Weekend film reviews: ‘Elemental,’ ‘The Blackening,’ ‘The Flash’

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Bennett Purser

In “Elemental,” a fire girl (Ember) and a water boy (Wade) discover how much they have in common. Credit: YouTube.

The latest film releases include “Elemental,” “Blue Jean,” “The Blackening,” and “The Flash.” KCRW gets reviews from Shawn Edwards, film critic at Fox 4 News and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association, and Alison Willmore, film critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.


In Pixar’s latest animated movie, fire, water, air, and earth residents live together in Element City. The film follows a fire girl (Ember) and a water boy (Wade) as they discover how much they have in common. 

Edwards: “There's the city called Elemental City, and it's consisted of different communities or neighborhoods. There's fire, there's water, there's land, there's air. Yes, this sounds very Sesame Street. And there's this fiery, young woman. And then there's this guy who’s made of water. And of course, fire and water are opposites. So what do they do? They are attracted to one another. So this is basically an animated version of ‘Guess Who's Coming to Dinner’ that plays like an immigrant story. It's all super Kumbaya. But in a weird way, it's really a complicated story for young kids. Because I don't think they're going to digest the themes and everything that's going on. But it's not nearly enough calories for adults because I found myself bored to death.”

Willmore: “This fantastical equivalent to an interracial romance — I felt like the movie really didn't do a lot of consideration of what it means to strip away all of the actual real-world specifics that go into cultural difference, and in this case, a lot of microaggressions aimed at the fire people who are the newest immigrant wave to come to the city. I think that in generalizing … an immigrant experience, the movie ends up being really reductive.”

“Blue Jean” 

Set in 1988 England, this film follows a closeted physical education teacher who goes to extreme lengths to keep her double life a secret.

Willmore: “It is about a time when the idea of supporting homosexuality was was outlawed. … You're seeing peeks behind the mask that this character Jean has put up in spaces where she is trying to pass herself off as someone she's not. But so much of it is just fueled by this terrific lead performance. … So much of it plays out in silence, and watching someone who has been so hurt by this life that she has tried to unsuccessfully negotiate. I'm a fan.”

Edwards: “The message that it sends is about the U.K. of yesterday, but directly about the U.S. today — that really hit hard. And it's really reflective, but it's very brilliantly insightful in the way that it deals with its themes in the story and the character arcs. … It has a real natural feel to it. … You almost feel like you're not watching a movie. That's just how well done these performances are. … It's opening in June during Pride Month, and it just hits all the right beats.”

“The Blackening”

This horror/comedy follows seven friends who are trapped in a cabin with a killer. They must team up to stay alive.

Edwards: “This movie rides on the long stereotype of black characters dying first in horror movies. But to add extra cultural muscle to the movie, it takes place during Juneteenth weekend, which is brilliant. I like to say this movie is if ‘Get Out’ and the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise had a kid — this would be it because ‘The Blackening’ just so brilliantly mixes humor, horror, and race. … This movie is so funny, and … you have to watch with an audience.”

“The Flash”

In the DC Extended Universe’s 13th film, the Flash uses his powers to change the past. Barry Allen is played by Ezra Miller, who’s been accused of robbery, assault, harassment, and more. 

Willmore: “Star Ezra Miller’s whole mess of a personal life aside... I just find their version of ‘The Flash’ to be really grating on screen. … Having a whole movie that is based not just on the Fash as a main character, but also an alternate universe version of the Flash as the second main character — was just too much. I was not a fan of this one at all, I was really frustrated throughout it.” 

Edwards: “Say what you will about Ezra Miller — job well done. The entire movie is held together by the performance. Because this movie is a mess because you're dealing with two possible train wrecks, because time travel movies and alternate universe movies struggle in the first place. And now you're combining those two together in one film — that's really a lot to juggle. … The film relied on so many circus tricks, it’s relying on cameos and other elements that have appeared in other comic book movies to punctuate the story and push it forward and make the film fun. It just doesn't work. … Ezra Miller was solid, it’s just everything around that performance was just a mess.”



  • Shawn Edwards - film critic at Fox 4 News and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association
  • Alison Willmore - film critic for New York Magazine and Vulture VIA