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Hustlers Review

14 Sep

This is a really solid piece of entertainment all around, though it starts to get a bit tedious and repetitive once the actual hustling begins. I know it’s necessary to an extent, but I’ve always found the police angle, ie characters getting investigated/caught, to be a form of dramatic tension that filmmakers just take at face value – when in reality, there’s a lot that needs to be done to make that resonate. Here, we don’t get enough insight into most of the characters’ lives aside from broadly sketched personalities, resulting in the audience not feeling the full weight of some of the major developments in their lives (financial crash, hustling going wrong, getting investigated, etc). Even Wu’s character is pretty rudimentary, and the whole flashback framework the film uses with her character is ill advised and unnecessary.

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Ford v Ferrari Review

7 Sep

Think of everything you know about this movie, then close your eyes and imagine how it will play out. Congrats, you’ve pretty much nailed it!

This is as formulaic structure-wise as they come, and even some of the more emotional moments feel manufactured according to a sports biopic manual. The film makes a mediocre attempt at fleshing out the characters outside of their relationship to racing, but it eventually realizes that its strengths lie in the racing itself. The racing sequences are legitimately thrilling. It’s immaculate on a technical level, with the sound mixing, editing, and score responsible for most of the overall experience. On screen, Bale also elevates the material with yet another smarmy but likable performance. Overall, as cliched as it is, it’s still entertaining, and it still knows how to hit every predictable beat with full force.

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Brittany Runs a Marathon Review

5 Sep

Yikes. I’m all for giving first time filmmakers a chance, but at least make sure he or she is a right fit for the project (and knows how to write a screenplay). Being friends with the subject isn’t enough, sorry. It’s painfully clear that this is a debut – the dialogue is terrible and chock full of heavy handed exposition throughout, scenes end at strange times and are stitched together awkwardly, and the screenplay really struggles to organically weave all the supporting characters into the story. It’s also tonally all over the place. Bell is decent and there are some funny moments, but everyone and everything is just kinda…bad. It’s also uncomfortably mean spirited at times and strays way too close to undercutting its own message, so it’s an even harder pass for me. What a ridiculous overspend by Amazon. Also, Michaela Watkins just makes me miss Casual.

To the cast and filmmakers: please stop your “it was never about the weight, it was about what was inside the whole time!” spiel. I’m sure it’s well intentioned but it’s actually quite problematic.

GRADE: C

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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