Wild Fire

The hallucinatory opening of Wild Fire immediately captivates the viewer. Director and writer Jennifer Cooney conveys middle-aged Elliana’s overwhelming grief for her husband through the canted images of her disorderly room. The widow sits alone in her large, empty, and white modernist home. This is the setting of her 50th birthday party, a crowded, raucous celebration that turns into an intimate game of truth or dare by the end of the night. A small group of friends and lovers reveal their deepest secrets and sexual fantasies. 

The Wild Fire ensemble are strong performers, creating raw characters with compelling anxieties. Del and Avery participate in roleplay to keep their relationship spicy; Ronnie is married to Tom but secretly masturbates to women; Maeve and Noah struggle to be intimate with one another. However, their individuality gets lost in Cooney’s voyeuristic framing, plodding pace, and overall melodramatic approach. The reoccurring close-ups shots are beautiful but feel cold and distant.

Wild Fire is clearly inspired by The Big Chill (with a queer twist!), but Cooney’s heavy-handedness prevents it from being as emotionally resonant as Lawrence Kasdan’s classic film. The histrionic stylings are amplified by the musical score of mawkish strings and overly-intense piano.

Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see a contemporary film that is so unabashedly erotic. The sex scenes in Wild Fire are varied, ranging from soft and warm to tense and provocative. The group conversations about sex, love, life, and death are intellectually stimulating. Despite its flaws, Wild Fire radiates with the kind of intensity and sexual intrigue that is sorely missing from our current film landscape.

Indie Rooftop

Indie Rooftop is a vibrant celebration of music. In this seven-episode series, director Jasmine Allen showcases various musicians against Chicago’s dazzling architecture and cotton-candy-colored sky. The singers perform multiple songs and share details about their life, musical inspirations, and how they balance their artistic craft with business.

Allen presents a diverse collage of independent musicians and genres. What binds the episodes together is the artists’ vulnerable reflection on the trials and tribulations of musical success. There’s Fana Hues, an R&B singer with a smooth voice who discusses the importance of drawing from your own life story. You can tell that her songs come from a very personal and private place in her moving performances.

Fany de la Chica combines Hispanic flamenco with dulcet pop sounds influenced by her Spain upbringing. The Land is Rising, a Native American folk singer-songwriter, also uses his culture to create a wholly original sound.

Nigerian-American rapper Louis King is honest about the difficult financial realities that musicians face. King Quan also spits out raps with fiery energy. Another hip-hop artist is Babyxsosa, whose sweet voice matches her name. She reveals how her classical music background playing the oboe and being able to read sheet music allows her to collaborate with other musicians. 

Lastly, Will Jordan helped write Nicki Minaj’s “Fly,” but he explains how working with famous artists has its disadvantages, despite the success and notoriety it brings. You will find far more creative fulfillment working for yourself rather than having to worry about another artists’ brand and cultural impact.

Indie Rooftop is a fascinating glimpse into both the artistic and business side of music. Jessica Allen’s documentary exposes viewers to a variety of indie musicians that are forging a new path and redefining the way we hear musical genres. The only drawback to this documentary is that there are occasional audio issues, making the unique musical performances and eye-opening interviews difficult to listen to. Nevertheless, Indie Rooftop is a strong collection of concerts that commemorate all different types of music and artistic identities in a genuine and thought-provoking way.


Jack is an eccentric teen sex comedy that relies on a crude gag: the story is told from the perspective of the main character’s penis. Charlie’s appendage named Jack narrates the trials and tribulations of being a teenage boy. Charlie, played by Luke Rollason, is a rubbery-faced, bug-eyed version of Robert Pattinson who still lives at home with his parents in the suburbs of London. 

Charlie has a crush on a Canadian student named Barbie (Angela Sant’Albano), indicated by the humorous slow-motion sequences set to sensual music. However, a misunderstanding makes Barbie believe Charlie is gay and bungles any chance he may have had with her. Charlie realizes he also has a crush on his school counselor, Mr. Hand—an older and brooding Spanish man he describes as “like Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem had a baby and he became a psychologist.” Charlie must hide his boner for him during their sessions. 

Rollason’s quirky performance is the true anchor of the film, which has moments of insight into teenage sexuality and gender norms but is mostly obnoxious. Director Pelayo De Lario, who writes alongside Elena Conte, fills Charlie’s road to sexual discovery with jokes that are more misses than hits (the American Beauty reference seen on the poster is one of the better ones). The cinematography’s bright, rainbow palette amplifies the film’s whimsical vibe.

