Review – ‘Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer’ Season 1

You know what they are? Fucking Cock Destroyers, babes. If you don’t know who they are, you must have been living under a rock for the last two years or be too straight for your own good. Rebecca More & Sophie Anderson are here to despunk the world, and together with, the internet’s most popular gay porn site, they’ve decided to search for The Next Destroyer.

For those who thought 2020 couldn’t get any wilder, you’re about to get proven wrong. The two viral superstar vixens are joined by Matthew Camp to make history with the award-winning adult entertainment site’s first mainstream and (sort of) Safe For Work, innovative competition reality show, Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer. Over the course of four wildly amusing episodes, Rebecca and Sophie will hunt for the next international queer sex symbol, and decide on who of the seven contestants has the imagination and sex appeal to join The Cock Destroyers’ tribe.

What strikes you the most, is that even though this is coming from an adult entertainment site, is how funny and positive everything is. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the educational factor and sex-positive vibes the show brings is already something that’s rarely seen on television (or in this case, online). Of course a reality show has to have some drama, and who better than to entertain us viewers with some additional commentary and narration than internet superstar, ChaseIcon?! Her “ChaseIconic” witty one-liners and shady comments are being shot at contestants like a true internet troll, relentlessly stepping on their necks, while staying true to your own brand.

All of our contestants come from different walks of life and have a diverse point of view and mentality to bring to The Cock Destroyer-brand. As becomes clear quite early on, this isn’t going to be an easy run for sweetheart Sophie, who just can’t break someone’s spirit with negative comments. Our favourite British broads aren’t here to play games, a lot is at stake and they want to make sure they make the right decisions going forward. Throughout the competition they get supported by a series of guest judges, such as one of the first viral superstars ChrisLeave Britney AloneCrocker and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK royalty Baga Chipz, and well known talented mentors who will help our rivaling friends with challenges, ranging from pole dancing, to kinky photo shoots and full on showstopping cabaret.

The chaotic energy brought to this secret location in the British country side, is completely on brand for The Cock Destroyers, and also the charm of Sophie and Rebecca’s undeniable chemistry. They know how to motivate and encourage each and everyone of the temporary tenants, whether they’re from Mexico, like Gustavo – who just can’t seem to stop eating; Scotland, such as superfan Kevin, or Los Angeles, where Nicky – the feisty and biggest threat of the show resides. Tyreece, Levi, Cameron and Cain complete the house and with a wide range of qualities and talents, they’ll make sure to leave their mark on not only The Cock Destroyers, but are ready to take the world by storm.

This is a solid first impression on what adult entertainment can branch out to, setting the bar high for others to follow. The production quality is hit-and-miss, but clearly cost-effective since it’s all filmed in one location due to the global pandemic, where the indoor scenes are of a much higher quality than those filmed outside, which is something that can definitely be improved upon when we (hopefully) get a second season. Make up, hairstyling, wardrobe and cinematography is on another level, where the crew and cast are aware of their best angles, which is to be expected from a production company this supreme. After watching the first season, I can tell this definitely has the potential to grow into a full franchise, where we could see the show being filmed in different corners of the world, expanding the seasons with more episodes and seeing an even wider range of contestants to grace our screens with much needed diversity.

The beauty of ‘Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer‘ is that it presents itself as not just a groundbreaking new format, but as a platform to the LGBTQIA+ community to have meaningful conversations about sex, diversity and queerness. In a world where people still get discriminated for their sexuality, gender and identity, this is a huge step forward towards inclusion on a much larger scale. For to present their very first mainstream series for FREE on their platform is nothing short but remarkable and simply not done in today’s world of streaming. It gives the world an opportunity to embrace themselves and others. ‘Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer‘ is an empowering show unlike anything else you’ve ever seen before, that will resonate with a lot of people. ¡Ay Que Rico!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer will premiere on on Black Friday, with episodes streaming weekly for free.

Review – ‘Slag Wars: The Next Destroyer’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), November 25, 2020. Rating: R. Running time: 4 x 50 min.

PRODUCTION: A production. Executive producers: Christopher Cusumano, Artie Davis, Jeremie Romain.

CREW: Director: Artie Davis. Screenplay: Christopher Cusumano. Editor: Justin Beltz, Barney Murray. Cinematography: Liam Bracey, Oscar Freemantle, Austin Nunes, Jackie Read, Andy Smith. Score: Andrew Barret Cox.

WITH: Sophie Anderson, Rebecca More, Matthew Camp, ChaseIcon, Gustavo Escobedo, Kevin Scott, Nicky Monet, Levi Jed Murphy, Tyreece Nye, Cameron Smith.

