REVIEW: Hope Gap [2020]

Nobody looked back. One person’s optimal drama isn’t universal. Just because you might like the explosiveness of Marriage Story and its emotional outrage doesn’t mean your friend won’t find its histrionics akin to an improv theater class. And just because they might like the more nuanced Hope Gap and its stiff British upper lip doesn’t mean you won’t be bored by what you believe to be generic characters rendered milquetoast to ensure neither comes off as a bigger villain. We all live different lives and we’re all affected by triggering…

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REVIEW: Swallow [2020]

I did something unexpected today. Hunter (Haley Bennett) has never had control over her life. She’s tried her hardest to claim some, however, by giving away her love. She gave it to a mother who treated her like an afterthought compared to her siblings, a career in art that always found itself to be just out of reach, and the man (Austin Stowell‘s Richie) she walked down a matrimonial aisle towards despite his only ever seeing her as a prize—a possession for a shelf of conquests someone in his socio-economic…

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REVIEW: Blood on Her Name [2020]

It doesn’t put the skin back on the cat. A lot happens during the course of director Matthew Pope and co-writer Don M. Thompson‘s Blood on Her Name … too much. This can prove problematic for what starts as a simple plot before things start turning convoluted real quick thanks to new revelations shedding light upon secrets and lies. Surprisingly, however, that perpetually escalating noise is justified. The reason stems from the fact that Leigh Tiller (Bethany Anne Lind) isn’t a murderer. Well that’s not entirely true. Technically she is…

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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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BERLINALE20 REVIEW: La déesse des mouches à feu [Goddess of the Fireflies] [2020]

I feel like I’m wasting my life. Die-hard grunge fan (and drug dealer) Fred (Noah Parker) tells Catherine (Kelly Depeault) she can’t play her Hole cd because Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain. It’s a remark that was probably half joke and half memorial that leads into Keven (Robin L’Houmeau) dropping the necessary wisdom of knowing Love wouldn’t have been able to stop him if she tried. Cobain wasn’t a victim. He lived hard and walked a road of his own making to an end he ultimately embraced enough to pull…

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REVIEW: Standing Up, Falling Down [2020]

Regret is real. Sometimes your dream isn’t much of a dream at all. Maybe reality sets in after you’re already well along the path taken in error. Perhaps the epiphany arrives before you’ve sacrificed the correct choice in order to choose wrong. Ask Scott Rollins (Ben Schwartz) and he’ll probably tell you it can even be both at once if you happen to have two dreams vying for your attention. For him it was a career in stand-up comedy and the woman (Eloise Mumford‘s Becky) he saw himself building a…

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REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog [2020]

Gotta go fast. While a Nintendo kid growing up with Mario forever winning the mascot war against Sega in my mind, relatives did have a Genesis and played Sonic often enough for me to have watched the little blue guy somersault around loop de loops before losing his golden rings after hitting enemies or spikes. I honestly never sought it out beyond that because the game always seemed to play too fast when compared with the straightforward Mushroom Kingdom and Mega Man platforms. I guess that was the point. Speed…

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REVIEW: The Night Clerk [2020]

Loneliness makes us do things. There’s a scene in Michael Cristofer‘s The Night Clerk where lead character Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan) misreads a situation and kisses a woman. His Asperger’s kicks into overdrive, merging a contrite apology with verbal self-flagellation before promising to never do anything so misguided and potentially damaging again. Impulse conquered conditioning for a split second and he’s ready to retreat so far within himself that he’ll never go out in public again thanks to shame—something that wouldn’t be too difficult since he’s already exiled himself to…

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REVIEW: The Lodge [2020]

She can’t go to Heaven! It’s almost too perfect. After reading Sergio Casci‘s spec script and wondering who’d be best to steward it towards its next stage, Hammer Films saw Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala as easy marks. Their debut Goodnight Mommy dealt with the psychological strife that occurs when two young children are trapped inside a house with a woman they cannot trust and it does so with ample deflection, half truths, and narrative manipulation. Casci’s The Lodge is so similar that I’m surprised Franz and Fiala chose to…

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REVIEW: The Fall [2019]

Taking from his music video background of surreally nightmarish visions, director Jonathan Glazer delivered a surprise seven-minute short last year entitled The Fall. The description says it all: “a masked mob cruelly punish a lone masked man.” We see them shake the tree to which their victim clings tightly, pick him up off the forest floor, affix a noose around his neck, and let him descend through a seemingly never-ending pit beneath the gallows. The ordeal is off-putting in its lack of context and eerily disturbing in its use of…

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REVIEW: Les misérables [2019]

Never sorry. Always right. You have to give Ladj Ly credit for seeing the potential in expanding his acclaimed short film about a trio of Anti-Crime Brigade cops outside of Paris in Montfermeil while also knowing it wasn’t perfect. There was a lot packed into Les misérables that could use some room to breathe, but the narrative itself needed tweaking too since the character he and co-writer Alexis Manenti chose to have a horrific mistake the first time around wasn’t necessarily the correct one. So the two joined with Giordano…

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