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He’s All That Showcases The Number One Problem With Modern Cinema (Review)

Mark Waters’ He’s All That demonstrates everything wrong with mainstream American cinema in one single 93-minute film.



Cinema is slowly being devalued as “content,” where Intellectual Properties trump artistic freedom and expression. The current best form of cinema is found through independent or arthouse films. Most blockbusters have failed to expand their visual and aural palette to kowtow for a specific, social-media-savvy audience. This is the number one problem plaguing our mainstream films: studios believe pre-existing IPs are the future instead of focusing on new and original stories while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of conventional modes of filmmaking. The only series excused from being conventional is the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the storylines they create have become more intricate and ambitious as the times went on. But with a film like He’s All That, a gender-swapped remake of Robert Iscove’s She’s All That, the only thing director Mark Waters and Netflix are interested in is the latest popular trends in social media, not cinema, which creates an egregiously manipulative and horribly saccharine product that will be forgotten when Stephen Herek’s Afterlife of the Party comes out next week on the streaming service.

MTV-style reality shows are so 1999, so our main protagonist is a TikTok (yes…) influencer by the name of Padgett Sawyer (Addison Rae), who is in a relationship with another influencer, Jordan Van Draanen (Peyton Meyer). When Padgett finds out that Jordan has been cheating on her with a model from his music video and has her meltdown live-streamed for the entire world to see, she loses everything, from her sponsors to her college scholarships. So to avenge her breakup from Jordan, she decides to accept a bet from her friend Alden (Madison Pettis) to turn the school’s least-known student, Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan), into Prom King. And if you’ve seen She’s All That, you’ve absolutely seen He’s All That, with a few differences that completely worsen this remake.


If MTV reality TV shows were the precursor to our decade’s “look at me!” culture through social media, He’s All That only exacerbates that feeling. Both characters are extreme egocentrics on both sides of the spectrum: Padgett wants everyone to look at her amazingly posh and luxuriant life (though, in reality, she’s actually poor and lives with her mother, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, who portrayed Laney in the original film), while Cameron wants everyone to look at how disconnected everyone is and how we’ve all become egotists, through our social media filters. So both characters are complete opposites, and their chemistry wouldn’t have likely worked in real life, but here we are, and the movie needs to make them fall in love. As they get to know each other more, Padgett begins to have legitimate feelings for Cameron, and our male lead starts to get out of his shell and become more open to the world. It’s a shame that both actors are quite dismal in their roles, as they can’t imbue natural charm, the same way Freddie Prinze Jr. did with Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That. Iscove’s film had its share of problems, but it had damn good acting in it partly because they had a legitimate talent for the film: Paul Walker, Usher Raymond, Kevin Pollak, Elden Henson, Dulé Hill, the list goes on. He’s All That contains TV movie actors and social media influencers who know how to put a façade through their posts but can’t look nor act convincing in a legitimate film.

The only actor that had the decency to care about the film is an extended cameo from Matthew Lillard (who played the obnoxious boyfriend/MTV influencer in She’s All That) as Principal Bosch, who shares the movie’s funniest lines. Watching Lillard having a blast on set is a thrill to watch, especially when this is his first non-animated Scooby-Doo role in a film since 2017. Unfortunately, his commentary on social media culture is a little too on the nose. Still, he at least addresses the problem with our own society: we’re too busy looking at our filters instead of making a legitimate human connection. COVID has made us lose sight of this goal, as we had to confine ourselves for a year in a half inside a bubble, but now we’re slowly getting out of it and learning what it means to connect amongst others person-to-person. If only the influencer-addicted audience who are watching this dreck could ever grasp that message…


Because the only thing Mark Waters enlightens throughout this 93-minute atrocity is Padgett’s epiphany, that maybe being an influencer is bad after all! You don’t say? After talking to her social media sponsor, played by Kourtney Kardashian (literally reading her lines through a cue card you don’t see) about preserving her image, you may think the movie is propagating the wrong message to gullible teens who eat up strangers’ so-called “perfect” social-media life, even though most of it is all a lie; and that Padgett hasn’t been doing herself any favors by photographing everything and putting her whole fake life on TikTok of all platforms.

The Kardashians’ insertion in the film showcases the number one problem of our “look at me!” culture: they have made millions of dollars endorsing products and promoting their posh lifestyle while looking down at the very people who are following them. Take a look at Kim’s private island trip post for her birthday, treating her trip as being “normal” and a “simple luxury” while boasting that she can have COVID tests with the snap of a finger and take her entire family on a private island just like that “where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” For Kim and the Kardashians, it’s normal to rent an island, fly a private jet and have these elaborate birthday parties because they’re rich, but for the average joe who is barely making ends meet and has struggled to either find a job or keep their mental health in check during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a slap in the face. Influencers are propagating a dangerous outlook on life and are constantly looking down at their audience while simultaneously saying, “LOOK AT HOW WONDERFUL MY LIFE IS!”

