casey allen

A poster for "The French Dispatch."

The Algerian-born designer Yves Saint Laurent once said, "Fashions fade, but style is eternal." And when talking about film, few directors have a style as distinct and as magical as Wes Anderson. 


The French Dispatch covers the staff of a news magazine based in a tiny fictional town of baguettes, berets, and bicycles circa 1960. Just like a magazine, the film takes viewers through different stories on art, politics, culture, food and obituaries. In the familiar Wes Anderson vibe of static symmetrical cinematography and droll humor, The French Dispatch is one part eccentric stage tableau and one part pop-up book.

A poster for "Last Night in Soho."

Last Night in Soho is a psychological suspense film centered on young cheerful Eloise, played by an innocent Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, 2019), who moves from a remote England town to current day London for university. Through her mysterious gift for visions, and her one-bedroom apartment, Eloise is transported every night to the 1960s living the life of an aspiring singer who encounters predatory men and murder. Like a contemporary Alice in Wonderland, being transported to a glamorous nightlife is addictive at first for the sheltered ingenue. But when the nightlife gets dangerous, this other woman's past starts to haunt our heroine's present, blurring the lines dividing reality and fantasy.


Frank Herbert wrote the novel Dune and had it published in 1965. It became a famous science-fiction story and has been adapted for the screen twice; first as a feature film in 1984 and then as a TV miniseries in 2000. This third adaptation of Dune, from French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, 2015), is an adventurous science-fiction spectacle showing fully realized alien worlds that completely transport you. (Geometric spacecrafts float gracefully through the air, and monolithic stone buildings tower above the natural landscape.) But this film is not just about cool visual effects.


Since No Time to Die is the 26th James Bond film released, it's probably not a wise idea expecting this film to reinvent the wheel of this action sub-genre adapted from the characters created in Ian Fleming's novels. Viewers know this wheel and can happily identify the spokes comprising the wheel. Some of the more obvious spokes of the James Bond films are beautifully seductive women, shown here with actress Ana de Armas (Knives Out, 2018), futuristic technology with cars and jets, James Bond visiting exotic locations and an engagingly psychopathic villain.

A poster for the film "The Card Counter."

Oscar-nominated director and writer Paul Schrader (First Reformed, 2017) loves telling stories of misfortune that happen to specifically unglamorous people largely abandoned by the world. (Paul Schrader wrote the enduring and provocative screenplays for both Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ.) In The Card Counter, a modern-day tragedy of exile and redemption shows viewers that some people cannot avoid revenge forever.



The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a plucky biopic adapted from the documentary film of the same name produced by World of Wonder and released in 2000. Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game, 2017) plays the title role of Tammy Faye Bakker, a devout Christian and Bible college dropout from Minnesota who joined her husband Jim as traveling ministers throughout the South in the 1960s.


The more I watched this movie, the more I became concerned. After Netflix released Kate on September 10th, it has been ranked as one of its most watched offerings for the past few days. So I started wondering, "Why is this movie so popular? Am I becoming old fashioned now in my views of thorough film criticism? Am I out of touch with the current trends and tastes of young viewers today?"

'Candyman' Review With Casey

Sep 10, 2021

The original Candyman film, released in 1992, is a perceptive psychological horror exploring racism and the power of fables. This new version of Candyman is a thoughtful sequel about a contemporary Black painter who discovers an urban legend leading him down a path of bees and murder.

The following is an unedited transcript:

Annette is a dramatic movie musical about the relationship between a provocative male comedian (Adam Driver, Marriage Story, 2019) and a beloved female opera singer (Marion Cotillard, Assassin's Creed, 2016) who endure their shifts in popularity, tragedy, and love in current day Los Angeles. 

The following is an unedited trasncript.

The big-scale, mainstream biopic is back with Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, 2006) playing Aretha Franklin. Starting out as a young, devout, church girl in Detroit who, through perseverance and raw talent, becomes the queen of soul. First, let me say Jennifer Hudson's musical performance is brilliant. Singing all the songs in the film live without any lip-syncing or dubbing with studio recordings, her voice is limber, assertive, deep, and alarming. The star of Respect is really the music, with parts of the film's 2-hour-and-25-minute run time showing the loose, organic, collaborative creation of famous songs. Those scenes feel easy and well-crafted. Those scenes are also effective in showing Aretha Franklin as a gifted music producer, pianist, and song arranger. 

"Old" Review With Casey

Aug 16, 2021

After the goofily far-fetched films Split (2016) and Glass (2019), director M. Night Shyamalan has not received much critical praise the past few years. Old is Shyamalan's latest film, and it's thankfully not a schizophrenic disaster...but it's not a brilliant triumph either.

Director David Lowery is not a stranger to experimental or cerebral filmmaking, with his most popular example being the 2017 film, A Ghost Story. His latest experiment, The Green Knight, is adapted from the 14th century Middle English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, about a member of King Arthur's court in the middle ages who accepts the challenge to a game of beheading from the magical Green Knight, and a bargain to reunite one year in the future. This bargain sends the reluctant hero on a quest through the foggy English countryside where he tests his wits, strength, and virtue. 

