REVIEW: The White Crow [2019]

I shall fight fear. While I don’t know anything about ballet, I am familiar with Soviet defection. Being a Buffalonian whose hometown hockey favorite as a kid was Alexander Mogilny means I must. It helps then that director Ralph Fiennes and screenwriter David Hare (inspired by Julie Kavanagh‘s book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life) start their film The White Crow at its end rather than beginning. By sitting Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin (Fiennes) down across from a not so composed government official to answer the pressing question of why his star pupil…

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REVIEW: The Lego Batman Movie [2017]

“‘Puter, overcompensate” It was always going to be an uphill battle. The success of The LEGO Movie was so surprising and legitimate that a sequel was going to have to work five times harder to match it. So maybe pushing the follow-up off to focus on a spin-off was the way to go. Expectations would be lowered, Will Arnett‘s Batman was a fan favorite to carry the weight, and you wouldn’t necessarily be beholden to the previous installment’s plot or ingenious use of human omniscience. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith could focus…

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REVIEW: Kubo and the Two Strings [2016]

“Memories are powerful things” The narrator of Travis Knight‘s Kubo and the Two Strings demands us to look closely and never blink. His story delivers fantastical wonders and poignant metaphors concerning family, love, and traditions to uphold if not an archaic remnant of a lost time meant to be broken. We’re to pay attention because details are intentionally only thinly-veiled, alluding to discoveries Marc Haimes and Chris Butler‘s script shortly reveal. A mirroring of roles proves critical to the tale’s resonance, our own dreams as children coaxing the real world…

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REVIEW: A Bigger Splash [2015]

“Try not to frighten the horses” More than loosely based upon Alain Page‘s 1969 French script La Piscine, Luca Guadagnino finally follows up his magnificent I Am Love with A Bigger Splash, his first narrative fiction since. It tells the story of a rockstar legend (Tilda Swinton‘s Marianne Lane channeling Ziggy Stardust) and her long-term documentarian boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts‘ Paul De Smedt) as they vacation on a secluded Italian island for much needed recovery—she post-vocal surgery and he not so far removed from a violent suicide attempt spurred by alcoholism.…

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REVIEW: Hail, Caesar! [2016]

“It’s all in the hips, the lips, the eyes, and the thighs” You don’t think much when you read the Coen Brothers have been bouncing Hail, Caesar! around since 2004. After all, they’re prolific auteurs that often write scripts for other directors, so a decade-long gestation period is nothing to scoff at. Only when you learn the idea was little more than an idea that you start wondering about the final product. Maybe they loved that initial pitch so much the words simply poured out over the last couple years.…

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REVIEW: Spectre [2015]

“You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond” Remember that badass organization known as Quantum the deliciously vile Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) ran to terrorize James Bond (Daniel Craig) for two films? How about rogue former 00-program pledge Silva (Javier Bardem) wreaking havoc throughout London due a personal vendetta against MI6? They both made for entertaining villains in this rebooted saga with a grittier Bond—each helping bridge the cheese of its predecessors and the new-look superhero darkness Hollywood had embraced at the start of this century. What reason would…

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REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel [2014]

“Who’s got the throat-slitter?” The films of Wes Anderson have always resided in some sort of parallel universe full of stylistic flights of fancy, but never has one been so completely defined by its fantasy than The Grand Budapest Hotel. His previous work exists to pay homage with stories filled to the brim by aesthetic flourishes and meticulously detailed set dressings that transport us into his familiar yet unfamiliar worlds. Rather than start with story as usual, however, his latest seems to have sprung out from its environment. This shouldn’t…

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REVIEW: Skyfall [2012]

“He’s keen to get home” With Paul Haggis relinquishing co-writing duties opposite duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to John Logan, the newest iteration of James Bond finds itself an autonomous entity. More attuned to the legacy that came before Daniel Craig donned the suit, we no longer need to worry about Mr. White or the loss of Vesper Lynd because their tale has run its course. Instead, Skyfall deals with a new chapter in the aging hero’s life as his and his employer’s loyalty is questioned against the changing…

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REVIEW: Wrath of the Titans [2012]

“I will never leave my son” There’s nothing like a little patricide to bring two estranged brothers like Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes together again. It’s what teamed them up to imprison their father Cronus long ago in the underworld prison Tartarus and it’s what will ultimately make them choose sides again while humanity looks on helplessly for a victor. And while Perseus (Sam Worthington) wouldn’t have minded killing his own God of a father in Clash of the Titans, it is his half-brother Ares (Édgar Ramírez) who…

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REVIEW: Clash of the Titans [2010]

“They declared war. War on the Gods.” Going from Luc Besson‘s go-to director to becoming a Hollywood action regular, you can’t blame Louis Leterrier for wanting to tackle the big budget remake of Clash of the Titans. With a predecessor remembered more for its Ray Harryhausen creatures than any lasting artistic quality—I still can’t believe its shoddy effects came after Empire Strikes Back—its subject matter actually seemed ripe for a revisioning. So many genre ‘classics’ have garnered a want for new boatloads of cash, why not a film badly in…

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REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [2011]

“His name is Voldemort, Filius. You might as well use it. He’s going to try and kill you either way.” Every story must come to an end and the saga of Harry Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is no exception. Splitting the final novel of J.K. Rowling’s epic tale of wizardry into two films makes it so the words are given justice and very little is left out, but just as Part 1 lacked a complete arc, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is even less its own entity. To…

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