Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Whale - Review

 Darren Aronofsky is nothing if not fascinating as a filmmaker. Not everything connects, but the choices he makes in projects are always unique at the very least. That remains true for The Whale, an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s stage play of the same name, though the final product winds up landing far from the heights of his more interesting projects. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery - Review


With the release of Knives Out back in 2019, director Rian Johnson took a very straightforward genre in murder mysteries and flipped every convention on its head. We knew the events of the death and the person responsible, and yet, Johnson had us rooting for the character through all the twists and turns. Of course that wasn’t all the film had in store, and its shocking revelations and detailed reveals made the film stand out, and audiences get even more of it with the follow up, Glass Onion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water - Review

For over a decade now, the original Avatar has taken its fair share of punches for its derivative story and somewhat weak characters. Somewhere in that same span of time, people have forgotten the true phenomenon that it was and how truly magnificent the visuals were on the big screen. It’s been called overrated so often in the last thirteen years that it has actually become underrated, and the anticipation for its sequel has fluctuated in turn. But now it’s here, and James Cameron gets a chance to remind everyone to never doubt his skills ever again.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - Review

 Over the past five years, Hollywood has seemingly fallen in love with just about everything that Guillermo del Toro touches. For most things, it’s justified. For other things, like Pinocchio, it doesn’t feel like enough. Somehow, del Toro and directing partner Mark Gustafon turn this very familiar story into something incredibly moving, beautiful and altogether astounding.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Empire of Light - Review


Following the success of his last outing amidst the backdrop of World War I in 1917, Sam Mendes once again looks to the past for his next film, Empire of Light. Gone is the horror and annihilation of war, replaced with a smaller, humbler tale of human connection. It’s a far more delicate and lovely outing, but its overstuffed narrative and abundance of themes leave a lot to be desired. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Inspection - Review

 As we move further and further away from the jingoistic and patriotic portrayals of our most recent war, a new portrait has begun to emerge. While the concept of war has always been examined and questioned through the lens of a camera, recent depictions of the War of Terror have started to examine further the flames that many stoke in order to populate their fighting machine. The Inspection is just that, an investigation into how far those in charge will go to break someone, or transform them into killers.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Aftersun - Review


Memories often betray us. They conjure up a past that never existed, or at least existed in a very different reality than what we actually lived. Yet, we hold onto them, sometimes for dear life as if they were the last piece of wreckage saving us from a watery grave. Aftersun seeks to explore how memories craft an expression of someone, a conjuring of someone from imperfect recollections and materialize that in our minds to try and better understand them after time has passed. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - Review (No Spoilers)


To put into words the unimaginable situation that the cast and crew found themselves in upon the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman is impossible. Any attempts to match the cultural impact of the first film in the sequel became infinity more difficult without its charismatic, heroic lead. Yet somehow, director Ryan Coogler and his talented cast and crew have crafted a profound and emotional sequel that tackles themes of grief, loss, and legacy.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Till - Review


Nothing is more powerful than the love, and strong will, of a mother. That’s the tone and energy that Till operates with, the devastating story of Mamie Till-Mobley in the wake of tragedy, and seeing the lengths that she’ll will go to for some form of justice, even if the likelihood of finding it seems low. However, the impending case and headlines surrounding the death of Emmett Till become so much more then just one mother seeking answers for what happened to her son.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

All Quiet on the Western Front - Review


Of the two World Wars, World War I seems remarkably underrepresented on a film scale when compared to it’s far more studied follow up of the 1940s. There are, of course, exceptions, but the Great War has only a handful of good to great interpretations for the silver screen. Recently there has been Sam Mendes’ 1917 and the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, but before then, the most well known of the bunch was likely All Quiet on the Western Front, a film released originally nearly 100 years ago, and remade now for Netflix.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Wendell & Wild - Review

 Thirteen Years. It’s been thirteen years since Henry Selick last gave the world a glimpse into his imaginative and wild head with 2009’s Coraline. Thankfully, he’s back. Wendell & Wild marks a delightful return to form for a director that basically brought stop motion to the mainstream way back in the 90s. Throw in the ideas and sensibilities from the minds of Jordan Peele Keegan-Michael and the tone this film is going for can really start to become clear. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Black Adam - Review


Comics have this trend of taking bad guys and villains that display even the slightest bit of popularity and making them anti-heroes instead. Sony has capitalized on this to make two Venom films now, with more Spider-Man villain films on the way. And now, after over a decade of development, WB and DC have finally made their version in Black Adam, a film with the lightest story possible and all the overblown action you could imagine. 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

