Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.


Matthew Vaughn has Officially become a Director of Diminishing Returns with this Overstuffed and Laughably Corny Slog of a Spy Caper.


This Trip back to North Shore High Justifies itself by still being Sharp in its Observations of Vacuousness.


Writer/Director Cord Jefferson’s Feature Debut Splits the Difference Between Searing Satire and Emotional Family Drama Coming out a Winner in Both Respects.


Emma Stone is Daring and Mark Ruffalo is Hilarious in this Surreal Fever Dream of Philosophy and Attempting to Understand our Nature through Unorthodox Methods.


A mix of tension and transgressions without being straight-up terrifying at any given point. The power of YouTuber's Danny and Michael Philippou's (RackaRacka) feature debut in Talk to Me is not necessarily that it scares or frightens, but more that it makes you feel the guilt and anxiety that Mia (Sophie Wilde) is dealing with in the wake of doing whatever it takes for her to get back to a place of peace. Like many a movie in the horror genre as of late, Talk to Me also deals in coping with grief, loss, and...you guessed it...the trauma caused by such experiences. Unlike many of these similarly themed therapy sessions though, Talk to Me's Mia, while being the protagonist of the piece, is not our hero. Mia is the lead, but also the leading cause of our frustration in this twisted game of possession as she’s the kind of main character who brings everyone around her down with her due to her own troublesome experiences. And it’s not that her struggles shouldn’t be or are not supported, but worse - it’s that they are - and that support is taken advantage of. Furthermore, she is so desperate to return her life to what she always imagined it would be rather than how it's turned out that she has no sense of remorse or awareness of the implications of her actions. Mia becomes so wrapped up in fulfilling her own desires to the point she is blinded to all the wreckage she’s left in her wake.


has its fake plastic cake and eats it too. When the first note of Lizzo's "Pink" drops accompanying the reveal of production designer Sarah Greenwood's "Barbieland" as these real-life dolls dressed in Jacqueline Durran‘s wardrobe descend from their Dreamhouses there is a sense that what we, the audience and spectator, are being welcomed into are images and feelings that possess an equal amount of simplicity and elegance. There is the immediate sense of influence in that one can easily see images and references from this movie integrating themselves into the culture; stills painted in Hollywood murals alongside classics like The Wizard of Oz or characters standing next to Marilyn Monroe. At the same time, there is an adventurous sense that one has no idea what they're truly getting themselves into or at least, where this movie might go both literally and thematically. By the final scene (or two) of the film it is clear this duality of simplicity and elegance is wholly intentional so that the film works on different levels for different audience members whether that be someone who currently plays with dolls, someone who once played with dolls, or even those who always felt too boxed in by expectation to either play with dolls themselves or at least acknowledge the appeal of them. 

Yes, this is a movie about a doll, but the “we’ll sell more toys” aspect didn’t bother or invade my experience because of how intelligently writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) uses this packaging to tell the story she and co-writer/life partner Noah Baumbach decided to tell or how it emphasizes the themes they wanted to explore and discuss. In addition to the levels and ideas (or levels of ideas), Barbie is also just a Technicolor fever dream of musical numbers and comedy bits that land with such frequency that even if your sympathy for Ken is maybe greater than it is for Barbie or even if Allan weirds you out a little bit (which we’ll get to) there is plenty here for all to enjoy if not hopefully (eventually) consider.


Given Christopher Nolan accomplishes as much in-camera as possible there is very little left to the imagination in Oppenheimer. From the bomb to the billions of stars and even boobs, Nolan gives us everything that made J. Robert Oppenheimer (the J apparently stands for nothing) tick. Was he a neurotic loner who was also a womanizer? A cold-hearted physicist as well as a bleeding-heart liberal? That seems to be the case and maybe the best case for why Nolan’s historical biopic about the “father of the atomic bomb” is so successful: it seamlessly integrates these contradictions into the narrative surrounding the moment that set the course of humanity on a different trajectory. Nolan's trademarks are well-suited to the story of a(nother) tortured genius who faces the greatest moral dilemma - possibly in history - and must come to terms with both his ambition, understanding his actions, and eventually wrangling with his legacy as he sees it being maligned and he himself being exiled by those with real power. 

