Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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Grade: B A well-acted ensemble and a personal touch adds nuance and personality to a sprawling literary adaptation that focuses on two families in the post-WW2 south. The movie fluidly shifts focus between about five different characters, fleshing each out before moving on to the next to continue the plot. The narrative covers a white family who moves to buy a farm, the black family who sharecrops the land (and who should rightfully own it), a brother to the whit family who comes back with PTSD from the war, a son to the black family who left the army a hero only to return a young black man in the south, a love affair, the KKK, and more. The reach of such ambition often leaves a film feeling like a greatest hits collection instead of being moving, but Mudbound skirts the line and usually comes out on the right side.
Armipours English language debut oozes cool and style, is handsomely shot, and has an interesting hook (deplorable banished into wasteland full of cannibals and insanity). It's too bad the story is a meandering, pointless mess. It starts off well enough, but around the 45 minute mark you start to realize it's going to be a slog of artistic pretension. After the cool Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in still excited to see what she does next, but skip this one.
This and the sequel are heralded as the best DTV action films of all time. The sequel is supposed to be even better weird, east European, weirdo-action film. This one had pretty decent fight scenes and an interesting existential bend to the whole thing.
A very fun horror movie. It's not quite a horror comedy as it's not as funny or tongue in cheek as Cabin in the Woods or Slither, but it's also not as out and out creepy or scary as something like The Guest, whose structure it resembles. It goes the line nicely, although it never really shines enough either way. Peele knows where to point a camera but doesn't do anything overly eye catching. It's a solid job in a debut, bolstered by a great cast. A wonky premise is pretty fun and bonkers if you forgive some jumps in logic. There's some good commentary and metaphor for racial appropriation, but nothing so controversial as the reactions based on the trailers would have you believe. With this and Keanu, I'm excited to see what Key and Peele continue to do together and separately.
A charming, delightful, and very funny film. Highly recommended.
A very cinema verite style film that follows the real life struggles of a young heroin junkie, homeless in New York. Based on her own life and subsequent autobiography, the lead actress plays herself. She got clean just before filming started and the story loosely follows her own experiences. If you want to know what being an addict really looks and feels like, here it is. It's a sometimes painful film, and has little actual story. But the realism with which it captures its subjects, while bleak, is captivating. Tough to watch, but worth it.
A multi-perspective story of a family dealing with their famous photographer mother's suicide. It's a portrait of grief and loss that varies between insightful and melodramatic. Most actions aren't explained and can be attributed to loss. You'll have a hard time caring about most of the characters who can be difficult to like, and the movie smacks of novelistic ambition. There are some poignant moments and strong performances, but it all feels weighed down under overwrought maudlin indulgences in dreary feelings.
A small scale indie drama that leaves it to you to draw the connective tissue between the events of the film and their thematic significance. What it lacks in narrative it compensates with a strong sense of tone and place. Following a young girl who goes from shadowing her older brother at boxing practice to becoming entranced with the dance team she works up the nerve to join. However, things become strange when one of the girls, and then several, have a sort of seizure, without explanation. The fits, as they're called, seem to be a parallel for the transition from adolescence to teenaged years, perhaps the widespread nature is due to kids trying to fit in and peer pressure and to belong, or perhaps it's all symbolism for the beginning of menstrual cycles. Either way, it's strongly acted by a non-professional cast, and handsomely photographed with arresting long takes. It will leave you pondering about it.
A Thanksgiving family reunion filmed and paced like a horror movie. An estranged mother returns to her family after abandoning them to heal herself after a past with drugs and alcohol. Now in her 60s and clearly not as healed as she believes, we see the horrors of family unfold. Conversations, glances, double meaning words, and untold history. It uses more technique and flair than most dramas. But it becomes too much as aspect ratios keep changing and it becomes clear all the showy camera movements are to compensate for a story that, despite an interesting setup, just spins its wheels and does nothing that you didn't see coming from the get go.
