Showing posts with label film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2024

Backspot (2023)


An athlete's mindset can be their greatest advantage or distraction. When scrutiny of the outer world - family, coaches, society - bears down on players for their performance, let alone their gender or identity, the moment to break under pressure is always simmering under the surface. Much of this is the heart of director D.W. Waterson's feature directorial debut Backspot.

An ambitious cheerleader, Riley (Devery Jacobs), faces new adversity, an increased drive for perfection, and a demanding head coach (Evan Rachel Wood) when she and her girlfriend are selected for an all-star cheer squad. With a competition looming, Riley must navigate her drive alongside her crippling anxiety, as one wrong move could bring her crashing to the ground.

The world of sports is not easy for women, no matter the field. Cheerleading is itself is not considered as gruesome with their squad smiling through choreography and poses. Backspot doesn't merely aim to dispel the lack of dedication these athletes face but portray a well-rounded portrait of female and/or queer identity.

As the backspot, Riley leads the counts and supports her team with their dismounts; her teammates are counting on her vigilance and accuracy to avoid injury and to stay on time with their routines. Throughout the story, we see Riley's life fully from its interior - anxiety perpetuating Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), a celebrated love of queerness, and navigating a dysfunctional family life an overwhelmed mother played by Shannyn Sossamon and absent father. Among her comrades, Riley is the first to question authority, to be open about improving, and wanting others to do better. Starring outside of her breakout role from Reservation Dogs, Jacobs tows the fine line to not be rebellious for rebellious' sake but to assert herself where so much of her training has no room for error. She is the exact leading star the film needs to give Riley all different shades of strength and vulnerability.

Witnessing players getting wiped out, enduring bone-breaking injuries, battered feet, and endless hours of precise choreography, becomes the unknowing sacrifice only those from the inside truly know about.

And, as a counterpart to Riley, there is Eileen. She is everything that Riley looks up to. But, in the pursuit of being at the top, Eileen's iron-clad standards brings to question whether her teaching techniques are brutal in general, or brutal because she does not present herself softer as a woman. As she says, "If I were Bill Belichick, you wouldn’t look at me like that" after a disastrous practice, and Riley comes to her almost like a daughter wanting compassion where there is little to be given. Their mentor-mentee relationship teeters on being fully realized, as Evan Rachel Woods delivers a wonderful blend of ruthlessness and impartiality - she's exacting and straight-forward in what her character demands but extracts enough empathy for a female and queer coach who refuses to be seen as weak.

Written by Joanne Sarazen, most of the conflict lies in the head games the lead character is pulled towards and heightened by those around them. While the tension of Jacobs and Woods takes center stage, Sarazen leaves enough room for glimmers of the supporting roles to become warm outliers amidst the stress and pressure - Thomas Antony Olajide as Eileen's right hand man Devon, Kudakwashe Rutendo as Riley's compassionate girlfriend Amanda, Olunike Adeliyi as Amanda's life-of-the-party mother, and Noa DiBerto as Riley's bubbly teammate Rachel.

Between the leads and supporting cast, the film is a mix of a thriller and young adult drama, doing its best not to cast everyone in the same light. But just like nerves and excitement drum up the same physicality - elevated heart rate, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, sensory overload - sometimes the production reutilizes elements to recreate a similar mood- swirling cinematography, claustrophobic camera work, a pulsing soundtrack. Many shots seemed to capture an aesthetic more than adding to the story; at times dazzling and dynamic, but also making transitions at times uneven. The film's ambition in trying to achieve the high octane energy falls slightly short as similar films - the unrelenting intimidation of Whiplash and obsession with transcendence from Black Swan. It holds more steady as a solid coming-of-age film with thoughtful queer representation on and behind the screen (director D.W. Waterson identifies as non-binary, helms an LGBTQ+ cast, and and the film is produced by Eliot Page's Page Boy Productions)

Like many entries in the sports genre, Waterson focuses on how an athlete's inner conflict is on the verge of exposing Riley to her worst self-doubts or gifting her with the ability to take what she needs and use it as fuel. Structurally, there may be familiar elements with Backspot in comparison to other athlete/performer vs mentor films. But there is a refreshing twist that buoys with the notion that anyone in pursuit of a greater goal may suffer for their performance but therein lies deeper choices on how far to let those sacrifices take them - it can push you to the finishing line, to realize it's okay to be yourself first and walk away. Within the best of what Backspot features, is the lesson that it is enough to try and fail, or try and succeed, but most importantly, to try anyways.

Rating: ★★★1/2☆☆

Note: I was provided with a screener to provide this review. BackspotBackspot is available in select cinemas May 31st.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Courtney Gets Possessed (2023)

In Sickness and In Hell.”
Melting ice sculptures. Sibling rivalries. A mother’s cringe-worthy honeymoon advice. Plenty of mishaps can and will throw off a bride’s special day. Perhaps nothing more can cause such damage than when an ex-flame shows up out of nowhere and that ex just happens to be….Dave. Also known as Satan.

The horror of tying the knot has never been so much fun than in director and writer combo Jono Mitchell and Madison Hatfield’s latest film Courtney Gets Possessed.

When soon-to-be-newlywed Courtney (Lauren Bugioli) becomes possessed by Dave (Jonathon Pawlowski), her bridal party – including type A maid of honor Lexi (Aditi George), jealous sister Caitlin (Madison Hatfield), and groom’s disapproving sister Jasmine (Najah Bradley) – race to exorcise Dave out of the picture for good before he makes their beloved friend tie the cursed knot for all eternity.

Following in the footsteps of famed classic The Exorcism and hit-comedy Bridesmaids, Mitchell and Hatfield captures both the anticipation and joy of such an occasion as a wedding. Using a limited setting in the characters’ main home, there’s tremendous attention to detail with the production from the neon lighting design that evokes both hell and a rave to the 80s synth theme score composed by Jordan Benett. The film manages to break the limitations of independent features to capture the essence of major studio flick – it never feels entirely claustrophobic with clever cinematography by Brett A. Frager that moves the story forward from room to room. 

