FANTASIA19 REVIEW: The Art of Self-Defense [2019]

I want to be what intimidates me. There was definite trepidation upon learning writer/director Riley Stearns‘ follow-up to Faults would be a comedy. That’s not to say his debut wasn’t funny, however. It was. But where its humor arrived from the matter-of-fact nature of the characterizations he utilized to turn his tale of cult deprogramming upside down, it remained a darkly suspenseful nightmare flirting with the supernatural in ways that forced our laughter to cease by lending those disquieting moments conviction beyond their inherent absurdity. I therefore worried billing The…

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REVIEW: Jurassic Park III [2001]

No force on Earth or Heaven could get me on that island. It’s almost ironic to discover David Koepp—screenwriter of the franchise’s previous two installments—was the one to think up the “simpler” story concept that Peter Buchman (with revisions by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor) ultimately built upon for Jurassic Park III. The man responsible for adapting The Lost World into an overstuffed cash-grab of a bloated sequel swooped in just weeks before another fully storyboarded and ready-to-go draft went into production with the advice to condense its focus. You…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Disobedience [2018]

“We must then choose the tangled lives we live” It starts with a London-based rabbi speaking from his heart about the complexities of life. He stammers through—obviously ailing—until collapse. Suddenly we’re in New York City watching a photographer in-session with tattooed seniors. The phone rings and we know. She (Rachel Weisz‘s Ronit Krushka) is the daughter of that rabbi and he has passed away. The assumption is that both these worlds will subsequently collide in reunion. Tears will be shed and hugs had. But that’s not quite the case with…

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REVIEW: A Most Violent Year [2014]

“You’ll never do anything harder than staring someone in the eye and telling them the truth” I remember being surprised when Margin Call—the little movie that could—came out. Writer/director J.C. Chandor earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay before heading to virtual silence with his harrowing sophomore effort, the Robert Redford-starring All is Lost, a film deemed one of the biggest Academy Awards snubs of 2013. Now that’s a lot of pressure for a young guy who just burst onto the scene and yet he decided to push the envelope…

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REVIEW: Junebug [2005]

“I just wanted something good to come out of all this” Junebug was one of those films that came out of the 2005 festival circuit with buzz galore. Unfortunately I never got to see it until randomly passing it by on Starz-On-Demand, in widescreen no less. This was a temptation that wouldn’t be quelled and so I sat down with high expectations. The movie not only lived up to those, but exceeded them as well. You don’t get character pieces as well acted and written as Junebug often. Every performance…

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