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Entries in Reviews (682)

Friday
Mar222019

Review: Hotel Mumbai

by Jason Adams

What scares us -- the communal us -- shifts through time. The 70s gave us Vietnam allegories like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, while in the 80s Slasher Movies were all the rage as divorce numbers went up and women asserted their rights. Then there was so-called Torture Porn, which was all the rage while Bush & Cheney were throwing their waterboarding parties. So what now? It's hard not to see Grief as the theme of our current moment -- the great horror films of our age, films like The Babadook and Hereditary, are profound ruminations on a world that's already slipped through our fingers -- a madness so close its breath is hot on your throat, and a knowledge that its our own failures, our own shortcomings, that brought this all down upon us.

Hotel Mumbai is technically not a horror movie (look to Jordan Peele's Us, which Chris just reviewed, for this weekend's official entry in that genre) but it sure operates like one...

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Thursday
Mar212019

Review: "Us"

by Chris Feil

With his Academy Award winning debut feature Get Out, Jordan Peele distilled an expansive theme into one formidable package. His follow-up Us - a film as giddy to scare us as the kind of carnival house of horrors that its young Adelaide wanders into in the film’s opening moments - does the exact opposite. Here Peele builds upon a single idea, one that doesn’t come into its clearest view until the final moments. Whether Peele is asking us to look inward or look outward, he has shown to be one of the sharpest modern storytellers when it comes to exploring an expanse of intertwined psychosocial ideas.

After her brief ominous prologue, we are reintroduced to the adult Adelaide Wilson, played by the immediately knighted scream queen Lupita Nyong’o. Adelaide is beginning a summer vacation with her husband Gabe and two children, Zora and Jason, but she is seemingly ever at ease. After returning to the beach of her unspoken trauma brings her lingering paranoia to the surface, her family is visited upon by a doppelgänger one. And each of these uninvited guests has brought a very large pair of scissors.

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Monday
Mar112019

SXSW: Jordan Peele has another winner with "Us"

Guest contributor Tony Ruggio reporting from SXSW

Between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five years-old I witnessed what they would call the 11:11 “phenomenon.” Essentially, I saw a three or four-number combination of 1 in all walks of life. I saw it on television, often the last four of a Crash Bandicoot lawyer’s telephone number. I saw it during lunch time, the split-second moment a microwave hit that magic number. Most of all, I saw it on a clock, at least once a day every day. The paranoid and pretty rad among us consider this phenomenon many things: good luck, a sign from God, a glitch in the Matrix, a pang of the end times, or even a calling to those chosen to effect change and save the world from itself. Jordan Peele must have been a “witness” himself or simply heard about it and did his research, because Us is littered with references to this numeral phenomenon and the conspiracy theories that have sprung of it. More traditional horror than Get Out, and a better film too, Us gets hung up on making a big statement, but ends up making a great horror film regardless.

This might be sacrilegious to those already devoted to Peele: Get Out is a good film, one whose merits lay more in writing than in directing. Silly folks label it a thriller, denying it “horror” status. Even if you grant that Get Out was not a horror film in concept, it's definitely a horror film in execution. Therefore, I knocked it at the time for not being scary enough. With Us, Peele is firing on all scary-movie cylinders, and doing so with a wider array of tools at his disposal, chief of all his confidence...

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Monday
Mar112019

SXSW: Shia Labeouf in "Peanut Butter Falcon"

Welcome guest contributor Tony Ruggio, reporting from SXSW...

Co-director Tyler Nilsen and Shia Labeouf on the set of "The Peanut Butter Falcon"

In a three hour festival line with five-hundred people you talk to them, you hear things. One thing I heard in a line for Jordan Peele's Us, and it’s a common refrain, is that “Shia Labeouf sucks.” Whether a product of Mutt hate out of Indy 4 or his own bad behavior, people think of the former Disney Channel star as a bad actor. They still see the Mouse House, Michael Bay, and Big Berg’s disappointment. Over the past several years he’s worked tirelessly to change that, starring in indie after indie in pursuit of artistic integrity. The Peanut Butter Falcon is the latest in said renaissance...

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Sunday
Mar102019

SXSW Review: "The Wall of Mexico" 

Abe Fried-Tanzer reporting from the SXSW Festival in Austin Texas

Of the many responses to Donald Trump that have come from the film community, nothing seems more overt a reference at the current moment than a film titled The Wall of Mexico. Yet our president doesn’t figure into the movie at all, and he’s not even referenced, explicitly or vaguely. Instead, the tables are turned and the wall referenced actually serves to protect a Mexican-American family from the uneducated Americans around them...

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Sunday
Mar102019

Review: 3 Faces

by Murtada Elfadl

In 3 Faces, the latest from Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Taxi) we are plunged right into the story as images of a young woman on a smart phone talking directly to the camera. She is announcing that her life's in jeopardy because her parents have  forbidden her from realizing her dream of acting. She then seemingly kills herself. For the next 90 minutes we follow the recipient of this message, Behnaz Jafari playing herself, a renowned Iranian actress and Panahi himself as they travel to a tiny village near the Turkish border to investigate.

There’s a mystery to solve. What happened to the young woman (Marziyeh Rezaei)? But also a deeper moral mystery; who are the inhabitants of her tiny village? Are they as nice and welcoming as they seem at first blush when Jafari and Panahi meet them? Deeper still is the moral quandary of a society that could drive a woman to take her own life just because she wanted to be actress...

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Saturday
Mar022019

Better Things Season 3: Back and Better Than Ever 

By Spencer Coile 

Better Things being renewed for a third season was the miracle we all deserved. Since co-creator/ executive producer Louis C.K. was fired, any worries about the series maintaining its high-wire act of cynical humor and raw emotion should be put to rest. Where the magic of Better Things laid all along was is in its leading lady's craftsmanship. Writing, directing, and playing single mother and working actress Sam, Pamela Adlon is a 2019 force to be reckoned with. 

Better Things has arrived in the wake of a highly contentious Oscar season, and it could not have come back at a better time. Built into every moment is a snapshot (sometimes literal) of the mundane, almost thoughtless acts we so often take for granted. Adlon has rendered these minuscule details into something finely tuned and deeply felt...

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