REVIEW: The Lodge [2020]

She can’t go to Heaven! It’s almost too perfect. After reading Sergio Casci‘s spec script and wondering who’d be best to steward it towards its next stage, Hammer Films saw Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala as easy marks. Their debut Goodnight Mommy dealt with the psychological strife that occurs when two young children are trapped inside a house with a woman they cannot trust and it does so with ample deflection, half truths, and narrative manipulation. Casci’s The Lodge is so similar that I’m surprised Franz and Fiala chose to…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: The True Adventures of Wolfboy [2020]

That’s some … kind of beautiful. Denny (Chris Messina) tells his teenage son Paul (Jaeden Martell) to stand tall with dignity and never run away. Meant as inspiration with a sympathetic heart, these words fall flat because he’s trying to solve the wrong problem—his inability to truly understand Paul’s uniquely personal perspective leading him astray. Denny wants to believe the knit mask covering his boy’s face is a means to hide from the world because his goal is to protect his child from the terrible things ignorant people say and…

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REVIEW: Low Tide [2019]

You ready to go exploring? Just because writer/director Kevin McMullin‘s debut feature Low Tide centers on a trio of locals stuck in a New Jersey banks vacation town and forced to watch rich kids come every summer to treat them like one of the attractions with which to entertain themselves doesn’t mean it’s an “us versus them” story. Alan (Keean Johnson), Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri), and Red (Alex Neustaedter) seek to make it one by breaking into empty houses while their owners are having fun on the boardwalk, but reality soon…

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REVIEW: It Chapter Two [2019]

We all need to remember. When last we left Derry, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) had fallen to his presumed death after a brawl with the Losers Club in his sewer lair. What we didn’t see as he slipped out of view were the Deadlights extinguishing—those bright beacons of insanity that caused countless children to “float” as this centuries old evil fed upon their fear. In the moment, however, these seven brave kids couldn’t think that far. To them this victory meant survival and the final time they’d be…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Knives Out [2019]

The cow and the shotgun. No stranger to a good mystery—noir (Brick) or comedy (The Brothers Bloom)—Knives Out sees Rian Johnson getting back to a wholly original property before returning to the world of Star Wars. From the stellar cast to its Clue-esque estate (even he couldn’t resist that joke), this whodunit has looked impeccably positioned to deliver exactly what the genre demands while also dissecting and subverting it for good measure. That the final result might go even further than that only makes it more intriguing. Why? Well the…

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REVIEW: It [2017]

“Welcome to the Losers’ Club” There was a lot said about the new cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s It when Cary Fukunaga signed on a few years ago. Enough about him as a rising auteur capable of infusing some magic into a story so intrinsically tied to the Tim Curry-starring miniseries from 1990 that his departure for Mama director Andy Muschietti was met with groans. For me personally, however, the fact that a movie was still being made—and with an R-rating no less—was enough to stay excited. A lot of…

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REVIEW: The Book of Henry [2017]

“I want to see the sky” There’s a lot of backlash against director Colin Trevorrow for reasons he didn’t necessarily earn. Most of the vitriol stems from his being scooped up by the Hollywood studio machine after helming just one indie film. That debut was the Sundance award-winning Safety Not Guaranteed, a small-scale sci-fi written by Derek Connolly. Suddenly Trevorrow was vaulted to A-list status—again something he didn’t quite earn—to helm Jurassic World and to takeover Star Wars: Episode IX from another festival darling turned tent-pole director Josh Trank (whose…

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REVIEW: Midnight Special [2016]

“Where do you belong?” Is young Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) the savior of the human race, born to unsuspecting parents inside a cult known as The Ranch in order to bring them salvation? Is he somehow an expert hacker infiltrating the NSA’s foolproof satellite transmissions courtesy of an uncanny technokinetic power no one can explain? Or is he simply a boy, a son, hunted by forces that do not understand him—forces that would scoop him up and use him for their own selfish gains as either a God or a…

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REVIEW: St. Vincent [2014]

“It is what it is” The Toronto International Film Festival appears to be embracing the quasi-family friendly odd couple comedy with R-rated color after last year’s Bad Words and this year’s St. Vincent, written and directed by Theodore Melfi and currently receiving theatrical release a month after its debut. Whereas the former went all-in with f-words and curry-holes, however, the latter is intent on retaining a strong sense of sentimentality. This isn’t necessarily bad—it simply forces the film into a sort of limbo existence. Because despite its PG-13 rating, the…

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