Review – ‘Happiest Season’

John (Daniel Levy) and Abby (Kristen Stewart), shown. (Photo by: Jojo Whilden/Hulu)

Holiday season is coming in fast, and with families stuck inside their own little bubble, what better time to watch a new breed of Christmas flick? Yes, ‘Happiest Season‘ borrows some familiar genre tropes, and glams it up with a pinch of glitter and rainbows. LGBTQ+ representation in films of this caliber are almost unheard of, but director Clea DuVall decided it’s time to go mainstream, making the yuletide gay.

Meeting your girlfriend’s family for the first time can be tough. Planning to propose at her family’s annual Christmas dinner – until you realize that they don’t even know she’s gay – is even harder. When Abby (Kristen Stewart – ‘Underwater‘) learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis – ‘Terminator: Dark Fate‘) has kept their relationship a secret from her family, she begins to question the girlfriend she thought she knew.

As soon as we step into Harper’s childhood home, Christmas hits you in the face like a Hallmark extravaganza. The production design is off the charts, but still classy. To convince her parents to bring along Abby, Harper introduces her to everyone as her orphan roommate. Mommy dearest, Tipper (Mary Steenburgen – ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist‘) shows us around the house, giving us a bit of background information on the other children she has raised. Middle sibling, and ally I will personally protect at all costs, Jane (Mary Holland – ‘Homecoming‘) keeps the joy in the house, and is clearly the black sheep of the family. Her reactions to everyone and everything that’s happening around her is the comedic relief needed in this otherwise rather serious dramedy.

That’s right, ‘Happiest Season‘ is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but often quite somber. More so, because the reasoning behind this year’s big Christmas party is to impress the investors who could change father of the house, Ted’s (Victor Garber – ‘Power‘) run for mayor, expecting everyone to bring their A-game. As you can already guess, this doesn’t go without the expected hurdles and escape plans to hide the couples’ true identity. The sad reality about this story is that I (and so many others) have actually felt this way at some point in our life. Not being able to truly express who we identify as. The power in that lies with Stewart, who as the film’s lead truly captivates the sadness that overcomes you when feeling trapped in a closet you no longer want to be in.

The entire ensemble cast is strong. Clear standouts are Mary Holland, Kristen Stewart, Alison Brie (as Harper’s rivaling oldest sister, Sloane), Aubrey Plaza (as Harper’s ex-girlfriend) and Daniel Levy (‘Schitt’s Creek‘), who is criminally underutilized as Abby’s best friend, stealing every scene he’s in. He brings a monologue near the end of the film, that hit me out of nowhere, resulting in me sobbing. To be honest, apart from Brie, the actors I just mentioned are the only ones that play positive characters. The other characters are extremely unlikable, as they are all so mean to each other. Steenburgen in particular seems too nice of a person in real life to play a rather egotistical mother-in-law, and just didn’t come across convincing to me.

In thinking this would be more of comedy, at first I had a hard time getting into the film itself. The story is extremely relatable to myself, as someone who identifies as a cis white gay male, which didn’t necessarily made this an easy watch, but nonetheless a very important one. I’m glad DuVall put a gay couple front and center, portraying the struggles of being your true self when the only thing your family expects is perfection. It’s a story about family and acceptance. There’s so much “pride” in each one of these individuals, that often gets overshadowed by their nasty behaviour. Forgiveness in the end could make the difference in allowing others to be themselves, or them ending up resenting you for the rest of your life.

Happiest Season‘ is a classic in the making, as it changes the formula of what a Christmas film is expected to be, significantly. DuVall has made something surprisingly endearing, that’ll trigger a wide range of emotions. It’s A Wonderful Queer Life after all.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Happiest Season’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 14, 2020. Rating: PG-13. Running time: 102 min.

PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of a Hulu Original, TriStar and eOne presentation of a Temple Hill production. Producers: Isaac Klausner (p.g.a.), Marty Bowen. Executive producers: Wyck Godfrey, Jonathan McCoy.

CREW: Director: Clea DuVall. Screenplay: Clea DuVall, Mary Holland. Editor: Melissa Bretherton (ace). Cinematography: John Guleserian. Score: Amie Doherty.

WITH: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Mary Holland, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Ana Gasteyer, Jake McDorman, Burl Moseley, Sarayu Blue.

Review – ‘Girl’

Chad Faust, mostly known for his acting career, has made the big step to directing. For his first feature film, ‘Girl‘ he was able to attract none other than Academy Award nominee, Mickey Rourke and actor Bella Thorne. A revenge thriller with a bad ass female lead? Yes, please.

In ‘Girl‘, A young woman (Bella Thorne – ‘The Babysitter: Killer Queen‘) returns to her small hometown to exact revenge on her abusive father, only to discover someone murdered him the day before. As the girl searches for answers, she soon finds herself prey to a sinister sheriff (Mickey Rourke – ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For‘) and uncovers a family legacy more disturbing than she’d imagined.