As the panicked attendees take the DIY approach to get their friend back, the direction paces the unexpected bloodshed with wry humor. When a large ensemble shares sufficient scream-time and mic-drop jokes, many films stumble in losing sight of the story to capture all of the players at work and vice versa. In contrast, Courtney Gets Possessed allows Bugioli to offer a stellar leading performance with a double-take between Courtney and as Dave, but never dilutes the supporting cast into mere reinforcements. Each character leads as a star in their own right – Madison Hatfield masking Caitlin’s sarcasm with self-doubt and envy, Jonathon Pawlowski’s mischievous devilry as Dave/Satan, Najah Bradley’s Jasmine heartfelt protectiveness over her brother and charismatic bait Zae Jordan Glen, Aditi George’s spinning Lexi’s perfectionism into nerdy endearment, Steve Reddington’s blusters of expletives will live in my head rent-free – to name a few. It's difficult to point out one performance over another, speaking to how evenly focused the directors were to both the plot and characters.

Performing a cover of boy band hits and delving into sibling rivalries while performing a How To: Exorcise The Devil can only be carried on with verve if trust is infused by the directors and carried on by the actors. As the characters feel the pressure to save Courtney while peeking at the Prince of Darkness’s Wikipedia and throwing together impromptu internet-ordained exorcisms, Hatfield and Mitchell maintain a steady confidence over their inspiration from cinema and wedding season. While there are notable homages and nods to classic demonic possession movies, the duo at the helm put their own confident stamp on both comedy and horror. Even though every day is a good day for an exorcism for some – for others, not so much. But Courtney Gets Possessed certainly makes a must-watch good case for it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Note: I was provided with a screener to provide this review. Be sure to check out Courtney Gets Possessed - available on digital and demand November 3rd.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nope (2022)

The muddled execution of Us didn't make me question what Jordan Peele could do next. He's only three films into his career, and doing all right for himself despite the divisiveness surrounding his last film. Still, with so little time to prepare my hype in these 'The Myans Were Wrong' times, Peele has regained stride from Get Out . 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Batman (2022)

Is Batman overrated? Aren't there more superheroes to make movies about? Isn't a big reason why some feel Batman is overrated is because he's gotten so many adaptations - almost as much, if not more, than Superman? It's hard to ignore these questions as another reboot releases this Spring and takes the world by storm. However, when its long-awaited hype promises to do something different with the Caped Crusade and delivers, it's almost impossible to not acknowledge how an iconic character can once again seem new.

Director Matt Reeves had a very specific vision that made Warner Bros want to take another shot at the eternally brooding Bruce Wayne. It's that vision which makes going to the cinemas worthy again, especially after the past two years we've had. His universe is designed specifically for a cinematic experience with Michael Giacchino's unpredictable score, larger-than-life cinematography, and visceral production design. Set against the darkest days Gotham faces, this doesn't take us back to the roots of Wayne's origins as Batman - it drops us right in the middle of his second year with the "Gotham Project", trying to etch a legacy through his family name as his alter-ego as the Riddler uses the bodies of Gotham's elite as pawns in an ambitious cat-and-mouse game.

Brought to life by a top-notch ensemble, the familiar faces we've seen before come to life on-screen with a few twists - Zoe Kravitz's Catwoman wanting to escape and avenger from the power-hold of her crooked bosses (the character is slinkier and graceful than ever before yet just as bad-ass as Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfieffer, and Anne Hathaway (sorry Halle Berry). Jim Carrey's over-the-top and very gay Riddler is usurped by Paul Dano's 99%er plotting and murdering his way to justice. Colin Farrell's Penguin doesn't see the light of day as much as Danny DeVito's sympathetic villain from Batman Returns, but it's a character turn that's refreshing for the blockbuster-turned-character actor. Jim Gordon still maintains his right-hand-man status with Bruce Wayne investigating crimes, but Jeffrey Wright feels just as grounded and palpably anxious to rid Gotham of its devils. Not to mention - Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgarrd, John Tuturro, and whoever is silhouetted as the next possible villain before the ending credits roll. Oh, and then there's Robert Pattinson. Known for his weird quirks and insane choice of freakish roles, Pattinson slips into the scarred and damaged Bruce Wayne almost as easily as Christian Bale - if not more so. When that light hits the sky, it's not just a call, it's a warning. While the rest of the film certainly roll along, he manages to exude elements of past actors - their awkwardness, pain, hope, resilience, humanity - and also adds new layers of fear, intimidation, and anger.

As grim and raw as The Batman is in the wake of his predecessors more family-friendly vibes, it's not  as revolutionary as so many reviews point out for me. Story-wise, I didn't find the plot much different than Christopher Nolan's trilogy. The script still heavily focuses on corrupt cops and government needing to be overthrown, not putting to use supporting characters of color, the seediness of Gotham's underground taking advantage of the system and disadvantaged as Nolan's series did. In the same vein, as much plot as this film tries not be as formulaic as the MCU or DCEU recent entries, some of the characters fall to the wayside - Riddler is terrifying but his re-appearances grow repetitive; Farrell's unrecognizable as The Penguin, but he's mainly a lackey who will have his own familiar rise to power soon. The winding road of 'see another victim, get a new clue' rinse and repeat runs the plot for the most part, which makes the running time run pretty smoothly. However, the big reveals wasn't predictable - it's like realizing halfway through a maze, you already know where the exit is.

In looking towards the future of the new Batman slate, we also have to look at the past...and it's  refreshing that The Batman managed to give a whole arc to its leading character in one-go rather than resting on the whims of the studio bouncing from director or actor to another, or inhabiting the same type of themes throughout a trilogy. We've come so far with these films, it's a disservice to say this one is merely better when it's merely adapted to audiences' tastes and technology over the decades. Yet Reeves's approach does not detract from its subtle humor and effective character development. Two and a half hour plus running time seems excessive in the beginning, but the film remains intriguing enough from beginning to end that the time simply flies by with suspense, action, and romance peaking at just the right moments. After my showing, someone on the way out of the theater mentioned that they'd like to see a five hour cut, and I have to agree. Even if every frame is utilized to its best advantage, it doesn't stop me from wanting more, more, more.

Rating: ★★1/2☆

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Cosmic Dawn (2021)

We’ve been looking towards the cosmos to understand ourselves since the beginning of time. For those who have venture closer than admiring space from afar, abductees or the families left behind try to make sense of what happened and why. It can be a tumultuous experience struggling to believe their own encounters and facing skeptics who question them.

In writer/director Jefferson Moneo’s latest film, Aurora (Camilla Rowe) has been searching for answers since she was a young girl and witnessed her mother inexplicably disappearing into the night sky. Years later as an adult, she’s compelled to join a UFO cult The Cosmic Dawn seemingly finding the community she's needed until she discovers its leader Elyse (Antonia Zegers) is not who she seems to be.

Aurora is the central anchor to take us through the effects of her life before joining the group, her indoctrination, and the escape attempt afterwards. Largely a model before turning to film, Camille Rowe only has a few credits under her belt, but it's tough to not imagine roles eventually coming her way. She balances Aurora’s naivete to be swept up by the group’s unusual practices with desperation of seeing her mom again through a cosmic connection. It helps that she is joined by Emmanuelle Chiriquí as Natalie – a mysterious young woman who recruits Aurora into the group – and her husband Tom, played by Joshua Barge. Both are mindful to tread their roles ambiguously enough to doubt whether they are merely pawns in Elyse’s web or using Aurora for their own gain.

At the core of Cosmic Dawn, Jefferson Moneo (who’s own experience inspired the film) searches for meaning towards why someone would join a cult and what they’re looking for – answers, community, a part of themselves that’s been lost. He also infuses the world-building with details that are both familiar with other cult-inspired films and well-executed on their own. This deep sense of personalization flows throughout that makes you question the world around them, but not necessarily the characters' trauma. His vision - styled with a synth-led score by Alan Howarth and MGMT, cinematography framed in bold neon, and drug-induced hallucinations – becomes a downright trippy experience.

Even though the cast and production brings sufficient substance to the story, they are hindered by its style at times. The film primarily anchors to Aurora’s vulnerability as she searches for her mother in others, primarily Elyse as the group’s leader. Antonia Zegers invites a warm maternal presence that shows what Aurora sees in her, but her leadership also comes across as a rough amalgamation of ideas rather than a fully-realized process to fully flesh out their individual circumstances. More than that, the script divides into exploring Aurora both joining and leaving the group. Consistently flash-backing, or flashing-forward, becomes gradually haphazard to adding suspense to Elyse’s intentions and what’s to become of Aurora.

Cosmic Dawn features performances and production design that hold your attention, mixing the awe of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and trippiness of Midsommar. Moneo isn’t asking or plodding for viewers to come away believing in aliens – only to explore the plausible after-effects to those who encounter them. His plot and style is led astray at times, struggling to juggle the atmospheric sci-fi elements with drama. Aurora’s emotional journey might be divisive for some but ultimately engrossing enough for the concept to be worthwhile.

Rating: ★★☆

Thank you to Cranked Up Films for providing a screener. Cosmic Dawn is available to watch on-demand and limited in theaters.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

tick, tick,....BOOM (2021)

Even though I'm a musical nerd, I've never been an avid Rent fan. #blasphemy However, I am Lin-Manuel Miranda trash, so the two was easily a mixed bag to convince me to watch. Like it or not, he's doing things with musicals across every medium that just isn't being achieved by one person. And that is both a good and bad thing. 

The level of creativity in lyricism and storytelling explodes from his mind at a frenetic unmatched pace, but that doesn't always spell 'accessible' to most audiences especially when it comes to musicals (an already divisive genre). For his directorial debut, the story of Jonathan Larson's (Andrew Garfield) life is right up his alley. He filters the composer's creativity as he tortures himself to produce his breakthrough Broadway show (a couple of years before Rent) and the sacrifice of never giving up on his dream even if it means paying a significant price to make it come true. 

As a musical first, it works. Miranda provides a wealth of inner-genre homages and styles that helps Andrew Garfield go balls-to-the-walls in a performance that...nobody probably expected to pour out of him. For Miranda's first step behind the camera, it doesn't surprise me that he wants to maximize his experience from the stage. Throughout most of the film, I was awed by his sheer imagination to transform songs in a multitude of ways most would never dream to string together. 

But as a film told part flashback, part-prophecy of the now-recognized genius, the plot plods along from one musical sequence to another that makes Larson range from a destitute artist to insufferable know-it-all as the world and his friends struggle as much, if not more than him. The story holds the promise of what it means for creative types to never give up because one day that dedication above all else will be worth it, but other than that, it's tough to see the forest from the trees several pivotal moments of his personal arc. Garfield commands the role effortlessly, balancing a breakdown of his character's own journey and the journey itself - it might be one of his best yet. Somehow, he doesn't let Miranda's complex vision drown him out and instead leads the parade to make Larson's workaholism as heart-racking as possible.

However, couple a character that's not the most likable with occasional confusing, occasional brilliant staging and editing choices that simply needs more restraint, tick, tick...BOOM!'s build-up to the spark of inspiration for Rent doesn't feel as contextually layered as the film leads on. Some elements that work on stage might not work on film and vice versa - it's still a lesson that most adaptations or musicals need to accept. Of Miranda's works so far, that also split audiences between musicals versus their subjects, tick, tick...BOOM! will primarily pack a punch for the theatre kids crowd. Even this one.

Rating: ★★☆

Rest in peace, Stephen Sondheim. Thank you for way too many 3 am nights where I should've been studying but was listening to your work and pretending I was on stage in my bedroom instead.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Spencer (2021)

The world knows everything there is to know about Princess Diana. Hollywood has certainly exhibited its fair share of arthouse films and hot-gossip biopics of her life to have all of the bases covered. Where could another movie delve into that hasn't been explored before? Enter: Pablo Larrain, who does not settle for a paint-by-numbers biopic and goes all out with a psychological mindfuck. 

Set during the weekend of December 1991, the British Royal family is spending the Christmas holidays at the Queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Instead of bucking to the traditions of showing up on time, weighing-in on arrival, and hunting escapades, Diana becomes consumed with the image of herself - in the mirror, all the ways the house hears and sees her every move, what the world will think of her in the future - and trying to break free from it. 