Though technically a biopic, Oppenheimer doesn't necessarily carry a weight of obligation to feel like a fully formed portrait of the titular man, but rather Nolan's focus and more importantly his technique add more thematic and worldly weight to the proceedings rather than simply amounting to a highlight reel of Oppenheimer's most notable moments. This is also a more roundabout way of saying Nolan moves through much of his subject's life at a breakneck speed, especially in the beginning as Oppenheimer goes from student to well-renowned physicist in a handful of scenes, with very little handholding, while still elegantly establishing what inspires, drives, and irritates his main character propelling us into the second - most electric - hour of the film.


When you’re seven films into a franchise and up has been the only way to go for the better part of a decade there are bound to be those who look at a next entry that does the same things the last handful of entries have done, both positive and negative, and decide they’re tired of the schtick and that it’s time for the narrative to change so that the star and his brand may redeem itself at least once more. This is what seems to be happening with Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 (the cockiness of the cliffhanger likely making certain folks more eager to put the franchise in its place) yet this seventh film in the series and the third written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) only continues to improve upon or at least operate at the same level these films always have if not becoming slightly more preposterous by attempting to tackle a more contemporary and relevant issue through its story. Though story is obviously important to the Mission: Impossible films it is not their top priority, and it surprises me that such quandaries around plot semantics are what will seemingly rewrite the cultural narrative around these films that are largely lauded for their stunt work and commitment to their practicality. Personally, if Tom Cruise and McQ want to get a little more outlandish (and there is an admitted silliness here) with their antagonists I’d say they've earned a little wiggle room as they still deliver tenfold when it comes to the aspects people pay to see these excursions on the big screen for.


To no one's surprise James Mangold - a man who has made solid films across multiple genres - does well to craft a loving and honorable homage to Steven Spielberg. There is no broader a canvas on which to paint to Spielbergian strengths than an Indiana Jones adventure and Mangold does his best to utilize Spielberg's trademark sentimentality along with his own brand of sturdy and assured filmmaking concurrently for the purposes of, if nothing else, ensuring Harrison Ford's titular character is given a properly satisfying farewell. Though Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny may not reach the heights of the first or third entries it's a far more enjoyable film than the second and a much more gratifying experience than the fourth which is to say this follows two stone-cold classics as the third best film in the franchise; nothing to scoff at, especially given the star of this action film made it as a seventy-nine year-old. 

It is to the point of Mr. Ford's age that Dial of Destiny (and yes, I do think there could have been a better subtitle for this movie even if I'm not yet sure what that is yet) finds its true meaning beyond the chase for the MacGuffin and besides the establishing of supporting players that might continue this franchise elsewhere should Disney decide to do so (they shouldn't). That is to say, said titular MacGuffin is very purposefully made an agent of time manipulation in order to construct a story around not only the pursuit of artifacts and the pedigree and recognition that may come with as much, but more to emphasize the inability to go back and alter our regrets or act differently given a longer perspective. After the flashback-based opening set piece we are introduced to an unhappy Dr. Jones in 1969, a man out of time who doesn't even pretend to understand where he fits into the modern world or how optimism continues to exist. Indiana Jones is not who he once was no matter how much we or he would like him to be and dealing with this harsh truth and tackling it head on is largely what gives this fifth film that comes to us some forty-two years after Ford first donned the fedora the endearing quality that delivers on both the genuine entertainment and sincere send-off it delivers.


There isn't anything particularly flashy about playwright Celine Song’s debut feature film, Past Lives. It is a very simple and straightforward story with a sound structure concerning star-crossed lovers that is impressive because of its perceived lack of effort. The ease with which the film appears to pull off its tightrope of emotions would initially signal something lighter and less major; admittedly, this initial feeling made me question not necessarily the significance of the work, but more its weight. Of course, then the final scenes unfold and everything Song has been building to comes crashing down like a tidal wave of emotions and you can't help but to be swept up in them even if you've never experienced something similar in your own life. 

While maybe not the monumental achievement I'd been led to believe it was this line of thinking around preconceived notions and expectations became somewhat critical as I sat watching the film and the idea of how Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) would likely have never seen one another again had they not lived in a modern era with access to social media and Skype. A moment of insight, if not a particularly fresh one, about how much our lives are dictated not by fate but by circumstance was surprisingly striking. This naturally led to me questioning how I might have perceived the film differently if I'd seen it with one of the first audiences at Sundance or even better, without any knowledge of it or its critical reception at all yet I couldn't shake the idea that despite all there is to admire about the craft and execution of the film that this was still being somewhat oversold as a grand story of love instead of simply appreciated for its small, observational truths about how messy life becomes and how there isn't always someone to blame for the mess.