REVIEWS

TIFF 2018: Steve McQueen's Chicago Heist Thriller 'Widows' is Intense

Widows Review

The opening shots of Widows set a precedent for how intense the film will be. Intimate shots of Viola Davis' character Veronica kissing her husband quickly cut to gunfire and car chase shots as a group of criminals tries to escape. It's extremely intense, and a slap-in-the-face wake up everyone who sits down to watch this outstanding film. Widows is the latest film made by acclaimed Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (of Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave) and it's his first "big" film made at a Hollywood studio. Thankfully, McQueen doesn't seem to be phased, maintaining his edge and focus without losing control and being forced to make something a bit more watered down and accessible. This heist thriller is as much about Chicago as it is about the widows of a handful of criminal men, who work together to pull off a heist to clear their debt.

 Posted September 10 in Review, TIFF 18 | Comments

Venice 2018: Brady Corbet's Intoxicating 'Vox Lux' is Bold & Brilliant

Vox Lux Review

In a world of movies about popstars and how inspiring it is to make your dreams of fame and glory come true, Vox Lux gives us the exact opposite. The second feature film made by actor Brady Corbet (of The Childhood of a Leader), Vox Lux tells the story of a young girl who quickly becomes a mega-famous popstar after an odd beginning: she survives a horrible school shooting and sings with her sister at the memorial ceremony. The song goes viral, she gets discovered by a shady manager, the rest is history. I didn't realize that Brady Corbet was such a genius, but my goodness this film is something else. It's extremely smart and provocative and true and shameless in its expression of this truth. It's so brutally honest and so accurate in what it says about society, that it's going to seriously piss people off. Either they just don't get it, or don't understand it, or they don't like seeing this much searing truth presented this way. But I think it's brilliant.

Venice 2018: Jennifer Kent's 'The Nightingale' is a Phenomenal Film

The Nightingale Review

It fills me with so much energy and excitement and enthusiasm when I watch an incredible film. Sometimes you can tell from the first few minutes that a film is going to be amazing. There's just something about the filmmaking and opening scenes that shows how massively talented and in control the filmmaker is, and as the rest of the film plays out, it only gets better and better. Jennifer Kent's new film The Nightingale is phenomenal, one of the best films of the year. I don't even think the word "masterpiece" can do it justice, it's such a riveting, enlivening, extraordinary cinematic creation that it's worthy of more rigorous lingo and more thorough praise. I loved every last second of it — and I mean LOVED it — and the film features two of my favorite performances of the year. It's also an important, affecting film that addresses racism and sexism head on, showing that we haven't changed much in 200 years but we can - and will - through compassion.

Venice 2018: S. Craig Zahler's 'Dragged Across Concrete' is Uber Brutal

Dragged Across Concrete Review

He's at it again with more brutal violence. Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler is back at the Venice Film Festival again this year after premiering his film Brawl in Cell Block 99 starring Vince Vaughn last year. His latest is Dragged Across Concrete, a 2-hour-and-40-minute-long slow burn drama about two cops who get into some crazy stuff after they're suspended from the force. Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson star as the two police officers, who finish a drug bust at the start, but get in trouble for being a bit too violent to the perp during their apprehension. What follows is an extremely slow burn film that builds up with the payoff punch line coming at the very, very end. With this film, Zahler has finally gone a little too far with his slow burn-plus-brutal violence indulgence, and the film comes close to making some shady statements along the way.

Venice 2018: Bradley Cooper's 'A Star is Born' is Cheesy Yet Lovable

A Star is Born Review

Sometimes a little cheesiness is just what we need. A Star is Born is the third remake of the classic 1937 film directed by William A. Wellman. This new version is another contemporary update, focusing the story on two musicians who fall in love. Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut and stars in A Star is Born as alcoholic musician Jackson Maine. He randomly meets and falls for a young woman named Ally, played by real-life popstar Lady Gaga, originally known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. This movie is so incredibly cheesy, and cliche, and surface level in every way, yet it's also so enjoyable, and so catchy, and so charming. The singing makes it all worth it, even though the rest of it is only okay. But audiences are going to fall head over heels for this epic love story, no doubt, because sometimes a little cheesiness isn't so bad.

Venice 2018: Luca Guadagnino's 'Suspiria' is a Bewitching Blood Bath

Suspiria Review

"Tremble tremble!!! The witches are back…" Dario Argento's original Suspiria from 1977 is a horror classic, perfectly packaged and stylish and one-of-a-kind in every way. Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name) has created a brand new Suspiria, a layered, immensely complex, intense story of witches in Berlin seeking more to join their coven. And it's also stylish and one-of-a-kind in every way. His film may be a remake, but it's much different, and it's an extraordinary work of art - not just cinema, but truly a piece of art. Something that should be hung on the walls in one of the world's best museums and admired for decades to come. This film is going to seriously fuck up some viewers for life, with so much haunting nuance and intricacy and creepiness that it will be hard to ever forget what it shows.

