REVIEW: Luce [2019]

I can’t be perfect. So much of who we are and what we become relies on perception. Race, gender, religion, sexuality, language, culture, education, and socio-economic standing all play a role because we’re perceived by those like us and those not. We therefore exist in a tenuous bubble of expectations wherein normalcy is a razor-thin line between sainthood and monstrousness. One side waits to anoint us while patting itself on the back for assisting our ascent upwards to meet our potential. The other patiently bides its time until we’re revealed…

Read More

REVIEW: Ophelia [2019]

Why do the hens peck at you? A lover distraught and driven to madness after her father’s murder at the hand of the man she loves, himself destined to die by order of his uncle: Denmark’s unjust and power-hungry king. This is Ophelia’s fate within William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a woman used to mourn and incite violence amongst men ruled by grief, ego, and righteousness. Why wouldn’t someone choose to therefore reimagine her legacy away from such abuse in text with nothing but death in her future? Novelist Lisa Klein does…

Read More

REVIEW: Vice [2018]

What do we believe? It’s still weird thinking the guy who joked around with Will Ferrell for years is an Oscar winner, but that’s exactly what Adam McKay is. Weirder still is my being firmly in the camp that believes it was deserved. What he did with The Big Short was the equivalent of too-smart people giving the public a “layman’s terms” explanation to their questions. He dumbed-down a complex topic, made it wildly entertaining, and taught us something about ourselves both in how we reacted (or didn’t react) to…

Read More

REVIEW: The Glass Castle [2017]

“You learn from living. Everything else is a damn lie.” It’s easy to dismiss films like Destin Daniel Cretton‘s The Glass Castle for losing their bite upon reaching a conclusion nobody can deny is melodramatically sentimental. You’ve watched Jeannette Walls’ (Brie Larson) decades-long journey of psychological pain and suffering wrought during her upbringing and ever-present in adulthood. You’ve seen trying times in poverty crosscut with present success, emboldened by her strength to stand tall and be the woman she wants to be no matter what the voices of her past…

Read More

REVIEW: The Book of Henry [2017]

“I want to see the sky” There’s a lot of backlash against director Colin Trevorrow for reasons he didn’t necessarily earn. Most of the vitriol stems from his being scooped up by the Hollywood studio machine after helming just one indie film. That debut was the Sundance award-winning Safety Not Guaranteed, a small-scale sci-fi written by Derek Connolly. Suddenly Trevorrow was vaulted to A-list status—again something he didn’t quite earn—to helm Jurassic World and to takeover Star Wars: Episode IX from another festival darling turned tent-pole director Josh Trank (whose…

Read More

REVIEW: Chuck [2017]

“That guy could take a punch” Who is Chuck Wepner? It’s a legitimate question. I didn’t know—not that I’ve ever followed pugilism in my life. So when his story received the cinematic treatment from director Philippe Falardeau with the title The Bleeder, I honestly assumed fiction. Here comes another boxing movie about what’s assumedly a not-so-good fighter who bleeds like a sieve. Maybe it’ll be funny. But that’s not what Chuck (it’s theatrical name) is at all. No, Chuck Wepner is a real guy and was a real fighter. At…

Read More

REVIEW: Demolition [2016]

“She always said I didn’t pay attention” Sometimes we can’t realize we’ve taken the easy road until it’s too late. It’s crass to say, but Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) was lucky to have been abruptly slapped awake when he was. The unfortunate side effect of his rebirth from the doldrums of routine and convenience: the life of his wife Julia (Heather Lind). Suddenly she wasn’t there to smile at him or leave a Post-It note asking for a chore to be done and he’s inexplicably apathetic towards that truth. Not…

Read More

TIFF15 REVIEW: About Ray [2015]

“I’m proud of you” I hate to be the guy to judge a book by its cover, but I admittedly did just that with Gaby Dellal‘s About Ray. It depicts the “unconventional” family of three generations with Susan Sarandon‘s Dodo, Naomi Watts as her daughter Maggie, and Elle Fanning‘s transitioning grandson/son respectfully named Ray (formerly Ramona). The artwork is mediocrely mainstream with smiling faces projecting this difficult period in their lives as though a cakewalk the experience never could prove under any circumstances. I expected an everyone-supports-Ray fluff piece and…

Read More

REVIEW: Stay [2005]

“Your troubles will cease and fortune will smile upon you” **POTENTIAL SPOILERS** I remember my head spinning about Stay after leaving the theatre. Not because David Benioff‘s script or Marc Forster‘s direction proved nuanced enough to shield the “reality” of what’s going on for any authentic surprise, but due to its visceral impact. The Guess Who‘s “These Eyes” cannot play without my recalling the experience of grinding metal and dizzying light accompanying its melody. I bought the DVD the day it released and scoured the extra features to learn about…

Read More

REVIEW: While We’re Young [2015]

“She is a mess. And an ugly eater.” I hated While We’re Young—a fact that actually increases my already healthy dose of respect for writer/director Noah Baumbach. He’s a filmmaker with the type of style, tone, and air of not quite tongue-in-cheek pretension you could pick out from across the room as his and his alone. Sometimes it’s good (Greenberg) or downright perfection (The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha). Other times it makes me so mad I could scream (Margot at the Wedding). Here’s the thing, though: they…

Read More

REVIEW: Insurgent [2015]

“You have to forgive yourself” I don’t know which of the three writers credited (Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback) on Insurgent is responsible for the complete overhaul of Veronica Roth‘s source novel, but I applaud him. If not for the retention of its characters’ arcs, one could argue the majority of this cinematic version is a wholly original work. Ultimately, however, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four’s (Theo James) progression within the confines of a scorched Chicago is what gives Insurgent its identity. We as an audience and fans…

Read More