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Vice Review

3 Jan

Obnoxious, condescending, and extremely messy, yet under all of that it’s still somehow quite watchable. I’m not sure if it’s due more to the eminently compelling real life story or to the charm in watching McKay swing for the fences (and miss more often than not, but still). As a biopic, the film, like many others, attempts to cover way too much ground in too little time, and there’s a huge disconnect between McKay’s know it all smugness and the reductive conclusions he makes throughout. As a piece of entertainment, though, there’s still a wild, unsubtle satirical energy to some of the scenes that renders the whole thing an amusing time at the theater. From the reactions you’d think that The Big Short was some sort of magnum opus relative to this, but the two films really are not too far apart. McKay’s still best when he does Anchorman though.

Also, Amy Adams deserves an Oscar or two, but probably not for this.

GRADE: B-

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Vox Lux Review

25 Dec

This is slick, provocative filmmaking that manages to avoid losing its positive qualities to pretension. The first half is a legitimately intriguing depiction of celebrity, violence, and trauma and the way all can become intertwined, and the second half simply just turns on the Natalie Portman jets and lets her go. Cassidy holds her own as well, anchoring that first half with just the right amount of vulnerability and complexity.

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Shoplifters Review

23 Dec

The central point about the definitional confines of family is hardly a new one, but the film succeeds because it is so clearly passionate about what matters most: the characters. The societal structures surrounding and confining the characters are certainly present, as they must be, but they are people first before they reflect anything about their society. There’s a delicate balance here throughout that imbues every single scene with both a sense of boundless humanity and helpless unease. You get to know these characters on an intimate level, but there are layers that you know are waiting to be unpeeled, whether for good or for bad. And when it all finally hits, it hits less like a crashing wave and more like a slow, crushing embrace.

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If Beale Street Could Talk Review

11 Dec

There’s no doubt that this is a beautifully crafted film. Britell’s score is the best of the year, Jenkins and Laxton bring a loving tenderness to each shot composition, and the performances bleed compassion and ache with love. But it’s also all a bit too controlled, a bit too removed, a bit too artistically perfect. Jenkins wants to highlight the simplicity of the central romance, but he doesn’t let the rest of the film breathe in the same way. By alternating between grandiose monologues from underused supporting characters and wordless closeups of our main characters, he begins to lose the pure magic of the latter. As the film progresses, it becomes less of a palpable feeling of romance and more a repetitive attempt to capture that feeling. Britell’s score, unfortunately, becomes a crutch in a way. The ending is unsatisfying, but not in a good manner. It feels like the filmmaking and the story are incomplete.

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Roma Review

12 Nov

There are things in this life that we keep steady despite all adversity. Friends, family, relationships, even one’s own pride and determination. Chaos can define the world around us, threatening to destabilize everything we know and love. But still, we persist. Something keeps us going.

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The Favourite Review

5 Nov

This film consists of half brilliant setup and half treading water. The setup is some of the most lively filmmaking of the year, with lines that zing off the page and an energy that crackles underneath the mounting tension. The three women at the center are all excellent, with Weisz in particular delivering a ferociously entertaining performance throughout.

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Boy Erased Review

1 Nov

This is an overly dramatized package of forced sentiments that ultimately have nothing to say beyond “conversion therapy is bad.” Edgerton directs this like he’s making a thriller at times, framing his conflicts along the most rudimentary lines and relying on music cues more so than on character development. It’s quite unfortunate that none of the relationships between Hedges’ character and the boys his age are fleshed out at all. Everyone around him is a plot point, not a character, and that’s most evident in a late film turn that just feels lazily manipulative.

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