REVIEW: Vivarium [2020]

Raise the child and be released We all like to believe that we have some semblance of control over our lives. Do we, though? How much of our identity is dictated by social conditioning? Maybe it’s explicit indoctrination like that taught by religion, politics, and culture as “superior” than others. Or maybe it’s implicit like the subliminal messaging possibilities of art appropriated by marketing. You might say to yourself that you’re too smart for advertising, but what do you do when confronted by four of the same product consisting of…

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REVIEW: Resistance [2020]

Courage is no more than fear holding on a minute longer. Marcel Marceau’s first public performance was in front of three thousand troops after Paris was liberated during World War II. It wasn’t some USO stunt, though. General Patton didn’t hire the Strasbourg native to give a show because his men needed a laugh. If anything he gave the stage to the as yet unknown “Bip the Clown” as a reward for everything he did as a member of the French resistance and a liberator himself by taking hundreds of…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: The Art of Self-Defense [2019]

I want to be what intimidates me. There was definite trepidation upon learning writer/director Riley Stearns‘ follow-up to Faults would be a comedy. That’s not to say his debut wasn’t funny, however. It was. But where its humor arrived from the matter-of-fact nature of the characterizations he utilized to turn his tale of cult deprogramming upside down, it remained a darkly suspenseful nightmare flirting with the supernatural in ways that forced our laughter to cease by lending those disquieting moments conviction beyond their inherent absurdity. I therefore worried billing The…

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REVIEW: The Hummingbird Project [2019]

What’s at the end of the line? Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) work for a stock trader in New York City (Salma Hayek‘s Eva Torres) and seem to be doing well. Writer/director Kim Nguyen doesn’t give any specifics as to their salaries and whatnot, but we visit one of their homes during a memorial for Vincent’s father and everyone seems comfortable enough to not need to be greedy. And yet The Hummingbird Project starts by placing greed front and center. It introduces Vincent’s shrewd business…

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REVIEW: Café Society [2016]

“Dreams are … dreams” Ever since Woody Allen left New York City for England in 2005 to create some really spectacular films outside his usual comedic efforts of neurotic meet-cutes, I may have intentionally tried to avoid anything he made with a character he would have played himself a decade prior. I personally don’t count Midnight in Paris simply because Owen Wilson owns that lead role in a way Allen couldn’t equal. So when Café Society was announced with Jesse Eisenberg at the fore, I did cringe a bit. I…

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REVIEW: Now You See Me 2 [2016]

“You may not be having fun, but I am” The problem with giving a film steeped in misdirection a sequel is that the mysteries have already been uncovered. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle to achieve the same success. Now You See Me had a great magic premise wherein the theatrical audience was as in the dark as the fictional audience attending The Four Horsemen’s performances. We knew something big was happening, but weren’t privy to the plan. We watched the intrigue, received truth from an illusion-debunker,…

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REVIEW: Louder Than Bombs [2015]

“After this I’ll slow down. I promise.” Few depict love’s pain onscreen better than Norwegian writer/director Joachim Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt. They’ve cultivated a distinct voice for character-driven dramas of friendship and romance that build and dissolve with an authentic rhythm of life’s unpredictability. Their characters ache inside and out as they deal with the struggle of human connection and their English-language debut Louder Than Bombs is no different. In it are three men traversing a world removed from the life they led with a matriarch no longer by…

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REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [2016]

“Ignorance is not the same as innocence” Director and steward of Warner Bros.’s entire DC Comic universe—for better or worse depending on your personal opinion of the man’s portfolio—Zack Snyder has spent two years telling us Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is ostensibly Man of Steel 2. It’s not. This thing is a Batman film from start to finish. It shows how Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) focuses his rage to destroy the world’s newest destroyer. It’s about a good man turning cruel as Gods threaten the sanctity of all…

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REVIEW: The End of the Tour [2015]

“You might just have to read it” A young writer whose day job involved scribing 500-word reviews of boy band albums during the 90s comes to the decision of pitching his editor something Rolling Stone hadn’t done in years: interview an author. Who better than in-the-moment rockstar David Foster Wallace on the road promoting his magnum opus Infinite Jest? Thus begins a five-day tape-recorded session taking place inside Wallace’s home, his college, multiple airplanes and automobiles, and the Minneapolis, MN hotel hosting his final stop. Even though that initial article…

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REVIEW: American Ultra [2015]

“We fired the ugly one” When there are only seven basic plots—as the saying goes—to implicitly choose from as a screenwriter, genre-bending homage becomes the sole path towards creativity. So while Max Landis‘ script for American Ultra is The Bourne Identity meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith through a Pineapple Express filter, it’s a damn good ride regardless. He’s throwing common tropes on their head by making a government-trained agent into a paranoid stoner filled to the brim with anxiety. He’s creating laughs out of dramatic convention while director Nima Nourizadeh…

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INTERVIEW: Richard Ayoade, cowriter/director of The Double

I didn’t know who Richard Ayoade was until 2010 and boy was it the perfect time to find out. My introduction was courtesy of the brilliant British television show “The IT Crowd” and his fantastically drawn Maurice Moss. I had tried watching the show a couple years previously only to forget about it after the pilot. This time, however, I mainlined the first three series and eagerly awaited the fourth only to see co-star Chris O’Dowd journey to mainstream acclaim with Bridesmaids less than a year later. When would Ayoade’s…

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