REVIEWS

Review: 'I, Tonya' Brilliantly Captures Darkly Comical Moment in Time

I, Tonya Review

A closeup shot of Tonya Harding's skate crushing a lit cigarette serves as a visual representation of the figure skater as a whole in I, Tonya, a biography of her life and the events that led to her controversial end in the sport. Harding was a force in the skating world: unrefined, rebellious, and unapologetic but with a raw talent that world had never seen before or since. It makes sense Harding's tenure in the figure skating world ended in controversy. I, Tonya, directed by Craig Gillespie, doesn't shy from the darker turns her life took, the film's screenplay working from rumor and the unreliable narration of the people around her. It's a stunning story, dark and comical in equal turns, and the film relays the events in splendid fashion as well as giving us a star-making turn by Australian actress Margot Robbie as the eponymous character.

 Posted December 9 in Review | Comments

Review: Snyder's 'Justice League' Has Few Bright Spots, Mostly Dim

Justice League Review

Director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, received mostly positive reviews when it released in 2013, but ultimately underperformed at the box office. The second entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Snyder's sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, encountered an overwhelmingly negative response from critics and lukewarm audience sentiment, despite making $873 million. Similarly, the third film in the franchise, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, wound up with terrible reviews but still surpassed expectations. Everything changed this year, when Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman received widespread critical acclaim and overwhelming audience support, becoming one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time and the highest-grossing superhero origin movie in history. Now, Justice League hopes to ride Wonder Woman's coattails and deliver a fun, hopeful film that lives up to the legacy of the iconic superhero

 Posted November 15 in DC Movies, Review | Comments

Review: Branagh's 'Murder on the Orient Express' is Old-Fashioned and Stiflingly Stodgy

Murder on the Orient Express Review

First published in 1934, Agatha Christie's novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is considered one of the most suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever written. The book, which concerns the murder of a wealthy businessman aboard a luxury train, features one of Christie's most famous & long-lived characters, detective Hercule Poirot. The Belgian sleuth with a magnificent mustache has appeared in more than 30 novels and 50 short stories and has been portrayed on radio, in film, and on TV by various actors, including Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina, Orson Welles, and David Suchet. Now, 83 years after its debut, Murder on the Orient Express receives another lavish, star-studded film adaptation, this time by actor-turned-director Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), who also stars.

 Posted November 9 in Review | Comments

Review: Waititi's 'Thor: Ragnarok' is a Heavy Metal, Viking Adventure

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Thor first appeared in 1962's comic Journey Into Mystery #83, a sci-fi anthology published by Marvel Comics. Based on the Norse deity of the same name, Thor is the God of Thunder and possesses Mjolnir, an enchanted hammer. A year later, Thor was included in The Avengers #1 as a founding member of the team, and the character has since appeared in every subsequent volume of the series. As a result, Thor has become one of Marvel's most popular and enduring superheroes, featured in countless comics, animated series, video games, and live-action films. Played by Chris Hemsworth, Thor has appeared in five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies - including Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a cameo at the end of Doctor Strange. His latest cinematic outing, Thor: Ragnarok, looks to set a new standard for not just the Thor series, but the rest of the MCU as well.

 Posted November 2 in Marvel, Review | Comments

AFF Review: James Franco IS Tommy Wiseau in 'The Disaster Artist'

The Disaster Artist Review

There's nothing like The Room, right? A film so bad it's so good. The Disaster Artist is an attempt to tell the story about the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room, and the friendship behind it, and their dream to become famous, and make a movie that everyone would love. Directed by and starring James Franco, this film is much more of an homage to the cult classic that is The Room, as well as a nod to the passion it takes to make something so terrible. To dream so big and yet fail so spectacularly, but still embrace that failure, and revel in the joy it (somehow) brings to some people. It's not an outright comedy, more of a drama with funny scenes, that also perfectly recreates The Room and pays tribute to the one-and-only Tommy Wiseau.

 Posted October 31 in Indies, Review | Comments

Review: 'Jigsaw' Continues the 'Saw' Franchise With Little Freshness or Creativity

Jigsaw Movie Review

It doesn't take much knowledge of the horror genre to realize a final chapter hardly means anything. Just as many franchises that have had a "final chapter" have carried on with gleeful bloodletting as if nothing of finality has ever even occurred. So it's no surprise the Saw series has returned. Seven years after the series' apparent conclusion, the games are rigged back up, the unwilling participants are again in imminent peril, and the mysteries surrounding the Jigsaw killer and his legacy are at it once again. While the return of this franchise could have been used to shake things up, though, those traps and the mystery they bring offer little freshness or a sense of the new to the proceedings. Fans of the series will be happy with the franchise's return, but the Spierig Brothers' Jigsaw and its latest game won't be winning over any new contestants.