TÁR - Review


From the moment that TÁR begins, there’s an emphasis on noise. Whether it’s the possibly perfect pitch of the titular composer, the ever present whispers and praise of what makes her who she is, or even the extraneous noise of a doorbell or a busted vent on a car, everything is precisely placed. Finding the meaning in the music, as Lydia Tár often pontificates on, is where the audience comes in. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Banshees of Inisherin - Review


Feuding is a human tradition, a little war that has sparked anything from bloody conflicts to petty squabbles, and yet, it remains inherently absurd. For director and writer Martin McDonagh, the central feud is a way to spark laughter and reflection upon obsession, niceness and loneliness, and eventually see these men descend so far into their battle that it’s hard to remember how it all even started. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Halloween Ends - Review


Horror franchises are a fascinating animal. They’re often so long running and messy, its hard to keep continuity straight, and yet, the fanbases for them are as boisterous as any blockbuster, big budget series. Halloween has been off and on for over forty years now, with many ups but mostly downs, and the latest entry Halloween Ends seeks to finally bring this roller coaster narrative to a close. It says as much in the title, and once you settle in to watch it, you might be asking for it to end as well.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Bros - Review


The newest trend with the last decade or so of romcoms is to call attention to the fact that it’s a romcom. A lot of them can’t balance that self-referential tone, but quite a few have turned that consciousness into something snappy and satisfying. Bros leans fully into the machinations of the genre, almost dipping into meta territory, and brilliantly showcases the skills of its star and co-writer, Billy Eichner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Blonde - Review


Much has been made about the “highly artistic and experimental} biopic about Marilyn Monroe. From the NC-17 rating, to some questionable comments from the director, the film has been steeped in controversy since cameras started rolling. But its finally here, and there’s a lot to unpack.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Woman King - Review

 Hollywood’s newest historical action-drama, The Woman King, showcases the often forgotten kingdoms of West Africa. With director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s latest film, the kingdom of Dahomey and its mighty Agojie warriors get the spotlight, and illustrate just how ahead of their time they were for the early 19th century. And leading this ferocious, unapologetic force of Dahomey women is their top general, Nanisca, another role in a long list of characters perfectly suited to showcase the talents of the great Viola Davis.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Bullet Train - Review

 Throughout his growing career so far, director David Leitch has taken some truly fine to average ideas at best on paper and made them into entertaining action flicks at the very least. That’s not to say they’re always “good” movies, but they’re at the very least exciting. Bullet Train is the latest attempt at capturing that energy, and for once its an idea that’s actually not too bad on paper, but less so in actual practice. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder - Review


After the first two solo outings from Marvel’s God of Thunder, no one would’ve believed that not only would Thor get a financially and critically successful third installment, but he would be the first Avenger to reach a fourth outing as well. And giving the keys to the  world of gods and cosmic entities to Taika Waititi makes more and more sense with each passing day since the release of Thor: Ragnarok back in 2017. WIth Thor: Love and Thunder, Waititi and company double down on the humor, heart and zaniness that made the last film so invigorating to the MCU’s most stagnant hero. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Elvis - Review


With the audacious director Baz Luhrmann attached to Elvis, it should come as no surprise that the final product is a confounding, kaleidoscopic display of overconfidence. Luhrmann is known for his over-the-top fantasies, and for some reason, believes that the energy of Elvis Presley can be captured within the standard story practices of a musical biopic. Here’s a hint: it can’t be recreated, or at least not with this set-up.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Lightyear - Review


Within the first few moments of Lightyear, the on screen text does more good for this film (or at least comparable good) than all its marketing campaign. The lens with which one views the entire concept shifts entirely when you know that this is supposedly the 1995 film that got Andy interested in Buzz Lightyear and space in general. Keeping that in mind, the sort of safe approach to this fairly likable sci-fi, action film that just can’t reach the beyond it so strives to find. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Jurassic World: Dominion - Review

After digging up the Jurassic franchise with 2015’s Jurassic World, and following it with the mercifully different Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 2018, the series has reached its supposedly epic conclusion with Jurassic World: Dominion. While hybrid dinosaurs have been centered as the big bad toothy horrors of the previous two entries, Dominion provides the most absurd amalgamation for last, bringing back the its classic stars and merging them with the new cast for a misfire that’s sure to finally shift this series into extinction. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick - Review


