REVIEWS

Berlinale 2020: Kelly Reichardt's Film 'First Cow' is the Bakers' Delight

First Cow Review

I would really, really like an oily biscuit with honey and a touch of cinnamon after finishing this film. Please. First Cow is the latest feature made by American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (of Old Joy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves). After initially premiering at the Telluride & New York Film Festivals last fall, it has made an appearance at the Berlin Film Festival this year showing as a European premiere in the main competition section. Set at the beginning of the 19th century in the rural Northwest (mainly in Oregon), the film is about a friendship and successful local business started by two lonely misfits. It's not just a film about a cow, it's not just a film about friends, and it's not just a film about the Northwest frontier. It has so much depth and heart and humility, an entirely wonderful film. I think I loved it, to be fully honest, which even surprises me.

Berlinale 2020: 'Minamata' Reminds of the Power of Photojournalism

Minamata Review

It is always important to shine a light on stories that remind us of the power of journalism. Not only about all the hard-working, courageous people committed to reporting the stories, but also about the impact it can have on the world. It also goes without saying that photojournalism is just as powerful, if not even moreso sometimes. One image can change the world. This is the ultimate value of this particular film, and the true story it tells. Minamata tells the story of renowned American photographer W. Eugene Smith, who went to Japan in the early 1970s to photograph the inhabitants of a small town being poisoned by a careless, greedy chemical corporation that had a dangerous factory there. It's a very moving, earnest film about the power of photography and the tenacity of journalists. And it won me over big time, unleashing all kinds of emotions.

Sundance 2020: Arthur Jones' Exceptional Doc Film 'Feels Good Man'

Feels Good Man Review

This is the wacky, weird, wild story of a goofy cartoon frog that became an anti-hero meme in the age of the internet. Feels Good Man is much more than a documentary about "Pepe the Frog". It's a documentary about this dangerous modern society we now live in, and how things have gotten seriously out of hand. It's a documentary about the internet, and how it has allowed billions of people to take control over anything they want, twisting stories and hijacking ideas to suit their own desires, their own ideologies. It's about how you "can't put the genie back in the bottle." It's about how hard it is to fight back against mob mentality fueled by the internet, and how hard it is to defend yourself since we seem to have reverted to the wild west online. Feels Good Man is, without a doubt, one of the best documentaries from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Review: Cathy Yan's Effervescent 'Birds of Prey' Flies High, Rules Hard

Birds of Prey Review

Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in September of 1992. A psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was seduced by the Joker into becoming his crazed, mallet-wielding partner-in-crime. 24 years later, the fan-favorite villainess made her big-screen debut in 2016's Suicide Squad, portrayed by Margot Robbie (seen in Bombshell, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, I, Tonya). While that movie, about a team of supervillains saving the world, was an incoherent and aggressively dull mess, Robbie's memorable performance all but guaranteed that we would see the character on-screen again. Enter Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, in which Harley leads her very own girl gang into battle against a Gotham City crime lord.

 Posted February 7 in DC Movies, Review | Comments

Review: 'Birds of Prey' Breaks the Fourth Wall in Harley Quinn's Style

Birds of Prey Review

Harley Quinn. Two words, many meanings, one powerful woman. The woman that she used to be in Suicide Squad is gone. Now, audiences have a chance to experience this badass lady cause some serious mayhem and teach a spoiled man a lesson. The action unfurls swiftly as Harley breezes by in her sparkling roller-skates and breaks bones. Cathy Yan and Christina Hodson demonstrate their phenomenal directing and writing skills with DC's Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. They bestow upon us a thrilling, full of twists and turns, packed with action, entertaining movie. The tale in Harley's narrative jumps back and forth, where past blends with the present. We are introduced to all the characters in their own legendary style. The way the story is told defines the crazy, multidimensional, and complex personality of the former doctor. But before we go further, let's get back to the core plot of BoP.

 Posted February 5 in DC Movies, Review | Comments

IFFR Review: Werner Herzog's 'Family Romance, LLC' Made in Japan

Family Romance, LLC Review

One of the most damaging aspects of neo-liberalism has been its commodification of human relationships. This is demonstrated and analyzed in a New Yorker article entitled "Japan's Rent-a-Family industry," and that same article is the basis of Werner Herzog's newest film, Family Romance, LLC, named after the profiled company. Herzog, however, is not much interested in politics. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) is a colonialist scenario depicted as a search for the sublime; in Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016), Herzog is more interested in capitalists and their victims than capitalism as such. Such is the case in Family Romance, in which the casting of non-professional actors, including Yuichi Ishii, the founder of Family Romance, as himself, is the tell. For Herzog, psychic effects matter more than political conditions.

