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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Review

5 Aug

This is what everyone who has ever criticized a Tarantino film was talking about.

Sure, we all know the guy’s filmography is comprised of works that are excessive, bloated, overlong, and over the top, but for most of them, that’s all been part of the charm. There’s no doubt that Tarantino has done an almost unparalleled job of breaking conventions, crafting his own distinct style, and making typical negatives work for him as positives. Even a behemoth like The Hateful Eight worked beautifully because 1) It was really fucking entertaining, and 2) The actors could all play off each other at any second. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, both points are so null and void that Tarantino himself couldn’t find them if he rammed his head even further up his rectal cavity. It is a shining example of how maybe those screenplay books that tell you what NOT to do in your screenplay maybe have some merit.

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The Farewell Review

26 Jul

Anyone can probably find something in this film to connect with, but make no mistake: at its core, it is a story about an Asian American’s experience, written and directed by an Asian American woman. To say that it is merely about family is vague to the point of being inaccurate, because the dynamics of what constitute a family are vastly different when it comes to immigrant parents. If you have that experience, you know what I’m talking about: the push and pull between cultures, the shame of feeling like an outsider in both your own skin and your “American” community, and sometimes even the outright rejection of certain parts of your identity. All of that is laid bare on screen here, handled with pure and tender care by Lulu Wang.

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Midsommar Review

10 Jul

Hereditary was a great film with stellar performances, an effective onslaught of dread, and an interesting exploration of grief through horror. It also concluded with an obnoxious, pseudo intellectual final 10 minutes that would’ve nearly ruined the whole thing if everything before it wasn’t so good. I’m afraid to report that Ari Aster, certainly buoyed by the blank check A24 gave him, embraced those last 10 minutes and produced from its ashes a maddening, 140 minute slog of a film – one that will surely be praised as some sort of profound achievement due to the A24 label slapped on it.

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco Review

2 Jul

Lovingly and beautifully shot and scored, as if in a haze yet also with crystal clear focus. The filmmakers’ passion is evident in every single frame, and there’s clearly a lot of heart behind this story. At the same time, the slickness of the visuals sometimes feels like a placeholder for character and story, with the script only just scratching the surface of some of the issues at play (both on a macro, community wide scale and on a micro, character arc scale). It meanders a bit too much in the first half, and the climax, while effective because of Majors’ wonderful performance, is also a bit contrived.

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Toy Story 4 Review

22 Jun

It’s a good movie, though the justification for its existence and its connection to the larger Toy Story universe is tenuous at best. It struggles a bit with the Woody-Bo Peep romance, as well as with characters like Buzz, when it comes to building off of what we’ve seen in the series predecessors. On the new character side of things, it introduces interesting themes with Forky while simultaneously dropping them in favor of strange digressions and half-formed ideas. It’s oftentimes strange and repetitive, and it’s symptomatic of a series that is straining for ideas. There’s just too much going on and not enough weight behind most.

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Late Night Review

16 Jun

“Conventional,” or some equivalent, is the descriptor I’ve seen most commonly applied to this film. While that’s certainly not wrong from a comedic structure standpoint, there’s still an evident freshness in the perspective of the script – the comedic structure itself is then bolstered even as Kaling works within the genre’s boundaries. She makes it very clear what dynamics and issues she’s playing off of and what her priorities are, and there’s plenty of effective comedy that springs forth as a result. There are a number of threads that don’t wind up adding much to the film, but Thompson and Kaling are both wonderfully charming and bring so much energy to the film even in its weaker moments. Yeah it’s a mainstream crowdpleaser. It also has an undeniable point of view that I want to see more of.

GRADE: B+

Booksmart Review

1 Jun

There are several really beautiful threads in here, one involving Kaitlyn Dever’s Amy and her exploration of her sexuality. The film is so respectful and affirming of her complicated emotional journey, in a way that teen comedies oftentimes aren’t. The other thread is the bedrock of the film: Amy and Beanie Feldstein’s Molly and the unconditional love and support that bind the two together. Again, the film is so loving and affirming and so unabashedly in love with this friendship, and you really do feel every ecstatic high and painful low. Both actors are wonderful – Dever in particular has been on the “needs to become a star” list since Justified, and I’m glad it’s happening.

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