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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.

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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.

HE’S ALL THAT (L to R) PEYTON MEYER as JORDAN VAN DRAANEN, MADISON PETTIS as ALDEN and TANNER BUCHANAN as CAMERON KWELLER in HE’S ALL THAT. Cr. KEVIN ESTRADA/NETFLIX © 2021

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…

HE’S ALL THAT (L to R) MYRA MOLLOY as QUINN, MADISON PETTIS as ALDEN and ADDISON RAE as PADGETT SAWYER in HE’S ALL THAT. Cr. KEVIN ESTRADA/NETFLIX © 2021

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…

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He’s All That is now streaming on Netflix.

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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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Entertainment

A Must-See Satanic Panic Horror – Late Night With the Devil

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Written and directed by Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil follows a late night TV host Jack Delroy, fighting the plummeting viewership of his show by welcoming in people from the occult in order to change that, but of course, everything doesn’t go as smooth as planned.

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy Late Night With the Devil (2023)

David Dastmalchian has appeared in a lot of films however always in smaller roles including The Dark Knight, Prisoners and more recently The Suicide Squad. This film allows Dastmalchian to take on the lead role of Jack Delroy, the host of the late night show at the centre of this film, and he genuinely does a great job. There’s a real range of emotions which his character goes through during the course of this film and he depicts them so well.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to really appreciate the use of practical effects in this. There’s plenty of stretchy and gooey gore for all of the horror fanatics that will have you shouting at the screen. 

From left to right: Laura Gordon, Ingrid Torelli, David Dastmalchian, Ian Bliss

If you want to hear my full thoughts, check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your opinions in the comments.

Late Night With the Devil will be released in cinemas from 22nd March and on Shudder on 19th April.

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Reviews

‘I Love You, Guys’ Review | A Poignant Exploration of Celebrity Vulnerability and Human Resilience

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We are living in an era where celebrities are worshipped like deities and sometimes, people forget that he or she is also a normal human being. If we feel happy or sad at certain moments, they do as well and even though a lot of people always surround them, they get vulnerable too. Although a lot of filmmakers forget to show that aspect of their lives, Billie Melissa Rogan takes the bold approach of showing the truth. Her directorial debut, ‘I Love You, Guys,’ is a poignant story about a celebrity fighting her inner self to maintain her celebrity image. The result is a stunning piece of art that resonates long after the end credits roll in.

The short film opens with a profound close-up of the young singing sensation named Sky (Becky Bush). She has made a name for herself by making and singing really exceptional songs. As a result, she is adored by her fans. Even though it feels like Sky has everything she wants, viewers see her submerged in a bathtub as she tries to battle her anxiety. Just then, Sky gets a phone that she’d be performing state-side. Now, that’s where we get to know about her vulnerable state for the first time. Although she says that she is really happy with the above-mentioned news, her face tells a different story. Despite her impending stardom, Sky has not started to feel the massive weight of mounting pressure, a sentiment audiences get to see in her conversations with bandmate Ryan (Pedro Leandro) and girlfriend Taylor (Celi Crossland).

Becky Bush in a still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

As the story moves forward, we get to know that ‘I Love You, Guys’ is about the fragile nature of the human spirit as much as it is about celebrity culture. It not only navigates themes of depression, it also highlights the turbulent emotional journey of Sky. One of the best aspects of the film is how Rogan masterfully brings Cory Varney’s screenplay to life. She managed to capture every minor detail of Sky’s emotions with utmost precision. Despite the fact that it is her first-ever film as a director, we get a sense that we are watching a flick helmed by a seasoned filmmaker.

Another aspect that makes this film such a compelling watch is its cinematography. Jenni Suitiala has done a phenomenal in showing expressions through vibrant colors and Rogan has made full use of the settings to give viewers a visually striking film. Whether it is heated arguments or silent moments of despair, each frame feels authentic and draws audiences into Sky’s personal life.

Apart from Rogan’s direction, Varney’s script is this film’s biggest strength. The writer has undoubtedly done a stunning job of showing the humanity of these characters. There’s a reason why Sky’s struggles feel very personal and it is because we have endured such moments in life. Moments where we doubt ourselves even when we know we are more than capable of doing a particular thing. Not every smiling person is happy. Sometimes he or she is smiling just so that no one finds out about the tough times they are going through.

A still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

Acting-wise, Becky Bush has given a performance that is surely going to open several doors for her. She delivers a magnificent performance by infusing Sky with a beautiful balance of vulnerability and strength. The way she manages to convey an innumerable amount of emotions is spectacular. I believe this is one of the most apt depictions of mental turmoil. Meanwhile, Pedro Leandro and Celi Crossland are just as spectacular. Every interaction between the characters feels genuine and nuanced.

All in all, ‘I Love You, Guys’ is a testament to how resilient a human spirit can be. In just 15 minutes, Rogan, Varney, and Bush take viewers on a journey that’s thought-provoking and talks about a subject that no one talks about. The writing, direction, and performances achieve a lot more than just viewers’ attention. The film offers a compelling examination of the human cost of pursuing fame and success. A poignant story that touches on themes of ambition, relationships, and self-discovery.

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