REVIEWS

Cannes 2016: Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG' Lacks Any Magic or a Story

The BFG Review

Not even snozzcumbers can fix this film. Why did it feel so bland and so pointless? It's hard to make sense of it. Steven Spielberg's latest film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book The BFG, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Oddly, it seems very out of place here. It's definitely a kids movie, to a fault, as it's the kind of kids movie that you can't really enjoy unless you're younger than 16 years old. And that's not the case for most kids movies (see: Pixar). Spielberg does his best to bring stunning visuals and great performances to the film, but it lacks that magic touch of his previous work, and seriously lacks an actual story. There's a young girl, a friendly giant, lots of snozzcumbers, the Queen of England, but not much else.

 Posted May 17 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Cannes 2016: Jeff Nichols' Lovely, Tender 'Loving' Touches the Heart

Loving Review

This is the story of the Lovings, Richard and Mildred Loving. This isn't the story of how they met and fell in love, but this is the true story of how they changed America forever by staying true to their love. Loving is the latest film from the immensely talented filmmaker Jeff Nichols, who also made the film Midnight Special released this year, too. Joel Edgerton stars as Richard Loving, a mumbling hard-working family man, and Ruth Negga plays his wife Mildred, a soft spoken and resilient woman. The two were married in the 1950s and lived in Virginia, and at the time were arrested for simply being an interracial married couple. Their appeal eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where they rejected this racism and won.

 Posted May 16 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Cannes 2016: Jim Jarmusch's 'Paterson' is Sublime, Poetic Perfection

Jim Jarmusch's Paterson

I'm floating. I'm so in love with this film. I'm just going to say it - Paterson is a perfect film. There isn't a single thing I would change. Every scene, every moment, every line - it's perfection. Paterson is the latest film from Jim Jarmusch, a veteran filmmaker who has spent many years making all kinds of different films. This time he tells a very personal story of a poet, played by Adam Driver, who is actually a humble bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The name and location is significant because a couple of legendary poets also spent time in Paterson. The film reminded me of Inside Llewyn Davis (Cannes 2013), about the way great talent often stays hidden, yet if that film was near perfect - this one is its totally perfect counterpart.

 Posted May 15 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Cannes 2016: Andrea Arnold's 'American Honey' is Wild Yet Moving

Andrea Arnold's American Honey

What a film. It's not often that a film running a lengthy 2 hours and 42 minutes is easy to sit through, but in this case I'm happy to report I was caught up in this story all the way to the end. American Honey is the latest feature from British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (of Fish Tank, Red Road previously). This time she heads to America to profile a group of wild, carefree youngsters selling magazines while driving around the mid-west in a van. As boring as that might sound, it's actually an incredible look at the life of these kids and it exquisitely captures a side of Americana that we rarely see shown in this way. This way meaning - shown in a positive light, shown in a way where even though their lifestyle is pretty shitty (they often steal and live together in motel rooms), they seem to be living that glorious life that many are seeking but can't truly find.

 Posted May 15 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Cannes 2016: Mohamed Diab's 'Clash' is Superb Confined Filmmaking

Cannes 2016 - Clash

The opening film in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival is an intense, riveting feature called Clash (also known as Eshtebak in Egyptian) and it's outstanding. Clash is set entirely inside the back of a police paddywagon in Egypt in 2013, during the second half of their revolution. It begins when two journalists are grabbed during protests, their cameras and IDs confiscated, and thrown into the back of this truck. The impressive handheld camerawork often focuses on all the action outside as much as what's happening inside. While the entire film is confined to this one location, it feels like director Mohamed Diab is showing so much more of the Egyptian revolution, and we get to learn more as more detainees are added.

 Posted May 13 in Cannes 16, Review | Comments

Review: 'Captain America: Civil War' is a Fantastic Start to Marvel's Phase Three

Captain America: Civil War

Let's be honest for a moment, shall we? We've all wanted to punch Tony Stark in the face from time to time. All the good Iron Man does makes up for the smarmy attitude and sarcastic tone, but only just. Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is an idealist with unwavering beliefs, kind of like the other head of The Avengers, Captain America. It was only a matter of time before these two butted heads, and it's here where Captain America: Civil War, the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, picks its own punches. The 13th movie in the MCU has no issues when it comes to entertainment. Marvel's Kevin Feige and the people behind these films perfected the formula long ago, and Civil War is their first, real chance at shaking up the dynamic of the team. Nothing goes to waste in the process, and Civil War handily earns its stripes as more

 Posted May 6 in Marvel, Review | Comments

Review: Disney's 'The Jungle Book' Brings the Animated Classic to Life

The Jungle Book

There's little doubt why Disney chose their 1942 take on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to update for 2016 audiences. The animated movie is beloved, loaded with adventure, and bringing the story's wide array of animals to photorealistic life seems like a suitable challenge for any team of digital effects magicians, especially in the modern age. The Jungle Book isn't Disney's first attempt at adapting one of their animated classics to live action, but it's the most loyal to the original film we've seen from the studio thus far. Full of wonderful adventure and superb effects, The Jungle Book is a fantastic update that will keep fans of the original completely satisfied, especially if they love Christopher Walken's singing voice.

