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Afterlife of the Party: A Fake Movie (Review)

Stephen Herek and Victoria Justice fail to make legitimate cinema in Afterlife of the Party, an algorithmic-driven production.

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Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins made rather controversial comments on streaming releases, saying that “all of these films that streaming services are putting out” look like “fake movies to me.” It’s quite a hypocritical comment to say, especially when her last film was indeed released on streaming (for 31 days, but still) and looked like one of the fakest things to have ever come out during the new decade but ok, I guess. Of course, many critics have called out her elitism, with reason, as streaming services allow for more creative freedom, which seems to be the number reason that attracts filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee to work with studios like Netflix. Marriage Story wasn’t a fake movie (and played really well on the big screen). However, we can discuss the authenticity and ethics of The Irishman’s PS2 de-aging, which caricatures its main characters. There isn’t one person that clearly did not find a then 76-year old Joe Pesci saying to a then 76-year old Robert De Niro, “What’s the problem, kid?” as their de-aged faces did not match their older bodies.



But those aren’t fake movies—they’re legitimate pieces of film made by legitimate filmmakers who want to legitimize streaming services as a new and exciting place for creative content. When major studios churn out the same CGI-filed blockbusters one after another, many turn to streaming services to look for the best in new entertainment. And then there’s the other side of the spectrum: The Kissing Booth and Princess Switch series and He’s All That, for example, look and sound like total fake movies. It’s shameless content destined to feed an algorithm so they can attract gullible teens looking for pure escapism inside a protagonist’s totally improbable fake life. The latest addition of fake movies is Stephen Herek’s Afterlife of the Party, which looks and sounds like the fakest thing imaginable. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Victoria Justice plays the main lead, and her acting skills are about as convincing as my forever broken Winnie the Pooh lamp.

AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY. MIDORI FRANCIS as LISA, VICTORIA JUSTICE as CASSIE in AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY. Cr. GRAHAM BARTHOLOMEW/NETFLIX © 2021

Herek is an experienced filmmaker, having directed the first in The Mighty Ducks franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Disney’s 1996 remake of 101 Dalmatians and the great 1993 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, and so to have him direct, this egregious piece of content feels like a travesty, as his talents are pitifully wasted for a fake movie on moving on and apologizing for their errors, as Justice plays Cassie, a 25-year old egotist who loves to party. She lives in her apartment with her best friend/roommate Lisa (Midori Francis), and they have a conflicting relationship together. Cassie wants to party her heart out, while Lisa thinks what she’s doing is irresponsible and dangerous. One morning, as Cassie suffers from a hangover, she slips and falls in the bathroom, hitting her head on the toilet seat in the process, and immediately dies. When she wakes up, she is welcomed into the “In-between,” a place set between Heaven and Hell, as Cassie still has amends to make up before she can go up (or down) and live the rest of her Eternal life. The rest of the film is as predictable as you’d think: Cassie will go back to Earth and make amends with her dad (Adam Garcia), mom (Sofia Garcia), and best friend in the hopes that she will become an Eternal angel and will finally rest in peace. But, of course, she finds ways to make amends, and everything ends the way it should, right?



Yes, everything ends the way it should, without an ounce of originality. Herek sets up fake drama as a pretext for Cassie and Lisa’s rift before the main character bites the dust, but we all know, deep down, that this fake drama will be resolved through one (or two) conversations. They’ll meet again, Lisa will be frightened, and then they’re going to have a good time until Cassie says something out of line, go back to fighting a bit and fully make amends before Cassie’s time is up. It’s written on the wall as soon as Cassie fights with Lisa during the film’s opening sequence. The same can be said when Lisa doesn’t have the courage to sign up for a job interview that could skyrocket her career…where do YOU think this will end up? None of it is original: everyone has seen it before. Heck, remember that 2008 rom-com with Eva Longoria, a freak accident caused her to die, and then she started to haunt her ex-boyfriend’s relationship? Neither do I, but Afterlife of the Party follows that same quasi-plot of a spirit-like presence coming back into the lives of the people she has not made amends with. It’s not the same structure, but these films both feel oddly familiar.

AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY. SPENCER SUTHERLAND as KOOP in AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY. Cr. GRAHAM BARTHOLOMEW/NETFLIX © 2021

Though Afterlife of the Party does have something Over Her Dead Body did not have: an emotional core. And while Justice can’t act convincingly, she is boasted by decent supporting actors, including a scene-stealing Midori Francis as her best friend. Francis seems to be the only actress giving a damn here and with enough acting experience to make her role somewhat convincing and interesting. Hell, I didn’t care one bit about Cassie’s journey from egotist to a somewhat open and carefree friend, after the fact, as Justice didn’t give me one reason to root for her redemption actively. Instead, she goes through the same character beats most egotists do in situations like these and will ultimately get what she deserved after learning two or three facile elements that will provide some closure for the three holes in her life she did not get a chance to say how sorry she was.

There is nothing original and/or new Afterlife of the Party presents. All of its situations and fake drama the film creates are borrowed from infinitely better films (how Cassie teleports herself from one location to another, which has the same aesthetic traits as in the Wizarding World franchise), or, dare I say, real movies. Nothing seems real in Afterlife of the Party, save for some emotional depth with Midori Francis’ character, but nothing else. Algorithmic-driven films should be condemned as “Fake Movies,” as they’re only there to appease a certain demographic so they can consume the product while feeding the algorithm, so it can say to Ted Sarandos or the bigwigs at Netflix to make more of these products. At the same time, legitimate cinema, like Vivo or Army of the Dead, gets buried under a sea of Fake Movies. If you’ve complained about Patty Jenkins’ comments on the content streaming services releases, you haven’t seen Afterlife of the Party. I have spoken.

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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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