Visually stunning and thrillingly dark, the "Snyder Cut" is an ambitious and admirable cinematic experience - the most impressive superhero film since Nolan's Dark Knight series. While its writing and attempts at humor don't always hit the mark, and the film is stronger in its first 3/4 than its weaker finale, "Snyder Cut" is overall a satisfying watch that deserves the hype.
One of the best films in years, it's an extremely necessary and satisfying watch, featuring an Oscar-worthy turn from the incredible Carey Mulligan, confident and smooth directing, bold musical choices, and eye-popping art direction.
Flawlessly executed with heart, humor, and compassion, it's an intimate story that captures resilience in the face of socioeconomic challenges. The film stands on the shoulders of its main ensemble, and is a palpable and honest depiction of pre-pandemic Brooklyn and the greater NYC area.
Overflowing with love, passion, and truth, Minari is the must-see film of the season. Featuring impressive cinematography, strong writing, and an incredible ensemble, the film tells a powerfully relatable story about family, sacrifice, resilience, and the beauty of small and unexpected victories. Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, and Youn Yuh-jung all deserve Oscar recognition for their performances, Lee Isaac Chung deserves Best Director, and the film itself deserves the highest prize.
Devastatingly beautiful and poignant, the film is stylistically diverse, well-paced, well-acted, and feels heart-achingly honest. Xavier impresses once more for the rawness of his acting and directing.
With sharp writing, excellent performances, spectacular cinematography, and an intelligent plot, Tenet may require multiple viewings to fully appreciate, but even on the first viewing it's a thrilling ride - reminiscent of Nolan's earlier masterpieces Inception and Memento (and even of cult classic Donnie Darko). It may not always be a comfortable watch (viewers have rightly noted the overpowering sound and music), but it's the most fearless, thought-out, and ambitious cinematic experience this year (we wouldn't except anything less from Nolan).
While not always the most engaging, it's touching and well-executed, featuring some beautifully-filmed sequences reminiscent of Taiwanese New Wave. The highlight of the film is the gorgeous original song "Your Name Engraved Herein" which deserves at least an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
While its comedy sets it apart from her other work (though Murray provided similar comedic relief in the iconic Lost in Translation), On the Rocks still contains the classic tropes of a Sofia Coppola film: an intimate look at isolation, satirical depictions of privileged society, and a cinematographic love letter to a place and time. In the past, Coppola has taken us dreamingly through suburbia in The Virgin Suicides, Tokyo in Lost in Translation, Versailles in Marie Antoinette, and now the streets, restaurants, and apartments of Manhattan in On the Rocks. The film is understated and pleasant, with Murray stealing the show and the story offering some much needed uplift and comfort.
A moving, charming, and delightful palate cleanser, Soul not only manages to be Pixar's coolest looking film (and a fantastically New York film for that matter) but it also delivers a heartwarming message about the simple beauty of living - and what a pure gift life is. Touching on subjects such as passion and mental health, the film's heavy themes are balanced with Pixar's signature sharp-witted humor, a soft and gorgeous soundtrack, and a pleasing color scheme during the astral sequences. It's an absolute triumph - it will bring tears to your eyes and a sense of profound gratitude.
It's a stronger film than its predecessor and compared to recent superhero films it's one of the more engaging (which unfortunately isn't saying much). What works are Kristen Wiig's performance and character development (the real highlight of the film), the combination of setting and aesthetics (1980s DC was done well and looked good), and an impressive final battle. What doesn't work are the elements that plague all superhero films: thin writing, cliches, an uneven tone, and abundant cheesiness (it's hard to watch without rolling your eyes at least twice). What's fascinating is that the least interesting part of the film is the heroine - the titular character; Wiig's more grisly, grounded, cynical character, however, makes the film worth experiencing.
August at Akiko's is a beautifully filmed and moving spiritual cleanse. It's a comforting exploration of returning to one's roots, finding joy in simplicity, and learning that it's never too late to find inner peace amidst the madness of life.
