FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #183 – “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” (dir. Darren Lynn Bousman), “The Go-Between” (1971) (dir. Joseph Losey)

Poster for "Spiral: From the Book of Saw"

This week, Glenn and Daniel see Chris Rock‘s latest standup-routine-in-dialogue, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, as the comedian attempts to reinvigorate the Saw franchise as a ripped-from-the-headlines issue drama from returning series director Darren Lynn Bousman. With dubious results. Then they cleanse their palate at Daniel’s request with the Palme d’Or winner from the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, a Victorian costume drama and coming-of-age tale, The Go-Between (01:07:39).

Still from "The Go Between" (1971)

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Spiral: From the Book of Saw): 2 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The Go-Between): 8.5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:53] Review: Spiral: From the Book of Saw
  • [21:25] Spoilers: Spiral: From the Book of Saw
  • [34:22] Review: The Go-Between
  • [46:51] Spoilers: The Go-Between
  • We mentioned the Saw franchise was created by James Wan and one other horror director of note whose name escaped us at the time – that would be Leigh Whannell, the director of last year’s outstanding version of The Invisible Man.
  • We mistakenly referred back to Saw V as the film in which Jigsaw tortures health insurance executives for their policy on pre-existing conditions (which already makes this franchise legally dated) – this was in fact Saw VI.
  • We jokingly compared the Jigsaw Killer’s grisly tableaus to the elaborate music videos of OK Go (a comparison in which the project management victory goes thoroughly to the latter!) – while several of them have gone viral over the last decade, there’s a good chance there’s one or two you haven’t seen – you can check out the complete playlist on their YouTube channel.
  • We misstated the age of former actor Dominic Guard who is now a child psychotherapist and author of children’s lit – he is 64 years old as of this writing.

Listen above, or download: Spiral: From the Book of Saw, The Go-Between (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #182 – “Voyagers” (dir. Neil Burger), “Short Term 12” (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)

Poster for "Voyagers" (2021 film)

CW: This episode contains discussions of sexual assault, physical and sexual abuse, self-harm, and suicide.

This week, Glenn and Daniel see how the young people are doing, starting with Neil Burger‘s half-baked Lord of the Flies non-adaptation, Voyagers, whose cast is let down by material that seems unwilling to commit to its most interesting ideas. And then we check out director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film Short Term 12, whose cast – including Brie Larson, Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek, could fill an entire shelf with all the awards they’ve earned in the 8 years since this film was released. It is also a film whose dark and harrowing subject matter doesn’t preclude a persistent feeling of sweetness and warmth that says to its audience: Look how well we can take care of each other when we try (01:22:22).

Still from "Short Term 12"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Voyagers): 4.5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Short Term 12): 8/10 (Daniel), 9/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • [02:28] Review: Voyagers
  • [18:26] Spoilers: Voyagers
  • [38:05] Review: Short Term 12
  • [01:03:20] Spoilers: Short Term 12
  • See Glenn’s review of Passengers, which we referenced during our discussion of Voyagers.

Listen above, or download: Voyagers, Short Term 12 (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #181 – “Moxie” (dir. Amy Poehler), “The Courier” (dir. Dominic Cooke)

Poster for "The Courier"

This week, Glenn and Daniel venture back to a bygone era that justifies itself with a touching depiction of friendship amid international espionage, with The Courier, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Mirab Ninidze in a film based on historical events by Dominic Cooke, now out in theaters, and coming soon to Premium VOD platforms. But first, they check out director Amy Poehler‘s 90s-tinged YA adaptation, Moxie, now streaming on Netflix (01:12:17).

Still from "Moxie"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Moxie): 5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The Courier): 7.5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [02:21] Review: Moxie
  • [34:18] Review: The Courier
  • [46:06] Spoilers: The Courier
  • See Sheila O’Malley‘s review of Moxie on RogerEbert.com, to which we owe our sincere thanks for giving a name to the riot grrrl genre, a phenomenon we’ve been peripherally aware of since 10 Things I Hate About You and the zines we personally read in our 1990s Seattle high schools, but didn’t know the proper name for until now.
  • In our discussion of The Courier, we referred to actress Natalie Walker‘s excellent series of satirical audition videos on Twitter, including this one, an apparent send-up of the thankless role played by Claire Foy in First Man. We were rather pleased that Jessie Buckley had a bit more to do in this film than the typical put-upon, do-nothing wife character of a history-making fellow.