This gritty thriller has some decent action scenes for an indie film. Girl, who remains unnamed throughout the film, carries a hatchet with her. When she arrives in the main street of a ghost town named, Golden, she quickly finds most of the remaining folks all huddled up in the local bar. Once she starts asking one too many questions, the mood inside this establishment visibly changes. Fortunately, Girl knows how to handle herself, which suddenly turns the level of insanity up to the next level. On the tunes of Dillon Baldassero‘s nerve-pushing score, Girl finds herself in the middle of nowhere, without any phone service, wary of whomever tries to get close to her. The brooding vibe doesn’t let go at all, while age old secrets unravel and new mysteries get unlocked.

For such a low budget project, I must admit, it’s all pretty damn impressive. I’ve always felt like Thorne is constantly being judged on what she does in her personal life that then gets plastered all over social media, while in fact she seems to have a very strong personality and the much needed professional drive to get the job done. The fact that she can handle herself right beside Faust (who directs, wrote and stars) and the iconic Rourke, says a lot about her perseverance and talent. At a certain point Faust and Thorne face off in a laundromat. Hatchet throwing and washing-powder-blowing-action galore, that not only makes your heart beat faster, but is also a tad bit silly.

This is most of all thanks to Faust’s somewhat comedic performance of a horny twentysomething charmer. Rourke plays the town’s sheriff and doesn’t get much to do, yet delivers his lines with the broodiness we’ve come to expect from him. Bad cops, extortion, torture, lies… nothing’s too crazy for this small town. When another action sequence commences in the nearby woods, in which Girl is being chased by a quad bike, the film kicks into higher gear to then come to a halt in its final act in order to give the viewer some answers and reveal the by then expected twists. Some of the motivations are rather vague and unclear, and the dialogue isn’t always the strongest. Writing is definitely something Faust can improve on when considering his next project.

The insane rage can be read off of Thorne’s face, who knows exactly what she’s doing, and it works all the way through. The final scene of the film caught me by surprise, forcing a highly emotional reaction out of me. Why did you have to do me like that?! Once again, Thorne presents a different layer of what for sure is a career best performance, leaving me fan girling over whatever she stars in next. 2020 has been wild, I tell you!

Genre fans will thoroughly enjoy Faust’s deranged tale of vengeance. He damn sure knows how to make an entrance.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Select Theaters November 20, Available on VOD November 24

Review – ‘Girl’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), November 4, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 92 min.

PRODUCTION: A ScreenMedia Films release in association with Anamorphic Media, Envision Media Arts of a Fella Films, Trilight Entertainment production. Producers: Thomas Michael, Shayne Putzlocher, Sara Shaak. Executive producers: Dave Duckett, Joe Ferraro, Jean Pierre Magro, Conor McAdam, Jason Moring, Al Morrison, Seth Needle, Lee Nelson, David Tish.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Chad Faust. Editor: Gloria Tong. Cinematography: Kristofer Bonnell. Score: Dillon Baldassero.

WITH: Bella Thorne, Mickey Rourke, Chad Faust, Lanette Ware, Glen Gould, Elizabeth Saunders.

Review – ‘The Nest’

Jude Law as “Rory” and Carrie Coon as “Allison” in Sean Durkin’s THE NEST. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Sean Durkin‘s sophomore film, ‘The Nest‘ is an outstanding drama that often feels like it wants to dip its toes so desperately into thriller territory. Nine years ago, his first film ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene‘ decided to fully dive in to the latter genre, and with success. You can tell he’s grown as a director, but something’s missing.

Rory (Jude Law – ‘Captain Marvel‘), an ambitious entrepreneur and former commodities broker, persuades his American wife, Allison (Carrie Coon – ‘The Sinner‘), and their children to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his native England during the 1980s. Sensing opportunity, Rory rejoins his former firm and leases a centuries-old country manor, with grounds for Allison’s horses and plans to build a stable. Soon the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.

Opening in Ari Aster-style, ominous score and cinematography included, the atmosphere of the film gets established from the very first frame. Warm autumn colours and an 80s aesthetic give you a sense of comfort, but the smooth camerawork diverts from that by conjuring a discomfort that lies underneath. Even though this seemingly happy family has wonderful chemistry, there’s cracks shining through in simple gestures and reactions between one another. This isn’t your perfect American family, and that’ll become very clear when they get taken out of their natural habitat.

Law and Coon both give the best performance in years, and will without a doubt get noticed during upcoming awards season. Both play complete opposites, as Law perfects the fragile masculinity of his character, with Coon’s character pushing his buttons by rebelliously offending him in public. Where he tries to keep up appearances as he forces himself to come across as a tragic big shot, his wife sees through that facade and basically makes fun of it. Both actors get an equal amount of time to shine and really showcase their skills as actors.