Venice 2018: Parables to Contemplate in 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs'

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Gather ’round everyone, take a seat by the fire, for Joel & Ethan Coen have some fun new tales to tell. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six-part Western anthology film, the latest feature from the Coen Brothers. They've made Westerns before (most notably True Grit in 2010) but this is something else entirely - six different stories, each with their own unique characters, and locations, and ideas to consider. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is as intelligent, contemplative, comedic, and as beautiful as everything from the Coens, but it goes beyond that. These six stories are actually parables about humanity and the way people cheat, lie, deceive each other, and the way men are greedy, confused, ambitious, unsure, and careless. And they're all gorgeously filmed, captivating to watch, which is no surprise considering the Coens are filmmaking masters.

 Posted August 31 in Review, Venice 18 | Comments

Venice 2018: Yorgos Lanthimos' 'The Favourite' is Delightful Decadence

The Favourite

There's nothing like a Yorgos Lanthimos film. The more films he makes, the more refined and interesting and bold he gets. The Favourite is Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' latest work, an English-language feature set in early 18th century England, following a capricious Queen and her wacky days in her castle. It's the pinnacle of amusing absurdity, giving us even more ridiculousness (this time going back into the past) to chew on and laugh at with utter joy. This extensive, opulent, hilarious comedy is about a Queen being played by her subjects, specifically two women who work closely with her. It is delightful decadence, with so many crazy, bizarre, funny moments throughout - though it overstays its welcome. Unlike Lanthimos' past films, this one isn't that meaningful, it's all made to be enjoyed as something absurdly fun and entirely harmless.

 Posted August 30 in Review, Venice 18 | Comments

Venice 2018: Damien Chazelle's 'First Man' is Breathtaking & Beautiful

First Man Review

"We choose to go to the moon… We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…" We all know the story. But do we really know the story? What more is there to tell, to show us? First Man is the latest film made by Damien Chazelle, telling the story of astronaut / test pilot / engineer Neil Armstrong and his iconic mission in Apollo 11. After making three films previously, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash, and La La Land, Chazelle continues to astound - he only gets better and better with every film he makes. First Man is an exceptionally beautiful, intimate look at how the determination and courage of men once took us farther than we have ever been before. In a word: breathtaking. A masterfully balanced mix of spectacle and quietness and perseverance.

 Posted August 29 in Review, Venice 18 | Comments

Review: Turteltaub's 'The Meg' Movie is Fun, Dumb, and Full of Chum

The Meg Review

After seeing Steven Spielberg's Jaws as a teenager, Steve Alten went straight to his local public library and checked out every book he could find on great white sharks. In those texts, he stumbled upon a black-and-white photo (seen here) of scientists seated in the massive, reconstructed jaw of a megalodon — the prehistoric cousin of the Great White shark, believed to have been extinct for more than two million years. The image of a 75-foot-long shark that could swallow a Volkswagen whole never left Alten's mind, and 22 years later he published his first novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, a science-fiction horror story about a prehistoric megalodon shark that rises from the depths of the Mariana Trench to hunt once again.

 Posted August 10 in Review | Comments

Review: McQuarrie's 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' is a Megaton Blast

Mission: Impossible - Fallout Review

Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible was a critical and commercial success when it opened in May of 1996. Based on the 1960s CBS series of the same name, the action-packed spy thriller grossed $75 million in its first six days, surpassing the record set by Jurassic Park, and became the third highest-grossing film of that year, bested only by Twister and Independence Day. Two decades later, the Mission: Impossible series has grossed more than $2.8 billion worldwide, becoming one of the most successful franchises in movie history. The latest installment, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who helmed the last entry in the series, 2015's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Cruise returns for his sixth assignment in the role of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team leader Ethan Hunt, but does he accomplish anything, or is the follow-up set to self-destruct?

 Posted July 26 in Review | Comments

Review: Thurber's 'Skyscraper' is a Towering Achievement in Absurdity

Skyscraper Review

With box office receipts exceeding $3 billion around the world so far, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has solidified himself as a global box office powerhouse. In recent years, the wrestler-turned-actor has earned a reputation as the hardest working man in Hollywood, starring in hits like Central Intelligence, Moana, The Fate of the Furious, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle from last fall. Even his misses are still massive successes — both San Andreas and Rampage earned over $400 million worldwide, despite underwhelming critical response. Now, only three months after his last theatrical release, Johnson continues his shock-and-awe campaign for box office supremacy with the action-packed, Hong Kong-set skyscraper disaster film Skyscraper; further testament to the movie star's enduring commitment to quantity over quality.

 Posted July 12 in Review | Comments

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