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‘BOOKSMART’ a Sincere (And Sincerely Funny) Ode to High School Ride or Dies 

In August of 2007, Superbad hit theaters and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I had graduated from high school three months earlier and though I’d never sat in a ride along with infantile po-po, or forced to sing karaoke to a room full of coke heads, the theme of life’s defining crossroads and their inevitable effect on friendship struck a nerve. Underneath the playful sheen of a raunchy teen comedy, Superbad spoke to the challenges of an unknowable future and the tectonic shifts that crackle in the multitudinous friendships you’ve curated over the years. A few days after Superbad, I left for college.  Read More

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SIFF ’19: Awkwafina Gets Serious in A24’s Cross-Cultural Drama ‘THE FAREWELL’

Ignorance is power in A24’s celebrated Sundance hit The Farewell. The film follows Awkwafina’s Chinese family who, scattered across the globe, assemble when news breaks of the family matriarch’s terminal cancer diagnosis. The skinny is no one has told said matriarch, the family cooking up a ruse to keep that treasured info from her in increasingly heartbreaking and comical ways. The film from Lulu Wang is a rare family film that genuinely speaks to the deep, historied, and complicated bonds that tie while remaining thematically viable and content appropriate for practically all ages. Wang’s is a deeply felt and emotionally sincere film that benefits from its serio-comic nature, if not one that left me entirely moved. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’19: Confident ‘BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON’ Is a Big Fat Crowdpleaser 

Jillian Bell is off to the races as an overweight and under-motivated millennial living in the Big Apple who decides to turn her life around through the transformative power of running. The seriocomic account of seizing power from dark instincts is laced with the ripe reality of self-destruction and lifted by the hopefulness of finding self-love. Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo structures the film as Brittany’s rom-com with herself and Bell, who packed on (and lost) quite a bit of weight for the role, is simply fantastic delivering a marathon of darkly-tinged comedy and uplifting pathos. (B) Read More

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 ’JOHN WICK 3 – PARABELLUM’ Is Like Dipping Your Eyes in Pop Rocks

When you buy your ticket for John Wick 3, prepare for war. The third (and evidently not final) installment in Keanu Reeves’ increasingly trendy no-fuss no-frills action franchise is an idyllic distillation of the draw of the series, amped up to the Nth degree, slurping down a snifter of brandy, armed with Schubert on vinyl, locked, stocked, loaded, ready to tango. There’s someone to kill around every corner, alongside a brain cell or two, if you fancy buying into all the bloody mayhem. The weapons are more plentiful, the armor is thicker, the violence is more violent. Hell, even the blood is bloodier. As the criminal underworld puts the titular invincible assassin squarely in its seemingly ubiquitous crosshairs, it’s John Wick versus the world. The odds are less than even.  Read More

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‘DETECTIVE PIKACHU’ Solves Mystery: Video Game Adaptations Still Not Great

Did you know that Pokémon is already the highest grossing media franchise of all time? At 90 billion dollars in total franchise revenue, its total haul triples that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, eclipsing the net worth of Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse & Friends, Mario, and the entire Disney Princess collection. To say it’s an international sensation is to put it mildly. After the recent resurgence of the pocket monsters in the form of the popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go, Pokémon fever has been at a new all-time high and for the first time in nearly 20 years, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu marks the long-awaited return of Pokémon, Pokémon trainers, and their pokéballs of steel to the big screen.   Read More

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Hammy Quaid Almost Makes Trashy Thriller ‘THE INTRUDER’ Worthwhile

Self-taught director Deon Taylor, who directed the embarrassing Mike Epps spoof movie Meet the Blacks, has a familiar way of staging a scene. That is to say, at the Christmas potluck that is Hollywood, he’s brought nothing new to the table. Despite modern trappings, this is a movie that feels trapped in the 90s, both in story and storytelling technique. From the totally awkward over-use of R&B music on the soundtrack to the sleek but rarely suspenseful camerawork, Taylor’s creation feels like a product released after its expiration date, but one that lives and dies by its unintentionally ironic and campy sense of uncool. Fittingly, The Intruder is the dad bod of psychosexual thrillers, past its prime and flailing for relevance, maintaining its rangy charm by sheer force of will. It’s the Dennis Quaid of movies.   Read More

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Politically Tinted ‘LONG SHOT’ a Rogen-Theron Rom-Com Hit

God bless Seth Rogen. The Canadian-born comedian and Freaks and Geeks alum has made a career playing lovably disheveled stoners, his public persona often aligning with the characters he plays, if reliably less successful. In Long Shot, Rogen’s third collaboration with director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before), Rogen steps into familiarly stoney, snarky shoes as a left-leaning journalist named Fred Flarsky who rekindles a relationship with his old babysitter Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is currently running for president. Read More

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‘TEEN SPIRIT’ Gives MTV Spin to Tale as Old as Time

In Max Minghella’s flashy debut Teen Spirit, Elle Fanning plays a modern-day immigrant dreaming of a greater existence. Blessed with a ripping set of pipes but stuck in the dead-end-ville that is the Isle of Wight, Fanning’s Violet is a Polack living in the far reaches of the UK who embarks down a well-trod rags-to-riches road, one that makes a point of name-checking iconic humble-beginnings-princess Cinderella. There is little novel that defines Violet’s underdog arc but Fanning’s magnetic turn and a sensitive approach to character development make this poppy toe-tapper an irresistible power ballad, if one you’ve definitely heard play on repeat since the advent of film. Read More

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Punishing ’THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA’ Will Make You Cry Tears of Boredom

The Curse of La Llorona is why people say they don’t like horror movies. In an age of Us, Hereditary, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, Raw, It Follows and so so many more outstanding horror movies, it’s why some still think they don’t like the genre. Why they falsely assume it’s inferior cinema. Sure, this particular movie isn’t retroactively responsible for the distaste of scary movie avoidant moviegoers en masse but this brand of slick, soulless sludge is. With nothing more than an anorexic concept held loosely together with poorly-telegraphed jump scares, children constantly screaming and countless scenes of creeping through creaking casas in the dark, The Curse of La Llorona is the laziest pedigree of studio horror fare, coasting on brand familiarity and age-old genre tropes to pass the minutes by with nothing in the way of inspiration to lift it up or differentiate it from the pack. Read More

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Well-Acted ‘LITTLE WOODS’ a Dour Scene of Poverty-Inflicted Desperation 

Little Woods is the kind of movie that makes you wonder about the backstory of writer-director Nia DaCosta (who is signed on to direct the Jordan Peele produced Candyman remake), who enriches the film with down-home specificity that it feels like much more than just a facsimile of authenticity. Her’s is the kind of movie that feels written from personal experience, that pulls from the specifics of a life harshly lived, that doesn’t wallow in its poverty porn setting, and though dour and depressing, never compromises its optimistic, full-spirited edge and push towards the light. It’s a neo-western in construction – the story of a good person doing a bad thing for good reasons, and DaCosta teases out the drive for self-preservation by any means by focusing on character first and foremost. Read More