The problem I had with this visually pleasing film, is that even though the film wants to give you that dreadful sense of a world collapsing in front of your eyes, it never fully goes there in my opinion. It hints at it, but often Durkin fills his film with unnecessary scenes that in the end don’t push his narrative to a cohesive whole, and rather makes you think why it was shown in the first place. Nonetheless, ‘The Nest‘ is a film that delivers on almost every level and with that, I can look past that “extra footage”.

As mentioned before, the cinematography is of another level, with detailed production design that transports you back to the 80s. With that comes an editing quality reminiscent of that of Lucian Johnston and Jennifer Lame in ‘Hereditary‘, where here Matthew Hannam knows how to stitch and transition scenes without having to fill any gaps. Richard Reed Parry‘s score and Mátyás Erdély‘s cinematography are besides Coon and Law’s acting, noteworthy achievements.

Durkin does a remarkable job at capturing the anxiety and detachment of a family transitioning into a new chapter in life. There are moments of sheer brilliance that prove he’s capable of directing something emotionally heavy, with room for improvement. ‘The Nest‘ doesn’t go for dysfunctional family clichés, but could’ve benefited from a tighter cut. An arresting sophomore film.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘The Nest’

Reviewed online (screener provided by IFC Films), November 16, 2020. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 107 min.

PRODUCTION: An IFC Films release of an Element Pictures, BBC Films, Elevation Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment production. Producers: Rose Garnett, Ed Guiney, Amy Jackson, Andrew Lowe, Christina Piovesan, Derrin Schlesinger. Executive producers: Glen Basner, Ben Browning, Alison Cohen, Milan Popelka, Polly Stokes.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Sean Durkin. Editor: Matthew Hannam. Cinematography: Mátyás Erdély. Score: Richard Reed Parry.

WITH: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell.

Hulu Review – ‘Animaniacs’ Season 1

Animaniacs — (Photo Courtesy of Courtesy Amblin Television/Warner Bros. Animation)

They’re back! The Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister Dot, have a great time wreaking havoc and mayhem in the lives of everyone they meet. After returning to their beloved home, the Warner Bros. water tower, the siblings waste no time in causing chaos and comic confusion as they run loose through the studio, turning the world into their personal playground. Joining Yakko, Wakko and Dot, fan-favorite characters Pinky and the Brain also return to continue their quest for world domination.

22 years later, Animaniacs get ready to explore and discuss relevant topics (even though it was written in 2018). Turning today’s political and social climate into one after the other wacky satirical commentary, the animated siblings have risen from the grave and aren’t afraid to speak their minds. The well known theme song is updated with a few new lyrics, pointing out their comeback and how it’s now gender-balanced, pronoun-neutral and ethnically diverse. With a contract for two new seasons in their pockets, Hulu has gone full in, bringing back the entire original voice cast and executive producer Steven Spielberg.

The first episode starts with the teaser that was released a couple of weeks ago, where an iconic scene out of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park gets recreated to address the Animaniacs‘ return to Warner Bros.’ water tower, ignoring other studio favourites, such as Wonder Woman and Harry Potter. What follows is an episode in which Yakko, Wakko and Dot quickly catch up on 22 years of events by swallowing a tablet (you know, the electronic kind) and burst into song. Addressing new technology, Queen Bey, and cleverly pointing out this season was written back in 2018, not knowing if Trump is still president by the time of airing, they start making up things to fill the gaps, which turns into something quite special. Other reboots, such as Star Trek, Charmed, Fuller House, get a bit of a roast, while keeping it all very tongue in cheek being as self aware as they’ve always been.

Our trio of weirdos address their return is for old AND new fans, but it becomes clear very quickly the humour is more adult than I remember. Growing up, I was too young to understand most of the adult jokes, but enjoyed other characters, such as Slappy & Skippy Squirrel, Mindy and Rita, who are nowhere to be seen this time around. In exchange, it seems Pinky and the Brain’s adventures have become less entertaining. Aside from a couple of episodes, especially one in which Brain creates a perfect FLOTUS and one where they’re responsible for the age of internet and become a viral sensation which catches Seth Meyers’ attention, it’s Pinky who steals the show whereas Brain seems almost disposable. But we all know without Brain, there wouldn’t be a Pinky.

The animation has been digitally polished, without letting go of the traditional looks of guest characters and sometimes even reminding of that other outrageously 90s cartoon, Ren and Stimpy. Creators Wellesly Wild and Tom Minton also play with other types of animation styles, which surprisingly work and don’t just seem like a cheap gimmick. Anime-style transformations are absolutely stunning and you almost wish they’d make a full series in this style, but that would lose the magic of Animaniacs, which always has been a bit all over the place.

