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Dunkirk Review

23 Jul

Let’s get this out of the way first: Christopher Nolan is a very talented filmmaker. He and his brother have crafted several masterpieces in my eyes, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for his commitment to high(er) concept crowd pleasers. He gets a lot of shit, but his type of filmmaking is desperately needed in an age of mindless entertainment; how many other directors will garner such universal support from the studio, critics, film buffs, and casual moviegoers alike? Yeah, not many.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Review

18 Jul

There’s a tendency these days to qualify any evaluation of a blockbuster film with the word “blockbuster”. “It’s great for a blockbuster.” “It’s a smart blockbuster.” “It’s just a fun summer blockbuster.” This trend does not occurs sans reason: the big, lumbering studios churning out remarkably low quality CGI fare at a record pace, and we the consumers facilitating that by constantly handing over our hard earned money. I don’t want to tell people what they should and shouldn’t enjoy, but people sure do get defensive about others affording their “blockbusters” the same level of respect that arthouse fare should receive, i.e. the critical evaluation of a film on its own merits without any sort of preconceived bias toward the style of film. By shielding certain filmmaking from criticism because it’s “just a blockbuster”, you are in fact denigrating it as a film and denigrating the blockbuster as a valuable art form. What I therefore want to make very clear is that this apes trilogy isn’t just a good blockbuster trilogy; it’s damn good filmmaking overall and one of the most impressive feats in recent film history.

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A Ghost Story Review

12 Jul

It’s easy to scoff at the central image of the film: an extremely rudimentary construction of a ghost via a white sheet and eyeholes. However, considering the weighty themes it stands in for–time, legacy, life, death, and love–it’s kind of appropriate how absurd of an image it is. There’s never going to be a perfect symbol that encapsulates all the messy beauty of life and the profound nothingness of death, the confusion and the fleeting joy and the sense that nothing matters and that everything matters. There’s never going to be a more fitting representation of complexity than this type of simplicity, and David Lowery shows us throughout the film that he understands that. There’s a humorous, self-aware bent to the whole situation. There are ghost subtitles. We actually watch paint dry. Rooney Mara eats a pie.

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Okja Review

7 Jul

This film has no business working as well as it does. It’s quite the mess on first appearance, lacking the kinetic, hard-hitting forward movement of Snowpiercer and veering between vastly different tones and frameworks. It’s a corporate satire that hits the meatpacking industry and its attendant political and definitional manipulations, a wacky action-adventure film that features bizarre characters doing bizarre things, and a heartwarming yet heartbreaking story about the bond shared between a young girl and her animal friend. Bong Joon-ho and d.p. Darius Khondji (responsible for one of the greatest shots in recent memory in The Immigrant) demonstrate a wonderful ability to transition between the lush nature shots of the first half to the clinical horrors of the second, and the tonal shift that accompanies it works surprisingly well.

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The Beguiled Review

28 Jun

The Beguiled feels like restrained madness, a melodrama with emotions that feel cold and calculated at the same time as heightened. Everything from its costuming to its limited score to its cinematography feed into Coppola’s vision of this Civil War-era household, and the mood conveyed by its common establishing shot–a hazy mist cloaking the grounds–is sustained through the story that subsequently unfolds. This is a tale of sexuality and desire set against both a historical and contemporary backdrop, and Coppola approaches the film by first carefully calibrating the environment; then, she allows the women and those desires to simmer within the repression and mundanity that their household represents.

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Baby Driver Review

17 Jun

Music has the ability to completely transform a film. However, it’s usually seen as a complement of sorts, a mood-crafter that assists in furthering the story and themes. It’s clearly essential, but it’s usually viewed as a secondary element unless you’re watching an overt musical. Baby Driver isn’t an overt musical; it’s a musical and a love story and a crime thriller and an homage all rolled up into one glorious package, and it doesn’t just utilize music as a complement to the story. In fact, music dictates everything from the editing to the acting to the directing, lingering in certain scenes and blasting in others. It’s the rock solid foundation of the entire film, and Wright uses different musical cues to set up the very structure of his plot. It’s a thoroughly engrossing relationship between song and screen, and from the exquisite opening sequence to the final shot, it plays out in a confident, exhilarating fashion.

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The Big Sick Review

16 Jun

This is a well made film with a big heart. It features a likable cast and crew doing what they do best. It’s a funny, touching, and deeply personal story that I’m very glad Kumail is sharing with us. And yet, there’s definitely something I missed that everyone else seemed to get. It’s certainly not the quality of the performances, as they’re excellent across the board and feature vets Ray Romano and Holly Hunter essentially carrying an entire half of the film. It’s certainly not the dialogue, as it’s frequently engaging and witty and even contains some brilliant dark jokes. It’s certainly not the messages of acceptance and love that are prominent in the story.

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