Where his former biopic Jackie is a spiritual monument to American royalty, here Diana eats her giants pearls for dinner, convinced Anne Boleyn is sending her messages from the beyond, and breaks into her dilapidated childhood home to say goodbye for good. This is far from a dysfunctional-family drama, even a royal one; it's a gothic-esque horror with Johnny Greenwood's haunting score, and Claire Mathon's claustrophobic cinematography. Rarely is there a moment where any interaction Diana has doesn't pivot close to Kristen Stewart like you're climbing the walls with her or towards the house staff  conversing with the ghostly bartenders in The Shining - eery one-on-one probing interrogations and endless heresy. There isn't a second that this movie doesn't let up with Diana's tribulations and what she needs to shed before the weekend is over - her royal responsibilities, the ghosts of her past, any vague prophecies she thinks the world will have of her. 

All of this certainly feels like a hefty subject matter, and for bigger Diana fans, they will automatically try to carry the burden that she had to. However, as much as the film is a visceral cinematic treat, I also found it lacking in its effectiveness to make me lose myself in the story. With Jackie, Larrain was both bold and subtle in its symbolism; there was a drive for Jackie Onassis to enshrine John F. Kennedy's legacy into his funeral, to not leave the White House quietly in the night like the Johnson administration wanted her to - but with a bang. And, her decisions to do so, losing Jack and their hot' n cold marriage played into that all-consuming grief. For Spencer, the plot is very much static - almost too much. There's symbolism, there's intense isolation and paranoia, there are plays on imagery and what is reality vs Diana's imagination. The film opens as a "fable based on a true tragedy" and drops the audience into her nervousness right off the bat. As the running time goes on though, it doesn't necessarily capitalize more on fictionalizing the facts to create tension or drive a palpable unease in the script. Maybe because Diana has had more than her fair share of B-list drama and lies surrounding her name, the film veered away from that. But I kept wanting "more" I can't put my finger on - more stakes placed on Diana and her breakdown/breakthrough, tension with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles or the new Equerry Major, less of a carousel of symbolism to carry me to the end. Something to give me more than Stewart's performance to go on. 

Understandably, Stewart is one of - if not the - front runner for the upcoming Oscars season, and for good reason. The film leans on her to bring us into the surrealist fold of Diana's life and that specific weekend. And, she does so by achieving what so many in biopics who have won Oscars has achieved - capturing the likeness to a tee that it makes you forget and at times remember this isn't the real person - it's an actor. But, it's also not enough for me to confidently say she carries the film on her own. Around the half-way mark, the story and performance trying not to to summarize her life as the tragic princess by fictionalizing a lot of the tragedy...just felt like her portrayal was going around in circles. (Sean Harris's stern yet tender performance as the royal head chef and Sally Hawkins as her dresser stood out to me portraying the commonfolk rooting for Diana to survive the royal circus. But the supporting cast isn't featured enough to be an ensemble). 

When Diana's liberation to reclaim her name arrives, the ending is an earned wish-fulfillment of a future she struggled to achieve. I understood everything that was conveyed, but that catharsis didn't burrow itself as deeply for me as it has with many critics and admirers. I'll revisit this in the upcoming months and years to see if another viewing will change my mind - I'm open to it. Vague familiarity with the real events is suitable for anyone who wants to see this, but fans with advanced degrees in all things Diana will walk away the most satisfied with this refreshing arthouse take.

Rating: ★1/2 to 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Do throwbacks make the movie? is a question that has been on my mind with the current string of beloved franchises - specifically ever since Avengers: Endgame . Since the 22nd Marvel film and the end of an era delivered a soul-satisfying ending for me as a Captain America fan, I shouldn't complain. But it's lack of a tight script and loose threads back down memory lane simply doesn't compare to the leaner, meaner and more tension-driven conflict of  Avengers: Infinity War  that always leads me to question 'what if sequels didn't focus so much on fanservice'. And, it's something that came up repeatedly with  Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

With director and writer Jason Reitman's personal attachment to the original 1984 film, it's obvious that this version would try to be a family affair both in production and plot - the grandkids and daughter of Egon Spengler are drawn into an old conspiracy that drove him to the middle of nowhere and face-off against another ancient 'inevitable' ploy towards the end of the world. Any personal connection between characters is a dead giveaway to build a foundation for the second reboot, but the script doesn't feel as confident in its choices. 

Like proton packs crossing the streams, the film tries to establish itself as an original YA piece bridging to the original, but before you know it becomes all consumed by connecting every dot towards a throwback. Nerdy and awkward Phoebe Spengler (McKenna Grace) and her friend Podcast (the amazing Logan Kim) drive what could've been a deadbeat summer into an spectral-fighting adventure, unlocking the clues of what her misunderstood and ostracized grandfather left behind.... while everyone else starts out as compelling characters but then end up unraveling as time goes on (Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, and Celeste O'Connor). Reitman aims to unravel a new mystery Egon left behind, but can't do so without rehashing the past to the point that the easter eggs run the extreme gamut between earned and forced. Every time the story moves towards establishing more of the new characters, there's always another moving piece that takes it backwards too much. It never quite feels like this cast or characters enacting on a new adventure gets their due.

It's not that this movie isn't a good time at the cinemas. It is. And, after the year-plus we've had with COVID, we shouldn't not feel good about having more harmless fun. There are plenty of laughs and fitting homages, and the beating heart of a disconnected family rehabilitating their legacy is wonderful (again, McKenna Grace embodies a heroine I love now as an adult and makes me sad that 15 year old me didn't have growing up). But eventually, the easter eggs mainly add up to satisfying hardcore fans who are divisive about Ghostbusters 2 and want to completely erase the 2016 reboot as if it never existed. Outside of that, there aren't many risks or originality that makes it stand out from the string of sequels-reboots struggling to follow the footsteps of their iconic predecessors. For a film that remains unmatched by the newer reiterations, when will we accept that the originals are free to be revered  without something shiny trying to live up to its memory.

Rating: ★1/2☆☆

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

No Time to Die (2021)

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, (Jeffrey Wright) shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail back to a past love Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) and her connection to a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who's armed with a dangerous new bio-technology.

