BIFF19 REVIEW: Frances Ferguson [2019]

Was this breaking the law? We never meet the narrator (Nick Offerman) of Bob Byington‘s film Frances Ferguson. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing or uncommon, but I couldn’t shake the idea that we should. It’s because he isn’t some omnisciently objective voice telling us a story. He interjects opinions, giggles, and often meanders to the point where his subject (Kaley Wheless‘ Frances) must speak up to help him along. In one instance he mentions a “We” as though his (and another’s) entrance on-screen was imminent. It’s not. He means…

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REVIEW: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part [2019]

Listen to the music. A film like The LEGO Movie is a once-in-a-decade type achievement (so to see its filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller also write/produce another once-in-a-decade feat with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse only shows how inventive and original the two are). It daring to use its subject matter’s tactility and utility rather than pretend its nothing more than aesthetic was an ingenious choice, the surprise lifting of the curtain to reveal a human element behind the characters’ machinations the stuff of legend. So the inevitable demand for…

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REVIEW: Hearts Beat Loud [2018]

Whoopie pies and Spotify. It’s often at extreme times of upheaval that we find ourselves taking stock of our life, ambitions, and loves. While working hard to be successful enough to support our families, we have a tendency of leaving our dreams by the wayside and/or compartmentalizing our identities to serve the unavoidable pressures of the present rather than hopes for the future. And on the flipside we can also youthfully avoid our basic human desire for compassion and interaction in order to maintain focus on career paths we’ve yet…

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REVIEW: The Hero [2017]

“You can’t outrun destiny, amigo” Death is the great equalizer and one true certainty in life. That doesn’t mean we’re prepared for its sudden or prolonged arrival, though. If anything it forces us to take stock of achievements and mistakes, knowing that the time we believed we had to fix the latter was about to disappear. As we deal with an unavoidable internal existential crisis, we also seek to reignite external relationships long since disintegrated. This is the journey Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) takes in Brett Haley‘s The Hero. He’s…

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REVIEW: Sing [2016]

“Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love” After helming The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Son of Rambow, it’s easy to forget writer/director Garth Jennings started his career as one half of music video masters Hammer & Tongs. Pair his knowledge of music with some great past examples of family-friendly aesthetics (Supergrass‘ “Pumping on Your Stereo” puppets, Blur‘s “Coffee & TV” stop-motion) and the notion he’d eventually gravitate towards a feature-length animated children’s film doesn’t seem far-fetched. In fact, the only thing about his third…

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REVIEW: Welcome to Happiness [2016]

“But then …” When you think of short stories like W.W. Jacobs‘ “The Monkey’s Paw” or Richard Matheson‘s “Button, Button” (adapted to the small screen for “The Twilight Zone” and big for Richard Kelly‘s underrated The Box), dark images of death are conjured. The consequences of earning personal reward come at great cost to those you may or may not know. They concern selfish acts that will incite chaos and a purveyor of their too-good-to-be-true opportunities who relishes in watching the destructive path cut by fate’s unyielding need to balance…

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REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl [2015]

“Respect the research” Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl can be described as The Fault in Our Stars meets Be Kind Rewind. While the correlation to the latter is nearly identical with both comically parodying cinematic greats (albeit of differing oeuvres), the former hits as a contrast despite similar subject matter. Whereas Stars‘ has two leads afflicted by cancer in order to express how they cope with their mortality, the titular “dying girl” here is a tool used to wake its healthy lead up. Above pity, strength,…

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REVIEW: The Kings of Summer [2013]

“That’s something my great grandfather would say. He’s a racist.” We’ve all had that urge to runaway when our parents prove too overbearing or too indifferent, but those thoughts disappear quickly once the allure of freedom evolves into a nightmare of self-sufficiency. So we stay at home; deal with the push and pull of personality responsibility, adolescent rambunctiousness, and the hope for a modicum of space/privacy; and either find ourselves accepting our fate or counting the days until escape is agreed upon mutually with the means to support it. Screenwriter…

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REVIEW: Paradise [2013]

“Why twitter with Satan when you can friend with God?” My first trip to the Toronto International Film Festival had me arriving at the box office with vouchers and no clue about what to see. Ready for anything, my friend and I took a chance on Juno based solely on our enjoying Thank You for Smoking and our intrigue in Ellen Page’s follow up to her fantastic turn in Hard Candy. It was a great choice: funny, fresh, contemporary, and accompanied by a Q&A with director Jason Reitman and first-time…

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REVIEW: In a World … [2013]

“The whole thing’s based on the Prussian War” I remember seeing Lake Bell for the first time on the criminally underrated HBO show “How to Make It in America” and thinking, “this is a real person.” She was slightly awkward, somewhat unconventionally attractive, and far from the ditzy, interchangeably dull girls mainstream entertainment loves to shove down our throats ad nauseum. Bell’s Rachel was headstrong, successful, charmingly flakey, and ultimately the kind of woman you’d believe could find herself at the center of a love triangle. What I couldn’t have…

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REVIEW: We’re the Millers [2013]

“That’s my credo, ‘No Ragrets’” An R-rated comedy shouldn’t possess a PG-rated heart. This is We’re the Millers’ main problem in my mind because while the profanity-laced adventure has a ton of laughs, one can’t help shake the feeling that it’s targeted to a 13-16 age group who won’t be allowed to buy a ticket. Overt sexual innuendo and f-bombs don’t make up for a lack of anything else that would render screenwriting teams Bob Fisher and Steve Faber or Sean Anders and John Morris to need an R for…

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