‘Knives Out’ is a Subversive Whodunnit With a Satirical Bite

After fabulously leaving the Star Wars fandom in flames with The Last Jedi (a blockbuster so complex and thematically rich, it actually inspired me to start writing about movies!), modern genre film icon Rian Johnson is back for another standalone film— and possibly even his last one for quite a while, as he begins develops his own Star Wars trilogy. In his newest outing, Johnson trades a sci-fi fantasy epic for a classic Hollywood mystery with a killer ensemble cast, a luxurious Kentucky mansion, and cozy, expensive-looking sweaters. The brilliance of Knives Out, however, is that Johnson is somehow able to deliver a hilarious, crowd-pleasing whodunnit film, while simultaneously keeping his radical trademark subversive storytelling intact. I suspect it will be quite challenging for any soul to walk out of this film unamused because on both a casual and intellectual level, Knives Out is an absolute knockout. 

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Review: ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is Just Fine, but Not Gay Enough!

Let’s get this right off the bat: no, Kristen Stewart does not kiss a single girl even though her hair looks like that. It does, however, open with her character Sabina choking a man between her thighs. After that, it veers off the tracks into forgettability, which is especially disappointing because I was rooting for this one. We were all rooting for this one.  

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‘Doctor Sleep’ is a Thoughtful Re-Contextualization of ‘The Shining’

How do you create a follow up to one of the most influential and beloved horror films of all time? Director Mike Flanagan has an answer: you don’t simply retread The Shining, you craft a response to to it. Straight off the success of his acclaimed Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan sinks his teeth into his most daring project yet, whilst still retaining the emotional authenticity that has made his work a standout amongst his mainstream horror peers. The result is Doctor Sleep, a messier beast compared to the unnerving precision of Kubrick’s masterpiece, but one that is distinctly bold, sentimental, and of its own identity.

Doctor Sleep‘s biggest strength is that it is not interested in trying to recapture the glory of its 1980’s predecessor; it instead tries to make sense of it. The film follows an older Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggling to cope with the evil he experienced at the Overlook Hotel, as well as battling severe depression and alcoholism. His hopes of recovery and peace are soon interrupted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shares Danny’s powerful shine. Bonded together, they are then hunted by the True Knot, a cult that feeds off of the souls of children, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The plot is heavier on building the lore and rules of the universe as opposed to than the minimalist sensibility to The Shining. Sometimes that feels quite overbearing and midichlorians-esque, but it has its benefits.

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‘Jojo Rabbit’ is Cute, Confused and Nothing Particularly Gutsy

Taika Waititi wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s evident from all four of his sad, quirky, New Zealand-based cinematic adventures, not including his plummet into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and absolutely including What We Do in the Shadows, a film that somehow manages to find the warmth and humanity in horny, blood-slurping vampires. He’s been called a master of “sad-happy cinema”; adept at finding the perfect balance between melancholy, humor, and real joy. His films such as Eagle vs. Shark, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy work to this concept with the utmost precision, playing for laughs during awkward, tear-jerking moments and treating darker subject material with a gentle, playful touch. Waititi wants people to understand that happiness and sadness aren’t opposites, but two emotions that can and should coexist. There is beauty in despair and humor in our strife. Light is ever-present even in the utmost darkness.

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LFF ’19: Pablo Larraín’s ‘Ema’ Is a Hypnotic Cocktail of Sex, Dance, and Family Drama

Every once in a while, you’ll come across a film burning so brightly it threatens to melt the celluloid. Well, Pablo Larraín’s Ema is a film which radiates with that sort of creative intensity. The Chilean auteur’s radical, exhilarating exploration of a desperate young mother on the edge is singed with flame from start to finish: Ema is burning up inside as she manipulates countless lovers into a hurricane of emotional violence, all in-between sessions of reggaeton dancing and literally setting the city ablaze with a flamethrower. Wild as that may all sound, Larraín’s newest film emerges as an emotionally honest, resonant work about a woman who is determined to forge her own path.

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‘The Irishman’ is a beautiful, devastating reflection on memory and morality

I am afraid of many things.

I am afraid of spiders, and moths, and being vulnerable, and of falling in the gap between the train and the platform (this has actually happened to me before, perhaps making it not an entirely unwarranted phobia). I am afraid of getting hurt by people I care about, I am afraid of strangers when I walk home alone at night. I am afraid of disappointing people, I am afraid of losing my mind, I am afraid of dying alone.

My Grandpa is getting older. He’s in his mid-eighties now, and his memory isn’t so good anymore. He’s quick to anger, and we don’t talk about politics at the dinner table because someone’s going to get offended. This past Easter, when I was at home, he gestured at the tattoos on both my arms – which I have had for two years now – and said, with an air of disgust, “Do those wash off?”

I kept thinking about my Grandpa while I was watching The Irishman, dressed in a black evening gown, wearing a baby pink fur coat, at the film’s UK premiere in London’s glitzy West End. These details are important, in context: the position I inhabit now is not one that ever seemed likely. I do not come from a world where these things happen. I was told at fourteen I should leave school because of my mental health. I was told at nineteen I should drop out of university. I have been told for as long as I can remember by people in positions of power that I do not belong. My Grandpa always said I did. He still does, when he isn’t disapproving loudly of my tattoos.

The Irishman is about all of these things I’ve mentioned. It’s about fear, and getting old, and wanting to belong to something bigger than yourself. In the space of three and a half hours, Martin Scorsese presents the entire life of one Francis Joseph Sheeran, a World War II veteran turned mob hitman. Notable for reuniting the filmmaker with Robert De Niro and bringing Joe Pesci out of retirement, the film also sees Al Pacino make his Scorsese picture debut. Moreover, it’s been a long time coming: after years in developmental hell, Netflix stepped up to give Scorsese the $160 million budget he required to make the film he wanted. So much was said about ‘de-ageing technology’, about those photos of Robert De Niro’s platform boots, about the 210-minute run time. In the end, all these concerns and quibbles fade into nothing. Martin Scorsese doesn’t know how to make a bad film.

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‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ Lacks A Meaningful Spark

On my way out of theater, entertained yet unsatisfied, I overheard a father and son discuss the Maleficent character. The young boy deserves credit for identifying the problem with the Disney sequel: “I’m not sure who Maleficent was in this movie actually.” Following the first Maleficent film, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil finds Aurora (Elle Fanning), Queen of the Moors, concerned about the missing fairies from her kingdom along with her godmother Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) poor reaction to her engagement to Prince Philip, played by Beach Rat’s Harris Dickinson. Maleficent’s sincere effort to be cordial to Philip and his royal parents, particularly his petty mother Queen Ingrith played by Michelle Pfeiffer, turn sour. When the mistakenly evil witch is framed for cursing King John (Robert Lindsay), the film becomes a surface tale about identity, family and the danger of intolerance. 

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