‘Parasite’ is Bong Joon-ho’s Best to Date, Richly Layered with Metaphor and Socio-Political Satire

People will tell you that Parasite is best if you dive in with no knowledge whatsoever of the story. Respectfully, I disagree. If you’re familiar with Bong Joon-ho’s more mainstream oeuvre such as The Host (2006), Snowpiercer (2013), and Okja (2017), you’d probably expect this to be an action-packed sci-fi flick –– even the title of “Parasite” suggests a gruesome creature feature. Instead, Bong keeps the satirical elements of his previous work while simultaneously ensuring the constantly-shifting-but-mostly dark tone stays consistently grounded, making his latest feature feel more akin to his Korean-language crime-drama Mother (2009) than anything else he’s made before. The one aspect every single one of Bong’s films have in common? An incisive injection of spot-on socio-political commentary. And this is his sharpest yet. 

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Review: A Star is Re-Born with Brad Pitt’s Stellar Performance in Cosmo-Drama ‘Ad Astra’

For the second time this year, Brad Pitt has delivered a film that shatters audience expectations. Some went into Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood expecting a flashy, vengeful bloodbath. Instead, they received a hazy hang-out film, only slightly blood-spattered. Some will go into James Gray’s  BrAd Astra expecting an action-packed cosmic thriller filled with high-speed moon buggy chases and laser blaster fights. Instead, they’ll receive a languid character study centered on Roy McBride (Pitt), a top-level Sad Astra-naut who desperately needs to go to therapy. 

Rather, McBride’s superiors opt to send him to space on a deeply emotional mission to make contact with his estranged Dad Astra (Tommy Lee Jones), further destabilizing his already shaky mental state. As they explain to him the possibility of his father’s survival, his entire posture almost imperceptibly changes. His eyes twitch with the effort of repressing his true emotions, and his chest rises and falls with a newfound velocity, indicating that his static pulse that famously never goes above 80 bpm is pounding away underneath the polished layers of his military uniform. 

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Review: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is As Scattered As its Protagonist

A new Richard Linklater comedy starring Cate Blanchett as an agoraphobic misanthrope architect who runs away to the Arctic to attempt reconnecting with her own creativity sounds like a fantasy. While the end result definitely isn’t a nightmare, it is reminiscent of a listless and languid dream, one that you forget a few moments after you wake up.

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Review: “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” is a Muddled Joyride Through 1969

David Lynch chose the cryptic curves of Mulholland Drive. Billy Wilder chose the melancholic glamor of Sunset Boulevard. It’s only fitting that Quentin Tarantino opted for the murderous infamy of Cielo Drive.
The secluded road is located in the Hollywood Hills, a land rich with fable fodder. Isolated in their multi-million dollar mansions, movie stars and moguls look down upon the bright lights of the seedy city. In his recent book, Sleeping With Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire, film historian David Thompson writes of the Hills, “In those locations people can count their money, worship obscure gods, make love with whomever pleases them, or simple gaze into the mirror, studying loveliness. They call it a city of angels, with reverence.”

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Much Ado’s Best Films of 2019 So Far

Believe it or not, we are halfway through 2019. We’ve seen Brie Larson kick ass as Captain Marvel, we’ve witnessed the end of an era with Avengers: End Game, Julia Hart gave us a new kind of superhero film in Fast Color, Ari Aster has scarred us all with Midsommar, and Olivia Wilde has given us the teen comedy we’ve been waiting for with Booksmart. It’s already been a wild year for film, and we still have five months left. With that in mind, here is Much Ado’s favorite films of 2019 so far and why we love them.

Booksmart, dir. Olivia Wilde

‘The night to end all nights’ is a tagline often found attached to tales of raucous frat bros, to the pursuit of the loss of their virginities, and to their final evening of partying, which comes just before the dawn of adulthood. Rarely, in teen comedies that revolve around sex and physical frankness, is said semi-mythical night centered on two rather awkward high school girls. More often than not, it has been the boys in Superbad and American Pie that have not only been permitted but openly encouraged to discuss their sexual desires, appetites, and experiences without so much as a hint of a blush on their cheeks. In Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, this kind of agency is transferred from the obnoxious characters found in the aforementioned teen classics and awarded to Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein): two friends on the eve of high school graduation, for whom discussion of Malala Yousafzai and intersectional feminism sits as comfortably in conversation as the topic of masturbation. After realising that they have spent their entire adolescence burying their heads in their studies — in a fruitless attempt to gain the upper hand over their popular peers in search of places at prestigious universities — Molly and Amy decide that they must embark on the wildest evening of all if they are to truly ‘experience’ teenage-hood. And thus, absurdity, wild goose chases, and chaotic sexual encounters ensue. 

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Female Director Spotlight: Elaine May, Renegade Improv Comedienne

A natural performer from the start, director Elaine May allegedly began her career in 1935 at the tender age of three, performing in her father’s Yiddish theater company (although she conceded in 2010 that this origin story isn’t “strictly accurate”). At age 16, she married a toy inventor, with whom she had a daughter, then divorced him a few years later. After holding a series of odd jobs, including as a private detective and a roofing salesman, she decided she’d like to enroll in college—the problem was, she lacked the high school diploma that California colleges required by law. With just $7 in her pocket, she hitchhiked to Chicago, where this rule didn’t exist, to pursue an education.

Here, she met future legendary director Mike Nichols through mutual friends. The pair bubbled with comedic chemistry, and in 1955, they joined the off-campus improv group, The Compass Players. Two years later, Nichols was asked to leave the team for being “too talented,” and May quit with him. Soon, they developed their own act, forming stand-up comedy duo, “Nichols and May.” Their undeniable talent eventually landed them their own Broadway show, and “An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May” became a bonafide hit, performing for full house shows and even winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance. Sadly, Nichols and May disbanded in 1964, citing difficulties with keeping their act consistently fresh. Over the next several years, Nichols would go on to begin a wildly successful film directing career with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and May would try her hand at playwriting. She also acted in various screen roles, including an uncredited cameo in Nichols’ The Graduate, until she gained the experience to direct her first feature.

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Isabelle Huppert Goes Cuckoo Bananas, But Not as Cuckoo Bananas as Usual, in the Flawed-But-Fun ‘Greta’

Let’s be honest. The main appeal of Greta is to see our girl Isabelle Huppert do what she does best: snap. Despite the film’s numerous issues, the ticket price is in fact well-worth the opportunity to bask in the unbridled power of one of the greatest working actresses viciously flipping a restaurant table over in response to getting ghosted (i.e. snap). And that’s just the beginning, baby!

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