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This Latest Installment in the Planet of the Apes Franchise isn't Necessarily Bad, but is Probably more of a Forgotten Chapter in the Franchise Mythology.


Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.



Why do we do the things we do to one another? Maybe it's because I'm a fairly new father, maybe because I see the faces of a 9 year-old, 4 year-old, and almost 2 year-old whom I am responsible for daily and they have softened me, but I can't see a movie that deals in even the tiniest infraction against an innocent child and not question not only why the collective "we" do the things "we" do, but how people can perpetrate such hatefulness and bigotry toward someone else, much less an innocent child who has not only done nothing wrong but also doesn't understand why there is a prejudice against them in the first place. Not to spoil anything about Ava DuVernay's latest, Origin, but while much of this fictional adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson's nonfiction book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is focused on Wilkerson herself (portrayed by the great Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) as we follow along on her journey to research and write the eventual book many of the ideas in this film are based on, where Origin really flourishes is when it detours into the past and recreates these stories from throughout different stages in history that inform the present story Wilkerson is desperately trying to shape and make sense of. Undoubtedly, these detours are what will cause some critics and viewers to hasten toward thoughts that the film is disjointed and tonally uneven, but the way in which DuVernay uses these reenactments to not only emphasize to the viewer the reality of these things Wilkerson is learning, but – for my money – beautifully weaves them throughout are what make both the film’s narrative and Wilkerson’s arc feel whole. To use a tired turn of phrase, they complement one another in such a way that by the time we reach the final moments where these two strands of storytelling coalesce, I was moved to tears – asking myself the basic question of, “Why do we do the things we do to one another?”.


Like so many movies these days, 2024's Mean Girls first had to prove its reasons for existing were valid. And like so many movies these days, I tend to appreciate them for where they succeed rather than condemning them for where they don't. In the broad scheme of things this new Mean Girls movie is perfectly fine, but when remaining within the stratosphere of this movie adaptation of a stage musical that itself was adapted from a twenty year-old feature film based on a 2002 non-fiction bestseller titled "Queen Bees & Wannabes" it becomes something bigger, something more; an investment in the material, the thought behind it, and how as much earned it the place it holds in our culture. 

"Like all history, this is emotionally layered and culturally dense." I was seventeen in 2004 when the original Tina Fey adaptation was released, I remember writing about it for my school newspaper, and realizing Fey had officially made the leap while simultaneously cementing Lindsay Lohan as a figurehead of my generation. Mean Girls never didn't feel like a big deal and so it wasn't surprising so many of the jokes and bits from that original film endured, but because of the endurance factor I couldn't help but wonder what the translation to the modern high school experience might have to say about our less PC and, as a result, more merciless environment. Additionally, I’d never seen the stage play and was thus unfamiliar with the production and music (written by Fey's husband, Jeff Richmond with lyrics by Nell Benjamin). While Mean Girls '24 then had to really justify itself what was maybe most surprising about the addition of the not exactly memorable music was how quickly it helped move me past the nostalgia factor and into appreciating what this retelling had to offer.


An ambitious (audacious?) yet disjointed film that seems to attempt more than it intends leaving little to latch onto, but much to consider. A conundrum of both a film and experience. Coming out of writer/director/composer Jeymes Samuel's 2021 feature debut, The Harder They Fall, it was more than evident the multi-hyphenate had a distinct mission, but almost more importantly: a distinct style to match it. With as much noted it was easy to walk into Samuel's follow-up, The Book of Clarence, with a certain expectation of what it might be. As The Harder They Fall made it clear white people were not alone in the westward expansion following the Civil War, The Book of Clarence would seem to run with the fact they were essentially non-existent in Nazareth in the time of Jesus (or the Messiah, as he was probably more often referred to during his life). The correcting of the consistent portrayal of Jesus as a white, European man throughout history would then seem to be the anchor of Samuel's religious satire especially given this depiction has come under scrutiny as of late with the legacy of racism in society being more critically discussed. While this is certainly on the itinerary though, so are about twenty other items that seem to have sprung from Samuel's original intent through the process of putting this initial idea to paper. We can see the bones of Samuel's original idea in renovating the Biblical epic, but as our titular Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield) becomes swept up in and ultimately accepts the idea that Jesus may in fact be the real Messiah so too does the movie in becoming an actual Biblical epic. 

At just over two hours it doesn't quite go all the way to fit that bill, but though there are moments of biting irreverence these are always directed more toward how the familiar events of the Bible have come to be perceived rather than toward the events themselves or so seems to be the case, I could certainly have misinterpreted. The cause for such uncertainty comes with how reverential Samuel ends up treating the cornerstones of his protagonist's journey. These tonal transformations make it difficult to identify a genuine response to the material, but the film doesn't leave you with nothing. In fact, more than anything The Book of Clarence will leave many confused as to what meaning we're meant to take from this double-edged parable which - I guess - could be seen as appropriate given the conflicting nature of faith for those who question it. There is a line in the film that states, "Any man who follows rules blindly is easily overcome," which is a direct challenge to one of if not the mainstays of what "faith" is meant to illustrate. This point of view is further emphasized when, in the final act of the film, Stanfield's false Messiah calls for enlightenment over punishment. Both sentiments would seem to move the thematic needle towards the challenging of ideas and the broadening of intelligence for the sake of insight and progress as favorable and more sensical than divine knowledge and irrational acceptance, yet the film still concludes with a message that remains largely pro-faith. Hence, the confusion and conflict.