‘The Kid Detective’ Review – TIFF 2020

There comes a point in many people’s lives when they realize they’re not going to live up to their past potential. Whatever bright promise they once showed grows dim in the recesses of time, and the gradual steps toward the mediocrity and bitter acceptance of a middling adulthood come heavily. This is not autobiographical; I had little-to-no potential growing up, and I’m certainly not living up to it now! But it’s the tortured and tormented existence of Abe Applebaum, the former child protigee-turned-sad-sack protagonist of writer-director Evan Morgan’s dark noir dramedy The Kid Detective, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month before making its unexpected theatrical release (at least, for me) this weekend.

Read More

‘I Am Greta’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

By now, you’re likely familiar with Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist who’s drummed up heaps of international press over her ongoing efforts to bring serious awareness to the increasing dangers of climate change, global warming, and the depletion of our global resources. It’s a problem impacting all of us, young and old. In fact, it’s the youth in particular who will need to live with the consequences of their elders if we don’t do something to prevent the aching calls of distress from our dying planet. It’s been noted several times by now that we’re currently at the brink of irreversible damage, and if something isn’t done imminently, we’ll suffer greatly from the extreme consequences of our inaction.

Read More

‘Apples’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

Apples, the feature directorial debut of Christos Nikou, isn’t a horror film, though it does grapple with something that’s terrifying to think about. In the midst of a nationwide pandemic, where people instantly and inexplicably suffer from acute cases of severe amnesia, Number 14842, a.k.a. Aris (Aris Servetalis), is the latest patient who winds up in the Disturbed Memory Department, a mental rehabilitation center for people who cannot remember their identities, their past, their loved ones, or where they live.

Read More

‘Good Joe Bell’ Review – TIFF 2020

I want to believe that most movies are made with good intentions. I have a hard time believing that a group of people would spend a year (or more) of their time working on something for shallow or potentially even cynical reasons. Yes, we live in a very cynical world, as Jerry Maguire once said. I understand that people are not always driven by pure desires and good deeds. But when it comes to art, especially art that is meant to be as emotionally engrossing as Good Joe Bell, the newest film from director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), I would believe — or, at least, hope — that the motivations behind this project were noble and good, as its dutiful title would suggest. Nevertheless, movies don’t give out prizes for good intentions.

Read More

‘The Water Man’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

In theory, there’s something quite lovely about David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, The Water Man. It’s a celebration of the power of storytelling and the ways in which we can use our imaginations to understand the intricacies of our realities. The execution is completely earnest and sometimes charming, particularly with a strong lead performance from newcomer Lonnie Chavis. The storybook quality, while not especially novel, certainly makes it an accessible film for young audiences, even when it deals with heavy subject matter. Despite its warm presentation, likable sincerity, and all its good intentions, there’s also a cold irony to how familiar and rudimentary it can be in its narrative structure.

Read More

‘Falling’ Movie Review – TIFF 2020

Viggo Mortensen makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with Falling, a heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) family drama in which Mortensen also stars as John, a mild-mannered pilot who takes a week off from work in order to spend time with his critical, outspoken, set-in-his-ways father (Lance Henriksen), a brittle senior who is never afraid to yell, demean, and belittle anyone and everyone around him. John and his family, including his husband (Terry Chen), his adopted daughter (Gabby Velis), and his sister (Laura Linney), all try their best to put up with the old man’s endless torments. After all, it’s not looking good for his future. He’s a relic of the past who haunts his family — even as he’s still among the living (if only for so long). His disgruntled children do everything they can to keep their decades-spanning feelings of anguish, remorse, and frustration toward their father to themselves, but Mortensen’s moody movie is unafraid to turn up the dial until it’s almost unbearable for anyone (them or us) to want to spend even a minute longer in this man’s narrow-minded company.

