After hitting it big with The Big Short, winning an Adapted Screenplay Oscar in the process, director Adam McKay attempts to tackle the Bush administration with the Dick Cheney biopic Vice. He even uses the same seriocomic filmmaking approach that he demonstrated with The Big Short. However, Vice neither possesses any sharp wit nor does it pack an emotional punch. It does try to have it both ways by acting as a satire and a heavy drama but it doesn’t know what it wants to be. As a result, Vice ends up being the most tonally haphazard film I’ve seen
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Adam McKay's tonally haphazard biopic is saved by a great Christian Bale performance.
The anti-A Star Is Born in the best possible ways.
Normally, I don’t like to compare one film to another when doing a film review. But Vox Lux is very much what people are labeling it as: The anti-A Star Is Born. It’s much more cynical and also quite violent. Yet, I still found it to be pretty brilliant. Understandably, not everyone is completely on board with it but it still had some interesting things to say about the nature of celebrity and how artistry can be used as a way to heal. After Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) survives a school shooting, both she and her sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin) perform
A censored Deadpool 2. Nothing more, nothing less.
Once Upon A Deadpool is exactly as it is advertised. It’s a fun, censored re-release of Deadpool 2 made to be a light holiday event. It features the exact same story just with added scenes of Deadpool reading to an adult Fred Savage in a replica of the bedroom from The Princess Bride. However, the opening credits scene with Celine Dion singing “Ashes” is nowhere to be found. The fact that this is the PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 allows it to be even more self-referential since that’s the nature of the character and is what makes him so distinctive.
Boy Erased has its heart in the right place but doesn't have a proper voice.
Boy Erased is one of those movies that has its heart is in the right place but almost falters due to its slightly hampered execution. It does have its high qualities and it does its part by keeping the message alive about conversion therapy which is sadly legal in some states. However, it still doesn’t quite come together despite its admirable efforts. The film is based on a true story about the life of Garrard Conley who was sent to conversion therapy by his parents after being outed as gay. But Jared Eamons, who is the main character played by
The Favourite is completely innovative and easily Yorgos Lanthimos' most actor-driven picture.
Yorgos Lanthimos tackling a period piece is a segway as unorthodox as his previous work. However, as it turns out, The Favourite proves to possess the same absurdist touch as The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer even if the script isn’t written by Lanthimos this time around. Admittedly, because Lanthimos didn’t pen the script, it is easily his most accessible film. But thanks to the use of techniques like the disorienting cinematography and the acting from two of his leading ladies who have previously collaborated with him and understand his esoteric vision, The Favourite still remains in
Shoplifters is a well-acted, bittersweet ode to the impoverished.
One thing that’s so amazing about Shoplifters is that it succeeds in areas where it could’ve easily gone wrong. It’s an insightful look at a family living in poverty without becoming preachy and demonstrates people with misguided yet good intentions without acting judgmental. Director/writer Hirokazu Kore-eda handles the film with a pragmatic yet empathetic eye and as a result, crafts together one of the year’s best movies that clutches the heartstrings by the time the credits roll. The story follows Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), a couple that barely makes ends meet since they work
Green Book is a safe crowd-pleaser but still badly antiquated.
The best way to describe Green Book is that it’s a topical movie that has its heart in the right place but still falters because of its safe and narrow-minded nature. Despite the poster saying it’s inspired by a true friendship, the film is mainly interested in one half of that friendship. As a result, we get a look at historical American racism that is made presentable in a way that it’s problematic. In a rather awkward fashion, Green Book is chiefly about Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a New York club bouncer who chauffeured a famed pianist named Don Shirley
Widows is an incredibly thematic crime drama with a killer acting ensemble.
Steve McQueen may be a director that hails from the U.K. but he has successfully demonstrated his ability to venture into the darkest depths of American society. Previously, he crafted a harrowing portrait of historical American slavery with the Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave. Now, with Widows, he has constructed a modern-day morality tale about race, police brutality, gender, class, and politics which presents itself under the guise of a popcorn heist thriller. While the film does demonstrate an exciting buildup to the climactic heist, at its core, it’s really about trying to survive in a lawless world
It's a strong acting showcase, a biopic, and a cautionary tale all at once.
After landing an Oscar nomination for her scene-stealing turn in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has managed to successfully parlay her awards success into comedic movie stardom. Well now, she gets to expertly show off her skills as a dramatic actress in the biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me?, delivering her best performance to date in the process. Granted, she has shown hints of her dramatic capabilities with St. Vincent and even Bridesmaids where she had the scene with the serious one-on-one talk with Kristen Wiig’s character. However, those were just indications of her range which is demonstrated in full force here.
Despite Beautiful Boy being a well-intended yet cluttered drama, Timothee Chalamet makes it worth watching.
