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Cube Critics

English, Cinema, 1 season, 102 episodes, 8 hours, 9 minutes
About
From Minnesota Public Radio News, Movie Maven Stephanie Curtis and arts reporter Euan Kerr share a cube wall, and a passion for movies. Each week, they take a break from their day jobs to talk movies.
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Smiling Friends’ and ‘Bridgerton Season 3’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Kyra Miles discuss an absurdist cartoon comedy for adults and a Regency simp pretending to be a player.
5/24/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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Cube Critics talk about ‘The Fall Guy’ and ‘Abigail’

Cube Critics watch a movie that is a love letter to stunt performers and a film about a kidnapping where — oops, the kidnapped child is a vampire.
5/17/20243 minutes, 59 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Monkey Man’

Cube Critics Regina Medina and Max Sparber discuss a miniseries about the killing of Lincoln and a psychedelic action film set in India.The following are capsule reviews edited from the audio heard using the player above.‘Manhunt’“Manhunt,” streaming on Apple TV+, is an engaging historical drama series that captures the intense pursuit of John Wilkes Booth following his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Styled as a 19th century version of the modern thriller “24,” the series substitutes advanced technology with the era’s horses and Morse code, adding a unique twist to the chase narrative.The series centers on Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, portrayed by Tobias Menzies of “Outlander” fame, who leads the manhunt with a deeply personal vendetta due to his admiration for Lincoln. Patton Oswalt adds a distinct flavor to the show, playing the head of a federal law enforcement agency and infusing his characteristic vibes into the historical setting.“Manhunt” employs a series of flashbacks that enrich the storyline by providing historical context and depth to the decisions and strategies employed during the hunt. — Regina Medina 'Manhunt' trailer 'Manhunt' trailer ‘Monkey Man’“Monkey Man,” the directorial debut of the charming English actor Dev Patel, who also co-wrote and stars in the film, is a hallucinogenic action thriller set in India. Patel portrays a young man seeking revenge against the religious extremists and corrupt politicians responsible for destroying his village. The film is heavily inspired by the rise of right-wing ultra-nationalism in India.“Monkey Man” begins with a gritty portrayal of underground fights where Patel wears a monkey mask, paired with his rise in a flashy yet squalid brothel. The production, budgeted at about $10 million, punches well above its weight class, presenting street and fight scenes that are both energized and aesthetically pleasing, appearing as if the film cost 10 times as much.Midway, the film shifts dramatically as Patel’s character finds himself in a temple belonging to Hijra, a community of transsexual, intersex and other third sex individuals that exists in real-life India. Here, the narrative takes on elements of John Wick and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain.” After consuming a psychedelic root, Patel’s character transforms into an incarnation of the monkey god Hanuman, redirecting his quest from personal vengeance to fighting for broader justice issues — although against the same villains.The latter part of the film is both brutal and dazzling, with scenes drenched in shocking gore. The movie’s unique style and narrative shift make it difficult to describe without resorting to invented or old-fashioned words like “psilocybonic” and “cataphysical.”— Max Sparber Trailer for "Monkey Man" Trailer for "Monkey Man"
5/10/20243 minutes, 45 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Fallout’ and ‘Civil War’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Alex V. Cipolle discuss dystopian media.The following are capsule reviews edited from the audio heard using the player above.‘Fallout’“Fallout” is a new TV series on Amazon Prime, inspired by the beloved video game series of the same name. While I wasn’t deeply immersed in the Fallout games growing up — mostly watching friends play — I loved this series.“Fallout” unfolds in an alternate universe steeped in retro-futurism, where the narrative begins in the 2070s following a catastrophic nuclear fallout. The series fast-forwards 200 years post-disaster — we’re in a world where, quoting the franchise’s iconic phrase, “War, war never changes.”It follows a group of survivors navigating the harsh wasteland, trying to achieve various objectives. What’s particularly compelling about the show is its approach to storytelling; it doesn’t adapt any specific game or storyline from the Fallout series but offers an original narrative that seamlessly fits within the established world.— Jacob Aloi Fallout trailer‘Civil War’“Civil War,” now playing in theaters, is set in an alternate universe where the U.S. is embroiled in an actual civil war. The film stars Kirsten Dunst as a jaded war photojournalist and Nick Offerman in an atypical role as an authoritarian president. The narrative follows a team of photojournalists traveling across the country to the nation’s capital, capturing the horrors of war along their journey.The film excels in its sound design and cinematography, which lushly and disturbingly capture the sublime almost beauty of war — highlighting the surreal and often horrific visual splendor of explosions and forest fires. However, the script leaves something to be desired. It occasionally delves into cringe-worthy territory, particularly with forced dialogues that seem uncharacteristic for seasoned war journalists, undermining the gravity of their experiences.Despite these flaws, “Civil War” features a standout performance by Jesse Plemons, who plays a chillingly detached and casually racist militant, delivering a scene-stealing and terrifying portrayal. While some critics argue the film fails to take a definitive stance on authoritarianism, it primarily explores the intense psychological impact of war photojournalism. This focus is where “Civil War” finds its strength, looking at the toll this journalism takes.— Alex V. Cipolle Civil War Trailer
5/3/20243 minutes, 49 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘The Claw’ and ‘The Beast’

Cube Critics Max Sparber and Alex V. Cipolle discuss a film about a Minnesota legend and … they really don’t know what.The following are capsule reviews edited from the audio heard using the player above.Click here.‘The Claw’This documentary should be distinguished from another recently reviewed title, “The Iron Claw,” a tragic look at a southern wrestling family. This is the Minnesota Nice version. “The Claw” is a heartwarming dive into the life of Jim Raschke, better known as Baron von Raschke, a prominent Minnesota wrestler from the American Wrestling Association’s classic era in the sixties and seventies. Known for his Teutonic superman persona and iconic crushing grip, Baron von Raschke is a figure I remember vividly, as he inspired post-viewing wrestling matches with my brothers.Full disclosure: “The Claw” is co-created by his son, Karl Raschke, whom I knew in college and features appearances by the Baron's daughter, Heidi, a senior producer here at MPR News. While I had a small part as an extra during its production, I’m not in the finished film, but my absence on screen doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the film.Unlike “The Iron Claw,” which portrays a tragic and tumultuous wrestling family, “The Claw” offers an affectionate look at Baron von Raschke, showcasing him as a genuinely nice guy through a mix of interviews, archival footage and documentary scenes. One memorable scene takes us to his high school in Omaha, where he playfully menaces a student wrestler — a moment I would have relished in my youth.The film also draws from a stage play about Baron von Raschke, penned by Karl Raschke and performed at the History Theatre in 2007. It’s a touching story, rich with florid characters and wild tales from the road, all wrapped up in the sweet narrative of an unusual yet loving family. “The Claw” is set to stream on Amazon Prime soon, and it’s a must-watch for anyone who cherishes wrestling history or enjoys an endearing family story.— Max Sparber The Claw Trailer ‘The Beast’“The Beast,” also known as “La bête,” is a French film currently showing at the Main Cinema in Minneapolis, starring Léa Seydoux and George MacKay as star-crossed lovers navigating through the years 1910, 2014 and 2044. The film intertwines this romantic narrative with a futuristic subplot where AI has dominated society, pushing humans towards an “emotional purification” process to shed unnecessary emotions. However, the connection between these plotlines remains nebulous, leaving me unmoored.Adding to the film’s complexity are its bewildering subplots, including a controversial choice by the director to have the main actor emulate the video diaries of Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of a mass shooting in Santa Barbara. This subplot delves deeply into the incel ideology without apparent resolution or thematic payoff, contributing to an overall sense of disjointed melancholy.Despite these narrative challenges, “The Beast” echoes elements of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” “Mulholland Drive,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and even “The Canyons,” a known campy flop. Its eclectic and potentially off-putting mixture might position it as a future cult classic.— Alex V. Cipolle The Beast
4/26/20243 minutes, 49 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ and ‘The Invisible Fight’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss a return to a 1980s franchise and an Estonian hard rock martial arts comedy.Click here.The following are capsule reviews edited from the audio heard using the player above.‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is a vintage continuation of the beloved franchise, directly following the 2021 sequel, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”This installment recaptures the spirit of the original 1980s series, featuring a plot where an ancient god resurfaces in modern times, aiming to conquer the world with an array of ghosts — a true nod to the franchise’s roots.The film transports viewers back to iconic New York settings, including the legendary Ghostbusters firehouse. It includes significant cameos from original cast members like Dan Aykroyd, who plays a major role, as well as Minnesota’s own Ernie Hudson. Fun and nostalgic, it evokes the feel of a summer blockbuster, making its release outside the summer season a pleasant surprise. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” provides classic Ghostbusters fun.— Jacob Aloi Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire trailer ‘The Invisible Fight’“The Invisible Fight” is a wildly unconventional film that plunges into the bizarre and vibrant scene of the 1970s USSR, where the premise is as outlandish as it is intriguing. The plot revolves around a Soviet soldier who survives an attack by a band of heavy metal Chinese bandits — a surreal setup that leaves him the lone survivor obsessed with Black Sabbath and Kung Fu.His journey takes him to an Eastern Orthodox Church where he trains as both a fighter and a holy man, blending martial arts with spiritual discipline. The film’s first 15 to 20 minutes are particularly striking, choreographed with the flair of a 1970s Shaw Brothers kung fu movie, yet infused with a heavy metal sensibility, thanks to a standout performance by Ursel Tilk, whose every move resonates with the extravagance of a 1980s hair metal video. While the energy tapers in the monastery scenes, the film retains a charming silliness and visual beauty, making it a must-watch for those who revel in cinematic oddities. “Invisible Fight,” with its blend of genres and stunning visuals, offers a beautifully shot, irresistibly weird viewing experience now available on streaming.— Max Sparber The Invisible Fight trailer
4/19/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss two MSPIFF documentaries, ‘No One Asked You’ and ‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’