Read More

‘Enemies Of The State’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

Enemies of the State, from director Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird), doesn’t need to do too much to make audiences feel an unnerving sense of dread over the dangers of government surveillance in our current technological era. We, the people, are growing ever more aware of the uncovered truths in an age of Wikileaks and other online methods of taking off masks and discovering previously undisclosed secrets. But ironically enough, in an age where information can often be at the click of the button, what is actually true and what is being constructed by our government can become foggy in an age of post-truth and “fake news.” Are we sometimes too quick to assume what is true and what is fabricated? Are government figures merely looking out for their own interests, or do they have more specific agendas? At a time where we know more about the activities of the U.S. government than ever, we might have even more questions than ever regarding their activities and what they seek to find in American homes.

Read More

‘Holler’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

When I started Holler, the first feature film written and directed by Nicole Riegel and based on her short film of the same name, I had this ringing feeling. Its sense of place, warm authenticity, and bittersweet emotional core were all burning bright just as this homey small-town indie began. Aided by a bristling, genuine lead performance from Jessica Barden (The Lobster, The End of the F****** World), I was already feeling energized and enthusiastic about the wondrous possibility that I might be watching one of the finest debuts of this year’s highly unorthodox Toronto International Film Festival.

Read More

‘The Personal History Of David Copperfield’ is a Fun, but Flimsy, Dickens Adaptation

I’ll never claim to be a great source of knowledge when it comes to the works of Charles Dickens. My familiarity with his words derive through other sources, mainly various adaptations of varying faithfulness or stylistic-to-bombastic re-imaginings of his material that may or may not honor the “spirit” of his original scribbles. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether or not The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fitting adaptation, nor if it properly honors Dickens’ long-standing legacy and cultural relevance. But here’s what I can tell you.

Read More

Jon Stewart’s ‘Irresistible’ is Inherently Flawed, but it Shouldn’t be Rejected

When it was announced that Jon Stewart would return with his sophomore feature film, since titled Irresistible, it made sense that folks assumed it would be the scathing satire that would criticize and bring damnation to the hotheaded personalities who take rotating chairs in the Big House. But Stewart’s new movie, his first directorial effort since 2014’s overlooked Rosewater, may not be what some folks expect. Indeed, this is not a takedown of the narcissistic, hypocritical right. Stewart isn’t here to put some right-leaning personalities into their place.

Read More

This 4th Of July Weekend, Discover ‘The History Project’

The children are our future. So how do they perceive our past? In the documentary, The History Project, producers Daniel Ahrens and Jason Flood compiled a collection of video projects from both middle schoolers and high schoolers depicting the events that shaped our nation’s history. The result is an amusing, revealing, often bizarre and surprisingly touching […]

Read More

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum’ Review – Consider Me a Renewed Fan of the Series

In my view, 2014’s John Wick is the ultimate Redbox movie. On the surface, it looks like your typical, generic B-movie action thriller. It features a recognizable actor who was out of the limelight at the time, and to some, past his prime. In this case, that actor was Keanu Reeves, and this revenge tale looked like any other generic action romp, the likes of which you typically find crowded in those recognizable movie machines outside of Wal-Mart.

Read More

‘Long Shot’ Review – Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron Take on the Heart and Soul of Politics

Filmmakers generally build their stories around proven formulas. Either intentionally or not, most movies you see at your local theater follow a predictable series of set ups and payoffs. Sometimes this can be grating, and other times, it’s part of the charm. In one’s mundane day-to-day living, a familiar, run-of-the-mill story can be dull, meandering, or frustrating. You’ve almost certainly heard someone ask, “Why won’t Hollywood make something new?” But in other cases, a film that’s light, good-natured, and winningly by-the-books can invoke a welcome sigh of relief.

Read More

Interview – Raymond Cruz Talks ‘Curse of La Llorona,’ ‘Conjuring,’ and What He’s Working on Next

Actor Raymond Cruz is often best known for his television work, particularly on TNT’s The Closer and his memorable reoccurring turn in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul. For more than thirty years, however, Cruz has appeared on screens both big and small, providing memorable and distinctive turns in a variety of projects. His latest role in the New Line horror film The Curse of La Llorona, however, is one of his biggest to date. Premiering in theaters and IMAX screens around the world starting tonight, his role in The Conjuring spin-off film is literally and physically among his most gigantic to date, particularly if you see him on the 72-foot screen.

