‘Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers’ Review: Supposed Riff on Reboots Too Self-Serious for Its Own Good


Amidst Disney’s own trend of live-action remakes of their most popular live action films, surely enough it took a while before they decided to go ahead and catch up with rebooting one of their own animated series. With director Akiva Schaffer taking the helm at bringing Disney’s beloved chipmunks to the screen to a completely new generation of viewers, what he brings out with Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers seems to be born out of a parody for how they’ve continuously seen their animated fare as of late – but even knowing that this is still under Disney’s own noses, they can’t fully reach the levels of lampooning that you know the material at hand would be opening themselves up to.

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‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Review: So Much Said, So Little Time


The directing duo Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) make their second feature film together with Everything Everywhere All at Once, whose title may just as well be an apt descriptor for what the viewers can expect themselves to experience from watching it. In fact, a film like Everything Everywhere All at Once seems to try and reach out as many people, going from those who were fascinated by the concept of the multiverse to film lovers, and maybe even to the inner child in most of us, for the ride that’s provided goes through most facets of life, from the happy to the mundane, while being thoughtful and ever so frantic. But underneath all of that, there’s something so much sweeter. If anything, it best states the film as a labour of love, all in a package that’s only set to overflow.

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20 Years Later: June 2002

Now to start something that makes perfect sense. This column will be a monthly retrospective of the movies from 20 years earlier. Most months I’m aiming for the first Tuesday to release this. But I’m starting late. For the record, release dates are weird so if it’s a smaller film, info is hard to always nail down. I’m using The Numbers as my source for the most complete list. Now did I see everything? No. This is from the perspective of a down the line filmgoer. If I went, I’ll tell you why. If I didn’t, I’ll tell you why. Here goes nothing.

June 7
Bad Company: We often mourn the programmer, a mid budget star film, but I look at this and I’m fascinated by how every piece of this was assembled from other parts. The title was reused. The cast of Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins feels like the most “well they were free” cast with Peter Stormare used as a villain because he can’t be used as an actual actor (for two more weeks). Joel Schumacher directed because he was free. The premise is a Prisoner of Zenda/Prince and the Pauper riff. This is what we lose on these and I’m not sure we did lose. However there are some great ones coming this year.

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: I feel like this kind of movie is dead. The moderately popular novel put on screen. This would be a TV series now. The cast is basically all on TV now anyway aside from the indestructible Sandra Bullock. I didn’t see this but I think hsad the buzz been even vaguely good I would have. I like films steeped in the south, but this wasn’t it. Shame.

June 14
The Bourne Identity: Doug Liman went from two hipster comedies which are modern classics with genius scripts to an unexpected action great with this film. Though it should be noted that unlike the process we see now where a director with no experience is brought on to be a hired hand, Liman actually started the project as a fan of the book. And it shows. Look, this became a landmark franchise starter for a reason. This is a blast of a film with a phenomenal cast and a pace like a metronome. Liman knows the game. But the real thing this kicked off was movie savior legend Tony Gilroy fixing a film in rewrites, though he was the first writer here. This rules, but you know that.

Scooby-Doo: Look, you can’t talk about this film without pointing out that an R-rated cut will never come out but exists. That’s from the screenwriter so I consider it fact. I also ask why. This movie feels like it exists at a juncture between the ironic adaptation and the serious one and leans way too hard on the ironic side. It’s from nothing director Raja Gosnell and genius writer James Gunn and the issues are huge. Like making the villain an obvious punchline. However, three happy things. The sequel is considered a true adaptation. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar were dating while filming this and have been married for 20 years. And the big one: Following the death of Casey Kasem, Matthew Lillard would take over the role of Shaggy in animation and is an utter soundalike to where I don’t know it’s not Kasem.

Pinata: Survival Island: I could list a million actual independent releases that matter. No. I’m going with the release of the legendary in b-movie circles b-movie that I’m genuinely serious played theaters in Little Rock as Demon Island. Oh and it played for two weeks so when I get to one of the best films of the year below realize you could choose to see it or this and I believe someone had to choose poorly. This is about a killer pinata who attacks Jamie Pressly (who rightfully hates this as it followed her career changing Not Another Teen Movie work) and Nicholas Brendon (who has one more year of work before never being heard from in a good way again.) No I’ve never seen it. I’ve tried though.

Windtalkers: I hate war films, so you’ll rarely get my opinion on them. And yeah I’m passing here. I’m going to get to a point where I will see every Cage film for a few years but I had no reason to watch this. No interest.

June 21
Juwanna Mann: OK, great I have two back to back all time greats to cover on this day. But I have to cover this first. Will I ever see a film like this? There are a few on my list. But this isn’t a film I saw. A movie about a man pretending to be a woman to enter the WNBA is so offensive it needs no explaining.

