All posts by Jesse

The Podcast: Black Widow & Cruella

This summer has seen the release of two entries in two of Disney’s biggest franchises, both starring major female stars who are both once-and/or-future fake redheads. Doesn’t that seem like enough to warrant a big discussion of Black Widow and Cruella?! Marisa convened a podcast to discuss how Black Widow fits into both the MCU and ScarJo’s career, and to figure out what the hell is going on with Cruella and why it’s a surprising fit for star Emma Stone.

During our chat, we wound up further discussion the mysterious viewership and economics of the pivot to streaming, which, in true franchise-friendly fashion, we spun out into a separate bonus episode, also available below!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of the Black Widow/Cruella episode here and the streaming-biz discussion episode here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud
  • You can listen to the episodes in the players below.

Black Widow & Cruella:

The Disney Plus Premier Access Experiment:

THE GREEN KNIGHT is a gnarly dorm-room poster I don’t know how to review

Usually, I delight at the opportunity to write about a new movie in a simple new-release-review format, preferably at one of the outlets that care to indulge me in that regard, but sometimes on this website, where I don’t have to pitch my pre-constructed take on a particular film or filmmaker keyed to the zeitgeist, or a more specific demographic than “people who want to read a review of a new movie that they might watch at some point.” Those kinds of essays can be fun to write and turn out wonderfully; sometimes they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Faced with the opportunity to write what I wanted about The Green Knight, however, I longed for the sense of purpose one can assign the fitting of a square peg into a round hole. For whatever reason, thinking about what to say about The Green Knight has felt like throwing a series of square pegs into the Grand Canyon.

This is not to say that The Green Knight is a film of vast, inimitable, impossible beauty (though it is beautiful). This is also not to say that I at all disliked David Lowery’s take on an Arthurian legend (maybe call it an Arthurish B-side?). For the most part, I liked it quite a lot; am I allowed to just come out and say that in a movie review? There are some parts in the first half-hour where too many characters have too many hushed conversations inside too many dim castles, and I briefly grew drowsy. But even this was weirdly effective, as so much of the rest of the movie plays like an actual dream, during which I was quite lucid, and delighted by the movie’s visual boldness and glorious unpredictability. (Perhaps now is a good time to admit that I was not familiar with this particular oft-told tale.)
Continue reading THE GREEN KNIGHT is a gnarly dorm-room poster I don’t know how to review

THE SUICIDE SQUAD is a gory, beautiful reboot of the same old thing

Here’s one sign among many of how the world of movie franchising has expanded over the past 20 years. It’s not as if there weren’t 20th century sequels—hundreds of ‘em!—but there was a time where the idea of a follow-up to a movie called Suicide Squad, especially one that inspired such mixed reactions, would be a cheap premise for a joke about Hollywood’s bankruptcy. Whaddaya call it, Suicide Squad 2: Still Not Dead? Suicide Squad: This Time We Mean It? Now the central idea behind Suicide Squad, wherein bad guys are forced onto impossible missions with low probability of survival, feels ready-made for sequels. If an actor gets too fussy, kill ‘em off. If the whole thing goes sideways, start over with a new squad. And if people love it, well, no one in comic book movies really stays dead, anyway.

People did not love 2016’s Suicide Squad. It was a mess, taped together by a great concept, the star power of Will Smith, and the allure of the popular DC Comics character Harley Quinn, making her live-action debut. It was then slathered in gluey, trailer-ready pop songs—only this time, the trailer figured out the playlist first and the movie was forced to follow suit. It still made a tonna dough, as Harley Quinn might say, and a sequel was being developed around the same time that James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies over at DC’s rivals Marvel, found himself with some free time. Parent company Disney had recently been tricked into firing him for some untoward old tweets and DC, apparently being the place for reformed villains, scooped him up quickly enough to get the Squad rolling again. (Gunn was since rehired by Disney and Guardians 3 is in the works again.)
Continue reading THE SUICIDE SQUAD is a gory, beautiful reboot of the same old thing

M. Night Shyamalan gets OLD but everyone stays the same age

I was very aware of my heartbeat during Old, a new movie from M. Night Shyamalan, adapted from a graphic novel. A little of this awareness could be attributed to the movie’s free-floating tension, which is not so much punctuated by Shyamalan’s particularly dad-like strain of humor as it is inextricably woven together with it. Most of it could be attributed to the arrythmia that flares up once in a while, usually when I’m seated in a certain position. Our bodies are capable of so much resilience, not least in the field of disguising their essential fragility. Old understands this. It’s about a group of people trapped on a beach where, they eventually realize, their aging is rapidly accelerated. A lifespan of eightysomething years gets compressed into a day and a half, maybe two. This creates an unnerving paradox: The passage of time rapidly heals surface wounds, even substantial ones, into scars. The bodies simply don’t have time to bleed out. Time presses onward. And then, hours later, the bodies fail anyway.