What is actively present throughout this first season is the amount of politically heavy sketches. It’s not necessarily bothersome by any means, but could rub some people the wrong way. Trump stans will definitely want to stay away from this, as it makes fun of MAGA-hats and the well known slogan, which Dot quickly changes into Make America Cute Again, before turning the entire world into a vibrantly saccharine kawaii-world to bring some colour and happiness to everyone’s lives, before going insane.

But the most brilliant episode I’ve ever seen in Animaniacs-history is ‘Anima-Nyet‘. Wakko believes he’s turned a television remote into a magical time-travelling device, but instead he and his siblings get to see tv-shows from all over the world. When they find out they’re being spied on by Russia where they’ve copied their successful adventures, they travel down there to invade the Sovjet-version of the Warner Bros. studios and their own interpretations of popular American tv-shows, along the way meeting Moron Mouse and Ratsputin who unlike their counterparts Pinky and the Brain aren’t trying to take over the world, but rather voice their support for their current leader without asking any questions. It’s an episode that defies all imagination and just does not hold back. Simply perfect!

A second season is in the works and planned for a 2021 release on Hulu, and after witnessing their return to the small screen, there’s no other way than to welcome them with open arms. They’re back and here to stay. Welcome back, you zany to the ultimate max family.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first full season of Animaniacs premieres November 20, only on Hulu.

Hulu Review – ‘Animaniacs’ Season 1

Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 15, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 14 x 25 min.

PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of an Amblin Television, Hulu Originals, Warner Bros. Animation production. Producer: Joann Estoesta. Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Wellesley Wild, Sam Register.

CREW: Directors: Scott O’Brien, Katie Rice. Screenplay: Kathleen Chen, Lucas Crandles, Jess Lacher, Brian Polk, Andrew Barbot, Timothy Nash, Jordan VanDina, Wellesley Wild, Tom Ruegger, Tom Minton. Score: Julie Bernstein, Steven Bernstein.

WITH: (voices) Jess Harnell, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, Andy Milder, Abby Trott.

Hulu Review – ‘Run’

Diane (Sarah Paulson) and Chloe (Kiera Allen), shown.
(Photo by: Allen Fraser/Hulu)

Director Aneesh Chaganty‘s first two films have a common theme: parenting gone wrong. Where ‘Searching‘ followed a father in search of his missing daughter, visionary shown through the use of social media and screens that can be found all over the house, his newest film focuses on a mother who would do anything for her daughter. ‘Run‘ is a tense domestic thriller that shows there’s no escaping a mother’s love.

There’s something unnatural, even sinister about the relationship between Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen) and her mom, Diane (Sarah Paulson – ‘Ratched‘). Diane has raised her daughter in total isolation, controlling every move she’s made since birth, and there are secrets that Chloe’s only beginning to grasp.

The title card of the film lists a series of conditions Chloe suffers from: arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, asthma, diabetes and paralyses. That last one is very important, as it refers to the title itself. Chloe is on the brink of a big change in her life, which will set her free from her mother’s care: going to college. Nervously waiting for a letter of acceptance, we get to spend a seemingly happy day in the life of Chloe and her mother Diane. Every move is scheduled and controlled by mommy dearest, but when a change in medication makes Chloe suspicious of her mother’s actions, nothing will stop her at finding the answers that’ll change her life forever.

At its creepiest, ‘Run‘ plays like an out of control roller coaster, not knowing how many twists and turns you’re in for, but you know they’re coming. Besides directing, Chaganty once again teams up with fellow ‘Searching’ writer and producer Sev Ohanian, to bring us a screwed up mental tour-de-force. They succeed at giving each act a different feel. The first act feels innocent before the mystery of prescription pills sets in, to then flow into one of the most intense second acts I’ve seen in a thriller in quite some time. Personally, I felt that the film absolutely peaked in this act, showcasing the physical and emotional strength of Kiera Allen’s performance that had me gasping for air (as someone suffering from asthma himself – do not try this at home).

The star most people will tune in for is of course, Mrs. Paulson. That’s where the somewhat toned down final act gives her the space to go full batshit mad woman. Paulson, infamously known for being an acting chameleon, shows a two-faced mother who’s holding on to all she’s built for the last 18 years. Her performance is absolutely terrifying, as she embodies Diane’s erratic behaviour, while turning her calm voice into something that’ll make you run for your life.

