The Broadway adaptation defangs its best characters in a misguided effort to appeal to a new generation of viewers.
Paramount’s new version of Tina Fey’s cult classic Mean Girls boasts a tagline many Millennials found downright offensive upon debut: “This ain’t your mother’s Mean Girls!” The movie, based on the Broadway musical adapted from the original 2004 film, makes it abundantly clear that it’s aimed directly at Gen Z from its very opening moments, which look like a vertical phone video straight out of TikTok. Fey, the writer of both versions of Mean Girls, hasn’t been without her fair share of controversies over the twenty years since the first film premiered. In a clear effort to avoid upsetting younger audience members who have grown up with more sensitive media, Fey kneecaps many of her own best jokes. The updated script is a wobbly attempt to satisfy fans of the original without offending newcomers. The set-ups where there used to be jokes still remain, but they’re empty husks strung together by mostly forgettable songs. Though not without its unique charms, the musical Mean Girls is glaringly unfunny.
The music, written by Fey’s husband and frequent creative collaborator Jeff Richmond, does little to make up for the chasms where cutting punchlines have been removed. Richmond can write excellent, hilarious songs like the ones in 30 Rock and Girls5eva, but his compositions here are basic and feel uninspired. Most of the sincere songs revolve around bland messages about self-esteem that lack any insight into the actual emotional experiences of teenage girls. Emo outcast Janis ‘Imi’ike (Auli’i Cravalho, Moana), formerly a supporting character, gets what feels like four separate songs about the power of Being Yourself. Only “Sexy,” a playful number about Halloween costumes performed by ditzy beauty Karen Shetty (Avantika), stands out. Continue Reading →
Stamped from the Beginning
The Netflix documentary uses historical evidence and modern scholarship to demonstrate racism's continued role in US society.
At the start of the new documentary Stamped from the Beginning, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams asks his various interview subjects, “What is wrong with Black people?” Considering that all the interviewees in question are also Black, it is unsurprising that the question’s seeming hostility initially throws many. However, once they recognize the context of that query—Williams is asking for a historical context as to what Blacks have done to deserve centuries of institutionalized racism and violence—they are more than willing and able to discuss the subject at length throughout this strong and often provocative film.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book of the same name inspired the Williams’ film, a karmic debt the director pays back by including the doctor among a number of knowledgeable Black female scholars and activists. Together, they discuss how the twin stains of racism and white supremacy permeate American society in ways that continue to fester today. They explain how the concept of deeming people as greater or lesser by the color of their skin was born out of slavery. The aim was to simultaneously remove enslaved people’s distinguishing characteristics to make them seem like one undifferentiated mass and drive a wedge between them and white “indentured servants” to prevent the groups from joining forces against their common enemy, the wealthy landowner. Continue Reading →
らんま½ 劇場版 決戦桃幻郷!花嫁を奪りもどせ!!
The new horror film The Invitation opts to take a cue from Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” and hit the ground running. The very first scene of Jessica M. Thompson’s latest directorial effort depicts a woman deciding to escape a lavish home by way of suicide. With the help of a piano string and a medium-sized statue, she’s soon a corpse dangling in the living room of this mansion. Accompanied by pronounced cues on Dara Taylor’s score and claps of thunder, this demise is a striking way to kick off a movie. It’s also, unfortunately, emblematic of a critical narrative misstep from which The Invitation never quite recovers. Continue Reading →
Lena Dunham’s latest feature, Sharp Stick, combines her best and worst tendencies. It’s a coming-of-age dramedy about a young woman’s journey of sexual and self-discovery handled with refreshing tenderness and understanding. But it’s also a story that sees Dunham unwisely wading into waters out of her depth, drowning her characters in quirky affectation that distracts from her purpose. Where the film goes is somewhere surprising, affirming, and even beautiful. The issue is its route. Continue Reading →
The opening shot of Matt Reeves' The Batman evokes, if nothing else, the opening shot of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation: we peer, ominously, through the binoculars of an unseen voyeur, looking at a young boy in a red ninja outfit playing with his father in a Gotham penthouse. While this isn't a flashback to young Bruce Wayne -- rather, we see Gotham's tough-on-crime Mayor Mitchell and his soon-to-be-orphaned boy -- the evocation is undeniable. By the time The Batman's three hours whiz past you, we'll have a similarly probing look into Bruce Wayne himself: what he prioritizes, what drives him, what he thinks he's doing for the city as Batman and what he realizes he should be doing. And it's that texture, that sense of interiority, that makes The Batman one of the best films of the year thus far, and one of the most fascinating cinematic adventures the character has to offer. Continue Reading →
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A treasure hunter walks into a Papa John's franchise in the middle of beautiful Barcelona. He’s there to unlock a complicated puzzle in the hopes of getting one step closer to finding the gold lost during the epic journey of Ferdinand Magellan 500 years prior. The man is Victor “Sully” Sullivan, played by Mark Wahlberg, who appears to be going through the motions without any real fun or excitement, just like this movie. Continue Reading →
The Matrix Resurrections
It's hard to overstate just how seismic The Matrix was when it was first released in 1999. Looking back on it now, in an age of focus-tested corporate franchises, extended universes, and an even more top-heavy IP landscape than we had back then, it feels positively revolutionary. Even in its imperfect but-radically-reappraised 2003 sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, filmmakers Lana and Lilly Wachowski manage to build a world that's at once evocative of so many of its influences (cyberpunk, bullet opera, kung fu film, Star Wars) but feels highly original. And what's more, is unafraid to tackle challenging, often heady psychological questions while still revolutionizing the way action movies were made. Continue Reading →
The King's Man
Early in the King's Man, Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) reads a newspaper chronicling the human cost of the then-nascent World War I. The headline for all this carnage reads "When will this misery end?" It’s fitting since I found myself constantly asking myself the same question as The King's Man dragged on and on. For some reason, a franchise that’s previously leaned heavily on anal sex jokes and Elton John beating up evil henchmen wants to get serious in the most superficial way possible. Continue Reading →
One of the few moments of genuine humanity from Ghostbusters: Afterlife comes before the movie starts. In the press screening intro video, director and co-writer Jason Reitman shows up to tell everyone to please enjoy the movie. Then he briefly mentions the high stakes pressure of taking up the mantle of a beloved film property from his father, Ivan Reitman. Continue Reading →
It's funny to think about the mission creep that's escalated within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its debut in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Watching Eternals, you can't help but wonder that all of this started, as Jeff Bridges once quipped, in a cave with a box of scraps. Now, with Thanos and the events of Eternals, the MCU truly delves into the cosmic -- the vast span of space and time, and the very fabric of the universe at stake. And yet, the bigger and longer the MCU grows (heh), the more weightless it all feels; there's heaps of ambition at play in Marvel's latest, at least within the meager confines of Kevin Feige's franchise stewardship, but its reach exceeds its grasp. Continue Reading →