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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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Jumbo [2020]

What is it if it isn’t love? Jeanne Tantois (Noémie Merlant) has never been one for people. Besides her mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot) and co-worker Fati (Tracy Dossou), she’d avoid talking to them all. You can’t blame her for this attitude considering what so many do the moment they witness her shyly eccentric demeanor. She closes her eyes in a wince when someone gets too close and they almost always come back with a chuckle or unoriginal playacting of being “scary.” They mock her, ridicule her, and laugh rather than…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: The Water Man [2020]

I’m doing this for you. It’s starting to feel as though Gunner Boone’s (Lonnie Chavis) life is fitting to become a series of upheavals with no end in sight. First it was living with his mother (Rosario Dawson‘s Mary) while his father (David Oyelowo‘s Amos) was stationed in Japan with the Navy. Then it was moving to Pine Mills upon his return home to America. And now it’s adjusting to the reality that his mother is dying of cancer and his father hasn’t been able to thus far adjust to…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Wolfwalkers [2020]

Half wolf, half witch, half people. The woodsmen are clearing out the forest to expand Kilkenny, Ireland’s farmland circa 1650 under orders of Lord Protector Cromwell (Simon McBurney)—an Englishman. He and the British crown see these Irish folk as a people in need of taming so it’s only fitting that he try his hand at ridding the countryside of wolves first. This is something these peasants can get behind because they fear what those beasts might do if left unchecked. They clamor for the soldiers to protect them. They willingly…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: La nuit des rois [Night of the Kings] [2020]

The prince without a kingdom. Writer/director Philippe Lacôte looks to tell a tale of the Ivory Coast and its most recent two decades of civil war and strife with his latest film La nuit des rois [Night of the Kings]. With that also comes a necessity to speak about the youth who’ve recently taken up residence within the confines of his setting: La MACA. This prison—whose under-thirty population is currently hovering around eighty percent—shifts between the horrors of its inherent violence and the magical fantasy conjured when Lacôte was a…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Undergods [2020]

All will be fog. We all like to think we have control—kings of our proverbial castles. It’s all a ruse, though. We’re actually slaves to a system that seems more and more likely to fail with each new day and each new declaration that its imminent demise is a call to arms to save it rather than move on and evolve. That false sense of control is thus a mechanism we use to combat the fear of knowing how little we truly possess. We dream of other men failing so…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Une sirène à Paris A Mermaid in Paris] [2020]

The ghosts of my memories are leaning on the bar. Gaspard (Nicolas Duvauchelle) has lived his entire life in pursuit of fulfilling a promise from his grandmother that he’s never quite understood. She was the matriarch of a family that reached well past blood to encompass a group of artistic “Surprisers” who gathered at her famed Flowerburger—an underground speakeasy of sorts doubling as a safe haven for anti-fascist disruptors during the war where song and dance led to poems and love. With a wealth of important Parisian history many will…

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REVIEW: Lake Michigan Monster [2020]

I’m docking your pay. Charm goes a long way for some films—particularly those of the DIY variety where it becomes crucial as a means of deflecting the work’s obvious shortcomings. By leaning into those deficiencies to make them a purposeful part of the aesthetic rather than an unavoidable casualty, you turn them to your advantage. This winking intent also provides a blank canvas with which to free your imagination because “bad” has suddenly transformed into “good.” Whereas a serious film has to consider authenticity, an absurd oddity declares itself allergic…

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REVIEW: The Vast of Night [2020]

They don’t stay for long. The world that director Andrew Patterson and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger put on-screen for their film The Vast of Night isn’t real. Rather than transport us to 1950s New Mexico, we’re put in front of a TV to watch the latest episode of “Paradox Theater”—a “Twilight Zone” riff promising unexplained wonders—set in 1950s New Mexico. It’s an interesting formal decision since we never interact with the place in which we reside. We can neither look around the living room beyond that television…

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CHAT20 REVIEW: The Wanting Mare [2020]

The dream is what’s left. Paradise is the place humanity escaped with the bite of an apple and yet also what we aspire to find upon death. We want it until we have it and subsequently always want more. It’s a pursuit in which we’re inevitably corrupted as selfish greed consumes any shred of empathetic compassion we once possessed. Sometimes someone does come along to remind us—lover, child, etc.—to see through the veil of conquest and recognize the joy we’ve been conditioned to reject, but for how long? Too many…

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REVIEW: Extra Ordinary [2019]

The fragrant aroma of purity. When weird, unexplainable happenings occur—it’s probably a ghost. At least that’s what Vincent Dooley (Risteard Cooper) based a career of dealing with the paranormal upon. A producer of VHS tapes that taught audiences about these experiences as a group of phenomena he coined “Talents,” he also spoke with the dead. Alongside his young daughter Rose (who possessed the gifts necessary to deal with the more practical aspects such as incantations and guiding spirits into the afterlife), Vincent toured Ireland with the hope of helping those…

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