Right off the bat, I’ll just say that my biggest gripe with Beautiful Boy is that it focuses less on its title character. The film may be based on a memoir by David Sheff, the father who tried helping his son battle meth addiction. However, the film would have benefitted from focusing almost entirely on the son himself. It is partially because of the commanding performance from Timothee Chalamet and also because of poor characterization. As Nic Sheff, David’s son who fought addiction, Timothee Chalamet is easily best in show. Even if it doesn’t top his brilliant, Oscar-nominated performance as
Despite the film's formulaic storytelling, Rami Malek's commanding performance helps the film come alive.
The band Queen is iconic because of not just their singles but their bold, genre-flipping style. Yet, the biopic on their life feels more like the kind of safe, accessible tunes that their former record label wanted to give more airplay to rather than the risky poetic tune that the film gets its title from. It attempts to check all the right biopic boxes when it could’ve been as unconventional as the band it depicts. That being said, Bohemian Rhapsody is still a moderately made film and it is done with slight filmmaking flare. It also serves as a celebration
1985 is an understated yet powerhouse gem about small-town life and the AIDS crisis.
Even though I’ve never really left the area I grew up in, in my opinion, the film 1985 still perfectly captures the struggle of being able to come back home. The feeling of going back to the small town you lived in your whole life that you desperately left behind, to escape either its mundanity or to bury family troubles, can be a conflicting one. Yet, that is just one layer to the story of 1985. It also captures the feeling of being closeted and demonstrates the AIDS crisis to fit the time period in which the film takes place.
Bad Times at the El Royale is wonderfully chaotic and boasts a killer ensemble cast.
If there was an Oscar given for Most Well-Marketed Movie Of The Year, Bad Times at the El Royale would easily be a frontrunner. The film's marketing is so in sync with the shroud of mystery that surrounds it up until the final climax. Even while you're watching the movie, it’s difficult to determine what kind of movie you're watching. Is this a black comedy? Is it some kind of horror movie? Are we watching an Agatha Christie-style thriller? What kind of movie is this? Well, I can tell you one thing: This movie is a total blast. Its genre
Alfonso Cuaron's latest film Roma is heart wrenching, awe inspiring, and vital all at once.
The best word that can be used to describe Roma is that it is transcendent. It is a transcendent piece of cinematic art that captures your heart and is also a theatrical experience that manages to rupture the senses. After director Alfonso Cuaron made Gravity, the cinematic event of 2013 and one of the most monumental cinematic experiences of the decade, some of us probably wondered how he would follow that up. Well, he has made a film with a story that is smaller in scale yet is still quite simplistic. It seems like a straightforward story involving the life
Bradley Cooper offers an effective glimpse at his potential greatness as a director with his decent remake.
After getting two remakes of the famed 1937 classic, do we really need another version of A Star Is Born? Well, while the old story remains the same, director/actor/co-writer Bradley Cooper still manages to make his rendition both modern and timely. Also, Bradley Cooper may be one of the best actors of his generation but with A Star Is Born, he proves that as an actor, he can be an even better director. It goes without saying that his performance as fading country star Jackson Maine is terrific. However, what makes his direction even better is how he puts such
It retains the same theme of finding your identity that director Amma Asante has demonstrated in her previous work.
Before I go further into my review, I’ll just get one thing out of the way. If you plan on seeing Where Hands Touch but haven’t seen the trailer yet, then my advice would be to skip the trailer and just see the film. The preview makes it seem like the film’s forbidden romance, which has been an understandable point of controversy, is its focal point. But as it turns out, Where Hands Touch is really about finding your identity and trying to survive in the midst of war. Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), a biracial woman, tries to pass as a
The depressing Life Itself will surely be a contender for worst movie of the year.
They say there is no greater journey than life itself. Well, one thing about life that isn’t great is the journey of sitting through movies like Life Itself. Even though the ensemble drama has an incredible cast, even they can’t save this mess which is schmaltzy to the point where it becomes nauseating. I mean, if the movie wants to demonstrate how life is full of unexpected surprises, why make it so depressing for the sake of being depressing? The way that the storylines are connected is practically designed to demand buckets of tears from the audience members. Just on
In a career-best turn, Keira Knightley amazingly brings a famed novelist's story to life.
As an actress, Keira Knightley has become rather synonymous with period dramas. In fact, her two Oscar nominations were for period pieces: Pride and Prejudice and The Imitation Game. But here’s hoping that she can be in the running for a third nomination with Colette, a biopic on the life of a famed novelist who slowly found the courage to speak up after being silenced for so long. Knightley manages to do some of the best work of her career, portraying a complex woman who is vulnerable, sexually liberate, and tenacious. The titular novelist whom the film is based on
A must-see for anyone who is a fan of these four legendary thespians.
