Eat shit, Disney

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced big changes for upcoming ceremonies at the behest of the Disney-ABC Television Group that owns the awards ceremony broadcast rights through 2028. Among other changes meant to reduce runtime and increase viewership that for some unfathomable reason do not include cutting the 20 minutes of uninspired foreplay from whatever late-night host they decided to permanently trivialize, the Academy will ad a new Best Popular Film category to its slate. Details as to what qualifies a film as “popular” remain unknown.

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Nerves, belly laughs from brilliant debut ‘Sorry to Bother You’

Stanfield carries the film, but he’s surrounded by a low-key cast of all stars in Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer and the voices of David Cross and Patton Oswalt. Image courtesy Annapurna Pictures.

9/10 Sorry to Bother You is a special, special film.

Cassius “Cash is” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is an impoverished Oakland resident living out of his uncle’s garage. He starts the film by getting a call center job, which gets him nowhere fast until he starts using his “white voice,” a nasal imitation of a wealthier white salesman (voice of David Cross). Elsewhere, millions of Americans are escaping poverty by signing up with WorryFree, a new company that directly provides housing and food instead of wages on a lifetime contract.

With the power of his white voice, Green quickly rises through the ranks at his call center, and is soon promoted from the basement selling encyclopedias to the top floor, where he sells arms and cheap labor from WorryFree.

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‘Skyscraper’ good at times, needed a plotscraper

This is it. This is the whole movie. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

4/10 Skyscraper’s got everything. It’s got The Rock, it’s got a 1.1 kilometer tall building, it’s got everything. The most ironic thing it has, though, is junk. There’s too much junk in this movie.

Skyscraper follows Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson), an FBI agent-turned security contractor after a hostage situation gone wrong left him with one leg severed below the knee. The movie opens on him evaluating security at The Pearl, the newly completed vertical city in Hong Kong that stands as the tallest building in the world by almost 800 feet. After Sawyer gives it the green light, a gang of international terrorists de-activates the building’s sprinkler system and sets it on fire. With him a kilometer away and his wife and children locked above the blaze, Sawyer must find a way back inside the building.

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Second time is more charming, but still lacks that special something

I’m not sure how I feel about the supersuits for some of the newer Avengers. These are a perfect blend of cartoonish and feeling like they’re necessary to the characters, but I almost feel like that should go one way or the other. Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

8/10 Ant-Man and the Wasp is wonderful. Unfortunately, because I’m pathologically incapable of enjoying Marvel movies, it still leaves me wanting.

The film joins The Avengers’ size-shifting wonder Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) at the end of his long house arrest sentence following his actions in Captain America: Civil War. He dreams he receives a message from Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the wife and mother of former associates Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) who was lost in quantum space decades ago when she sacrificed herself to stop a missile. They drag Lang out of his home in the hopes that he can help them recover Janet, but their search is harried by Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen), a former SHIELD assassin whose body is disintegrating and needs quantum energy to preserve her life.

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‘First Purge’ is the first great purge movie

This is some of the cheekiest shit I have ever seen. Image courtesy Universal Pictures.

9/10 The Purge movies continue to baffle me with cultural staying power that outsizes their box office numbers. What started as a cut-rate home invasion movie with an elaborate premise has captured the American imagination, fitting like a glove onto economic and racial anxieties that have only grown worse since the series’ debut.

But The First Purge immediately becomes the only entry that I would call “good.” It might even be great.

As the real U.S. becomes more and more dystopian, the series has approached closer and closer to reality, and this continues with The First Purge. The first movie’s James Candin (Ethan Hawke) was eager to justify the annual night of lawlessness after making his fortune from it, but The First Purge addresses the practice explicitly and exclusively as what it is — a targeted holocaust of poor minorities. In order to encourage participation in the Staten Island experiment that would become the annual tradition, residents are offered $5,000 to simply stay on the island through the night, with bonuses for any lawbreaking. The borough quickly becomes populated only by those who can’t afford to turn that money down. When “participation is low” — when not enough brown people are murdering each other — the government sends in a pre-hired gang of mercenaries, many of them dressed in Klan robes and SS costumes, to exterminate the islanders. The less straightforward riots of previous movies give way to what is simply an ethnic cleansing.

The First Purge makes itself daringly clear. From the first poster onward, the film is much more aggressively topical than its predecessors, complete with a “pussy grabbing” scene and imagery explicitly mirroring the Rodney King beating and the 2015 Charleston shooting, among other flashpoints of racial violence.

Far too many movies rely exclusively on shared memory for their appeal. The First Purge corrupts this tendency. Instead of guiding viewers through warm nostalgia, this film guides us through our worst memories as a culture.

Just as it draws from the historic abuse of black Americans, The First Purge also draws from the cinematic reaction to that history with its main character Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a seemingly invincible drug kingpin who draws heavily from the blaxploitation heroes of the ‘70s. His acts of violence are set aside graphically, producing glorious sprays of viscera in a surprisingly gore-less film. The visual story of ethnic cleansing becomes one of minorities standing up to uniformed forces as the film continues.

This is probably why I cared much more about Dmitri than about any other Purge protagonist. Where previous movies do attempt to follow a community across a handful of characters each with their own story, The First Purge weaves the story of its community into one character, who emerges as the joining point of all its storylines.

With series writer/producer James DeMonaco aiming higher with his allegories, new director Gerald McMurray aims higher with scene-to-scene considerations. Purgers are given contact lens recording devices that glow in the dark, given them a predatory quality. Dmitri’s rampage through a dimly lit apartment complex in the finale contains some of the series’ best action.

At once an entertaining action-horror film that can deeply affect viewers with its cultural implications, The First Purge finally capitalizes on the potential of this strange series. It’s my far-and-away favorite of the franchise.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at

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