REVIEW: The Power of the Dog [2021]

I don’t know what you’re talking about. Bronco Henry made Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) a man and the latter won’t let anyone forget it twenty years after his mentor’s death. Everything he does is a testament to his late friend as a result. Finished with the long trek herding cows back to the family ranch run by him and his brother George (Jesse Plemons)? Drink a shot to Bronco. Find yourself in need of a task to take your mind off the gradual deterioration of a life you thought you…

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REVIEW: The Courier [2021]

Sometimes a lie is a gift. There’s a great line about mid-way through director Dominic Cooke and writer Tom O’Connor‘s The Courier wherein Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) are talking about the lies they have to tell to keep their families safe. The latter’s Russian official turned CIA asset is trying to comfort the former’s British businessman turned amateur operative by saying they’re in a similar predicament when it comes to home life only for Wynne to incredulously explain the exact opposite with the words, “Your…

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REVIEW: 1917 [2019]

It’s easier not to go back at all. While it appeared the Germans retreated, they were really just gathering their strength at the easier-to-defend Hindenburg Line as part of Operation Alberich in northern France. With British forces fooled and following closely behind to mount what they believed would be an offensive, their opponents were primed to turn the tables via ambush instead. After consulting aerial photographs of the Germans’ new position, General Erinmore (Colin Firth) realized 1,600 of Colonel Mackenzie’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) men would be slaughtered without his intervention. So…

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REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War [2018]

He’s never fought me twice. It’s been ten years since we met Tony Stark on the big screen. Ten years of serial storytelling with massive budgets, character crossovers, television offshoots, and Stan Lee cameos that took Hollywood and the box office by storm. Not even steward Kevin Feige could have predicted that type of longevity with twenty films by 2018’s completion, but here he and we are at the culmination of all those carefully laid plans. It’s been an enjoyable journey with origin tales, rights swapping, tonal shifts, and more…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: The Current War [2019]

“Star in a jar” A casualty of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s thought-to-be awards-contender that was rushed for a lukewarm TIFF reception in 2017 finally sees the light of day. Retitled The Current War: Director’s Cut due to the director’s extensive revisions (thanks to producer Martin Scorsese’s contractual ability to block the other version’s release), the film remains narratively identical with effective pacing tweaks that fix some of what gave me pause two years ago. The most noticeable change is the slight increase in screen-time for Nicholas Hoult’s Tesla to…

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REVIEW: Doctor Strange [2016]

“It’s not about you” People love to complain about superhero origin story trappings and they’re correct. The need to introduce new characters in their own standalone piece forces writers and directors to focus on certain check stops as far as normal life, transformation, and the embracing of one’s power to find the courage to selflessly fight evil. But just because these things are obvious doesn’t mean they have to be boring or that they have to diminish the final product. Many Marvel Universe fans still laud Iron Man as this…

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REVIEW: Black Mass [2015]

“If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen” The story of Southie crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is perfectly suited for a sprawling, character-driven cinematic adaptation because of the corruption level involved. Based on the book by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Black Mass screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth take us through an in-depth look at a local gangster making good on his promise to watch out for South Boston just as he helps ruin it with drugs and murder before ultimately transforming into an…

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Top Ten Films of 2014: A deluge of sci-fi doppelgängers and one-word titles

I don’t want to label 2014 as a good, bad, or average year. I want to call it inventive, original, and delightfully dark. Whether it’s doppelgänger paradoxes leading to murderous rage, the bleak carnage of war, prison violence, or psychologically debilitating struggles to be great, my favorite films had an edge that cut to the bone by credits’ end. The best thing I can say about 2014 is that my top ten (heck, maybe my top twenty-five) could be re-organized and re-listed without making me too angry about what is…

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Picking Winners at the 87th Annual Academy Awards

Things look pretty cut and dry where the Academy is concerned in 2015. The Oscars are always a somewhat watered-down look at what really mattered in the past year of cinema and this installment is no exception. In fact, it may be all water at this point. That doesn’t mean there can’t be some intriguing surprises in the second-tier categories like Best Animated Feature (I really hope How to Train Your Dragon 2 loses to one of the other much more aesthetically and conceptually unique nominees) or Short Film Animated…

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REVIEW: The Imitation Game [2014]

“Shall we leave the children alone with their new toy?” It’s highly unusual for me to get invested in a biography, so when one comes along that enthralls me as fully as The Imitation Game it’s difficult to know whether I’m simply overreacting. Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore have done what so few seem to want to attempt despite it so often resonating: focus on a moment their subject is known for rather than the person himself. To give us a glimpse into his childhood for psychological markers…

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REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies [2014]

“One light, alone in the darkness” No matter how entertaining The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is—definitely the best of the trilogy—I still can’t shake the feeling that J.R.R. Tolkien‘s tale would have been better served as a two-parter. A lot of the added information director Peter Jackson and his stable of co-writers injected throughout the first two installments come to a head here amongst the end-to-end carnage and it does add more emotion and higher stakes albeit between characters who shouldn’t be included in this Lord of…

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