The documentary Tea with the Dames is exactly as it is advertised: A quartet of legendary British dames having a long conversation about their lengthy careers while sipping tea. As a result, we might not see it compete in the Oscar race for Best Documentary since films in that category tend to deal with heftier subject matter. But Tea with the Dames is still a worthwhile experience regardless. It’s an insightful look into the lives of legendary performers that also works as a piece of pure escapism. Seeing Dame Maggie Smith discuss becoming a mainstay in pop culture thanks to
Ben Mendelsohn is the strong center of the naturalistic ensemble dramedy by writer/director Nicole Holofcener.
Much like Enough Said, director Nicole Holofcener’s last film, The Land Of Steady Habits is a poignant telling of a person going through a midlife crisis. However, while Enough Said was a romantic comedy, The Land Of Steady Habits is a seriocomical ensemble piece about how growing up is different from growing old. At the center of the film’s ensemble is Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), a divorced financier who decides to leave behind his career that he’s become disillusioned with and try to restart his life. In the meantime, he tries to maintain his relationship with his college graduate son
An admirably unconventional depiction of PTSD anchored by a strong performance by Leven Rambin.
When Lost Child first opens, our main character Fern (Leven Rambin of The Hunger Games fame) is sitting on a bus heading home after fighting in the Army. When we hear the sound of gunshots while she’s resting, it seems to set the tone for the movie. Right off the bat, it looks like we’re in for a PTSD character study. In a way, the film is that but it also turns out to be an interesting genre bender as a way to avoid being a typical story about an Army soldier readjusting to home life. As Fern returns home,
Director Aneesh Chaganty delivers what is easily the most immersive and innovative film of the year.
It’s hard to know where to begin when describing the sheer brilliance of Searching. For one, it handles a really interesting gimmick of having the entire film shot on smartphones and computer webcams. Not only that, but the gimmick never overshadows the emotional storyline which deals with a father who will go to great lengths to save his missing daughter. The film’s ability to let the story and technical aesthetics go hand in hand smoothly is thanks in large part to writer/director Aneesh Chaganty. Along with leading man John Cho and co-writer Sev Ohanian, he has easily created one of
Glenn Close is a quiet force of nature in a masterfully written and well-acted gem.
There’s no denying that Glenn Close is one of our greatest living actresses. Her career spans 30 years and she’s been a mainstay on the silver screen, the small screen, and the stage. Also, after losing at the Oscars a staggering six times, it feels like her moment may finally arise with The Wife. Much like how her character demands people to hear her voice, Glenn Close shall make voters finally take notice of her genius talent this time around. In The Wife, Glenn Close plays Joan, the wife of a famed writer named Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). When Joseph
It succeeds thanks to its cultural significance and crowd-pleasing nature.
It is quite admirable to see a film like Crazy Rich Asians being greenlit so that Asian-American audiences can see themselves reflected in a positive manner. I know in 2018, it shouldn’t seem like a big deal. But even though it is 2018, the tired practice of Caucasian actors playing whitewashed Asian roles is still being practiced. So, to have a film with a cast solely made up of Asian actors is quite a big deal. Crazy Rich Asians is a key cultural touchstone and also, a great movie. It is a fun movie going experience that manages to have
BlacKkKlansman is a powerful and razor sharp yet timely effort from director Spike Lee.
The best way to describe Spike Lee’s latest joint, BlacKkKlansman, is that it is haunting, humorous, and thought provoking in equal measure. It works as an acerbic buddy comedy that delves into the horrors of white supremacy which is still prevalent in today’s society. BlacKkKlansman may be based on a true story, yet it also feels like a documentation of the bigotry that the Trump presidency is currently demonstrating and not just because it features footage of last year’s Charlottesville riots. BlacKkKlansman is based on the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American detective to serve in
A PSA that Kate McKinnon is a true blue comedic movie star.
Not only is The Spy Who Dumped Me a fun movie-going experience but it is proof that we should put any potential talk of introducing “Jane Bond” to rest. I mean, why build off an already established property when we have original female-centered spy films like The Spy Who Dumped Me that can become their own franchises? Even if this film isn’t perfect or anything groundbreaking, I’d still gladly watch a sequel should one get made. The Spy Who Dumped Me follows the story of Audrey (Mila Kunis), a retail clerk who’s been dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux)
Thanks to two of its supporting actors, Brotherly Love thrives on a wing and a prayer.
Based on the novel Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza, Brotherly Love follows the story of Vito Fortunato (Anthony J. Caruso), a seminarian in the Catholic Church who must decide between his religious vows of chastity and his sexual freedom before becoming a Brother. Contributing to his dilemma is both his sex-crazed partner Tim (Chance McKee) and a landscaper named Gabe (Derek Babb) whom Vito falls in love with while away at a retreat. When Vito first meets Gabe, that is when the film kicks into high gear. That is in large part due to Derek Babb who gives a
A sublime biopic carried by Trine Dyrholm who excels as the late famed musician.