Lilo and Stitch: The birth of an iconic character. I see so much Stitch merchandise. My daughter loves Stitch. I have no objection. How can you not love this movie? This is a film about grief, about trauma, and yes family. It’s so ridiculously entertaining in every way. The animation, the last great bit of 2D animation from Disney, is art. The characters are rich. It’s so moving. I want to give special credit to the voice work by Tia Carrere who really didn’t get to work into her older years and here suggests she could have had a tremendous dramatic career. A true classic. I didn’t see it opening weekend though. I saw…

Minority Report: OK, let me get my critique out of the way. The mystery here isn’t great. It should be. The script is mostly by Scott Frank who is a genius at them. But it’s only so-so. The thing is, it’s a macguffin. Spielberg doesn’t care. What he was into was the satire of a culture with no privacy. And when you realize that, you get why Ebert named it the best film of the year. In 2001, Spielberg honored Kubrick but to me this is him getting the spirit. This is the weirdest film Spielberg can make, a darkly twisted film with crazy character work from everyone from the aforementioned Stormare to the great Tim Blake Nelson. The director of Blankman, Mike Binder, actually gets an emotionally devastating scene. And the satire is laser like. This is a film about where we were going and it’s spot on. In a great year, this is one of the best films.

June 28
Hey Arnold! : The Movie: I was 18 when this hit and wasn’t even a fan of the show. I will say the movie is legendary for getting a theatrical push it wasn’t built for. This was meant as DTV and we’re in an era where a lot of those went there, unlike now where Turning Red was theatrical grade but went to streaming. (I’m still mad.) A shame this killed the show basically,

Lovely and Amazing: I’ll concede a huge blind spot for me is Nicole Holofcener. This one is very popular with her fans. It’s got one of the Dermots. It’s not one I’m OK I missed.

Mr. Deeds: But you know what? I’m fine never seeing this. Like I don’t even know what the joke is. Adam Sandler gets rich? I don’t get it. I love this cast and Winona Ryder got a classic SNL from it. But as for Sandler, hey it’s 2002. We’ll check in with him at year’s end.

June is weirdly unfamiliar compared to now. A few novels, a tv show, and one remake but only one truly major IP film. It’s wild how slight this month is. But the key is the three films that are great. Bourne will launch one of the best trilogies of the decade. Lilo and Stitch is gold. And seriously Minority Report is part of why I’m a passionate eternal Spielberg defender. It’s an interesting month.

Next month: July starts with a flop and ends with an underloved third film in a series.

‘Belfast’ Review: So Personal yet So Sterile


Kenneth Branagh has established himself over the years as one of the most prolific Shakespearean actors – both on the screen and working behind the scenes. With Belfast, he opts to tell a story that should bring him closer to home, to how he saw his childhood in Ireland. While it’s easy enough to see that Branagh’s heart is in the right place when telling a movie about growing up during the Troubles, perhaps there’s something missing to supposedly meaningful revisiting of one’s own childhood. Branagh certainly is a well-meaning director, but the reminiscences of the past don’t really add up to all that much in return.

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‘West Side Story’ Review: The Perfect Reintroduction of a Classic Musical


Over his decades long career, Steven Spielberg has made his very first musical. Nonetheless, Spielberg has also established that he had always wanted to try his hands at bringing a musical to the big screen with a second cinematic adaptation of West Side Story, following the 1961 film. It’d be easy enough to express skepticism to the need for a new West Side Story film, but Spielberg establishes that the material is a perfect match for him. Spielberg doesn’t work with creating a pastiche of the 1961 film as much as he does create a new screen life for one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. In doing so, Spielberg has made what may be his best film in at least fifteen years.

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‘CODA’ Review: A Conceited Crowdpleaser Suppressing Its Deaf Voices

Author’s note: I am not deaf nor hard of hearing. That said, I also cannot help but find it a bit disheartening that many deaf critics are not also put front and center as this film continually makes waves during its awards season run right now unless their views of the film are uniformly positive.

To talk about CODA is to also cover one of the most important reasons why this movie has made waves: it features a primarily deaf cast playing deaf characters. It’s easy to see how this aspect has acquired the film a very favourable tide, but as much as this film has also grown on to become an audience favourite ever since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, I cannot find myself on board with that same wavelength. Which is disappointing to say, especially as this was a film that I had wanted to like on the count of how important it is to see the representation for deaf or hard of hearing people, yet maybe it’s the means of wanting to become an audience favourite that ultimately sets this film back.

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‘Licorice Pizza’ Review: Tomorrow May Not be the Day According to Paul Thomas Anderson


Over the years, Paul Thomas Anderson has made a name for himself as one of the best American filmmakers working today, with films like There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread, and The Master all under his belt within recent memory. With Licorice Pizza, Anderson finds himself returning to familiar territory as he brings audiences a coming-of-age comedy set within an era of Los Angeles that he grew up within. Perhaps the labelling of a “nostalgic love letter” to the 1970’s would be the first way of describing the concept of a movie all about growing up in this era of Los Angeles, but the picture being painted here is a much darker and more brilliant one than what meets the eye.

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‘Drive My Car’ Review: A Testament to Art’s Impact on Life, Sorrows, and Connections


One of the most talked-about films in the awards circuit this year is none other than Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. In the past, Ryusuke Hamaguchi has made a name for himself through beautifully understated, albeit lengthy character studies through films like Happy Hour and Asako I & II, but through this adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s story he creates what may be his best work yet. I find this to be his best because it’s a film that finds unity in something that we all love, with how it intertwines with how we live our own lives. But that’s only the least of what makes Drive My Car so special.