Old is a horror movie, but not always how you’d expect. This is par for the course for Shyamalan, who has worked consistently in genre films since The Sixth Sense became an unexpected smash 22 years ago. That movie cast such a melancholy, spooky, affecting spell that it took a little time for some to catch on to Shyamalan’s deceptively weird rhythms, especially in his characters’ manner of speaking: Stilted phrasings, shoehorned exposition, dad jokes—like a George Lucas character somehow filtered through a hushed therapy session. In Shyamalan’s wilderness years, these clunky qualities proceeded to the foreground of Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender. In his more recent films, they haven’t receded, but Old may be a case of steering into the skid and coming out intact. As it turns out, his peculiar writing style fits near-perfectly for preteen kids, still finding their way with words. The younger characters approach strangers and ask for their names and occupations, at once a wholly believable quirk and a sneaky way of slipping in some of Shyamalan’s beloved expositional directness. As with The Visit, the kids feel like they’re speaking his language, fluently.

Continue reading M. Night Shyamalan gets OLD but everyone stays the same age

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY is the fucking worst

I don’t know if I believe that a young LeBron James wore a Looney Tunes backpack in 1998. He was 14 then, on top of which those images of Bugs, Wile E. Coyote, and the Tasmanian Devil setting aside their differences in order to dress in contemporary clothing, fold their arms, and stare sardonically out from various mall apparel predated the 1996 release of Space Jam, a project that felt a little bit like That Bugs & Taz Shirt: The Movie (though it was, in reality, That Sneaker Commercial: The Movie). But for a moment in Space Jam: A New Legacy, I felt a little rush of, well, if not personal nostalgia, a pleasurable recognition of something I remembered from real life, not just television. My relationship with Space Jam has ranged from tolerance to irritation over the years, but I can recognize that a lot of people enjoyed seeing a movie starring the Looney Tunes (as well as what appeared to be an animatronic simulation of basketball sensation Michael Jordan) on the big screen. Who am I to disdain a Looney Tunes backpack? It’s scarcely less commercialized than the Looney Tunes PVC figurines I collected as a kid, or the Warner Bros. Studio Store where I excitedly spent the $50 bill I found on the ground when I was 10. I’m not immune to the stupid pleasures of commerce running roughshod over art, having also spent some time as a child getting past the LOL phase of my Looney Tunes appreciation and moved, with nerdy precision, into the cataloging and memorization.

This is all to say that Space Jam: A New Legacy is not as interesting as a backpack where Bugs and Taz are friends and don vaguely hip-hop-inspired streetwear. Backpacks usually have stuff inside of them. Though originally intended for theaters, Space Jam: A New Legacy has an emptiness that seems custom-built for streaming: vaporous, worthless, yet somehow nearly two hours long. That hideous blue-and-white Warner Bros. shield that looks like a specialty logo for a DTV outfit called Warner Faith should have been debuted with this movie. It is a temple of content, which the filmmakers can only visualize as a knockoff of Ralph Breaks the Internet taped over by an unwatchable family sitcom starring LeBron James.
Continue reading SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY is the fucking worst

The Double Feature Podcast: God Help the Girl + Streets of Fire

An ongoing miniseries within the podcast dynasty involves Jesse and Ben each picking a movie for the other one to watch, then viewing them both in a single-evening double feature and then podcasting about our reactions. In the past, this miniseries has focused on incongruous matches between business and sci-fi. This summer, we’re reviving the miniseries with more compatible double features, and our first movie trade is about rock and roll. Or is it?! That’s one of the discussion points as we watch Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl and Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire. One is a lover, one is a fighter, but which is which? We talk it out, and also discuss whether God Help the Girl is twee, whether Streets of Fire is coherent, and whether either of these movies deserves their cult. Streets of Fire is on Netflix right now and God Help the Girl is a very affordable DVD, so why not watch along and listen in? (At very least, you should check out the soundtracks!)

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud
  • You can listen to the episode (and a bunch of great songs!) in the players below.