During the opening montage of Nico, 1988, the song “These Days” starts playing over it. A song that may be familiar to anyone who’s seen The Royal Tenenbaums and which might be the titular singer’s best-known song because of that movie. Even though Nico might not be familiar to modern audiences, the film Nico, 1988 makes a strong case as to why more people should know her story. It is a simplistic yet unsentimental depiction of an artist who had a passion for music even when it became difficult to hold onto it. Nico, 1988 follows the last three years
It is both the best action film of the summer and the franchise's best film.
The Mission: Impossible franchise manages to live up to its title because it attains a feat that franchises rarely accomplish. It does the unthinkable by getting better with each installment and Fallout, the latest entry, is the best one yet. It features satisfying action and humor while also being a deep character study. Not to mention, it is extremely well-acted across the board. Mission Impossible - Fallout basically has everything one could want in a blockbuster which makes it a perfect summer movie going experience. Because it’s a sequel, that also means greater stakes are involved. The Syndicate, the crime
A completely bonkers and bizarre yet thrilling directorial debut from Boots Riley.
“Uhh…...what?” That was the best possible way to describe my reaction to Sorry to Bother You. It is completely bizarre, original, and balls to the wall. Yet, it’s still super brilliant. Sorry to Bother You is brilliant because it manages to be both scathing and sharply hilarious. This is a masterpiece that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time. Sorry to Bother You follows the story of Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a broke individual who lands a job at a telemarketing agency. Looking to get ahead in the industry, he discovers a secret to finding success: By speaking in
Aside from its narrative flaws, 1/1 still manages to thrive thanks to its quietly commanding, leading performance by Lindsey Shaw.
Plenty of us know Lindsey Shaw as Jennifer “Moze” Mosely from the Nickelodeon television series Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. We remember her as the sweet and brainy best friend of the titular main character. Well, in the latest heavyweight drama 1/1, she gets to take a much darker turn. As a young woman coming to grips with her troubled small town life, Shaw is quite brilliant but manages to be the film’s saving grace. She does carry the picture on her shoulders well enough. However, the film surrounding her is unfortunately, a bit of a mess. There are moments
A flawless portrayal of adolescence that features both uplifting and heart wrenching authenticity.
Eighth Grade was a rather confusing and painful experience. The movie Eighth Grade, however, is a portrait of an adolescent coming to terms with her growing pains that is simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking. It also perfectly captures how going through middle school feels like the end of everything when it’s really the end of an era. Middle school is a time of confusion and uncertainty over what lies ahead and watching Eighth Grade felt like I was taking a trip back in time. The film-watching experience was hard for me because it was a difficult time in my life and
A harrowing look into the heart of war that is bound to make some viewers uncomfortable.
When Path of Blood first opens, there is a video of a group of young jihadists laughing before they are about to carry on a planned mission. Then, there is a freeze-frame shot of one of the jihadists before the film’s title card is revealed. That one shot illustrates the documentary’s main theme. The main objective of Path of Blood is to show that war is a winless battle and it shows how easily youths can get swept into the battle. The film is mainly made up of archival footage shot by Al-Qaeda terrorists and shows their plot to overthrow
Ant-Man and the Wasp is an improvement of its predecessor that is flawed yet still entertaining.
Earlier this year, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War showed us how bold and innovative Marvel Cinematic Universe films can be. However, as Marvel movies dramatically evolve, Ant-Man and the Wasp proves that the MCU can still provide light popcorn fare. Admittedly, Ant-Man and the Wasp does possess heavy dramatic stakes but for the most part, it’s escapist fun that manages to outdo its predecessor. The story takes place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest and has avoided contact with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter
Not only a pointless sequel but a miserable film-watching experience on various levels.
The 2015 crime thriller Sicario was a morality tale about justice, vengeance, and power meticulously crafted by director Denis Villeneuve. Although there was an established antagonist, Villeneuve went an interesting route by exploring the reasons the characters had for hunting down the main villain rather than focusing on the villain himself. Villeneuve may not have been involved with the film’s sequel, Day Of The Soldado, but surely, the filmmakers involved would still retain his directorial sensibilities, right? Wrong. We don’t have the same meditative tale of corruption and revenge that was the first film. Instead, we get a sequel that
Despite its predictability, Boundaries still succeeds thanks to its profound storytelling and great acting.
