It’s Time to Rethink How We Review Comedy

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: comedy is the most subjective genre and we should be more aware of that when we review it.)

Bold statement coming at you: we need to rethink the way we review comedic films. I know this sounds odd coming from someone who literally survives off of being allowed to have entertainment opinions (thanks, internet), but comedy is the most subjective genre, and we need to start treating it as such. When it comes to movies, the blanket hate for certain comedies is shocking. 

If you’re wondering what qualifies me to have these opinions, I have a history with comedy. For nine years, I had my hands in all types: I did stand-up, improv, sketch, wrote three comedic plays, and helped run a comedy theatre in Chicago. Personally, I think capturing comedy onscreen is harder than capturing it onstage, and I’m going to tackle this through the lens of experience. 

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Goodbye to Johnny Depp

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: a former Johnny Depp fan struggles to let go.)

Who would have thought that, one day, the name “Johnny Depp” would become a dirty word?

Johnny Depp used to be one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. He was attractive, alternative, zany and cool. He was the offbeat art kid’s entryway into Hollywood idolization. He was awesome.

Now, though? Depp is a tired mess of his former self. Growing older is something that can’t be held against anyone, but aging disgracefully certainly can. He’s an actor trying to hold onto his youth in the worst ways. He’s a caricature of his former self. Worst of all, he’s now plagued with scandal.

So how does someone who used to love his work deal with this?

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Spike Lee’s latest movie is his first to cater directly to white audiences and that’s something worth talking about.)

At first glance, BlacKkKlansman checks all of director Spike Lee’s typical boxes — it’s black, unapologetic, and confrontational. It’s distinctly told from the point of view of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black male police officer-turned-detective in Colorado Springs in the 1970s. That description alone is loaded with conflict, and Lee doesn’t shy away from any of it.

But the crux of the film tells an even more poignant story about this real-life hero, who boldly decides to go undercover in the Ku Klux Klan — with the help of his white Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) as his physical proxy while he infiltrates the hate group behind the scenes and through covert phone calls. It’s a radical plan and a subsequently radical film that succeeds in illuminating, through a common ground of oppression embodied by these two very different men, the true function of the KKK: absolute power and hatred of everyone who is not a white Protestant man.

But it’s the very thing that makes BlacKkKlansman as compelling as much as it is extremely palatable.

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buffy the vampire slayer revival

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: it’s time that talent of color get their own narratives, not white hand-me-downs.)

I don’t know why Hollywood continues to ignore us (AKA people of color) whenever we throw free ideas up into the air about great original narratives centering on minority characters that can easily be adapted for TV or film. They know these stories exist. They know they already have built-in audiences. Still, they choose to not even consider it. They’d rather take an already existing white film or TV show and remake it with minority actors in roles immortalized by white talent — like they’re planning to do with the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which will star a black actress in the title role.

This is not okay.

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Child's Play Remake

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: the Child’s Play series is doing just fine, so news of a remake is straight-up bullshit.)

Let’s get this out of the way: I am not anti-remake. Some of horror’s most recent top-tier achievements have been remakes themselves (It or Evil Dead, for starters). Modernized technology, fresh visions, and altered perspectives can do wonders for “outdated” classics or under-appreciated gems of bygone eras. May I repeat once more that I am not anti-remake – but I’m sure as hell against rebooting horror franchises that are still VERY MUCH ALIVE.

Last week, it was announced that MGM would be remaking beloved killer doll “slasher” Child’s Play with no connection to franchise controller Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner’s in-the-works television show (both of whom declined remake involvement when asked by MGM). More red flags: a “technologically advanced” toy will hunt multiple children a la “Stranger Things,” and no Brad Dourif returning to voice “Chucky” – if MGM even keeps that name. A “2.0” remake meant to capitalize on what’s being identified as “limitations” of Chucky’s current rubbery Good Guys form.

Hold up. Have any of the powers fast-tracking this remake for a September 2018 production start date even seen where Cult Of Chucky left off? Also, is MGM actually remaking Small Soldiers without even knowing it?

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Jurassic World gay character

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the latest film to blow an opportunity to put a gay character in a mainstream movie.)

Welp, it’s happened again. Another major Hollywood blockbuster has cut a reference to a LGBTQ character’s sexuality. The latest culprit? Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in which Daniella Pineda‘s character was originally meant to be gay. Read more about her deleted scene below.

