• TIFF19 REVIEW: The Rest of Us [2019]

    “Feels Inside Not Expressed” Despite death being a definitive end, there’s still a chance for new beginnings in the aftermath. Sometimes it’s by necessity and sometimes by choice. In the case of Craig, however, it’s inevitably both thanks to his leaving behind two families: his first and his second. While he left Cami (Heather Graham) […]

  • TIFF19 REVIEW: Knives Out [2019]

    “The cow and the shotgun” No stranger to a good mystery—noir (Brick) or comedy (The Brothers Bloom)—Knives Out sees Rian Johnson getting back to a wholly original property before returning to the world of Star Wars. From the stellar cast to its Clue-esque estate (even he couldn’t resist that joke), this whodunit has looked impeccably […]

  • TIFF19 REVIEW: Sound of Metal [2019]

    “Will it come back?” The film opens with Riz Ahmed‘s Ruben sitting at a drum kit while guitar distortions deafen us. Eventually Olivia Cooke‘s Lou starts screaming as his sticks connect for a steady beat until all hell breaks loose. We’re in this venue with them, the in-close camerawork proving Ahmed’s lessons paid off because […]

  • TIFF19 REVIEW: Håp [Hope] [2019]

    “What do we tell the kids?” Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) was married with three children when Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) met him. She didn’t want to fall in love, but twenty years and three more kids later show that’s exactly what happened. When Anja raised their babies, Tomas worked—a lot. When it was time for her […]

  • TIFF19 REVIEW: Calm with Horses [2020]

    “That’s not you” To cross the Devers family is to earn retribution. This is a known fact to all in the rural Irish town of Glanbeigh. Some strangers arrive and overstep their bounds without knowing (as if getting involved with drug dealers was an act whose danger can be unknown), but most everyone knows everyone […]

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film reviews

BIFF19 REVIEW: Crown Vic [2019]

“The world was dark when I got here” The title of writer/director Joel Souza‘s Crown Vic is a stand-in for “old school.” It’s a connection to a past that guys with twenty-five years on the job like Ray Mandel (Thomas Jane) feels fading away. And they’re correct. As new technologies arrive, oversight increases and a […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: Malaisia [2019]

“This side of the Mississippi” There’s a joke told about a third of the way through Mac Cappuccino‘s film Malaisia. It’s bad. Jay Schmidt is the one laying out the excessive amount of exposition while his compatriot (Kevin Guzewich) looks on in exasperation—at one point even interrupting his interminable drone with an interjection to break […]

REVIEW: Knock Down the House [2019]

“We’re running to win” Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election galvanized a lot of racists throughout America to let their bigotry rise to the surface (if it hadn’t already been unleashed) as though they now had permission to spew hate without recourse. It also woke up a legion of outsiders who realized the status […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: The Sympathy Card [2019]

“Consider it a death-bed order” It’s an unorthodox but sweetly unsurprising premise: the cancer-stricken Emma (Petey J. Gibson) demands her wife Josie (Nika Ezell Pappas) meet someone new so she won’t become a lonely widow without love. This turn of events doesn’t surprise because writer/director Brendan Boogie already presented the unbelievably awkward way in which […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: Frances Ferguson [2019]

“Was this breaking the law?” We never meet the narrator (Nick Offerman) of Bob Byington‘s film Frances Ferguson. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing or uncommon, but I couldn’t shake the idea that we should. It’s because he isn’t some omnisciently objective voice telling us a story. He interjects opinions, giggles, and often meanders to […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: The Fan Connection [2019]

“This is hockey heaven” Buffalo sports fans are die-hard. Go to most big cities across America and you’ll find a Queen City backers’ bar of ex-pats communing to enjoy (and, this past decade, lament) the teams they grew up watching beside their parents. It doesn’t take long for the electricity and excitement to flood back […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem [2019]

“It is the hardest thing to walk away from” Everything in this world comes down to control and that’s what makes the work being done by minority classes (gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc.) so important today. When those in power look the same (white, male, old), there’s little room to want to look outside their […]

REVIEW: Joker [2019]

“Don’t forget to smile” I would have bought writer/director Todd Phillips‘ line about bringing his gritty origin film Joker to the 1970s as a way of removing it from the existing DC Extended Universe (more than he already did by recasting the titular character after Jared Leto played him in Suicide Squad) if not for […]

REVIEW: Born to Be [2019]

“We’re going to make her whole” How does a self-taught upright bass player who dropped out of Julliard to pursue his parents’ dream of medical school become a bona fide superhero? Easy. He raised his hand. Dr. Jess Ting may have graduated at the top of his class and found success as a New York […]

REVIEW: Memory: The Origins of Alien [2019]

“It lives in our dreams” Here’s the thing you should know up-front: Alexandre O. Philippe‘s Memory: The Origins of Alien doesn’t break new ground. No crazy revelations unknown before the documentary began production are discovered. Instead we get first-hand accounts of the struggles to get Alien made, the communal artistic synergy that ultimately helped propel […]

BIFF19 REVIEW: Rendezvous in Chicago [2019]

“The whole point of this game is to look” There’s a reason the first word in Michael Glover Smith‘s triptych Rendezvous in Chicago isn’t pluralized despite consisting of three distinct stories. It stems from the fact that Smith sought to close out his cinematic trilogy about on-screen relationships and communications within (Cool Apocalypse and Mercury […]

REVIEW: Judy [2019]

“What if I can’t do it again?” Playwright Peter Quilter has stated that the original play (“Last Song of the Nightingale”) on which “End of the Rainbow” was modeled upon found its inspiration from an alcoholic male singer met while traveling with his partner on a cruise ship wherein the latter was also a performer. […]

REVIEW: Monos [2019]

“The Organization is our family” A scene of kids having fun playing a game of blindfolded soccer at night turns into a day of boot camp with an unknown man (Wilson Salazar) berating them like a drill sergeant to run faster, look meaner, and stand straighter. These child soldiers are hiding high up in the […]

REVIEW: Hustlers [2019]

“We were like hurricanes” What’s a better hustle than declining the price tag a Hollywood studio offered for your life rights to wait until the film is a hit and then sue the production for defamation? Samantha Barbash pretty much bet on the story—I’m hypothesizing that this was her intent based solely on her characterization […]

REVIEW: Harpoon [2019]

“We need to promise not to kill each other” Writer/director Rob Grant wastes zero time getting us in the right frame of mind with Brett Gelman‘s perfectly sardonic voice narrating an auspiciously violent collision of three close friends caught in a lovers’ misunderstanding. Harpoon‘s first scene provides effect—a stranded yacht in the middle of the […]