A blurred white man (left) & concerned bearded Black man (right) on either side of bullet mark ridden glass. Both wear suits.
A blurred white man (left) & concerned bearded Black man (right) on either side of bullet mark ridden glass. Both wear suits.
Robert Pattinson (left) and John David Washington (right) as the dapper agents of “Tenet.” (Image Credit: Hoyte Van Hoytema/Warner Brothers)

Tenet is a singularly frustrating artifact, brimming with thematic and executional potential that bizarrely never comes to fruition; not because its conceit is as labyrinthine as some have hailed, but because its narrative hook- backwards moving time-seems to have been built up beforehand in its author Christopher Nolan’s head to such a self congratulatory yet vague degree that it is shoved onscreen as a not-yet-fully-formed sketch, one so thoroughly viewing the confined altitude of its own sphincter that it simply forgets to follow through. …


An “A” made of fire, water, & 2 figures touching fists. Circled by rock & air gusts. All surrounded by 10 characters’ heads.
An “A” made of fire, water, & 2 figures touching fists. Circled by rock & air gusts. All surrounded by 10 characters’ heads.
Original illustration by Noah Stephenson.

Recently rewatching the beloved Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (abbreviated as ATLA) gave me more than a few chills as I gradually realized that it was honestly a little radical in a very political way… Stay with me here. I only ever watched a smattering of episodes as a child, yet never the whole show in its entirety. With its fresh availability on Netflix in the past few months, and the isolation of social distancing allowing time to do so, I decided to finally ingest the series from front to back. The experience was, of course, lovely; the…


“Venom”’s face (top left), a pill bottle (top right), a sweating hand (bottom left), and “STEM” atop flesh (bottom right).
“Venom”’s face (top left), a pill bottle (top right), a sweating hand (bottom left), and “STEM” atop flesh (bottom right).
Original illustration by Noah Stephenson (“Venom” likeness property of Marvel/Disney).

TRIGGER WARNING: OCD, SUICIDE

In film history, 2018 was the year of the rugged white douchebag with a slapstick absence of control over his limbs. Two movies matching this basic description were released that year; the popcorn flinging Marvel comics adapted romp Venom, and the sci-fi/horror/action/comedy salad Upgrade. While two does not make a pattern, these films mirroring of one another was at least a fascinating curio of plotting coincidence which piqued my interest after having seen both projects. …


Autumn (Sidney Flanigan: left) and Skylar (Talia Ryder: right) sit on a bed, concernedly finding bus tickets on a laptop.
Autumn (Sidney Flanigan: left) and Skylar (Talia Ryder: right) sit on a bed, concernedly finding bus tickets on a laptop.
Sidney Flanigan (left) and Talia Ryder (right) as the struggling protagonist cousins in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Photo Credit: Hélène Louvart/Focus Features)

Writer/Director Eliza Hittman’s assiduous and empathetic third feature film “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” reminded me of recently watching in horror as several conservative U.S states have used COVID-19 as an excuse to outlaw abortion procedures, deeming them “medically unnecessary.” Timeless in its salience, Hittman’s film unflinchingly examines the misogynistic bedrock of all such policies which make reproductive healthcare either inadequate or inaccessible, all within a story imbued with a fully realized and warm sense of character and a breathtaking visual and aural delivery. It’s a heavy film, yet well worth everyone’s viewership.

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a quiet but notably agent…


(from left to right) Robbie, Perez, and Smollet-Bell, preparing for a clash with henchmen, with circus lights behind them.
(from left to right) Robbie, Perez, and Smollet-Bell, preparing for a clash with henchmen, with circus lights behind them.
Photo Credit: Matthew Libatique/Warner Brothers.

