Browse Articles by J. Don Birnam

Crafts Spotlight: Creating Jared Leto’s Prosthetics for House of Gucci

December 2021
Crafts Spotlight: Creating Jared Leto’s Prosthetics for <em>House of Gucci</em>

Jared Leto’s over-the-top performance as heir to a fashion fortune in House of Gucci garnered mixed reactions from critics, but one thing that is undeniable is that his look is memorable. In the film, he has to look like the bombastic Paolo Gucci did—balding, with long side chops on his face, a pudgy nose,... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Crafts, Crafts Spotlight, Featured, Film, Interviews, Makeup |

Review: Nightmare Alley‘s Classic del Toro Panache Overcomes its Uneven Script

December 2021
Review: <em>Nightmare Alley</em>‘s Classic del Toro Panache Overcomes its Uneven Script

Guillermo del Toro revisits the 1946 novel Nightmare Alley, about a grifter conman, which first got adapted, film noir style, in 1947. Film noir is del Toro’s bailiwick and his own Nightmare Alley is as stylized, visually polished, and crafty as you would expect from a director with such a beautifully unique aesthetic. At the same time, del Toro’s... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: West Side Story Retains Magic from Shakespeare to Sondheim to Spielberg

December 2021
Review: <em>West Side Story</em> Retains Magic from Shakespeare to Sondheim to Spielberg

What a wonder, as a critic, to be reviewing a film based on one of the most successful musicals of all time, considering its definitive movie adaptation was received to the tune of 10 Academy Awards way back in 1961. Enter Steven Spielberg and his take on the famous 1950s musical by Leonard Bernstein... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: Sing 2 Can’t Provide a Good Encore to the Original

December 2021
Review: <em>Sing 2</em> Can’t Provide a Good Encore to the Original

One of the 2016’s most pleasant and unexpected surprised was Illumination Studios’ Sing, the beautifully animated cartoon about a gaggle of wannabe singer animals overcoming their various impediments to become amateur stage singers. The success of the first led to the nearly assured (and highly-desired) existence of the next, but success is a fleeting... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Animation, Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: The Tender Bar Drowns in a Sea of Literary Tricks and Tips

November 2021
Review: <em>The Tender Bar</em> Drowns in a Sea of Literary Tricks and Tips

I remember my “Intro to Literary Writing” course at Yale like it was yesterday. The coursebook had one tip and two tricks that all inexperienced authors should follow to create compelling stories during the time in which it took them to find their voice. The tip: write about what you know. The tricks: use... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: House of Gucci Crumbles Under Its Weight, with Only Gaga Left Standing

November 2021
Review: <em>House of Gucci</em> Crumbles Under Its Weight, with Only Gaga Left Standing

What does it mean to be “Italian”? Like for so many subjective questions, the truth may be in the eye of the beholder. Italians of different regions would likely answer differently as would, no doubt, non-Italians. All thoughtful perspectives could be compelling and even intriguing. But in Ridley Scott’s upcoming film, House of Gucci,... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Book Reviews, Featured, Film, Reviews |

Review: C’mon C’mon Is a Moving Conclusion to Mike Mills’ People Trilogy

November 2021
Review: <em>C’mon C’mon</em> Is a Moving Conclusion to Mike Mills’ People Trilogy

Every once in a while, directors come along whose work’s focus is distinctively human. The most obvious, recent example of this is Woody Allen, whose body of film’s attention is almost entirely on human relationships, such as family, friendship, and romance. Many of these filmmakers though, including without question Allen himself, as well as... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: Andrew Garfield is Explosive in Nested Doll Musical Tick, Tick.… Boom!

November 2021
Review: Andrew Garfield is Explosive in Nested Doll Musical <em>Tick, Tick.… Boom!</em>

It seems somehow befitting that for his directorial debut, composing legend Lin-Manuel Miranda would select a musical adapted from a musical about making a musical. But while the plot of his film, Tick, Tick….Boom! can make your head spin—or explode, as the case may be—if you pay too much attention, fear not, because Lin... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: Encanto Charms and Enchants through Disney’s Usual Magic

November 2021
Review: <em>Encanto</em> Charms and Enchants through Disney’s Usual Magic

The busy sound I heard right before the credits roll for Disney’s upcoming magical film Encanto was not only the voice of Colombian singing legend Carlos Vives, intoning the movie’s surefire Oscar contender, “Colombia, Mi Encanto.” The clackity-clack was actually the busy feet of scurrying film critics rushing out to figure out what “Encanto”... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Animation, Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |

Review: Red Notice Announces Promising Franchise Starring Sexy Hollywood Trio

November 2021
Review: <em>Red Notice</em> Announces Promising Franchise Starring Sexy Hollywood Trio

Netflix’s upcoming film, Red Notice, is most part tedious and unintelligible. It features three action heroes, played by the wonderfully attractive threesome comprised of Gal Gadot, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Ryan Reynolds, caught in an endless, frustrating loop of betrayals, double-crosses, and improbable escapes. Yet, by the time the film’s credits roll, and Netflix’s “next up” suggestion... »

Tags: ,
Posted in Featured, Film, Film Releases, Reviews |