A sequel thirty-six years in the making, Top Gun: Maverick accomplishes a feat that very few sequels, let alone entries this far removed from the original, can hope to accomplish: it’s way better than its predecessor. From its updated effects, bonkers stunt work, and all around more dramatic storytelling, Top Gun: Maverick is more accomplished than most modern action films, and the scale on which it plays serves to prove why nothing beats seeing films on the biggest screen possible. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Review (Spoiler-Free)

 When Sam Raimi was first mentioned as a possibility to take the reins for the long gestating sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, the general consensus seemed to be that audiences would get something different from this MCU entry, at the very least. The final result certainly is unique, one that sees the director’s distinct filmmaking style and horror genre origins seep into the well established and beloved world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Northman - Review


The executive that decided to give director Robert Eggers $90 million for an epic viking revenge film needs to be applauded for this absolutely genius decision. Robert Eggers is a fascinating filmmaker, turning out haunting and period accurate experiences that are absolutely dripping with style. The Northman is no different, and perhaps features the director at the height of his insanity, proving that his mind truly works in mysterious and eery ways. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - Review

Is there a franchise more steeped in controversy than Fantastic Beasts? With a creator constantly putting her foot firmly in her mouth, a lead villain being re-cast, and another supporting cast member dealing with their own legal issues, it’s hard to believe this third film even made it to theaters. But here we are, with the third film in a series that’s hardly about magical beasts at this point (or its a stretch to include them) and wants so badly to be bigger than it is. Like the first film, this entry feels once more like an extended prologue, just waiting for the bigger event to materialize. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once - Review


Once in a blue moon, a film arrives that simultaneously reminds you how magical and magnificent movies can be, and provide such spectacular weirdness and deep emotional connection that’s nearly impossible to put into words. In order to capture the awe and spectacle that Everything Everywhere All at Once contains and condense it down into one review feels like an impossible task, but it’s worth a shot. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Review


The family fun filled feature film has been a staple of moviemaking for decades now, but the eternal prevalence of CGI-crafted characters created a whole new sub-genre around the mid-2000s. Taking well-received or classic cartoonish characters, turning them into CGI-eyesores, and plopping them into a fully real environment was almost a yearly tradition. In many ways, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 follows that tradition, complete with a cast of human characters that no one cares about, and a heap of really childish jokes and quips along the way. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Morbius - Review


Is there a film studio operating in 2022 that’s more desperate for another film film franchise than Sony Pictures? An argument could be made that it’s really the only one fighting to find one. Sure, they have Spider-Man, but that’s in co-production with Marvel Studios, and every other attempt they’ve made has essentially crashed and burned. Morbius is their latest attempt to take a villain from Marvel Comics deep catalogue and turn them into a conflicted anti-hero, doomed to fail critically and financially from its complete lack of interesting ideas or source material. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Batman - Review


As a cinematic entity, Batman has an interesting history. There have now been six different actors to don the cape and cowl, and thus, six (mostly) different interpretations of the character. But none feel as close to the comic book source as this newest iteration. A tortured, fallen prince, determined to bring vengeance and justice to his criminal infested city is easy enough for most adaptations to get right, but where The Batman differs is in its recognition that Batman is all that’s left, Bruce Wayne is actually the mask. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Scream (2022) - Review

Once franchises reach their fifth outing, the returns typically start to diminish. Scream knows this, and in playing with its self-reflective and meta origins, looks both at its own history and the state of franchise filmmaking in modern Hollywood. After tackling horror films, sequels, trilogies and reboots, the next logical step is to send up what one character calls in the film a “re-quel”, not quite a reboot, not quite a sequel. And in doing so, brings the franchise full circle, back to the original.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Top 10 of 2021

Well 2021 has come and gone, and with it, some excellent pieces of filmmaking, spectacular performances and gorgeous looking movies have graced audiences and produced another great year of cinema. 

So let's not waste any time and see which ones I found to be the best of the best:

Honorable Mention

The Tragedy of Macbeth

The greatness of this film should come as no surprise. It’s a Coen film through and through, singular this time as brother Joel Coen goes it alone with this Shakespeare adaptation, however, the real draw is giving Denzel Washington a shot at Shakespeare, an opportunity he doesn’t take lightly.

The Worst Person in the World

A modern romantic drama in every sense of the word, The Worst Person in the World illustrates a 21st-century view of romance in ways that most films can only hope to capture. If this were an English language film, it’s safe to say Renate Reinsve might just give some of the current Best Actress frontrunners a run for their money. 