One good way to describe Boundaries is that it does yet doesn’t live up to its title. It doesn’t offer any boundary-breaking storytelling. But it still is a poignant demonstration of what happens when one does or doesn’t impose limitations on the behavior of their children. Again, it isn’t anything we haven’t seen or been told before. But Boundaries is still worth recommending for being a simplistic, well-acted escapist road film. Boundaries follows the story of a single mother named Laura Jaconi (Vera Farmiga) whose life is in slight chaos. Her artistic son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) keeps getting into trouble
"Whatever scene you’re doing is just about trying to grab whatever the truth is in that moment whether it’s a video game or whether it’s a movie." - Christian Papierniak
In Izzy Gets The F*ck Across Town, perennial scene-stealer Mackenzie Davis gets a rare opportunity to carry a film on her shoulders. But she manages to do it with ferocious gusto. As Izzy, a struggling riot grrrrl rock star, Davis delivers a performance that possesses both dramatic insecurity and deadpan comic bite. Izzy may not be the easiest character to like and in many ways, is a complete mess. But Davis still makes her a protagonist worth watching thanks to her charisma that shines through in every single frame of the picture in which she appears. The film follows her
Ocean's 8 is entertaining popcorn fare. Nothing more, nothing less.
Even though it could’ve been its own original property rather than an Ocean’s spinoff, Ocean’s 8 is still enjoyable popcorn fare. It may not be perfect but it’s still a fun moviegoing experience featuring terrific, witty performances from its A-list cast. Ocean’s 8 follows the story of Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of con artist Danny Ocean. After being released from prison on parole, Debbie quickly turns back to her life of crime. Debbie quickly assembles a group of women: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and Constance (Awkwafina),
The film itself is a twisted experience that had me quivering by the time the credits rolled.
It’s hard to know how exactly to describe Hereditary as a film. On one hand, it’s a dark descent into a person’s damaged psyche. On the other hand, it’s an enigmatic supernatural thriller that serves an allegory for the “demons” we inherit from our family. The film itself is a twisted experience that had me quivering by the time the credits rolled. But one thing about Hereditary that is perfectly describable is the brilliance of Toni Collette’s leading performance. Collette gives what is perhaps the best performance in a horror film in recent memory. One that will potentially join the
Neither sentimental nor filled with heavy dramatic stakes, The Workers Cup is a simple demonstration of why people play sports.
In 2022, Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup and its stadium is being built by 1.6 million migrant workers. Sixty percent of the workers are some of the world’s poorest people like India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They work tirelessly to ensure that the one of the world’s biggest events can be held in the world’s richest country. The Workers Cup focuses on a select amount of workers who are chosen to compete in The Workers Cup, a football tournament for laborers. The tournament is sponsored by the 2022 World Cup and 24 construction companies were invited to select teams
American Animals offers up a witty yet complex demonstration of the conflicting pursuit of the American Dream.
American Animals is based on the true story of two college students from Lexington, Kentucky named Spencer (Barry Keoghan) and Warren (Evan Peters). Despite them having a somewhat tranquil lifestyle in middle-class suburbia, they still yearn for something more. They eventually come up with a scheme to live the American Dream by stealing valuable old books from the library of Transylvania University. They also enlist the help of accounting major Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and fitness junkie Chas Allen (Blake Jenner). But as the four men plan the robbery, it eventually leads to a downfall that will shape their lives in
Saoirse Ronan easily saves what ends up being a jumbled depiction of marriage and sexuality.
The last time Saoirse Ronan starred in a film based on an Ian McEwan novel was Atonement back in 2007. Atonement was her big break and she landed an Oscar nomination in Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Since then, she’s ascended to leading-lady status and has now transported back to the literary world of Ian McEwan by starring in a film adaptation of his novel On Chesil Beach. Saoirse Ronan delivers a luminous and quietly commanding performance as a newly conflicted bride. However, she manages to be the only reason to watch On Chesil Beach which has a thoughtful
"We were able to find the tricky balance between comedy and drama by keeping Teddy and the world of Nice grounded." - Naomi Ko
While the Tribeca Film Festival may primarily be focused on film, it has also become a hub for television recently. During this year’s festival, there were season premieres of television shows being screened along with pilots looking for distribution. One of them that I was fortunate enough to watch was a pilot for a series called Nice. Nice is a story of a 23-year-old woman named Teddy (Naomi Ko), who previously fought breast cancer. But when her cancer comes back, she tries to keep it a secret from her family and friends. At about 22 minutes, Nice is a powerful
Untogether is a solid directing debut from Emma Forrest that possesses hints of greatness.
Author-turned-director Emma Forrest attempts to explore the turbulent nature of relationships with Untogether. Admittedly, the film itself is rather turbulent in terms of how it depicts its thematic material. But it becomes evident that Forrest has a distinctive filmmaking voice. Her attempt to demonstrate the complicated nature of being in love is a solid acting showcase with some well-crafted sequences. Untogether stars the two Kirke sisters, Jemima and Lola, as two sisters named Andrea and Tara. Andrea is a former heroin addict who is also a writer and hasn’t published another book in a while. She is also having an
The star power of rising actress Laia Costa helps elevate two flawed showcases for her tremendous talent.
