REVIEWS

Fantastic Fest Review: Joachim Trier's Gripping & Unnerving 'Thelma'

Thelma Review

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier is an artist whose works are always delivered with a healthy dose of message. With Oslo, August 31st (2011) and Louder than Bombs (2015), the filmmaker broke onto the scene ready to force the viewers of his films into deep reflection and meticulous thought. It's no surprise that Trier's latest film, Thelma, comes with that same level of analysis but with an increasingly engaging, sci-fi/horror tale to go along with it. Thelma is a slow burn film, but what starts out as a low simmer eventually builds into a rolling boil, all of which is presented to the viewer with outstanding execution. It's the kind of horror story that keeps the viewer's skills of dissection at work long after the film is over.

 Posted September 22 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Review: Vaughn's 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' is James Bond on Crank

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

Based on the acclaimed comic book by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service was a crass, tongue-in-cheek tribute to the spy films of the '60s and '70s. Co-written and directed by English filmmaker Matthew Vaughn (of Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), the stylish and subversive send-up became the filmmaker's most commercially successful film to date. Enter the highly anticipated sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a movie so overblown and preposterous that it feels less like On Her Majesty's Secret Service and more like the deranged lovechild of Austin Powers and Crank.

 Posted September 21 in Review | Comments

Review: 'Loving Vincent' is a Stunningly Gorgeous Tribute to Van Gogh

Loving Vincent Review

"The truth is, we cannot speak other than by our paintings." My goodness this film is gorgeous. Loving Vincent is a hand-painted, animated, cinematic tribute to the tormented life and artistic legacy of famed Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Beyond telling his story (through flashbacks and interviews with people who knew him), the film is painted to look like exactly his paintings. It's one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. There were times I got completely lost staring at the art, and totally stopped listening to anything anyone was saying. In terms of animation, it's groundbreaking not just because of technique, but because the artist's own style is used perfectly to tell a story about the artist's life. Watch this film for the art alone.

 Posted September 12 in Animation, Review | Comments

Venice 2017: Samuel Maoz's 'Foxtrot' is a Brilliant Tale of Life in Israel

Foxtrot

Oh my goodness, this film is brilliant. You won't be ready for this when it hits you, no matter how prepared you think you may be. Foxtrot is the new film from Israeli director Samuel Maoz (of Lebanon previously) and clearly confirms that he's a master filmmaker who has so much to show us. Foxtrot is both the story of a family, and the story of a soldier. It's distinctly an Israeli film, criticizing not only the society and culture of the country, but especially their military and the idea that they're supposedly doing good. I had heard great things before, but I was still completely floored by this film when I saw at the Venice Film Festival. It's the kind of perfect film that leaves you speechless at the end, you don't even know what to say other than "wow."

 Posted September 9 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: 'Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond' Explores Truth & Comedy

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

After breaking out big in the early 1990s, actor Jim Carrey took on his most challenging role yet - playing Andy Kaufman in the film Man on the Moon. He ended up winning a Golden Globe for his performance and the film remains the most seminal feature made about Kaufman and his comedy. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is a documentary created nearly 20 years later after behind-the-scenes footage was discovered in Carrey's offices. The film starts out by examining the task of playing Kaufman, and how Jim Carrey got so immersed in the role he "disappeared from Earth" for two years and became Andy, allowing himself to only be referred to as Andy (or Tony Clifton) on set and nothing else. But there's more to this film when it gets into analyzing the idea of comedy, and honesty, and it becomes a remarkably philosophical film by the end.

 Posted September 9 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: John Woo's 'Manhunt' is Instantly Straight-to-VHS Classic

Manhunt Review

I haven't seen a movie this instantly straight-to-VHS since VHS died. No, seriously. I don't even know what this movie is. John Woo's latest movie, titled Manhunt, just premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It is technically a remake of a Japanese film titled Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (1976), which is based on a book by Juk├┤ Nishimura. The first odd thing about it is that the movie is really a Japanese movie made by a Chinese director, starring one Chinese man on the run in Japan. It's set mostly around the city of Osaka. The other odd thing about Manhunt is that it seems like John Woo is parodying John Woo, making an old school John Woo movie that seems to be making fun of John Woo, but it's still a John Woo movie. So, yeah.

