Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Little Women - Review

For over 150 years now, the words of Louisa May Alcott have maintained a place in literary history. Since the classic novel was published in 1868, its had its fair share of adaptations, both traditional and vastly different, so it’s not easy to justify a new version in 2019. However, writer and director Greta Gerwig doesn’t try and justify her reasons, choosing to tell the story we all know in a slightly different way and letting the themes shine through.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Uncut Gems - Review

The Safdie Brothers, a directing duo that produces films that are bound to not be for everyone. In 2017, Good Time put them on the map for a lot of people, with its grimy, loud, and violent portrait of a New York criminal. In 2019, they return to the formula for more griminess, noise, and violence, but this time with some added comedy from the Sandman himself.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Non-Spoiler Review

The long wait is finally over. Two years after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the final installment in the Skywalker saga has arrived, much to everyone’s delight (or for a very small portion, dismay). In a year where it seems every big pop culture pillar is pitching  in a bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, game seven pressure situation, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker seems to be facing an even bigger obstacle than that: Star Wars fans.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Bombshell - Review

The year 2016 brought a reckoning upon predatory men of power unlike anything anyone had seen before, and one of the larger takedowns of that crusade was the Fox News women and their stories. Their place in this movement is up for debate, mainly hinging on their continued culpability in the faulty reporting of the network and their blind eye to other evil affairs, but Bombshell seeks to place one element above all else: their humanity.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

1917 - Review

Captivating and brutal, stories of war are amongst the most popular ventures for Hollywood to embark on for the past handful of decades. However, World War I always seems to be passed up for World War II or more recent conflicts when it comes to dramatic, grand tales of battle. But not this time. This time, director Sam Mendes steps into the trenches of the Great War, brings some fancy camera work from Roger Deakins along with him, and creates one of the best war films ever.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Jumanji: The Next Level - Review

At least the creatives behind the newest entry in the Jumanji franchise have the self-awareness to reference the repetitive nature of their world with the sequel’s title. And while that general self-awareness transfers to the film in some regard, it still doesn’t save the film from being largely the second film, just on a grander, bizarre scale. Fortunately, the cast and crew have a blast with this premise that it translates to the big screen and saves what could’ve been a busted game.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Two Popes - Review

Finding drama at the center of a conversation about the inner workings of the Papacy isn’t easy. It doesn’t get easier when you consider that the bulk of the film in centered on just two characters: Pope Benedict XVI and Jorge Bergoglio. The handles very much like a play, complete with dialogue heavy scenes, few locations, and even the way the narrative is structured. And it all ties back to the central question of it all: can there really be TWO Popes?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Waves - Review

When stepping back and looking at a film, at all its excellence and shortcomings, an idea of its merits as a whole film usually emerges. It doesn’t always happen that way exactly, but more often than not, some clear image of what a film’s intentions were will come through. Waves is different. From the moment its dizzying opening scene throws everyone off balance to the serene moments that close the film, piecing together what it wants to be is kind of half the battle. A battle that Waves only wins if you can make it through an onslaught of color and sound at the beginning to the more graceful, reflective second half.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Aeronauts - Review

Once upon a time, hot air balloons used to be the future of flight, an engineering accomplishment of flammable gas, silk, and a precarious basket that lead to new heights. Now, they’re a novelty, an experience that’s sought after by less and less people as the years go by. But boy were they all the rage in 1800s London, and The Aeronauts seeks to explore just what a flight above the clouds could look and feel like, even if it nixes telling an interesting story along the journey.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Dark Waters - Review

A drama about a chemical company poisoning citizens and the court proceedings that follow it hardly sounds like an entertaining venture on the surface, but reality plays out differently. Though entertaining may be the wrong description, Dark Waters aims to be enthralling more than anything, its execution is solid. However, the bar for films such as this are difficult to clear, and even if Dark Waters has talent behind it and elements that do work, it doesn’t quite make the leap.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Knives Out - Review

The whodunit, a genre of mystery long overdue for a shock to the system, and who better to do that than writer and director Rian Johnson. With a little bit of poking at Agatha Christie style clichés and an infusion of stylish, witty, and sharp writing, Johnson has provided a a modern version of murder mystery. And his skill as a storyteller, and joy in fooling the audience with twists and turns, make Knives Out a devilishly good time at the movies.

