Tag Archives: columns

Movie Review: All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)

All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)

Premise: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.

A call to action against voter suppression in the lead up to this year’s divisive and objectively bizarre presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy aims to educate and inspire. In its approach, the documentary makes its point clearly and thoroughly as it informs its viewers of both the history and the modern practices of voter suppression in the United States. Backed by data, archival footage, and filled with vibrantly animated visual aids, All In gives the viewer the knowledge needed for its call to action to fight voter suppression while also being eye-opening to the rampant practices occurring today.

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Ben’s Column: Tenet (2020) – Non-Spoiler Review

Tenet (2020)

Premise: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Tenet feels like the kind of movie Christopher Nolan has been building towards from the beginning of his career – at least on a surface level. It’s easy to spot some of the elements he’s pulling from, elements that have helped to define his aesthetic as a filmmaker: you of course have the incredible mind-bending visuals like in Inception and Interstellar, the action sequences from the Batman trilogy, the third act reveal from The Prestige, the perplexing chronology of events like in Memento and Dunkirk, and the complicated romantic entanglements of The Dark Knight, to name a few. Typically when a filmmaker cribs the best of himself to be put into one film, the result is an unbridled success, but Tenet just can’t make all of its puzzle pieces into an enlightening picture. Continue reading

Movie Review: Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Premise: To save her small law firm, earnest lawyer Susan takes a high-paying case from Nick, a charming new client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees love. But as the case heats up, so do Susan and Nick’s feelings for each other.

The romantic comedy phase of Netflix’s plans for world domination continues with the release of Love, Guaranteed, a legal backdropped meet-cute between hard working lawyer Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) and serial dater/client Nick (Damon Wayans Jr). The movie is about as formulaic as they come in the romcom genre. Sparks fly between two unlikely people, they experience a hardship, they each confide in eccentric supporting characters, and well, you know the rest. However, that’s not to say Love, Guaranteed is all that bad. On the contrary, it’s a pleasantly sweet distraction from the world and thankfully doesn’t demand much commitment from the viewer. Though it misses a couple of swings along the way, it still delivers that feel-good warmth that is at the very heart of the romantic comedy genre.

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Movie Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

Premise: Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an ambitious feat of surreal relationship deconstruction from writer/director Charlie Kaufman. Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel, the film introduces us to a Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) and Jake (Jesse Plemons), her boyfriend of a month (or 6 weeks, maybe 7). As the new couple embarks on their first trip in the dead of winter, the Young Woman contemplates the doubts she has about the relationship. However, things quickly turn strange in unexpected and inexplicable ways as the very fabric of the Young Woman’s reality soon begins to unravel.

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Movie Review: Son of Kong (1933)

Son of Kong (1933)

Premise: The men who captured the giant ape King Kong return to Skull Island and find his likewise gigantic but far more friendly son.

A month has passed since Kong wreaked havoc on New York City, causing severe structural damage, loss of life, and untold mental anguish. In the wake of that death and destruction Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the adventurer and filmmaker who brought Kong to the Big Apple, is having a rough time. The media is hounding him, he’s facing nearly a dozen lawsuits, and a pending indictment by a grand jury. Worst of all, he’s broke! He has some slight remorse, but it’s nothing compared to the anguish of his empty pockets.

So begins Son of Kong. Continue reading

Movie Review: Tesla (2020)

Tesla (2020)

Premise: A freewheeling take on visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light.

Tesla doesn’t seem to know what kind of biopic it wants to be. On one hand, it attempts the recent trend of having a character break the 4th wall to infuse cheap modern humor into an otherwise stuffy narrative. And on the other hand, well, it’s a stuffy narrative about the trials of tribulations of Nikola Tesla. Unfortunately, the film is a dud on both of those fronts. It leaves its audience with a dull, lifeless recounting of Tesla’s life that doesn’t seem too concerned about or focused on much of its subject. Meanwhile, the humor feels forced and falls flat every time.

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Movie Review: King Kong (1933)

King Kong (1933)

Premise: A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.

There’s no doubt that the eponymous Kong’s rampage through New York City at the end of the classic 1933 film King Kong is iconic. For a movie that’s almost 90 years old, the effects in King Kong hold up surprisingly well. Sure, they look dated and the stop motion work is a bit awkward, but the scope and scale of the movie itself is still breathtaking even today. Continue reading

IFF2020: Movie Review – Climate of the Hunter (2019)

Climate of the Hunter (2019)

  • Director: Mickey Reece
  • Screenwriters: Mickey Reece, John Selvidge
  • Producer: Jacob Snovel
  • Cast: Mary Buss, Ginger Gilmartin, Ben Hall, Laurie Cummings

Premise: Two sisters, Alma and Elizabeth, are enjoying a stay at their own family cabin, eagerly anticipating the arrival of a man from their past, Wesley. It is rumored that Wesley’s wife, Genevieve, has ended up incapacitated in a mental institution, rendering Wesley, to some extent, a new bachelor. Through the time spent together, Alma begins to suspect Wesley may be a vampire, though she also suffers from mental health issues. Elizabeth is aware of Alma’s deteriorating condition but has her own demons to face in this gothic, psychological drama.

