REVIEW: The Post [2017]

“Quality drives profitability” Let’s be real: every Steven Spielberg film is a must-see, hype-driving machine. He’s a cinematic giant who rarely chooses a project to direct without extreme enthusiasm and artistic purpose (whether the result proves timeless or not). But no one could be blamed for letting excitement crescendo higher than usual upon hearing about his latest, The Post. Still in the midst of post-production on Ready Player One, Spielberg chose to drop everything while the visual effects artists did their thing to put Liz Hannah‘s script in front of…

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REVIEW: Kingsman: The Golden Circle [2017]

“There’s no room for emotion in this scenario” When Kingsman: The Secret Service debuted, comparisons to creator Mark Millar‘s other comic book to cinematic adaptation Kick-Ass were obvious. How the latter spun the superhero template, the former spun stylish James Bond-type spy actioners. It was all high-concept insanity with a kid from the wrong side of the tracks proving courage, heroism, and finesse weren’t as much a product of environment as they were personality and the capacity to overcome one’s disadvantages. There was a sweet surrogate father/son dynamic too with…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Kodachrome [2018]

“A hole that can’t be filled” The world doesn’t need another film about an irredeemable artist who forsook his wife and child for his art only to begrudgingly (and fearfully through too many years ravaged by narcissistic cynicism) seek a second chance on his deathbed. We’d accept one if it did something different, though. Maybe the son isn’t guilted into being the “better person.” Maybe the father understands everything he missed and realizes it wasn’t worth dying alone. Just please don’t lean into the cliché by saying the hundreds of…

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REVIEW: Fathers and Daughters [2015]

“I have very self-destructive tendencies” The works of director Gabriele Muccino aren’t for everyone. I can’t speak on his Italian films, but the American ones are unavoidably cloying and sentimental in a way that must be accepted or ignored to find resonance. Despite being the one showered with praise, The Pursuit of Happyness didn’t quite do enough for me. I appreciated the story and performances, but felt the artifice. For Seven Pounds, however, I didn’t care. The entire film proved one giant manipulative contrivance yet it unexpectedly hit me with…

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REVIEW: Good Kill [2015]

“They don’t call it a hellfire for nothing” There are agenda movies that remain impartial to display a right and wrong interpretation of the ordeal on display through natural causes and there are those manipulated into force-feeding a single viewpoint upon the audience devoid of nuance. Andrew Niccol‘s Good Kill is the latter. The very few instances where he presents the alternative argument to his thesis—that drone strikes are a necessary evil with collateral damage proving the consequence of a “greater good” scenario—either arrive as though the character exclaiming it…

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REVIEW: Endless Love [2014]

“Should I take off my shoes or somethin’?” If this year’s Valentine’s hopeful Endless Love does anything right it’s that it doesn’t sweat the small stuff. The crucial moment that fractures any chance of David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) winning the approval of his girlfriend Jade Butterfield’s (Gabriella Wilde) father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) comes as a result of petty jealousy. The kids are moonlighting after hours (read trespassing) at the local zoo when one of the group phones the cops because “boohoo” she isn’t getting any loving. Rather than waste time…

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REVIEW: Star Trek Into Darkness [2013]

“Bones, get that thing off my face” Director J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek four years ago was a refreshing, original take on a world possessed by countless offshoots because screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman used its science fiction genre to both retain and destroy existing mythology. A red matter black hole sending the Romulan Captain Nero back through time allowed their new universe to stand on its own as a parallel reality to the original show’s rather than forever remaining in its shadow. Orci and Kurtzman impossibly crafted…

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REVIEW: And Now a Word from Our Sponsor [2013]

“Can you hear me now?” Points for ingenuity to screenwriter Michael Hamilton-Wright for crafting a feature length script that makes sense around a character only speaking in commercial slogans. Sadly, though, And Now a Word from Our Sponsor possesses little else besides this gimmick. The publicity description overreaches in its comparison to Peter Sellers’ brilliant Being There, somewhat missing the point of the classic. While Bruce Greenwood’s Adan Kundle does find himself fatefully assisting in the reconciliation of his caretakers’ familial strife, his accidental profundity isn’t the incoherent ramblings of…

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REVIEW: Flight [2012]

“Say, ‘I love you, Trevor’” I’m going to chalk Flight‘s failure up to Robert Zemeckis being away from live action dramas too long. Manipulation works in children’s cartoons like his The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol because you’re supposed to be preaching some sort of morality lesson on the impressionable through a fun, heartwarming tale. For adults, however, more intrigue than a cool concept left neutered in lieu of showcasing its leading man’s inner turmoil is necessary. Yes, much of the blame lays in the hands of screenwriter John…

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REVIEW: Mao’s Last Dancer [2009]

“The world up here is huge and bright” Like the frog in an old children’s story his father told, young Li Cunxin had no idea what awaited him outside his well. Plucked from a classroom at eleven years old to be tested for agility and balance, Chairman Mao’s government took control of his life by excising him from family in order to be educated and groomed into an elite dancer. He was to be a spokesman for the Communist party, a beloved son of China carrying his culture into a…

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REVIEW: Dinner for Schmucks [2010]

“You can eat my pudding” When reading the synopsis for 1998s French film Le dîner de cons, I was surprised at how close to the new Americanized version, Dinner for Schmucks, it actually was. Both titles allude to the fact a dinner is involved—one hinging on the invitation of guests with high levels of idiocy. After all, the one to make company owner Fender (Bruce Greenwood) laugh most is awarded a trophy for his/her trouble; a chalice designating the winner as “Most Extraordinary” to his face, but “Biggest Loser” behind…

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