Listen above, or download: Moxie, The Courier (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #180 – “I Care a Lot” (dir. J Blakeson), “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (dir. Josh Greenbaum)

Poster for "I Care a Lot"

This week, Glenn and Daniel return to the character-based madcap silliness from the minds of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, as Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Then we come back to our own depraved world as we examine a slick and fictitious jaunt into the very real world of elder guardianship abuse, starring a wicked lead turn from Rosamund Pike in the tonally uneven I Care a Lot. (55:21).

Still from "Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar): 6/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)
FilmWonk rating (I Care a Lot): 5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:23] Review: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
  • [20:24] Review: I Care a Lot
  • [39:11] Spoilers: I Care a Lot
  • In our discussion of I Care a Lot, we referenced the following:

Listen above, or download: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, I Care a Lot (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #179 – “Bliss” (dir. Mike Cahill), “The White Tiger” (dir. Ramin Bahrani)

Poster for Bliss (2021 film)

This week, Glenn and Daniel escape the doldrums of 2020 with a mind-bending, reality-warping thriller from I Origins director Mike Cahill, Bliss, now available on Amazon Prime. And then we gaze across the world at India, a country currently engaged in the largest protest in human history, through the eyes of a Booker Prize-winning novel adapted by director Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger. This film, which we described as having “a chip on its shoulder and a swagger in its step,” is now available on Netflix. (01:02:57).

Still from "The White Tiger"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Bliss): 8 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The White Tiger): 8 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:25] Review: Bliss
  • [12:33] Spoilers: Bliss
  • [25:10] Review: The White Tiger
  • [45:53] Spoilers: The White Tiger
  • The “Thought Visualizer” depicted in Bliss is just barely still science-fiction, but the technology that could power such a device in the future does exist today. Check out the OpenAI Multimodal Research frameworks, including DALL-E, a neural network which can create images based on a text description, and CLIP, which can generate a text description from a photo (and these networks were, in turn, used to train and validate each other). I’d suggest you start with the DALL-E demo, especially if you’re eager to see what a giraffe/walrus hybrid, or a cat made of fried chicken, or a pig made of cucumbers looks like.
  • Check out Rohan Naahar‘s review of The White Tiger in the Hindustan Times for one Indian critic’s take on the film, which obviously picked up on some details we missed. NPR also interviewed a number of regular people who have experienced poverty in India for their takes on the film, which are expectedly wide-ranging. The /Filmcast (with David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Jeff Cannata) had an excellent discussion as well.
  • CORRECTION: We referred to the 2016 Indian banknote demonetization, which – as you might expect, we oversimplified a bit. Same goes for the Citizenship Amendment of 2019.
  • CORRECTION: While the caste system is deliberately simplified in The White Tiger, the Halwai caste (which Balram was born into) is briefly defined in the film – it was traditionally associated with confectionery and sweet-making.

Listen above, or download: Bliss, The White Tiger (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #178 – “Promising Young Woman” (dir. Emerald Fennell), “First Cow” (dir. Kelly Reichardt)

Poster for "Promising Young Woman"

*CW: This episode’s review of Promising Young Woman contains discussions of sexual assault and rape.

This week, Glenn, Daniel, and Erika check out two films delayed by COVID, the first a bucolic 1820 Pacific Northwestern from veteran genre director Kelly Reichardt, First Cow. The second, which ended up in a well-deserved awards-qualifying run (which you should responsibly skip in theaters and watch from home) is the feature directorial debut of “Killing Eve” Season 2 showrunner Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman, featuring Carey Mulligan on a quest for both personal and systemic revenge (01:23:49).

Still from "First Cow"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (First Cow): 6/10 (Daniel), 8/10 (Erika), 8.5/10 (Glenn)
FilmWonk rating (Promising Young Woman): 8/10 (Daniel, Glenn), 9/10 (Erika)

Show notes:

  • [01:42] Review: First Cow
  • [15:29] Spoilers: First Cow
  • [41:20] Review: Promising Young Woman
  • [54:38] Spoilers: Promising Young Woman

Listen above, or download: First Cow, Promising Young Woman (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #177 – “Come Away” (dir. Brenda Chapman), “Possessor Uncut” (dir. Brandon Cronenberg)

This week, Glenn and Daniel return to a W.B. Yeats poem with Come Away, a hybrid fairytale from Brave director Brenda Chapman featuring Peter Pan and Alice (in Wonderland) as childhood siblings in London, then venture into the twisted (and uncut) sophomore feature from Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor, a sci-fi horror film that’ll make you never trust anyone again (59:29).