Marriage Story - Review

On the surface, the title Marriage Story seems ill-fitting for the tale of two people in the process of a divorce. But dig down deeper, into the sorrow and pain, and you’ll see that the film does tell the story of this couple’s marriage, just in bits and pieces, the shattered remnants of what once was. Its equal parts a couple falling out of love, while struggling to remember why they were in love in the first place, and picking up the pieces to figure out how to move forward, and it may just be the best film of the entire year.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Queen & Slim - Review

It seems everything and everyone is getting a modern 21st century upgrade these days, including Bonnie and Clyde. Though the famed crime companions were far more notorious for their ill-intent and violent tendencies, Queen & Slim are the opposite, meaning no harm, but falling into a life of running due to the circumstances that befall them. Within moments of their tragedy, decisions are made, families are abandoned, and they both become symbols for everyone else’s lives and stories.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Review

For many, the reassurances of a calming voice on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was an essential piece of their childhood. From the basic subjects of emotions, the feeling of love or anger, and the beauty of friendship to the darker topics of war, divorce, and even death, one fateful PBS program covered it all. Fred Rogers has had an enduring impact on so many lives, and director Marielle Heller is here to remind everyone of how the inherent goodness of one man can mean so much.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Frozen II - Review

Disney basically runs the world these days, but in 2013, it was only the beginning. Only a few years after acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney Animation was still largely caught in a string of critical disappointments or mediocre box office receipts. That is, until Frozen happened. The 2013 film took the world by storm, breaking numerous records, becoming Disney’s most successful animated film ever, and even picking up a couple of Oscars. Six years later, the sequel has arrived, but can it recapture the magic of the original?

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Irishman - Review

Here it is. The film that has been on the top of a lot of people’s most anticipated lists for quite some time. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s a Martin Scorsese film, one of the greatest directors to ever do it. It’s got three of the best actors of all time in the cast. Oh, and it just happens to be a technological undertaking unlike anything Scorsese has done before with de-aging done throughout a majority of the runtime. Now the question is: does it all work? Yes, so much so that it almost seems easy.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Ford v Ferrari - Review

The world of racing is sort of baffling from an outsider perspective. On one hand, you have the perpetual left turns during a NASCAR race, followed by devoted domestic fans who watch for the crashes more than anything. On the other, you have the respected world of racing, the winding tracks of Europe that provide as treacherous an event as you might find across the globe. Ford v Ferrari plays in that world, specifically the world of the 24 House of Le Mans in 1966, and the mission of a few men to take down the dominant Ferrari.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Report - Review

On the brink of additional political turmoil and strife in 2019, it seems oddly fitting to revisit the misguided decisions of past administrations with The Report. Like most other political dramas about the release or suppression of a scathing document, everything is by the book and fact-forward, a make it or break it move for most people’s viewing experience. In this case, it only helps the frustrating and insightful experience of the entire film.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Pain and Glory - Review

Pain and Glory. Two words that conjure two very different reactions, almost opposites even, yet director and writer Pedro Almodóvar shows how each feeling needs the other. In a film that isn’t totally autobiographical, just auto-fiction, a fact brought up by the film itself even, Almodóvar holds up a mirror to his life and spills the reflection out for the world to see in the form of Pain and Glory.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Last Christmas - Review

For those that start the Christmas music on November 1st, Universal has your back. Last Christmas is here to continue the trend of starting the holidays way too early, with a story about a down on her luck woman who sees the benefits of kindness around Christmas thanks to a mysterious man. What a crazy, original concept for a Christmas movie right?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Doctor Sleep - Review

Returning to a traumatic nightmare can sometimes be the most opportune way to heal. In the world of Stephen King, that likely entails venturing back to a twisted hotel, desperate to pull the soul from your body or shatter your mind into a million pieces, all while running from a group of vampire-like creatures attempting to feast on your unique abilities. And while on the surface that sounds a jumbled mess of tones and ideas, director-writer Mike Flanagan manage to maintain a solid through line.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Parasite - Review

Every so often, a film comes along that feels different, that feels special, that feels important. For 2019, no film earns that distinction more than Parasite. From the second the film starts to the moment the credits start to roll, the beautifully blended mix of commentary, humor, and dread crafted by director Bong Joon-ho is as entertaining as it is insightful in a near infinite number of ways.

