TIFF19 REVIEW: Knives Out [2019]

The cow and the shotgun. No stranger to a good mystery—noir (Brick) or comedy (The Brothers Bloom)—Knives Out sees Rian Johnson getting back to a wholly original property before returning to the world of Star Wars. From the stellar cast to its Clue-esque estate (even he couldn’t resist that joke), this whodunit has looked impeccably positioned to deliver exactly what the genre demands while also dissecting and subverting it for good measure. That the final result might go even further than that only makes it more intriguing. Why? Well the…

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REVIEW: What They Had [2018]

Is that my baby? Norbert Eberhardt (Robert Forster) is a loving, generous man who literally swept the woman of his dreams (Blythe Danner‘s Ruth) off her feet to start a decades-long romance that produced two children (Hilary Swank‘s Bridget and Michael Shannon‘s Nick), two grandkids (Taissa Farmiga‘s Emma being one), and unforgettable memories … until they’re forgotten. Ruth has Alzheimer’s and things have devolved to the point where Burt can’t handle doing everything he willingly, admirably, and compassionately does for her. But she’s “his girl” and he takes the whole…

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REVIEW: 12 Strong [2018]

“There are no right choices here” War films generally come in two varieties: a gray introspective look at its emotional and psychological cost and black and white jingoistic propaganda. The former is generally acclaimed as award worthy while the latter is dumped during winter months so its target audience of NRA-loving Republicans in American flag tees has something to watch during a drama-heavy, liberally slanted awards season. (I jest.) This doesn’t, however, inherently mean one route is “better” despite valid arguments to the contrary. And for those who vehemently disagree,…

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REVIEW: The Shape of Water [2017]

“We’re all alone” Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to create an adult fantasy in the vein of Beauty and the Beast wherein there is no “beauty,” only the “other.” It’s one thing to read or watch a tale of overcoming the odds as a child with a specimen of perfection finding it in his/her heart to give a “monster” love, but such utopic vision is too reductive to the mind of someone who has experienced the difficulties of living in a world built on advancement and superiority. Kids are…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: The Current War [2019]

“Star in a jar” A casualty of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s thought-to-be awards-contender that was rushed for a lukewarm TIFF reception in 2017 finally sees the light of day. Retitled The Current War: Director’s Cut due to the director’s extensive revisions (thanks to producer Martin Scorsese’s contractual ability to block the other version’s release), the film remains narratively identical with effective pacing tweaks that fix some of what gave me pause two years ago. The most noticeable change is the slight increase in screen-time for Nicholas Hoult’s Tesla to…

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Picking Winners at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

The 89th Annual Academy Awards hits airwaves Sunday, February 26th, 2017 at 8:30pm on ABC. Buffalonians can watch it from the comfort of their home or take a trip down to these local destinations: • The Screening Room, The Boulevard MallFree (doors open at 7:00pm)• Buffalo State College, Campbell Student UnionFree with Student ID, $10 general public (doors open at 8:00pm)• Q, 44 Allen StreetFree (Red Carpet party begins at 6:00pm) For those handicapping at home, here are the guesses of Buffalo film fanatics Christopher Schobert, William Altreuter, and myself.…

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Online Film Critics Society Ballot 2016

Below is my December 31st ballot for the 20th annual Online Film Critics Society Awards honoring movies released domestically in the United States during the 2016 calendar year. Group winners are highlighted in red. Best Picture #1 Moonlight . #2 Manchester by the Sea #3 Arrival . #4 Jackie . #5 The Witch . #6 Hell or High Water #7 La La Land . #8 O.J.: Made in America #9 The Handmaiden . #10 Paterson . Best Animated Film #1 Kubo and the Two Strings #2 Moana . #3 Finding…

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REVIEW: Nocturnal Animals [2016]

“Sometimes it’s not good to change things so much” One movie stood out in 2009: fashion designer Tom Ford‘s unlikely directorial debut A Single Man. It had style to spare and amazing performances (Colin Firth‘s Oscar loss was vindicated a year later), but its emotionality was its greatest strength. Ford created this tragic whirlwind and found a glimmer of hope—a way out of the darkness to acknowledge there’s more life yet to live. That was the trait I looked forward to experiencing on a larger scale with his follow-up Nocturnal…

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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: They Came Together [2014]

“I admire your spirit” It’s one thing to satirize the romantic comedy genre and a whole other to literally break it down into its myriad tropes to build a story around them without transforming their generic designations into fully formed characters. But that’s exactly what David Wain (co-writer/director) and Michael Showalter (co-writer) did with They Came Together. It’s so transparent in its commentary that I was surprised they gave leading male Joel’s (Paul Rudd) brother (Max Greenfield‘s Jake) a name. The two men are so invested in calling each other…

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Picking Winners at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

For those handicapping at home, here are the guesses of Buffalo film fanatics Christopher Schobert, William Altreuter, and myself. Jared Mobarak: Here’s hoping Chris Rock does his best Ricky Gervais as far as not caring about political correctness or duty to kissing up to the celebrities all dressed-up nice because having him host the 2016 Oscars ceremony amidst the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy is an opportunity not to be squandered. Two years in a row with no black actor/actress up for gold? That’s a major problem with The Academy and the…

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