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  • Reviews | The Cinema Dispatch

    Reviews April 18, 2024 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review I won’t complain if we just keep getting more of these good-but-not-great actioners from Ritchie for the next half-decade or so. April 12, 2024 'Challengers' Review 2024 will surely be Guadagnino's year, and we’re all going to have a fun time basking in it. April 10, 2024 'Civil War' Review It’s cowardly and lazy, becoming one of the great modern magic tricks as this “intellectual blockbuster” doesn't have a brain April 8, 2024 'Late Night with the Devil' Review It acts as a fresh, spine-tingling fright fest that gets under viewers’ skins and breathes life back into found footage filmmaking. April 4, 2024 'Monkey Man' Review There’s a little bit of everything mixed into this killer cocktail, which is finished off with some Indian mythology and political commentary. March 28, 2024 'Wicked Little Letters' Review It’s all light and fancy-free, almost too much for its own good. March 27, 2024 'Immaculate' Review If this is going to accomplish anything, it’s likely just that it’s a horror movie starring Sydney Sweeney and nothing else March 22, 2024 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. March 20, 2024 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. March 18, 2024 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. Prev Page 1 2 3 4 5 1 ... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ... 28 Next Page

  • The Cinema Dispatch | Film Review Website

    Review April 18, 2024 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review I won’t complain if we just keep getting more of these good-but-not-great actioners from Ritchie for the next half-decade or so. Read More List April 17, 2024 Ranking the Films of Adam McKay In honor of his 56th birthday, here’s a look back at the filmmaker’s work and how his evolution has made an impression on Hollywood. Read More Award March 11, 2024 96th Academy Awards Recap All in all, this awards season ended with some predictable victors, but it also gave us enough surprises to be entertaining. Read More 2024 Oscar Predictions 1 Oppenheimer 2 The Holdovers 3 Barbie 4 Poor Things 5 American Fiction 6 Anatomy of a Fall 7 Killers of the Flower Moon 8 Past Lives 9 The Zone of Interest 10 Maestro Best Picture movie review website film review website movie news coverage movie blog movie website Reviews 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review I won’t complain if we just keep getting more of these good-but-not-great actioners from Ritchie for the next half-decade or so. SHOP 'Challengers' Review 2024 will surely be Guadagnino's year, and we’re all going to have a fun time basking in it. SHOP 'Civil War' Review It’s cowardly and lazy, becoming one of the great modern magic tricks as this “intellectual blockbuster” doesn't have a brain SHOP 'Late Night with the Devil' Review It acts as a fresh, spine-tingling fright fest that gets under viewers’ skins and breathes life back into found footage filmmaking. SHOP 'Monkey Man' Review There’s a little bit of everything mixed into this killer cocktail, which is finished off with some Indian mythology and political commentary. SHOP Lists Ranking the Films of Adam McKay In honor of his 56th birthday, here’s a look back at the filmmaker’s work and how his evolution has made an impression on Hollywood. SHOP MSPIFF43 Preview Over 200 films from around the world will be screened at The Main cinema during the two-week-long event SHOP Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Loyalists Cannes is a festival built upon relationships, and these auteurs have been steady as a rock for so many years. SHOP Cannes Predictions- Part 2: The Regulars Directors with a decent Cannes and/or festival background SHOP Cannes Predictions - Part 1: The Question Marks The first of three parts of this series looks deeper into the fog SHOP Essays & Awards 96th Academy Awards Recap All in all, this awards season ended with some predictable victors, but it also gave us enough surprises to be entertaining. SHOP Awards Update: Final Oscar Predictions After six months of updates (and many more months of patiently waiting), it’s time to close out the 2023/2024 awards season. SHOP The Winners and Losers of the 2024 Oscar Nominations It was an eventful morning, with plenty of surprise inclusions and omissions. SHOP Awards Update: Final Oscar Nomination Predictions After months of festivals, box office results, and precursor awards, it’s finally time to put the chips down SHOP 2024 Golden Globes Awards Predictions In preparation for the show this Sunday, I'm predicting the winners in each category SHOP