Cube Critics Max Sparber and Alex V. Cipolle discuss documentaries featured at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, “No One Asked You” and “The Fishing Hat Bandit.” Plus a web- and podcast-only extra roundtable of other MSPIFF films, featuring Alex V. Cipolle, Caitlyn Speier and Jacob Aloi.The following are capsule reviews edited from the the audio heard using the player above.Click here.‘No One Asked You’“No One Asked You” is a compelling documentary about Minneapolis-born comedian Lizz Winstead — and film captures a quintessentially Minnesotan moment as Winstead visits the State Fair and looks at seed art.Known for co-founding “The Daily Show” and co-creating Air America Radio where she introduced Rachel Maddow, Winstead has increasingly focused on reproductive rights and abortion access. The narrative follows her touring show across the country, featuring cameos from the likes of Mark Hamill in support of clinic efforts. Set against the backdrop of the looming overturn of Roe v. Wade, the film intertwines humor with intrinsic drama, presenting tense confrontations at women’s health care clinics. Despite its comedic elements and lively direction — marked by a dynamic soundtrack and brisk editing — the film’s serious theme elicits both stress and tears, making it a profound, must-watch portrayal of a pivotal issue. Additionally, an afterparty fundraiser will accompany the film’s screening at MSPIFF on April 20 and 21, featuring a 1970s theme. — Max Sparber‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’“The Fishing Hat Bandit,” directed by local filmmaker Mark R. Brown, is set to make its world premiere at MSPIFF. This riveting documentary explores the life of John Whitrock, one of the most notorious bank robbers in recent history, who carried out 23 bank robberies over 18 months in Minnesota. The film picks up with Whitrock after his release from prison, delving into his motivations for his crimes and his subsequent efforts toward restorative justice. Uniquely, the documentary focuses as much on the victims as it does on Whitrock himself, featuring interviews with affected bank tellers and the bank director whose tip led to Whitrock’s arrest by the FBI. Not only is the film well-paced, running at about 90 minutes, but it also serves as a profound meditation on restorative justice, especially poignant in scenes where Whitrock meets with his victims. Adding a layer of engagement, Whitrock and Brown will attend the premiere, participating in a Q&A session. Audiences can catch this compelling narrative on April 19 and 20 at the Main, with an additional appearance by Whitrock in Rochester at the Pop’s Art Theater on April 21.— Alex V. Cipolle‘Broken Eyes’“Broken Eyes” is a compelling documentary by local director Dana Conroy, set to make its world premiere at the film festival. The film delves into the lesser-known risks of LASIK eye surgery through Conroy’s personal ordeal. After undergoing LASIK, Conroy experienced chronic pain, migraines, dizziness and auras that persisted for years despite consultations with numerous specialists across the country. Her subsequent research reveals that LASIK is not universally safe or effective, uncovering a community of patients similarly afflicted without recourse to effective treatments. This documentary shines a light on a widely recognized procedure, exposing the hidden complications and the lack of remedies, offering a critical look at an issue familiar to many yet understood by few. — Alex V. Cipolle‘Profe’“Profe,” directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu and distributed by Twin Cities Public Television, is set for an exciting world premiere at the festival. This documentary takes a deep dive into the challenges faced by two Spanish immersion schools in the Twin Cities — Academia Cesar Chavez and El Colegio — as they strive to renew their contracts with the University of St. Paul’s Education Department. The film offers a nuanced exploration of what it means to be a teacher in a Spanish immersion setting, emphasizing their dedication to cultivating well-rounded students. It highlights the teachers’ efforts to integrate cultural connections, language development and social awareness alongside traditional educational standards. Featuring insights from the directors and founders of the schools, "Profe" is highly recommended for those interested in the intersections of social movements and educational reform in Minneapolis and St. Paul. — Caitlyn Speier‘Bonjour Switzerland’“Bonjour Switzerland” is a must-see film that blends buddy cop dynamics with international spy comedy. Set against a backdrop of linguistic and cultural tension, the film imagines a Switzerland where a referendum has established French as the sole official language, despite it not being the most widely spoken. This scenario stirs significant discord among minority linguistic groups, particularly among Italian speakers in the southern part of the country. The story follows a police officer tasked with investigating a potential insurgent group in this region. The film excels in humorously exploring the notion of national identity and linguistic politics, showcasing the Swiss ability to satirize their complexities. “Bonjour Switzerland” is highly recommended for its clever narrative and insightful comedy, making it a standout in its genre. — Jacob Aloi‘Art for Everybody’“Art for Everybody” is a revealing documentary that delves into the life of Thomas Kinkade, widely recognized as the “Painter of Light.” Known for his idyllic and almost saccharine paintings of cottages, gardens and creeks, Kinkade is often regarded as a kitsch artist and a Christian art icon, intertwining evangelical themes with his artwork. However, the documentary presents a more complex portrait, exposing a darker aspect of his life that contrasts sharply with his public persona. It explores Kinkade’s struggles with depression and addiction, featuring profound interviews with his family members, particularly significant as Kinkade tragically died from an overdose a decade ago. “Art for Everybody” offers a nuanced look at an artist who was both celebrated and criticized, making it a must-watch for those interested in the interplay between an artist’s demons and their public acclaim. — Alex V. Cipolle‘Claire Facing North’“Claire Facing North” is a poignant narrative feature directed by Lynn Lukkas, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and filmed largely in the stunning landscapes of Iceland. This short film beautifully captures the bittersweet dynamics of an unlikely intergenerational friendship between Claire and Iris. Barbara Berlovitz delivers a delicate and emotionally resonant performance as Claire, who serves as the film’s emotional core. The film not only explores the depth and complexity of their relationship but also showcases breathtaking shots of Iceland, making it a visual feast. “Claire Facing North” is highly recommended for its artful storytelling and mesmerizing Icelandic scenery, promising an enriching cinematic experience. — Caitlyn Speier‘Name Me Lawand’“Name Me Lawand” is a deeply moving film that tells the story of a young Kurdish boy who is deaf and becomes a refugee in England. His family relocates so he can attend the Royal School for the Deaf, where he learns British Sign Language. This educational opportunity marks the first time he is given the ability to communicate, having been deprived of any language skills back in Iraq. The film explores multiple poignant themes: the refugee experience in a foreign land, the transformative power of communication and the societal challenges faced by the deaf community. Highlighting how deaf individuals are often treated as second-class citizens in many parts of the world, “Name Me Lawand” is a powerful narrative that illuminates the struggles and triumphs of gaining a voice. It is highly recommended for its profound insight into the importance of language and the human right to communicate.— Jacob Aloi
4/12/202410 minutes, 41 seconds
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Cube Critics review ‘Dream Scenario’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Alex V. Cipolle review “Dream Scenario” and “Kung Fu Panda 4.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR News senior arts reporter and critic Alex V. Cipolle: “Dream Scenario.”MPR News arts reporter Jacob Aloi: (Simultaneously) “Kung Fu Panda 4.”Both: 3.2.1.Cipolle: Mystic.Aloi: (Simultaneously) Dustin Hoffman? I feel like Nic Cage has been in a movie with Dustin Hoffman. They’ve both been around for so long.Cipolle: But what about panda stuff?Aloi: Nic Cage seems like a guy who would do panda stuff. Anyway, I’m Jacob Aloi.Cipolle: Alex V. Cipolle.Aloi: And this is Cube Critics.Aloi: So, Alex, this week you watched a movie that stars Nicolas Cage. Tell me about it.Cipolle: Yeah, I watched “Dream Scenario.” It is a surreal dark comedy from A24, came out in theaters in November, but it just became available streaming — you can rent it on several platforms.So Nicolas Cage plays Paul, a kind of dorky and middling college professor who is very desperate for recognition in his field. It starts when his tween daughter starts to dream about him.Well, not really him. Her dreams just feature him as a neutral observer, as weird things happen to her. But before long, more and more people start to dream about him. His students are dreaming about him, a waitress, a former girlfriend — but he’s always just sort of in the background. So the dreams spread. They go viral, and he becomes a sort of folk hero. But of course, this can’t end well. This is bad. He starts to turn violent in people’s dreams. The backlash ensues. He becomes a pariah. But keep in mind, he hasn’t actually done anything. Aloi: It’s all in people’s heads.Cipolle: It’s all in people’s heads. It’s really a cautionary tale about so many things: fame and who seeks it; mass hysteria; “cancel culture.” It really kind of feels like a Charlie Kaufman film, but it isn’t. Anyway, it’s a funny, disturbing, sad ride, I highly recommend it. "Dream Scenario" trailer What about you? Some panda stuff over here?Aloi: So, Alex V. Cipolle, I watched a film that, surprisingly, also deals with celebrity and expectations that people put on you — and then goes into, you know, big transitions in life when our careers change.And that movie is “Kung Fu Panda 4” starring Jack Black, as well as Awkwafina. And a whole host of other people, including Ke Huy Quan, the Oscar award winner from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”So this is a continuation of the Kung Fu Panda series, which is about a panda named Po, who is the Dragon Warrior, and how he is the protector of this valley and this village, and he’s kind of like this mystical fighting figure, this warrior. And in this film, he has been chosen as the next spiritual leader of this village, right? He’s been selected for this and has to pass on the mantle of Dragon Warrior.And it’s kind of a thing that screws to your psyche, a massive transition from being a warrior to being this kind of spiritual figure. And most of the film, though, is actually a buddy cop film between Jack Black’s Po and Awkwafina’s character, who’s actually a new character that’s been introduced into this franchise with this film.Cipolle: Good chemistry there?Aloi: Good chemistry, although I think it lacks some of the fun of the original series, like the original films. I grew up watching them. They came out when I was a kid. And this one, I think, lacks a little bit of the chemistry with the entire cast.But I will say, Viola Davis, who plays the villain, who’s this kind of trickster sorceress — she is deliciously evil. She’s fantastic. So not as good as the previous entries, but “Kung Fu Panda 4,” in theaters now. Kung Fu Panda 4 trailer
4/5/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Damsel’ and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’

Cube Critics Matt Mikus and Aron Woldeslassie review “Damsel” and “Love Lies Bleeding.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.Click here.MPR News associate producer Aron Woldeslassie: Matt, I gotta ask: How did you end up surviving the two-day snowstorm?MPR News digital producer Matt Mikus: Eating lots of very warm food. Also had to shovel a lot which was kind of a pain.Woldeslassie: I’m Aron Woldeslassie. Mikus: I’m Matt Mikus. Woldeslassie: And this is Cube Critics.Matt, I’m told you watched a new film on Netflix.Mikus: Yeah, I got to see “Damsel.” It’s on Netflix. It’s basically a fantasy adventure kind of movie that flips the script in a way that’s really enjoyable. It stars Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie and basically, she’s a princess who agrees to a marriage to save their kingdom. It doesn’t really go into the details — you don’t need that. But what happens is, it turns out the marriage is just a ploy to throw her into a dragon’s lair to satisfy some kind of revenge plot of the dragon. But Elodie — she is having none of it. She decides she’s just going to find a way out, survive and pretty much take her revenge on the family that threw her into the pit. So a lot of fun. There are some weird plot points that were kind of confusing, like how do you trick a dragon for generations with the same ploy. But overall, a lot of fun. And it’s kind of cool to see a movie where the damsel isn’t going to be saved by some white knight riding on a white horse.Woldeslassie: I ended up watching something very different. Although also female-led, which I’m happy about. I ended up watching “Love Lies Bleeding.” It’s in theaters now. The story follows a gym manager and an aspiring bodybuilder falling in love. And as as their romance develops, they are plagued by both their past as well as their desired future. This movie is very violent and very gruesome. But it does something very sweet in terms of highlighting intimacy and sentimentality — through ultraviolence. This film stars Kristen Stewart, who you probably know from her work in “Twilight” and “Adventureland,” and other great works, as well as a new star, Katy O’Brian, who stars as the bodybuilder in the film — she does a great job in it too. The two of them fall in love in this very organic, very sincere and beautiful way. And throughout the film, you can see their love getting plagued by what is essentially gang violence, drugs and outside desire. “Love Lies Bleeding” has a great director behind it, Rose Glass, who gives us so many incredible moments — directed through highlighted light as well as what I only describe as magical realism. The moments that seem impossible but are actually happening in front of your eyes. I’m going to tell you to check out “Love Lies Bleeding,” as it is a great love story that is highlighted by some fantastic gruesome moments. Check it out now, it’s in theaters.
3/29/20243 minutes, 20 seconds
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Cube Critics review ‘Shōgun’ and ‘The Regime’

Cube Critics Regina Medina and Alex V. Cipolle review “Shōgun” and “The Regime.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.Click here.MPR News senior arts reporter and critic Alex V. Cipolle: Why did you want to watch this show in the first place? Like, what what drew you into it?MPR News correspondent Regina Medina: It wasn’t even the trailer. It was, like, what’s going on here?Cipolle: I’m Alex V. Cipolle.Medina: I’m Regina MedinaCipolle: And this is Cube Critics.Regina, what did you watch this week?Medina: I watched a show called “Shōgun” on Hulu, which is a 10-part miniseries that is based on the book by James Clavell called “Shōgun,” which was also a 1980s miniseries. It takes place in late 16th-century feudal Japan. And it’s a historical drama that is very sweeping and epic, and it involves political intrigue, and, really, to tell you the truth, I’m not grasping half of what’s going on here — but I love it.Hiroyuki Sanada, who you've seen in “Avengers: Endgame” and “Lost,” he plays Lord Toranaga, our lead protagonist — and his rivals are trying to get ahold of him, trying to eliminate him from the group. Anyway, what’s my point? My point is, the production design is gorgeous. The Japanese landscape is gorgeous. And if you just want fun, here it is. Cipolle: So, I also watched a show that deals in political intrigue, except the show I watched was a satire. So it is called “The Regime.” It’s a mini-series on HBO Max starring Kate Winslet and, wow, does she just take the reins of the show and run with it.Medina: Don’t doubt it. Cipolle: It is in the form of a sort-of head-of-state show. So it’s got some commonalities with the “The West Wing” and even “Veep.” Like, it has a lot of “Veep” — another HBO show.Kate Winslet plays Madame Chancellor, the head of state of a place only identified as “Middle Europe,” a small country that could be Germany, it could be Hungary, we don’t really know. But it’s sort of this alternative universe. And this show pulls from basically every head of state you can think of — she is Hillary Clinton. She is Trump. She is Putin. MedinaL She’s a lot of people.Cipolle: Angela Merkel. She even compares herself to Charlemagne.It could have been a really muddy mix of trying to do too much, but instead, it’s taking all these ingredients and doing something entirely new with it. I’ve never seen her display her comedic chops quite like this. She does this crazy, sort-of British version of a mid-Atlantic accent. It’s both posh and strange at the same time.Anyway, HBO Max — highly recommend.
3/22/20243 minutes, 9 seconds
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Cube Critics argue about ‘Airbender’ on Netflix

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Kyra Miles disagree about Netflix’s live-action “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.Click here.MPR News reporter Jacob Aloi: You can say “half-assed,” “you can say “kick-ass,” you can say “worked my ass off,” you just can’t say [BEEP] like, or refer to your [BEEP]. And with that, my name is Jacob Aloi. MPR early education reporter Kyra Miles: And I’m Kyra Miles.Aloi: And this is Cube Critics.So Kyra Miles, thank you for coming back on Cube Critics. This week we both watched the live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” on Netflix. It’s adapted from the beloved animated series of the same name, which tells the story of Aang, The Last Airbender, who is picked as this mystical sort-of shaman sort-of otherworldly being called The Avatar, who is destined to save the world from being overtaken by the Fire Nation. Miles: Boo!Aloi: Yes, boo the Fire Nation, they are an imperial Force that needs to be stopped in the world of “Avatar.”I will say that when the series started, back in the day, the animated series, I did not watch most of it. I was actually just not interested. It just wasn’t for me. I don’t know why.Miles: For shame, for shame.Aloi: But I will say with this live-action adaptation, I really enjoyed it. It was so fun. I really think that it held true to what I remember from the animated series. I think that the acting was fairly good. I thought that, sure, it was a little scrungly sometimes with the budget, but overall, I thought it was enjoyable and actually made me want to watch the animated series. But I will say, I think you might have a different take, being a fan of the animated series.Miles: Okay, first of all, the fact that you’re reviewing an adaptation and haven’t seen the source material is crazy.Aloi: I’ve seen some of the source material, just not all.Miles: It’s crazy. Um, it was not as bad as I thought — I went in wanting to hate it. And I still kind of do. But it wasn’t that bad. I agree that the budget, the money, did not reflect the quality that I was expecting. I will say that the acting was clunky. The costumes were giving cosplay. They weren’t shooting on set. We saw a lot of green screen in this “Avatar” live-action. It was a bit half-assed and I already was skeptical because the original creators did leave the production halfway through, we remember that. But, overall, what I did like about it was that I think it had a nice backstory. It explained more about the backstory than we got in the animated version. I think having it live-action, we were really able to see the atrocities of war. We were really able to see like, oh, people are being burned alive. Oh, the world is at war. But I also think that what makes the original show so beloved, and so good to rewatch again and again — even as an adult — is that it has those light moments and it still lets the kids be kids. I think when it’s live action, and you see, like you said, the atrocities of the war and everything that’s going on, it’s hard for it to stay light. And I think the animated version is able to give that balance better than the adaptation was able to.That’s why I said I just need to figure out who’s the audience for this. I don’t know.
3/15/20243 minutes, 58 seconds
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Cube Critics review ‘Cube Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Jenny Slate: Seasoned Professional’

Cube Critics Alex V. Cipolle and Aron Woldeslassie discuss the final season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and a new comedy special from Jenny Slate.The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cube-critics/id525807831?mt=2MPR News senior reporter and critic Alex V. Cipolle: Richard Lewis recently passed. And he is, crazy enough, buried in Roseville.MPR associate producer Aron Woldeslassie: Do we know his Minnesota connection? Did he just enjoy the city of Roseville?Cipolle: I would love that. I think his wife is originally from here and bought plots there.Woldeslassie: Okay, I’m imagining him going to the AMC and going like I gotta get buried here. It’s so good.Cipolle: I’m Alex V. Cipolle. Woldeslassie: And I’m Aron Woldeslassie.Cipolle: And this is Cube Critics.Speaking of Richard Lewis, I am currently watching the final season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the brainchild of Larry David, who is the co-creator of “Seinfeld.“And it’s really touching because Richard Lewis plays a large part of this season. I mean, he’s been in it since the beginning — it started in 2001 — and one of the funniest bits of the season so far is Richard Lewis going to AA, which he attends with Larry David’s girlfriend, played by Tracey Ullman. And he starts using AA as a sort of comedy club set, a place to workshop his ideas and he starts talking about it in terms of like, I’m gonna do a tight five or tight 10 or another AA member, he’s like, they opened for me today. So it’s a pretty funny send-off for him.Woldeslassie: How charmingly abusive. Cipolle: Absolutely. And, like, narcissistic. But that was kind of the heart of what Richard Lewis did. And, you know, it’s also just a classic season filled with all the petty confrontations that Larry David the curmudgeon gets into, and some of the star cast is still there like Ted Danson, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, J. B. Smoove. And I really think it’s going out on a high note. And I feel like it might end up the same way that “Seinfeld” did with kind of a final episode that’s a trial. I think Larry David is doing it out of spite because people did not like that finale.Woldeslassie: “Seinfeld” diehards will know that “Seinfeld” ended on a very contentious episode that a lot of people didn’t like, including myself.Cipolle: I liked the finale personally, but yes, it was very divisive. And I really recommend this season — going out on a high note on HBO Max.Woldeslassie: If you’re interested in some comedy that feels a little bit less final might I suggest Jenny Slate’s second stand-up special ”Seasoned Professional” on Amazon Prime In this special, Slate covers everything that went on in her life during the pandemic: love, marriage, pregnancy and therapy. You probably remember Slate from her work in “Marcel the Shell,” “Big Mouth” and obviously “Parks and Rec,” where she was such a great member.Cipolle: The best!Woldeslassie: And her one season on “Saturday Night Live,” which she briefly alludes to in this special.Slate has this very charming, childish energy that feels similar to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” And in that, she’s kind of making fun of a certain type of silliness and we’re all kind of just enjoying this exuberance and at the same time, you’re also enjoying the multiple cuts to the left she takes with her gross-out humor. Slate is a member of alt-comedy and because of that, I don’t think her humor is for everyone. I definitely think you should check this out if you’re looking for some weeknight watching. It’s a good time. “Seasoned Professional” on Amazon Prime
3/8/20243 minutes, 54 seconds
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Cube Critics review ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ and ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’

Cube Critics Max Sparber and Aron Woldeslassie discuss a quirky Ethan Coen film, “Drive-Away Dolls” and a unique adaptation of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” as a series; plus, performer Bill Irwin’s deep dive into Samuel Beckett’s legacy, connecting vaudeville to the playwright’s profound influence.The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or RSS.MPR Arts Editor Max Sparber: Aron, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the movie, starred Angelina Jolie, didn’t it?MPR Associate Producer Aron Woldeslassie: And Brad Pitt, but she carries it. Sparber: And the movie that I saw is a Coen Brothers film, who also wrote a movie for Angelina Jolie. So that’s kind of the theme for this weekend. Woldeslassie: Oh, yeah. Angelina Jolie-adjacent. I enjoy that. Sparber: And with that, I’m Max Sparber Woldeslassie: And I’m Aron Woldeslassie.Sparber: And this is Cube Critics.Aron, I watched a film called “Drive-Away Dolls,” in theaters now. It’s a film by Minnesota’s own Ethan Coen, without his usual partner, his brother Joel. It was co-written with his wife, film editor Tricia Cooke. And it’s loosely based on her own experiences, going to lesbian bars and that sort of thing when she was younger. It is a lesbian road trip crime film, you don’t see a lot of those and it tells of two friends who take the wrong car and definitely the wrong trip. They’re chased across the country by two goofy goons, which gives a sense of the tone of the film. It’s a very silly film. The Coen Brothers occasionally write movies for other people, and it’s not generally their best work, but it can be entertaining. Some examples of the ones that I don’t particularly like are “Intolerable Cruelty,” which was intended for Ron Howard, and “Ladykillers,” which was intended for Barry Sonnenfeld. And they also wrote “Unbroken,” which was directed by Angelina Jolie. But some of these films, even if they’re not their best, are fitfully enjoyable, and sometimes go on to be cult films. I’d compare this with one of the better ones, a film called “Crime Wave” from 1985, which I think I’m the only person who has ever seen. This is similarly silly, loud, cartoonish, frenzied, wild and I recommended it. “Drive-Away Dolls” in theaters today.Woldeslassie: I have to ask, do you see this becoming another gem and the Coen discography,Sparber: I think it might go on to become a cult film, which sometimes happens with Coen Brothers films.Woldeslassie: Well, if it doesn't become a cult film, maybe it’ll get remade into a series, which is what happened with “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the series I ended up watching this week. This series is based on “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the movie that came out in 2005. The movie follows a married couple, as they inevitably find out that they’re secret agents and try to kill each other. The series goes in a different direction. It follows two strangers who land a job as spies, who are then forced to get married and work together. The two slowly fall in love and we get to see them descend into madness, as well as romance. “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” stars Donald Glover, who we obviously know from “Atlanta,” as well as Childish Gambino. What a weird thing to say. And Maya Erskine, who you will absolutely know from her incredible work in “Pen15.” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is eight episodes of odd romance, where you where you think action and violence would be a great way to punctuate this series. It’s actually the love and the intimate details of two people slowly intertwining with each other. And with that comes the insecurity of opening yourself up well, as well as the danger of two spies opening themselves up. I really love this series, it did a great job of forcing us to understand all of the dangerous conflicts that come with two people melding together. I’m going to absolutely tell you to watch this series. It’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” on Amazon.Sparber: This is Cube Critic and MPR News, arts editor Max Sparber with a Cube Critics extra. This week, I did a story on the play “On Beckett” at the Guthrie Theater, which stars legendary actor and clown Bill Irwin.I also did an interview with Irwin in advance of the show and I’m including audio from that in this podcast. Please enjoy.Bill Irwin: I’m not entirely good at defining or describing “On Beckett.” I hope what people will see when they come to the Guthrie is an actor still on fire, with fascination with this one writer’s work. It just grabs me. It haunts me and won’t let me go and never has the last 40 years.And it’s still a mystery to me. Even though to my great surprise, people are starting to refer to me as an expert or a master interpreter, I think, no, I’m not sure that describes me. But I am somebody who’s absolutely haunted by this writer’s writing — in good and bad ways. And I bring that to the stage every time we do “On Beckett” there at the Guthrie. Here’s the interesting thing. Sometimes people say, well, wait a minute, clown traditions and baggy pants, vaudeville tradition and Samuel Beckett, what do they have to do with each other? And other people say, well, that makes perfect sense, those two angles. In my mind, there’s an absolute connection.Beckett loved film, early film. He was born in the early part of the 20th century. His was the first generation to come of age with motion pictures in their psyche. Nobody, no generation before that had. He was fascinated with the great silent comedians. He wanted to be a filmmaker at one point in his life. And his family also went off into the variety theater. You know, you read Samuel Beckett’s letters, they're talking about, yes, we’ve booked tickets to see the so-and-so brothers. So he was knowledgeable about what Americans would tend to call vaudeville, but variety stage artists, as well as Proust, Goethe, Shakespeare and any other human being who ever wrote a written word document.Beckett had a kind of a weird, omnivorous appetite and it seemed a sort of photographic memory so that he’s almost always riffing on one or two or more writers when he’s writing his own work. Beckett writes, almost willfully, difficult, like, you know, this isn’t going to be easy, and then you’ll suddenly give a character an almost essay-like polished phrase. And that is a beautiful example:“They give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”
3/1/20246 minutes, 37 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Madame Web’ and ‘The Iron Claw’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Sam Stroozas discuss “Madame Web” and “The Iron Claw.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or RSS.MPR News Art Reporter Jacob Aloi: This movie was so horrible, like I can’t even like begin to describe how much I hated this movie, and I paid money to see it. And with that, my name is Jacob Aloi. MPR News Digital Producer Sam Stroozas: And I’m Sam Stroozas. Aloi: And this is the Cube Critics.So. Sam, this week I saw “Madame Web,” which is the newest addition to the Sony Spider-Man universe. Now, this is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s produced by Sony and made by Sony. And the reason why it’s not part of the MCU is because there’s some legal dealings with who owns the rights to who can make movies about Spider-Man and characters associated with Spider-Man. So anyway, this is part of the “Venom” universe, the horrible “Morbius” movie that’s part of this universe as well. And this one is called “Madame Web.” It stars Dakota Johnson as a woman named Cassie Webb, who gains powers through mystical means, and she gains the ability to see the future and is tasked with saving three high schoolers — who may get powers in the future — from being murdered by an evil billionaire, I think. This movie was confusing and bad. I’m just going to say it, it was pretty terrible. It very much reminds me of “Morbius” and all of those horrible Spider-Man Sony movies. There’s nothing really redeeming about it other than it’s a fun hate-watch. The CGI is terrible. The audio is terrible. Everything about it from beginning to end is really rough and hard to watch. So “Madame Web,” in theaters if you are a glutton for punishment. Stroozas: So, I’m talking about a movie that I did see a month ago, but it’s definitely one that I’m still thinking of: “The Iron Claw.” So it is a true story of a family of wrestlers in the 1980s. It stars Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White. I feel like Zach did amazing. I’ve known he has been a star since “High School Musical” — one, two and three. And I just feel like he’s finally getting a lot of recognition. The soundtrack was really great. I’ve had it on repeat, lots of vibes like “Tom Sawyer” by Rush.I don’t really care about sports that much, obviously. But immediately I was sucked into the whole movie. It is just this beautiful narrative of brothers and family. And what it kind of means to have toxic masculinity rule your life so much. And to kind of decide how things have to work out not — only in your personal life, but also in your professional life. I’ve seen a lot of people compare it to kind of a “Little Women” or “Virgin Suicides,” but for men. So I feel like that tracks a lot because I feel like a lot of people don’t understand what those movies feel like. But this is a really good example of just the masculinity. And so many people in the theater were just crying. It was a very intimate and personal movie. And for me, it was really disappointing that Zac was not nominated for any awards because I think it really did solidify his career in my eyes. And again, it was very beautiful. I think people that know more about wrestling than me will understand it a bit more, but I still had a great time.
2/23/20244 minutes, 28 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Finding Her Beat’ and ‘Marmalade’; plus an interview with drummer Jennifer Weir

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss “Finding Her Beat” and “Marmalade.” Plus a Cube Critics extra: An interview with taiko drummer Jennifer Weir.The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR News Arts Editor Max Sparber: Jacob, what did you see?MPR News Arts Reporter Jacob Aloi: Okay, hang on, wait! Max Sparber! And with that, I’m Jacob Aloi.Sparber: And I’m Max Sparber. Both: This is Cube Critics!Aloi: So, Max, I watched a documentary this week called “Finding Her Beat,” which was actually filmed largely here in Minnesota, about an event that took place in Minnesota. Sparber: Nice. Aloi: It’s about taiko drumming. Now for some context, taiko drumming is a Japanese art form that traditionally only men are allowed to be taiko drummers. But there has been a movement of women and nonbinary people that want to be recognized for their contributions to the art form. And in 2020, there was a concert that was put on locally and it was produced and sort of artistically directed by Jennifer Weir, who is the executive director of a local taiko group called TaikoArts Midwest. The film kind of follows this Avengers-style collection of the best minds of taiko women and nonbinary individuals who have been drumming in Taiko. And they put on this concert. It follows the ups and downs and all of the stress that comes with doing it, and also the stress of the looming threat of COVID. It was filmed right up to it. So I highly recommend it. It is available widely on Amazon Prime Video for rent or to buy. Sparber: Local filmmakers?Aloi: Yes, local filmmakers Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett were the co-directors.Sparber: Jacob, I also saw a film that was lensed locally. This is a work of fiction. It is the first film directed by an actor, Keir O’Donnell, and you probably know him best as Todd in “The Wedding Crashers” — he’s the arty younger brother. This is a result of something that is called Snowbate. It’s a tax credit offered to filmmakers that existed for a while and then didn’t — and now is back. And like a lot of Minnesota-filmed movies, you don’t necessarily know that it’s in Minnesota, like, Minnesota is just available as a set. It’s sort of a general regional film. Everybody’s got Southern accents for some reason. That being said, I don’t really care if I know it’s in Minnesota. I just like the fact that we’re making movies here. The film stars Joe Keery, probably best known as The Haircut from “Stranger Things.” He was also on this year’s season of “Fargo” and he was great in it — another Minnesota connection. Let me tell you the plot: The film starts off amiably. It’s about a manic pixie dream girl, but what if she’s a criminal — and a very dangerous criminal. But I will say it starts getting twisty about half an hour in and then just gets twistier and twistier. And sometimes I don’t really like twists in movies. But this time, it really works. First of all, it’s really good at the twists — you think you know where it’s going, and you are guessing wrong every time. And secondly, each of the twists actually make the film deeper, weirder and more fun. And so I love that. Again, the film is called “Marmalade.” It's in several Marcus theaters locally, and it’s also available on streaming.Aloi: Hey, I’m Jacob Aoi, and I’m one of the Cube Critics. I have two things I wanted to add really quickly to this podcast version of Cube Critics. One, Max talks about a Minnesota tax credit that exists here that is meant to entice filmmakers to come to Minnesota to shoot movies. There’s actually an article all about that from one of our reporters here at MPR News, Feven Gerezgiher. You can check that out on our website. And two, I actually did an interview with one of the subjects of the documentary that I watched, “Finding Her Beat,” Jennifer Weir — she was also one of the producers on the project. And I talked to her about how she got into taiko and what it was like to be the subject of a documentary.Jennifer Weir: I grew up as a Korean adoptee in North Dakota and really didn’t have any references for Asian American culture at all. And so when I moved to the Twin Cities to pursue a theater career in my young early 20s, I met Rick Shiomi. And he rolled out a taiko drum at a Theater Mu event and played for, you know, 45 seconds. And I just thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. And so at that time, a group of us begged Rick to teach us. Like, teach us what this is, this is so cool. And the story goes that he was very reluctant because he knew how hard it was and how much work it took. So he thought, “Ah, actors are lazy. I’ll give a six-week class and they'll go away and see how hard it is.” But it really stuck.I’ve said, like, I don’t really have any cultural claim to taiko but taiko really claimed me. And from then on, I just grew and fell in love with it and wanted to learn more about it and wanted to expand my skills. And so I kind of just grew up and found my adulthood through Asian American theater and through taiko drumming. Aloi: The documentary “Finding Her Beat” documents the process of putting on this concert that happened in 2020 — verging on when COVID really took over. And it talks about the history of, you know, the wanting to have this kind of collection of the great minds of taiko that are not men, right? And could you just explain a little bit about the history of women and nonbinary people being in taiko. Because you think about, like, traditionally how taiko has been performed. And it’s traditionally performed by men.Weir: Yeah, I would say going back thousands of years in Japanese culture, they thought these drums were a great way to speak to the gods. And so the only person who should be the intermediary would be a male. And so that tradition just kind of stuck for way, way, way too long. And so, generally, women weren’t allowed to draw more if they are, they were like more in an accessory, off to the side playing an instrument, or dancing kind of position. And so that continued for hundreds of years. And it was really only in recent decades that that’s flipped. And then when it did flip, it flipped dramatically. And now I would say over 60 percent of taiko drummers are women. And so in terms of participation, now, everywhere you go, you see women play taiko drums — it’s awesome. But what didn’t shift, and what still needs to shift more is equity. And that’s like every other field, where you make these inroads, you get people at the table, but they don’t really have the power, they’re not paid the same, they don’t have the same promotion, the same kind of opportunities. They’re not part of the narrative in the same way. And so that change is really what Her Beat, the concert, was about trying to address — and the film as well. And knowing, of course, we’re a part of a larger movement and the #MeToo movement was happening. And, you know, it’s just time for people in the margins to step forward and really claim their space. Some of my heroes, like the people that I think are the coolest drummers on earth, were people who for decades weren’t allowed to drum. Like, they were allowed to practice, they were allowed to teach, but they weren’t allowed allowed to perform. And I think it’s more challenging in Japan than here, because gender roles are a little bit different there. But even the ways that you drum in terms of who’s playing the biggest, most powerful drumming. That, again, has traditionally been men — and women now are becoming power drummers, thanks to people like Tiffany Tamaribuchi, and more. But then we get to define power on our own terms, instead of just being like, Oh, we can play as well as the men. How about power can look different? It really was her dream to have this Avengers-style gathering. And she shared that dream with me. And then I just, I kind of shared it with the right people who said yes. And then once I got a couple of yeses, like folks at the Ordway, or the Knight Foundation, people who wanted to fund this idea, then suddenly what seemed like a pipe dream was possible. And it was happening, even faster than I was ready for. So I got to thank people all along the way, who supported this idea.Aloi: You know, with this documentary, also, there’s a lot of vulnerable moments. It’s a very intimate documentary, right? We see people get sick, we see certainly your marriage — and I should say that your wife is featured in the documentary as well.Weir: And our daughter. Aloi: And so there’s a lot of really, I mean, lovely intimate moments, but also moments that I think a lot of people would be afraid to have in a documentary. And so what was that experience like? Having yourself be kind of the subject of the documentary while also being the one who’s producing the documentary and producing the concert — and also part of this long lineage of women trying to get recognition in the Taiko world? Weir: Well, I would say that thankfully, I was so busy that that was really the last of my concerns. It is a very strange feeling to have cameras in your home, in your kitchen, in your bedroom. But it is because I have such trust in the co-directors, Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett.One thing that Keri and Dawn decided early in this film was their approach. And they decided to approach this in a cinéma vérité style, which, I learned as we went, means it’s a fly on the wall. They don’t come in with a pre-ordained idea of what’s going to happen or how they’re going to shoot it. They don’t set you aside and, you know, ask interviews and take questions and do things like that. They just follow the action where it is. They show up with such artistry and integrity, and you know that they see you and they believe you and they’re supporting you. They’re not trying to catch you in a gotcha moment. They’re trying to celebrate who you are, and share your passion with other people. So there was sort of this, it’s not like people came from the outside, and were like, we’re gonna do this documentary. And, you know, we’re coming to your house at this time. It’s like, these are people that are embedded in my community. Dawn, I’ve known for decades. And Keri, I got to know him through the film. But they have shared values. Like, for example, it was Dawn and Keri’s vision that every person who worked on this film crew was either female, nonbinary, Asian, queer, or a combination thereof. And that’s really unusual, they worked really hard to seek those people out and to promote and elevate them as well. And so what happened is everyone who was working on this film, had skin in the game, like they felt like it was their story, because they connected to the people in front of the camera and vice versa. So it became this extended family where we’re all eating together, and we’re all exhausted together. And we’re all getting sick together. And so I think that was a really rare thing to be living in that bubble for a while. Aloi: Is there anything else you want to say about the documentary, about taiko, about, you know, your work within the world of taiko, or anything connected to this experience, having very cool moment in taiko history documented in film?Weir: I just feel very grateful. I feel very excited because I think for many people, taiko is relatively unknown still. And I just want more people to fall in love with it and to try it and taiko has such a healing, connecting empowering energy around it. And I think we need more of that. And I think this film, you know, I think, in some ways, it celebrates what I love about people, people who get doors slammed in their face, and they still show up, and they still bring their heart, their biggest heart, and all of their artistry forward and they keep going and going and going. It’s so stunning. I don’t know how people do it and how they keep that faith, you know, and I feel like this is a film for the underdog. So in that way, I’m just so proud of it. And I want people to see it. I want people to fall in love with taiko and I want there to be a whole generation of taiko drummers that that come up the ranks.
2/16/202412 minutes, 32 seconds
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Cube Critics talk about ‘Argylle’ and ‘Meat Raffle’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss “Argylle” and “Meat Raffle.” Plus a Cube Critics extra: An interview with “Meat Raffle” filmmaker Aimee Chenal.The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR Arts Reporter Jacob Aloi: I’m Jacob Aloi MPR Arts Editor Max Sparber: And I’m Max Sparber.Aloi: And you’re listening to Cube Critics.Sparber: Cube Critics.Aloi: And then the (hums theme music)Sparber: Music starts. We dance.Aloi: So, Max Sparber, this week I saw “Argylle.” It is a new spy action comedy that was directed by Matthew Vaughn and it was written by Jason Fuchs. And it stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell and Henry Cavill. Basically, Bryce Dallas Howard does her best J. K. Rowling impersonation as an espionage spy novelist — has the haircut and everything. And she gets swept up into a real-world espionage case. Because while she’s been writing these books, it’s mirrored a lot of real-life things that have happened. Sparber: So psychic, or perhaps spy-chic.Aloi: Exactly. So she gets swept up into this case that’s unfurling in front of her. And there’s a lot of twists and turns. I will say, though, that while I’m a fan of things that are mediocre — I’m a big believer that things don’t have to be great to be enjoyed — this was a little too mediocre for me. I think that the cast is great, but I think they’re underutilized. And there’s some people specifically that are a little underutilized. And if you go to see the movie, you might agree. And there’s a twist in it, but the twist kind of seems like it comes from a mile away. Some of the shots are really great. And then some of them felt a little too campy. You know, I think some camp can work in a movie like this, but there’s one, particularly, towards the end of the film where there’s a lot of bright colors and it was just an off-putting mess for me, personally. But if you do like that kind of comic book style that shows up in films like “The Kingsman” or its sequel, I think that you might enjoy “Argylle” — so check it out in theaters now. Sparber: Jacob. Are you familiar with meat raffles?Aloi: Yeah, I’m familiar with meat raffles. Yeah. Sparber: They are when you go to a bar, give some money and you get a massive amount of meat if you win. Well, there’s a horror comedy movie called “Meat Raffle.” It is set in Burnett County, Wis., which is just an hour and a half from here. It had its Minnesota debut at the Parkway Theater a couple of nights ago.It was created by someone named Aimee Chenal, who wrote, directed and starred in it. Although it was co-directed by Minnesotan, Shawn Engelmann, who is responsible for a really fun web series that I recommend looking up called “Creepy Acres.” It’s a horror horror-themed puppet show. Subscribe to Cube Critics I will tell you this film is not technically polished. It kind of reminds me of a lot of movies that came out in the 2010s that were independently filmed and made by people who are enthusiastic; had more enthusiasm than a great deal of skill under their belt — but a lot of imagination, a lot of creativity and a lot of fun. So if you have problems with stuff that’s not technically polished, this might not be right for you. But if you're looking for a film that is very entertaining nonetheless, I do recommend it. It’s made up of community theater actors and sometimes feels like it but it is also the most Wisconsin film ever made. It’s a film about hunting, playing bar games and eating other people, which is a huge theme in Wisconsin storytelling. And made me feel nostalgic for those kinds of movies. I really forgot how much I liked them. Aloi: It had a charm to it.Sparber: It has a real charm to it. So again, the film is called “Meat Raffle.” Go to their Facebook page to look for future screenings. I don’t know if they have any immediately on the horizon but they will be coming around again and — yeah, check it out.Sparber: This is Cube Critic Max Sparber and I’m here to let you know that we’re doing a little podcast extra. I did a phone interview with a couple of the people from the movie “Meat Raffle” that I talked about this week. And so you’re gonna hear a little bit of director, writer and star Aimee Chenal talking about the reasons for making the movie and how she went about doing it.Aimee Chenal: The movie was filmed an hour and a half from Minneapolis, in a small town, called Frederic, it’s essentially where a lot of different shots take place. It's about 1200 people. And it's about 25 minutes from St. Croix. I actually grew up going to the bar that a lot of the scenes were shot and worked there as well. I was a bartender there for about two years after I was living in Los Angeles. I never even thought that I would be coming home from Los Angeles in the first place. But I had a lot of experience waiting tables and bartending and found myself at home. And I was like, Well, what better way to make money. I moved back from L.A., I was, you know, an adult now, because I spent my 20s there pursuing a career as an actress. And when I found myself at home, working at the bar, I was introduced to what a meat raffle is, and I’ve never experienced that, in my life, like people kind of gambling around this meat, you know, and sort of like revolving their life schedules around these raffles. And, you know, I was at a stage in my life where I was really interested in people and character. And when I first left L.A., I was like, oh, no, you know, I’m not going to be able to pursue my dream and like, there are more characters in Wisconsin. And so like, I’m so fascinated by this, sort of like, meat raffle idea. Because I was like, why, you know, what's the big deal? First of all, what’s the big deal with meat too, like, I’m a vegetarian. So I was kind of also fascinated about how people were, you know, eating so much meat, and like, Where does the meat come from? And I found out later in life, that meat comes from factory farms. That was really, like, disturbing to me. And I wanted to, like, use the film, you know, as a sort of a political satire to kind of call everybody out on certain conscious issues that bother me. And so, I decided to use, you know, sort of the political weather, I guess you could say, that’s been going on the last few years. And how kind of polarized that is, to saying like, well, if we’re going to be, you know, unconsciously eating meat like this, like we might as well be eating people.
2/9/20246 minutes, 46 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Lukas Levin discuss their differing opinions about the Disney+ series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR Producer Lukas Levin: The main difference between this and Harry Potter is that Harry Potter maintains a lot of whimsy.MPR Arts Reporter Jacob Aloi: So, Lukas, this week we both watched “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” which is an adaptation of the popular book series by Rick Riordan, which tells a story of a boy named Percy who steals Zeus’s lightning bolt, and then over the course of the series has to prove that he did not steal that lightning bolt, at least this first season. I really enjoyed it. I thought it actually captured quite well the whimsy and the fun of the books that I grew up reading. I also think that it was it encapsulated how middle schoolers actually talk to themselves and actually act. The thing I had to keep reminding myself is that I’m a 20-something-year-old single man with no children. But if I did have kids, and I was the age that I was, or even older, I actually think that I would have really enjoyed watching this with my children. So I really enjoyed it. I think that it’s a fun family show that everyone could find something to enjoy. And you can check it out on Disney+, but I feel like you have different thoughts, Lukas? Subscribe: Cube Critics Podcast Levin: Well, I just think that for a young adult adaption — most people who read young adult novels are not young adults. A lot of them are, but there’s a lot of people who are of an older age, like us, that want to see something adapted from a book that is beloved, into a TV show. And I just think that this sort of misses the mark. It just sort of takes everything from the book, and condenses it to a point where the character development, the arcs, the jokes, everything just feels very lobbed off in a way. And you know, as much as you think that an eight-episode series arc would work, it just does not seem to hit its head or hit its stride, really, It starts out strong. I remember reading the books also in third grade, or just as a young adult. And I remember reading the books and seeing the first couple of episodes, I was like, wow, this really is hitting it. And then, like the final episode, it just sort of starts strong and falls down on its face. You know, just because it's for young people or because it’s designed that way, I don’t think it means that has to be bad. I don’t necessarily think that this was bad. But I think that it could have used another rewrite. Aloi: Well, here’s the thing that I think about it. What I actually enjoyed about it is that Rick Riordan was actually involved in that process. The guy who wrote the books was actually heavily involved in writing the series.Levin: I was surprised by that. I was excited to see that. Aloi: And what I liked about it, though, is that it did not feel like it was a one-for-one adaptation. It felt like it was Percy Jackson 2.0. Levin: Right.Aloi: He was able to change some things, he was, like, I would prefer it to be this way. I’d prefer for this scene to take place over here. Levin: Right. Aloi: Here’s an interesting conflict to happen.Levin: But for the things that were adapted — I would say most of the things that were changed were almost minor. Like I wouldn’t say there was major changes. I would say that the adaption was like, it was like, oh, that scene didn’t happen where it usually happens or that scene didn’t happen here. Aloi: But I think that it helped with some of the character development and I should say the kids are great in this. I think that they’re actually really good child actors. Levin: Sure. I think I think they needed more help from the writing and directing team.Aloi: That — perhaps, sure.
2/2/20243 minutes, 55 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss ‘Echo’ and ‘Wild At Heart’

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss “Echo” and “Wild At Heart.” Plus a Cube Critics extra: An interview with the Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Gary Batton.The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR News Arts Editor Max Sparber: Howdy Howdy.MPR News Arts Reporter Jacob Aloi: I don’t know what we should do for our little — Oh! Oscars! We should talk about the Oscars. So you know, the Oscars nominations just came out.Sparber: I do know that they came out.Aloi: And we’re not going to talk about any of that.Sparber: Nope. Aloi: So Max Sparber. This week, I watched “Echo.” It is the new Marvel mini-series that’s on Disney Plus about Maya Lopez, who’s a Choctaw superhero. And she’s working to take down criminal kingpin Wilson Fisk while trying to repair some familial ties that have been fractured. And she’s also dealing with the echoes of her past her ancestors that are giving her her supernatural powers. Sparber: Ah yes, “echo.” Aloi: They echo, right? And this show is so fun. “Echo” has finally beat Marvel’s greatest supervillain: pacing. This felt like it actually worked in the timeframe that it was given in the medium that it was delivered in. And there are so many little things that are just so integral to the story, that are so authentic. So, sign language is a huge part of this. The main character, Maya Lopez, is deaf and played by a deaf actress — Alaqua Cox is the name of the actress. And you see sign language used throughout the entire show. And based on the different levels of how close of a family member she has — how close they’re related — is how much they know sign language. That was kind of a cool thing to watch. And also, there’s a lot of authenticity paid to portraying the Choctaw culture. Disney actually partnered with the Choctaw Nation and brought on consultants before filming even began to make sure that everything was presented correctly. And so, anyway, it’s all around great representation, a great show, check it out “Echo” on Disney Plus.Sparber: So I am not going to recommend a new movie. I’m going to recommend a revival because this one is very hard to see nowadays and it’s not on streaming. It hasn’t been released as a DVD for years, perhaps a decade. This is a film from 1990 by David Lynch called “Wild at Heart.” It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but that was controversial — it was actually booed when it won. Because it’s a weird and kind of edgy, strange, craggy, mean film, but I love it. The story tells of Nicolas Cage. He plays a character named Sailor Ripley. He’s dressed in a snakeskin jacket and does an Elvis impersonation all the way through the movie, which Nicolas Cage was born to do. His girlfriend is played by Laura Dern, one of Lynch’s greatest collaborators. She’s hilarious and she’s a delight. And Ripley breaks his parole goes on the road with her and so the whole film is just a bizarre American road trip. Lynch is obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz.” And this is his most “Wizard of Oz” film, including Laura Dern’s own mother, Diane Ladd, who basically plays the Wicked Witch — she was nominated for an Oscar for the role. And it has Willem Defoe, in the sleaziest role in film history, a character named Bobby Peru who ropes Cage into a crime scheme that goes disastrously wrong. It’s hard to see legally, so go see it. It will be playing at the Parkway Theater next Tuesday.Aloi: Hey, this is Jacob Aloi, I’m one of the Cube Critics. And because I watched “Echo” for this week of Cube Critics, I decided that I wanted to know a little bit more about the process that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma went through when collaborating with Disney and Marvel to make the series. So I had the chance to sit down and interview the Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Gary Batton.Gary Batton: It was interesting. It started about a year ago, [“Echo” director] Sydney Freeland and some other people came down to our powwow, which happened — at that time it was in November. And we started talking about just the history and how, you know, we wanted to see if we could come up with — I always felt like there’s a great story, whether it’s Choctaws or any Native Americans, how our Choctaw warrior, our resiliency, our strength and how we’ve come through and persevered and where we are today and how the tribes are doing so much better. And so it led from that discussion to Sydney and them talking to us later on in regards to Marvel and Disney coming through. And what to do with this story of “Echo,” and the continuance of that story, I guess, if you will. And just turn it more into the Native American thing, which we were so excited to hear about. And so that’s how it began. Aloi: Do you see this series with Marvel as a part of that effort, like you said, to be able to keep parts of these stories and these keep these important cultural things alive?Batton: Yes. And that’s probably the reason why I embraced it so much, because you know, whether it’s “Dances with Wolves,” whether it’s “Echo,” you hate to say it, but the rest of the world, that’s their perception of us as Native Americans. That’s with it being Marvel — Of course, it’s just me. I love Marvel and the series and so on. But I wish we could have told a little bit more realistic story. You know, I’m not thinking of a documentary. And don’t get me wrong, do we all experience trials, tribulations, rough times, you know, not knowing where we come from. You know, me, because I think about the boarding schools, and I think about Maya having to leave her family to go up, and then the Kingpin — you know, are these good people? Are they bad people? We deal with those things, as Native Americans, all the time — do we trust them? Trust is a big issue for us. So this is just one mechanism for highlighting and showing that. But, yeah, there’s numerous other ways that we need to be doing the preservation of our culture and history as well.Aloi: You know, I think about shows like “Reservation Dogs,” “Rutherford Falls,” and now, of course, “Echo” joining that pantheon of this kind of renaissance of Native storytelling in the media right now. And I’m curious, from your perspective, having done this collaboration with Disney, with Marvel, to develop “Echo,” and to have it now be out there in the world for people who don’t come from a Choctaw background or from a Native American background — to engage with the story? Is this kind of is this the kind of process you would hope that all the stories would go through?Batton: Yes, very much so. I think it’s really just the story. The process was great, though. So to me if there was a more realistic story, or if there was another story of us coming across the Trail of Tears — but the process of engaging from our artisans to our cultural people to our original speakers to all of that. It’s the right process. It’s just a matter of which story going to tell through that process.
1/26/20247 minutes, 4 seconds
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Cube Critics: ‘True Detective’ and ‘Slow Horses’

Cube Critic Alex V. Cipolle discusses the new season of “True Detective”; guest critic Regina Medina discusses “Slow Horses.”The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.MPR News Senior Arts Reporter and Critic Alex V. Cipolle: You can basically smell him through the screen. MPR News Correspondent Regina Medina: Yes. Cipolle: Not the best hygiene.Medina: No, he doesn't like to shower.Cipolle: So, Regina, we both watched detective shows this week. Medina: Yes. I love detective shows.Cipolle: Me too. I watched the fourth season of “True Detective,” which just started on Sunday on HBO. And it is a return to form of season one. Nobody really talks about the other seasons, they’re not that good. Season one — amazing. And it’s this kind-of like gritty noir detective series. This time instead of being based in the south, it’s based in Alaska. There’s also a new director, Issa López, and it’s a much more women-led cast as well, with Jodie Foster and kind-of newcomer Kali Reis, who is a professional boxer. Medina: Ooh!Cipolle: Very impressive. And so they play these detective partners, kind of at war with each other a little bit. Jodie Foster is kind of like an anti-woke cop. Kali Reis is a Native cop who brings some of those sensibilities and concerns to the role. But as with the best “True Detective,” the main character is the place, right? So it is dark, cold Alaska —Medina: Perfect.Cipolle: — and how that seeps into people. So, the premise is kind of similar to John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” where a bunch of researchers are working at a research lab and something goes wrong. And like with most “True Detective,” it’s where reality starts scraping at the supernatural. For Minnesota fans, there’s also a prominent display of a Viking sweatshirt, and the actor that plays Jodie Foster’s daughter is St. Paul actress Isabella Star LaBlanc. Medina: Yay!Cipolle: I highly recommend it. HBO, Sunday night.Listen herehttps://open.spotify.com/show/0CSBZiPf0Pdlwh5xLxLmPbMedina: I, this week saw — well I’ve seen it for a few weeks because it just ended — “Slow Horses.” It’s an Apple TV show, based on a series of spy novels by Mick Herron. It stars Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas, and I love it.So, this is about a group of misfits — MI5 agents who work in a way from the MI5 headquarters, because the agency is trying to make them quit by [sending them to] a house that’s decrepit. And they basically process passports from the 1990s. Cipolle: And they’ve sort of done something wrong in their jobs. Media: Yeah. Cipolle: They’re like, grounded. Medina: Yeah, they have gambling habits and they got caught, or they left a very important confidential file on a train. You know, these people are not the best and the brightest. So their boss is someone called Jackson Lamb, played by Oldman, who’s fantastic. He’s wonderfully insulting. He’s brutal to them. He urges them to quit. Yet he has flashes of, Hey, I care about these people. And somehow, even though they're supposed to be away from the action, they’re in the middle of it in most episodes. So you can see it on Apple TV, seasons one, two and three. I urge you all to watch it and you. And YOU, Alex V. Cipolle, to watch it again.
1/19/20244 minutes, 19 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'American Fiction' and 'Poor Things'

