‘The Fabelmans’ TIFF Review: Steven Spielberg’s Bittersweet Ode to the Magic of Movies

✯✯✯✯✯

Over his long and incredibly prolific career, Steven Spielberg shows yet another side to his own filmmaking that only reaffirms his status as one of the greatest working American filmmakers. To a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg, merely watching the movies alone isn’t a magical experience, but the building blocks for making them are just as magical – and have shaped an entire world for him. But the greatest thrill about watching Spielberg taking his audience to his own childhood is that for those of us who have been watching his films for so long, he’s showing us where everything we loved about his works has come about, in a work that’s clearly an extension of himself in The Fabelmans.

Continue reading →

‘Decision to Leave’ TIFF Review: A Seductive, Erotic Mind Game from Park Chan-wook

✯✯✯✯✯

No one makes thrillers like Park Chan-wook does, whether you’re watching a film like Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, or The Handmaiden, they always feel like there’s much more going on beyond the usual mystery at hand. This is where now, with Decision to Leave, Park Chan-wook goes forth with making a film clearly echoing the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the like, and he shows himself to be the closest thing we have to a modern-day equivalent. Like The Handmaiden, it’s very evidently romantic, but also just deeply twisted in ways that tap into the darkest desires of those around you, to the point that the central mystery isn’t the entire thrill as much as it is the whole world that Park builds to surround it.

Continue reading →

‘The Whale’ TIFF Review: A Shattering Comeback for Brendan Fraser

✯✯✯✯✯

When you look at the premise for a film like The Whale, one can only imagine how this premise could be difficult to pull off successfully. In the hands of a filmmaker like Darren Aronofsky, much suspicions could be raised, but he manages to pull off what might be his most hopeful film thus far. Perhaps that’s not to say he doesn’t find himself potentially dragging his viewers back into a territory of simple misery porn when the central focus is Brendan Fraser’s character and his deathly obesity, yet the case being presented is far more thoughtful. And like Requiem for a Dream was for many, The Whale can be tough – but when Darren Aronofsky is at his best, he shows himself to be a wholly thoughtful filmmaker. This is where I find The Whale lands.

Continue reading →

‘Triangle of Sadness’ TIFF Review: Palme d’Or Winning Satire Comes Packaged Without Filter

✯✯✯✯½

Ruben Östlund wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes again, following his first win with 2017’s The Square – and he certainly hasn’t gotten any less vicious ever since. With Triangle of Sadness, Östlund goes without being filtered, his satire feeling like it’s reached a new height, showing the lifestyles of the rich at their most vulnerable. It’s only the least of where all the riotously funny moments from Triangle of Sadness come about, but watching everything come together is where one could only get the feeling that it’s only playing out like a time bomb and as the audience, you’re waiting for everything to explode at some point or another. And the moment the explosion hits, it’s hard to look away from the chaos.

Continue reading →

‘Bros’ TIFF Review: Baby Steps First, but a Nice Leap for Mainstream Queer Representation

✯✯✯½

Bros is a romantic comedy like most others you’ve seen in the past few decades, but what sets itself apart comes from how this is the first film released by a major studio to feature an almost entirely LGBTQ+ cast for a wide theatrical release. This is the one aspect about Bros that gets touted most, especially by its director Nicholas Stoller and co-writer/star Billy Eichner, but to a certain point you can clearly tell that this is something getting to Eichner’s own head. Yet there’s still much to love about how Eichner and company care about how they want this film to provide a voice for gay viewers within mainstream film, and on that end, Bros is very cute all around.

Continue reading →

‘RRR’ Review: Radical, Revolutionary, and it comes highly Recommended

✯✯✯✯✯

Rise, Roar, Revolt: these are the three R’s that make up the acronymous title of S. S. Rajamouli’s RRR, a Telugu blockbuster now catching the eyes of viewers in the west. As the film made waves around said viewers, it’s hard to go ignore how people have been talking about the film compared to western blockbusters: but that also shuts out talking of this Tollywood (not Bollywood!) film on its own terms, where it’s just a great time all around. I certainly am not the first to admit my experience with Indian cinema happens to be very limited, but nonetheless I can’t help but be taken aback by the scale of RRR.

