60 episodes

From Minnesota Public Radio News, MPR News producers Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie share a passion for movies. Each week, they take a break from their day jobs to talk about what they've seen lately.

Cube Critics Minnesota Public Radio

    • TV & Film
    • 4.0 • 51 Ratings

From Minnesota Public Radio News, MPR News producers Samantha Matsumoto and Aron Woldeslassie share a passion for movies. Each week, they take a break from their day jobs to talk about what they've seen lately.

    Cube Critics talk about ‘The Fall Guy’ and ‘Abigail’

    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.

    • 3 min
    Cube Critics discuss ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Monkey Man’

    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,” 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"

    • 3 min
    Cube Critics discuss ‘Fallout’ and ‘Civil War’

    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” 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

    • 3 min
    Cube Critics discuss ‘The Claw’ and ‘The Beast’

    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

    • 3 min
    Cube Critics discuss ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ and ‘The Invisible Fight’

    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

    • 3 min
    Cube Critics discuss two MSPIFF documentaries, ‘No One Asked You’ and ‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’

    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,” 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 E

    • 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
51 Ratings

51 Ratings

Iswoon ,

great reviews…theme music, not so much.

Listening to thoughtful, considered reviews from an adult perspective is much appreciated. These two make a good pair, yet don’t always agree, like regular folks. The theme music is g-awful, annoying, grating. Wrong notes and all…
it’s gotta go. So do I.

Granny Kak ,

Realistic reviews of movies

Very brief, conversational discussion of movies new and old. Helpful ideas without a lot of analysis.

rdladd ,

Nice short movie update

Must listen to every week to find out what's coming to the theaters and what I should catch up on at home.

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