The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above.MPR News producer Matt Alvarez enters. MPR News arts reporter Jacob Aloi: Matt Alvarez. Now take your time. MPR News arts editor Max Sparber: No hurry. Aloi: We’re just kind of chillin’.Sparber: Chillaxing.Aloi: I want to be so clear: Never say that again.So, Max Sparber, this week I saw “American Fiction” starring Jeffrey Wright. It’s actually based on a novel, which I did not know. It’s a meta-novel called “Erasure.” And it tells the story of a writer named Monk. He’s also a professor of mythology and writing. And basically, Monk cannot get published.He has had a career publishing retellings of Greek stories, but he hasn’t been published in the last couple of years. And the reason why is because he feels like he’s being pigeonholed as a Black writer. He feels like he’s being pushed to write stories about a very particular kind of experience in the black community when he’s from an affluent Bostonian family. Right? He feels like he’s being pushed to write stories about gangs and gang violence and all of that. And so one night in a drunken stupor he writes that book, and he kind of skewers it, he kind of writes it in to say, “I’m going to write the book that white America wants me to write.” And of course, it actually does very well gets published and is nominated for awards.And that’s a huge part of the story. What really the movie is, is a character study of a man who’s deeply dissatisfied with his life, and he's taking it out on everyone else. But through the course of the film, writing the book, his experiences with publishers, dating a woman, a death in his family, it’s really about him trying to find that spark for life again, that hopefully he can finally write his magnum opus.So that is “American Fiction.” Check it out in theaters now. Sparber: Funny? Aloi: Very funny, but also poignant. Sparber: That’s true of the film that I saw as well. I did not see it this week. It is called “Poor Things.” And it’s been out for a minute, and I saw it a couple of weeks ago, but it won a couple of Golden Globes this week, including Emma Stone as Best Actress, and that makes it freshly contemporary. It will probably do well at the Oscars.It was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who is a big Oscar winner already. And I would describe this film as being sort of a feminist cyberpunk Frankenstein fantasy in which Stone plays a child-woman who was created by a mad scientist, she goes out and has adventures.The film is presented as being sort of feminist. I don’t know if it’s good feminism, but I do know it’s weird feminism, like “Barbie,” which I do like. Emma Stone is great in it. She has a huge character arc from being basically a child at the beginning of the movie to being fully in possession of her own experiences by the end of it. It’s two and a half hours. So it gives her a lot of time to do that.But the two things I like most about the film, first of all, is Mark Ruffalo. He plays just the most embarrassing libertine in history. He talks about freedom. But the moment he starts going out with Emma Stone, he becomes pathetic, needy, controlling. The moment she asserts herself, he’s just a blubbering mess.The second thing is I like whoever the makeup designer was, who was told Willem Dafoe, who plays the mad scientist, should look like he’s dissembled and maybe broken puzzle for a face — but he should also look exactly like Willem Dafoe.That person nailed it and probably should win an Oscar as well. It’s still in theaters. If you want to get ready for the Oscar season, go see it.
1/12/20244 minutes
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Cube Critics discuss docuseries about cults

Cube Critics Alex V. Cipolle and Nina Moini look at documentaries about cults: “Escaping Twin Flames,” “Desperately Seeking Soulmate” and “Love Has Won.”
1/5/20244 minutes
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Cube Critics discuss 'Anyone But You' and 'The Color Purple'

MPR News Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Kyra Miles review “Anyone But You” and “The Color Purple.”
12/29/20233 minutes, 33 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'Fargo' and 'Maestro'

Cube Critics Max Sparber and Aron Woldeslassie discuss season five of “Fargo” and the film “Maestro”
12/15/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'The Boy and the Heron' and 'Godzilla Minus One'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber review "The Boy and the Heron" and "Godzilla Minus One."
12/8/20233 minutes, 43 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'Scott Pilgrim Takes Off' and 'Scavengers Reign'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Aron Woldeslassie review “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” and “Scavengers Reign.”
12/1/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss Thanksgiving horror movies

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber review Thanksgiving horror films "Thanksgiving" and "Blood Rage," plus a bonus podcast review of "Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes"
11/24/20234 minutes, 41 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'The Marvels' and 'Saltburn'

Arts reporter Jacob Aloi and original Cube Critic Stephanie Curtis review "The Marvels" and "Saltburn."
11/17/20233 minutes, 47 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'Fingernails' and 'Priscilla'

Cube Critics Alex V. Cipolle and Max Sparber discuss “Fingernails” and “Priscilla.”
11/10/20233 minutes, 55 seconds
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Cube Critics: 'Five Nights at Freddy's' and 'I Am Not for Everyone'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Aron Woldeslassie discuss “Five Nights at Freddy’s” and “I Am Not for Everybody.”
11/3/20233 minutes, 53 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'The Burial' and 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss “The Burial” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
10/27/20233 minutes, 42 seconds
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Cube Critics attend haunted houses

Cube Critics Alex V. Cipolle and Max Sparber attend two haunted houses: Onionhead’s Revenge at the Mall of America and Nowhere Haunted House in Inver Grove Heights, Minn.
10/20/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'The Exorcist: Believer' and 'Lessons in Chemistry'

Cube Critics Alex V. Cipolle and Aron Woldeslassie discuss “The Exorcist: Believer” and “Lessons in Chemistry.”
10/13/20233 minutes, 38 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'The Creator' and 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Max Sparber discuss “The Creator” and “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”
10/6/20233 minutes, 45 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'One Piece,' 'Krapopolis' and 'Cassandro'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi, Alex V. Cipolle and Max Sparber discuss “One Piece,” ”Krapopolis” and “Cassandro”
9/29/20234 minutes, 42 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss 'Dumb Money,' 'El Conde' and 'Red, White & Royal Blue'

Cube Critics Jacob Aloi, Alex V. Cipolle and Aron Woldeslassie discuss 'Dumb Money,' 'El Conde' and 'Red, White & Royal Blue'
9/22/20236 minutes, 10 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Reality" and "Ultimatum: Queer Love"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Reality" and "Ultimatum: Queer Love"
6/8/20234 minutes, 47 seconds
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Cube Critics on 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse' and 'I Think You Should Leave'

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto check out "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" and season three of Netflix’s "I Think You Should Leave."
6/5/20233 minutes, 54 seconds
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Cube Critics check out "White Men Can't Jump" and "Polite Society"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto check out "White Men Can't Jump" and "Polite Society."
5/26/20234 minutes, 5 seconds
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Cube Critics talk "Fast X" and "Barry"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Euan Kerr talk "Fast X" and "Barry."
5/19/20234 minutes, 1 second
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Cube Critics discuss "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" and "Mrs Davis."

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Euan Kerr discuss "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" and "Mrs Davis."
5/11/20234 minutes, 27 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "John Mulaney: Baby J" and "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "John Mulaney:Baby J" and "Are you there God? It's me. Margaret."
4/28/20234 minutes, 5 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "The Diplomat" and "Yellowjackets: Season 2"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "The Diplomat" and "Yellowjackets: Season 2.”
4/20/20234 minutes, 12 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Beef"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Beef."
4/6/20234 minutes, 53 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Rye Lane" and May Martin's "SAP"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Rye Lane" and May Martin’s "SAP."
3/31/20233 minutes, 42 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "The Last of Us" and "Daisy Jones and The Six"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "The Last of Us" and "Daisy Jones and The Six"
3/17/20234 minutes, 17 seconds
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Cube Critics predict the winners of Sunday's Oscars

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie predict the winners of Sunday's Oscars
3/10/20234 minutes, 53 seconds
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Cube Critics review 'Creed III' and 'Cocaine Bear'

Aron and Sam review “Creed III” and “Cocaine Bear.”
3/3/20234 minutes, 2 seconds
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The Cube Critics on 'The Traitors' and 'Cunk on Earth.'

The Cube Critics review the reality show "The Traitors" and the mockumentary "Cunk on Earth."
2/11/20235 minutes, 21 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "You People" and "Poker Face"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "You People" and "Poker Face."
2/3/20233 minutes, 55 seconds
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MPR News' Cube Critics on which movies to see and which to skip this awards season

Movie awards season is in full swing. MPR News’ Cube Critics have suggestions for the movies you need to see and the ones they think you can skip.  Plus, they share their thoughts about the politics behind awards shows, why some of the best movies get snubbed and whether awards shows still matter. Guests: Aron Woldeslassie is an associate producer for the American Public Media podcast Smash Boom Best. He’s also the co-host of Cube Critics. Samantha Matsumoto is an associate producer for MPR News with Angela Davis, and a co-host of Cube Critics. Euan Kerr is an editor at MPR News. He’s a former Cube Critics co-host, and now he produces and edits the show. Here is a list of the movies both our guests and our callers talked about in the show. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Click the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. Films that stood out ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Samantha Matsumoto: This movie is probably one of the best examples of that big, overstaffed movie and how to do it right. I had never, or so rarely, seen a movie about an Asian family where people got to feel so human and messy. Much of it is in Chinese and touches on queer Asian identity. It's so specific, but also so universal. ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Aron Woldeslassie: It's the story of two friends. And one of the friends just doesn't want to be friends anymore. The pacing has been done so incredibly, that you're both shocked and not at all surprised at everything that happens. It's very funny and it gives the viewer a sense of melancholy that I think they can enjoy. ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Aron Woldeslassie: It was such a step outside of what we would expect from a standard Marvel film. I don't think I've ever watched an action film that was dedicated to mourning and how pain can take you to so many extreme places. ‘The Whale’ Euan Kerr: It is a really claustrophobic, thought-provoking film about the meaning of life, the meaning of love, relationships. It's really engaging but it's also hard to watch. ‘Aftersun’ Euan Kerr: This is an amazing puzzle of a movie, because very little is actually explained about what is going on other than you have a sense that there is something ominous on the horizon. It doesn't move very fast. There's no action in it. But it is just riveting. ‘RRR’ Samantha Matsumoto: This is a three-hour-long movie. It's an epic about these two men in colonial India. They're both revolutionaries and they strike up this friendship. When I think about movie magic and what movies can do, I think that this movie is a great example of it. Movies our host and guests thought were snubbed ‘Nope’ Aron Woldeslassie: I think that “Nope” was the best film of 2022. I watched it three times. It's everything that you want from a suspenseful alien film and we get some really great performances, honestly. ‘The Woman King’ Euan Kerr: It's a story about gender. It's a story about what was happening when the slave trade was occurring in the 1800s and the various communities’ choices. This is a thought-provoking piece with a little bit of history that perhaps a lot of people don't know about. It was kind of strange that we didn't hear more about that. Listener favorites, flops Listeners called into the show and shared films that stood out or disappointed them. Here are a few of them. ‘Catherine Called Birdy’ It is loosely based on a children's novel by Karen Cushman and it's a medieval comedy about a 14-year-old girl avoiding marriage. Much of the story is about how she's coming of age, but it's also about her realizing in the end, she's going to get married, but she wants to do it on her own terms. It's a nice movie to look at visually and fun to watch. — Mina in Minneapolis ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ I wanted to love it. I felt like they added so much military action and bigotry, and they were trying so hard to appeal to the action movie audience. It had some beautiful underwater sequences, but overall, I was disappointed. — Shawn in Bemidji ‘Causeway’ I loved this movie with Jennifer Lawrence. It's about a soldier returning from the Middle East with a traumatic brain injury and her adjustment to life and the friendships she develops. That movie really stuck with me so I highly recommend it.  — Katy in Edina
2/1/202347 minutes, 20 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Shrinking" and "Banshees of Inisherin"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Shrinking” and "Banshees of Inisherin"
1/27/20234 minutes, 36 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Women Talking" and "That 90s Show"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Women Talking" and "That 90s Show"
1/20/20234 minutes, 25 seconds
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Cube Critics meet "M3gan" and "Velma"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie meet "M3gan" and "Velma"
1/13/20234 minutes, 12 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Glass Onion" and "Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Glass Onion" and "Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical"
1/6/20233 minutes, 58 seconds
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Cube Critics choose their best - and worst - movies of 2022

