Connect with us

Movies News

‘TikTok, Boom.’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Published

on

‘TikTok, Boom.’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

As noted in a voiceover near the start of TikTok, Boom., there are so many through lines to be explored here: “It’s a cybersecurity story. It’s an algorithm story. It’s a bias story. It’s a geopolitical story.” Shalini Kantayya’s documentary tries, to varying degrees, to explore seemingly all of them. And if it’s perhaps too broad to serve as the definitive last word on the buzzy social media platform, it does at least make for a thoughtful conversation starter.

TikTok, Boom. is loosely structured around three prominent TikTok personalities: Feroza Aziz, an Afghan-American teen censored by the platform for speaking out on the Uyghur genocide; Spencer X, a beatboxer who found creative and commercial success on the app; and Deja Foxx, an activist and political strategist who founded the online community GenZ Girl Gang.

TikTok, Boom.

The Bottom Line

A thoughtful conversation starter.

Advertisement

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (U.S. Documentary Competition)
Director: Shalini Kantayya


1 hour 30 minutes

Woven around their stories are shorter appearances from other content creators (including one on Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese counterpart) — plus interviews with experts like New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz and tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar, who provide larger context about TikTok’s history, its data-collecting algorithm, its effect on young people, its role in the cultural tug-of-war between the U.S. and China, and more.

The film’s wide view makes for a more complete portrait of TikTok than a more narrowly focused one might have offered, and possibly a more nuanced one. While TikTok, Boom. does not shy away from criticism of the platform, Kantayya seems no more interested in unilaterally condemning it than praising it. Instead, she takes the time to engage with a diverse array of voices and viewpoints, and consider the platform from all angles. Her open-mindedness gives TikTok, Boom. a sense of trustworthiness — it’s more interesting to process a sincere exploration than a pointed screed.

So for one content creator, TikTok might represent a “gold rush” of sponsorship opportunities, while for another, it might feel like a burden she can’t escape because it’s how she supports herself and her family. It’s what one creator calls a “blow-up-overnight kind of place” that can mint new stars overnight, and at the same time a restrictive space with internal policies that can silence the already marginalized. The For You Page is a groundbreaking feature that makes TikTok terrifyingly good at tailoring itself to a user’s specific tastes; what shady things it does with the information it gathers isn’t necessarily all that different from what every other social media site does with it, as documented in other projects like The Social Dilemma or Kantayya’s own Coded Bias.

Advertisement

Kantayya’s careful construction keeps the deluge of information from overwhelming the viewer. Often, it mimics the organic flow of a conversation. When one influencer vents, “‘The algorithm’ — what does that even mean?” the film cuts to a tech developer describing it as a sort of digital Sorting Hat, emphasizing the point with a clip from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That the film never seems to stay on one topic too long seems wryly appropriate for its subject; after all, no TikTok video lasts more than a few minutes either.

But TikTok, Boom.‘s ambition of covering seemingly everything to do with TikTok in 90 minutes means that it rarely has time to dig beyond basic concepts. Much is made of TikTok being the first Chinese social media app to blow up in a tech landscape previously dominated by American companies, for example — but less clear is what this means for individuals who have no particular stake in the pissing contest between Mark Zuckerberg and Zhang Yiming, the Chinese founder of TikTok parent company ByteDance.

Its Gen Z subjects give chewy, sometimes slightly depressing soundbites about their ambivalence around social media. “I kind of have to live with fact that there’s gonna be people that are profiting off my data and I have no real recourse for that,” says one teenage user — the son of Scott R. Drury, a data privacy lawyer who speaks at length in the documentary about, among other things, TikTok’s failures to protect minors from child predators. Another young influencer muses that “I don’t know what it’s like to live in a world where I’m not being perceived, always.” But a deeper exploration about how those realities change their self-perception, or how it might shape their futures, remains outside of the film’s scope.

TikTok, Boom. feels not like a dispatch from the heart of TikTok culture, or a deep dive into the issues surrounding it, but an introduction meant for people who might be familiar with the app just in passing. It seems less likely to come as a revelation to people who are Too Online as it is (myself included, admittedly). As I write this, we’re just a few days removed from West Elm Caleb, the latest TikTok tale to go viral enough to inspire think pieces on what the whole saga says about TikTok specifically, about social media more generally or about the world more broadly. These are ideas worth grappling with, and TikTok, Boom. is helpful as a way in. But those most engaged in them may find that the discussion has already moved past what’s offered here.

Advertisement

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending