40 Best Releases From the Genre Family

The Spool Staff

1- Title (Year) for Movies or 2- Title Season X for TV shows

Kids deserve better than yet another dull, going-through-the-motions misfire. The animation world was recently startled by Warner Bros.' announcement that they planned to shelve their recently completed feature Coyote vs Acme for a quick tax write-off, rather than spend money to release it. Not to be outdone, Disney Studios offers up Wish, an animated feature that is the kind of artistic misfire that deserves to be hidden away and never spoken about again. This is a creation so alternately bewildering and banal that it's implausible that at no point during the entire creative process did anyone point out the seemingly obvious fact that virtually none of it works on even the most basic levels. Continue Reading →


The Trolls movies continue to indulge in their best and worst impulses in a third installment. The poster for this past summer's R-rated comedy No Hard Feelings had a reasonably clever tagline to explain the strained dynamic between the film's two leads. Against an image of Jennifer Lawrence squeezing Andrew Barth Feldman's cheeks, a single word is placed on top of each person's face: "Pretty" and "Awkward." Nothing revolutionary in design, but it gets the job done. Best of all, that tagline also makes for an apt descriptor for Trolls Band Together. Continue Reading →

Miraculous - le film

When I was around thirteen, two classmates, Christina and Taylor (their real names, it’s not like they’re going to read this), played a prank on me that resulted in my eating dog food. In retrospect, it could have been worse: nobody else saw it happen, and for whatever reason they kept it to themselves. But when I think about my teenage years (and I try not to much at this point in my life, other than at a superficial pop culture level), my mind often goes to that moment. Continue Reading →

Inspector Sun y la maldición de la viuda negra

I love detective stories. Tales of how, as Sara Gran would say, "truth lives in the ether." Explorations of people and places and how they shape each other. The journey down the streets towards a hidden truth. Dennis Lehane's Darkness, Take My Hand, is my favorite book. Rian Johnson's Brick and Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone are movies I think the world of, never mind all-timers like Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep and Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye. And, of course, the immortal Who Framed Roger Rabbit? from Robert Zemeckis. Any time there's a new detective film, whether it be an affably bleak comedy or an action-driven character study, it's a treat. Continue Reading →



Local filmmakers, horror & desire are all given the spotlight at the Chicago International Film Festival's shorts program. This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn't exist. Continue Reading →

Once Within a Time

When Godfrey Reggio’s monumental experimental documentary Koyannistqatsi (Life Out of Balance in Hopi) first entered the zeitgeist, its radical nature as a postmodern film, with a thoroughly entrancing score by Phillip Glass, became intertwined with the rise of MTV and a new era of visual aesthetic being born within the music sphere. From the noise rock band Cows to electronic musicians Dr. Atmo and Oliver Leib to superstar pop singer Madonna, the film had an indelible effect on music and the music video.  Continue Reading →

The Goldbergs

In 1983, a group of crooks broke into a vault at the Heathrow International Trading Estate in London, patrolled by Brink’s Mat security conglomeration. The Brinks company was already famous for a famous robbery, one that was carried out in the '50s in the North End in Boston, an incident that turned into a charmingly strange movie by William Friedkin in 1978. Continue Reading →

M-line Memory Vol.13 - 新垣里沙 バースデーイベント~ 25th Birthday party! ちょっと早いけ

Friedkin’s second film is a bruising affair that finds the fledgling director wielding style to produce maximum psychological damage. In the early days of his career, William Friedkin found himself playing second banana to his collaborators. For instance, one of his earliest biggest TV directing gigs was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Then, when he made the leap to feature narrative films, his debut was in service of Cher and Sonny Bono’s cult of personality.  Continue Reading →

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

It’s not easy being a teenager. It’s especially not easy being a teenager like the titular protagonist of Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken. As that title would suggest, Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) is a Kraken living in a seaside town with her family. Her parents and younger brother seem to have no trouble assimilating to the broader world, while Ruby struggles. All she wants is to blend in as a normal human-- albeit one with blue skin and no spine. However, to be an average teen, she’ll likely have to break some of her mom’s strict rules, namely, never going near the ocean.  Continue Reading →


Over the years, Pixar has enlisted a variety of creatures to populate their wholesome stories of love and acceptance. There have been toys, monsters, cars, disembodied souls, and even the occasional human. In their new film Elemental, the characters are personifications of the four elements. It’s a choice that may leave you asking, “Have they run out of ideas at this point?”  Continue Reading →

The Little Mermaid

The spate of recent live-action Disney remakes has run the gamut in quality from pleasantly diverting (Cinderella, Pete’s Dragon) to unwatchable abominations (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast.) Even the most well-received entries of the bunch struggle to find reasons they should exist in the first place. Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid is no different, but for one crucial factor that sets it apart from the rest: Halle Bailey as Ariel. Bailey is so captivating and winsome in the titular role that this remake almost feels worth it just to launch her into movie stardom. Unfortunately, sub-par CGI effects and clunky changes to Howard Ashman’s classic songs often make it feel like Bailey is left to carry the movie on the strength of her remarkable talent alone. With a shaggy runtime of two hours and fifteen minutes—a full hour longer than the original cartoon—it’s a heavy load for one performer to bear. Continue Reading →