  • Lists | The Cinema Dispatch

    Lists April 11, 2024 MSPIFF43 Preview Over 200 films from around the world will be screened at The Main cinema during the two-week-long event April 9, 2024 Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Loyalists Cannes is a festival built upon relationships, and these auteurs have been steady as a rock for so many years. April 7, 2024 Cannes Predictions- Part 2: The Regulars Directors with a decent Cannes and/or festival background April 5, 2024 Cannes Predictions - Part 1: The Question Marks The first of three parts of this series looks deeper into the fog March 23, 2024 Ranking the Films of Michael Haneke A master of discomfort, challenging audiences to confront the unsettling truths that lurk beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary lives. March 17, 2024 Omaha Film Festival 2024 - A Recap Tyler's thoughts on some of the film he saw this year March 7, 2024 Top 10 DreamWorks Animated Movies They’ve proven adept at telling stories of different substances and styles. January 15, 2024 2024 Preview 24 Must-See Films January 4, 2024 2023 Winners Time to pop the champagne January 2, 2024 2023 Losers Next year will be better, right? Prev Page 1 2 3 4 5 1 ... 1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 6 Next Page

  • 'Immaculate' Review

    'Immaculate' Review March 27, 2024 By: Tyler Banark In recent years, Hollywood has found a knack for releasing random religion-themed horror films that either get overlooked or flop altogether. This was evidenced when I saw Neon’s latest fright fest, Immaculate , and got a trailer for the upcoming 20th Century Studios horror film The First Omen . Director Michael Mohan and screenwriter Andrew Lobel craft a twist on the Rosemary’s Baby narrative with one of the hottest actresses working today, Sydney Sweeney. The movie looked like an intense, bloody horror show from the trailers. Ultimately, it’s a boring film that restrains itself from being the scariest thing to come out of 2024. After her parish shuts down in her hometown, American nun Cecilia (Sweeney) is assigned to a convent in rural Italy. As she settles in, she miraculously becomes pregnant and is proclaimed the next Virgin Mary. However, the more her pregnancy progresses, the more Cecilia learns of the convent’s darkest secrets. Although the synopsis seems too familiar, Immaculate initially appears to have the intention of breaking that formulaic mold through some solid cinematography and the casting of such a modern-day actress in Sweeney. But between Will Bates’ stock score and repetitious cycle of loud jumps scares and gotchas, this just feels like another entry in the already watered-down The Nun franchise. Sweeney is on a fascinating streak right now as Immaculate comes nearly one month after the disastrous Madame Web , which in turn came out a month and a half after the box office hit Anyone But You . Both of those polar opposites (as well as this project, which she produced) came after years of her presence on HBO with Sharp Objects , The White Lotus , and the controversial drama Euphoria . Her performance here might not break any new ground, but it does check off the box of being a solo leading lady who can sell a project on a concept and her acting abilities. She has a scream near the end where she’s caked in blood that echoes the signature outbursts from Janet Leigh in Psycho and Jenna Ortega in X . Aside from Sweeney, the cast isn’t very noteworthy, with everyone playing cookie-cutter horror characters. You’ve got the strict mother superior nun, the freaky priest who tries to defuse the situation but doesn’t help, the rebellious friend, and the one nun who thinks she’s better than everyone else. The only one that comes close to breaking out is Benedetta Porcaroli as Sister Gwen, the rebellious nun. When she and Cecilia are talking to each other and making humor out of whatever they’re doing, it’s cute, but it feels forced. If Immaculate is going to accomplish anything, it’s likely just that it’s a horror movie starring Sydney Sweeney and nothing else. There’s a moment where the nuns have a ceremony for Cecilia after the word of her pregnancy gets out. Cecilia is dressed in a lavish blue and yellow dress with a gold crown and see-through veil, metaphorically spotlighting her as the Virgin Mary. Everyone else is smiling and bowing their heads to her, reflecting how numerous viewers see Sweeney today. Then, in an instance, there’s a close-up of Cecilia shedding a tear, a callback to a certain shot of Sweeney in the second season of Euphoria . Are we as a society beginning to worship her as royalty this fast in her short career? Only time will tell, but I can guarantee people won’t look back at Immaculate as the primary reason for her ascendency. Must Read 'Immaculate' Review If this is going to accomplish anything, it’s likely just that it’s a horror movie starring Sydney Sweeney and nothing else SHOP 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP

  • Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Festival Mainstays

    Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Festival Mainstays April 8, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen As one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, the Cannes Film Festival always attracts the attention of cinephiles and industry professionals alike. Each year, the festival presents a diverse lineup of films that represent the best of international cinema, including both established and emerging filmmakers. With the 76th edition of the festival set to take place in May, film enthusiasts around the world are eagerly anticipating the announcement of the official selection on April 13th. While the festival organizers keep their cards close to their chest, there are already some strong players emerging as likely contenders for the coveted Cannes spotlights. In this four-part series, I’ll take a closer look at some of the films that are generating buzz and predict which ones are likely to make it to the Croisette this year. Each part will represent a category of films, which are: The Festival Masters Hollywood Makes a Splash The Festival Mainstays The Irregulars and Up-and-Comers The third part of my series reaches a little further down the pecking order. The filmmakers listed here may not have the pedigree of those from the first part, nor do their films command the headlines like the blockbusters. But many of them are in the process of being established as festival darlings and have projects that deserve attention on account of their immense potential. Which of these films are you most interested in? I'll be keeping you all posted on my adventures and sharing my thoughts on the films that I see. Stay tuned for more updates! Coup de Chance With a legendary career that now spans fifty works as a director, it would seem fitting to bid farewell to filmmaking in the country that has always adored him. Allen has brought several films to the festival, all of them playing out of competition. His latest work will be entirely in French with a local all-star cast. Of course, any mention of Allen brings along controversy, so Fremeaux will have a hard decision to make about what to do. La Chimera Alice Rohrwacher’s film made waves at last year’s festival when Neon picked up the project’s North American distribution rights. The company had a great run last with Triangle of Sadness taking the Palme d’Or, so it seems likely they’ll be gunning for a repeat. The film stars Josh O’Connor and Isabella Rossellini in a story about 1980s tomb robbers set in Italy. The Beast Bertrand Bonello has premiered nearly all of his films at the festival, so there’s no reason not to predict him to do the same this time around. Léa Seydoux and George MacKay lead the cast of this sci-fi romance revolving around a troubled young woman who decides to purify her DNA in a machine that will take her on a journey across a series of past lives. Jeanne du Barry Never one to shy away from controversy, writer/director Maïwenn has doubled down by casting Johnny Depp as King Louis XV in her palace drama. The casting itself will bring headlines, but not the kind the festival may want, especially with films by Woody Allen and Roman Polanski also in the mix. If selected, it’ll likely be placed in one of the sidebars. *UPDATE: CONFIRMED FOR OPENING SELECTION* Daaaaaali! Along with Gaspar Noe, surrealist filmmaker Quentin Dupieux often is the provider of the strange and wild, which he did last year with the wacky Smoking Causes Coughing . His new movie will certainly be a more fun story about Salvador Dalí than Mary Harron’s Dalíland at last year's TIFF. The logline is as follows: “A French journalist meets the iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on several occasions for a documentary project that never came to be.” The Book of Solutions Michel Gondry has always kept himself incredibly busy between feature films, music videos, television shows, and short films. He’s done a tour of the festival sidecars throughout his career, so there’s little doubt he’ll be invited back if he decides to premiere his new film on the Croisette. The premise sounds Charlie Kaufman-esque as it follows a director who tries to vanquish his demons which are oppressing his creativity. Limonov While the Cannes leadership has ruled that they will not welcome any members of the Russian delegation or those linked to the government, that rule does not apply to Russian auteur Kirill Serebrennikov, who has had his problem with Putin’s government. Serebrennikov recently left the country after a three-year travel ban, which forced him to miss the premiere of Petrov's Flu in 2021. His next film will continue the biopic streak from Tchaikovsky’s Wife , this time in the English language and focusing on the life of Soviet poet Eduard Limonov. Serebrennikov co-wrote the screenplay with Cold War director Pawel Pawlikowski and Ben Hopkins, and Ben Whishaw will play the titular character. Promised Land While he doesn’t make as many regular appearances as Ken Loach, fellow Englishman Michael Winterbottom did make a name for himself at the turn of the millennium with a slew of rough-around-the-edges peeks into British life. His new film sounds like it might fit that description quite well, as it follows two Brit police officers in their hunt for charismatic poet and Zionist freedom fighter Avraham Stern, who was plotting to evict British authorities. Last Summer French provocateur Catherine Breillat looks to be coming out of her self-imposed retirement with her first film in almost a decade. The sexually charged auteur's new film may be her most squirm-inducing yet, as it follows the consequences on a family when a woman gets attracted to her underage stepson. The first image was released in December just as production wrapped. Given her pedigree within the French film industry and that this may be her last film, it seems highly likely Breillat makes her way into the competition. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • 'The Starling Girl' Review

