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Toy Story 4 Review

22 Jun

It’s a good movie, though the justification for its existence and its connection to the larger Toy Story universe is tenuous at best. It struggles a bit with the Woody-Bo Peep romance, as well as with characters like Buzz, when it comes to building off of what we’ve seen in the series predecessors. On the new character side of things, it introduces interesting themes with Forky while simultaneously dropping them in favor of strange digressions and half-formed ideas. It’s oftentimes strange and repetitive, and it’s symptomatic of a series that is straining for ideas. There’s just too much going on and not enough weight behind most.

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Late Night Review

16 Jun

“Conventional,” or some equivalent, is the descriptor I’ve seen most commonly applied to this film. While that’s certainly not wrong from a comedic structure standpoint, there’s still an evident freshness in the perspective of the script – the comedic structure itself is then bolstered even as Kaling works within the genre’s boundaries. She makes it very clear what dynamics and issues she’s playing off of and what her priorities are, and there’s plenty of effective comedy that springs forth as a result. There are a number of threads that don’t wind up adding much to the film, but Thompson and Kaling are both wonderfully charming and bring so much energy to the film even in its weaker moments. Yeah it’s a mainstream crowdpleaser. It also has an undeniable point of view that I want to see more of.

GRADE: B+

Booksmart Review

1 Jun

There are several really beautiful threads in here, one involving Kaitlyn Dever’s Amy and her exploration of her sexuality. The film is so respectful and affirming of her complicated emotional journey, in a way that teen comedies oftentimes aren’t. The other thread is the bedrock of the film: Amy and Beanie Feldstein’s Molly and the unconditional love and support that bind the two together. Again, the film is so loving and affirming and so unabashedly in love with this friendship, and you really do feel every ecstatic high and painful low. Both actors are wonderful – Dever in particular has been on the “needs to become a star” list since Justified, and I’m glad it’s happening.

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Long Shot Review

10 May

Needs to be at least 20 minutes shorter and isn’t quite as political commentary-savvy as it would have you believe, but it for the most part manages to avoid the frat bro comedy that sank The Night Before (And let’s be honest, the premise here seems like an extension of that). But surprisingly, the story is decently interesting, the humor lands some fun punches, and Theron holds it all together with aplomb. She’s the star here and has the strongest hold on the comedy in the script. It’s a fun one.

GRADE: B

High Life Review

13 Apr

Very disappointing. Shoves the most interesting element of the story into the final 15-20 minutes, which is a shame because it fills the remaining time with nonsense of the highest caliber. After a decently compelling start, it descends into a haphazard bombardment of images that only have the pretense of saying anything about sexuality and imprisonment. The flashbacks are jarring, the dialogue is overly expository, and the entire project comes together in the most lifeless manner possible. Pattinson, one of the most exciting actors alive, is unable to do much with the material. Certain *shocking scenes* only pay lip service to the aforementioned themes but don’t actually interrogate then beyond intense surface level displeasure, this because it’s all too poorly constructed to lay the foundation for anything deeper (not that it needs to, but it sure is trying).

Denis is right when she says it isn’t sci fi, but it’s hardly anything else either.

GRADE: C+

Us Review

22 Mar

Certainly demonstrates (in case we didn’t already know) that Peele is an incredible directing talent with a unique vision and an irresistible energy. Technically, this film fires on all cylinders. The performances land a great mix of humor, intensity, and creepiness. The score is a stunner and ensures that even if the story has trouble resonating, the visceral experience remains steadfast. Many scenes are thoroughly effective at building tension, and there’s a chaotic energy to it that works.

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Review

3 Mar

It was always going to be a tough task to top the magical first installment, but this finale still manages to capture some of that wondrous, soaring energy that accompanies watching these dragons glide through the air. The best scenes in this film see Toothless and Light Fury engaging in a wordless dragon courtship, getting to know each other amidst the backdrop of Powell’s beautiful score and the dazzling visuals (once again, anything Deakins touches turns to gold). The ending is also really lovely. What stops this from being truly great is a one note villain and occasionally a lack of focus on the central relationships and characters. The Hidden World itself gets shortchanged in the process. Nevertheless, I have nothing but respect and admiration for this trilogy and the ways in which it stayed true to its characters and themes, carving out an unmistakable space for itself in a Pixar dominated world.

GRADE: B

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