REVIEW: Love & Friendship [2016]

“We don’t live. We visit.” We should all be thanking whomever recommended Jane Austen‘s Northanger Abbey to Whit Stillman because the edition he read just happened to include the author’s novella “Lady Susan”—a short epistolary romance subverted to conjure the filmmaker’s own specific tone. If we didn’t know the Austen connection we’d think Stillman created this period comedy alone, that’s how perfectly suited to his oeuvre it proves. His trademarked acerbic wit is already present atop haughty characters deluded by their own egos with dialogue colored by an almost lyrical…

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REVIEW: Approaching the Unknown [2016]

“That planet is calling for us” While the mission is one thing, your reason for performing it could be drastically different. For Captain William Stanaforth (Mark Strong) the two barely overlap except for a common destination: Mars. He will be the first man to ever step foot on the Red Planet with another astronaut (Sanaa Lathan‘s Maddox) following closely behind his 270-day journey by about a month. He’s bringing a water generator he created that synthesizes the fluid from soil and she has supplies to ready future colonization. The endeavor…

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REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse [2016]

“And from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one” At a certain point Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) understands his pupils need more than just help controlling their powers in the X-Men universe. They must also learn to fight. He and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) had no choice but to battle forces of evil in X-Men: First Class and in Days of Future Past the real war was fought in the future with a team of soldiers already formed decades after a thus far unseen origin. Professor X,…

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REVIEW: Ya Tayr El Tayer [The Idol] [2016]

“People are dying and you’re singing?” Biopics are often difficult because the subject’s life may not contain the suspense and intrigue necessary for a film to succeed. This is why many focus on a brief period of time rather than a full life—honing in on the moment that made this person worthy of having his/her story told to the masses. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem for Mohammad Assaf, the Gaza-raised Palestinian who defied odds to compete on “Arab Idol’s” second season in Egypt. Here’s a young man…

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REVIEW: The Royal Road [2015]

“These inconceivable melodramas punctuate my waking life” No description of Jenni Olson‘s essay over landscapes film The Royal Road is more concise or accurate than the final words spoken upon the culmination of its 65-minute visual monologue: “I want to tell you a story about love and loss and San Francisco that reveals more about me than I ever expected to say.” This goal is achieved on every level with imperceptibly moving vignettes of Californian locales flashing across the screen that may or may not have anything to do with…

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REVIEW: Blue Velvet [1986]

“Now it’s dark” After finding critical and commercial success with The Elephant Man—earning his first Oscar nominations for directing and screenplay—David Lynch became bankable enough to mount what would end up a large-scale disaster in Dune. Whereas many would probably count the latter as a failure across the board, the truth is that the sci-fi epic is much more attuned to the auteur’s sensibilities. Anyone who had seen his debut feature Eraserhead in all its strange surrealistic glory would concur, but by that time there were surely not many (and…

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REVIEW: Presenting Princess Shaw [2016]

“Why am I going in the same direction with no direction?” Even though Presenting Princess Shaw isn’t a film about filmmaking, you can’t help wondering about the logistics of its creation considering director Ido Haar is listed as the project’s sole cinematographer. The story of Princess (Samantha Montgomery) and Kutiman (Ophir Kutiel) focuses on music and the internet creating a community of disparate strangers miles away from one another with an ever-present potential for collaboration between them. We watch Samantha live her life in New Orleans as a nurse attending…

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REVIEW: Alice Through the Looking Glass [2016]

“Everyone parts with everything eventually, my dear” Now that the whole “should we reboot or create a sequel or just go ahead and do both at once” debacle is over thanks to Tim Burton‘s misguided Alice in Wonderland, maybe Disney’s desire to create an imaginative and surprisingly dark franchise of the absurd could find creative merit to match its insane billion dollar gross. This is because the filmmakers (Linda Woolverton returns as screenwriter with James Bobin taking over the director’s chair) have acquired the latitude to think outside the box…

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REVIEW: Holy Hell [2016]

“Maybe it’s worth it” Every story containing religious or spiritual content inherently brings with it supporters and detractors beholden to personal agendas either from experience or unwavering positions of faith. It’s difficult subject matter to truly expose objectively because religion and spirituality are by definition subjective when compared against an infinite number of other similar institutions preaching their own “one true” notion of identical drives for peace, clarity, and happiness. People want to believe there’s an answer—a fix to solve their problems with love the universal healer and protector. We…

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REVIEW: Человек с киноаппаратом [Chelovek s kinoapparatom] [Man with a Movie Camera] [1929]

Labeled the best documentary of all time by Sight & Sound in 2014, Dziga Vertov‘s Человек с киноаппаратом [Chelovek s kinoapparatom] [Man with a Movie Camera] lives up to its pedigree thanks in no small part to the level of cinematic innovation somehow utilized as far back as 1929. Besides the obvious period clothing and aesthetic, that release year seems a lie with an estimated 1,775 shots in just 68-minutes. So when most movies of the era drag with melodramatic performances mugging for the camera as intertitles cut in to…

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REVIEW: Sing Street [2016]

“Happy sad” Writer/director John Carney emotionally stripped ex-The Frames bandmate Glen Hansard bare in his 2007 feature film Once and now he does it to himself. The hiccup that was an attempt to recreate lightning in a bottle despite the conscious addition of polish and star appeal with Begin Again is thankfully a distant memory because the musical dramatist has again struck gold by sticking to his roots, his home, and his heart. A semi-autobiographical tale about a young boy’s life being upturned in a way that pushes him towards…

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