Walt Disney Animation Studios: Short Circuit Experimental Films

This year's first program of Chicago Critics Film Festival shorts focus on the dark side of family, community & living with mental illness. The films in the first program of shorts at this year’s Chicago Critics Film Festival all concern those mythic American values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And they do this in both content and form. Though these films never exceed twenty minutes, they are unbounded examples of the human imagination. Continue Reading →

A Infância de Romeu e Julieta

If you’re a Shakespeare purist, Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 rendition of Romeo and Juliet might make your skin itch. Luhrmann’s signature frenetic style would seem ill-suited to the most famous romantic tragedy of all time, and, indeed, the traditional text recited in a hyper-contemporary setting, where even the Priest has a giant Celtic cross tattooed on his back, is often jarring. But it turned out to be a perfect fit to illustrate the noisy melodrama of first love and was one of the most successful films in the 90s trend of stylish, modernized adaptations of the Bard. Despite its detractors, it became, for Millennials and Gen Z, the most beloved, familiar rendition of it, even used as a supplement in schools.  Continue Reading →

The Muppets Mayhem

It’s hard to do something genuinely awful with The Muppets. Yes, it's true, even if The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz certainly gave that a try. These pop culture icons are so innately endearing in their personalities and so fully realized as glorious puppets that figures like Kermit the Frog or Gonzo feel extremely real. Whether they’re shilling for coffee, reciting the words of Charles Dickens, or realizing that life truly is a filet of fish, The Muppets are irresistible.   Continue Reading →


Crater begins centuries into the future in an era where man has colonized the Moon. Rather than being home to thriving cities, though, Earth’s only natural satellite is the site of a run-down mining colony. People toil away, hoping to make it to another luxurious planet known as Omega. This is where Caleb Channing (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) lives. It’s also where he receives the news that his miner father (Scott Mescudi) has died. As part of his death benefits, Caleb will be transferred, via 75 years of traveling, to the bustling world of Omega.  Continue Reading →

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

It’s been almost 40 years since that little plumber in the red hat jumped into a warp pipe and into our hearts. Super Mario Bros., released for the original Nintendo system in the US in 1985, is still the perfect video game. It’s simple (you just got to jump around), it has iconic music, and its colorful world is hypnotic even with all those cute creatures trying to kill you. Continue Reading →

The Magician's Elephant

For a movie about the power of faith, hope, and belief, The Magician’s Elephant is markedly unsure of itself. Based on the 2009 children’s book, Wendy Rogers’ feature debut creates a visually stunning fantasy world that ends up feeling completely hollow. A modern fairytale, it follows young boy Peter’s journey to find his long-lost sister after a traveling fortune-teller informs him that she’s alive and all he needs to do to be reunited with her is “follow the elephant.” As luck would have it, a magician’s act gone awry has dropped an elephant in the center of town and the king declares that Peter can have it if he performs three impossible tasks. Continue Reading →


Rural Pennsylvania. No one moves, and the woods surround them. The trees shudder. A whip snaps around a branch. Cut to the forest below, a denim-clad hero emergesIIndiana Jones on his latest adventure. Continue Reading →


The Christmas industrial complex quickly consumes the whole of pop culture. One can barely slip the surly bonds of October 31st before being inundated with a whirlwind of tinsel-tinged music, decorations, and of course, T.V. specials. There’s nothing wrong with that! While the totality of it can be overwhelming at times, even for enthusiasts, there’s something downright pleasant about a big communal celebration touching the whole of society in some way, including our favorite television shows. Continue Reading →

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

As Puss in Boots: The Last Wish begins, it’s evident that this movie is aiming for a different vibe compared to not only the first Puss in Boots but the greater Shrek series as a whole.  A visual aesthetic that evokes hand-drawn animation and rapid-fire editing summons memories of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or fellow 2022 DreamWorks Animation project The Bad Guys rather than Shrek the Third. Even the handful of pop culture references are more specific and idiosyncratic—Nicolas Cage’s take on The Wicker Man, for instance—than the very broad references the original Shrek movies became famous for.  Continue Reading →


Disney released a “live-action” remake of Pinocchio earlier in the fall, which was greeted with the same indifferent to negative critical response their “live-action” remakes always receive. I put “live-action” in quotes because referring to them as such is a bit generous. They’re predominantly CGI, with barely enough human actors appearing to qualify as a regular feature rather than animation. As with the remakes of The Lion King and Aladdin, beyond the fact that there was simply no reason for it to exist, Pinocchio smacked of cynicism, and sent a clear message to audiences: we can keep making the same thing over and over, and you rubes will pay to see it.  Continue Reading →