    'The Starling Girl' Review February 6, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen The Starling Girl premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Bleecker Street will release the film in theaters on May 12. The narrative beats within writer/director Laurel Parmet’s The Starling Girl may not be the most original, but that doesn’t lessen their impact. Elevated by an excellent leading turn by Elzsia Scanlen, who continues her upward trajectory after successful supporting roles in hit films and television shows such as 2019’s Little Women and HBO’s Sharp Objects , Parmet’s feature debut offers a youthful examination of the struggle between personal ambitions and the confines of religious tolerance. Scanlen is the titular Starling girl (Jem Starling to be exact), playing younger than herself through wardrobe decisions and physical performance. The Starling family is among many within a Christian fundamentalist community nestled in the Kentucky plains. Jem's actions are in service of what God and her community would want, such as leading a group prayer dance for her youth group. But just like every teenager, Jem starts to become drawn to the other sex, particularly her handsome youth pastor Owen (Lewis Pullman, last seen as the shy Lt. Robert “Bob” Floyd in Top Gun: Maverick ), who happens to be ten years older than her and married. The attraction slowly becomes mutual, with the flirtation of danger being a catalyst of their desire for each other. Parmet’s script focuses both on the personal aspects of this complicated relationship, and the societal judgment of it. As part of being a member of her community, Jem does not have the luxury of independence when choosing a romantic partner. Her devout mother and recovering alcoholic father have decided that Jem will be courted by Owen’s much younger brother Ben, despite there being no spark of affection between them. This loss of autonomy is painful to witness, mostly because of Scanlen’s displays of inner turmoil. Much of the film plays within the tropes of this specific story, as our character rebels against their societal expectations, leading to consequences in their relationship with themself and others. At 116 minutes, the pacing could have been greatly quickened, or at least some of it chopped off in bulk. Much of the material with Jem’s father, played finely by Jimmi Simpson, plays dangerously close to parody as the struggles with addiction are delivered with such heavy-handedness. If not for Scanlen’s performance, The Starling Girl would fall much further into the realm of obscurity its middling writing and direction had it heading for. If not for anything else, Parmet’s film has given one of our brightest young talents room to shine. Those with a deeply religious background may find more depth to it, but they may also find it dryly conventional. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • 'Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire' Review

    'Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire' Review December 20, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen If you loved the “This is Katana” speech from 2016’s Suicide Squad , then you will have a field day with Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire . Snyder and his two credited co-writers, Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad, steal from every source they can, so much so from Star Wars and Seven Samurai that George Lucas and the estate of Akira Kurosawa would be in their legal right to sue for credit, although they shouldn’t because that would tangentially connect them to this abominable script for the rest of time. But the con doesn’t stop on the page, as nearly every image is so steeped in the iconography of what’s come before that it’s impossible to see it for anything more than a cheap knockoff. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An opening crawl’s worth of lore is narrated by Anthony Hopkins as an evil dreadnought appears out of space and moves past the camera, which then pans down to a desert planet to reveal a young orphan farmer. No, the projectionist (or the Netflix server) didn’t accidentally play A New Hope , it just started the biggest edge lord wannabe since Todd Phillips’ Joker (that one at least boasted a high level of competence). Our young hero is Kora (Sofia Boutella), who harbors a traumatic past with the fascist Motherworld, led by Ed Skrien’s Admiral Atticus Noble, donning every piece of Nazi regalia except for the swastika. Kora knows that the arrival of Noble means death for her quant farming village, but none of the other villagers take the danger seriously enough. The consequence of their underestimation is tragedy, prompting Kora to travel the galaxy assembling a team of warriors to fight back against the evil that encroaches on the people she cares about. That synopsis might seem simple enough (as it should because you’ve literally seen it before), but nothing is simple about the way Snyder tiringly doles it out. The who, what, where, when, and why are in a constant state of vagueness, masked by unclear exposition and uninteresting politics. At some point, you just have to throw your hands in the air and simplify it down to Kora being Luke Skywalker, Noble being Darth Vader, the Motherworld being The Empire, and Charlie Hunnam playing the Han Solo-type. What does that mean for the other half-dozen characters that don’t fit into that mold? It actually doesn’t matter because they hardly matter either, almost all of them serving more as action figures than believable mortals. But action figures deserve good action set pieces. And except for a genuinely cool fight between Doona Bae’s samurai witch and an Arachne, there isn’t a moment that inspires the eyegasm Synder so desperately wants you to have. He employs the typical slow-fast-slow speed-toggling at such a predictable clip that you’d wish it was eligible to be gambled on. The gore is also toned down considerably through choppy editing. That aspect has been lumped in with the individual character backstories as the main selling points for the future Snyder Cut, which promises to fix all the problems they’ve readily admitted feature in this cut. Those extra hours will include more opportunities for Snyder - serving as his own DP again after Army of the Dead (who the hell let that happen!?) - to indulge in his ultra-shallow focus cinematography. It’s not as ugly as before, but it still backfires to expose the artificiality of the sets and incessant visual effects used to cover it up. Returning to George Lucas, there were a few moments here that made the digital backdrops from the prequel films seem photorealistic. I don’t know where the story goes next in the soon-to-come sequel The Scargiver ; not because Snyder ended it on an interesting note, but because I’m still baffled about everything that happened and what it all means going forward. Honestly, it takes true talent to cheat this intensely and still fail so hard. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • 'The Menu' Review

