An acquired taste for sure, Kyle Mooney made a name for himself being an ass. From checking into kickers inside So-Cal to playing a definitely-on-the-spectrum sports reporter who’s totally out of his league, Mooney has capitalized on mocking mainstream culture, championing a keen ability to satirize entire populations by being the very dumbest version of such. Mostly by making an ass of himself. So imagine my surprise when Mooney’s brainchild Brigsby Bear (written by and starring Mooney and directed by comedy collective Good Neighbor compatriot Dave McCary) is such an earnest and heartfelt affair, if a bit simple-minded, saccharine sweet and stubbornly sunny. Read More
Following a four year stint in “retirement”, American auteur Steven Soderbergh returns to the multiplexes with the kind of snappy, crowd-pleasing, whizzbang fare that throttled him from indie delight to box office superstar. Assembling a sublimely cast trio of Magic Mike (Channing Tatum), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Bond, James Bond (Daniel Craig) in a delightful supporting role, Logan Lucky, much like the film that rocketed Soderbergh to success (Ocean’s Eleven), rides on the back of its stars’ natural well of charisma as well as a pithy screenplay (courtesy of maybe pseudonym Rebecca Blunt) that constantly waffles between sly, chuckle-inducing commentary and witty narrative sleight of hand. Read More
No need to beat around the bush, Annabelle: Creation is both significantly better than the 2014 Annabelle, a fast-money gambit courtesy of hack director John R. Leonetii, and not nearly as good as The Conjuring (or the surprisingly still terrifyingThe Conjuring 2 for that matter). There’s very little that might qualify as new in this prequel to a prequel and, as should serve as no real surprise, the scares are limited to the “things go bump in the night” variety. Nothing really dares to linger beyond curtains, aside from the fleeting memory of a few well-timed startles here and there, but David Sandberg, director of last year’s somewhat undeservedly well-liked Lights Out, does a good enough job orchestrating familiar horror cliches into playful tension. Read More
Matthew Heineman has made a name for himself over the past few years hawking visceral documentaries in some of the world’s most harrowing war zones. In 2015, he brought Cartel Land to the screen, a story about drug smuggling and vigilantism that put the documentary filmmaker in the midst of fire fights and in the bellies of meth labs and torture chambers. He’s since set his sights on ISIS and a group called RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughter Silently), a guerrilla band of civilian journalists committed to exposing the horrors that have taken place since ISIS seized their hometown and made it into their de-facto capital. City of Ghosts follows the members of RBSS as they flee the omnipresent threat of ISIS, contend with the reality of their family’s being tortured and killed and still continue to do all they can to rally support against the terrorist organization dead set on dismantling everything they care about. Read More
Gillian Robespierre took the independent film world by storm in 2014 with her breakout hit Obvious Child. A story about millennial maturity told through an abortion comedy, Obvious Child‘s blatant irreverancy was all the rage, making her an overnight name in many in-the-know film appreciation circles. Robespierre’s follow-up, a 90s set comedy about a family dealing with two separate instances of infidelity, may not have accrued the same cult following, nor is it likely to pock as many end of year favorites lists, but the dramedy has tonal and directorial elements similar of a budding Noah Baumbach, who has since gone on to great acclaim. Read More
A visceral sensation from start to finish, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk delivers the experience that 3D has promised to for so many years. Immensely immersive, Dunkirk envelopes you in its perfectly orchestrated chaos from the very first moments, surrounding you with the sights and sounds of war-torn Dunkirk as soldiers scurry for safety, hugging you in a sickly embrace of unease while Hans Zimmers’ sublimely nerve-inducing score tears at your composure. Hypnotic in its ability to put you on edge and suck you headfirst into the screen, Nolan’s sure-to-be Oscar juggernaut forces you to scour every inch of the screen for danger and refuses to relent for but a moment. A layered triptych that integrates three disparate narratives, all working on their own timelines, Dunkirk is nothing short of a verifiable masterstroke of cinematic construction and the lauded director’s most artistic and impassioned vision yet. Read More
Perhaps the biggest breakout hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Michael Showalter‘s The Big Sick. The semi-true love story of star and writer Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, The Big Sick tells an unfamiliar courtship saga that involves, you guessed it, hospitalization and, you probably didn’t guess it, Pakistani 9/11 terrorist jokes. Uncommonly earnest and full of unique cultural perspectives, this slice-of-life dramedy fits perfectly into producer Judd Apatow‘s wheelhouse with the personal touches courtesy of Kumail and Emily’s true story keeps it from fresh and funny throughout. Read More
Best known for her depiction of April Ludgate on NBC’s hit sitcom Parks and Recreations, Aubrey Plaza has found a niche in the tv and Hollywood stratosphere as the perpetually awkward, alarmingly tongue-in-cheek millennial type. Quick with a jab and quicker with an eye roll, Plaza has flexed her thespian muscles lately playing Lenny Busker on FX’s standout superhero series Legion and her resume shows no signs of slowing. Her most recent venture, playing an irreverent nun in Jeff Baena‘s subversive slice of per-Renassiance feminism The Little Hours may see the star angling in familiar waters but the fit is perfect nonetheless.
Sam Elliot‘s baritone has taken on an almost mythic quality. Be it his narration of the Coen Bros cult hit The Big Lebowski or his iconic “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” ad campaign, everyone knows the distinction growl of the California native with a classic Southern Drawl. And we haven’t even brought up his iconic mustache yet. Of late, Elliot has undergone a twilight career resurrection, offering a number of standout performances in smart, sensitive independent drama, including his excellent co-star role in Paul Weitz’s Grandma, but perhaps none is more personal than his turn in Brett Haley‘s The Hero.
Tom Holland may be the third Spider-Man to crawl across our cineplexes in the last decade but, as a much younger version of Peter Parker than his predecessors, he and director Jon Watts have presented a new enough spin on an old classic. That’s not to say that everything that Watts and company do to give Spiderman: Homecoming a fresh coat of paint works but, for the most part, the freshly minted union between Marvel and Sony have produced an acceptable enough product, incorporating yet another super-powered hero into their increasingly unwieldy lineup and laying the groundwork for a solo series involving the fresh-faced webslinger. That being said, the sting of superhero fatigue is real and even when Watts and his spray of screenwriters (there’s a sinister six of them) avoid familiar Spider-Man tropes (the fated spider bite, the iconic “with great power comes great responsibly” lesson, Uncle Ben’s untimely demise), this is still a character we’ve seen onscreen a whopping 7 times in the last 15 years. That’s not to say that Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t a fun, splashy, perfectly acceptable mid-July popcorn spectacle, because it is just that. But is it really anything more than that? Not exactly.