REVIEW: Totally Under Control [2020]

Politics got in the way of science. Documentaries like Alex Gibney (who also wrote), Ophelia Harutyunyan, and Suzanne Hillinger‘s Totally Under Control have a tendency of falling prey to their activism. And being that this film specifically was shot, packaged, and released in just a handful of months before a very contentious United States presidential election only augments that potential. Because how much information about the COVID-19 pandemic is there that we don’t already know? How does putting what we do together into a cohesive, well-researched piece facilitate much-needed education…

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REVIEW: Bad Hair [2020]

You always have a choice. It’s 1989 and Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) still hasn’t straightened her hair thanks to an ill-fated attempt years previously that left her scalp scarred and sensitive to the touch. She asked her cousin Linda (Chanté Adams) to do it then because her idols all had sleek, shoulder length locks and she knew it would give her a leg up on a career path towards DJ/VJ stardom even before landing a job at the urban arm of RMV known as Culture. As an interviewer tells her…

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REVIEW: Rebecca [2020]

I don’t believe in ghosts. Despite David O. Selznick‘s desire to keep his cinematic adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier‘s novel Rebecca as true to the source novel as possible and not alienate its built-in fan base, at least one change was unavoidable en route to passing Hollywood’s “Hayes Code.” Because it concerns a late-arriving revelation that would spoil things, I won’t say what it was. Just know that this seemingly small alteration on paper beneficially reverberates throughout the entirety of what Selznick and director Alfred Hitchcock put onscreen by allowing…

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REVIEW: Rebecca [1940]

They say he simply adored her. Director Alfred Hitchcock winds the camera down the overgrowth to a once beautiful estate known as Manderley—now a shell of its former splendor and shrouded in shadows. He’s foreshadowing the forthcoming darkness so we don’t meet the bright eyed and innocent young “companion” of Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates) and believe we’re about to receive a whirlwind romance of love and life rather than pain and sorrow. No, the latter are firmly entrenched from frame one straight through the end despite subsequent appearances to…

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REVIEW: Love and Monsters [2020]

Man, Todd loved that goldfish. We’re seven years past the apocalypse. Eight years since the world banded together to send every nuclear missile on Earth into the sky to stop an asteroid hell-bent on destroying all life. Things obviously didn’t work out too well if the latter wasn’t able to stop the former. Ends up that that much radioactivity falling back down through the atmosphere was just as cataclysmic—killing off a lot of the population and mutating cold-blooded animals/insects into giant monsters that ultimately killed the rest. Ninety-five percent of…

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REVIEW: The Devil Has a Name [2020]

We’ll always have Paris. Big Oil has been wrecking the environment for decades with spills, fires, and wastewater ponds amongst other atrocities to Mother Nature that place their bottom line above morality. They have the money to do it and the power to avoid any consequences—at least those that ultimately cost more than the price of overhauling the industry in a way that would make them compliant where Earth’s sustainability is concerned. It’s called “net present value.” As long as you make more profit doing bad than the net loss…

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HEARTLAND20 REVIEW: Minari [2020]

Because of the dirt color? One of the first things Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) wants to do upon arriving in America to live on her daughter’s family’s new Arkansas farm and help with her grandkids is find a place to grow the minari she’s brought over from Korea. She mentions it out loud at dinner after picking a spot only to hear her son-in-law Jacob (Steven Yeun) say he’ll think about it. He’s too busy plowing the land he bought to grow Korean vegetables to worry about additions, but Soonja wasn’t…

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NYFF20 REVIEW: Undine [2020]

If you leave, you have to die. Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) laughs when Undine Wibeau (Paula Beer) tells him he can’t leave her lest she be forced to kill him. He laughs because he’s read the myth of sea nymphs sharing her name and the fate those who love them suffer if they ever betray it. That’s not how the real world works, though. Couples fall in and out of love all the time. Men don’t walk to forest lakes and scream her name to satisfy the holes in their heart…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Freeland [2020]

I have my own system. Adapt or die: it’s the capitalist way. And for a time it actually worked. Those with the ingenuity to improve an industry found themselves rising to the top with technological advances that others would have to adopt in order to remain competitive. An even playing field would be found, someone new would take that next step forward, and the rest would once again adjust. At a certain point in the past half-century or so, however, those improvements began coming at an accelerated pace. They’ve become…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Black Bear [2020]

You don’t have to mean it. Does a bear standing in the road influence a bear by the boathouse? Or are both animals a manifestation of the same mind to punctuate the climactic conclusions of an ever-escalating series of anxiety-inducing emotional carnage as deus ex machinas? You could easily argue each option where it concerns Lawrence Michael Levine‘s intentionally solipsistic and presumably cathartic dramatic puzzle box of a film, Black Bear. Chapter One might be a reality that influences Chapter Two or both might be dueling incarnations of a creative…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Mandibules [Mandibles] [2020]

What’s in the suitcase? Look no further than the fact Manu (Grégoire Ludig) was given the job to know how simple it was. While he’s a guy who shouldn’t be trusted to operate heavy machinery, tasking him with the no-questions-asked delivery of a suitcase shouldn’t be far-fetched—especially not when he’ll be given a decent payday for his trouble. Manu needs that money too. He’s lost his home and sleeps wrapped up in a blanket on the beach way too close to the water. Any little bit therefore helps and procuring…

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