Archive | December, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

31 Dec

I have a fundamental problem with the very existence of these new Star Wars films. I simply don’t trust anyone to do right by this franchise…not in this day and age, not during a time defined by generic reboots and sequels, not during a time when nostalgia is nothing but a commodity repackaged into profit-guzzling machines. Maybe that’s cynical or unfair of me, but make no mistake: the three new films I’ve seen are decidedly not the Star Wars films I grew up with and loved (and I’ll even defend the prequels to the day I die). There’s a spark missing, a certain burst of originality and passion that’s sorely needed. Tell me: why haven’t we even seen a memorable lightsaber-on-lightsaber battle in three whole films? I’m not talking about Rey and Kylo Ren in a forest; I’m talking about Darth Maul’s double-sided lightsaber, or General Grievous’ four lightsabers, or Luke vs. Vader Round 1, or Luke vs. Vader Round 2, or Obi-wan vs. Anakin on a goddamn lava field. I’m talking about the visual thrill of cinema’s most iconic weapon. Where’s that magic?

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The Top 30 Albums of 2017

29 Dec

Welcome back for another round of year end lists. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a bunch of television, film, and music lists. Hope you agree, disagree, and learn about new things.

Rules: EPs allowed, soundtracks not allowed, album has to be released in 2017 and entirely made up of new material (so no Sufjan, Beach House, Conor Oberst, Radiohead, etc. even though any new songs are eligible for the songs list)

30. The xx, “I See You”

29. Zola Jesus, “Okovi”

28. Vagabon, “Infinite Worlds”

27. Alex Cameron, “Forced Witness”

26. Jay-Z, “4:44”

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Phantom Thread Review

25 Dec

Every square inch of this film is meticulously constructed to such an extent that you’re just waiting for something to disrupt it. At times, it’s somehow dull and beautiful in equal measure, probably because each tiny, repetitive movement is shrouded in mystery but is simultaneously dangling at some type of palpable precipice. The bare-bones setup allows Anderson to slowly but surely tinker with expectations, playing with what these characters perceive to be well established as he works in and out of gothic romance, dark comedy, and impassioned drama. There are moments that linger too long and moments–especially regarding the relationship dynamics–that could use more gestation, but Anderson ultimately nails the atmosphere because he provides you just enough insight into the characters’ relationships to their environment. It’s like a psychoanalytical art project with the precision of a master chef. Jonny Greenwood’s score is haunting, evocative, an integral aspect of the mood and its own storyteller. It might just be the score of 2017.

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All the Money in the World Review

22 Dec

Unfortunately both stagnant as a thriller and underdeveloped as a drama. The premise is decently promising, with an interesting story somewhere to be told about the influence of power and money on not only the decisions made by the rich, but also on the presentation of that influence in the public eye. The problem here is that any supposed deconstruction of J. Paul Getty is missing for the most part, resulting in the film continually hitting the same character note (i.e. he’s super possessive of his money) in the hopes of building tension. When the film does attempt to go for more, it doesn’t have the needed impact. It’s evident that Getty is supposed to be seen here as an enigmatic recluse of sorts, but the film absolutely needs the dynamic between Williams’ Gail and Plummer’s Getty to be fleshed out in order for the kidnapping plot to be engaging. Instead, the two are kept at a distance throughout, with each interaction feeling cursory rather than urgent while Bland Master Mark Wahlberg waltzes around with plenty of screen time. The film also spends a considerable amount of time from the kidnapped son’s perspective, which isn’t inherently problematic aside from the fact that it relies heavily on a “sympathetic kidnapper” trope that isn’t really developed either. So, what we’re left with are several disparate storylines and characters that should in theory smoothly feed into each other, but in reality create a stilted, lazy narrative. Williams and Plummer are solid, but this is overall a lot of wasted potential.


The Greatest Showman Review

20 Dec

…sure, why not?

Let’s get the bad out of the way first:

1) P.T. Barnum was a loathsome human being and the way the film celebrates and rewrites what he did is contemptible.

2) The story is pretty weak. There’s nothing wrong with a simple story, but a lot of the developments here feel inorganic. The film aggressively pushes an Efron-Zendaya romance right off the bat, but it never really coalesces into anything compelling.

3) The last act in particular features a flurry of plot points that occur at a hilariously rapid pace and are thus utterly nonsensical in terms of logical, meaningful story progression and development.

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Molly’s Game Review

14 Dec

Molly’s Game works as well as it does due to the sheer vitality of Jessica Chastain’s performance. As an actor, she isn’t the most overt emoter, and she doesn’t need to be. She manages to draw an incredible amount of empathy out of her characters, always in control but willing to let the cracks in the armor show. She is one of the most remarkably restrained, yet emotionally potent, actors in Hollywood. She excels at taking these strong, resolute women through hell and back, coming out stronger and more complex while being very aware of the gender dynamics of her characters. Molly Bloom is by necessity steely and crafty, but she is also a human being in a world that oftentimes has no regard for humanity. As Bloom, Chastain is a scorching force of nature. It’s easy to praise her more dramatic moments later in the film, but watch her every move during her initial rise to power. You want to root for Molly as she begins to learn, as she faces disrespect from her boss, as she gains more and more confidence.

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