebecca reveals a dark secret.

Why did it make my list? 

An intimate film that really drew me in from the beginning. It has surprises from the characters, mystery, and thrills. An outstanding performance by Thomasin McKenzie in the title role, and Anne Hathaway is top-notch in one of my favorite supporting roles I’ve ever seen her in. It’s adapted from a book, which is very obvious in that the world is so clearly defined, and the writing is really well-constructed and rich. Some films, you think, “This writing is so good, it must be a book,” this is one of them. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/otDHCJcdN34?si=Kp301011_kgIjZAv

10. The Iron Claw

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R ‧ Drama/Wrestling Biopic ‧ 132 Minutes

Directed by Sean Durkin

Starring: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, Maura Tierney, with Holt McCallany and Lily James

 The true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.

Why did it make my list? 

Zac Efron’s transformative performance alone could earn the film a spot on this list. It’s one of the best ensemble pieces of the year. The Von Erich’s story is nearly a modern-day tragedy. This film delivers moving performances, a captivating story, and a great glimpse into the behind-the-scenes lives of professional wrestlers. I don’t think this is a wrestling movie, but wrestling fans could use the film to get people more interested in the sport. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/8KVsaoveTbw

9. The Color Purple

PG-13 ‧ Musical Drama ‧ 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Directed by Blitz Bazawule

Starring Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, and Fantasia Barrino in her film debut as Celie.

​​Torn apart from her sister and her children, Celie faces many hardships in life, including an abusive husband. With support from a sultry singer named Shug Avery and her stand-her-ground stepdaughter, Celie ultimately finds extraordinary strength in the unbreakable bonds of a new kind of sisterhood.

Why Did It Make My List? 

Compelling performances, soulful and impactful music, and a heart-wrenching story are the pillars of what this adaptation of the stage musical stands for. I’m surprised it ended up this far down on my list since I thoroughly enjoyed the film. People who love the original movie shouldn’t fear seeing this film. Think of it more as a supplement to the story you saw before. It will not take away from that film but rather add to the movie you already love. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/ndg_SfB48es

8. Bottoms

Rated R – Comedy ‧ 1h 32m

Directed by Emma Seligman,

Starring Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Dagmara Domińczyk, and Marshawn Lynch.

Unpopular best friends PJ and Josie start a high school fight club to meet girls and lose their virginity. They soon find themselves in over their heads when the most popular students begin beating each other up in the name of self-defense.

Why Did It Make My List?

This is possibly my favorite straight comedy of 2023. It’s irreverent, fresh, plays for keeps, and is from the disenfranchised’s point of view, which is an amazingly different take. The story is one that I’ve never seen, and it is full of jokes I’ve never heard of. I laughed out loud, hard, throughout the entire film. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/vH5NAahf76s?si=bZUiSVWUX3qqhH39

7. Poor Things

Rated R ‧ Fantasy/Sci-fi ‧ 2h 21m

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, and Jerrod Carmichael, with Kathryn Hunter,

Brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist, a young woman runs off with a lawyer on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, she grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.

Why Did It Make My List?

Very creative and original story, with some wonderful performances by the whole cast. Mark Ruffalo is outstanding as a bad guy, and Emma Stone solidifies herself as a top-notch actor with a bold performance. This film won’t be for everyone, but those who like it will love it. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/RlbR5N6veqw?si=imUUTRa9la3kGiLE

6. American Fiction

Rated R ‧ Comedy/Drama ‧ 1h 57m

Director: Cord Jefferson 

Starring Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, and Keith David.

Monk is a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment that profits from Black entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish Black book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.

Why Did It Make My List?

This film’s ability to weave between comedy and drama is quite remarkable. As is its cast. A fun story showing a different kind of Black experience, which is also the film’s central plotline. Celebrating Black films that don’t rely on the tired tropes that the main character disdains is important. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/5_4RlHpqVWM?si=FJrqYiDzC1gtoqT9

5. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves 

PG-13 ‧ Action/Fantasy ‧ 2h 14m

Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley

Starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant.

A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a long-lost relic, but their charming adventure goes dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.

Why Did It Make My List?

This film is the film that I had the single best time watching in the theater. It’s funny; the fast-paced adventure made me want to play the game again. The film made me tell other people they HAD to see this film. It made the theater fun again.  

Here’s the trailer:

https://youtu.be/HGvv-Hhft3U

4. Wonka

PG ‧ Fantasy/Musical ‧ 1h 56m

Directed by Paul King

Starring Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Natasha Rothwell, Olivia Colman, and Hugh Grant

Armed with nothing but a hatful of dreams, young chocolatier Willy Wonka manages to change the world, one delectable bite at a time.

Why Did It Make My List?

