Category: Reviews (Page 3 of 3)

Arrival

Arrival is terrible. I don’t want any confusion on this point. It’s sitting on a 90+% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and that is a shocking failure of the film criticism community. If you look through the positive reviews for this film, you’ll find a common theme: it gets lauded for being “cerebral” or “intellect-stroking” or some other nonsense. Which essentially means critics will feel their intellect is validated by praising a movie that is, on its surface, about linguistics. (Noam Chomsky is a linguist, isn’t he? And he’s smart as hell!) In reality, Arrival is exactly as devoid of character, plot, or narrative logic as any summer blockbuster garbage that critics trip over each other to condemn. But it’s slow and boring and scored with sad string music, so critics that don’t deserve their jobs will tell the public it’s “smart sci-fi.”

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Moonlight

They say write what you know. Who’s they? Doesn’t matter. While I don’t know what it’s like to grow up black and gay in America, I do know good movies when I see them (usually). Moonlight is a good movie about growing up black and gay and male in America. The main character, Chiron, grows up in Florida, where the director and myself were born, so I do know that fairly well. But since I’m a straight white guy who did not grow up in the projects of Florida I can’t say that I know the world on display in this film. Fortunately, the masterful writing and direction of Barry Jenkins presents this world in an intimate enough manner that any human with a functioning heart will appreciate.

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Doctor Strange

 

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Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before: affluent white man experiences a traumatic event in his life that not only sets him on the path towards heroism but is also the catalyst for correcting all of his character flaws. During the course of his journey and the fostering of his newfound power, he is thrust into a battle much too big for any one man, but somehow only he is qualified to overcome. If that sounds like the plot of almost any comic book origin story to you, it’s because as hackneyed as it is, it works. It attempts to endear us to flawed characters by reflecting our own shortcomings and showing that anyone can become a hero. Particularly if you’re incredibly skilled in some field and have a ton of cash! Doctor Strange doesn’t break the mold of the superhero origin story by any stretch of the imagination. It’s safe to say—and I’m sure numerous other blog posts and tweets will confirm—that that this movie is basically Iron Man with magic. If you step back and take off your critic’s hat, that actually sounds pretty badass.

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The Magnificent Seven

I’m not sure what meaning there is in “remaking” The Magnificent Seven, given that the Seven Samurai template has been such a well-worn plot device in the past 60 years. In a time when The Force Awakens is essentially an uncommented-upon remake of a movie in the same film series, Antoine Fuqua could have delivered nearly the same final cut under a different name and he wouldn’t even need to acknowledge the comparison. It would have made it a little easier to view each component of his film on its own and not in comparison to its 1960 predecessor, but this year’s The Magnificent Seven doesn’t completely suffer for the comparison. Only mostly.

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Hell or High Water: Texas in Review

I only recently moved to Texas. Growing up I made a joke of saying it was one the few states that I never wanted to live in. I based this largely on the conservative culture and my preconceived notions of the inhabitants’ backwards view of the world. Now I ended up moving to the least Texan of the Texas cities, Austin, 2 and a half years ago but there’s no escaping the shadow of the largest state in the union (fuck you, Alaska). On a near daily basis, I’m reminded of the rich history of the state. From the Cowboy boots, fashion’s least purposeful footwear, to the hats, fashion’s coolest hat, to the horses, to the guns, it’s all there. I’m in it and I’m honestly learning to love and embrace it.

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Zoom

Directed by Pedro Morelli
Written by Matt Hansen
Starring Alison Pill, Gael Garcia Bernal, Mariana Ximenes

I sometimes get hung up on a movie’s core concept and weigh the entire film based on how much it lives up to its premise. I was disappointed in both Reservoir Dogs and The Departed at first—despite being well-directed, well-acted movies that tell an engaging story well, I was left wanting more tense cat-and-mouse games of an undercover cop evading suspicion, like you get in Donnie Brasco. Zoom leaves me with the same sense of want, and I’m not sure if that’s another miss on my part or not.

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