 Posted September 8 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Review: Muschietti's 'It' Effortlessly Blends Horror, Humor, and Heart

Muschietti's It Review

Inspired by Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, and EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, Stephen King carved a path for himself as the world's foremost writer of horror fiction throughout the '70s and '80s. By the time his novel It was published in 1986, many of King's best-selling books had already been adapted into successful films, including Carrie, The Shining, Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Christine. With the ambitious It, however, King's work shifted shape, much like the novel's titular evil entity haunting a small town in Maine. Instead of writing about the one thing that scared you, like a rabid dog or a demonic car, this time he was writing about everything that did - the very nature of fear itself.

 Posted September 7 in Horror, Review | Comments

Venice 2017: Darren Aronofsky's Intense 'Mother!' Takes on the World

Mother! Review

This is what happens when you make someone angry. Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Mother! (or officially titled mother! with the lowercase M), is an incredibly intense, heart-pounding cinematic experience. Based on the reactions this morning at the first screenings at the Venice Film Festival, it's going to be the kind of film you either love or hate. And it's going to be discussed and debated endlessly in great depth, which is actually the sign of an excellent film. It's a very bold, straight-in-your-face attempt to address many of the world's problems by using various characters and one house as a metaphor for, well, the world we live on. Darren doesn't hold back, letting it build and build into something so breathtaking and shocking, it's hard not to love it, unless you've missed the entire point of it. This is the slap in the face society needs right now.

 Posted September 5 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: 'Victoria & Abdul' is an Immensely Charming, Moving Film

Victoria & Abdul

"I am cantankerous, greedy, fat. I am perhaps, disagreeably, attached to power. But I am anything but insane." Even if she is cantankerous and grumpy and stubborn and disagreeable, there's a sweet side to her, if only you can get close enough to experience it. Victoria & Abdul is the latest from veteran filmmaker Stephen Frears (who last made Florence Foster Jenkins). It tells the true story of an unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria of England and a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim around the end of the 19th century. They become very close friends and this brings her much joy, but upsets the predominantly racist royal household around her. It starts out a bit campy, but becomes very charming once it gets into it.

 Posted September 3 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: George Clooney's Dark Comedy 'Suburbicon' is Perfection

Suburbicon Review

Well, it looks like George Clooney has brought us the best Coen Brothers movie in years. Suburbicon is perhaps Clooney's best work as a director and it's one of the most humorous, deceptive, devilishly enjoyable dark comedies this entire year. I walked out of the cinema in Venice totally high, my heart racing, because I was so overwhelmed by how perfect it is, and by how much I loved every last twist and turn and reveal. It's so very dark, witty, engrossing, sharp, and lovable, in all the right ways. Suburbicon is co-written by Joel & Ethan Coen, with Clooney & Grant Heslov, so it's fair to call this a Coen Brothers film. But I don't want to get too wrapped up in that, because Clooney's direction here is seriously impressive and deserves the praise.

 Posted September 2 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: 'Brawl in Cell Block 99' is Brutal, Slow Burn Satisfaction

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Review

This is not an action movie. Even though it has some very gritty, brutal action scenes, it is more of a thriller (or drama) than anything. That said, action fans should take an interest in this one anyway. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the latest film from director S. Craig Zahler, of Bone Tomahawk previously, and he once again proves his prowess at delivering totally gnarly moments of violence. Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a slow burn drama about a man and his wife, and the lengths he goes to protect her and raise a family safely in a nice house. It's kind of, sort of criticizing the American dream in a subtle way, but also glorifying a hero made of muscles who only says exactly what is necessary and never anything else. He is so fucking badass.

 Posted September 2 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

Venice 2017: A Beautiful Story of Love in del Toro's 'The Shape of Water'

The Shape of Water Review

Cinema has always been a prominent medium for love stories, and there have been so many over the years. But there are always new stories to be told, that show us a different perspective, and once again fill us with passion and hope and happiness. Guillermo del Toro's new film, The Shape of Water, is one of the most beautiful love stories. Another fairy tale from the mind of the monster master, The Shape of Water has one major fantasy element to it, but it's also a "real" story set during the Cold War about human beings (and one fish creature). It is hands down one of Guillermo del Toro's best films, infused with so much passion, and romance, reminding us of the power of love. It seems cliche, but del Toro has laid his heart bare this time.

 Posted August 31 in Review, Venice 17 | Comments

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