This review contains spoilers for No Time to Die.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) struggles to coexist with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom. While on the verge of splitting up, deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) also becomes host to an alien symbiote that amplifies his psychotic behavior. Brock and Venom must put aside their differences to stop his reign of terror as Cletus strives to reunite with his long lost love Shriek (Naomie Harris).

The review below contains spoilers regarding the post-credit scene. 

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was honestly one of my most-anticipated movies of the year because I enjoy the first one so much. The bar wasn't set necessarily low, to be honest, even in the wake of all of the terrible reviews since its release this October. I wanted more of Eddie and Venom's relationship, or double the Tom Hardy, and I got it. There were more than enough scenes where his real tattoos were peaking through his shirt collars, so that alone made me happy. But more than that, his performance as Eddie and Venom remained hilarious and heartfelt. Harrelson and Harris' relationship was sorely under-developed but offered enough layers for their crazy-love story to explode from the screen. And the action scenes featured some cinematography that manages to be refreshing in the ever-expanding comic book genre. As a movie goer, I'm at a point right now where I would rather choose an imperfect movie and enjoy its flaws, rather than suffer through boredom and tears to a formulaic film trying to be perfect. I couldn't help but imagine and looking forward to watching this back-to-back with the first film.

However, setting that aside, this is deeply flawed. Three different plots are taking place - Cletus Kasady's crimes, the cover-up of Shriek's death and her origins, and Ed/Venom's floundering relationship. Despite the fact that there's plenty of material to go-around, it's truly only the latter that's given room to grow. For everything else, the movie doesn't have time to flesh them out. The dialogue is spoken so fast it's like a tape-recorder stuck on fast-forward or the script assistant was holding a stop-watch. Once you settle into one scene, it's propelling to the next. The first two acts whirl by, that when the third act copy-cat battle from Spider-Man 3 hits, the pacing finally becomes steadier but tremendous whiplash kicks in. It's tough to recollect how much of the story leads to the ending because it feels like two seconds ago you  arrived to the theater.

In comparison, Venom's running time is about two hours, where its sequel barely hits 97 minutes. The former was far from complicated with its paint-by-numbers origin story. But still, directing an actor talking to himself and trying to convey that he's half controlled by symbiote isn't an easy feat. And that running time lets Eddie and Venom's coupling grow stronger against their feud against Carlton Drake. Serkis' direction picks up where Ruben Fleischer left off with dry humor and CGI-packed action that the tone between the two films is almost seamless. Serkis aimed for the film to be lean to be as lean as possible, but if anymore of the story had been edited, there wouldn't have been a plot. Kelly Marcel's script doesn't feel it's the culprit as much as it could've been. Her script maintains the same vibes as the first film, which she was a co-writer on. She's helming this material as the solo writer and doesn't have trouble reigning in the different threads so they come together in an explosive showdown. But, it's that editing prowess that hinders what could've been.

But after everything is said and done, once the post-credit scene arrived with Tom Holland's Spider-Man, the race through the entire movie became somewhat clearer - Marvel wanted to plug in Spidey's next installment releasing this Christmas. Granted, the pandemic hasn't made movie-making or movie-going easy. Plenty of movies' production schedule and release dates have been bumped up, delayed, rinse, repeat. Venom: Let There Be Carnage wasn't an exception. But, Marvel is known for pulling in audiences with its cliffhangers for the past decade. And someone lost confidence in the film on its own to take its time to do what it needed to do for its fans before jumping into Marvel's ill-conceived timeline for phase 4. Now with the semi-average streaming machine of the Disney+ shows, What If?, and Black Widow (I have yet to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or The Eternals), there's nothing inventive or spectacular about Marvel right now. Marvel's going through the paces of keeping up with its own trajectory, and now other titles are getting hit with the consequences. 

Now, I'm not saying Venom was a game-changer, but it did carve its own space, even as a movie that critics loathed and fans loved. Somewhere along the way Venom: Let There Be Carnage starts cutting corners, sprinting between Brock or Kasady moving from place to place, and intention to intention, to the point that there was smaller in-between moments left on the editing room floor for no reason. Any semblance of scenes would've slowed down the pacing. It's more understandable for a film to be over two hours long and to know which scenes need to be cut than for a movie to barely graze the 90 minute mark and clearly see gaping holes where more could've filled in. The subsequent headlines and critics aren't talking about what the film had to offer or the potential it had outside of the post-credit scene like it did for the first installment - only what Kevin Feige has to say about the post-credits. The merge between Sony and Marvel's different worlds isn't going to be as seamless as one used to hope. And that's disappointing. Venom: Let There Be Carnage getting caught in the middle is a result of that.

Rating: ★1/2☆

Monday, October 11, 2021

Cured (2021)

Coming out has never been an easy feat. Identifying to the LGBTQ+ community can provoke ignorance as well a loss of job opportunities, marriage equality, and health rights. As much of a struggle as it is today for many, great strides have been made to ensure that pride isn’t just an annual celebration in June – but a generational one that continues to unfold and grow stronger.

In the award winning documentary Cured, directors Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer shine a light on the campaign that lessened the stigma of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. In the first edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality under mental illnesses – more specifically, sexual deviation.

Using their standard of what was ‘morally acceptable,’ it led the church to deem homosexuality a sin, a crime by the government, and as a neurotic disease by psychiatrists. With these motions in play, millions of individuals struggled with the shame of being found out, forced into inhuman cures and conversion ‘therapies’, and overall treated as second class citizens.
Nothing makes you sick like believing you are sick. - Ron Gold
Until activists and psychiatrists started to fight back. With archival photos and footage, the directors thread the line of multiple organizations rallying to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive. Interviews with activists who experienced these events firsthand – Charles Silverstein, Rep Magora Kennedy, Barbara Gittings and her partner Kay Lahausen, Frank Kameny – further show the lengths of frustration, passion, and purpose to transform the ‘status quo.’ Their efforts as well as the influence of Dr. Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker's research to ratify liberation with demonstrations and shifting the public narrative of mental health with allies became a campaign to reform the APA. As more waves of freedom-forward activism for civil rights, women's rights, and against the Vietnam gained ground, and two decades of advocacy work around the United States, the APA made a landmark decision to finally remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive in 1973.