Since last year was so unique for the film industry, the summer of 2020 felt refreshingly different at least for new releases. The constant conveyor belt of vapid action films halted last summer and other, more unique, films received more attention like First Cow, Shirley, and Miss Juneteenth. Since the light at the end of the COVID tunnel is still frustratingly far away, I thought the summer of 2021 would continue to offer surprising and memorable examples of independent film. But I realized I was wrong after watching Gunpowder Milkshake which premiered on July 14 through Netflix.

Perhaps the most anticipated summer movie of 2021, Black Widow premiered on July 9 in both movie theaters and on the Disney+ streaming platform. Directed by Australian woman Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome, 2017), Black Widow is a colossal, sexy, explosive action-adventure about the famous superspy Natasha Romanoff played by the steely Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, 2019).

The Tomorrow War was released on July 2 this year and is available exclusively through streaming on Amazon Prime. When I watched this film conclude and I started to write this review, I thought to myself, "Where do I start?" And anyone who's been a teacher or a judge on a reality competition series knows the phrase, "Where do I start?" is not a good thing.

False Positive was released on June 25, 2021 and is available for streaming exclusively on Hulu. Ilana Glazer (Broad City, 2014-2019) and Justin Theroux (The Spy Who Dumped Me, 2018) play a happy married couple struggling to conceive a child. After meeting with a fertility doctor, played by a smarmy Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, 2018), they achieve a pregnancy. But the excited mother-to-be faces unexpected decisions, simmering suspicious, and shocking emissions...of blood.


Adapted from the famous musical first produced on Broadway in 2008, In the Heights presents a vibrant kaleidoscopic view of the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights and the hopes and dreams of its Latinx residents. 

This sequel was released in theaters on May 28 in time for Memorial Day weekend and it might be the film of the summer to nudge the floodgates of audiences open again. 

Before the action film Army of the Dead was released on May 21, it already made headlines with casting issues. Oh, dear! After the film finished shooting, one of its actors, comedian Chris D'Elia, had accusations surface in June 2020 of inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple teenage girls. The director then digitally removed Chris D'Elia from the film and reshot his part with replacement comedian Tig Notaro, who was filmed by herself and then digitally inserted into the film. That story is ten times more interesting than the movie itself.

Oscar-winner Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, 2017) plays the title role in the dark and snazzy origin story of Cruella DeVil, one of the most flamboyant villains in the canon of Disney animated films who was first brought to life on the big screen in 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (and followed by a handful of sequels and remakes).

With newly released thrillers The Woman in the Window directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, 2017) and Those Who Wish Me Dead directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, 2017), mainstream film looked promising May 14-16. But both these films proved disappointing mainly from trying too hard and using too many cliches. So I was pleasantly surprised to see another new film released May 12 on Netflix called Oxygen that elevated my weekend viewing from a dish at Sizzler to least a dish at The Cheesecake Factory. 

First of all, let me explain this film is not the gritty drama from 2003 starring Charlize Theron as a real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. This Monster was filmed in 2018 and was just released on May 7 through Netflix. 

For those of you who did not watch the Academy Awards ceremony on April 25, let me explain that much of the ceremony felt like a desperate, yet restrained, plea to get viewers to return to movie theaters as soon as it's possible and safe. 

Shalayne Smith Needham: Flix at 48 is up next with our film critic Casey T. Allen. Hi, Casey.

Courtesy of 'Thunder Force' movie.

Thunder Force is a superhero comedy first released on Netflix April 9th, and it inspired me to send a personal message to the film's leading actress, Melissa McCarthy (Superintelligence, 2020). The message reads like this: "Dear Melissa McCarthy, Please stop making movies with your writer/director husband Ben Falcone. Sincerely, Casey T. Allen. The end." 

Choosing to produce a fresh contemporary horror film is so often a bad decision, like rollerblading as an adult, or naming a newborn infant Kenneth. Thankfully, the film Relic has proven me wrong with a horror film that is lasting, patient, and chilling. Relic was officially released in July 2020 but has recently become available through both Amazon Prime and Redbox.

Shalayne Smith Needham: Our conversations recently have focused on award season for the film industry. There has been a lot of talk about the Oscars, which are coming up in about a month from now. It's been a difficult year for the industry, of course, with COVID-19. First, tell us how will the 93rd Annual Academy Awards be different this year?

I have a heart of charred stone, so I rarely get emotional watching films. But this one had me on the edge of tears. The Father is an emotionally stunning family drama about a charming elderly man fighting to hang on to his daughters and his home in spite of his increasing memory problems.

Ammonite is a quiet lesbian drama centered on real-life geologist and fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel, 2017) and her lonely world during 19th century England. This film was originally released in November last year, but who knows who actually saw it in November because it was likely in very few movie theaters in Utah and available on very few streaming platforms. But Ammonite has now been released on Hulu in early March for a wider audience to see. 

Courtesy of 'The United States vs. Billie Holliday'

Biopic films are an especially challenging mountain to climb. They’re done a lot, so they can get formulaic; and some go too far to sanitize their subject (Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018) or vilify them (Mommie Dearest, 1981). The United States vs. Billie Holiday miraculously doesn’t fall into any of these metaphorical ravines.