Posted in: Review

Dear Evan Hansen

A film adaptation of Broadway sensation Dear Evan Hansen was likely inevitable, but on the basis of the resulting film, perhaps the forthcoming reckoning was just as inevitable. Not only is this particular musical difficult to translate in a cinematic context, its basic story represents such a dangerous tonal balance, regardless of the medium, that […]

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Language Lessons

Once upon a time, unconventional long-distance friendships were nearly impossible to create and sustain, but the digitization of the world has made it possible to circumvent the nagging issue of distance with the onslaught of video chat services like Skype and Zoom. Now, thanks to the last year-and-a-half of intermittent isolation, these connections are more […]

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The Year of the Everlasting Storm

In a world so vast and varied, sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us how connected we are. A once-in-a-century pandemic fits that bill. Even as cultures remain divergent, lifestyles vary, and customs clash around the world, the sudden onset and rapid spread of COVID-19 brought us together even as it, quite contradictorily, forced […]

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Ema

Pablo Larrain’s last film, Jackie, was a film whose ending seemed like an ongoing cascade of concluding imagery, its many blended themes finally untangling, and each given its own singular final flourish. It felt like the film ended for 15 minutes straight, but oh, what an ending. Conversely, Larrain’s latest film, Ema, feels like it’s […]

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Behemoth

If you were to take a casual glance at the promotional poster for Behemoth, and you catch a glimpse of the impressively nasty looking creature that figures prominently on that poster, you might get a charge of excitement for what looks like an ornately gruesome creature feature. You’d be wrong. No, Behemoth is not a […]

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CODA

CODA lives on the very thin and dangerous line between transcendent crowd-pleaser and overwhelming manipulation. In fact, its screenplay functions like a constant one-two punch, disarming the audience with a heavy dose of conventional schmaltz before delivering a blow of deeply resonant emotion. Its rapturous response at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – where it […]

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The Suicide Squad

Maybe it’s just the source material? That’s one plausible conclusion to reach on the back end of The Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s quasi-sequel, quasi-reboot (rebooquel?) to the unmitigated disaster that was David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad, since the new film falls prey to the same minefield that blew up the original. Mercifully, Gunn’s film at […]

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Pig

We open on a green, misty forest somewhere in Oregon. Out there, isolated in the depths of the foliage, there sits a cabin, ramshackle and isolated, where we follow the apparent daily customs of a grizzled man…and his loyal pig. There’s a certain shabby enchantment to the environment, so removed from our everyday understanding of […]

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Whirlybird

Whirlybird is a portrait documentary that operates on three different levels. First, it’s a sprawling chronicle of the rise of “eye-witness” news in 1980s Los Angeles. More acutely, it charts the use of helicopters as a primary tool of news organizations to capture and transmit live footage for sensationalistic stories. Most intriguingly, however, the film […]

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Nine Days

We are each the main character in our own story. And in life’s more chaotic moments, it’s easy to think we’re living through our own TV show. Moments of high drama flatten our spirits. Our embarrassments function like screwball comedy. Moments of unspeakable irony make us wonder who’s turning the screws. Each day is a […]

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Old

There is a movie inside Old that flows organically out of its characters, driven by their fears, desires, and regrets, generating a clear-eyed and affecting metaphor for the speed with which life passes us by, and our inherent unwillingness to slow down long enough to savor every moment. It’s as eloquent a thematic underpinning as […]

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Holler

Holler is a film that seems to have an uncanny psychic link to its characters and environment, a kind of synthesis between form and subject that can’t be manufactured, only felt. Portraits of Rust Belt desperation are quite popular in the industry of late, to the point that Appalachian Misery Porn should be designated its […]

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What Lies West

What Lies West is a battlefield on which the screenplay’s earnest human insights war against the film’s inherent formal limitations. The ultra-low-budget feature was clearly made with love, but also under such restrictive stylistic and technical circumstances that it becomes difficult to look past those distractions and into the eyes of the characters. It’s hard […]

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Four Good Days

Four Good Days strains itself to convey a hardened tale of mother-daughter turmoil through the lens of a bleak addiction drama to the point that it eventually feels like a dirge deliberately inflicted upon the audience. There’s incredible value in an unflinching cinematic portrayal of difficult material, but Rodrigo Garcia’s film seems hellbent on wallowing […]

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The Virtuoso

The Virtuoso is one of those movies so mind-bogglingly misguided that it’s difficult to discern whether the talented actors involved willingly grabbed a quick paycheck or if they mistook the material for something worthwhile. Caught somewhere between isolated character study and brooding shoot-‘em-up thriller but without a single clue how to actualize either perspective, the […]

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Wildcat

There’s a persistent competence on display in Wildcat that is at first reassuring but eventually frustrating. In this ultra-low-budget drama that takes place largely within a single, very small, set, the controlled environment allows for very few glaring missteps – the plot is relatively tight, the acting is reined in, and the limited on-screen space […]