The Boss Baby: Family Business blows up the DreamWorks Family Business

A few weeks ago, a consensus was more or less reached that the animated feature Luca represents “minor Pixar.” Even committed fans of the film might find it hard to argue otherwise: Here is a short, sweet, little romp with a handful of major characters; conflict that never reaches life-and-death stakes; and bouncier, cartoonier animation than usual. Even the usual climactic Pixar-brand chase primarily involves a few kids riding bikes up and down a hill. Compare this to last year’s “minor Pixar” Onward, which may not have been anyone’s favorite, but featured a richly imagined world merging fantasy imagery with more mundane modern conveniences (and inconveniences), and a quest’s worth of side characters and environments. Or, to make Luca look like a tone poem, compare it to The Boss Baby: Family Business, the new feature from DreamWorks Animation.

By another set of definitions, it would be easy to call Boss Baby 2 minor. First of all, it comes from DreamWorks, which apart from a brief surge of Shrek fever in the early 2000s has played enthusiastic second fiddle to the Pixar winning streak. Second, it’s a sequel, and not to one of the signature later-era DreamWorks series like How To Train Your Dragon or Trolls—just 2017’s The Boss Baby, a mishmash of a hit family comedy whose primary feature was its unwillingness to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Family Business seems to exist primarily because it’s a sequel. While Pixar has (deservedly) taken heat for making too many follow-ups, DreamWorks really depends on franchising to keep its pipeline going; only three of its last ten movies weren’t part of some multiplatform franchise or another.

Continue reading The Boss Baby: Family Business blows up the DreamWorks Family Business

Tribeca 2021: The COVID Fest

There was no way we were getting out of Tribeca 2021 without COVID movies. No possibility. Tribeca tends to skew more indie and experimental than a lot of major fests—it’s not unusual for a majority of the narrative films I watch at Tribeca to clock in under 100 minutes, as was the case for Tribeca 2021, with plenty of titles well under 90—and this year they’re the first big U.S. festival back post-pandemic, at a time when filmmakers have had 15 months to cook up some potentially ill-advised COVID projects. Though it doesn’t advertise itself as such, the festival’s midpoint-but-actually-penultimate-night “centerpiece” selection, Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, was one such pandemic project, shot in a “bubble” last fall. (HBO Max apparently loves an auteur in the bubble; they premiered Doug Liman’s Soderberghian Locked Down in January.) Soderbergh’s movie isn’t ill-advised at all, at least in terms of how it turned out; mostly, it’s a blast. But there are COVID-heavier projects on the Tribeca bill, too, that take up an assignment seemingly no audience members have given out: How do we make a movie within and about the global pandemic we’ve all been experiencing in some form or another for over a year?
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Tribeca 2021: New York, I (Still) Love You

Here’s another in our series of ongoing reports from Tribeca 2021. Some past Tribeca 2021 (and 2019 and 2018!) write-ups can be found here.

As a film festival, Tribeca has a weakness for New York movies—and why shouldn’t it? Though the New York Film Festival has been around for decades, its smaller slate and marquee attractions from the world of international cinema inevitably limits the New Yorkiness of its selections, while Tribeca has the freedom to explore the city from multiple vantage points every year. That feels particularly pronounced at Tribeca 2021, as so much of the city has been stuck inside for the better part of the last 18 months. At a time when a lot of Tribeca screenings are happening cautiously outdoors, and most people seem to be watching most of the movies from home, a 79-minute experiment like Adam Leon’s Italian Studies (Grade: B+) almost feels like thrilling escapism: Marvel at the rare spectacle of a woman (Vanessa Kirby) wandering around Manhattan, brushing past strangers, and even interacting with them beyond nodding or scowling at the presence or absence of a face mask!
Continue reading Tribeca 2021: New York, I (Still) Love You

Tribeca 2021: Rock and/or Roll

This is the first of a few reports from Tribeca 2021. Some past Tribeca write-ups can be found here.

The Tribeca Film Festival has rechristened itself the just plain Tribeca Festival this year, making official its recent addition of television, VR, and other media into its programming. Those newer additions include podcasts, of course, and there’s something oddly satisfying about this year’s film selections including the in-competition Poser (Grade: B), which has been described, loosely and not entirely accurately, as Single White Female with a podcast. Lennon (Sylvie Mix) does have a podcast, though it’s never clear how many listeners she has—or, thinking back over the events of the film, if she ever actually uploads any of her episodes. As the movie opens, she’s reaching out of her “comfort zone,” a stock phrase that becomes unnerving as she keeps repeating it, by interviewing local musicians in the Columbus, Ohio scene. Her operation is as low-fi as any number of genres floating around said scene (one band identifies as “junkyard bop”): She records on her phone, then re-records the results onto cassette tapes, because she likes the hiss. (The movie isn’t really clear about whether she then re-digitizes those cassettes; again, there’s a little ambiguity about whether these episodes go beyond her library. The finer points of syndication don’t really seem like Lennon’s bag.)
Continue reading Tribeca 2021: Rock and/or Roll