Harriet - Review

The fact that a Harriet Tubman biopic hasn’t existed before the year 2019 is astounding. Her story is remarkable, she remains a celebrated figure, even getting a spot on the $20 bill at some point, yet no movie with Harriet Tubman as the central character exists. Part of the issue lies in Hollywood’s resistance to not only female led ventures, but to black female led ventures almost entirely. But something has changed, and now the world has Harriet, the long-overdue look at the life of one of America’s most important and influential women.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Jojo Rabbit - Review

An anti-hate satire. A tagline that seeks to alleviate the potential backlash before it ever starts, a strategy that’s only been slightly successful in the lead up to its release. The concerns are certainly valid, as in the wrong hands, Jojo Rabbit could go south very fast. Fortunately, Taika Waititi is at the helm. And a Taika Waititi helmed satire is a must see, but a Taika Waititi satire that makes fun of Nazis just might be the thing that 2019 needs.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Lighthouse - Review

When Robert Eggers unleashed The VVitch on the world in 2015, it marked the introduction of a fresh, weird, and historically accurate voice to horror. Where that film found its terror in the historical implications of a witch in the 1600s New England setting, The Lighthouse focuses in on fear of isolation and the psychosis of superstitious men on a rock in the middle of the sea. And boy, does it get bizarre in all the best ways.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap - Review

Zombieland, much to everyone’s shock in 2009, somehow managed to not be a complete disaster in the face of such overwhelming odds. An original, funny, and clever zomcom came from something that had no business working, and now ten years later, the sequel looks to do the exact same thing. The cast returns for a new adventure in the world of flesh eating undead, and the results are not quite as impressive as before.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dolemite Is My Name - Review

It’s been a long time since Eddie Murphy has been at the center of a successful endeavor. Outside of a handful of voice acting gigs related to the Shrek franchise, Murphy’s filmography since 2006 is full of misfires and ill-advised attempts at comedy. But now he’s back, in every sense of the word, to bring audiences the tale of Rudy Ray Moore, and with any luck, get back into the awards conversation.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - Review

Five years after Maleficent became a bona fide hit at the box office, along with mixed reception from critics, the sequel is finally hitting theaters. Of all the Disney live-action remakes, Maleficent took the most risks, challenged the shortcomings of the original, and tried something relatively new with an established property, leaving the sequel plenty of room to grow. However, just having a fascinating central figure hardly makes a great sequel, and unfortunately, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t recognize this simple fact.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Joker - Review

Since the film debuted a few short weeks ago across the Atlantic, Joker has been the subject of numerous debates and conversations about the insensitive nature of the film, or the oversensitive modern viewers, depending on which side you fall on. Questions of message and real life implications are not new to films with evil characters at the forefront, it might as well be a guarantee these days, but in those instances, the films actually felt like they had something worthwhile to say.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Judy - Review

The biopic and awards season, two things that go together like peanut butter and jelly. Less in an enjoyable way, more in the repeatedly eaten for every meal kind of way until you’re sick of it. However there are exceptions, days where a biopic actually connects and accomplishes its goal, and the results can be magnificent. Judy may not reach those heights, but it sure is a heck of a lot better than most.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ad Astra - Review

Here it is. The annual space film about an individual who has to go to the vastness of space to find out who they truly are. Many have tried, and many have failed, to tell a sweeping narrative amongst the stars that gets to the root of humanity, but none have been quite as brilliant as James Gray’s Ad Astra. While those seeking a fast-paced thrill ride may not find what they’re looking for, but for those willing to look beneath the surface, they’ll find an exploration of what it means to be human.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Downton Abbey - Review

The cultural impact of a TV series always, or at least usually, becomes more clear after the show has actually finished its run. There are exceptions, no one would deny the immediate impact something like Game of Thrones had on popular culture, but as something ages and new fans are brought in that watch it in syndication or streaming these days, a show can take on a new life. Downton Abbey had plenty of impact when it aired from 2011 to 2016, but even still, three years later, the show’s fanbase is just as big as it ever was.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Hustlers - Review