One great thing about film festivals is discovering breakthrough talent. One actress who I haven’t seen act before that certainly caught my eye during the Tribeca Film Festival was Spanish actress Laia Costa. She may have made her real breakthrough with the German crime thriller Victoria. But now, it looks like she’s about to catch the attention of American moviegoers with the films she has lined up. Two of them are films that premiered at Tribeca: Duck Butter and Maine. Even if neither film fully delivers, the best thing about each film is Costa’s tremendous acting. In the sensual romantic
Tessa Thompson and Lily James are the strong center of a modernized Western that is introspective and thought provoking.
One thing about the Western genre that is tiring is how it is traditionally masculine. Films set in modern day that depict Western films and films set in the Wild Wild West are often told from a male perspective. But thank goodness for writer/director Nia DaCosta who created Little Woods, a modernized Western that focuses on women navigating their way through lawless terrain. It’s also a portrait of working-class America that is harrowing yet unsentimental. Little Woods will surely be one of the best films of the year. The story follows Ollie (Tessa Thompson), an ex-con who is attempting to
Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a career-best performance as a struggling comedienne and deserves serious Oscar recognition.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the most underrated actresses working today. Even though she has bounced from genre to genre and delivered a slew of quality performances, she still hasn’t been able to break through. One reason is probably because the films she’s done aren’t always as good as her talents. Well, thankfully, she has found a starring vehicle as amazing as she is. In the tragicomedy All About Nina, she not only gives the performance of her career but a performance that should put her in the awards conversation for Best Actress. The story follows Nina Geld (Mary
Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, and Alessandro Nivola give three of the year's best performances in this compelling romantic drama.
After helming the Oscar winning foreign language film A Fantastic Woman, director Sebastian Lelio brings us Disobedience, a portrait of forbidden love that is transfixing and anchored by three flawless leading performances. Also, like A Fantastic Woman, it is a great portrayal of queer women finding their inner strength and is a gem that slowly has you under its spell by the time it’s over. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, Disobedience tells the story of a New York photographer named Ronit (Rachel Weisz) who returns back home to London after hearing about the death of her father. Her
A harrowing depiction of conversion therapy that also manages to be hearty.
When it comes to films depicting the LGBTQ experience, we rarely get films that depict the topic of conversion therapy. Even if conversion therapy doesn’t involve physical discrimination, it still causes youths to discriminate against themselves and it is a topic that should be depicted on screen more. Thankfully, this year, we will be seeing the release of two films depicting this issue. One of them is Boy Erased starring Lucas Hedges. The other is the subject of this review and that is the earnest, well-acted gem called The Miseducation of Cameron Post. It follows the story of a lesbian
Despite the efforts of its cast, especially leading actress Antonella Costa, Dry Martina still succumbs to its complicated storytelling.
In the opening scene of Dry Martina, our main character is performing at a concert and about midway through her performance, she immediately takes off her wig and steps out of the stage. The minute she stops performing, we see her turn into a different, more troubled person. That small moment is an indication of what Dry Martina is about. It is a character study about a woman on the verge of self-destruction that is successfully anchored by its leading actress even though the film itself is rather, shall I say, slightly dry. Martina (Antonella Costa) is a former pop
Cargo puts a refreshing spin on the zombie genre and is anchored by a career-best Martin Freeman performance.
When it comes to films depicting the zombie apocalypse, we see the same repetitive formula: Survivors must fight for their lives against the undead and try not to get infected. The latest entry in the zombie film genre, Cargo, demonstrates that same formula but puts a whole new spin on it. Yolanda Ramke, who wrote and co-directed the film with Ben Howling, has crafted a story about fatherhood set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse and it is packed with both horror and heart. Cargo follows the story of Andy (Martin Freeman) and Kay (Susie Porter), an Australian couple
She talked about bringing the authentic relationship between the two main characters to life, the filmmaking aesthetics, and the backstory behind the screenplay as well.
Abortion is a topic that feels as if it is rarely discussed on film. We’ve seen films about failing marriages and pregnancies before. But it is rare to get a film that depicts certain complications of pregnancy that some couples face. However, 20 Weeks dares to touch on the hot-button topic of abortion and it does so in a nonjudgmental manner. Anna Margaret Hollyman and Amir Arisan play Maya and Ronan, a couple that is faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to abort their unborn child when they discover that he has a severe birth defect. The
A Quiet Place is a simplistic yet masterful gem that is destined to become a modern horror classic.
