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SIFF ’19: Deadpan ‘THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE’ Brilliantly Sharpens Riley Stearn’s Dark Wit

Fight Club by way of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), Riley Stearns’ screed on “might is right” toxic masculinity is a giggly black comedy that cowers down a twisty-turny rabbit hole. Jesse Eisenberg plays a neurotic weakling (shocker) who gets mugged and turns to karate to boast his manliness and self-confidence via the transformative power of foot punches and heavy metal. Importing the welcome strangeness of producers David and Nathan Zellner (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter), The Art of Self-Defense is hysterically dark, niche cinema, a deadpan mockery of the sanctity of life and the sacredness of death. It kicks ass. (A-) Read More

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The Steep Price of Legacy in ‘THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT’

Commerce is a wheel beneath which much is crushed. And once that wheel is in motion, there is no stopping it. Not for epistemological discourse. Not for environmental factors. Not even for late-stage stomach cancer. In Kim Nguyen’s unorthodox The Hummingbird Project, there simply ain’t no mountain high enough, no river wide enough to keep the Zaleski cousins from installing a direct line of high-speed fiber cable from New York City to Kansas. The wheels of commerce roll on and they intend to be its primary highway.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘CAFE SOCIETY’

Woody Allen can’t get the cross-contemporary relationship off his mind. He’s obsessed with it. Fascinated by it. He strokes it like Gollum does his precious. He stokes the fires of inter-generational relations year after year after year. As if he’s constantly reworking and reframing his own internal logic. Grooming his Dylan Farrow defense and justifying his Soon-Yi marriage. The latest in Woody’s old man dates young woman romantic comedies is Café Society, a venture into the lifestyles of the rich and the famous that can be as hollow and pretty as the doe-eyed starlets and pocket-squared producers littering the Hollywood Hills. Read More

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Out in Theaters: AMERICAN ULTRA

Everybody knows that smoking weed can make you paranoid. And anybody who’s spent much time in Cannabis Culture probably knows that guy, who spends too much time getting high, drawing weird comics and spouting weird theories. But what if those weird, paranoid theories turned out to be true? This is the premise around which Nima Nourizadeh‘s unlikely new stoner/action/comedy/romance American Ultra is built, and ultimately succeeds. Read More

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Out in Theaters: THE END OF THE TOUR

*This is a reprint of our 2015 Sundance review*

To put a pin in the beauty of The End of the Tour is a philosophical venture potentially as challenging as James Ponsoldt‘s latest accomplishment. Detailing a three-day exchange between Rolling Stones journalist David Lipsky and rock star author David Foster Wallace, Ponsoldt’s film is talky and emotionally whirling, thick with dry-mouthed moments and cemented with a kind of human earnestness that cannot be bought or bartered for. Read More

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Sundance Review: THE END OF THE TOUR

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To put a pin in the beauty of The End of the Tour is a philosophical venture potentially as challenging as James Ponsoldt‘s latest accomplishment. Detailing a three-day exchange between Rolling Stones journalist David Lipsky and rock star author David Foster Wallace, Ponsoldt’s film is talky and emotionally whirling, thick with dry-mouthed moments and cemented with a kind of human earnestness that cannot be bought or bartered for. Read More