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A Quiet Place Review

22 Apr

Does remarkably little with a great premise, even going so far as to turn it into one of the film’s glaring weaknesses. What should be a unique form of tension-building dread is instead a conduit for the most basic studio horror crutches, resulting in an experience that sort of works only because it’s impossible not to have a certain type of visceral reaction. After all, this is what happens when a film doesn’t engage with its premise beyond its most basic function; it ends up relying on the laziest forms of storytelling to fill in the blank spaces. Here, we have an over-reliance on jump scares, awful dialogue, contrivances that make you roll your eyes instead of sink deeper into the film’s world, and rote emotional subplots that feel more obligatory than natural. Continue reading

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You Were Never Really Here Review

6 Apr

Visually and sonically mesmerizing—Greenwood’s done it again—with a pained and physical lead performance by the always fantastic Joaquin Phoenix. However, it’s also a frustrating experience in many regards because it seems to use PTSD as a stylistic crutch of sorts instead of as a meaningful foundation to the story. I don’t doubt that Lynne Ramsay’s intentions are genuine, but getting us into the headspace of a character and his trauma is not necessarily the same thing as developing that character and his trauma. You can craft disorientation and rely on fragmentation all you want, but that approach tends to keep everything at a stagnant, surface level distance. This film manages to suffer from being too heavy-handed and too obtuse at the same time, and what results is a portrait of a character that feels unfinished. Additionally, the supporting characters feel less like characters and more like puzzle pieces without any place to fit, and anything meaningful the film has to say about violence, corruption, or trauma is diluted by Ramsay’s insistence on transcending genre conventions.

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Isle of Dogs Review

26 Mar

Wes Anderson is a very consistent filmmaker, but this is unfortunately one of his weaker efforts because he makes a structural miscalculation that renders the film inert for large portions of its runtime. Namely, his continued focus on the subtitled humans gets old after a few scenes, and aside from a hilarious sushi preparation sequence, those entire sections of the film feel dull and largely pointless. I get why they’re part of the script, but I have a huge problem with the execution of the themes and the ways in which the human storylines undercut the character development of the dogs. Anderson could’ve easily said everything he wanted to say, political or otherwise, without resorting to using the humans as mere dispensers rather than natural embodiments or expressions of certain ideas. Gerwig’s character in particular is a grating mess, and the film’s third act completely loses any of the tightness, emotional resonance, or childish wonder that Anderson brought to some of his other films.

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The Top 25 Films of 2017

12 Mar

For some reason I thought I posted this a while back, but it looks like I didn’t. So here are my top 25 films of 2017, several months late.

25. The Babysitter

24. I, Tonya

23. Thelma

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Black Panther Review

3 Mar

It’s almost impressive how Marvel can take a lineup of superheroes, each different than the other in terms of backstory, motivation, and powers, and render them all so bland and forgettable that they’re virtually indistinguishable. T’Challa is the latest victim of the formula, his character reduced to a bunch of thematic generalizations and halfhearted motivations while being played with the conviction of a slab of cardboard. These films simply aren’t imaginative anymore, nor do they have a structure that can avoid cheapening the vision of whatever directors they nab. Coogler is one of the more promising young directors in the business, but even he can’t prevent the political subject matter here from feeling like a collective throwaway line. Does a superhero film need to be political? Absolutely not. But if it’s going to try, then it needs to be judged on how successfully it engages with those topics beyond the surface. There’s a difference between whether a film’s socially relevant—which of course this is—and how good a film is at being socially relevant.

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Game Night Review

24 Feb

A decently fun time at the movies, but in no way some kind of unsung comedy gem. Everyone in the initial game night group not played by Bateman or McAdams is fine but ultimately unnecessary, with exhibit A being a running joke about sleeping with a celebrity. Additionally, the film is a bit too haphazard with its twists and tones, but not in the “controlled madness” way I love. Michael C. Hall probably should’ve had more to do.

When it’s funny, though, it’s funny. Bateman and McAdams share a fantastic scene revolving around a bullet removal, and Plemons delivers some great deadpan. I have at least four other Kyle Chandler performances I’d choose over this one, but I think people are finally realizing that he can be a hell of a lot of fun. That sly grin worked wonders in The Wolf of Wall Street.

GRADE: B-

The Top 15 Film Scenes of 2017

25 Jan

15. Mirror – “I, Tonya”

14. Bandage removal – “Stronger”

13. Final scene – “Life”

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