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The Layover Review

15 Sep

The only reason I spent a single penny on this movie was because William H. Macy and Alexandra Daddario were doing a Q&A. It was simultaneously the most pathetic Q&A I’ve ever seen and one of the best ones I will ever attend. Picture this: a large screening room, not even half full, at one of the very few theaters in the country that will be screening this critically panned, straight to VOD release. Add onto that the fact that goddamn William H. Macy directed it and showed up for this and that a conversation about Boogie Nights occurred. I’m so glad I went; the Q&A was intimate, fun, and loose, and the fact that there was no conceivable reason for it taking place made it even better. Plus, being in the same room as Alex Daddario consists of being assaulted by laser beams from her killer eyes, and talking to her will instantly liquefy your internal organs. “I love this broad!” was an actual quote from Macy early on during the Q&A. I relate.

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Marjorie Prime Review

1 Sep

An intriguing conceptual anchor dealing with the pliability and selectivity of memory, unfortunately reduced to listless conversations and underdeveloped characters. There’s an admirable attempt to build off of those themes via the unspooling of backstory against the backdrop of familial and generational dynamics, but there’s a clumsiness in the way it’s handled. Perhaps the translation from stage to film left some blanks that needed to be quickly filled, resulting in a weak script backing up a unique vision. Nevertheless, I came for Hamm and I left satisfied, and the film is at its best when it focuses on him and Marjorie (an excellent Lois Smith). There are two conversations that are decidedly not listless: the opening and closing scenes of the film, which mark the most interesting engagements with the subject matter. All around a solid production–Robbins and Davis deliver, and Williams as d.p. and Levi as composer are great choices–but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it strives for.

GRADE: B-

Logan Lucky Review

20 Aug

Nothing in this film is particularly remarkable or memorable in any way. It isn’t really meant to be. It’s a breezy affair from an experienced filmmaker, a fun heist film with relatively minimal conflict and broadly sketched stakes. That’s not to say the stakes aren’t there; they just don’t feel all too prominent. Soderbergh doesn’t quite give us enough to really flesh out his characters, but he manages to imbue them with just enough humanity to help them transcend caricature status. This results in some unexpectedly poignant scenes, mostly involving the relationship between Tatum’s character and his daughter. It additionally absolutely helps that the cast is great all around, with the standouts being Daniel Craig’s zany safecracker and Riley Keough’s stylishly steely hairdresser (seriously, when has this woman not been great? She is on a rise to stardom and I am lucky to witness it). This is also quite a funny film, and Soderbergh does a nice job with camera positioning and misdirection in order to mine visual humor from his scenes.

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Columbus Review

17 Aug

The best scene of Columbus is serene, yet dripping with emotion. It’s deeply passionate, a small slice of life that speaks volumes even though it’s as quiet as can be. I won’t give too much away here, but what sparks it is a question from one character to another about a building they’re standing in front of. It has to do with meaning, with personal connection, with finding something amidst the complicated assembling of inanimate objects. It has to do with your engagement with the world around you, and the value within that process is something that Kogonada certainly understands and connects to. That’s one of the more profound ideas that the film expresses, and it’s done so in a visually lyrical manner. Kogonada makes his human characters living, breathing elements of the architecture in the background, utilizing symmetry from both visual and character-based standpoints as Jin and Casey (Cho and Richardson, the latter of which is particularly incredible) wander through their environment.

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Orphan Black “To Right the Wrongs of Many” Review (5×10)

13 Aug

“I survived you. We survived you. Me and my sisters, together. This is evolution.”

I don’t have much to say about this finale. It’s not that I don’t want to say anything; it’s simply that there isn’t all that much to unpack. This is a crowd pleaser, a thoroughly satisfying series finale that dispatches of its villains in the first third of the episode so that it can focus on the themes that drove the series. The main one? Sisterhood, the bond that never broke through the trials and tribulations these people faced, the connective tissue that transcended mere biology. You could see it shine through in each and every episode, even if Clone Club wasn’t completely intact.
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Good Time Review

12 Aug

Give me the first twenty minutes of this film over and over again. Give me the frenetic pacing, the tight closeups and saturated colors from Sean Price Williams, the pounding, pulsating synths from Oneohtrix Point Never’s incredible score. Give me the palpable sense of desperation in the air, the mountains and valleys of hope and panic, the brief but powerful expressions of fraternal love that flow through the rapidly disintegrating situation. Give me Robert Pattinson’s brilliant performance, the way his character pushes on even as the weight of other lives fall onto his shoulders, the way he walks and holds himself throughout the film. All of the above work well in tandem. It’s an engrossing and memorable experience. It’s a well-oiled cacophony.

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Detroit Review

6 Aug

It’s easy to try to do too much with a historical film. As a filmmaker, you might feel the need to cast a wide net over the events in question, going down a laundry list of important events in an effort to do due diligence to history. I prefer the approach taken by Detroit, which zeroes in on the Algiers Motel and stays with it for over an hour. The film certainly provides context for the tensions that flare in that motel, opening the film with an excellent prologue that places you right in the heat of the Detroit riots. However, Bigelow’s concerns do not lie with the riots as a whole; rather, she and Boal are interested in how the backdrop of the riots feed into an event like the one at the Algiers Motel. The approach has some flaws, of course. Are there some meandering scenes with iffy dialogue? Yes. Are there moments a bit lacking in nuance? You bet. Does the character development sometimes fail to match up with the intense emotions we’re asked to feel for the characters? Sure. Are various perspectives omitted? Absolutely.

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