At one point in the frenetic and delightful “Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn),” after the latter, titular character admits to her making a particularly kindhearted decision, she says something in voice over along the lines of “Call me a softy… I dare ya.” This verbalized challenge (which as audience members we smilingly accept) is emblematic of what makes this film succeed, and also stand apart from many of its recent, pretentious, paper-bag-of-hot-air DC Comics adaptation predecessors; it is an earnest, goofy film with subtle yet cogent things to say about the position of womanhood…


Boyega, Ridley, Isaac, and others looking concerned into the distance, with a mountainous desert around them.
Boyega, Ridley, Isaac, and others looking concerned into the distance, with a mountainous desert around them.
Photo Credit: Dan Mindel/Lucasfilm.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: Since I realized that it would be pretty difficult to write a spoiler free review of a movie like this, there are indeed spoilers ahoy*

“Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker,” certainly was not the shit show I had heard about, but it was also not quite as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve never been a Star Wars devotee exactly, but I did grow up watching the original trilogy on VHS, seeing the prequels in theaters, and being as shaped by its mythology as many of my fellow millennials. The newer trilogy has been…


Camila Morrone (left) and James Badge Dale (right), seen tense and stone-faced through a car windshield in the film.
Camila Morrone (left) and James Badge Dale (right), seen tense and stone-faced through a car windshield in the film.
Photo Credit: Conor Murphy/Utopia.

As those who grew up with parents who were at best volatile or at worst abusive know, the frustrating epoch of adolescence can be made even more horrifying and vexatious when such legal guardian is either unwilling to rehabilitate into a caring human, is beyond any repair whatsoever, or both. Writer/Director Annabelle Anttanasio’s debut feature “Mickey And The Bear” deftly and beautifully weaves a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story, which follows a daughter’s slow but sure self-liberation from the emotional, physical, patriarchal hell of her home life created by a toxic father, and unobtrusively observes a person curiously traveling through…


Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) excitedly talking with his imaginary friend version of Hitler (Taika Waititi) in “Jojo Rabbit.”
Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) excitedly talking with his imaginary friend version of Hitler (Taika Waititi) in “Jojo Rabbit.”
Kimberly French/Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Just before my showing of “Jojo Rabbit,” I saw the trailer for Terrence Malick’s anti-nazi polemic “A Hidden Life” (which, I’ll be honest, I’m stoked as hell for) for the first time. The solemn trailer’s presence prior to “Jojo” cast a constructive shadow over what was to follow, seeming to remind us of the fact that, since the horrors of the third reich are a very real, grave thing, a film like Taika Waititi’s WWII Germany set satire of fascism needs to maintain a diligent balance of weighty and humorous tones in order to get its point across without defeating…


Teddy Lee (left) and Tiffany Chu (right), solemnly sitting on the floor of a kitchen, with Lee holding a toy piano.
Teddy Lee (left) and Tiffany Chu (right), solemnly sitting on the floor of a kitchen, with Lee holding a toy piano.
Teddy Lee (left) and Tiffany Chu, (right) as Carey and Kasie, two siblings reconnecting as they care for their ailing father in “Ms. Purple” (Ante Cheng/ Oscilloscope).

“Ms. Purple” is the kind of bittersweet and tender movie that, after seeing it, makes you want to let its effects sink in and linger for as long as possible. Director Justin Chon’s sophomore feature poignantly wades through deep waters of familial trauma and responsibility, and identity more broadly, while also astutely blending aesthetic tools utilized by both cinematic Sensualists and Realists alike. It’s a small film, yet makes known wonder provoking, ugly-cry inducing emotional intentions, and it hits almost all of them precisely on the mark.

Tiffany Chu plays Casey, a child of East Asian immigrants, (the mother of…


Jack Huston (left) and Brit Marling (right) talking at night in front of street art and trees in a scene from “Posthumous.”
Jack Huston (left) and Brit Marling (right) talking at night in front of street art and trees in a scene from “Posthumous.”
Art by Noah Stephenson, of a scene from Lulu Wang’s “Posthumous. ”

by Noah Stephenson.

Some revitalizations in life arrive unexpectedly, but some can’t come soon enough. Everyone, at some point, experiences the latter, and ends up submerging in the liminal space between hope for change or complacency with its absence, and any changes that may follow; a personal rut in life. I’ve been in what can be called a rut in my life for several years now, caused by a compound of mental illness and a bewilderingly low sense of self esteem. …

Noah Stephenson

Noah Stephenson is a filmmaker and writer living in Texas. He thoroughly enjoys movies, social justice, and swooning over Toshiro Mifiune and Florence Welch.

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