Cured delves into the voices who vied to be heard, as well as the surprising duality of psychiatrists using “scientific” diagnosis to provoke and solidify false claims of mental illness. The documentary takes its time to cover as much ground as possible in a chronological effort, weaving in the wide range of activists who were all charging towards the same cause. However, it can’t help at times to feel that the topic could be further explored at length in a docu-series. Still, the film curates a range of a powerful account from several leaders before they passed away and for those who are still fighting to be heard. Even though the community still faces challenges, the activists’ revolution remains an inspiring catalyst to create a more compassionate and accepting world.
If you want to call attention to an issue and you want to make a change, take it to the streets. - Rep. Magora Kennedy
In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11th 2021, Cured will open PBS' Independent Lens series for the upcoming fall season on Monday night at 10:00 pm. This review was provided via a screener.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Cruella (2021)

Young trouble-maker Estella (Emma Stone) teams up with a pair of crooks Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) after a tragic freak accident leaves her orphaned. With a deep ambition to become a fashion designer, Estella is spurned to transform into her alter-ego Cruella de Vil as she faces off against the industry’s most influential designer Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson).

Though I’ve always had a soft spot for Disney’s villains, Cruella de Vil is my all-time favorite. Of all the antagonists who harbor reasonable motivations for why they turned evil, she’s always been point-blank ruthless for ruthless’ sake –there aren't too many ways to justify someone wanting to kill animals and dogs for their fur to satiate their ego. The news of her origin story in the works initially disappointed me because she'd inevitably be altered to be more marketable. But after finally seeing the latest version, this is the first in a long time I got that can't-help-but-smile kind of excitement when the credits hit. Because it’s not too shabby.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Test Pattern (Athena Film Festival 2021)

(This review contains spoilers for Promising Young Woman).

Two different nights in Austin, Texas set the stage for Test Pattern – the first charming meet-cute between Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) and Evan (Will Brill) ends with the couple’s courtship blossoming into a loving lived-in relationship; the second similar night ends with Renesha drugged and sexually assaulted by a stranger during a girl’s night out at a bar. And the couple dealing with the health care system as they try to secure a rape kit.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Mama Gloria (Athena Film Festival 2021)

2020 marked the deadliest year on record for transgender and non-conforming individuals. Even with the emergence of trans entertainers and activists  likeJanet Mock and Laverne Cox in mind, how rare it is for LGBTQ+ youth to have a blueprint or example of trans icons who defy such unnecessary and transphobic circumstances. Just as equally rare is an inspirational documentary that Mama Gloria joyfully fills the void of. 

Told fully from her perspective, the documentary directed by Luchina Fisher affords Gloria Allen the opportunity to share her journey of transitioning in Chicago’s south side in the 1950s to her contributions as trailblazer today – now in her 70s. Most notably, she’s recognized for starting a charm school for her fellow trans women, especially homeless youth; the school also later became a play “Charm” which has inspired trans actresses to follow in her footsteps and come out as transgender. Where there is such glorious success, however, there are also adversities that have made her stronger including transphobia, sexual assault, and racism. The vulnerability, wisecracking humor, and honesty Allen exudes allows viewers to take a brief yet engrossing portrait of aging that offers insight and the process of recognizing gender and body dysphoria to gradually making the choice and having the access to transition medically.

For the most part, the film is able to capture Gloria's essence as a beloved mom to her "babies" -  students and trans youth who look to her for guidance - and the LGBTQ+ community at large. With letting Allen take the wheel of the film's structure, she’s able to hold the reigns of her story taking us through the nostalgic highs of her youth and the stark lows of challenges she's faced and continues to face in her older age. However, the documentary moves at a fairly brisk pace that doesn’t delve further where it could have. Though the film breaks up Allen’s narrative with a heartwarming high school reunion, interviews with her relatives, and archival footage of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood nightlife and drag balls, there are elements such as founding her charm school and Allen’s involvement in the Stonewall Riots that could’ve extended more context.

One of the most poignant moments of Mama Gloria is not only her ability to light the torch the next generation of trans women and men to carry, but also the resounding support and struggles she faced to ultimately fall in love with herself. Sadly, this is not always or commonly the same for so many. A conversation with a neighbor at their apartment complex brings the common thread and disparity of generations of LGBTQ+ individuals - “None of us when we were young ever thought about living to be this age, or what life experience would be in this age, and there were no examples.” Hopefully in the years ahead the world will become a place where it chooses to accept everyone for who they truly are and allow Gloria Allen’s story to be one of many examples of resilience, hope, and acceptance that the trans and LGBTQ+ community needs right now and always.

Screening Mama Gloria was a part of my coverage of this year’s Athena Film Festival. Check out more of my reviews here and the official website to Mama Gloria here.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Athena Film Festival 2021)

For the second time in her life, Julia Scotti rocked the comedy world when she auditioned for America’s Got Talent in 2016. After drawing approval and laughter from the live studio audience and judges, her humbling revelation of having transitioned and comedic verve made her a beloved favorite and later a finalist that year. Though many might know her best from her original televised comeback, it’s one of just many that’s highlighted and explored in the documentary Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.

Shot over a period of five years, director Susan Sandler’s documentary with Julia Scotti trails the comedian’s comeback and her complicated journey of transitioning, identity, and healing. Going primarily from the title, humor is an easy way ‘in’ to enjoying the documentary. There are plenty of jokes and anecdotes sprinkled throughout, as well as heartwarming meetings with comedy pals and stand-up routines, that will put a smile on your face. But underneath the surface the duo – Sandler and Scotti – dig deep to show not just the stand-up Scotti’s spent a lifetime honing, but the multi-faceted journey of compassion Scotti strives for with herself and the world around her.

Taking us back to the start of sorts, the documentary takes its time to explore Scotti living the dream as a headlining comedian appearing in club all across the U.S. in the late 1980s. Though it seemed like Scotti was on top of the comedy world, they struggled personally and professionally as issues of gender identity and sexuality came to light. At a time when gender dysphoria and gender reassignment surgery was rare, Scotti’s process to transitioning led to hormonal treatments, surgery, and a new identity as Julia Scotti at forty-seven. Along the way, she lost wives, family, and her career. After reinventing herself, she’s begun her journey back to the stand-up stage at fifty, while rebuilding relationships with her children after fifteen years of estrangement.