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‘The Power of the Dog’ Review: Beautiful and Rugged on the Outside, Layered and Complex on the Inside


For her third feature film, The Piano, Jane Campion became the first female filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, for very good reason. With The Power of the Dog being her first feature film in over a decade, it is more than just a triumphant return to the screen for her. Throughout her career, Campion has been known for making films that delve into the psychology that fuels desire, spanning many periods of time – but with The Power of the Dog comes one of her most beautiful and highly sensual efforts to date. It’s a statement that I think can only ever be put lightly, but in The Power of the Dog, you’re seeing the more externalized emotions coming forth in what would be one of her most beautiful films to date.

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‘Spencer’ TIFF Review: The Unseen Tragedy of a Beloved Figure


Spencer is a film that tells you it is a true story, albeit a fable – maybe the most fitting way in which it can be set up by way of Pablo Larraín. Much like Jackie, Larraín doesn’t opt for a conventional approach to a biopic, this time choosing to give an idea of what was going through her head. Knowing the image that Princess Diana left behind in the wake of her death, it’s a risky way to have her story told, especially with how the British consciousness can be very protective of the Royal Family. Through this, we finally get to see Diana as a human, and that’s only one aspect to Spencer that allows it to really click with me, more so than most other Larraín films to this date have done.

Telling a story that takes place over a Christmas holiday, Spencer starts with the most fitting manner, we’re seeing Princess Diana being lost and needing to find her way back. This new iteration of Princess Diana’s story features Kristen Stewart in the title role, shows Diana in a cold marriage together with Prince Charles, who is played by Jack Farthing. It would be easy enough to imagine that this fictionalized account of Princess Diana happens some time within the final years of her life, facing constant pressure as a result of her stature imprisoning her. Through this perspective, it allows the audience to connect with Princess Diana like she was one of us and the results are wonderful.

Much of Spencer is built around fantasy as we’re seeing Diana’s life happening right in front of us. Everywhere she goes, she cannot escape the image that being a part of the Royal Family has created for her. We’re seeing her unhappy with the way her life is being controlled, but we also get a chance to see Princess Diana not as another part of the Royal Family – which already made me come on board with how Larraín chooses to tell a story about her. Every moment of Spencer is shot beautifully, through the beautiful camerawork of DP Claire Mathon, but what’s most captivating about Spencer is just how Larraín gives us the inside look at her frame of mind, akin to a horror movie.

But I think what really sells you into the approach comes from Kristen Stewart’s performance; to say that this is a career best is only underselling her efforts here. She’s committed to this role as Princess Diana in a way that I could only ever imagine Stewart could – but there’s a particularly haunting quality to the way she embodies Princess Diana. It’s haunting in the sense that you feel the impending doom coming her way, from simply wanting to be freed, yet we don’t know what from. This isn’t a film about the tragedy we know and associate Princess Diana with, yet it’s knowing this that still gives us a sense of what she wants to avoid. It’s hard enough for me to imagine anyone other than Stewart bringing any of this into such a role, if anything, it just solidifies my belief that Stewart is one among the best actresses working today.

I can’t say that a lot of this always worked for me though – while I admire the way this story unfolds, there’s still something that had always kept me from truly loving this. Much like Jackie, a lot of what doesn’t work for me in Spencer comes down to its screenplay. Written by Steven Knight, whose previous credits include Dirty Pretty Things (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), Eastern Promises, and Locke, what doesn’t work for me in Spencer comes from the way Knight seems to keep things a tad too on the nose. It never really does the movie any favours, especially when it comes to seeing Princess Diana as a person. Much as I enjoyed seeing Stewart playing the role, I found that it became difficult to really become invested in this side of Princess Diana, but Knight doesn’t write her in a way that showcases what’s going through her mind – as all that doom is external. With Larraín choosing to frame this moment in Diana’s life as a psychological drama, Knight’s screenplay never seems to stretch to show her as dynamic.

Nonetheless, I think there’s a whole lot to love all around – because Spencer is an exquisitely crafted film. It doesn’t feel like a movie that’s bound to the romanticize the Royal Family, especially in its portrait of unending doom from being part of such, but that great tragedy before knowing Princess Diana’s fate is what keeps its best moments incredibly effective. This is maybe the most that I’ve found that I was able to connect with a Pablo Larraín film, for like the best biopics should (and many fail to do), it brings you closer to Princess Diana not as a history lesson, but as a person. Together with a career-best role from Kristen Stewart and Jonny Greenwood’s score, Spencer isn’t a film you’ll want to miss.

Watch the trailer right here.

All images via NEON.

Directed by Pablo Larraín
Screenplay by Steven Knight
Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Jonas Dornbach, Paul Webster, Pablo Larraín, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade
Starring Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sally Hawkins, Sean Harris
Release Date: November 5, 2021
Running Time: 111 minutes