    'The Menu' Review November 16, 2022 By: Hunter Friesen As a cinephile and critic, the occurrence of asking the question “What is going to happen next?” while watching a movie is one of the most valuable and enjoyable experiences. It’s what makes the Knives Out films so enjoyable because writer/director Rian Johnson always knows how to be one step ahead of the viewer, twisting and turning their preconceptions of what can happen in a whodunnit. On the inverse of that spectrum lies the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which I still greatly appreciate the majority of the time. But, I do have to admit that it’s getting exponentially tiring to see the same formula repeat itself 3-4 times each year. However, no movie (barring maybe Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia or Glass Onion ) has made me ask the question “What is going to happen next?,” more frequently and passionately than The Menu . Colin Stetson’s Hereditary -esque score (so you know something sinister is waiting in the wings) acutely plays while Ralph Fiennes’ world-renowned Chef Julian Slowik (walking and talking with unwavering intensity like Hannibal Lecter) welcomes his elite guests to the island of Hawthorne, where they will dine like kings and queens. Unbeknownst to the patrons, they each have been assembled intentionally and catered to with the utmost precision towards a much darker grand goal. There’s a fading movie star (John Leguizamo); a snobby food critic (Janet McTeer) and her yes-man editor; a wealthy regular customer (Reed Birney) and his wife (Judith Light); and a trio of tech bros that came only so that they could brag about it. At the center of the narrative are the final guests Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a foodie that acts as if he’s a teenage girl about to go backstage and meet Harry Styles, and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), Tyler’s date for the evening that finds all this food worshiping to be a bit much. Margot’s presence is a disturbance to Slowik, who did not account for her as Tyler made the reservation several months ago before they were a couple (the restaurant does not allow single reservations). Trying to keep the evening going as originally planned is the steely Elsa (Hong Chau), the second-in-command who guests while Slowik handles the food. From one course to the next, the chef answers his guest’s increasingly desperate questions through his painstakingly crafted works of art. Just like any great food movie ( Chef, Julie & Julia ), The Menu delightfully makes you crave the dishes it serves up, even if you don’t understand what half of them are. Ingredients for each are slyly displayed as they are introduced, so you can attempt to remake them if your heart desires (I suggest finishing the movie before finalizing that decision). Regular David Lynch cinematographer Peter Deming and production designer Ethan Tobman cast a luxuriously simplistic shadow over everything akin to the work in Parasite . And similarly to Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Best Picture winner, screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy infuse their dark thriller with social commentary about elitism, gender roles, and creators vs. critics. There’s a dark satisfaction to watching some of these characters receive their comeuppance, even if the punishment far exceeds the crime. Director Mark Mylod, returning to film after a lengthy stint at HBO with Succession and Game of Thrones , keeps the film tightly knotted, building the pressure from the moment the guests step foot on the island all the way to the end. Of the films I used for comparison, each of them is better than The Menu in their respective traits. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out characters are more fleshed out and entertaining, the social commentary and technical aspects of Parasite are better developed, and the actual Hannibal Lecter is far more sinister. But the one overarching skill that The Menu does better than all those films (yes, I’m saying Parasite isn’t the best at everything, calm down Letterboxd) is that it holds your attention like a vice grip and keeps you frantically guessing all the way through. That alone is more than worth the price of admission, which becomes a bargain once you factor in all the other delectable aspects. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • 'Crazy Rich Asians' Review