Using interviews with Scotti and her children as well as narrated animation and archival footage, Scotti explores the ‘blessing and the curse’ that happened the day she discovered who she was – how the liberation of enjoying every ounce of her womanhood also left lingering wounds such as the rift with her third ex-wife who supported her transition and gender-related issues that still play a role in her self-discovery today. Her reconciliation with her own misconceptions of gender, speaking out against transphobia such as a doctor misgendering her while recovering from spinal surgery, and helping her son with his own comedy career further opens up a conversation about the limits of what society considers masculine or feminine, transphobia, and homophobia. Though the film primarily centers on Scotti's life and experiences, it also presents further outlooks on society's attachment to vapid and ignorant ideas of "being normal."

As a first-time documentary filmmaker (at 72 years old), Sandler pieces together an inspiring portrait that finds a perfect balance between showing Scotti gaining a stride on stage and in her own life. She streamlines Julia Scotti: Funny That Way with candor, vulnerability, and empathy that lets you ride the wave of joy, compassion, regret, sorrow, and acceptance. Undoubtedly, comedy helps Scotti find her voice again as a comedian to her audience, a mother to her children, and a public speaker. But her whole story also shines a rare light that highlights the roadblocks of waiting too long to discovering your truth and imploring hope that it's never too late to accept who you truly are.

Screening Julia Scotti: Funny That Way was a part of my coverage of this year’s Athena Film Festival. Check out more of my reviews here and the official website to Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

17-year-old  William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party led by Fred Hamptom (Daniel Kaluuya). As O'Neal gains acceptance and camaraderie with Hampton and his comrades, the FBI pushes their campaign to criminalize Hampton that ultimately leads to his assassination.

Similar to Candice Frederick's review, I couldn't stop thinking about or comparing Judas and the Black Messiah to The Departed - its potential similarities and stark differences.

Both films share the core structure of the spy story. For the former, William goes undercover into the Black Panther Party, and is continuously upended by his involvement. Even though William believes he is the rare example of an undercover agent, there are others lurking all over the place, forcing him to watch his back and always feel threatened by the potential of blowing his cover or having someone blow it for him. With The Departed, centered on the 'rats' trying to dismantle an Irish mob boss ring, there's always a lingering question and conflict of how the entire operation will fall apart. Despite the split focus on multiple characters and their motives, there's always a steady tension of three things - the suspicious intentions of multiple agencies trailing Costello, the true identities of cops surrounding him, and if Leonardo DiCaprio's frenzied character can maintain his sanity until he's free (which he will never earn). You never quite know what anyone's next move is, and everyone feels like they're fallen into a never-ending trap of cat and mouse. No matter how many spies we follow or twists the story takes, the leads are what glue you to both films.

UPDATED: New Rescheduling Dates for 2021+ Movies

Due to the corona-virus, our regular summer of movie-going has been postponed. With cineplexes closing temporarily (or forever) and theatrical releases moving to streaming services, there's been a massive shift in the dates of movies going forward this year. From Marvel and Disney to DCEU and beyond, I've compiled a list of dates for films that will have a new opening weekend either later this year or further down the road. Mark your calendars (with a pencil - just in case!).

If you see a film missing from this list that you think I should add, feel free to share below. Which movies are you looking forward to seeing? This updated list has been expanded to include 2021 dates and beyond.

Beans (Athena Film Festival 2021 Opening Night)

Something special happens for a director or writer when they can probe deep memories into a compelling story, and the audience who has their eyes opened to an event or perspective we haven't seen before. Both of these are at the heart of director Tracey Deer's first film Beans, setting an appropriate tone as the first film chosen to open the Athena Film Festival.

Inspired by her own childhood, writer-director Tracey Deer mends the gap between a traditional coming-of-age tale against the backdrop of a historical event. In the summer of 1990, twelve year old Tekehentahkhwa's (Kiawentiio) adolescence unfolds with complicated friendships, standing up to oppression, and family dynamics against the backdrop of the Oka Crisis - a 78 day standoff of Mohawk people protecting their sacred burial grounds from overturning into a golf course by the White Quebec population.

Through Beans, the audience is taken through the familiar territory of adolescence as well as the terrifyingly frontlines of this under-regarded moment in Canadian history. She’s on the cusp of entering a prestigious white-led school for young girls – a decision that she feels called to fill by her independent-driven and courageous mother. We see her in the beginning wide-eyed and innocent; enjoying the play time she gets to spend with her younger sister and wary of disappointing her parents. Like most pre-teens who eventually learn to forge their own path, especially one away from their parents, her mature awakening begins with befriending a group of older rebellious teenagers she tries to fit in with by learning to fight, curse, and dress provocatively and show the deep-seeded anger that comes with her family being oppressed. 

Beans, portrayed by Kiawenti:io Tarbell, gives an empathetic performance. She’s able to evolve the character’s sweetness into the unbridled frustration and pain that comes from the events surrounding her. The ensemble itself is more of a female-driven narrative as well – with her mother (Rainbow Dickerson), sister (Violah Beauvais), and her friend April (Paulina Jewel Alexis) are with her on the journey as they try to find refuge away from the violent protests they’re surrounded with.

To balance the familiarity of Beans adolescence with the Oka crisis, Deer interjects the drama with real news programs. Unlike some biopics that struggle to mesh the live action story with historical context, Deer connects the two by mirroring the protests through the characters' journeys. As the Mohawk people protect their land from Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian Army, Beans and her family realistically encounter the frontlines at every turn. The mix of both tangibly creates more general tension around both plots and drives each other forward, and lets Beans claim her heritage on her own terms.

To move from an idea to pre-production and (hopefully) a theatrical release, film debuts are often a deeply personal experience from the filmmaker that needs to be told. Similar to director Haroula Rose's debut Once Upon A River, young adult films centering on indigenous and native experiences is a burgeoning genre that's ripe for stories we haven't seen featured in cinema before. Deer’s entry balances the vulnerable touch of her own perspective that the audience can delve into and come away with a wider appreciation of the world at large.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Kid 90 (2021)

We don’t often learn of the opportunities and difficulties juvenile actors face until headlines show it or history becomes etched in memoirs. A rare chance to star in their own show or become a heartthrob leaves so many kids who love entertain discovering the risks and the realities of the industry before they're prepared to live in front of the spotlight. Kid 90, directed by Soleil Moon Free, brings us closer to taking a look behind-the-scenes and a generation of stars who learned to navigate the pitfalls of fame.