Continue reading →

‘The Northman’ Review: Valhalla Arises in Robert Eggers’s New Epic

✯✯✯✯✯

The third feature film of writer-director Robert Eggers isn’t a horror film much like The Witch or The Lighthouse were, but the way in which Eggers brings you into his worlds whether it be through the usage of old age English or the elaborate sets – when considering the historical settings of his films, is nothing short of impressive. It was easy enough to see that from The Lighthouse onward, Eggers certainly would have found himself growing to become more ambitious as a filmmaker and it’s perhaps best reflected by what you’re seeing in The Northman, which may just as well be his most visually stunning film to date. Yet to Eggers, it’s not simply about mere aesthetic, it’s all about transporting the audience back through time, which I believe he succeeds at beautifully in here.

Continue reading →

‘Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers’ Review: Supposed Riff on Reboots Too Self-Serious for Its Own Good

✯✯½

Amidst Disney’s own trend of live-action remakes of their most popular live action films, surely enough it took a while before they decided to go ahead and catch up with rebooting one of their own animated series. With director Akiva Schaffer taking the helm at bringing Disney’s beloved chipmunks to the screen to a completely new generation of viewers, what he brings out with Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers seems to be born out of a parody for how they’ve continuously seen their animated fare as of late – but even knowing that this is still under Disney’s own noses, they can’t fully reach the levels of lampooning that you know the material at hand would be opening themselves up to.

Continue reading →

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Review: So Much Said, So Little Time

✯✯✯✯½

The directing duo Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) make their second feature film together with Everything Everywhere All at Once, whose title may just as well be an apt descriptor for what the viewers can expect themselves to experience from watching it. In fact, a film like Everything Everywhere All at Once seems to try and reach out as many people, going from those who were fascinated by the concept of the multiverse to film lovers, and maybe even to the inner child in most of us, for the ride that’s provided goes through most facets of life, from the happy to the mundane, while being thoughtful and ever so frantic. But underneath all of that, there’s something so much sweeter. If anything, it best states the film as a labour of love, all in a package that’s only set to overflow.

Continue reading →

20 Years Later: June 2002

Now to start something that makes perfect sense. This column will be a monthly retrospective of the movies from 20 years earlier. Most months I’m aiming for the first Tuesday to release this. But I’m starting late. For the record, release dates are weird so if it’s a smaller film, info is hard to always nail down. I’m using The Numbers as my source for the most complete list. Now did I see everything? No. This is from the perspective of a down the line filmgoer. If I went, I’ll tell you why. If I didn’t, I’ll tell you why. Here goes nothing.

June 7
Bad Company: We often mourn the programmer, a mid budget star film, but I look at this and I’m fascinated by how every piece of this was assembled from other parts. The title was reused. The cast of Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins feels like the most “well they were free” cast with Peter Stormare used as a villain because he can’t be used as an actual actor (for two more weeks). Joel Schumacher directed because he was free. The premise is a Prisoner of Zenda/Prince and the Pauper riff. This is what we lose on these and I’m not sure we did lose. However there are some great ones coming this year.

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: I feel like this kind of movie is dead. The moderately popular novel put on screen. This would be a TV series now. The cast is basically all on TV now anyway aside from the indestructible Sandra Bullock. I didn’t see this but I think hsad the buzz been even vaguely good I would have. I like films steeped in the south, but this wasn’t it. Shame.

June 14
The Bourne Identity: Doug Liman went from two hipster comedies which are modern classics with genius scripts to an unexpected action great with this film. Though it should be noted that unlike the process we see now where a director with no experience is brought on to be a hired hand, Liman actually started the project as a fan of the book. And it shows. Look, this became a landmark franchise starter for a reason. This is a blast of a film with a phenomenal cast and a pace like a metronome. Liman knows the game. But the real thing this kicked off was movie savior legend Tony Gilroy fixing a film in rewrites, though he was the first writer here. This rules, but you know that.

