REVIEW: Dark Waters [2019]

You think they’re gonna show me?! It’s crazy how our country protects for-profit businesses in ways that allow them to accrue astronomical profits with little to no oversight. There’s this notion that what they provide our economy outweighs the damage they inflict on our society. But who reaps that financial benefit? Rather than collect millions of dollars in taxes that could fund programs the poor need to survive, we line the pockets of the already rich and watch their trickle down faucets divert someplace else to line them thicker still.…

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REVIEW: Wildlife [2018]

I feel like I need to wake up. The start of Paul Dano‘s directorial debut Wildlife depicts a happy household of mother (Carey Mulligan‘s Jeanette Brinson), father (Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Jerry), and son (Ed Oxenbould‘s Joe). They’ve just moved from Utah to Montana so Jerry can work as a country club’s resident “pro”—a job allowing Jeanette to stay home rather than look for substitute teaching assignments while Joe attends high school. Their property is very modest, their neighborhood much the same. Joy can be felt within their walls as a simple…

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TIFF REVIEW: Skin [2019]

This is what I have. Bryon ‘Babs’ Widner (Jamie Bell) hears the buzz of a faulty electrical connection, triggering a transition to an operating table and screams as the tattoos covering most of his body start being removed. It’s a soundscape that’ll have you squirming in your seat, the close-up shots of scar tissue replacing ink as physical a transformation as the act is metaphorical. Because the art adorning his face, neck, and torso isn’t some elaborate supernatural fantasy with family memorials—it’s a map to the blackest center of his…

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REVIEW: Molly’s Game [2017]

I’ll bet heavy on the favorite. There’s a common theme throughout much of Aaron Sorkin‘s work the past few years of focusing on the unlikely redeemable qualities of figures easily reduced and reviled by a general public quick to judge without all the facts. You see it in The Social Network and its quest to humanize the abrasive wunderkind at the back of Facebook. It’s there in “The Newsroom” and its desire to show what a media network with integrity in the face of ratings wars can look like. And…

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REVIEW: Crown Heights [2017]

Please don’t let it be a cell. It’s a horror story. Eighteen year-old black immigrant from Trinidad—not averse to such crimes as boosting cars for extra cash—is picked up on the street, handcuffed, and taken into custody for the murder of someone he’s never even heard of let alone seen to put a bullet in the back of his head. Months go by without bail, the actual killer is caught, and yet he remains incarcerated thanks to the state labeling him as “the driver” of a drive-by shooting created by…

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REVIEW: The Killing of a Sacred Deer [2017]

You’re too young to worry. Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos is an artist who deals with consequences through elaborately skewed and often-uncomfortable scenarios just left of the off-putting spot that’s just left of center. He uses absurdity and humor to provoke us in order for his complex existential and social messages to hit home in a way strict realism never could. His films are thus morality plays of sorts pitting characters against one another in a puzzle that may or may not be of their own choosing. They are presented with a…

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REVIEW: Loving [2016]

“You need to get you some civil rights” It took one viewing of Nancy Buirski‘s documentary The Loving Story to recruit Jeff Nichols into writing and directing a biopic of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving’s (Ruth Negga) journey from newlyweds to Supreme Court precedent. But don’t think Loving is a courtroom drama. I’d estimate about ten minutes of its two-hour runtime take place inside a courthouse—fifteen if you count conversations outside its doors. Nichols instead decides to focus on the couple itself by creating a romantic example of a…

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REVIEW: Midnight Special [2016]

“Where do you belong?” Is young Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) the savior of the human race, born to unsuspecting parents inside a cult known as The Ranch in order to bring them salvation? Is he somehow an expert hacker infiltrating the NSA’s foolproof satellite transmissions courtesy of an uncanny technokinetic power no one can explain? Or is he simply a boy, a son, hunted by forces that do not understand him—forces that would scoop him up and use him for their own selfish gains as either a God or a…

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REVIEW: Love & Mercy [2015]

“Lonely scared frightened” The best part of a Rock and Roll Music History class that I took in college was learning just how influential The Beach Boys were to music at large. I knew the songs and enjoyed them, but how could surfer pop be held in the same regard as The Beatles? It didn’t make sense. But then we dove into the intricacies of the music’s construction and Brian Wilson‘s insane ideas in the studio. We listened to Rubber Soul, Pet Sounds, and beyond to catch where one band…

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REVIEW: Compliance [2012]

“Let’s just get this over with” Films like Craig Zobel‘s Compliance make you question humanity. It’s easy to say, “How could so many people be so stupid?” but at the same time hard not to view those duped into becoming predators as victims too. What happened to Louise Ogborn on April 9, 2004 in a Kentucky McDonald’s is the tragic culmination of our American culture gradually dismantling its desire to possess a voice. Gone are the days of innocent until proven guilty when a universal trend towards self-preservation usurps the…

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REVIEW: Lawless [2012]

“You still have the price tag on your coat” After The Proposition‘s grit and The Road‘s nightmarish post-apocalyptic vision, watching the trailer for John Hillcoat‘s newest film Lawless left a little something to be desired. Looking like an action flick about bootleggers standing against the law in a blaze of glory, all nuance from its showcase of familial strength and honor was missing. Based on an historical novel written by its subject’s grandson Matt Bondurant—The Wettest County in the World—this is the heroic legend of three indestructible brothers refusing to…

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