As a teenager in the 90s, actress and director Soleil Moon Frye carried around a video camera everywhere she went and saved diaries, journals, and voice mail messages. After locking away the footage for almost 20 years, she revisits her childhood as a teenage star and presents an unprecedented time capsule of growing up in Hollywood and New York City.

From her early days of starting out as Punky Brewster to nabbing smaller roles in B-horror movies, Frye shows us life through her eyes. Though she had a normal upbringing at home with a loving mother, busy father, and supportive brother, her life in front of the camera took a turn as she became a teen with a developing body, trying drugs, and gaining more independence. As a young woman growing up in Hollywood, Frye highlights her experiences of bullying and being sexualized at 15, the painful reconciliation of losing friends to suicide, surviving sexual assault, and finding creative freedom. Her footage also captures the joys to everyday activities like getting breakfast, going to parties, and asking her friends of their philosophy about life. Joining her along for the ride are fellow stars from the 90s - Stephen Dorff - Brian Austin Green, David Arquette, Heather McComb and more – who provide their perspective – rejections from auditions, seeing their names splashed in the tabloids, enduring unwarranted backlash, and facing failure.

Frye's choice of a chronological format is easy enough to follow as she takes us from her rise of stardom until her late teens. Picking up a camera was Frye’s way to control everything – being unloved and loving others, her career fading away, relationships coming to an end, losing friends to suicide; and in some ways this is still true for Frye today. As both subject and director, she's able to explore her memories and assess what is appropriate to share and what is okay to keep close to her. At the same time, the documentary struggles with a stronger cohesive structure. As much as Frye does share, the compilation of footage and interviews often only underscore the possibility that there are layers more to discover. Insight by longtime friend and co-star Brian Austin Green recalling the first time he encountered failure when he broke out on his own to release a rap album, and the backlash he faced, is very few and far between. What you're left to grapple with as a viewer is the openness that Frye has about her life and a familiar awareness of the all-too-common reasons that many are led to suicide driven by mental health and/or substance abuse issues. The conversation between her and other Generation Xers about the impact of being a teen star transitioning into stars but it's not as comprehensive as it could've been. 

Part walk down memory lane, part documentary, Frye challenges the assumptions we make about our memories – if they are real or if they are stories we want to tell ourselves. From the outside, the trials and tribulations of teen stars might not seem relatable. But underneath the notoriety, Kid 90 explores there’s more beneath the façade of stardom and celebrity culture. Even in our own lives, reflecting of who we once were can help us understand who we are today and how far we've come.

Rating: ★★☆

Note: I was provided with a screener for review. Kid 90 will be available on March 12th Hulu.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words (2021)

“I’ve seen opinion polls that more people can name the Seven Dwarves than can name justices on the United States Supreme Court. “ – Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Berkeley Law School opens an upcoming documentary directed by Academy Award winning director Freida Lee Mock. The obvious twist here is that if there’s one definitive iconic figure that hails from the Supreme Court Justice and we know of is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

From the famous meme of Notorious RBG to Saturday Night Live skits portrayed by Kate McKinnon and her history of breaking the class ceiling, she’s gained special notoriety in the general public over the past several years that makes her one of the most popular and empowering figures in U.S. government. How and why we know her name is as widely recognized as it is is exactly what Mock sets out to cement.

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words uses previously televised events and interviews with  Ginsburg to explore her careerIt begins with the line questioning she faced to be nominated as a Supreme Court Justice and the process of being sworn in by former president Bill Clinton. The centerpiece of the film leads with Ginsburg meeting with student groups inquiring about her career so far (in the mid 90s) and her outlook on the future such as the possibility of a female president. 

Using her observations the documentary taps into her achievements and the challenges she faced with "three strikes against her" as a person of the Jewish faith, a woman, and a mother who would go on to use her identity to persevere as a lawyer, working for ACLU, and eventually to earn the stature she’s recognized with today. What was used against her to keep citizens in line with outdated and prejudice laws, she used to the best of her abilities to help others attain their full rights in the face of gender, religion, and race discrimination. When original footage or photographs aren’t used, illustrations step in to elaborate on the court proceedings of cases she fought for. Ginsburg offers her unique perspective about what she was proud the wide range of cases that she was proud of and those that helped her cause as she furthered her career - one in particular includes a father working part-time and was denied social security to care for his infant son after his wife passed away.

More than merely showing how Ginsburg effected the clients she represented, Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words also shows the effect she had on people directly or were inspired by her impact. Interviews with those who worked with her such as a law clerk Goodwin Liu, former law volunteer M.E. Freeman, Cadet Jennifer Connolly who was able to attend Virginia Military Institute after the court ruled to expand its male-only enrollment to women, meme creator of Notorious R.B.G. Shana Knizhnik and author Irin Carmon, offer more insight into the woman behind the icon from her love of opera to her marriage to her husband Marty. Real life examples of the cases Ginsburg were apart of are also used. In one prominent case of United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of Virginia Military Institute extending its males-only enrollment to include women. 

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words revolves around some of the same topics as another documentary titled RBG, which was released in 2018 and focused on a chronological examination of her life from birth to (then) present-day. Most of the latter likewise unfolds in a linear fashion, but focuses more on containing the narrative to Ginsburg's career ambitions, pursuit for equal rights for all, and expanding the court to include more women. The two documentaries share the same subject matter, but Mock creates a worthwhile film to be enjoyed on its own or as a companion piece. Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words instills a needed message of inspiration to those who dare to follow in her footsteps and become the next generation of dissenters. 
Rating: ★★1/2☆

Please Note: I was provided with a screener to provide an honest review.Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words is available in virtual cinemas on 2/12 and TVOD on 3/9. STARZ will also air the documentary on 3/15 at 8 PM ET/PT on what would have been Justice Ginsburg’s 88th birthday.