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So, whenever you see Addison Rae, a real-life influencer, regret saying that her life as a TikTok personality showed her the wrong values, there is nothing genuine about her performance or plea because she’s portraying one of her multiple façades from social media. Of course, being a social media personality filled with a plethora of controversies, Rae will use the royalties she received from Netflix to promote the film on her diverse accounts, collecting more money and making more millions while looking down at her audience worships her and contribute to her success. This is what’s wrong with influencer culture. The number one thing wrong with modern cinema is that teenagers worship false gods who continuously use them to make more money and gain more sponsors for a cyclical goal of obtaining more royalties and success. At the same time, our social media-driven audience has lost sight of legitimate human contact and their relationship with art.

Mainstream cinema has no longer become an art form since it only cares about Intellectual Property and promoting derived products. It has become pure advertisements for social media personalities and better movies. When critics are aching or pleading for cinema to be better than the usual “content” we get, it’s because we know cinema can become better and start caring about the medium first and foremost, instead of the distractions. Free Guy was a distracting film, Space Jam 2 was a distracting film, and He’s All That is the most distracting film of the year. It does nothing to please fans of the original while simultaneously presenting a shamelessly manipulative commentary on influencer culture led by two protagonists who have no chemistry together and only care about themselves. And while She’s All That wasn’t great, it at least treated its audience with intelligence and cared about the medium of cinema and the power of acting. Paul Walker bringing his signature brand of natural charm is better than quite literally any actor in this piece of hubris. And the fact that He’s All That is trending at #1 on Netflix showcases that our cinematic culture is going backward and not forwards to more ambitious and creative projects. Let’s hope the trend will die as fast as it was born…


He’s All That is now streaming on Netflix.

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Dear Evan Hansen | Review



In the space of just 2 films, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Wonder, Stephen Chbosky has shown just how great a grasp he has on the minds of the young. He tackled big issues of mental health and self-acceptance in both of these films and now he’s back with another film about anxiety and mental health issues, this time in the form of an adaptation of the Broadway phenomenon Dear Evan Hansen.

Despite being 27 years old, Ben Platt plays 17-year-old Evan Hansen as he did in the original Broadway production. Evan is a high schooler with social anxiety that unintentionally ends up getting tangled in a web of lies after the suicide of one of his classmates Connor. Connor’s parents mistakenly think a letter that Evan wrote to himself (and addressed ‘Dear Evan Hansen’) was their son’s suicide note.

One of the problems with Dear Evan Hansen as a film is this problematic plot. Having not seen the original stage production I can’t comment on if the show also has this problem but there’s something about this plot that just doesn’t sit right. And the more I think about it, the worse it seems to get. A huge part of the plot is that Evan lies about being friends with a boy who just committed suicide and essentially deceives the grieving family members. This just doesn’t feel right, nor does it feel like this should be a character that we’re meant to side with. There is a bit more to it in the film and it makes sense why Evan goes down this route within the context of the film, but it’s not entirely dealt with in the best manner.

In fact, everything to do with anxiety and mental health issues in Dear Evan Hansen is quite on the nose and not particularly nuanced which is very surprising given the film’s director. Unfortunately, the problematic story seems to lead the way for much of the film’s issues. However, whilst watching the films these problems never felt like they were at the forefront of my mind and I did enjoy watching the film for almost all of its entirely overlong 2 hours and 17 minute runtime, but it’s only afterwards that it leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth and the problems start to shine through a bit more.

The film tries to tackle big, but important issues surrounding anxiety in teenagers and suicide, but it struggles to achieve this. Connor’s suicide is washed over in order to focus on Evan’s character but even Evan’s anxiety isn’t handled well and it seems to disappear every time the film is in need of another musical number. The music however is one of the highlights of the film. Some of the songs, in particular some of the more well-known ones from the play, including “You Will Be Found” and “Waving Through a Window” are excellent and really stir up strong emotions inside you, making Dear Evan Hansen an entertaining watch.

As well as the music, the cast are excellent too. Once you see past the fact that Ben Platt doesn’t look like a teenager, you can accept his excellent performance. He sings the songs to perfection and has really nailed the character after all these years of playing Evan Hansen. Of the supporting cast Kaitlyn Dever shines as Connor’s sister Zoe and Julianne Moore is excellent in the role of Evan’s mother. Amy Adams, Danny Pino and Amandla Stenberg help to round off the supporting cast, all putting in worthy performances.