Even though just saying the title now gives me chills, I will not stay silent on how amazing A Quiet Place is. Actor-turned-director John Krasinski takes a film with an intriguing, minimalist premise and executes it with precision while directing a masterclass acting ensemble in the process. Unsettling at every single turn and gripping from the first frame to last, A Quiet Place seems destined to become a modern day horror classic. A Quiet Place is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been taken over by alien creatures who will hunt down anyone who makes sounds of any kind.
Ready Player One is entertaining popcorn fare drenched in nostalgia and not much else.
Coming off of the Best Picture-nominated film The Post, Steven Spielberg makes the jump back to blockbusters with Ready Player One, continuing his “one for me, one for them” model of balancing historical dramas and blockbusters and Ready Player One surely feels like it was made for audiences with its stunning visuals and crowd pleasing action sequences. Yet, Spielberg's flair for substance over style that was present in his earlier blockbusters like Jurassic Park and E.T. is lost here. While Ready Player One is an entertaining thrill ride, its storytelling still feels rather empty. Based on the novel by Ernest
Love, Simon is a tremendously acted crowd pleaser that also deserves applause for its cultural importance as well.
While Love, Simon is deserving of admiration because of its depiction of queer representation on a mainstream level, it should still be lauded for being a well-acted crowd pleaser that is bound to have people laughing, crying, and applauding by the time the credits roll. Despite there being some familiar beats in the storyline, they're still easy to overlook because Love, Simon is a winning film-going experience that tugs the heartstrings with absolute ease. Based on the novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon follows the story of a high schooler named Simon Spier (Nick
Allure is hard to watch at times and is rather troubled but its leading actresses, Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone, still give it their all.
Allure follows the story of Laura (Evan Rachel Wood), a troubled 30-year-old woman who works as a house cleaner for her father’s company. She’s someone who lives a life in solitude and has had trouble finding love. But that all changes once she meets a teenage girl named Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), a pianist who is dissatisfied with her privileged life with her overbearing mother. Once Laura persuades Eva to stay at her house and inadvertently kidnaps her, both women end up in a relationship fueled by manipulation and obsession. The best way to describe Allure is that despite its
While it reaches for the stars with its jaw-dropping visuals, it still is bogged down by its storytelling and short length.
After delivering the powerful Best Picture nominee Selma and helming the gripping, Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, director Ava DuVernay jumps into the big leagues with the $100 million blockbuster A Wrinkle in Time. However, while the film does reach for the stars with its jaw-dropping visuals mixed with emotional thematic material, it still is nearly bogged down by its predictable and hastily written story. Based on the children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time follows the story of a girl named Meg Murry (Storm Reid) whose physicist father (Chris Pine) has gone missing for four years, leaving her withdrawn.
Annihilation is a brilliant mix of sci-fi and horror that is cringe-inducing yet inviting.
After making his directorial debut with Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland brings us his latest opus that is Annihilation, a sci-fi gem that is destined to become a modern-day classic. Because I won't go into full detail about the story to avoid potential spoilers, the best way to describe Annihilation is that it is a web of sci-fi, horror, and intrigue that is puzzling in the best possible ways. It’s one of those movies that has you asking a handful of questions by the time it’s over yet the fact that it is so visually entrancing and features strong performances
Black Panther brings the traditional offerings of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film with its action and humor while still being a story-driven masterpiece.
When Captain America: Civil War came out in 2016, one of its major highlights was scene stealer Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Now, Black Panther has not only gotten his own solo movie but it is the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date. It offers everything that fans want with its crowd-pleasing humor and action. Yet, it also manages to demonstrate powerful, thought-provoking storytelling. After breathing new life into the Rocky franchise with Creed and wowing critics and audiences with his powerful debut Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler has done it again and gone 3 for 3. The story
Despite its unique release strategy and its committed cast that is rich in diversity, The Cloverfield Paradox is unable to escape the story's tired machinations.
The Cloverfield Paradox built a lot of hype by announcing that it would be available to stream on Netflix right after the Super Bowl. But unfortunately, the hype surrounding the super secretive and constantly delayed film turned out to be more interesting than the actual film itself. If you’ve seen Alien, Life, or even Gravity, it’s likely that you’ve seen The Cloverfield Paradox which is frustrating since it had potential to be better and a worthy addition to the Cloverfield franchise. Despite the efforts of its terrific cast, The Cloverfield Paradox ends up being an episodic imitation that gets lost
Paul Thomas Anderson's most cerebral, genre-bending effort to date with a tremendous swan song performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.
One way to describe Phantom Thread is that it is very cerebral. There’s always a lot of focus on the faces of the characters, forcing you to analyze what is going on in their heads which will be frustrating for some viewers. Yet, in spite of its nearly aimless ambiguity, Phantom Thread is still a masterpiece thanks to its Gothic atmosphere along with the mysterious and alluring performances by its main acting trio. Phantom Thread is set 1950’s post-war London and follows the story of dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). Reynolds has a
Taraji P. Henson does all she can to salvage greatness out of what is a complete snoozer of an action flick.