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Review September 6, 2018 By: Hunter Friesen Rachel Chu and Nick Young have been together for over a year now and couldn’t be happier. Both of them are professors at NYU, which is how they first met. One day, Nick asks Rachel to come with him to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding, with the added bonus of meeting his family. Thinking she knows everything about Nick, Rachel agrees to go on the trip. Except there’s one thing she doesn’t know: Nick’s family is rich, “crazy rich” in fact. Caught off guard by this, Rachel is unknowingly thrust into a new world of luxury and spectacle, one that is a far cry from her modest upbringing. Despite the challenge, she’s determined to be at Nick’s side and to make a good first impression on his family. Directed by Hollywood journeyman Jon M. Chu, the film’s biggest problems mostly all stem from his lackluster directing. Chu doesn’t bring any originality to the finished project and mainly just uses every rom-com cliché in the book, such as the tough parental figure, comedic sidekick, wacky relatives, and will-they-or-won’t-they plotline between the two leads. Chu also struggles to provide a sense of balance in terms of pacing and plots. The pacing is inconsistent throughout. The beginning of the film quickly shifts from scene to scene as we set up the story and characters. After that things slow way down and we tediously crawl to the end. Apart from the main plot, there is also a subplot featuring Nick’s cousin, Astrid. While she’s a good character overall, her story is very unnecessary and continually gets dropped and picked back up at odd times. On a bright note, Chu does impeccable work during the wedding sequence. It’s easily the most heart-tugging part of the film as the two main characters share a loving connection. Writers Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim do a fair job of adapting from the original bestselling novel. They do a great job at making the lead character very likable and relatable. Rachel isn’t your average rom-com woman whose life is in shambles until she meets a guy. It’s refreshing to see a lead female character have her life together and not have to rely on some guy in order to be happy. The screenplay also fits in a good amount of quality jokes, a lot of which come from Awkwafina’s character. Unfortunately, just like the directing, the biggest problem is the overabundance of clichés. It’s a shame for a screenplay to have such a great lead character and then repeatedly bury her with the same old tropes we’ve seen time and time again. Because of the large cast of characters, the film boasts both good and bad performances. Constance Wu does a great job as Rachel Chu. She makes herself relatable and confidently holds her own throughout. She also shares electric chemistry with both Golding and Awkwafina. Opposite Wu is Henry Golding as Nick Young. Golding does very well, especially when considering that this is his acting debut. He’s at his best when with his on-screen partner and adds a lot of charm to his role. Having already done great work in this year’s Ocean’s Eight , Awkwafina gives another hilarious supporting performance here. Playing Rachel’s roommate from college, she constantly delivers the best jokes, with most of them coming off as improvised. Some minor supporting actors suffer from Chu’s poor directing and have to resort to overacting in order for us to like them. The biggest losers from this are Ken Jeong and Jimmy O. Yang. Their characters are way too over the top and are annoying as soon as we meet them. Crazy Rich Asians is a film that mostly suffers from poor directing and a formulaic story that lacks any sort of originality. Still, it's better than most modern romantic comedies and the reliable trio of Wu, Golding, and Awkwafina make this film a moderately enjoyable ride. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • 'Tetris' Review

    'Tetris' Review March 28, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen If 2022 was the year of taking down the rich in Triangle of Sadness, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery , and The Menu , then 2023 is the year for telling the story of the companies that made so many of those people rich. Corporations have already tied their hands around movies with product placement ( a favorite of David Lynch ), tie-ins, promotional screenings, and merchandising. Now they’ve cut out the middleman and made themselves the star of the show. Just on the docket within the next few months are Air, Blackberry, Flamin’ Hot , and Barbie . Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom, as for every glorified commercial ( Mac and Me ) there is a smart and interesting story about power and ambition ( The Social Network ). Landing somewhere in the middle (to be fair, it leans more towards the good side) is Tetris , which explores the complex origins of the simple game that has gone on to entertain billions of people. “Good ideas have no borders,” says Alexey Pajitnov, inventor of Tetris to Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) as they embrace at a Moscow rave. The statement is especially true in this situation because there’s not much else that would make a Dutchman game designer, an American lawyer, and two British tycoons converge in the heart of the Soviet Union. To all these people, Tetris is the perfect video game, with the simple task of stacking blocks being incredibly addictive. However, it’s just as hard to get something out of Russia as it is to get in. To the Communist Party, a sale of Tetris to the West would be the start of a slippery slope, one where capitalism slowly poisons their socialist society. KGB operatives watch Henk all day and night, blackmailing and threatening him at every turn. What ensues is a suspenseful game filled with high-stakes and tough negotiations Screenwriter Noah Pink (creator of the anthology series Genius ) initially struggles to seamlessly lay out the level, opting for an incredibly exposition-heavy opening where Henk explains the intricacies of video game distribution to his less-than-impressed banker. Director Jon S. Baird makes this more entertaining visually as Egerton’s narration goes over a series of 8-bit animated sequences. The gaming aesthetics don’t stop there, as Baird takes Henk’s line of how he “still sees blocks” after only playing the game for five minutes in its most literal form. The coldly gray Soviet buildings are outlined in blocks, ready to be toppled over once everything is aligned just right. Because of where and when it's set, Tetris finds itself at a pivotal showdown between traditional Communist loyalists and new-era Russian idealists. Many of the thinly drawn Russian villains are better capitalists than the actual capitalists themselves. But they’re no match for Henk’s relentless optimism, which overwhelms their natural pessimistic mistrust. Egerton brings a lot of charisma to his role, charging headfirst through every obstacle. The blocks may fall a little too easily for Tetris , but that doesn’t take away from the appreciation it deserves for guiding us through this concrete jungle of paperwork and legal minutia. Coincidentally, it also illustrates how far technology has come since then, as this story of arcade machines and handheld gaming consoles will be seen by everyone through Apple TV+’s streaming service. Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • Ranking this year's Best Picture Nominees