Read More

‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Review – Terry Gilliam’s Delayed, Surreal Fantasy Finally Becomes A Reality

For many film fans, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has taken on a bit of a mythic quality since its inception. Either fittingly or ironically, this long-in-the-works passion project centered (in part) around the literary icon is one that has often alluded the Brazil director. For the past 30 years, Gilliam has tried — with only fleeting success — to bring this mischievous fable to the big screen. Despite every intention and aspiration to make it a reality, Don Quixote yet remained a fantasy.

Read More

‘The Best of Enemies’ Review – Not the Best (Or Worst) of Civil Rights Dramas

Robin Bissell has produced, though not frequently, films of varying quality over the years, primarily under director Gary Ross. If you’ve watched Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, or Free State of Jones, for instance, then you’ve had a chance to spot his name in the credits. And now, after two decades of bringing films to the big screen, Bissell has jumped into the director’s chair with his own screenplay for The Best of Enemies, a lukewarm debut for the veteran producer under the STX Films brand.

Read More

‘Dumbo’ Review – You’ll Believe an Elephant Can Fly, But Tim Burton Doesn’t Reach New Heights

If there’s one adjective I typically abhor when it comes to describing films, it’s “cute.” Cute, to my disgruntled ears, comes off as cheap, lazy, and non-descriptive. It’s a broad word that doesn’t really get to the meat of one’s feelings beyond the surface level. It’s a deflection term, often used to describe the exterior of a film while avoiding anything specific, intellectual, or meaningful. It’s an inoffensive word, certainly; there’s really no sense in getting mad about its overuse beyond my (admittedly) overbearingly high literary standards. But I still find it ceaselessly grating. What exactly does it mean to be “cute” anyway? It looks nice? A squeaky-clean disposition? Positive vibes? Good morals? It’s a placeholder word when others fail you.

Read More

‘Us’ Review – Jordan Peele’s Latest Horror Reflects Our Dark Side in a New Light

There are many times in life — perhaps especially, as a critic — when you have to admit that you were wrong. “To err is human,” Alexander Pope once said, and I believe that to be true. For me, when I first saw Get Out in theaters in 2017, I recognized it as a strong and […]

Read More

‘Five Feet Apart’ Review – Haley Lu Richardson Should Move Far, Far Away From This Weepy, Teen Romance

Though it is not based on a young adult novel, despite what my brain might tell me (Side note: it’s all the more confusing because they made a novelization and released it at the end of 2018), Five Feet Apart is centered around Stella Grant (Richardson), a bright, motivated teenager who cannot live her fullest life due to the limitations of her cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis.

Read More

‘Captain Marvel’ Is Flawed, But At Least It Has An Identity

For every fan of cinema, there’s one film that changes everything. It reworks your system. Gives you a new lease on life. Or, perhaps in less dramatic terms, it reroutes your perception of film in general. These rare movies give you a totally new understanding of the art form and can show you what this wondrous medium can do. They provide unforgettable epiphanies and serve as luxurious early showcases for how authentic, inviting, delicate, invigorating, and downright humane cinema can truly be.

Read More

‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Review – Floats by on Charm, But Never Soars

When it comes to trilogies, it’s common for the third (and typically final) installment to be the weakest of the bunch. There are exceptions, of course, like Toy Story 3, for instance. Many Lord of the Rings fans would consider The Return of the King to be the franchise’s finest hours. It certainly has the Oscars […]

Read More

‘Happy Death Day 2U’ Review – A Time Loop Sequel That’s Just As Fun And Rewarding the Second Time Around

If there’s any sequel that warranted the right to repeat itself, it’s Happy Death Day 2U. Writer/director Christopher Landon’s promising continuation of his surprisingly spry time loop PG-13 horror-comedy smash Happy Death Day is given a liberating golden pass to ultimately remix its original and essentially remake his hit film — if he wished. Hell, I wouldn’t even […]

Read More