Chaganty and Ohanian’s screenplay is clever, as Chloe isn’t your run-of-the-mill victim, but instead they’ve created a young woman that’s been able to train her brain all these years while her body has suffered through different illnesses. As some sort of MacGyver brainiac, she goes above and beyond to escape the smothering love of her mother. The directing is solid, and although the pacing is a bit off, Allen and Paulson’s mother/daughter chemistry is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Successful twisted character drama aside, the suspense is kept at a high level, with Torin Borrowdale‘s score and Hillary Spera‘s impressively skilled camera work to solidify the film’s identity.

A solid sophomore film from Chaganty, that makes you excited for whatever he comes up with next. Their strong genre work doesn’t rely on gore or extreme violence to raise your heartbeat, making ‘Run‘ an intoxicating character-driven must-see.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hulu Review – ‘Run’

Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 14, 2020. Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 min.

PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of a Lionsgate production. Producers: Sev Ohanian (p.g.a.), Natalia Qasabian (p.g.a.).

CREW: Director: Aneesh Chaganty. Screenplay: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian. Cinematography: Hillary Spera. Score: Torin Borrowdale.

WITH: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy.

Short Film Review – ‘Five Tiger’

A god-fearing woman finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter. ‘Five Tiger‘ (refers to fifty rand – equal to 0.20 USD) takes place in present day South Africa, but transcends any sense of time or location. A woman bites through blood, sweet and tears, while working hard in a field under the apocalyptic heat that pushes down on her. Living under the poverty line far beyond the high-rise city center of Johannesburg, things aren’t as simple as 9 to 5 jobs and going out for dinner. That privilege isn’t reserved for Fiona’s (Ayanda Seoka) family, but she will do anything to make sure her daughter and husband can live a comfortable life in this harsh world. Even if it means to live a life full of lies.

Nomawonga Khumalo‘s debut as a director couldn’t be more visually pleasing, as ‘Five Tiger‘ watches like an episode of actual experience, where fragile masculinity still overshadows a woman’s survival instinct. Rick Joaquim captures the achingly quiet peaceful scenery, as if we’re part of the story, always choosing an angle that’s either part of a service taking place underneath a tree or like a lion lurking at its prey from between the long grass. Brett Michael Innes proficiently edits the serene beauty that pairs well with Mark Kilian‘s (‘Official Secrets‘) remarkable score. The composer balances the silence that works as the background of this story, while his sounds flows like a warm summer breeze. Seoka works with barely any dialogue, perfectly allowing her body language to do the talking. A revelationary gnawing performance that stands as tall as the skyscrapers of Johannesburg.

Although Five Tiger approaches poverty quite gently, Fiona’s suffering still bleeds through in every shot. Muted from allowing any kind of feelings, the religious abuse that keeps her physically imprisoned, pushes her to throw aside her own self worth. Five Tiger benefits from multiple viewings, as its message sinks deeper with every rerun. A resolute first impression at Khumalo’s talent.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Short Film Review – ‘Five Tiger’

Reviewed online (screener provided by producer), October 1, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 10 min.

PRODUCTION: A Nostalgia Productions production. Producers: Paulo Areal, Schalk Willem Burger, Brett Michael Innes.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Nomawonga Khumalo. Editing: Brett Michael Innes. Cinematography: Rick Joaquim. Score: Mark Kilian.

WITH: Ayanda Seoka, Menzi Biyela, Fumani Shilubana, Khalalelo Makhanda.

2020 DOC NYC Review – ‘Chasing Childhood’

While watching ‘Chasing Childhood‘, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own childhood and upbringing. I’m not the kind of person who judges people’s parenting, but you can definitely notice a shift in behaviour with kids back in the 90s and 00s, and those growing up now. Oh wow, I’ve become one of those people.

A 2018 news report states that 30% of students suffer from the effects of stress. These can manifest in physical signs of anxiety (headaches, stomachaches, etc.) or even depression. In Wilton, Connecticut, we meet Genevieve and Rob Eason, two parents who we’ll get to know a lot better throughout this documentary. Their daughter Savannah enrolled in every course that was being offered at the school she attended. The well-meaning parents and teachers all encouraged her to succeed, pushing her to be the best she could be. The years of pressure lead to Genevieve’s academically successful daughter’s mental illness giving way to self harm and addiction. Now a political activist and community educator, Genevieve has made it her goal to restore free play in childhood.

Chasing Childhood‘ puts a spotlight on the dangers of helicopter parenting of American children, in the pursuit of creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admission boards. The constant overprotecting and depraving today’s children of their childhood, gets discussed by education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood and finding ways for children and teens to find true happiness outside of attending a top college.

Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld‘s directorial debut is captivating and educational, putting the facts right in front of you. It becomes clear that a lot of American children no longer play outside after school. Founder of Let Grow, and author of ‘Free Range Kids‘, Lenore Skenazy talks to children in an honest and open way, giving us as a viewer both sides of the conversation. Some kids’ opinions on their daily schedules are rather sad to witness. I felt lucky, knowing that I was able to grow up in a time and place where I got the chance to explore and learn from my mistakes. It seems like that constant pressure to perform isn’t only coming from parents, but also from society who’s constantly raising the bar, making it almost impossible for today’s kids to enjoy their childhood. Instead they have to think about their future, by being successful NOW they might get a chance at happiness LATER in life.

But is it really worth it to mortgage your kids’ childhood in order for the chance of the grand future we have in mind for them? Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of Stanford U and author of ‘How To Raise an Adult‘, explores these topics with the reality and expertise of her daily life. As she rightfully claims, “it’s a debt that can never be repaid.” Just like Skenazy, Lythcott-Haims knows the dangers of this kind of parenting, warning parents how “overprotectiveness is a danger in itself.

Of course it’s not the directors and interviewees’ goal to blame and shame all parents out there, but instead to look at the source of this problem and fully dissect the origin of parents’ fear, by researching ways on how to solve this style of parenting. The facts and numbers being presented surely help on how to educate ourselves, especially when you know there’s an educational and societal problem that needs to be reformed altogether.

Chasing Childhood is a powerful statement on today’s ways of parenting and the deprivation of American children’s freedom. Although this documentary solely focuses on the problems in the US, there’s parts that definitely speak on a more global level. Thought-provoking and eye-opening, ‘Chasing Childhood‘ might just help the next generation of kids in the fight for their right to play. Seriously parents, let go, it’s going to be fine.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2020 DOC NYC Review – ‘Chasing Childhood’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist – also screening at 2020 DOC NYC), November 11, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 80 min.

PRODUCTION: An MML Productions production. Producers: Lisa Eisenpresser, Eden Wurmfeld. Executive producer: Margaret Munzer Loeb.

CREW: Directors: Margaret Munzer Loeb, Eden Wurmfeld. Editing: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Justin Schein. Score: David Cieri.

WITH: Genevieve Eason, Savannah Eason, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Peter Gray, Lenore Skenazy, Dr. Michael Hynes.

Short Film Review – ‘Wrath’

Co-directed by Meg Case and her partner Brad Porter, ‘Wrath‘ takes you inside the mind of an artistic young woman on the brink of a mental breakdown, while COVID-19 hits her home Michigan, USA and the rest of the world.

Amidst a mandatory quarantine, a young woman living in isolation battles against her growing paranoia and deteriorating mental health as her fear of the outside world drives her deeper inwards. To see anxiety put into words and visuals like Case and Porter did in their film, is nothing short of inventive as it is beautifully haunting. A constant dreadful feeling lingers throughout, making you uncomfortable without relying on cliché horror tropes. Case and Porter start their film ominously by quoting a verse from the Bible (Isaiah 26:20), hinting at the situation we find our world in today. Over the course of a week, Emily (played by director Meg Case) will lose control over her mental state, while the lines between reality and hallucinations start to blur.

Technically, ‘Wrath‘ is superb. There’s clever use of camera angles and movements, working with different (natural) light sources and shadows. The very metallic rock score that creeps in from the very minute the film starts to play, would drive anyone insane. Luckily, that score turns into something more tribal when “plant mommy” Emily has to find refuge for the numerous house plants she takes great care of in her basement, moving them all into her tiny apartment, turning it into some kind of out-of-this-world jungle to escape in. Besides the score, these two young directors clearly paid attention to the sound effects, which is able to pull you closer to the edge of your seat.

The constant sense of loneliness is excruciating for Emily. Meg Case plays the part as if she’s working through that downward spiral herself. She absolutely nails it. Working with a story that barely holds any dialogue is never easy, but the way she and her partner used photography and sound as if it were supporting cast is just exemplary. The same could be said about the set design – which is basically the director couple’s apartment. They were able to find use for every single nook and cranny and made it work as if they had an actual set.

Wrath is a disturbingly accurate reality for a lot of people right now. The directors’ statement reads: “We believe that creativity promotes mental health“, and I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully we get to see many more of these artistic revelations while we’re stuck inside. Wrath is top-shelf horror.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You can check out ‘Wrath’ for yourself, right HERE

Short Film Review – ‘Wrath’

Reviewed online (screener provided by director), September 27, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 32 min.

PRODUCTION: A Nobudge release. Producers: Meg Case, Brad Porter.

CREW: Director/screenplay/editing/cinematography/score: Meg Case, Brad Porter.

WITH: Meg Case, Sam Clement, Brad Porter.