Beyond the plot there are some problems on the technical side with the editing being a little jarring at times but the biggest issue Dear Evan Hansen is faced with is the melodramatic, manipulative and sappy plot that just doesn’t strike the chord it’s trying to. Its heart is in the right place and Chbosky very nearly had another fantastic exploration of mental health amongst teenagers but unfortunately, he doesn’t quite hit the mark this time.

Dear Evan Hansen is an entertaining watch with exciting musical numbers and great performances however upon greater reflection, the story is a complete mess. Certain emotional beats really hit you hard and provide the emotional depth that we’ve come to expect from Stephen Chbosky’s work and the final 45 minutes do redeem the film greatly. But a film about-and this is a slight oversimplification of events- a film about a teenager lying to a grieving family about being friends with their son who’s committed suicide is never going to end well and really isn’t handled with much nuance or sophistication, and ultimately the end result leaves you let down and wanting better despite the uplifiting and joyous songs.

Dear Evan Hansen is released in US cinemas on September 24th and UK cinemas on October 22nd

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Dune – Movie Review | Venice Film Festival Review



Before we get started. Word of Advice: See it in IMAX! That’s all.

This was the big one. Literally. Out of all the films at Venice, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was indisputably the big ticket film on this years festival. Not only in terms of (IMAX) size, scale, scope and star-power but also in terms of how much hangs in the balance.

Many have tried before to adapt Frank Herberts’s renowned sci-fi novel before with varying degrees of success. But if anyone seemed like the right fit to take on Herbert’s space epic and do it justice, it was Denis Villeneuve. The man’s CV speaks for itself, with recent sci-fi gems like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 under his belt. But with Villeneuve’s decision to split the acclaimed novel into 2 parts and Warner Bros controversial decision to release the film both in cinemas and on HBO Max at the same time. Many were worried (myself included) that we might see another repeat of what happened to Blade Runner 2049 – raved by critics but poor box office performance. Will Villeneuve’s blend of mainstream grandeur and artistic integrity render Dune part 2 doomed to exist?

Well, fear not. After an uproarious response from critics and cinemagoers at Venice and TIFF. I would bet my first born child that Villeneuve will get to see his vision come to fruition with Part 2. People would riot if he didn’t because the film is simply too damn good. Warner Brothers have offically stated that as as long as Dune’s numbers are strong on HBO Max then part 2 will be green-lit regardless of box office numbers.

I can only imagine what a relief that must feel to the die-hard Dune fans but for someone like myself who had zero knowledge of the books and previous adaptations going into Dune, I too am beyond ecstatic to know I’ll get to see how part 2 will play out.

The added benefit of never having read the book or having seen David Lynch’s 1984 version or the early 2000’s TV series, is I had no preexisting knowledge or expectations for Villeneuve’s film. I had nothing to compare it too so I could go in as a blank slate and judge objectively for myself.

I will admit after reading the synopsis, I was worried that a story so vast as this would be a challenge for me to keep up. Thankfully that was not the case. Not once did I feel lost watching Dune. The exposition is handled extremely well. Villeneuve has taken newcomers by the hand and explained the universe in a way that is very easy to digest. So those worrying it might not be accessible to all audiences – if I can keep up with it, then anyone can.

The year is 10191. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) of Calden is tasked by the emporer with the stewardship of the deadly desert planet of Arrakis (also known as Dune). Arrakis is home to the most valuable resource in the universe known as spice which can extend a human life span and is the key to space travel. So naturally, whoever holds Arrakis holds the power.

Leto intends to mine the planet for spice but he also takes his Concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) down to Arrakis in hopes of teaching his son how to become the leader he needs to be. By forging an alliance with the native inhabitants of Arrakis known as Fremen his people will know peace and prosperity when Paul becomes Duke.

However, when house Atreides learns of a spy within their rankings Lady Jessica and Paul must venture into the Arrakis desert to find the Fremen for help. Which is no small task as the desert lands are populated by 400m-long burrowing, man-eating Sandworms.

Villeneuve certainly sets the stage for bigger things to come in part 2 but despite being only one half of the story, part 1 completely works as a standalone film.

The praise knows no bound for this film. Every department harmonises succinctly with the next.

The casting alone – while admittedly it’s a tad boastful in it’s star-studded lineup but truly, everybody is exceptional. To go through the cast and effusively sing their praises one-by-one would be a waste of a word-count, so I’ll say everyone fits their role like a glove but I’ll call special mention to a few.

