REVIEW: Onward [2020]

Be Like Dad. It’s Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) sixteenth birthday and he’s hoping to make it count. He’s not about to go on a rager with friends, though. He’s way too introverted for that. Ian therefore merely seeks to conquer a few baby steps towards mild extroversion by putting on his late father’s college sweatshirt to boost confidence and check off some boxes on a list he wrote to change himself into the man he wishes he might become. That means standing up for himself when others treat him like…

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REVIEW: Wendy [2020]

Dreams change. When Angela Darling’s (Shay Walker) kids ask what she dreamt about at their age, she smiles and answers: “the rodeo.” When they ask about her dreams today, she turns and says: “To not screw up raising you three.” Douglas (Gage Naquin) and James’ (Gavin Naquin) youth wrongly interprets that drastic shift in focus as quitting. They don’t know what it’s like to become a parent and reclaim your immortality through the boundless opportunity of your child’s future. Wendy (Devin France) doesn’t either, but their dismissal makes her angry…

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REVIEW: Jumanji: The Next Level [2019]

Wherever they may be. The first cinematic adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg‘s Jumanji brought the board game’s wild jungle environment to its players’ quiet suburbia for a crazy survival adventure. Jake Kasdan and company could have easily done the exact same thing again with their reboot/sequel hybrid Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle due to over twenty years having past since its predecessor’s release, but they chose to breathe new life into the property instead. And it worked beautifully to earn critical, creative, and financial success. They revamped board and dice…

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REVIEW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker [2019]

Some things are stronger than blood. The return of Star Wars was always going to include a third trilogy because George Lucas had talked about his Skywalker saga being nine films way back in the 1980s. And since he eventually got chapters one through three on the big screen himself, it was guaranteed that Disney’s plans entailed pumping out chapters seven through nine. So why didn’t they game plan that arc? This isn’t like the Marvel Cinematic Universe where tenuous connections over ten films allow for multiple cooks to be…

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REVIEW: Cold Brook [2019]

He needs to go home. I did a lengthy retrospective interview with William Fichtner back in 2015 as part of a local Buffalo, New York publication’s “film issue” due to his being raised in the suburb of Cheektowaga and forever holding a special place in his heart for the city wherever he goes. When talking about the area’s rejuvenation and increased appeal for the film industry, he relayed his dream of one day soon shooting a script he finished co-writing with Cain DeVore in his hometown’s backyard of Upstate New…

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REVIEW: Paradise Hills [2019]

There’s always a way to get what you want. It’s Uma’s (Emma Roberts) wedding day and everyone is excited. She sings a song while her affluent guests clap and dance, the conversations surrounding her making mention of how much work she’s put into making this whole occasion possible. The idyllic scene’s ornate beauty and plastic smiles seem to be in a permanent state of universal bliss until a woman lets Uma know that her new husband (Arnaud Valois‘ Son) waits in their bedroom. Here is where the happy bride pauses…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: The True Adventures of Wolfboy [2020]

That’s some … kind of beautiful. Denny (Chris Messina) tells his teenage son Paul (Jaeden Martell) to stand tall with dignity and never run away. Meant as inspiration with a sympathetic heart, these words fall flat because he’s trying to solve the wrong problem—his inability to truly understand Paul’s uniquely personal perspective leading him astray. Denny wants to believe the knit mask covering his boy’s face is a means to hide from the world because his goal is to protect his child from the terrible things ignorant people say and…

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REVIEW: Jauja [2014]

The desert devours everything. Colonialism, Manifest Destiny, and any other act by a foreign nation to claim the land of an indigenous people as its own are performed with a desire for power and prosperity. It’s about ego and entitlement—the search to create a mythology that glosses over genocide for the “heroism” of a brute that stumbled upon something he didn’t like to think wasn’t automatically his to own. So while Jauja itself is a fabled city of riches and happiness, writer/director Lisandro Alonso uses the word to describe conquest…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Tenki no ko [Weathering with You] [2019]

Or maybe not not. Teenagers get plenty of flack these days with derogatory labels thrust upon them by older generations refusing to truly look outside their window at how much the world has changed. They’ve a lot to shoulder with the pressure of living up to impossible and antiquated expectations, confusion as to a future and identity they can’t quite decipher yet, and the crippling reality that the world around them is literally crumbling via war, genocide, and climate change. Kids used to run from home as a means of…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Entwined [2019]

I long for the old ways. The death of their father triggers Panos (Prometheus Aleifer) and half-brother George (John De Holland) to take stock. The latter wants to stick together and move forward while the former chooses to start anew. Panos is a doctor who now recognizes the delicacy of life too well and wants to hit the country in Alyti so his services can do some real good away from the city. George incessantly calls in the hopes of persuading him out of this altruistic dream he assumes will…

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REVIEW: Les îles [Islands] [2018]

Tell me you want me. Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes 2017 for short film, Yann Gonzalez‘s Les îles [Islands] delivers eroticism in many forms. From one scene of intimacy to the next, he lets his camera follow characters into the throes of sex before pulling out to show how one’s pleasures are another’s performance. A man (Alphonse Maîtrepierre) and woman (Mathilde Mennetrier) in bed are ruled by lust and ultimately revealed to be a horror trope of innocence lost for a monster (Romain Merle) to interrupt. His skin-less…

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