REVIEW: Tesla [2020]

Who strokes the cat’s back? As Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson) states from writer/director Michael Almereyda‘s Tesla coil set, Nikola Tesla is hardly as well known as the likes of contemporary Thomas Edison. She shows us her laptop screen with its Google search repeating the “same four photos” of the genius inventor just to fill his first page of images while Edison’s portfolio goes on and on. One was in the spotlight while the other was in the shadows. One knew how to play the marketing game while the other’s idealism…

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REVIEW: La vérité [The Truth] [2019]

You can’t trust memory. Despite the title of her autobiography being La vérité [The Truth], it takes a while before Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve) says what we know to actually be true. Her stories about being a loving mother in text are just that: stories. Despite being a screenwriter, not even Fabienne’s daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) could conjure an anecdote that bore any resemblance to such an idyllic façade if she tried. But while everything boils down to what the aging actress finally expresses during a defensive fit of anger,…

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REVIEW: Stockholm [2019]

The party has begun. The names have been changed. That might not mean much since “true stories” generally do that by making composites of certain characters to give the drama a more cinematic feel, but it means a lot here considering the topic at-hand: Stockholm syndrome. It’s a complex subject dealing with the notion that captives have been known to develop a psychological attachment to their captors that’s strong enough to want to protect them from harm despite themselves being in harm as a result of being held captive. Initially…

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REVIEW: The Kid [2019]

You gotta learn to trust inna fella. With so many different iterations of the same exact story flooding the cinematic market every year via reboots and sequels, it’s nice when someone decides to look at a common narrative through a new lens. This is what director Vincent D’Onofrio and screenwriter Andrew Lanham hope to accomplish with The Kid—a glimpse at the oft-mythologized game played by former friends turned enemies Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) from the eyes of a fourteen year old boy (Jake Shur‘s…

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Online Film Critics Society Ballot 2018

Below is my December 27th ballot for the 22nd annual Online Film Critics Society Awards honoring movies released domestically in the United States during the 2018 calendar year. Each category is ordered according to my preferential rankings. Group winners are labeled in red. (No option to abstain was supplied this year.)

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REVIEW: Blaze [2018]

Never stand in the way of true love. You have to respect the way Ethan Hawke approached his latest film Blaze and its central character Blaze Foley. He’d never heard the artist’s name or music until being stopped in his tracks upon listening to John Prine cover “Clay Pigeons.” That sparked an interest for research and eventually a door to Foley’s tumultuous life was opened. As luck would have it, Hawke’s friend Louis Black knew both Blaze and Townes Van Zandt (an important figure in this tragic country blues singer’s…

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REVIEW: First Reformed [2018]

A life without despair is a life without hope. We live in a time of extremism—where our reaction dial is turned up to eleven regardless of our true interest in a cause or its true importance. Somewhere along the line civil and constructive discourse was replaced by screaming fits of unjustified rage, nuanced topics debated as pissing matches between two sides vying to stay incensed the longest. There are no winners with this line of rhetoric because facts become secondary to passion. Suddenly it’s all about who makes the most…

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REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets [2017]

“We can forgive, but we will never forget” Sci-fi fantasy Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the most expensive European and independent (anywhere) production ever at approximately $200 million dollars—high enough that writer/director/producer Luc Besson pretty much leveraged his distribution shingle EuropaCorp before bringing STX on as a partner to defer costs and get it into theaters. Now questions are floated about whether it can ever turn a profit after “bomb” proved too weak a word to describe its reception by the American box office. The odds…

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REVIEW: In a Valley of Violence [2016]

“I stopped listening to men like you a long time ago” Ti West‘s western In a Valley of Violence might have been great if it allowed itself to become the serious revenge thriller it sporadically proves. A dark drama able to embrace the weight of its characters’ turmoil appears once you remove Karen Gillan‘s over-the-top dullard in distress theatrics, James Ransone‘s cartoonish villainy, and the pinball piñata that is the penultimate body to fall. Denton, a virtual ghost town run empty by its corrupt Marshall (John Travolta) with a self-proclaimed…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: The Magnificent Seven [2016]

“It won’t sweeten, it’ll only sour” I’m at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the new The Magnificent Seven despite going in thinking it’d be the other way around. Here I was anticipating that I’d be able to watch the film with a completely blank slate because I’ve never seen the 1960 version nor have I yet been able to sit down for what is surely one of cinema’s greats: Akira Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai. So, pretending to be a true millennial that doesn’t realize movies were made before those…

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REVIEW: The Phenom [2016]

“You give it a name and it might want to stick around” I admittedly didn’t think too much on The Phenom after watching its trailer. There was a good cast, its look behind the curtain of fame seemed intriguing, and there’d probably be some darkly honest depictions of sports abuse at the hands of over-zealous parents. But then I saw who the writer/director was and suddenly all I could do was think. Noah Buschel is the man behind a wonderful little character piece from a few years back called Sparrows…

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