TIFF19 REVIEW: Synchronic [2020]

The present is a miracle. When two paramedic best friends in New Orleans discovered the first unexplainable injury on their route, they didn’t really think much about it. The second? Well, it was a body. They shouldn’t have even been called. What about the third, though? A snake bite in a hotel room without a snake alongside a disappeared boyfriend? That’s when you start looking for the connective tissue holding everything together besides Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) having the bad luck to catch them all. That’s when…

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REVIEW: The Hate U Give [2018]

Know your worth. The progression of The Hate U Give‘s genesis reveals its message’s importance. Angie Thomas began its short story precursor back in college as a response to Oscar Grant’s 2009 death by police. She would push it aside soon after in hopes to revisit the subject matter once her rage subsided. Her impulse was to instead find the love necessary to put everything she wanted to say down correctly—something the film adaptation (in theaters less than two years after the novel’s publication) possesses to create an authentic balance…

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REVIEW: Detroit [2017]

“Burn it down” The title may be presumptuous enough to broadly call itself Detroit, but make no mistake that Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest film is very much about the Algiers Motel incident on the night of July 25th, 1967. Screenwriter Mark Boal allows for some prologue exposition before reaching that fateful evening—setting up the events that sparked the city’s five-day long 12th Street Riot—but nothing more. We witness the raid conducted on a club operating without a liquor license, watch the streets erupt with fury in response, and move between archival…

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REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War [2016]

“Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all” We’ve officially approached the apex of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wherein films cannot be about one single character anymore. The Infinity Wars being just around the corner means that time has been regulated. There’s an endgame as there always has been and the pieces must be put into position now. What made The Avengers so great was that its endgame was merely to put Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and…

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REVIEW: Triple 9 [2016]

“Better him than me” No matter how exciting it is to see a film with the cast John Hillcoat assembled on Triple 9, the old adage “less is more” still stands. The issue with having so many “main characters” is that they all end up becoming periphery players. And if one does rise above the rest, you wonder why so much happens that doesn’t concern him/her. This is where Matt Cook‘s 2010 Blacklist script falls into trouble: Casey Affleck‘s Chris Allen is our lead and yet he’s basically a pawn…

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Picking Winners at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

For those handicapping at home, here are the guesses of Buffalo film fanatics Christopher Schobert, William Altreuter, and myself. Jared Mobarak: Here’s hoping Chris Rock does his best Ricky Gervais as far as not caring about political correctness or duty to kissing up to the celebrities all dressed-up nice because having him host the 2016 Oscars ceremony amidst the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy is an opportunity not to be squandered. Two years in a row with no black actor/actress up for gold? That’s a major problem with The Academy and the…

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REVIEW: Shelter [2015]

“The objective is forgiveness” It’s quite comforting to see actors-turned-directors not shying away from tough subject matter. You’d almost assume they would amidst stereotypes of celebrity vanity driving them to worry about losing audience appeal. Looking at a guy like Ben Affleck leveraging a fledging acting career destroyed by bad mainstream choices into a critically acclaimed metamorphosis as an A-list director, however, shows the transition is real regardless of content or perception. I’d rather a guy like Ryan Gosling get derided for taking a chance on Lost River than see…

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REVIEW: Our Brand is Crisis [2015]

“There’s only one wrong: losing” It’s probably because I know little about politics and care even less that I find most film’s dealing with the subject matter enjoyable. George Clooney‘s The Ides of March is one—the actor taking on the director’s chair, a co-screenwriting credit, and co-lead in front of the lens. Highly political himself with the media, it’s no surprise he’d gravitate towards a play based on an actual campaign (“Farragut North”) or a documentary doing much the same. The latter is Rachel Boynton‘s film centered on the 2002…

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REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014]

“I thought you were more than just a shield?” Despite what’s been said the past couple weeks, Marvel still hasn’t released that “A” film quite yet. Don’t get me wrong: the universe they have created is unparalleled and possessed by a consistency of success on par with Disney’s other child Pixar, but has there been a The Dark Knight? An X-Men 2 even? Not yet. The closest we’ve come is probably The Avengers for finding a way to integrate the many disparate storylines into the series’ most standalone feature to…

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REVIEW: The Fifth Estate [2013]

“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth” As reporters from The Guardian and The New York Times are shown sifting through hundreds of thousands of leaked documents uploaded to the Wikileaks site by Chelsea Manning (then Bradley) in 2010, the acronym EOF is clearly defined as “Escalation of Force” in a blatant swipe at the US government’s penchant for unnecessary killing in the Middle East. While the term explains what America did wrong, it’s also relevant to the speed at which Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate…

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REVIEW: Pain & Gain [2013]

“I gotta get a pump” I like when actors not only play to their strengths, but also make a concerted effort to do so. Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson saw an opportunity to have fun playing a couple of bumbling amateur criminals—waiving their salaries along with director Michael Bay for backend deals—and had faith audiences would come to see them make light of their physiques and act the fools. Pain & Gain is a perfect venue for their somewhat limited skill sets as its true to life tale of greed…

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