Everyone is hustling in Hustlers. Based on the title, that may seem fairly obvious, but the film is about far more than just these women turned criminals and what they do to survive. From the strippers to the club managers to the bankers, everyone treats money and commodities as the ultimate prize. The premise of the whole film is summed up best by a line near the end of the film: this whole country is a strip club, some people are throwing the money and others are doing the dance. A Fitting conclusion to a fascinating and fantastic film.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Brittany Runs a Marathon - Review

More and more, roles keeping finding people that have deserved a showcase for their talents long before they actually get to. For Jillian Bell, that role is Brittany Forgler, a late 20-something who desperately needs to get her life together, a relatable character if there ever was one. Of course if you know anything about Bell’s sensibilities, then you should also know that the film just so happens to be one of the funniest of the year as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tigers Are Not Afraid - Review

In 2019, the number of female directors making their mark on filmmaking from the director’s chair is still far too low. But it’s far from a lack of talent or ability, and nothing proves that more than the one genre that seems to afford these women an opportunity: horror. Much like The Babadook introduced the world to Jennifer Kent or Raw introduced us all to Julia Ducournau, Tigers Are Not Afraid brings us Issa López, another exciting new voice for horror and filmmaking alike.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

It: Chapter Two - Review

Sequels often fall into the trap of supersizing the elements of the original to make the follow up bigger and better. Being a Part 2, or in this case Chapter Two, doesn’t make that general rule any different. Where the first Chapter in 2017 was a fantastically crafted and atmospheric horror film with a sizable budget, the follow up, It: Chapter Two, misses the mark and bloats to a near three hour runtime that it just cannot justify in the slightest.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Luce - Review

With enough nuance and mystery to keep even the most observant viewer in the dark, Luce may just be the most fascinating film of 2019. The world is full of problems, social issues that are subjects of endless debate, and this is a film that’s interested in exploring as many as it can.  It plays with these themes in a very compelling and thought provoking manner, and examines how far a person would go to confirm a narrative they already believe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ready or Not - Review

Horror and comedy always wind up meeting from time to time, more so than any other two major genres at least. To be fair, they do share some similar characteristics. They rely almost entirely on timing and build up to effectively get a reaction from the audience, the premises or setups are often key to the entire affair working, and they remain pigeon-holed by people constantly trapped in what the genre should be rather than what it actually can do. That’s not even mentioning the complete lack of respect they receive from awards bodies either. The two genres are intertwined so often because they work so well together, and Ready or Not is the newest example of what can happen when horror and comedy are perfectly utilized.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Good Boys - Review

The titular good boys of this raunchy, coming of age comedy are trying, with all their might, to be cool, bad, or popular, any of the three could fit at any given point. The film itself, unfortunately, falls into the same pattern, trying so hard to be like similar films that have come before that made this inappropriate sub-genre of comedy a financial opportunity for Hollywood. It matches some comedic beats that are wholly necessary when creating a 90-minute comedy, delivering on a lot of laughs, or at the very least light chuckles.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Farewell - Review

To love, laugh, and cry with family is nearly a universal experience. The familial dynamics that can be equal parts complex, infuriating, and wonderful all at the same are recognizable qualities that so many can relate to, regardless of the setting or language they’re portrayed in. In Lulu Wang’s beautifully realized, semi-autobiographical film The Farewell, the writer-director captures the realities of a family that remains family no matter the circumstances or distance in their lives, and it all comes together for one of the year’s best films.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Review

A horror anthology comprised of campfire style scary stories is ripe with potential if done properly. It can live in this interesting place where the atmosphere and creepy designs of each new ghastly creature can carry the load of a film tied together only be a loose narrative string. However, where the source material harms Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is its inherent status as slightly too scary for the tweens, but far too tame for the horror aficionados all at the same time.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold - Review

In a world full of baffling news and choices made on multiple fronts in the movie business, a live action Dora the Explorer the movie that involves her as a teenager, forced to move to the city just might make a top ten list. However, the results are not nearly as bad as the premise might suggest on the surface. The filmmakers behind this odd project actually produced something that’s sort of….fun?