    Ranking this year's Best Picture Nominees March 3, 2022 By: Hunter Friesen For the first time in 11 years, the Academy Awards nominated 10 films in their coveted Best Picture lineup. The lineup is a full spectrum of scope and scale, ranging from domestic family dramas to sci-fi epics. Apart from being the most important category at the Oscars, best picture is also the only category that gets voted on by a preferential ballot where voters rank their choices in order from least favorite to favorite. While I don’t specifically get to vote on what wins at the Oscars, I can have a little fun and illustrate to all of you how I would rank my hypothetical ballot. And if any of these films catch your interest, I have provided the location of where you can stream them (if possible) in the parentheses next to the title. 10. CODA (Apple TV+) A genre I am allergic to is the coming-of-age indie. Unfortunately for me, the Sundance bowing CODA is the perfect model for that. It’s a crowd-pleaser that plays the same notes as those that have come before but has enough emotion and heart-tugging performances to make it worthwhile. If you’re not like me and find comfort in that sort of thing, this will surely be a fine watch. 9. Dune (HBO Max) It’s big, it’s grand and it’s empty. Dune is an odd case of style over substance, in that the substance is there but was intentionally left out for another time. It’s a gamble that may pay off once Part 2 is released, but until then it leaves this first part as a desert-sized disappointment. Full Review 8. Don't Look Up (Netflix) Does it count for anything if the feeling a film is intended for you to have is the same one you feel every day? Don't Look Up is fan service for the people that already agree with McKay's politics. It doesn't really matter that he's right about the climate situation, because his film is too antagonistic to convert anybody from the other side, and not insightful enough for everyone else. 7. Nightmare Alley (HBO Max, Hulu) Heavy on atmosphere, light on substance. I'm happy Guillermo del Toro got to indulge himself once again in the macabre material that he so lovingly adores. I actually wish he would have indulged himself more! It's all a little too pristine for my tastes. Almost as if he's cognizant that he needs to appeal to Oscar voters now that he's in the club. But, that restraint worked in getting the film nominated, so the egg is on my face. 6. King Richard (HBO Max) A huge thanks to Will Smith for keeping this by-the-books sports biopic from being completely boring. You know this story (in a general sense) and how it's going to play out. But you keep watching and stay invested because of Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, both of which give their best work here. 5. Drive My Car (HBO Max) Too dense for a single watch, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's film can often be a tiresome and frustrating endeavor. Its methodical pacing and setting, much of which takes place in real-time within the confines of a Saab 900, does not make for an easy viewing experience. The simplicity of the filmmaking is made up by the complexity of the emotional throughline. I may not have been able to connect all the dots and have the same soul-affirming experience as others, but I was invested for all 179 minutes. 4. Licorice Pizza At this point, Paul Thomas Anderson’s camera operator has to be an Olympic athlete. Turning away from the youthful chaotic energy of his earlier San Fernando Valley films of Boogie Nights and Magnolia , Licorice Pizza marks PTA's shaggiest film to date, which is truly something considering the aloofness of Inherent Vice . It's often a meandering film where you never truly know where it's going. Sometimes you like where you've ended up, and sometimes you don't. Maybe that's just what PTA intended for, because sometimes in life - specifically in the area of love - you never truly know where you're going to be. 3. Belfast Would you look at that, Kenneth Branagh finally directed a great film! Despite being autobiographical and about a specific place, Branagh's film tells a universal story with sweet simplicity. There's true passion behind every frame and performance. It's not a perfect film, but it hits nearly every emotional beat it sets out to accomplish, with much of the credit going to the incredible cast, especially the discovery of the young Jude Hill as the Branagh stand-in. 2. The Power of the Dog (Netflix) The Power of the Dog doesn’t stray too far from director Jane Campion’s other work as she tightly wounds this surprise psychosexual drama. There’s a cutting edge to each frame, epicly lensed by Ari Wegner. From the directing, writing and the acting, it all combines to make this a grand return to feature films for the New Zealand auteur, who crafts an enigmatic, modern take on the well-worn genre of the Western. It’s the film equivalent of fine wine, as it’s near-perfect at the moment, and will only get better with age. Full Review 1. West Side Story (Disney+) With so many stars in the making, Steven Spielberg is able to harmonize the past and the present, making this remake feel like a Golden Age musical made with modern craftsmanship. With The Great Musical War of 2021 coming to a close, Spielberg has emerged as the predictable winner. Perfectly melding the work of Bernstein and Sondheim with the newfound acting talents of Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist and Rachel Zegler, this new West Side Story makes the case for why some remakes should be allowed to happen. Full Review Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

