REVIEW: Relic [2020]

Don’t follow it. The horror trope is ubiquitous: “the call is coming from inside the house.” Whereas slashers use this now comical notion as a way to preempt the abrupt reveal that a solitary victim onscreen is about to be murdered by someone they didn’t know was standing right behind them, Relic director and co-writer Natalie Erika James (with Christian White) has a much scarier and tragically authentic way to utilize the trend. Because what is dementia but a disease that devours one’s sense of identity from the inside out?…

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REVIEW: Phil [2019]

I never promised you a rose garden. We meet Phil McGuire (Greg Kinnear) exiting his parked car while still in traffic to climb up a bridge railing. It’s a one hundred-plus foot drop into the water and he imagines taking the plunge before a group of teens with cellphones outstretched jolt him from the morbid sensation with excitable demands that he jump so they can enjoy the carnage. That’s a bold tonal mood on behalf of screenwriter Stephen Mazur and director Kinnear (his debut) because there’s actual dejection on their…

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REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns [2018]

It’s today or never. Not all live-action/animated hybrids from Disney of yesteryear live up to the nostalgic memories of youth (I’m looking at you Pete’s Dragon), but Mary Poppins is an exception. Maybe it was revisiting it after seeing the underrated Saving Mr. Banks for added context concerning craft and motivation or maybe it’s simply that its message, adventure, and fun combine to form a film that literally stands up to the test of time. Let’s face it: you don’t retain the same reverence through multiple generations over five decades…

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REVIEW: Write When You Get Work [2018]

I’m friendly. We don’t ever discover why or when high school sweethearts Ruth Duffy (Rachel Keller) and Jonny Collins (Finn Wittrock) broke up during the course of Stacy Cochran‘s Write When You Get Work. All we know are certain circumstances and thus are left to assume the rest. Maybe they tried making things work after what happened and spent a few more years together or maybe they separated right away (read as Ruth left to take control of her life while Jonny stayed behind and apparently refused to ever grow…

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REVIEW: The Bookshop [2017]

Where there’s life, there’s hope. Looks are deceiving with Isabel Coixet‘s The Bookshop, an adaptation of Penelope Fitzgerald‘s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel from 1978. What appears to be a run-of-the-mill drama that will surely fall into the usual clichés of perseverance and eventual victory about a woman standing up to a small town of bullies that sees her as an outsider is actually much more complex. Rather than be about an ever-increasing contingent of allies coming out of the woodwork to rally around her as she sticks it to the haughty…

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REVIEW: The Party [2017]

Another announcement. Good God. I admire what Sally Potter is trying to do with her black comedy The Party as experiment. She’s placed a group of friends with different political, economic, and romantic views into a single room, hanging a secret(s) over their heads with the potential to destroy their individual and communal identities. They’re provided the opportunity to come clean and be true to who they are despite what it might do to those around them, each embracing a desire to let their consistently over-inflated egos decide. Unfortunately that…

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REVIEW: Leonie [2013]

“Don’t bore me by being ordinary” The saying goes as follows: “behind every great man stands a great woman”. No words are truer said for renowned sculptor/designer Isamu Noguchi if Hisako Matsui‘s film Leonie is any indication towards a mother’s stewardship into a life providing the freedom necessary to achieve one’s dreams. Written by the director and David Wiener from Masayo Duus‘ biography The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey Without Borders, the easy story of an artist’s genesis is pushed aside for the lesser-told journey of the courageous woman who…

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REVIEW: Hugo [2011]

“Where are your designated adults?” When Hugo was announced as Martin Scorsese’s next film, little was mentioned about Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Medal-winning source material, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The big news was the auteur relishing an opportunity to helm his first family film and willingly delve into the world of 3D—a medium seen mostly as a gimmick since Avatar. These revelations kept many from seeing how perfect a fit the material was for the director: a love letter to those responsible for cinema’s genesis and a film historian who…

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REVIEW: Cars 2 [2011]

“I vant to siphon your gas” Being that I was not in what appeared to be a vast majority of people who thought Cars was ‘lesser’ Pixar, I can’t say I was too surprised to find I was on the outside of the even bigger group of critics who trashed Cars 2 as a sequel based solely on toy manufacturing profit. Yes, it is totally a cash-grab—I’m not questioning that fact—but alongside this is an attempt to create something the studio has yet to do, an entertaining comedy existing on…

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REVIEW: Harry Brown [2009]

“You should of called an ambulance for the girl” When you have nothing to lose, how far are you willing to go for a vengeance ignored by the police? Harry Brown delves into this vigilantism, depicting a pensioner in England and his inability to hide in the shadows mourning anymore. After having his wife, daughter, and best friend all murdered in cold-blood by the young hoodlums ruling the streets and turning the neighborhood into a warzone of guns and drugs, Brown falls into a deep depression of hopelessness, knowing that…

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REVIEW: Shutter Island [2010]

“Retreat isn’t something you consider an option” Very rarely does a film meet, let alone exceed, the expectations of the piece of literature it is based upon. With a director like Martin Scorsese, however, you do hold out hope that it will at least come close. But with postponements from the Oscar wheelhouse of a fall release and the move to a dump month such as February, concern weighed very heavy. Maybe the departure in subject matter caused the venerable auteur to falter a bit, unsure of how to handle…

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