REVIEW: Loving Vincent [2017]

“Life can even bring down the strong” The stats are incredible: 125 artists animating a feature-length film over seven years based on 800 personal letters with 65,000 individually-painted oil frames. You read those numbers and wonder if it was worth the trouble when a traditionally shot narrative featuring its faux “rotoscoped” actors would have been enough. But there’s something about the insanity of directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman‘s vision that mirrors the ambitiously chaotic style of a genius such as Vincent van Gogh. You couldn’t represent this enigmatic character…

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REVIEW: Downsizing [2017]

“Lots of people are in pain, Ma. In all sorts of ways.” It’s an ingenious comedic premise. With Earth’s population untenable, a couple of Norwegian scientists discover a way to combat our impending doom: genetic shrinkage. With a syringe of blue formula and a microwave oven (the logistics are never explained beyond surface visuals), any biologic entity can be miniaturized to a fraction of its size and mass. Since over-population is a main component of global warming, food shortages, and poverty, this solution is a timely miracle. Add the fact…

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REVIEW: Thelma [2017]

“Jesus Satan” The moment you leave home for college is the moment your parents say, “Have fun, but don’t lose who you are in the process.” It’s a worthwhile sentiment that we often take for granted as an implicit notion that we are who we will remain despite embarking on a journey full of unknown responsibilities, freedoms, and dangers. How can we truly know our identity when we’ve yet to cultivate one on our own? How much of that “who you are” is actually “who we want you to be”…

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REVIEW: Psychopaths [2017]

“Evil’s a straight and simple ‘just because’” It’s hard to reject a film as having no substance when its narrator apologizes for that very fact. Was its hollowness therefore an intentional commentary on the empty nihilistic void that we call life or was the filmmaker throwing us for a “meta” loop with a tongue-in-cheek laugh that knowingly commends our having sat through it in its entirety nonetheless? In this vein Mickey Keating‘s Psychopaths could be profound or worthless. It could be a full-fledged movie that seeks to entertain in its…

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REVIEW: Mudbound [2017]

“They say it’s bad luck to watch somebody leave” People too often speak about America’s scars as though the damage was done, skin healed over, and remnants already mostly faded away. But this isn’t true. Ask any member of a group that has been marginalized from the moment Europeans landed on the Atlantic shore until now—namely anyone who isn’t a white Anglo-Saxon Christian—and hear about the myriad ways in which their country has still yet to treat them like they belong. Too many wax on about giving Native Americans land,…

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REVIEW: Mercy Christmas [2017]

“Fresh is best” Michael Briskett (Steven Hubbell) awakens in a dark room with plastic sheets covered in blood hung behind him. It’s imagery you’ve seen countless times in horror films—butcher accoutrement readied for torture porn carnage. But writer/director Ryan Nelson (alongside Beth Levy Nelson as co-writer) is only giving us a tease of what’s to come before rewinding two days to show the unfortunate circumstances that led poor Michael to an unknown basement decorated for Christmas. First we have to meet his douchebag boss Andy Robillard (Cole Gleason) as he…

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REVIEW: The Square [2017]

“Do you want to save a human life?” You always hear labels like “before its time” or “of its time,” but what about “beyond its time?” The latter is the phrase I would use to describe Ruben Östlund‘s Palme d’Or-winning (Cannes) The Square because everything it tries to say in a “pay attention before it’s too late” way doesn’t realize it’s already too late. This idea that our world has turned from one where adults could rely on others for communal protection and safety to one where strangers regardless of…

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REVIEW: Wonderstruck [2017]

“It’s never the right time” What do a deaf (from birth) girl in 1920s New Jersey and hearing-impaired (due to a recent accident) boy in 1970s Minnesota have in common besides their struggle to communicate? We’ll just have to wait until author/screenwriter Brian Selznick and director Todd Haynes are ready to let us know. In the meantime we’re made to follow their parallel (albeit five decades apart) paths towards a sense of freedom the adults in their lives simply cannot comprehend. They yearn for more than existing in a world…

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REVIEW: Okja [2017]

“Very healthy!” I’m far from a vegetarian or a pet/animal lover, but I get the reasons why people would be both. And no matter how much I enjoy eating red meat, even I would have to draw the line when confronted with a “Meet your meat” type scenario. What purpose is drawn from such a stunt? Do you know what’s a good pig/cow/chicken from a bad one? Do you even get to choose or are you merely gazing upon the one selected for you? It’s one thing to eat another…

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REVIEW: The Man Who Invented Christmas [2017]

“Why throw everything away for a minor holiday?” As Les Standiford‘s book would tell it, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) found himself in somewhat of a creative rut after a lengthy and expensive tour of America post-Oliver Twist. He had published three flops since buying a new London home in need of wholesale remodeling and began watching his pocketbook dwindle along with his confidence. It was as though the autumn of 1843 presented him a make or break moment wherein he wasn’t certain he would ever write again. And then inspiration…

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REVIEW: Roman J. Israel, Esq. [2017]

“Hope don’t get the job done” There’s something about introverted characters (possibly on the Autism spectrum) with poor social cues battling their own internal morality that writer/director Dan Gilroy loves. Nightcrawler saw a hard-working sociopath sever ties with virtue before gleefully embracing the spoils of his decision. Gilroy provided a descent into the nightmarish hell-scape of opportunism and greed without any optimistic hope that a reversal could be found or followed—a cynical look at society’s ills. So it’s only natural that his sophomore effort behind the camera would seek to…

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