TIFF20 REVIEW: The Water Man [2020]

I’m doing this for you. It’s starting to feel as though Gunner Boone’s (Lonnie Chavis) life is fitting to become a series of upheavals with no end in sight. First it was living with his mother (Rosario Dawson‘s Mary) while his father (David Oyelowo‘s Amos) was stationed in Japan with the Navy. Then it was moving to Pine Mills upon his return home to America. And now it’s adjusting to the reality that his mother is dying of cancer and his father hasn’t been able to thus far adjust to…

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REVIEW: Gringo [2018]

Why’s everyone talking about gorillas all of a sudden? You wouldn’t be wrong to view the trailer for Gringo and think, “I’ve seen this before.” You wouldn’t be wrong to assume it gave away the entire plot either—mild-mannered American is used by his ruthless bosses to perform a dangerous job they refuse to attempt and is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel for his trouble. Will he survive the chaos? Will his bosses save him or extricate themselves from blame? Or will the hapless victim of an increasingly escalating ordeal somehow…

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REVIEW: Queen of Katwe [2016]

“This is a place for fighters” The story of Phiona Mutesi is perfectly tailored for a Disney-produced true-life inspirational sports drama. As a nine-year old girl living in the Katwe slum of Kampala, Uganda selling maize with her siblings to help support their single mother after their father died of AIDS, who would have expected she’d become Woman Candidate Master at chess? But that’s exactly what happens shortly thereafter, her decision to follow brother Brian to his ministry-financed chess class one day in 2007 changing her life forever. It was…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: A United Kingdom [2016]

“I’ve never wanted anything like I want this” Who knew the power of love ultimately won independence for the democratic republic of Botswana? I sure didn’t. But this is the based on a true story film writer Guy Hibbert and director Amma Asante have delivered with A United Kingdom. It’s a tale of racial segregation, politically driven cowardice, and the heart prevailing over fear as two kindred spirits choose to write their own destinies. Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) couldn’t know the London-based missionary event her sister dragged her to would…

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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: 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: Selma [2014]

“God was the first to cry” A civil war waged on Alabaman soil in 1965 whether President Lyndon B. Johnson felt holding off on a bill negating the South’s tactics to bar African American citizens from voting would prevent one or not. It was fought under his and the country’s eyes in the streets, on TV, and in their hearts. Finally someone proves brave enough to show it by throwing convention aside to stop treating cinematic historical biographies as revelry for the deceased heroes who helped make our country great.…

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REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011]

“These people invest in results. Not dreams.” How did the apes from Pierre Boulle‘s Planet of the Apes gain control of Earth? The 1968 film adaptation shows human/ape hybrids walking, talking, and living in civilizations—a great sci-fi conceit making us believe in a distant planet where evolution took a different turn than what happened here. But as anyone who saw that movie or Tim Burton‘s much-maligned remake knows, a twist arrives to show the existence of these creatures was something else all together. We discover we were watching a tale…

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REVIEW: Lee Daniel’s The Butler [2013]

“To serving our country” I’d like to say it’s surprising how an Oscar nominated director like Lee Daniels can find trouble financing a film with the type of sprawling depiction of the civil rights movement The Butler (sorry Warner Bros., I’m ignoring your lawsuit) possesses, but one doesn’t have to look past the fact everything he’s done besides Precious was panned to understand why. The unfortunate death of original producer Laura Ziskin didn’t help matters either, but an innocuous tale that does history justice while not ruffling many feathers should…

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REVIEW: Jack Reacher [2012]

“Weird to meet you” It appears it was only a matter of time before author Lee Child—or Jim Grant to his parents—saw the sole protagonist of his life’s work on the big screen. Jack Reacher is the type of character audiences adore; one easily catered towards the sequel model paved by Tom Clancy‘s Jack Ryan if and when Tom Cruise finally gives up action flicks. An ex-Army Military Police Major who spent his childhood abroad before a stint at West Point led to thirteen years in the service, he now…

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REVIEW: The Last King of Scotland [2006]

“Do you have monkeys in Scotland?” What happens when a precocious young doctor gets a feeling of claustrophobia at home and decides to travel the world to bring help while having fun in the process? Kevin Macdonald’s The Last King of Scotland tries to show us the answers in the midst of Idi Amin’s rise to power in Uganda. While not a biopic, the film is also not a narrative fiction of any real weight. Instead this is a tale of a monster through the eyes of someone whose innocence…

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