REVIEW: Upgrade [2018]

“Permission granted” Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) was having a good day. An old school mechanic living in a high-tech world, his latest commission is roaring like a lion and ready to be handed off to its owner. Knowing his wife (Melanie Vallejo‘s Asha) would be interested to meet his benefactor being that she runs a robotics firm and he (Harrison Gilbertson‘s Eron Keen) practically is her main (and objectively better) competition, Grey takes her along in the muscle car with their automated vehicle in tow to return them home. A…

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REVIEW: Beast [2018]

“I just wanted to go dancing” Everything is and isn’t as it seems with Michael Pearce‘s genre-fluid romantic thriller Beast. What starts with the template of rich girl falling for local bad boy against mom’s wishes turns to a case of serial murder with assumptions made every second that confirm what we believe is real just as they throw everything out the window. Nightmares point fingers inward, physical evidence out. Love becomes a weapon for hope and understanding as well as a mask for impending horror moving closer to home…

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REVIEW: First Reformed [2018]

“A life without despair is a life without hope” We live in a time of extremism—where our reaction dial is turned up to eleven regardless of our true interest in a cause or its true importance. Somewhere along the line civil and constructive discourse was replaced by screaming fits of unjustified rage, nuanced topics debated as pissing matches between two sides vying to stay incensed the longest. There are no winners with this line of rhetoric because facts become secondary to passion. Suddenly it’s all about who makes the most…

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REVIEW: Carrie [1976]

“Sin never dies” As a Maine resident trying his hand at literary horror, it shouldn’t be surprising that Stephen King would gravitate towards a New England topic such as witchcraft so early in his career. Carrie was his fourth novel (first to be published) and showed the potential for the skewed gaze on common tropes he possessed. The titular character isn’t a witch per se, but a young girl with newfound telekinetic powers and an abused background with which to foster a seething rage beneath her shyly sweet demeanor. Rather…

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REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story [2018]

“You said never improvise” Nine movies into the cinematic world of George Lucas‘ Star Wars—three of which extend past his control over the franchise—and we remain tethered to the Skywalkers. It makes sense. In order for Disney to commoditize the property, they must first reconnect with old fans and familiarize the new. So they stuck with Luke, Leia, and Anakin’s continuing legacy (even if they threw out extended universe material once considered canon). They began with a rousing remake, continued with a spin-off expanding upon a moment we knew occurred…

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REVIEW: Un beau soleil intérieur [Let the Sunshine In] [2017]

“Being a backstreet lover is just unbearable” Is love all consuming? Or disposable? If you discover it’s one above the other, how do you know you’re right? The answer is simple: love is whatever you need it to be for yourself. Don’t compromise your happiness or comfort. Don’t allow your beau to walk over your feelings to pretend what you have now is enough despite your needing more. Leave yourself open to change and—as the title to Claire Denis‘ latest film states—Un beau soleil intérieur [Let the Sunshine In]. Because…

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REVIEW: Goodland [2018]

“Eventually the sun sets” There’s nothing like some yokel conversation to introduce a film’s environment while also foreshadowing the ensuing plot. It’s easy to dismiss the aging gas station owner and his even older customer’s back and forth about a wolf seen a few miles away because neither is listening to the other. The former explains how it was probably just a coyote before the latter comes to his own epiphany that the game warden will end up finding a coyote. We want to laugh except for the fact that…

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REVIEW: Jaws [1975]

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Actor Richard Dreyfus called Jaws a “nexus point” during his question and answer period before a recent screening of the cinematic classic and I can’t think of a better descriptor. His words were relevant as far as his career, but also the medium as a whole. Here was a work of art that overcame a troubled production to become the first true blockbuster—a term that ultimately changed the face of the industry itself—and provided a sterling example of what it meant to utilize the…

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REVIEW: Clerks [1994]

“I’m not even supposed to be here today!” Whether you enjoy Kevin Smith‘s Clerks or not, you can’t deny it’s place in cinematic history as a doorway towards a new landscape of micro-budgeted, dialogue-heavy features. Jason Mewes, while introducing a convention screening of the film twenty-four years later, said: “After watching it in the Quick Stop I thought that was it. I didn’t think it could play on a big screen let alone festivals to get picked up.” And why would he? These weren’t Hollywood types branching out or film…

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REVIEW: The Last Witness [2018]

“I thought this was supposed to be about us” Soviet secret police began a series of mass executions circa 1940 of Polish citizens they knew would reject foreign occupation upon WWII’s completion. Some of the resulting graves were discovered in the Katyn Forest three years later with more found elsewhere totaling 22,000 bodies. Because of the diplomatic relations necessary to join the Allied nations with the “enemy-of-my-enemy” USSR, official word on the Katyn massacre stated Nazi Germany was to blame. This lie was crafted with obvious intentions: America and Britain…

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REVIEW: Scarlet Street [1945]

“So you won’t forget me” There’s a great horror concept within Fritz Lang‘s Scarlet Street. Unfortunately it’s pushed aside for a film noir that never quite gains traction. The problem as I see it stems from the fact that screenwriter Dudley Nichols tries to frame aging pushover Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) as a sympathetic character throughout—an unsuspecting victim in the making rather than the haunted figure he becomes at its end. The latter is his most interesting form, a desperate man with nowhere to turn as a voice from…

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