Timothée Chalamet has been a star for years but Dune just solidifies the fact he will be gracing our screens as a leading man for decades to come. As Paul he finds just the right balance of boyish naivety and inner strength. Thanks to his Concubine mother’s lineage, Paul has gifts such as prophetic dreams and mind manipulation but he’s not quite mastered them yet. But where the film leaves us with Paul is tantalisingly teasing.

Rebecca Ferguson does most of the emotional heavy-lifting as Lady Jessica. A mother role that’s pleasantly full of surprises. Ferguson shines here. If the Academy weren’t so genre-biased towards sci-fi I would say she is worthy of best supporting actress nomination.

Many were concerned due to the early trailer footage of Jason Momoa, that he would be coasting on his Aquaman charisma but his Duncan is sincerely heartfelt.

And Stellan Skarsgård is frighteningly good as Baron Harkonnen. He might be caked in makeup and buried in a fat-suit but his stunning performance beams through.

On the technical side, every single department hits the bullseye. There’s a visible fusion of Eastern inspiration between Patrice Vermette’s production design, Bob Morgan and Jacqueline West’s costumes and Greig Fraser’s cinematography. They all should be receiving Oscar nominations next year.

But not only do Villeneuve’s dazzling visuals cascade off the screen. They’re complimented perfectly by Hans Zimmer’s immaculate score. For the past decade Zimmer has been synonymous with the Bwom-heavy soundtracks of the Tenties thanks to his game-changing score for Inception. Now he will be known as the man who pulled off the impossible; the man who made bloody bagpipes sound epic as fuck. For real. His majestic score is nothing short of astonishing.

One really has to go searching for faults with Dune and the only thing that might be concerning to some viewers is Dune is not a particularly funny film. The two humorous lines from the trailers are essentially all you get in terms of comedic relief. But I personally found the lack of snarky Marvel-esque humour refreshing. The truth is, the film simply doesn’t need it – not when the characters are this interesting and the world building is so immersive. Villeneuve’s preference to shoot as much on location rather than green screen sound-stages helps to make Dune one of the most transportive films of late memory. You can practically feel the Arrakis sand beneath your feet.

Dune is the reason we go to the cinema. It’s movies like this which is why I do what I do – to get lost and absorbed in story. Many considered the source material unadaptable for the big screen but in the hands of Denis Villeneuve, he’s truly made the impossible possible. Much like what Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings, Villeneuve has made a film for the fanboys (and the critics) but he’s also made it completely accessible to newcomers. Dune is cinema at its most ambitious, boldest and most beautiful.

Dune is having a staggered worldwide release over late September and October. It will be available on HBO Max regionally as the same time as cinemas. But please, I cannot stress this enough; go see Dune in the cinema. IMAX if possible. THIS IS CINEMA! No home theatre system can do this film justice.

For more of Luke’s coverage from the Venice Film Festival be sure to check out his YouTube Channel.

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye | Review



After having her own documentary in 2000 that was directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato and featured narration from RuPaul, controversial televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker has now got another film made about her, only this time she’s played by Jessica Chastain.

Directed by The Big Sick’s Michael Showalter, The Eyes of Tammy Faye takes a close look at the astonishing rise and fall of Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). The film documents how the pair rose from their humble beginnings in the 1970s and how their journey led to them creating the world’s largest religious broadcasting network. They became so big that they even created their own Christianity inspired theme park.

The film works as a very impressive display of the acting abilities of the two leads Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, especially for the latter since he hasn’t been in much lately. But unfortunately, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is one of those films where the performances are better than the film they’re in. It’s proficiently made and it’s enjoyable enough to sit through but nothing about it beyond the lead performances stand out. There’s no wow factor to it or anything to make it especially memorable.

Jessica Chastain as “Tammy Faye Bakker” and Andrew Garfield as “Jim Bakker” in the film THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE. Photo by Daniel McFadden. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Tammy Faye is an interesting character to follow, especially given I didn’t know anything about her going into the film. From her idiosyncratic singing to her indelible eyelashes she’s a very peculiar yet fascinating character and she’s brought to the big screen so well thanks to Jessica Chastain, who also serves as one of the film’s producers, in one of her best acting performances to date.

There are, however, too many times when the story just seems to simmer and ponder about with nothing too motivating going on. At a little over two hours long the runtime doesn’t fly by but it feels at its best during the quick and breezy montage sequences making you wish for a slightly snappier and faster pacing throughout the rest of the film. The film sits somewhere in-between comedy and drama although it never quite delivers huge laughs or breathtaking drama leaving it somewhat vapid.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye boasts impressive lead performances from both Chastain and Garfield as well as excellent work from the hair and makeup team but beyond that it doesn’t provide anything too noteworthy and ends up as a rather average awards fodder.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is out now in US Cinemas

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