 Posted April 15 in Review | Comments

Review: 'Zootopia' is a Reminder of How Great Animated Films Can Be

Zootopia

The Pixar train has been running so fast and furiously the past couple of decades you'd almost be justified in forgetting about Disney's own animation studio. It's hard to believe we're 20 years or so removed from Disney being the strongest force when it comes to animated features. They do make themselves known every now and again, and their latest work, Zootopia, is a strong reminder of the quality in entertainment Disney can achieve when they flex their animators' skills. A consistently funny narrative littered with interesting characters and a healthy message to boot, Zootopia makes even the latest efforts from Pixar – The Good Dinosaur, at least – seem childish by comparison. It's no revelation that Disney was first when it comes to animation, but it's a nice surprise to see them reclaim such a title when they finish a project such as this.

 Posted March 5 in Animation, Review | Comments

Review: Bullets & Bad Guys Make John Hillcoat's 'Triple 9' Another Win

Triple 9 Review

Australian director John Hillcoat has made a name for himself with unforgiving characters committing brutal violence amid some pretty bleak environments. With The Proposition and Lawless, he brought period-set grit to the screen and made the future even less appealing in The Road. The latest from Hillcoat is Triple 9, and it's the director's first opus of violence set in modern day. This fact doesn't keep the violence from being as cold-blooded as the director can make it nor the characters from being their typical, Hillcoat shade of gray. Triple 9 is a relentless look at the lengths to which evil men and women will go, and, though it never fulfills the hope of transcending the action genre, it satisfies the hunger for adult-driven entertainment with an edge. Just don't get attached to anyone.

 Posted February 26 in Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures' is Wildly Inspiring

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

As an avid photographer myself, I truly love coming across a documentary that expands my mind about the artistic qualities and emotional power of excellent photography. Along with The Salt of the Earth (about legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado), the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is the latest to leave me floored. This utterly inspiring and eye-opening doc examines the (entire) life of Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial gay photographer whose work was banned from museums in the 90s because it was deemed too obscene. Boy were they wrong. Hearing him talk about his life and then seeing the photos he produced - I couldn't help repeating in my mind, "this guy is a true master of photography." Seriously.

 Posted February 23 in Berlinale, Docs, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: Alex Gibney's Eye-Opening Cyber War Doc 'Zero Days'

Zero Days Review

Do you think what Edward Snowden revealed about the surveillance state is terrifying? Wait until you see this documentary. What documentarian Alex Gibney uncovers in his new documentary Zero Days is incredibly frightening and extremely worrying. But that's his point - he wants to thrown open the doors to these top secret operations and allow the people of this planet to debate and discuss what's happening. Zero Days begins by examining the malware known as Stuxnet, a self-propagating virus that seems to have been written by the NSA specifically to attack centrifuges in Iran. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. From there it presents a case that we've entered the era of cyber warfare, but few people know about what's occurring.

 Posted February 18 in Berlinale, Docs, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Genius' is a Very Touching Film About Literary Friends

Genius Review

It's not often that we see a film about editors, about the hard-working, dedicated people that hide behind-the-scenes and help writers produce their best work. Michael Grandage's Genius is a very touching story about two friends - writer/novelist Thomas Wolfe, and Charles Scribner's Sons editor Maxwell Perkins. Max first meets Tom when a massive manuscript is dropped on his desk. He reluctantly reads it, but finds it to be absolutely wonderful, bringing in the writer to work on cutting it down so they can sell it as a novel. This ends up becoming Wolfe's first book Look Homeward, Angel, and it was the beginning of a rewarding relationship between these two showing just how important an editor is to producing truly successful work.

 Posted February 17 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: 'Alone in Berlin' - A Good Story with Bad Filmmaking

Alone in Berlin Review

This should've been so much better. The story is so good, but the filmmaking is just so bad, and it deserved better. Alone in Berlin is a film directed by Vincent Perez telling the story of Otto Quangel (in real life: Otto Hampel), a German living in Berlin during WWII that decided to write post cards with "free press" notes opposing Hitler and his regime. It was one of the most awkward screening experiences I've ever had - sitting in a theater full of German critics, in Berlin for the Berlin Film Festival, watching a film set in Berlin, but everyone in the film speaks English with German accents. One of the worst decisions they made. Even though I understand it's about getting this film to a wider audience, it just doesn't work, the performances are stilted, and everything seems off for the entire film. Which is unfortunate because I do love Otto's story.

 Posted February 15 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

Berlinale 2016: Lee Tamahori's 'The Patriarch' is All Kinds of Wonderful

Lee Tamahori's The Patriarch

I still can't believe I'm saying this. Lee Tamahori, director of Die Another Day (one of my least favorite Bond movies) and other junk like xXx: State of the Union, has actually made a rather wonderful film. I'll admit - I kinda loved it. Maybe because I really had no idea what to expect. The Patriarch, also known as Mahana, is a film about the Mahana family in New Zealand. It's set during the 1960s and focuses on one boy in the family named Simeon, played by Akuhata Keefe who is the only one, out of about 20 members, to ever challenge and speak out against the patriarch of the family, played by Temuera Morrison. It's an uplifting story about how things can change over generations, and it's just as fun to watch as it is inspiring.

 Posted February 14 in Berlinale, Review | Comments

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