FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #188 – “Dear Evan Hansen” (dir. Stephen Chbosky), “Malignant” (dir. James Wan)

Poster for "Dear Evan Hansen"

*CW: This episode contains mentions of suicide, substance abuse, familial and intimate partner violence, pregnancy loss, and rape, as pertains to the subject matter of each film.

This week, Glenn and Daniel check out the misfiring adaptation of the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, whose narrative problems stem as much from its original book as from its later casting decisions, then differ sharply on James Wan‘s ’80s VHS bargain bin throwback, Malignant, whose “Seattle”-set monster antics charmed one and perplexed the other (1:11:05).

Still from "Malignant"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Dear Evan Hansen): 4 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Malignant): 7/10 (Glenn), 2/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • [02:27] Review: Dear Evan Hansen
  • [32:28] Review: Malignant
  • [43:51] Spoilers: Malignant
  • Daniel went all the way back to the early days of the FilmWonk Podcast by referencing the 2010 film from writer/director Adam Green, Frozen (not that one), a survival horror flick that takes place entirely on a stalled ski lift with three skiers trapped aboard, which we reviewed all the way back on Episode #5.

Listen above, or download: Dear Evan Hansen, Malignant (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #187 – “The Suicide Squad” (dir. James Gunn), “The Green Knight” (dir. David Lowery)

Poster for "The Suicide Squad" (2021 film)

This week, Glenn and Daniel gaze back into last week, when Glenn wrote 2,000 glowing words about writer/director David Lowery‘s rich, gorgeous, legendary tone poem The Green Knight, which captured both of our imaginations. And then we venture into James Gunn‘s post-Super return to R-rated comic book storytelling, in a American intervention tale straight out of the Cold War (not in a good way), which is never quite sure whether it’s doing the thing or satirizing the thing. But The Suicide Squad is a hoot-and-a-half nonetheless, and we really can’t blame the film for pretending its precursors don’t exist (1:12:15).

Still from "The Green Knight"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (The Green Knight): 9 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The Suicide Squad): 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [02:04] Review: The Green Knight
  • [12:18] Spoilers: The Green Knight
  • [30:40] Review: The Suicide Squad
  • [52:35] Spoilers: The Suicide Squad
  • CORRECTION: In my eagerness to draw parallels between A Ghost Story and The Green Knight, I carried forward an error from my original review by stating that the films shared a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is not correct. AGS was indeed 4:3, but TGK was actually 1.85:1.
  • As promised, here is my debate with Somebody on Twitter about whether The Green Knight is “too dark” – a criticism I found legitimately baffling at the time. They clarified that this was a s pecific aversion to the use of natural lighting, which they felt was a poor fit for this specific story. I still don’t agree, but they did do a very good job of clarifying their position, and we can always use more nice, friendly interactions on Twitter.
  • [Minor spoiler] We mentioned Gawain’s “supernatural side-quest” involving a ghostly maiden who asks him to retrieve her decapitated head from the bottom of a marsh. We didn’t know at recording time that this was a representation of Saint Winifred, whose biography makes her reaction to Gawain’s vague proposition of a quid pro quo even more understandable.
  • Check out this excellent interview by Carlos Aguilar of Variety with the makeup and prosthetic team at BGFX that helped transform actor Ralph Ineson into the Green Knight.
  • The Film Twitter argument I (rather poorly) alluded to was inspired by RS Benedict‘s seminal article on the avoidant sexuality of the modern American blockbuster, “Everyone is Beautiful and No One is Horny,” as well as Caroline Siede‘s excellent write-up of the long-neglected romantic adventure film genre, “Long before Jungle Cruise, Hollywood mastered the adventure romance genre.”
  • Polka-Dot Man’s mom was played by Lynne Ashe, previously seen in I, Tonya.

Listen above, or download: The Green Knight, The Suicide Squad (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #186 – “Old” (dir. M. Night Shyamalan), “Mosquita y Mari” (2012) (dir. Aurora Guerrero)

This week, Glenn and Daniel see what’s new from the twisted mind of M. Night Shyamalan, who now has a body of work that we actively look forward to, however we end up reacting to each film. And then we go back to 2012, to check out an overlooked indie coming-of-age LGBT teen romance from that year’s Sundance Film Festival, Mosquita Y Mari, from director Aurora Guerrero (49:18).

Still from "Mosquita y Mari" (2012)

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Mosquita y Mari): 8 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Old): 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:26] Review: Mosquita y Mari
  • [16:46] Review: Old
  • [27:28] Spoilers: Old
  • Daniel first heard about Mosquita y Mari from a plug on the Twitter feed of Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev), an excellent political writer and scholar of online right-wing extremism – her book, Culture Warlords, is definitely worth a read if you’d like some insight into how the United States got into the mess we’re currently in as a country.
  • Glenn declined to re-litigate Moonlight on today’s episode, in which Daniel chose violence by casually referring to it as a “depressing slog” – check out our Moonlight review on our 100th episode.
  • The movie starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando was The Missouri Breaks, a 1976 western directed by Arthur Penn. Probably not worth a stabbing or a cartoon portrayal of schizophrenia.

Listen above, or download: Mosquita Y Mari, Old (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #185 – “Black Widow” (dir. Cate Shortland)

This week, Glenn and Daniel check out ScarJo‘s MCU swansong, and perhaps the start of an action blockbuster career for director Cate Shortland (40:17).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:30] Review: Black Widow
  • [25:33] Spoilers: Black Widow

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

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #184 – “Fast and Furious 9” (dir. Justin Lin), “Look Back in Anger” (1959) (dir. Tony Richardson)

This week, Glenn and Daniel return to the car play franchise where the F stands for Fast, Furious, Family, and Fhysics. And then we venture back to 1959 to review Look Back in Anger, a play adaptation starring Richard Burton as a working class bloke in post-war Britain who hates his life and his wife (played by Mary Ure) nearly as much as he hates himself. We explore whether the film/play which spawned both kitchen-sink realism and the “angry young man” trope can still resonate even 60 years on (01:05:55).

Still from "Look Back in Anger"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (F9): 6 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Look Back in Anger): 8 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [01:52] Review: F9
  • [29:42] Review: Look Back in Anger
  • [46:28] Spoilers: Look Back in Anger
  • On the subject of Dom’s signature Dodge Chargers, check out this excellent piece of journalistic film writing from Priscilla Page, who has behind-the-scenes details on every one of Dom’s cars from 20 years of the Fast franchise.

Listen above, or download: F9, Look Back in Anger (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play)

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)