Hulu Review – ‘Eater’s Guide To The World’ Season 1

Eater’s Guide To The World — “Planting Roots In Tijuana Mexico” — Episode 106 — Local, regular, newcomer – whoever you are, Tijuana has something delicious for you to eat. Grab a seat and try the craft beer, pork belly tacos, Caesar salad (trust us) and yeah, you’ll want to stay awhile. (Photo by: Courtesy of Hulu)

Let’s be honest, everyone is a foodie. One way or another, you have a certain obsession or appreciation for a particular kind of food. It could be because of the smell, the way it looks, the unlimited amount of ways you can transform an ingredient into something completely different, or just that specific flavour that excites your mouth and makes you feel a certain way. There’s so many cooking shows on television, and with streaming services jumping on that bandwagon to create their own versions of ‘Hell’s Kitchen‘ or ‘Top Chef‘, the competition is ever changing. So what makes Hulu’s Original Series ‘Eater’s Guide To The World‘ stand out from all those other ones?

First of all, it’s narrated by Emmy-winning (voice) actor MayaBubblebathRudolph. The way she’s capable to sell what’s on screen just by using her voice, shows she was the obvious choice to give it all that extra bit of spice. Besides giving commentary on what’s shown or said, she also provides useful information. The format of the seven-part series is that every episode explores a city in a different way, discovering the most surprising culinary destinations, discussing history, tradition, culture and hot spots that are worth mentioning, all while drinking and dining with the locals along the way. Extraordinary people, ranging from chefs to food critics, to the regular Joe or drag queen talk about their own love for food.

The 30 minute episodes also work like the ultimate American foodie travel guide. The first episode, “Dining Alone in the Pacific Northwest” takes us on a day in the life of food critic Karen Brooks, in Portland, Oregon, before moving on to other parts of Oregon in which we discover different cuisines and mindful eating with Dr. Suh. The documentary style of film making is perfectly balanced with the food photography, that showcases the work that goes into each dish that’s presented to the viewer, filled with texture and its vibrant aesthetic. The unique locations make you want to visit them ASAP, until you realize we’re not allowed to travel due to the ongoing pandemic. ‘Eater’s Guide To The World‘ is like a sensory experience that makes you crave seconds.

Even though we can’t taste or smell the food, the series succeeds in making you hungry like never before. I often caught myself licking my lips, while hearing the passionate Moroccan meat enthusiasts talk about the their authentic cuisine while strolling down Quartier Habous in Casablanca, or with my mouth wide open when Miz Cracker guides us from behind-the-scenes at one of her drag performances right to “empanada mama” in Manhattan, where her and fellow queens Jan Sport and Izzy Uncut enjoy a midnight snack. It’s the variety of personalities in combination with unexpected food choices that make ‘Eater’s Guide To The World‘ worth paying attention to.

Episode four takes us deep into the jungle of Costa Rica, where we finally get a look at some vegan cuisine (there’s barely any coverage on vegan and vegetarian food throughout the series), and that coming from a sikwa (non-indigenous person, in Bribri) who’s made it his life goal to honour the traditions of indigenous cuisine, that’s often forgotten or completely disrespected. It’s these kind of stories that turn the series to a higher temperature. The remaining episodes explore the bond between Angelinas and their cars in regards to meals that are being eaten on the road; horticulturism and the history of corn in and around Tijuana, Mexico; and some last minute dining options when dealing with layovers or flight cancellations in and around the US’ major airline hubs.

The overall critique I have is that the majority of the episodes take place in the US, where the series’ title literally mentions “the world”. Luckily, the United States is built on immigrants and thus their kitchen has been influenced by foods from all over the planet. Rudolph helps the on screen connoisseurs with the viewers’ culinary education, making the series fun with her amusing commentary and most of all, accessible for all audiences.

Comfort food or snobby high class dining experience, Hulu Original Series ‘Eater’s Guide To The World‘ has it (almost) all. It’s easy to digest television, capable to teach you a thing or two about international cooking, while exploring good old greasy fast food joints you can’t skip, making your mouth water for a second season that’ll hopefully take us to other corners of our ever expanding culinary world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All 7 episodes of ‘Eater’s Guide To The World’ will be available on Hulu, November 11.

Hulu Review – ‘Eater’s Guide To The World’ Season 1

Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 2, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 7 x 30 min.

PRODUCTION: A Hulu presentation and release of a Vox Media Studios, EATER production. Executive producers: Lauren Cynamon, Chad Mumm, Mark W. Olsen, Amanda Kludt.

CREW: Directors: Alex Craig, Ari Fishman. Editing: Tyler Christie, David Feinberg, Carlo-Stanley Aguilera, Tat Ho Yee. Cinematography: Billy Voermann, Bernardo García Elguézabal, Igor Kropotov.

WITH: Maya Rudolph (voice), Karen Brooks, Dr. Suh, Miz Cracker, Jan Sport, Izzy Uncut.