Scooby-Doo: Look, you can’t talk about this film without pointing out that an R-rated cut will never come out but exists. That’s from the screenwriter so I consider it fact. I also ask why. This movie feels like it exists at a juncture between the ironic adaptation and the serious one and leans way too hard on the ironic side. It’s from nothing director Raja Gosnell and genius writer James Gunn and the issues are huge. Like making the villain an obvious punchline. However, three happy things. The sequel is considered a true adaptation. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar were dating while filming this and have been married for 20 years. And the big one: Following the death of Casey Kasem, Matthew Lillard would take over the role of Shaggy in animation and is an utter soundalike to where I don’t know it’s not Kasem.

Pinata: Survival Island: I could list a million actual independent releases that matter. No. I’m going with the release of the legendary in b-movie circles b-movie that I’m genuinely serious played theaters in Little Rock as Demon Island. Oh and it played for two weeks so when I get to one of the best films of the year below realize you could choose to see it or this and I believe someone had to choose poorly. This is about a killer pinata who attacks Jamie Pressly (who rightfully hates this as it followed her career changing Not Another Teen Movie work) and Nicholas Brendon (who has one more year of work before never being heard from in a good way again.) No I’ve never seen it. I’ve tried though.

Windtalkers: I hate war films, so you’ll rarely get my opinion on them. And yeah I’m passing here. I’m going to get to a point where I will see every Cage film for a few years but I had no reason to watch this. No interest.

June 21
Juwanna Mann: OK, great I have two back to back all time greats to cover on this day. But I have to cover this first. Will I ever see a film like this? There are a few on my list. But this isn’t a film I saw. A movie about a man pretending to be a woman to enter the WNBA is so offensive it needs no explaining.

Lilo and Stitch: The birth of an iconic character. I see so much Stitch merchandise. My daughter loves Stitch. I have no objection. How can you not love this movie? This is a film about grief, about trauma, and yes family. It’s so ridiculously entertaining in every way. The animation, the last great bit of 2D animation from Disney, is art. The characters are rich. It’s so moving. I want to give special credit to the voice work by Tia Carrere who really didn’t get to work into her older years and here suggests she could have had a tremendous dramatic career. A true classic. I didn’t see it opening weekend though. I saw…

Minority Report: OK, let me get my critique out of the way. The mystery here isn’t great. It should be. The script is mostly by Scott Frank who is a genius at them. But it’s only so-so. The thing is, it’s a macguffin. Spielberg doesn’t care. What he was into was the satire of a culture with no privacy. And when you realize that, you get why Ebert named it the best film of the year. In 2001, Spielberg honored Kubrick but to me this is him getting the spirit. This is the weirdest film Spielberg can make, a darkly twisted film with crazy character work from everyone from the aforementioned Stormare to the great Tim Blake Nelson. The director of Blankman, Mike Binder, actually gets an emotionally devastating scene. And the satire is laser like. This is a film about where we were going and it’s spot on. In a great year, this is one of the best films.

June 28
Hey Arnold! : The Movie: I was 18 when this hit and wasn’t even a fan of the show. I will say the movie is legendary for getting a theatrical push it wasn’t built for. This was meant as DTV and we’re in an era where a lot of those went there, unlike now where Turning Red was theatrical grade but went to streaming. (I’m still mad.) A shame this killed the show basically,

Lovely and Amazing: I’ll concede a huge blind spot for me is Nicole Holofcener. This one is very popular with her fans. It’s got one of the Dermots. It’s not one I’m OK I missed.

Mr. Deeds: But you know what? I’m fine never seeing this. Like I don’t even know what the joke is. Adam Sandler gets rich? I don’t get it. I love this cast and Winona Ryder got a classic SNL from it. But as for Sandler, hey it’s 2002. We’ll check in with him at year’s end.

Analysis:
June is weirdly unfamiliar compared to now. A few novels, a tv show, and one remake but only one truly major IP film. It’s wild how slight this month is. But the key is the three films that are great. Bourne will launch one of the best trilogies of the decade. Lilo and Stitch is gold. And seriously Minority Report is part of why I’m a passionate eternal Spielberg defender. It’s an interesting month.

Next month: July starts with a flop and ends with an underloved third film in a series.