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

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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.

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

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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.

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‘West Side Story’ Review: The Perfect Reintroduction of a Classic Musical

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Over his decades long career, Steven Spielberg has made his very first musical. Nonetheless, Spielberg has also established that he had always wanted to try his hands at bringing a musical to the big screen with a second cinematic adaptation of West Side Story, following the 1961 film. It’d be easy enough to express skepticism to the need for a new West Side Story film, but Spielberg establishes that the material is a perfect match for him. Spielberg doesn’t work with creating a pastiche of the 1961 film as much as he does create a new screen life for one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. In doing so, Spielberg has made what may be his best film in at least fifteen years.

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‘Wild at Heart’ Review: A Tender, Twisted, Dark Love Story from David Lynch

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David Lynch’s Wild at Heart received the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, yet it still seems to have remained heavily underrated in his filmography. Among many things that one could ever find themselves loving about Wild at Heart, it’s also like looking at a new side of the David Lynch that one would be familiar with and even if the sudden shift in tone may not work for the most dedicated of his fans, it still results in what I see to be one of his most beautiful films by far. If there’s any other way to describe Wild at Heart, it would only be fitting to describe it as the happiest film that David Lynch might ever leave us behind with, but it still perfectly blends together all the distinctive elements of surrealism in order to create one of the most romantic movies that could ever have been made too.

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‘Queen & Slim’ Review: A Gripping, Yet Frustratingly Safe Tale of Survival

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There’s something scary about the mere thought that what you’re witnessing in Queen & Slim could be very well happening today. Yet there’s a greater resonance that comes forth from how the stories of many black lives across the United States have been immortalized – most often not for their achievements, but as symbols against racism after their lives have unjustly been cut short. In this feature debut from music video director Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim tells a story of a modern day Bonnie & Clyde – lovers who are on the run from the law, after having been thrusted into a life or death situation. What soon follows is a harrowing, if occasionally frustrating tale of life or death, with a dash of social relevance within today’s political climate.

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‘Atlantics’ TIFF Review: Mati Diop’s Feature Directorial Debut is Hauntingly Gorgeous

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The mysterious feature directorial debut of Mati Diop, Atlantics garnered the Senegalese-French actress the Grand Prix over at the Cannes Film Festival. In fact, her premiering of the film over at the festival set off an important first: she became the first black woman to direct a film featured in competition at the festival. There are many ways in which one can describe how mysterious Atlantics is unafraid to present itself to be, yet that’s also what makes this film so beautiful too. Every moment of this movie carries something wonderful within its subtleties, and as it slowly transforms into another film beyond your expectations, the results are a sight to behold.

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‘First Love’ TIFF Review: Takashi Miike’s Touch Still Remains Intact Over 100 Films in His Career

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It’s always astonishing to me how a director like Takashi Miike is able to push himself into making so many films compared to his own lifespan. There’ll come a point where I’d even find myself asking about how he remains so consistent with having made so many films with that same distinguishable style – but the fact that he’s still able to provide so many of these films would be more than enough to say that the Japanese film industry would never be the same without him. With his latest film, First Love, Takashi Miike does not quite enter new territory just yet but it does not make his films any less entertaining than they always are to watch. But even the tamest of Takashi Miike’s style of filmmaking can also have some of its more interesting aspects to observe and with First Love, he still provides an entertaining ride from start to finish.

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‘Before Sunset’ Review: Taking that One Chance That Got Away All Over Again

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When I think of a perfect romance, Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy is the first thing to come to mind, not because of how much they accomplish with so little but because even these little moments signify everything wonderful about what more we can do if we’re given a chance to turn it into something. In Before Sunrise, fate had brought two completely different people from almost opposite backgrounds together, and even with their conflicting philosophies regarding what love can do to a person at different points of their life, another chance reunion comes back in Before Sunset. Over the nine years that Jesse and Celine have spent with not having seen one another, their own outlook on life has changed significantly but with only a little more than an hour’s worth of time left to be able to spend with one another, they’re also put to another test for their own compatibility. Are they still able to make that brief encounter in 1995 every bit as meaningful at this point of their life now that they’re already much older? As the complications of their own newfound beliefs come into light, Before Sunset isn’t only a perfect sequel but it also strikes you like you’re realizing something you’d have been shielded from for so long, too. And as these secrets are uncovered, you wonder to yourself if they were already best under the lid or if they’ll bring you much closer too.

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‘Pyaasa’ Review: Guru Dutt’s Hauntingly Semi-Autobiographical Poem

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NOTE: This is an archived review originally written last year.

Pyaasa (or Thirst in the English language) is perhaps the best-known film of director Guru Dutt, who also plays the lead role and serves as producer. Having already enjoyed a reputation as a classic Bollywood film, it’s not hard to see why the film has managed to make such a name for itself because this is the work that an accomplished artist could pull off, but I’m amazed already thinking about the many responsibilities that Dutt had in putting something of this sort altogether. It’s amazing just to think about that because Pyaasa is a film that feels made with the same sensibilities that reminded me of the films of Satyajit Ray, for even in moments that ring towards being what one would already recognize from Bollywood films such as the occasional musical number, you still find yourself in awe at how much more dimensions they add to the narrative – but there you also have one of the best qualities of a musical coming into play. And if someone with about as many big responsibilities behind and in front of the camera like Dutt can utilize all of this the way he did, then he truly has created a great film.

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Metal as an Extension of Human Flesh in David Cronenberg’s ‘Crash’

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David Cronenberg’s Crash had earned a reputation for itself as one of the most controversial films of the 90’s, and in the years that have passed since its release, it’s easy enough to say that there aren’t many films that would have went out the same way that this had done so. Adapted from J. G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, Crash is a film that can drive one’s feelings towards complete arousal or utterly disturbing, for it exemplifies everything that has made Cronenberg’s work every bit as distinctive as it is. But with a film like this, there’s no true “middle ground” when it comes to getting a picture of how people feel about such a work – but it’s hard to not admire the fact that David Cronenberg would have taken a big risk of this sort with trying to bring Ballard’s novel to the big screen. Yet it still stays in tune with his own brand of body horror, as it also transforms itself into something so oddly desirable, for its images are never easy to let go of for as difficult as they can be to grasp. It’s a miracle of some sort that a film like this was even made, but Cronenberg never lets down on his promise.

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