Refn is not for everyone. But if you want to see films that aren't teal and orange, that have an atmospheric sense of dread, cool electronic scores, and an artistic pretension of dead seriousness regarding pulp material: look no further. He still might benefit from directing someone else's script (see: Drive) but his thinly drawn metaphorical exercises are still a sight to behold. Here we have the consuming obsession with beauty and youth--literally. Elle Fanning (fantastic) is a young would-be model that takes LA by storm, much to the chagrin of older models pushing 21. Unbelievable production design, unexplainable plot elements, and beautiful visuals haunt the ethereal world Refn creates. Keanu reeves even delights as a sleazy hotel manager. The third act goes completely bonkers, and it's all the better for it. Come for the almost unparalleled cinematography and shot composition, stay for the score, and don't miss the necrophilia.
A singular and understated indie sorta-horror. A teenaged boy is diagnosed as sociopathic by his therapist, and is fascinated by the corpses his family works with at their funeral home. When a series of strange murders suggest a serial killer in their small town, he begins to investigate. He begins to suspect an elderly man (Christopher Lloyd) and begins to follow him. The atmospheric film uses a pulsating and cool synth score that beguiles as the mystery becomes more than he imagined, as he begins breaking his own rules that hold him back from doing something terrible to stop something worse.
Rogue One is a BOLD entry into the Star Wars franchise. Featuring stunning visuals and camera work by Gareth Edwards that opens up the universe and makes it feel real and gritty again by limiting itself to the color palette of the original with a darker bent. The action sequences are all top-notch, and by far the best and most thrilling anything Star Wars has offered before. It suffers from too large an ensemble that aren't allowed to become fully three-dimensional characters, though most of the actors use performance to fill in the blanks (Donnie Yen is the standout along with Tudyk's K-2). Rogue One also offers some serious moral ambiguity into a usually straight-forward universe. Some clever retconning (which retroactively seems to make ANH even better) and a few unbelievable set-pieces featuring some fan favorites add to the pleasantries. The third act is unbelievable featuring character moments, tense ground and space action, and the best actual Star War in the Star Wars. Don't miss this, especially if you felt like TFA was too derivative, this will serve as a New Hope for the SW franchise going forward.
Extremely timely and topical sort of based on true events story of Neo-Nazis and white supremacist domestic terrorism. Radcliffe plays an infiltrator FBI agent posing as a white supremacist to investigate the possibility of a dirty bomb. It's an important movie that is unfortunately too literal and on the nose with the information it wants to get across. It's likely to reach a wider audience, but info dumps of all the narrowly avoided domestic terrorist attacks, While horrifying, aren't much for drama. Radcliffe is solid.
Best science fiction movie since Interstellar. One of the coolest depictions of first contact ever put to film. A very intelligent depiction of language and the barriers to communication. Amy Adams anchors the proceedings with another performance further proving her best of her generation status. Renner is solid as backup, the aliens are very alien. Add in a heart wrenching twist and you have yourself a classic in the genre.
Unbelievably empathetic and soulful film that follows one young man from a childhood in urban Miami, troubled teenage years of questioning sexuality, to adulthood of regret and a questionable place in the world. Painted in beautiful purples and blues and showing a side of Miami rarely scene. Featuring a trio of performances that sell the connective tissue of the film. Barry Jenkins has created a can't miss film.
An edge of your seat arthouse thriller gorgeously filmed and acted. A miserable visual artist (whose opening provides the most memorable opening credit sequence in memory) trapped in a loveless marriage receives a book from her ex-husband. An author, whom she left because she valued financial security over believing in his artistic talent... or she grew up. The book is his masterpiece, inspired by the hurt she caused. The movie goes back and forth between the events of the book and a sleepless night for our protagonist as she reads and has flashbacks that echo the themes of the novel. The opening sequence of vehicular terror is nerve wracking. Amy Adams is unbelievable, with a final scene that is both devastating and the most Oscar worthy final moments of a performance since Captain Phillips. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as usual, and Michael Shannons offbeat performance should nab him a supporting nom.
Despite a strong cast and strong source material, it commits the cardinal sin of being boring. A listless spy thriller.
A visually ravishing, but uneven fairy tale anthology for adults. Based on 17th century Italian fairy tales, some more well known than others. Check it out if a dog sized flea, an ogre marrying a princess, Vincent Cassel sex orgies, or John C Reilly battling a sea monster so that Salma Hayek can eat its heart sound interesting to you. Wonderfully gonzo.