But just when you think Jack is going to zig into familiar teen movie genre territory, it zags. What stands out the most about Jack is that it defies the expectations of a typical coming-of-age film. Jack has a progressive and laid-back attitude toward Charlie’s bisexuality. He makes the revelation without any existential dread or misogynistic jokes. Also, instead of doggedly pursuing a girl who has no interest in him, Charlie simply accepts it. As a movie about a talking penis, Jack is a strange combination of juvenile slapstick that overstays its welcome and clever reversals of well-tread tropes in a typically chauvinistic genre. 

Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview


Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview sheds new light on the famous actor Burt Reynolds, but the way the documentary came together was happenstance. Director Rick Pamplin originally interviewed Burt Reynolds for another documentary focused on independent film financing called Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL. Once it turned out that the footage was Burt Reynolds’ last on-camera interview, Pamplin honored the Hollywood legend by crafting a feature-length production around the segment.

The opening mainly centers on Maltz Jupiter Theatre, formerly the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre, where Reynolds mounted productions and taught acting to the Palm Beach community. Theatre can be a very toxic industry, and many teachers take emotional advantage of their students. However, the heartwarming interviews from the theatre’s former and current employees make it clear that Reynolds had a genuine love for creative storytelling and truly cared about his students’ well-being and success. Reynolds also shares his thoughtful pedagogical method: “I don’t teach acting; I teach behavior.” 

The actual last interview with Burt Reynolds is extensive, eye-opening, and best left unspoiled. It requires patience since the older actor has a very slow and quiet voice. Nevertheless, this does not take away from the fascinating wisdom he shares. He speaks about his experience shooting Deliverance and praises his co-star Jon Voight (He also pokes fun at his friend because he “pops up all the time on some of the dumbest shows I’ve ever seen”).

Reynolds shares his understanding of the Hollywood landscape, pointing out how Black Panther was an overdue opportunity for people of color to be in the spotlight, critiquing the contemporary focus on business over artistic talent, and lamenting a bygone era of filmmaking that was passionate about a filmmaker’s unique craft and story. The recipe for his success? “You take chances. When they think you’re turning left, you turn right,” he says. 

Pamplin ends the film with an interview from Quentin Tarantino about Burt Reynolds’ experiences with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He was originally cast as George Spahn in the film before his death. Tarantino’s fast-paced cadence makes every topic feel exciting—especially his reverence for Reynolds’ talent in the table read of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “He played the part, it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t captured on film. And what a way to go, that’s how I want to go,” Tarantino reflects. 

Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview is not a comprehensive biography or a career overview. If you are unfamiliar with Reynolds, there may be some blank spots. It’s clearly cobbled together by Pamplin, but the director honors what made the legendary actor such a dynamic movie star in the first place: his deep dedication to the art of performance. Burt Reynolds: The Last Interview takes a simple yet intimate approach to admire Burt Reynolds’ craft, intelligence, and the legacy he left behind with his students.

Rickshaw Girl

Rickshaw Girl echoes Mulan as the story of a young girl who, because of her patriarchal culture’s traditions, must disguise herself as a boy to support her family after her father falls ill. Naima becomes a rickshaw driver in the chaotic city of Dhaka. Director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury frames the city with an exciting, pulsating energy pace, making the environment an important part of the film. The rickshaw environment is dangerous and aggressive, and the challenges she faces there force Naima to question her role in her family and as a young woman.

Naima transforms her bland Bangladesh surroundings with vibrant paintings on walls, her rickshaw, and other surfaces. Her sari costumes are just as bright as the pictures she makes. Chowdhury manifests Naima’s artistic dreams in fantastical animated sequences with eye-popping colors. These creative montages where Naima’s imagination bleeds into the real world are the highlights of the film.

Novera Rahman’s spirited performance as Naima carries the film; she crafts a well-rounded young girl with determination, artistic passion, and childlike vulnerability. Rickshaw Girl is an empowering narrative for young girls. Naima’s strength and resourcefulness are inspiring to watch, as well as her journey to understanding the world around her. Rickshaw Girl follows familiar coming-of-age beats, but its vibrant atmosphere, uplifting narrative, and strong lead performance make the film soar.