  • TIFF23 Dispatch - Part 3

    TIFF23 Dispatch - Part 3 September 18, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen All of the films were screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Click here for additional full reviews and dispatches. Select films below will receive separate full-length reviews at a later date, most likely in connection to their public releases. North Star Maybe not every actor should be allowed to make their directorial debut. Kristen Scott Thomas' first foray behind the camera (while still being in front in a supporting role) is littered with choppy editing, poor pacing, and a scattershot script that has way too much on its plate. Emily Beecham is the only shining star (pun intended) in a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson fumbling a British accent and Sienna Miller being fine, I guess. This is surely bound for VOD/streaming way down the line. (2/5) His Three Daughters Azazel Jacobs’ follow up to French Exit (remember that during the pandemic?) starts incredibly rough as our three lead characters act as if they’re aliens who are trying to replicate drought emotions. This bug may be a feature to some, but it ends up feeling like a grating mashup of Yorgos Lanthimos and Wes Anderson. Things do settle down later, allowing for the actresses to flourish. Natashya Lyonne stands out as the slacker of the three sisters, and yet she seems to have the firmest grasp on the mysteries of life. (2.5/5) Seven Veils It wouldn’t be a normal TIFF if it didn’t feature the newest film by hometown hero Atom Egoyan. Amanda Seyfried plunges headfirst into her role as the new director of a revival of Salome at the Canadian Opera Company, a production Egoyan himself helmed while making this film. There’s a lot of big swings, with more than half of them not connecting. But the ones that do connect are really special, such as the audacious staging of the material. The bar may be low, but this is Egoyan's best work in decades. (3/5) Woman of the Hour Anna Kendrick dominated the actor-turned-director battle at this year’s TIFF, with her film, Woman of the Hour , being quite the impressive statement on her skills behind the camera. Now all she needs to do is find a good script, because the one here doesn’t give her enough to work with. While well staged, much of the “action” of the film by the serial killer feels like filler, and the main ideas are spelled out as if they're competing at a spelling bee. Netflix opened the market with an $11 acquisition, giving this true crime film the perfect home. (3/5) Knox Goes Away Between the other hitman focused movies at the fall festivals and how much it seriously fumbles the great concept of a hitman battling rapidly developing dementia, Michael Keaton’s sophomore directorial outing fails to be anything more than a depressing shrug. Luckily for the actor/director, he’s slightly exonerated from blame as Gregory Poirier’s CSI-level script is what sinks this ship. Al Pacino gives his most comfortable performance sitting in some luxurious recliners, and Marcia gay Harden does Keaton a favor by showing up for one half-decent scene. (2.5/5) Must Read 'Snack Shack' Review I hope to see Hollywood starting to see more of Nebraska than they’ve presumed, and Snack Shack was the first step in the right direction toward getting there. SHOP 'Road House' Review For as much as its faults are glaringly apparent, there’s nothing offensive about it. SHOP 'Robot Dreams' Review It speaks volumes, while never containing a single line of dialogue. SHOP 'Shirley' Review Good intentions canceled out by poor filmmaking and an overly basic approach SHOP 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. SHOP

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