REVIEW: To the Stars [2020]

Welcome to Oklahoma. The whole of Martha Stephens‘ To the Stars can be summed up by a line in the director’s statement of intent: “Longing is part of the human condition: the ever-present awareness of what’s still missing from our lives.” It’s true. We all long for something. Sometimes it’s for something as simple and direct as love. Sometimes it’s for something as complex and harrowing as equality. We long to be seen as who we are and often for the escape that’s necessary to allow it to happen far…

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REVIEW: The Quarry [2020]

You’re not the one who can forgive. Reverend David Martín’s (Bruno Bichir) fate wasn’t set in stone while driving down a Texas highway with a bottle of wine in his hand. He still had choices. Should he stop to assist a man (Shea Whigham) found face down in the dirt? Should he offer a ride to the place that will serve as his own new beginning? Should he confront him about a dark truth his conscience won’t ignore? You might say that being a man of God did seal his…

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REVIEW: Low Tide [2019]

You ready to go exploring? Just because writer/director Kevin McMullin‘s debut feature Low Tide centers on a trio of locals stuck in a New Jersey banks vacation town and forced to watch rich kids come every summer to treat them like one of the attractions with which to entertain themselves doesn’t mean it’s an “us versus them” story. Alan (Keean Johnson), Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri), and Red (Alex Neustaedter) seek to make it one by breaking into empty houses while their owners are having fun on the boardwalk, but reality soon…

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TIFF18 REVIEW: First Man [2018]

It’s kinda neat The non-controversy surrounding Damien Chazelle‘s First Man shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows how political parties have appropriated art into their agendas since the dawn of time. Of course they’d glom onto the decision to ignore the lunar flag planting as some “un-American” thing rather than read the script, watch the movie, or ask for clarification—options which would have all supplied insight into the reality that Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer aren’t telling the story of the moon landing. That goal might be the driving force behind what’s…

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REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island [2017]

“Eating’s for the living” It’s amazing how a film’s success can create a tidal wave, but that’s exactly what Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla did in 2014. We’re talking critical acclaim, half a billion dollars at the box office, and a rejuvenated plea for monster flicks. Well the first two are fact, the third merely hope on behalf of Legendary Pictures. Because their investment isn’t just sequels, it’s about a “MonsterVerse” so important to them that they got Universal Pictures to give Kong: Skull Island‘s rights to Warner Bros. so a single…

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REVIEW: Lila & Eve [2015]

“Talk is meaningless” A movie isn’t necessarily ruined because its so-called twist is easily deciphered, especially when the reveal is less for shock value than depicting the psychological struggle of grief. For Lila Walcott (Viola Davis), the loss of her son Stephon (Aml Ameen) as an innocent bystander to a drive-by shooting has drowned her in exactly that emotion. It’s pushed her to the brink of sanity, acceptance, and quite possibly redemption right into the arms of a like-minded individual languishing in almost identical circumstances. Lila befriends Eve (Jennifer Lopez)…

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REVIEW: Fast & Furious [2009]

“He used to date my sister” While only grossing half of its predecessor’s haul to make it seem as though Paul Walker‘s absence was a huge box office hindrance, Tokyo Drift still almost doubled its budget despite no discernible connection to the franchise that spawned it until the very end (minus its drag racing theme). It was apparently enough for the studio to gauge interest and see whether the quickly fading from public consciousness Walker and Vin Diesel wanted some easy money. With director Justin Lin‘s visual style alongside screenwriter…

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REVIEW: American Hustle [2013]

“Don’t put metal in the science box” Director David O. Russell has said I Heart Huckabees was a transitional film for him wherein he took a break, took stock, and came back with the drive and enthusiasm for making movies that got him into the business in the first place. And even though the film is my favorite of his—an underrated gem of an existential comedy—I see his point and am grateful he found this second wind because he’s been rewarded with much-deserved critical acclaim, financial backing, and a level…

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REVIEW: Fast & Furious 6 [2013]

“You wanna catch wolves? You need wolves.” It’s family reunion time in the Fast & Furious franchise as its creative team consisting of director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan expand the arc they began seven years ago with Tokyo Drift. The one installment without tough guy scowls from Paul Walker’s Brian or Vin Diesel’s Dom (although the latter did cameo), it’s out of chronological order existence had only since been alluded to via the continued participation of Sung Kang’s Han. Fast Five brought Brian’s old friends from 2 Fast…

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TIFF12 REVIEW: Silver Linings Playbook [2012]

“Is that song really playing?” I know it’s misguided, but my interest in David O. Russell films kind of ended after The Fighter. This was a guy who used to pave his own path with challenging material and comedies that made you think. It’s not even that I disliked his true-life boxing tale—actually I loved it. But where was the eccentricity? Where was the promise of subversive insanity that his sadly unfinished Nailed possessed? He showed he had the skills for the big time and I’m ecstatic he now has…

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REVIEW: Take Shelter [2011]

“I just need you to believe me” An old co-worker of mine once told me about a story idea of his. With so many people on Bluetooth as they walk the streets ‘talking to themselves’, he wanted to craft a tale about those fringe eccentrics strolling about in conversation without the technology cradled in their ear. What if these vagrants weren’t crazy but in fact have their brains open to wavelengths from the future? What if they are engaged in discourse with people speaking through the fabric of time and…

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