 Posted February 5 in Review | Comments

Review: Richard Stanley's 'Color Out of Space' is a Blessing From the Beyond

Color Out of Space Review

South African filmmaker Richard Stanley made his feature directorial debut in 1990 with Hardware, a post-apocalyptic science fiction flick about a self-repairing cyborg that goes on a rampage. His second film, 1992's Dust Devil, is a kind of supernatural Spaghetti Western about a shape-shifting, hitchhiking serial killer. These low-budget genre movies, while commercial failures, showed potential and made it possible for Stanley to work on his dream project – an adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau for New Line Cinema (in 1996). What was meant to be the filmmaker's big break became his undoing. After years of developing the script, Stanley was fired a few days after principal photography began and replaced by John Frankenheimer. The filmmaker retreated, quite literally, into the wilderness and left Hollywood behind.

 Posted February 4 in Horror, Review, Sci-Fi | Comments

Sundance 2020: Rekindling Childhood in Benh Zeitlin's Film 'Wendy'

Wendy Review

"I believe in you, Peter." So worth the wait. New Orleans-based filmmaker Benh Zeitlin is finally back with his second feature film at the Sundance Film Festival. He rocked the festival in 2012 with his debut Beasts of the Southern Wild, and is back again eight years later to share his latest creation. Wendy is Zeitlin's new take on Peter Pan, a re-imagining of the classic J.M. Barrie story, this time focusing on the character of Wendy as the adventurous leader of the group of boys. It follows the same story beats and themes as the original "Peter Pan" – it's all in there, including Captain Hook – but it also adds in Zeitlin's unique, gritty southern aesthetic. The film starts with kids escaping to the mythical island by hopping on top of a freight train. It's amazing. One of the most rousing, invigorating sequences in in any film from the festival this year.

IFFR Review: Pablo Larraín's Film 'Ema' Starring Mariana Di Girolamo

Ema Review

Before the title card in Pablo Larrain's film Ema is a following shot of the platinum-blonde title character walking down the middle of an empty road lit by neon and fire. It is perhaps the only truly familiar authorial element in Larrain's latest feature. Ema marks Larrain's return to his homeland of Chile after a successful Hollywood debut in Jackie, and he also returns, for the first time since Tony Manero, to apolitical subject matter. There are no coups, riots, or assassinations in Ema; nobody even dies. Instead, a dancer couple (Mariana Di Girolamo as Ema and Gael Garcia Bernal as Gastón) spars after Ema returns their son to foster care after he immolates a family member, trying alternately to destroy and repair the atypical family.

Sundance 2020: Eugene Ashe's Lovely Jazz Romance 'Sylvie's Love'

Sylvie's Love

It's always a sweet delight to discover a romance that gives you the chills thanks to its immeasurable charm and expressions of love. Sylvie's Love is one of those great discoveries, a classical romantic drama set in the 1950s in New York City that despite a conventional plot is still a lovely film worth swooning over. This indie romantic drama just premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, screening in the US Dramatic Competition section, and it should connect most with viewers who appreciate old school romance from the 1950s. The cinematography is exceptional, the jazz soundtrack is really wonderful. Most of all, it's going to be a calling card for a tremendously talented filmmaker - Eugene Ashe. It's his break out moment, despite being his second film, an exemplary example of how he can capture a mood and true love for the big screen.

Sundance 2020: Radha Blank's Mic Drop 'The 40 Year Old Version'

The 40 Year Old Version

Find your own voice! This is one of the films that deserves to break out of the Sundance Film Festival this year – a refreshingly original, totally badass, uncompromising directorial debut. One year ago at Sundance, New York native playwright Radha Blank was sitting in the audience at a screening and was encouraged by her friend Lena Waithe to stop worrying and make her damn film (Waithe went on to produce it). She also encouraged her to make it exactly the way she wanted, to tell her story, to be fearless. And she has delivered. The 40-Year-Old Version is Radha Blank's feature directorial debut - she writes, directs, produces, and stars in it. And it's awesome. She knocks this one out of the park, around the block, and back. Its a hilarious and honest story of a woman who's voice we all should be listening to already. Get in line now to watch this.

Sundance 2020: 'The Truffle Hunters' Doc Takes Us into Piedmont

The Truffle Hunters Review

There's nothing else like truffles! The aromatic Tuber delicacy is a specialty in Italy, a high-priced item that is not easy to find. The Truffle Hunters is an exquisite, lovable, utterly sublime documentary that takes us deep into Piedmont to meet some of the finest truffle hunters in the entire world. This doc is the BEST!! I absolutely adore this film, one of the best discoveries at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. A perfectly shot and perfectly presented love letter to the great truffle hunters and truffle dogs of Italy. There is nothing to change about it, nothing to really criticize or nitpick. Just bask in the glory of this doc film and make sure to book a table at a restaurant serving truffle because you'll definitely be hungry for some after finishing this.

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