Chalamet is the perfect young Wonka. The film is a smile. I loved every second of it. This “sort of” prequel to the original movie makes the ideal number of nods at the original and keeps its own voice.

Here’s the trailer: 

https://youtu.be/otNh9bTjXWg?si=wA8bE2GTHWcR2D6Z

3. Origin

PG-13 ‧ Drama ‧ 2h 21m

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Starring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Wilkerson, alongside Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Audra McDonald, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nick Offerman, and Blair Underwood.

Grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, writer Isabel Wilkerson sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery as she writes Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Why Did It Make My List?

This is one of the few films I believe; if enough people saw it, it could transform how we communicate and view race in this country. It’s enlightening and features an incredibly nuanced performance by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor. This is the film that is being left out of award discussions, and it really hurts me. It’s technically a 2023 film because it came out in limited release in December, but the wide release will only happen in mid-January of 2024. So you’ll still have a chance to see it. 

Here’s the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s27ETxdCUqw

2. All Of Us Strangers

Rated R ‧ Fantasy/Romance ‧ 1h 45m

Directed by Andrew Haigh,

Starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy.

One night in his near-empty London tower block, screenwriter Adam has a chance encounter with mysterious neighbor Harry, puncturing the rhythm of his everyday life. As a relationship develops between them, Adam finds himself drawn back to his childhood home, where his parents appear to be living just as they were on the day they died 30 years ago.

Why Did It Make My List?

This is an absolutely beautiful film. It is one of the best films of this year and the last several. Touching and intimate, it’s a story so good that it should be a play, but its mystery/fantasy requires it to be a film. I can’t recommend this film enough. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O97iSjvqBlY

1. Barbie

PG-13 ‧ Comedy/Fantasy ‧ 1h 54m

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell.

Barbie and Ken are having the time of their lives in the colorful and seemingly perfect world of Barbie Land. However, when they get a chance to go to the real world, they soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans.

Why Did It Make My List?

For me, Barbie had the perfect blend of entertainment and message. America Ferrera delivers the monologue of the year. Margot Robbie as Barbie is “perfection.” Ryan Gosling is a perfect Ken. I loved the humor, the style, the artistic direction…everything about the film. If one year ago you told me this would be my favorite movie of the year, I never would have believed you. Yet, here we are. 

https://youtu.be/pBk4NYhWNMM

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Film Club – A Christmas Story

A discussion of the holiday classic film A Christmas Story with comedian and podcast host Jim Webber. This a holiday of a film club edition of You’re Watching A Movie With Silas Lindenstein.

“A Christmas Story,” a cherished holiday classic released in 1983, masterfully captures the whimsy and nostalgia of childhood around Christmas time. Directed by Bob Clark and based on Jean Shepherd’s semi-autobiographical stories, this 94-minute film, rated PG, falls into the comedy and family genre. It revolves around Ralphie Parker, a young boy in the 1940s, and his singular wish for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The narrative delightfully unfolds the various escapades and challenges he faces, from confronting schoolyard adversaries to navigating the idiosyncrasies of his quirky family. The film is peppered with iconic and humorous moments, such as the unforgettable leg lamp prize, the tongue-stuck-to-a-frozen-pole incident, and the constant adult admonition, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Over the years, “A Christmas Story” has entrenched itself in holiday tradition, renowned for its heartfelt, comedic storytelling and its vivid depiction of Christmas excitement and wonder through the eyes of a child.

Video

https://youtu.be/_agkKLk_Nak

Audio-Only

https://audioboom.com/posts/8423208-film-club-a-christmas-story
“A Christmas Story” is a film rich with nostalgic anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories. Here are five fun facts about this beloved holiday classic:

Jean Shepherd’s Cameo: Jean Shepherd, the author whose stories the film is based on, makes a cameo in the movie. He’s the man who tells Ralphie and Randy that the line to see Santa Claus at the department store “starts back there.” Shepherd is also the film’s narrator, providing the voice of the adult Ralphie.

The Leg Lamp Origin: The infamous leg lamp, now a cultural icon, was created by production designer Reuben Freed. He was still determining how to design the lamp when he saw a Nehi Soda advertisement featuring a woman’s leg. The lamp has since become a symbol of the film and is a popular Christmas decoration.

Real Tongue-Tied Scene: In the scene where Flick’s tongue gets stuck to a frozen pole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal. It’s one of the film’s most memorable moments.

Location and Set: Although set in Indiana, the movie was primarily filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. The Parker family home is an actual house in Cleveland, which has since been turned into a museum dedicated to the film. Fans can visit and relive their favorite movie moments.

Box Office Underperformance: Much like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story” wasn’t a massive hit at the box office when it first came out. It only started to gain enormous popularity when it began to be broadcast annually on television, becoming an essential part of many families’ holiday traditions.

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