REVIEW: Hope Gap [2020]

Nobody looked back. One person’s optimal drama isn’t universal. Just because you might like the explosiveness of Marriage Story and its emotional outrage doesn’t mean your friend won’t find its histrionics akin to an improv theater class. And just because they might like the more nuanced Hope Gap and its stiff British upper lip doesn’t mean you won’t be bored by what you believe to be generic characters rendered milquetoast to ensure neither comes off as a bigger villain. We all live different lives and we’re all affected by triggering…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: The Report [2019]

It’s based on science. It matters that Diane Feinstein and other Senators (John McCain included) fought to make the Intelligence Committee’s report on “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” public because it held information the American people needed to know about how the CIA conducted itself after 9/11. While many would say the fact nobody has been prosecuted or held accountable since for what was laid out is the most important takeaway, however, I’d disagree. To me writer/director Scott Z. Burns distilled it in one line of dialogue during his cinematic adaptation of…

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REVIEW: Captain Marvel [2019]

I’m not what you think I am. With the snap of his fingers, Thanos made half of Earth’s population disappear. It was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most harrowing climactic cliffhanger and it did possess an emotional response despite knowing most if not all of our beloved characters would find their way back before the war was officially over. With so many broken heroes, however, who could lead the necessary response? Tony Stark? Steve Rogers? No. When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) saw what was happening, neither of them was on…

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TIFF REVIEW: Life Itself [2018]

Tell them I’m nice. Morbid or not: I love when stationary characters turn to the camera only to be hit by a vehicle coming from offscreen. There’s something that’s just immensely satisfying about watching one step into that sweet spot of quiet, empty space with a hindered view on either side. I brace for impact, disappointed when it doesn’t arrive because the blocking so perfectly sets up tragedy despite the filmmaker’s decision to squander the opportunity. So I of course smiled when the first such collision occurs during Dan Fogelman‘s…

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REVIEW: 20th Century Women [2016]

“You wish you were crazy” There’s a lot to unpack in 20th Century Women, Mike Mills‘ look at lost souls adrift on paths towards happiness (if happiness even exists). For one he’s a man writing progressive feminists who in turn earnestly educate the two men in their lives how to be men. That alone takes you down corridors of psychological profundity that may actually be profound or simply a mask for the filmmaker’s own explanation that all men aren’t stereotypically single-minded. Because despite the title including the word “women,” this…

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REVIEW: Rules Don’t Apply [2016]

“You’re an exception” Eighteen years after Bulworth and fifteen after Town & Country (his last time directing and acting for a feature film respectively), Warren Beatty returns to the big screen with a fictionalized biography of Howard Hughes forty years in the making. It’s a passion project and vanity project: two endeavors worthy of an auspicious return to the spotlight even if the latter isn’t always the best decision for retaining a renowned legacy. Will Rules Don’t Apply taint peoples’ image of him? No. It’s not going to mark any…

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REVIEW: The Grifters [1990]

“He was so crooked he could eat soup with a corkscrew” My first Stephen Frears film was High Fidelity and I loved it. A couple years later came Dirty Pretty Things and my reaction was the same. Here was a director I must keep tabs on as well as peer back towards everything pre-2000 to make sure I knew which titles to search out. The one that popped out most—despite still taking me twelve years to finally watch it—was The Grifters. Its pedigree was impeccable with a pulpy noir style…

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REVIEW: The Great Outdoors [1988]

“Let go of the rope” Most would probably call it lesser John Hughes—he wrote and produced with Howard Deutch taking the director’s chair—but The Great Outdoors will always hold a special place in my heart. If you asked me who John Candy was in 1990 I’d probably have said, “the guy from The Great Outdoors” even though Uncle Buck had been released and deservedly held as the better work. There was something about the comedy brought forth from nature that appealed to me as a kid who had never been…

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REVIEW: Ruby Sparks [2012]

“I will never write about her again” The debut screenplay from actress Zoe Kazan includes moments ringing absolutely true and others completely false. I can’t stop thinking about Harry Weir-Fields (Chris Messina) giving his brother Calvin (Paul Dano)—the film’s lead—notes on his new, very rough manuscript. Asking without a shred of patronization who the target reader is, he doesn’t believe the women inclined to read romances will care about a quirky, damaged girl with little going for her besides being the object of a man’s affections. It’s obvious to Harry…

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REVIEW: Mother and Child [2010]

“Sometimes when you fall, it’s hard to get up” The women inhabiting the ensemble drama Mother and Child from HBO veteran Rodrigo García are connected by blood, psyche, emotion, and, above all else, motherhood. The title is no coincidence; it succinctly encapsulates the subject matter. Beginning with a young boy and girl’s first sexual encounter, they are way too young to fully realize the ramifications and possibility of pregnancy afterwards. It was the 70s and Karen was fourteen, not old enough to make her own decision and willingly consensual to…

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REVIEW: The Kids Are All Right [2010]

“And then, ya know, my tongue started working again …” You can call writer/director Lisa Cholodenko’s new movie The Kids Are All Right a look into the world of a lesbian-raised family and you’d be correct. But it is so much more than just an exercise on showing the expansive definition of ‘nuclear family’. All the hardships, joys, struggles, and successes of marriage, raising kids, and loving those around you are included. The fact this family has two matriarchs only allows for the plot point of introducing the sperm donor…

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