TIFF19 REVIEW: Blackbird [2020]

To wonderful life. It’s not everyday that an international remake retains the same screenwriter, but that’s the case with Christian Torpe and his script for the Danish film Silent Heart moving to director Roger Michell‘s hands as Blackbird. I haven’t seen the original, but the subject’s universality has me thinking very little besides cultural changes were necessary in the translation. Assisted suicide is a hot-button issue in many countries and a family’s ability to get on-board a member’s decision to go through with one is tough no matter where they…

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REVIEW: Hell and Back [2015]

“If you’re a priest or a nun, that’s funny. You wasted your life.” You may have noticed posters for the R-rated, stop-motion animated comedy Hell and Back throughout the summer and fall seasons in anticipation of its October release only to find it didn’t come to a theater near you. It was released and took in about $150,000 on the few screens it graced to the chagrin of a ton of hopeful Nick Swardson fans complaining on the movie’s Facebook page about their inability to watch. So January 5th brings…

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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…

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REVIEW: Tammy [2014]

“You wanna go ride a cow?” I like Melissa McCarthy and her trademarked hard-edged, scumbag persona in films. She’s often the best part of things that don’t work—Identity Thief—and those that do—Bridesmaids. So I’d love to blame someone else for how tired and frankly unfunny her latest Tammy is despite knowing I can’t. She co-wrote the road trip comedy with her husband Ben Falcone while he also directed. Maybe there was some interference courtesy of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell lending their shingle to the production, but I’d be surprised…

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REVIEW: Snitch [2013]

“You just have to trust me” Watching the trailer for Ric Roman Waugh‘s Snitch had me believing the film would be a high-octane actioner in the vein of Dwayne Johnson‘s other one-word titled thriller Faster. Between the depiction of The Rock’s John Matthews going undercover with the DEA to bring down a narcotics kingpin and the writer/director’s past as a stuntman/stunt coordinator, it seemed a pretty easy leap to make. Interestingly enough, however, this isn’t the case and I’m torn whether that realization is a positive or negative. Generally action…

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REVIEW: Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2012]

“The Porsche is normal size. You’re a Sasquatch.” It’s good to see Mark Duplass hasn’t stopped making small-scale, heartfelt indies with his brother Jay despite success on the acting front with the likes of “The League” and Safety Not Guaranteed. While I’m not sure you could still call them mumblecore with increasingly prominent casts—although their second film of 2012, The Do-Deca Pentathlon might—they haven’t lost the quirkily authentic appeal that originally endeared the duo to audiences. Jeff, Who Lives at Home contains some questionable choices with constant zoom pulls recalling…

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TIFF12 REVIEW: Cloud Atlas [2012]

“Our lives are not our own” In grand fashion comes an epic about freedom and the wrongs of humanity forever marring how we’re seen through the annals of time. Every misstep is repeated; every stand against oppression spawned from the voice of one strong enough to understand equality’s worth over the cowardice of blindly hiding behind religious or societal rhetoric. There will always be some faction of life deemed unworthy, dirty, incomplete—some species, race, invention for us to lord our superiority over. And it isn’t about stepping back to gain…

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TIFF12 REVIEW: The Company You Keep [2013]

“We made mistakes, but we were right” In Robert Redford and Lem Dobbs‘ adaptation of Neil Gordon‘s novel The Company You Keep, the personal futures fought for by the militant Weather Underground during the Vietnam War risk being destroyed as the last surviving members of a Bank of Michigan robbery find their past catching up to them after thirty years. Hidden with new identities and normal, domestic lives far from the bombings and murders of a previous era, they’ve begun to take stock and find the guilt of what they…

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REVIEW: Solitary Man [2010]

“Out there is nothing but possibilities” Have films embraced the ambiguous ‘does he or doesn’t he’ ending too often recently? I feel bad beginning with that question since I did actually like Solitary Man very much, but liking the whole doesn’t discount the fact that a contrived ‘conversational’ fade to black has gone from bold to clichéd in a short period of time. An easy device to end stories containing a central figure who reaches an epiphany on life, the viewer can contemplate what they saw and choose where they…

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REVIEW: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps [2010]

“Growing old’s not for sissies, kid” Stupid subtitle aside, dare I say Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps surpasses its predecessor pretty much across the board cinematically? Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff have woven together an intricate plot of dueling con jobs amidst a young romance between idealists in a capitalist world where greed is a top commodity. Oliver Stone doesn’t need a tour de force performance from Michael Douglas like he did to shield the somewhat simplistic storyline at the backbone of Wall Street—although he reprises the role very effectively—because…

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REVIEW: The Lovely Bones [2009]

“I never knew what dead meant” I’ll be upfront—I cannot be objective in reviewing Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones. It’s impossible because I read the story a couple weeks ago to prepare myself for the film. With complete candor, I didn’t love the novel; I thought the first three-quarters were brilliant while the final act took some unnecessary turns and rushed to a conclusion that seemed tacked on in parts. Above all, it was very well written, expressing the pain and sorrow of loss and…

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