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Movie Review: Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films (Bonus)

Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

Premise: A 400-foot (122-meter) dinosaur-like beast, awoken from undersea hibernation off the Japanese coast by atomic-bomb testing, attacks Tokyo.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes all the nuance out of Godzilla (1954) and throws in Raymond Burr’s awkward and stilted as all hell Steve Martin character. It’s maybe a little reductive to say this version of the original film is completely unnecessary. But it’s true. King of the Monsters feels so ridiculously hollow and dry  that it makes it very difficult not to view it as an affront to the 1954 original. It relies on Burr’s character narrating the story to us in order to make it at least appear to have some cohesion. But in the end it just feels like a dry voice performance recapping the original movie for US audiences.
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IFF2020: Movie Review – Hum (2020)

HUM (2020)

  • Director: Henry Johnston
  • Screenwriter: Henry Johnston
  • Producer: Caleb Haydock
  • Cast: Tyler Ross, Sonaz Izadi, Andrew Oliveri, Bradley Grant Smith, Sierra Miller, Peter DeFaria
  • Cinematographer: Allen Chodakowski

Premise: Two years ago, a Chest appeared in the woods. It could not be moved. It could not be opened. Its contents were unknown. The Dead began to appear within the week. Today, David Parker, a police trainee, is tasked with guarding the Chest. For the first time since its arrival, the Chest has opened.

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IFF2020: Movie Review – The Last Christmas Party (2020)

The Last Christmas Party (2020)

  • Director: Julian Santos
  • Screenwriters: Kevin Nittolo, Julian Santos
  • Producers: Troy Enoka, Scottie Schwefel
  • Cast: Samantha Brooks, Anna Clare Kerr, Lainey Woo, James Williams, Martin Drop, Gabriel Armentano

Premise: THE LAST CHRISTMAS PARTY is a bittersweet holiday movie about the highs and lows of romance in college. The movie is told in nonlinear order and replays the same party from the perspective of three different couples. With its ensemble of characters, the movie paints a naturalistic depiction of young people in New York City, free from the usual nostalgia and cliches.

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Movie Review: Godzilla Raids Again (1955) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 2

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Premise: Godzilla battles an irradiated Ankylosaur and destroys Osaka in the process.

Released just six months after 1954’s original Godzilla film, Godzilla Raids Again is not nearly as well-executed and nuanced as its predecessor. However, there is a lot of fun to be had in this movie and, in at least one case, it actually eclipses the original.
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Movie Review: Project Power (2020)

Project Power (2020)

Premise: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

Netflix’s Project Power gives summer 2020 movie audiences a much needed infusion of blockbuster entertainment and superpowered action. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, and Dominique Fishback make up a strong triumvirate in a story that’s exciting and filled with varied big-budget set pieces. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman create impressive action sequences and Mattson Tomlin’s script provides an engaging plot with sympathetic yet flawed characters, despite some missteps along the way.

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Movie Review: Sputnik (2020)

Sputnik (2020)

Premise: The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone-hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature.

Sputnik, the new Russian sci-fi horror film from IFC Midnight directed by Egor Abramenko, infuses elements of creature and body horror with the humanity of a compassionate protagonist. At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, psychologist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is brought to a secluded research facility to analyze the bizarre case of a cosmonaut who returned to Earth with a parasitic entity in him. Charged with having to figure out a way to separate the entity from the host, Tatyana finds her conviction not to harm others being tested as the morals of those assisting in the institute are slowly called into question.

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Movie Review: Boys State (2020)

Boys State (2020)

Premise: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

In a sense, Boys State acts as a document of the political climate of today. It shows the passion and fervor of those who seek elected office while also showcasing the lengths to which people will go to win; whether it’s in the name of their political party or if they are seeking office for themselves. The fact that this depiction of our democracy is filtered through the perspective of 17 year old boys creating a mock government over the course of a week gives Boys State a prescient energy. Seeing the potential next generation of politicians navigate an ultra conservative group and play to the whims of the general populace helps peel back the curtain on the democratic process while also exposing the less savory aspects of the political machine.

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