The Mitchells vs the Machines

Boasting dazzling, stylish animation and lovable characters, very few films, let alone animated, capture the emotion and heart at the center of The Mitchells vs the Machines. It’s the kind of movie that you’ll want to watch again just as soon as it ends, and then maybe once more for good measure. 

The Countdown

10. West Side Story
The skepticism in the lead up for the remake of West Side Story was justified, but after its release, it’s clear to see that was misplaced. In the hands of Steven Spielberg, the fifty year old musical feels new and fresh, improving on some of the originals dated flaws, and providing its own visual flare and vision in the process. Throw in star making performances from both Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose, and audiences get one of the best big screen musical adaptations in quite some time. 

9. Flee
No documentary (or animated film) carries the emotional weight of Flee. It’s the story of a refugee seeking to escape capture and death told through an exceptional blending of documentary filmmaking and animation. With some documentaries, you lose the sense of urgency that comes with the real life events, but the style of Flee turns the story of Rashid into something to be felt, an experience elevated to a level of connection often hard to reach. It’s the best documentary of the year, and a film everyone should see. 

8. The Green Knight
There are many films in 2021 that I loved, but few had me fully in its grasp as quickly as The Green Knight did. From a visual perspective, it’s a gorgeously crafted medieval world, mystical and enthralling in each corner of its stylish design. It takes a centuries old tale, and weaves its tangled knots into a fantasy that’s hypnotic from its  fast, fiery start to the brutal ending, and every enchanting moment along the way. 

7. Nine Days
The film on this list that seems to be the most overlooked, Nine Days is one of the most fascinating films of 2021. It’s premise is incredibly unique, that’s always a positive in my book, but its the way it handles its emotional beats that truly makes it special. Nine Days is never pretentious, always reaching for the line but hitting a more tranquil mark instead. The film is a transcendent experience, and a beautiful vision of humanity.

6. Drive My Car
There’s something to be said for the confidence one has in their film by placing the opening credits nearly 45 full minutes into its story. With Drive My Car, director Ryusuke Hamaguchi is right to have faith in the absolutely brilliant film he’s created. The three hour gem of cinema is the definition of low-key, a subdued but lingering tale about a grieving artist where every moment feels restrained, pulling the audience even closer for the wallop of emotion its delivers by the time the end credits roll. 

5. Dune
And in 2021, no film is quite as spectacular as Dune. Sure, there may be better films (this is fifth on my own list after all) but few compared to size and scope of director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of this complex, sci-fi epic. Its filmmaking on a grand scale, complete with visual splendor and technical marvels that stand out even in our age of blockbusters, fleshed out by a world of interesting dynamics and captivating political motivations. It shouldn’t come as a shock that Villeneuve nailed it, but never was it imaginable that he would hit it this far out of the park. 

4. Spencer
With a blend of fact with fiction, Spencer tells the tale of Princess Diana in a unique fashion. Rather than the standard biopic fare that’s become commonplace in the months of October - December, director Pablo Larrain seeks to place the audience firmly in the mindset of Diana herself. Thus the whole film presents itself as a psychological drama, a horror film as a woman fights for any semblance of control within her own life as the walls close in around her. It’s a truly remarkable film, and one that will undoubtedly earn Kristen Stewart the attention she’s deserved for a while now. 

3. C'mon C'mon
If you were ever to craft a warm blanket on a cool night into a narrative feature film, C’mon C’mon might be the closest thing to that. It’s a lovely, heartfelt piece of film from Mike Mills, that ruminates on the meaning of life and love through the simplicity of it all and the relationships we make along the way. Wholesome and hopeful in all the best ways, C’mon C’mon is a film that will make you laugh and cry, and probably laugh and cry some more, but it’s worth every minute of emotion it brings out. 

2. Licorice Pizza
Never is there a more chaotic and exhilarating ride than a PTA film set in the 70s. It’s goofy and charming, and serves us two performances from newcomers in Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman that are so much better than they have any right to be. For a film that’s so breezy on its surface, the themes just underneath provides just enough tension for the film to serve as more than just a hangout film. There’s something to be said about how bad all the men in this film behave, and the wondering of if Hoffman’s Gary will become another.

1. The Power of the Dog
So much has been said about this film already by now, and I don’t know how much I can add to it. It’s a perfect film, a masterpiece of cinema that’s actually deserving of that moniker when so many others are falsely labeled as such. Every spec of this film is exquisitely crafted, and Jane Campion deserves the world for giving us this truly masterful work of art.

I loved this film, can you tell?