In Review: Maudie

Like Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky several years before it, Aisling Walsh’s Maudie proves to be an remarkable showcase for the subtle gifts of actress Sally Hawkins. In the lead role, Hawkins stars as famous Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis who grew in notoriety while maintaining a humble lifestyle in the tiny home she shared with her husband. Plagued by rheumatoid arthritis, her paintings were modest in size though loaded with imagination. The film is true to both that humility and charming spirit, especially thanks to the absorbing performance by Hawkins and Ethan Hawke as her grumbling husband Everett.

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In Review: “Dunkirk”

On a grand scale, Christopher Nolan has tinkered with time and its experiential malleability to mine morality, regret, self-deception, and hope at the core of the everyman. With his latest, the World War II nightmare Dunkirk, he crafts a film where trauma is time’s displacing agent. While the director usually favors working your brain, Dunkirk is felt in the body.

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To tell the tale of the week-long evacuation of 300,000 troops from the french shores, Nolan interweaves the battle on land, sea, and sky into one streamlined thread of formative daring. This provides an authentic experience of each individual branch of battle’s unique struggle while providing a unique way to present to the audience their disconnected efforts as one united front. The audience tries to keep on their toes much like the soldiers, but they’re never left in the dark. For as many films that purport to be all action sequence these days, Dunkirk is essentially that but with more than your amazement on its mind.

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In Review: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

In War for the Planet of the Apes, the hero’s journey comes of great consequence to the resilience, the spirit, and the ethical foundation of the once infant ape Caesar. This third film in the series deals with the fallout of the the uprising of Caesar’s dissident Koba in Dawn…, with political and global ramifications and push the struggle between humans and apes to yet another tipping point. Caesar, as masterfully portrayed by Andy Serkis as ever, is a reluctant warrior pushed into circumstances far past what he has bargained with the entrance of a brutal colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his loyal military horde.

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In Review: “The Beguiled”

Smoke creeps in to Sofia Coppola’s southern landscape of The Beguiled, a girl’s school led by the stiff Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) still functioning on bare bones. That encroachment reminds of the battle not too far off, the sounds of cannons just at the ear’s reach, and the potential for their secluded world to collapse. But the struggle inside this dusty mansion is both within and without, as a wounded northern soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) tests both their will and his welcome through sexual and emotional manipulation.

These women are not so easily swayed as he believed.

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In Review: “47 Meters Down”

47 Meters Down is an oceanic disaster film so morose and shoddy that it begs for some levity. With only a handful of cliched jump scares and general lack of visual tension, there’s a lot of room for your mind to wander to lighten the mood over its lethargic 89 minutes. For example, which Mandy Moore track do sharks prefer: “In My Pocket” or “Candy”? What would the film be like with a commentary by Brian Fellows? “Does that shark have arms?”

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In Review!: “The Lovers”

A glance across the room, a shy gesture leads to awkward silence. Then the orchestra quickly stirs in as eyes meet, staying low until the sudden rush of requited love makes us exhale and catch our breath anew. If the love story we’re watching is worth its salt, it sweeps us away in both the minor movements of the build-up and the consummated passion. Azazel Jacobs’s The Lovers is that kind of breathless romance.

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In Review!: “Alien: Covenant”

Once Ridley Scott again took over the reins of the Alien franchise, its humans got a whole lot dumber. Prometheus brought a crew to a foreboding planet only to have them immediately dispense of their safety helmets and fuck around with unknown, potentially harmful lifeforms, to say the least of it. But while Prometheus was a space horror rumination on man’s hubris, its many threads and evasions kept its ideas from congealing into a cohesive whole. It was about our ludicrousness while being fully ludicrous itself.

Alien: Covenant however sticks the thematic landing that its predecessor did not. Rest assured, these space colonists act just as stupidly – which will certainly frustrate many – but this film is more focused in its presentation of humanity not worth saving, a link in the evolutionary chain that’s met its end date.

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In Review: “Snatched”

Jonathan Levine’s Snatched flies in with a lot of wide-reaching and intelligent comic talent and only asks them to make a mess. Goldie Hawn’s cinematic return after a fifteen year absence is cause for immediate celebration, but pairing her with Amy Schumer as a mother-daughter team promises uproarious comic gold. The resulting film is greatly indebted to their ever-present charms and natural comic timing that it never matches.

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Worse yet, it gives them a fairly rote vehicle and only asks its actresses to do so much, seldom tapping into their best assets or capacity for genuine feeling. It’s as if the film doesn’t know what it has on its hands.

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In Review: “Unforgettable”

On its exterior, Unforgettable looks like a harlequin slice of sex vengeance camp grandiosity, but delivers each of those quadrants in mostly half measures. When the film flares up on that kind of entertainment, hold on to your hats – but you’ll find yourself wading through more lackadaisical chapters than salacious ones. A return to the erotic thrillers of a bygone era is hinted at, but there isn’t much going on above the knees. Unforgettable is unfortunately not quite the trash you want it to be.

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In Review!: “Personal Shopper”

Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper is its own unique form of thriller, as much a Hitchcockian psychosexual mind game as it is a thoughtful meditation on grief and the afterlife. Supremely at home in Assayas’s singular and graceful style of his films slowly revealing themselves, Shopper is deceptively slight while being fully loaded. It’s tough to grapple with what the film is doing in the moment (and still tricky on the other side of seeing it), vacillating from genuine horror to depressive character study to something else entirely in short span – but the film casts an invasive and ethereal spell.

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