When watching the retro opening credits of Proud Mary where our main heroine is getting prepped up with the song “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” playing the background, it seems like we’re in for an action thrill ride in the vein of '70s blaxploitation films. But then, within the first thirty seconds, our expectations immediately become squandered. It seemed like it would be an exciting John Wick-style vehicle for Taraji P. Henson but it ended up being a complete misfire that does a disservice to her talents. Proud Mary follows the story of a hit woman named Mary (Taraji P.
The Shape Of Water is a poetic and transcendent film-watching experience that captures you from the first frame.
One word can be used to describe The Shape Of Water: Poetic. The Shape Of Water is a poetic demonstration of the magic of storytelling and after the ambitious yet divisive Crimson Peak, it is a return to form for director Guillermo Del Toro who has proven himself to be a master at crafting poetic genre fare like The Devil’s Backbone and one of the best movies ever made, Pan’s Labyrinth. While those two films are classifiable horror films, The Shape Of Water offers a little something for everyone: It’s romantic, adventurous, funny, musical, and horrific, and its eclectic experience
Desert Hearts is a groundbreaking yet underrated romantic gem for the history books.
I never wanted Desert Hearts to end. I didn’t want to leave behind the breathtaking scenery of the desert and I definitely wanted to see more of the chemistry between the two leads. Desert Hearts is an intimate yet flawless gem that captures forbidden love that is apolitical yet groundbreaking during its time of release because it was the first film about a same-sex relationship between two women that isn’t tragic. While LGBTQ+ films that have a political agenda are meant to be told, Desert Hearts is proof that those aren’t the only stories that should be told. Based on
Despite following a standard Pixar formula, Coco is still entertaining and profound regardless.
Even though Coco follows a standard Disney formula with its storyline about a young child trying to find their true calling, like with Mulan and Moana, it still manages to find ways to reinvent itself. Coco is not just about listening to your inner voice and taking control of your destiny. It’s also about family, forgiveness, and remembrance and it manages to be both entertaining and poignant. Coco follows the story of a boy named Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez), who dreams of becoming a musician and idolizes the late, famed singer Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, his family
A dark comedy that is also the film America needs right now.
Martin McDonagh may be a director from Ireland, but it is eerie how he has crafted a film about America that is so timely with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It deals with a woman starting a rampage against a patriarchal society which could easily mirror how women are standing up to the male-dominated Hollywood in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. There’s a line that the main character gives about how the police are “too busy torturing black folks to solve actual crimes” which is a demonstration of the ongoing nationwide issue of police brutality against minorities. Lastly,
Lady Bird takes the tired coming-of-age genre and makes it feel refreshing and naturalistic.
Actress Greta Gerwig has proven her naturalistic acting chops in films like 20th Century Women, No Strings Attached, and Jackie. But now, she has announced herself as an exciting new filmmaking voice with Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut. Lady Bird may tread into a familiar genre: The coming-of-age dramedy. Yet, it feels distinctive because of how it hits close to home. It may be about a teenager trying to navigate high school but it also speaks to those who long to escape their small-town life and the parents who work tirelessly to make sure their children have a better
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is unsure of its genre identity which makes it an exciting watch.
When The Killing Of A Sacred Deer first starts, we get a glimpse of a beating heart being operated on with an ominous choir singing in the background. Right then and there, it becomes evident that the film will be a particular kind of experience. While Sacred Deer is a film with a traditional linear narrative, for the most part, it is more of an experience. It is an experimental nightmare that dares you to enter and piece the puzzle together. While you’re watching, you’re trying to figure out what kind of film you’re even seeing which makes The Killing
Despite a slight mismatch in tone, Thor: Ragnarok still manages to be the best film in the Thor trilogy.
The previous Thor films have proven to be quite a mixed bag. The first film by Kenneth Branagh was interesting because of how it played into Branagh’s Shakespearean sensibilities. But its sequel Thor: The Dark World was a giant black hole of mediocrity with no creative vision and is the worst film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Thank goodness for the idiosyncratic visions of director Taika Waititi who does a complete 180 on the first two films by making Thor: Ragnarok into a superhero comedy. While there are moments where Thor: Ragnarok attempts to go serious that don’t
It's like deja vu in terms of plot but the cast makes it immensely watchable.
When the film Bad Moms came out last year, it managed to become a massive summer hit towards the ends of the summer season. It made $183.9 million worldwide and became the highest-grossing film for newbie distributor STX Entertainment. But because the film did incredibly well, that meant it would get a sequel. As it turns out, A Bad Moms Christmas is a slight retread of the original but it is still a slight improvement in terms of laughs. A Bad Moms Christmas continues the story of Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) who are