What starts off as a mostly competent thriller, descends into an absurd melodrama that has too many twists for its own good. The film borders on the ridiculous and isn't even quite that terrifying - it's simply an unnecessarily sad and exhausting chore. The film had such promise - but with a thin script and weak characters, there's truly nothing to see here.
Understated and characterized by frightening realism, The Assistant is a tense, atmospheric, and crucial film that highlights patriarchal toxicity in the workplace and brilliantly places the experience of the victim (and not the perpetrator) at the center of the story. It's an immersive and anxious watch - an important mirror to and a stinging commentary on our times. Julia Garner gives an award-worthy performance, while the overcast cinematography and skilled direction perfectly cultivate a feeling of dystopian dread.
Taking cues from classics such as The Shining and Carrie, and modern day prestige horror such as The Witch and Hereditary, The Lodge is possibly the most chilling and unnerving horror film I've seen in theaters. Does it, however, stick the landing as a film? Somewhat. The first half of the film is a masterclass in building dread - with its mix of religious anxiety and ripped from the headlines horror - while the remaining half, though successful at keeping the audience at the edge of their seats and causing heart palpitations, makes the inevitable descent into modern, atmospheric horror cliches. The film has a premise that is original enough, but contains too many moments of "we've seen this before" to truly rise to the level of absolute excellence. Despite the flaws, however, The Lodge is a worthwhile experience for horror film lovers who seek subtlety and religious themes in their horror.
Beautifully constructed, filled with deep emotions, and endearing with its humor and heart, Weathering with You is a pure delight and a tearfully gorgeous triumph that demands several viewings. It combines romance with apocalyptic sci-fi, urban sprawl anxiety, and millennial angst - and in this way, is an earnest and comforting story for our times.
1917 is an achievement in immersive filmmaking - with its impressive cinematography, film editing, and set design. It's a near-perfect film - deftly balancing the tension and coldness of war with deep human emotions - but suffers from less-than-stellar dialogue and segments that slow down rather than propel the story.
A stylish, minimalistic, and effective thriller, Thelma isn't groundbreaking - apart from its LGBTQ representation (which is fantastic to see in this genre) - but it engages the viewer and tells a coherent story that sticks the landing in the end.
Visually, Rise of Skywalker is spectacular. In terms of storyline, it suffers from a breathless, rushed pace (it's as if the movie was on Red Bull), random and unnecessary characters (do we really need brand new characters in the final chapter?), occasional lazy writing and lazy plot choices, and a failure to achieve the same emotional weight as the original six films. ROS ultimately reveals the flaws of the sequel trilogy - its inconsistency, its scattered agenda, its bewildering twists and turns that leave you scratching your head. The original six was a much cleaner, much more powerful story - the last three films muddy the waters. However, I appreciate the challenge these three films - flawed and uneven as they are - present to the Star Wars universe. ROS still manages to thrill despite its weaker elements; and while its existence is not necessary, and may feel like overkill, it still provides an entertaining-enough ride for the viewer - offering an at times enjoyably dark venture into the powerful mythology. However tighter we would have wanted this film and trilogy to be plot-wise, tone-wise, character-wise, it makes sense that it creates such a mess. The galaxy is big, the Force is confusing, the players are many, and just like in our own world there are contradictions and complexities. It may not be the Star Wars we know and love, but when you hear that music and see that opening scroll, you still feel like you're home.
It's a dizzying, chaotic, blurry ride of a film, but it's worth navigating through the messiness for Sandler's impressive and charismatic performance - and to watch him stumble in and out of trouble. The aesthetics, from the ominous synth music to the stark, modern furniture of Sandler's New York apartment, are particularly enjoyable and successfully establish a cold, slightly dystopian feel to the film. It's an imperfect, but entertaining thriller which truly shines and satisfies the viewer in the final acts.