 Posted October 30 in Horror, Review | Comments

AFF Review: Kooky Sci-Fi Indie Film 'Everything Beautiful is Far Away'

Everything Beautiful is Far Away

I love stumbling upon quirky indie gems that haven't been fully discovered yet, but are totally original and skillfully crafted. Everything Beautiful is Far Away is one of these films, which I decided to see on a whim at the American Film Festival, and I'm very glad I took a chance on it. This homemade indie film was filmed entirely at the Algodones Dunes in California, and stars actors Joseph Cross and Julia Garner. While it is technically sci-fi, set in the near future when cities have continued to expand and massive deserts are all that surrounds them, the film's story is actually more of a metaphor for relationships. It's very similar thematically to Swiss Army Man, addressing the difficulties of loneliness and of love in our modern world.

 Posted October 29 in Review, Sci-Fi | Comments

AFF Review: Mark Webber's Very Personal Docu-Drama 'Flesh & Blood'

Flesh & Blood Review

Every once in a while a film comes along that is so honest, and so deeply personal, it might challenge those brave enough to view it to contemplate their own life. Actor/filmmaker Mark Webber has made a new film titled Flesh & Blood, and it's a docu-drama that discusses his own life story and the immense struggles his family has been through. It's a very personal film that balances the line between documentary and drama in a way that makes it "hyperrealistic", pulling viewers even closer to this story and the people in it. It's crazy impressive how much of himself Mark put into it, while still allowing us a chance to admire the journey and the characters in this particular story. It's a very raw, heartfelt film with a hint of hope that shines through.

 Posted October 29 in Indies, Review | Comments

Review: Silliness Rules the Throne in Taika Waititi's 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Thor: Ragnarok Review

There was a time where DC was all intense and dark, and Marvel was light and silly. Yet, over the years, Marvel got serious. And it was great. But a large part of me missed the silliness (and let's face it, we could all use a little silliness right now, if only for a couple of hours to escape the shitshow happening outside!). With Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, that silliness is back by the space-ship load. Waititi sets the tone early and it's evident that, for that time you spend in the cinema, all will be well. Big, bold moments are set up and immediately torn down with a witty one-liner that takes the legs out from under you and, despite some pretty twisted content, you're never really worried because you know you're in very safe hands.

 Posted October 23 in Marvel, Review | Comments

LFF Review: Emmanuel Gras' 'Makala' is an Exceptional Documentary

Makala Review

We really are living in the Golden Age of documentaries. There are so many extraordinary documentaries released every year, and too many get lost in the mix, or go unnoticed, when they deserve a better audience. There's also so many different kinds of documentaries - from music docs to political discoveries to historical stories to human experiences. Makala is a film that is all about the raw, visceral experience, and it is jaw-dropping incredible. Made by French filmmaker Emmanuel Gras, Makala follows one man from Congo (aka Democratic Republic of the Congo) who makes charcoal on his own then carries it on a bike to a nearby city to sell. That's all this documentary is, but let me assure you, it is utterly gripping, eye-opening cinema.

 Posted October 22 in Documentaries, Review | Comments

LFF Review: Linklater's 'Last Flag Flying' Has a Few Nice Conversations

Last Flag Flying Review

Trust in Richard Linklater. Like any great filmmaker, no matter what story he decides to tell, or whatever film he wants to make, it'll almost always be good. I will full well admit that I had low expectations for this film before going in to see it, I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe I just didn't want to see another film about American soldiers (there have been so many recently), or veterans complaining about how things are, or the American flag. Whatever it was, I was wrong. Linklater's Last Flag Flying is an impressively level-headed, intelligent film with some nice, heartwarming conversations amongst good friends. It's a buddy film about three aging veterans who go on a roadtrip around America, reminiscing about their pasts and catching up.

 Posted October 22 in Indies, Review | Comments

LFF Review: Paddy Considine's 'Journeyman' is an Emotional Journey

Journeyman Review

This is not a boxing film. Though it is about a boxer, and involves a major boxing match, it is not a boxing film. Journeyman, the latest feature written and directed by English actor Paddy Considine, is actually a heartwrenching drama about the struggle of those with mental disabilities. Considine plays every role - he writes, directs, and stars in this film as Matty Burton, a famed boxer who decides to go for one last match with a wise-mouth up-and-comer. This film is really not about how the match turns out, that doesn't really even matter, and while we do get to watch the match, it is what comes after that matters. That's what this film is actually about, and it is an impressive, emotional journey through one man's struggle to stay himself.

 Posted October 19 in Review | Comments

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