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First Man Review

6 Sep

This year’s Dunkirk in that cold, monotonous filmmaking gets praised for its restraint and minimalism when in reality it just has no idea how to translate a compelling real life story. You can sense the push and pull between Chazelle and Singer throughout. The former is clearly straining for some semblance of wonder and artistry, some approach that will transcend the realm of the biopic and unite the film under a grand yet grounded emotional tapestry; unfortunately, with the exception of a scene at the end, this just mostly results in a bunch of perfunctory navel gazing that will undoubtedly be compared to Malick. Meanwhile, Singer is perfectly content with working squarely in the realm of a generic, Point A to Point B type of story, which results in an awkward clash that never provides the film any sort of momentum.

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Crazy Rich Asians Review

29 Aug

A good chunk of this is nothing more than a mediocre rom com, which is great because we need Asian American-centric mediocre rom coms. The film is way too long and for the most part amounts to watching rich people party, oftentimes at the expense of actual story. It’s great if that’s your thing, but the issue is that key character dynamics don’t truly take root until a significant portion into the film. Take Gemma Chan’s Astrid, for instance, whose own relationship issues and friendship with Constance Wu’s Rachel might feel organic and substantial if given more time to breathe. The implications of the twist in the third act also need much more time to be explored. The dialogue additionally sometimes leaves something to be desired, and some characters are just irritating and pointless.

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BlacKkKlansman Review

11 Aug

It seems counterintuitive in theory to call a Spike Lee film about the KKK lifeless, noncommittal, and disappointingly safe, but that’s exactly what it is. Lee has managed to create an easily digestible film out of incredibly thought provoking subject matter, ultimately playing very well to a white liberal crowd because it exercises just enough—if not too much—restraint in order to not offend anyone. And by restraint I mean distance, because it very rarely challenges the audience and instead hovers around the edges of race instead of truly engaging with it.

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Searching Review

8 Aug

A surprisingly engrossing thriller with a simple yet effective emotional backbone. The opening sequence is a beautiful knockout of a short film on its own, capturing exposition with a certain depth and heart not often seen in films like this. Yes, the beats don’t always hit throughout and the momentum sometime stalls, but the important part is that Cho manages to sell that emotional through line at an impressive rate. And somehow, Chaganty and his editors—Nick Johnson and Will Merrick—manage to make a story told primarily through FaceTime resonate on a viscerally thrilling level.

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Blindspotting Review

3 Aug

This is bold filmmaking that bites off a bit more than it can chew, but I’ll take that any day over a failure to engage with the subject matter. The subject matter in this case is Oakland, Oakland in all its gleeful highs and terrifying lows. Diggs and Casal take a culture first rather than issue first approach to the script, letting hot button topics like police brutality and gentrification serve as sobering truths of everyday life rather than as the frameworks of the story.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review

3 Aug

The plot is predictable, the characters are basic, and the moral dilemmas tackled are pretty standard fare. I hesitate to call this some type of monumental achievement, but it is one of those rare breeds that manages to find a lot of its emotional resonance through the artistry of its craft. It commits to its action with skill, enthusiasm, and just the right amount of ludicrous, embracing all of the most basic elements of its genre and ramping them up to the extreme. Each set piece is so viscerally thrilling and exhilarating that every punch and gun shot feels in tune with the drama of the story. It makes you want these characters to succeed and get out of it alive and save the world, even though you know they will.

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Eighth Grade Review

23 Jul

Eighth grade can be an insecurity-infested hellhole, an important transitional period that manages to feel both pointless and confusing. In art, it’s a time period ripe for ridicule and nostalgia in equal measure, but the film is better off because Burnham chooses neither route. He’s a guy bursting with things to say, but grounded by the knowledge that none of us need to give a shit about anything he says.

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