Still from "Possessor"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Come Away): 6 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Possessor Uncut): 8/10 (Glenn), 5/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • [02:13] Review: Come Away
  • [17:47] Review: Possessor Uncut
  • [34:48] Spoilers: Possessor Uncut
  • During a brief aside on the limitations of artificially intelligent machine vision as depicted in Possessor, we mentioned AI researcher Janelle Shane‘s reporting on the phenomenon of “giraffing” (a term originally coined by Melissa Elliott)- she discusses it in an interview here, and you can check out her excellent blog and book here.

Listen above, or download: Come Away, Possessor (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #176 – “Nocturne” (dir. Zu Quirke)

Poster for "Nocturne"

This week, Glenn and Daniel check out the debut feature for director Xu Quirke, a tale of cutthroat songbirds that harkens back expectedly to Black Swan, yet carves a path very much its own (35:49).

May contain NSFW language.

Still from "Nocturne" featuring Sydney Sweeney as Juliet Lowe

FilmWonk rating: 6/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • [01:36] Review: Nocturne
  • [20:50] Spoilers: Nocturne

Listen above, or download: Nocturne (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #175 – “Kajillionaire” (dir. Miranda July), “The Devil All the Time” (dir. Antonio Campos), “Cargo” (dir. Arati Kadav)

Poster for "Kajillionaire"

This week, Glenn and Daniel check out Miranda July‘s latest, Kajillionaire (in theaters now, on VOD 10/16), which – like a hot tub at 29% APR – is an oddball gift that keeps on giving. Then we venture into a deep, dark, dire pit of the American South with Antonio Campos‘ adaptation, The Devil All the Time (Netflix). And finally, we check out Daniel’s pick for our first foray into Hindi-language films (and the Bollywood equivalent of an indie darling), the outstanding debut sci-fi feature from director Arati Kadav, Cargo (Netflix) (01:25:13).

Still from "The Devil All the Time"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Cargo): 8 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Kajillionaire): 7 out of 10

FilmWonk rating (The Devil All the Time): 7.5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:24] Review: Cargo
  • [21:29] Review: Kajillionaire
  • [34:42] Spoilers: Kajillionaire
  • [51:39] Review: The Devil All the Time
  • [01:08:45] Spoilers: The Devil All the Time
  • We briefly scoffed about a review with the headline, “‘Kajillionaire’ shows how boomers stole from millennials — and what they’ll keep stealing“. To be fair, headlines are often written by editors, and the review, from cultural critic Sam Thielman, is worth a read even if we took very different routes to liking this film.
  • During our review of The Devil All the Time, Glenn pronounced the name of Riley Keough two different ways – regrettably, neither of them was correct. We regret the error.

Listen above, or download: Kajillionaire, The Devil All the Time, Cargo (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #174 – “Mulan” (dir. Niki Caro), “Lingua Franca” (dir. Isabel Sandoval), “Up on the Glass” (dir. Kevin Del Principe)

Poster for "Mulan" (2020 film)

This week, Glenn and Daniel (and special guest Erika) dive into the first Disney live-action remake Glenn has felt any desire to watch, Mulan, a film as American as apple pie and jingoism. We also check out a pair of smaller films – a thriller melodrama debut from director Kevin Del Principe, Up on the Glass (now available on VOD), and a slow-burn romance from trans Filipina director Isabel Sandoval, Lingua Franca, now available on Netflix (01:36:58).

Still from "Lingua Franca"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Up on the Glass): 7.5/10 (Daniel), 3/10 (Glenn/Erika)
FilmWonk rating (Mulan): 5/10 (Daniel/Glenn), 7.5/10 (Erika)

FilmWonk rating (Lingua Franca): 6/10 (Daniel), 8/10 (Glenn/Erika)

Show notes:

  • [01:46] Review: Up on the Glass
  • [11:00] Spoilers: Up on the Glass
  • [22:00] Review: Mulan
  • [46:06] Spoilers: Mulan
  • [59:04] Review: Lingua Franca
  • [01:35:51] Spoilers: Lingua Franca
  • We mentioned a video from the excellent long-form media critic (and now NY Times best-selling author) Lindsay Ellis – that video is “Woke Disney“, and you should definitely check it out.
  • We referenced an interview that Sandoval gave to James Factora at them. – you can check that out here (contains spoilers).

Listen above, or download: Mulan, Lingua Franca, Up on the Glass (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)