Author: Justin

FX/Hulu’s new documentary Framing Britney Spears, part of The New York Times Presents series, is surprisingly well worth your time even if you’re not a fan. I can name maybe three Britney songs, but her cultural impact was massive in the late 90s/early 2000s. A steady stream of starlets followed in her wake—from Mandy Moore to Christina Aguilera. The doc’s most interesting moments focus in on that moment. It looks at the sexualization of young women in the media at that time and the effects it had on performers like Spears through depression, body image, and even a sense of…

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TV

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is one of my favorite stories and the 1961 film adaptation The Innocents is my favorite horror film. So, you can imagine my mixed emotions when Netflix’s second season of their The Haunting franchise was announced as an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. I went in with optimism, but I came away disappointed. Your mileage may vary. The Haunting of Bly Manor tells the story of an English estate where two orphans are cared for by the small staff, including the newly hired au pair. The two children, Miles and Flora,…

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What a difficult task it must be to bring an original take on Sherlock Holmes these days. There are the obvious comparisons you’ll draw with Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr., but there’s such a long history of the character that you can’t help but be compared favorably or unfavorably to someone. Enter Henry Cavill, who has tried this feat before with Superman. Only, this time, it isn’t another Sherlock he has to worry about comparisons to, but Sherlock’s little sister. Enola Holmes is the name of Sherlock’s little sister, played here in a truly star-turning performance by Stranger Things’…

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TV

Away promises the sort of emotionally driven stories that made Friday Night Lights and Parethood sensations, but with the added fun of outer space! What’s not to love about that combination? If Away proves anything, it’s that some formulas can’t simply be ported from one situation to another. Hilary Swank stars as the commander of the first manned mission to Mars. But before they even reach the moon, an accident causes her crew to lose faith in her. Can you see where this is going? Back on earth, her husband (Josh Charles) is dealing with health issues and their teenage…

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TV

Growing up, Mr. Wizard’s World was one of my favorite shows. I was never a big science fan in school, but it made the subject fun and approachable for kids. Over the years it was followed by Beakman’s World and Bill Nye, the Sciene Guy—though those never drew my attention. One thing they share, however, is their male hosts. Is it any wonder so few women go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields? Enter Emily’s Wonder Lab and its vibrant host Emily Calandrelli. Each episode Emily takes a group of kids through a messy science experiment that is…

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TV

When I first saw previews for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, I audibly groaned to myself. Musicals don’t exactly have a storied history on television. After Buffy, the Vampire Slayer popularized the concept of the musical episode with its legitimately good effort, it seemed every show tried to do one of their own. They had varying results, but all were basically subpar. Imagine my surprise that Zoey is not just good, but at times extraordinary. Jane Levy (Suburgatory) stars at the titular Zoey, who after a freak accident can suddenly hear people’s innermost feelings expressed through musical numbers. Yes, full dancing and…

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Director Andrew Ahn’s Driveways feels like the perfect film for our times. It’s a treatise on the basic decency of humans arriving when perhaps we’re most out of touch with our humanity physically and spiritually. If that sounds like high praise for such a small film, well, it’s well earned. It tells the story of mom Kathy (Hong Chau) and son Cody (Lucas Jaye) as they arrive to clean out Kathy’s sister’s house after her death. Across the driveway is neighbor Del (Brian Dennehy), a widowed veteran who doesn’t speak much. My guess is you can already guess where this…

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TV

The new She-Ra is a very, very good show. It’s not just good for girls, or children in general, but it’s one of the better fantasy shows to air on television in recent years. It’s smart for sure, but what sets it apart is the compassion and focus on character. So many modern shows claim to focus on character while really being about the character through plot. She-Ra has the guts to let the story grind to a halt to simply let the characters breathe. That’s the kind of modern hero we need. The fourth season left our characters splintered…

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By this point you likely already know whether the comedy of Kimmy Schmidt tickles your funny bone or not, so you’re mostly wondering about this film’s big gimmick—choosing your own path. Yes, Kimmy Schmidt is finally delivering upon the promise of 90s interactive movies with a “choose your own adventure” story that they’re very careful never to call by that name, lest they be sued by the books’ publisher. The setup here isn’t all that important, but Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) discovers the titular Reverend (Jon Hamm) may have more women locked up in bunkers just like he did with her…

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Much has been made in recent years about comedy getting too safe and how the Mel Brooks satires such as Blazing Saddles couldn’t be made in today’s politically correct society. So, what are we to make of a film like Jojo Rabbit? Is it safe to make a film where a young German boy has Hitler as an imaginary friend? And yet, Jojo Rabbit feels entirely appropriate for our time. As noted, Jojo Rabbit tells the story of young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Jojo is as devout a Nazi as any young boy can…

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