REVIEW: On the Rocks [2020]

It was heartbreaking … for everyone. Before the first image of Sofia Coppola‘s On the Rocks arrives on-screen, we hear Felix’s (Bill Murray) voice to a teenaged Laura: “You’re mine until you get married. Then you’re still mine.” It’s the type of goofy sentiments Dads tell their daughters and we dismiss it as such when she replies with a sarcastic, “Okay.” The choice is a correct one too once we meet them in the present. Felix is an aging art dealer lothario for whom Laura (Rashida Jones) is his sole…

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REVIEW: Emma. [2020]

I have not yet been proved wrong. There have been countless adaptations of Jane Austen‘s Emma. and yet Autumn de Wilde‘s version (from a script by Eleanor Catton) is still able to feel fresh regardless. It might help that the director admits Clueless is her favorite of them because that viewpoint allowed its modern sensibilities to shine through the period aesthetic. The wit is sharp and quick, the production design is impeccable, and the characters are given life with the sort of off-the-cuff expressions today’s youth cannot stop themselves from…

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REVIEW: Martin Eden [2019]

Beauty is demanding. Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is a man without a home. He’s too ambitious to become a working class cog with little to no room for education and he’s too much of a rugged realist to play the aristocratic elite’s hypocritical games. So the former calls him lazy. The latter calls him undeserving. And yet he somehow finds himself with a foot firmly planted in both worlds regardless thanks to a charming likeability that turns him into the puppy by their side that he later rails against via…

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REVIEW: Wild Mountain Thyme [2020]

Who’s going to kill the crows? Ireland is full of history. Take that statement in a literal sense with centuries of rolling hills, struggles, and people or a figurative one leaning more towards the realm of memories and ghosts. As Tony (Christopher Walken)—our sporadic narrator through an obtuse framing device that sets most of John Patrick Shanley‘s Wild Mountain Thyme (adapted from his own play “Outside Mullingar”) as flashback despite portraying it as present-day—says, “If an Irishman dies in the middle of telling a story, he just might come back.”…

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REVIEW: Ammonite [2020]

Fashion moved on. Did it not? By all accounts a woman long disregarded for her invaluable role in the scientific field of paleontology, Mary Anning deserves substantial recognition. Her first major discovery occurred around age eleven after her brother found an ichthyosaur skull for which she then collected the entirety of its completed skeleton. Because their father died that same year and left the family in dire financial straits, they sold the piece to find its way into London’s British Museum eight years later. Mary then continued her winter expeditions…

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REVIEW: Luxor [2020]

How do we conquer our inner demons? After spending two decades as a British aid worker throughout a war-torn Middle East, Hana (Andrea Riseborough) chooses Luxor as the destination for her leave. Not only is the Egyptian city situated on the east bank of the Nile for serene sights and the spiritual healing of Thebes’ religious monuments to counteract such crippling strife, but it was also the place where her journey inside the region began with a bottomless wealth of hope and promise for the future. She found love there…

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REVIEW: Happiest Season [2020]

Maybe another of your exes will bring out dessert. It’s Christmas week and romance is in the air as Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) walk Pittsburgh one last night before going their separate ways for the holiday. The latter is so smitten under the stars and blinking lights that she throws caution to the wind to invite the former to come along and use the festivities as an excuse to finally meet her family. They’ve been living together for six months and Abby has no other relatives with…

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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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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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REVIEW: A Rainy Day in New York [2020]

Real life is fine for people who can’t do any better. There’s a scene in Mike Nichols‘ The Birdcage where Robin Williams’ character is helping Nathan Lane’s character be more “manly.” He has him mimicking different masculine figures including John Wayne to which Lane struts around only to catch Williams’ quizzical look and ask, “What? No good?” Williams’ response perfectly encapsulates how things we’ve been conditioned to believe are normal are actually absurd when taken out of context. He says, “Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked…

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