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Hereditary Review

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Hereditary has people talking about “elevated horror” again and there is no such thing…there are just horror movies.)

There’s an interview going around with Hereditary writer/director Ari Aster that’s sparked another round of hand-wringing regarding whether a new horror feature qualifies as a “horror movie” at all; a discussion so tired we might as well feed it a fistful of Roseanne Barr’s Ambien in hopes of finally putting it out of its misery. In his talk with ScreenCrush’s Britt Hayes, Aster says:

“But even from the beginning, and this is something I’ve said before but I was kind of careful to never really call it a ‘horror film.’ The people that were on the crew, or even the people that I was pitching the film to, I would describe it as a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare.”

Even though Aster refers to Hereditary several times during that same chat as a “horror movie”, folks have already taken the quote and run with it, questioning whether the unsettling motion picture belongs to this categorization.

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Women of Solo

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: despite the best intentions of everyone involved, the women of Solo: A Star Wars Story get the short end of the stick.)

Rey. I think about her a lot. A beacon of hope in a fandom so punctuated by masculine energy. There is Leia, yes, a feisty ball of purely female spitfire, a woman who lit a spark in the original Star Wars films and who lives inside every girl of a certain age even still. But Leia was never our focal point, and Rey is. The new dawn of Star Wars entered stage left with a message loud and clear: there are other kinds of heroes in this world, and this is what they look like.

The Disney era of Star Wars is not without its setbacks, but the women have been across-the-board fantastic from the perspective of this lifelong female fan. Rey, Jyn, Holdo, Rose, the return of Leia as a general; strong signals in a hellfire of war and famine and the disturbance of peace. Trailblazers who will not be silenced no matter the boycotting hashtags or insular vendettas. To us, the women who love these movies, they are setting the stage for a new kind of intersectional fandom inclusion.

I had my reservations about Solo: A Star Wars Story, but was excited to see what it might do with its troupe of new female characters. Qi’ra, L3-37 (the first female droid with a major role in Star Wars history), Val. The marketing made them look distinctly impressive, with new energies to bring to what could otherwise be a very male-heavy narrative.

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Death in the MCU

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Marvel has no idea how to make death matter in its movies.)

We’ve come a long way since 2008’s Iron Man introduced Marvel Studios’ ambitious Phase One initiative. Ten years, nineteen movies, one sacrificial offering of Kevin Feige’s soul to ward off genre fatigue – but despite critical, monetary, and filmmaking successes that continue to redefine the increasingly iconic Marvel Cinematic Universe, the elemental truth of insufficient stakes remains the franchise’s greatest foe.

Marvel stresses event-level entertainment and exhibits the ability to spectacularly deliver on that promise, proven by my continued desire to witness the Avengers pound tyrant after tyrant into submission. Plucky do-gooder confidence plays into ultimate showmanship, yet it cannot be denied that hero sendoffs are scarce and oddly unaffecting when implemented.

Does death even matter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? At this franchise milestone, I submit that it does not. Warning: spoilers ahead. Read More »

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Marvel Cinematic Universe romance problem

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Lindsey Romain takes stock of the MCU’s romance problem.)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, at best, a series of intricately laced human stories amplified and filtered through the lens of absolute power. At worst, it is a series that never hits the emotional highs and lows of its characters, favoring spectacle and applause over the metrics of human condition. Avengers: Infinity War falls somewhere in the middle of this chart. It is undoubtedly geared to deliver stadium-style hoots and hollers, but goes for the jugular in a few key moments. Youll laugh, youll cry. Its a lot of movie.

Its also a good reminder that the MCU is loaded with troubled romances that have a hard time feeling relevant. It wouldnt be much of a problem if the films climax wasnt anchored almost totally on the relationship between a young woman and a character that is essentially a sentient Siri in human skin, a couple so important that we have to buy that they would risk humanity to save their love. The highest of stakes are predicated on two characters the world probably wouldnt miss that much, but Infinity War still begs us to fret over. Even though, by my measure, it doesnt care itself about developing Wanda beyond what she provides to male narratives, or Vision beyond his omniscient but hackneyed origin story. That sort of sums up Marvel romance in a nutshell: hollow and unearned fabrications that only matter apocalyptically.

There are many layers to MCUs romance problem, so lets take a deeper look at what its done right, what it cant seem to master, and what it might do to rectify this issue going forward. Spoilers ahead. Read More »