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto choose their best - and worst - movies of 2022
12/29/20224 minutes
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Cube Critics discuss "Pinocchio" and "Babylon"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Pinocchio" and “Babylon"
12/23/20224 minutes, 20 seconds
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The Cube Critics return to Pandora with 'Avatar: The Way of Water'

The Cube Critics return to Pandora with "Avatar: The Way of Water," the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster "Avatar." Plus, they review "Violent Night."
12/16/20224 minutes, 19 seconds
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Cube Critics review "Spoiler Alert" and "Love, Lizzo"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto review "Spoiler Alert" and "Love, Lizzo".
12/9/20223 minutes, 50 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss the second seasons of "White Lotus" and "Inside Job"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss the second seasons of "White Lotus" and "Inside Job."
12/2/20223 minutes, 58 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Interview with a vampire" and "Goodnight Oppy"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Interview with a vampire" and "Goodnight Oppy"
11/24/20223 minutes, 42 seconds
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Cube Critics talk "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" and the legacy of "Atlanta"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie get “Weird” and then head to “Atlanta.”
11/22/20224 minutes, 34 seconds
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Cube Critics review "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

Aron and Samantha review "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," the sequel to the 2018 Marvel movie "Black Panther."
11/11/20225 minutes
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Cube Critics on "The Good Nurse" and "Armageddon Time"

The Cube Critics share their thoughts on the new movies "The Good Nurse" and "Armageddon Time.”
10/31/20224 minutes, 26 seconds
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Cube Critics see "Tar" and "Black Adam"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie see "Tar" and "Black Adam" - and celebrate Chris Mulkey
10/21/20223 minutes, 50 seconds
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Cube Critics talk "Amsterdam" and "Mr. Harrigan's Phone"

The Cube Critics review the mystery “Amsterdam,” out in theaters, and spooky Netflix original “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.”
10/7/20224 minutes, 2 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Bros" and "Smile"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Bros" and "Smile."
9/30/20223 minutes, 57 seconds
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Cube Critics on "Sheng Weng: Sweet and Juicy" and "Catherine Called Birdy"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Sheng Weng: Sweet and Juicy" and "Catherine Called Birdy."
9/23/20224 minutes, 2 seconds
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Cube Critics review 'See How They Run' and 'The Woman King'

Aron and Sam review the new murder mystery “See How They Run.” And Euan Kerr returns to review “The Woman King.”
9/19/20224 minutes, 3 seconds
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Cube Critics review 'My Old School' and 'Honk For Jesus Save Your Soul'

The Cube Critics review the documentary “My Old School” and the mockumentary “Honk For Jesus Save Your Soul.”
9/16/20224 minutes
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Cube Critics at the State Fair

The Cube Critics reviewed Reservation Dogs on FX and Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul on Netflix, in front of an audience at the Minnesota State Fair.
9/2/20223 minutes, 50 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Tuka & Bertie" and "League of their Own"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Tuka & Bertie" and "League of their Own"
8/19/20224 minutes, 3 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Bodies, Bodies, Bodies" and "Prey"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Bodies, Bodies, Bodies" and "Prey"
8/12/20224 minutes, 4 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Easter Sunday" and "Uncoupled"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Easter Sunday" and "Uncoupled"
8/5/20224 minutes, 10 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "The Gray Man, " "Not OK" and "Vengeance"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "The Gray Man, " "Not OK" and "Vengeance"
7/29/20224 minutes, 3 seconds
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Cube Critics say 'yes' to "Nope" and sing the praises of "Hallelujah"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Euan Kerr say 'yes' to "Nope" and sing the praises of "Hallelujah"
7/21/20224 minutes, 4 seconds
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Cube Critics visit "Marcel" and "The Boys"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie talk about “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on” and “The Boys.”
7/16/20223 minutes, 59 seconds
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Cube Critics talk 'Thor: Love and Thunder' and 'Hacks'

Cube Critics review "Thor: Love and Thunder" and season two of the TV show "Hacks." Click the audio player above to listen to the episode.
7/11/20224 minutes, 32 seconds
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Cube Critics check out the new "Elvis"

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto delve into the pros and cons of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”
6/24/20223 minutes, 57 seconds
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Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Lightyear" and "Brian and Charles"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie discuss "Lightyear" and "Brian and Charles"
6/17/20223 minutes, 36 seconds
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Cube Critics see "Jurassic World: Dominion" and "The Outlaws"

Cube Critic Samantha Matsumoto reviews the final installment of the Jurassic World movies, “Jurassic World: Dominion.” And Aron Woldeslassie shares his take on Amazon Prime’s series “The Outlaws.”
6/13/20224 minutes
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Cube Critics visit 'Fire Island,' and review 'That Damn Michael Che,' 'Stranger Things'

Cube Critic Samantha Matsumoto loves “Fire Island,” streaming on Hulu. Plus, reviews of season two of “That Damn Michael Che” and season four of “Stranger Things.”
6/7/20224 minutes, 19 seconds
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Cube Critics review Paulie Go! and Julia

The Cube Critics discuss the Minnesota-made film Paulie Go!, which will premiere at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival on Thursday, May 19. And they also review Julia on HBO.
5/13/20224 minutes, 3 seconds
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Cube Critics visit Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, review Crush

Cube Critics Aron Woldeslassie and Samantha Matsumoto review Marvel’s Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the new Hulu teen rom-com Crush.
5/6/20224 minutes, 10 seconds
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Cube Critics review "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" and "The Northman"

Cube Critic Samantha Matsumoto and guest host Nathan Stevens review “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “The Northman.”
4/25/20223 minutes, 54 seconds
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Cube Critics see "Everything Everywhere All At Once" and "DMZ"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie review the new Michelle Yeoh movie “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” and the HBO miniseries “DMZ.”
4/11/20223 minutes, 51 seconds
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Cube Critics review "Moonshot" and "Mothering Sunday"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie talk about the sci-fi rom-com "Moonshot" and the romantic drama "Mothering Sunday."
4/11/20224 minutes, 14 seconds
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Cube Critics make their Academy Award predictions

The 94th Academy Awards are this Sunday on ABC. The Cube Critics talk about their favorites of the nominees, and make their predictions for the winners.
3/25/20224 minutes, 18 seconds
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Cube Critics see 'Turning Red' and 'The Outfit'

The Cube Critics discuss Pixar’s new movie “Turning Red,” and “The Outfit.”
3/21/20223 minutes, 51 seconds
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Cube Critics review "The Batman" and "Lucy and Desi"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie talk about the newest Batman movie "The Batman," and the documentary "Lucy and Desi."
3/3/20224 minutes, 15 seconds
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Cube Critics talk "Euphoria" and "Ali Wong: Don Wong"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie talk "Euphoria" and "Ali Wong: Don Wong"
2/24/20224 minutes, 1 second
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Cube Critics discuss rom-coms "Marry Me" and "I Want You Back"

MPR Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie see two new rom-coms just in time for Valentine’s Day: “Marry Me” and “I Want You Back.”
2/11/20224 minutes
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Cube Critics discuss "Moonfall", "Munich: The Edge of War", and "Sundown"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "Moonfall", "Munich: The Edge of War", and "Sundown".
2/4/20224 minutes, 15 seconds
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Cube Critics see "The Lost Daughter" and "Drive My Car"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto see some adaptations: Elena Ferrante's "The Lost Daughter" and Murakami's novella "Drive My Car."
1/20/20224 minutes, 26 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss the new "Scream," "Parallel Mothers," and "The Tragedy of Macbeth"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto discuss the new "Scream," "Parallel Mothers," and "The Tragedy of Macbeth"
1/13/20224 minutes, 24 seconds
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Cube Critics talk about "The 355" and "A Hero"

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Euan Kerr discuss the spy thriller "The 355" and Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s new drama "A Hero."
1/6/20224 minutes, 28 seconds
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Cube Critics choose their top four movies of 2021

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto choose their top four movies of 2021
12/30/20214 minutes, 36 seconds
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Cube Critics see 'Matrix,' 'Licorice,' 'Sing 2,' and 'Insecure,' plus an added extra

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto discuss “The Matrix Resurrections,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Sing 2” and “Insecure.” Euan then sneaks in his interview with Paul Thomas Anderson including what the “Licorice Pizza writer-director learned about filmmaking during his time spent in St Paul
12/22/20218 minutes, 49 seconds
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Cube Critics see "Spiderman: No Way Home," "Nightmare Alley," and "The Power of the Dog"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto see "Spiderman: No Way Home," "Nightmare Alley," and "The Power of the Dog"
12/16/20214 minutes, 26 seconds
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Cube Critics watch "West Side Story," "Being the Ricardos," and "Encounter"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto watch "West Side Story," "Being the Ricardos," and "Encounter"
12/10/20214 minutes, 34 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "Passing," "Wolf," and the 2021 British Arrows

Cube Critics Samantha Matsumoto and Euan Kerr discuss "Passing," "Wolf," and the 2021 British Arrows
12/2/20213 minutes, 59 seconds
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Cube Critics discuss "C'mon C'mon" "Tick, Tick...BOOM!" and "House of Gucci"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Matsumoto discuss "C'mon C'mon" "Tick, Tick...BOOM!" and "House of Gucci."
11/23/20214 minutes, 18 seconds
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Cube Critics see "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," "King Richard," and "The Harder They Fall"

Cube Critics Euan Kerr and Samantha Masumoto see "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," "King Richard," and "The Harder They Fall"
11/18/20214 minutes, 27 seconds