In Review: Burning

Cannes sensation Burning opens with a chance encounter between two former schoolmates, establishing director Lee Chang-dong’s masterful equal stronghold of the casual and the consequential before we can even realize it. What Lee patiently, poetically unfolds before us is a potent study of toxic masculinity and economic inequality in the modern era. From a short story called “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami, Burning chases the ghosts of brighter futures forever out of reach and a past remembered with darker undertones than we noticed in the moment. It’s haunting stuff, as fascinating as it is difficult to shake.

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In Review: The Oath

When dissension needs to be heard, is it still better to speak with nothing to say than to not speak at all? As Ike Barinholtz’s directorial debut The Oath shows, it may be better leaving the outcry to voices that can convince rather than be simply loud. The film feels spiritually adjacent to the quasi-science fiction of The Purge franchise, portraying a future where the American government institutes a signed oath to the administration, enforced by both shadowy agencies and the social demands of those around us. The potential consequences of opposition are as scary as the futility of dealing with the devoted. But Barinholtz can’t move deeper than the lowest common denominator of his themes.

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In Review: Beautiful Boy

As told in the real life account of David Sheff and his addict son Nic, caregiving for the addict is a process of learning from avoidable mistakes made on a foundation good intentions. Director Felix Van Groeningen brings their story to the screen by unfortunately finding much of the same footing with Beautiful Boy. The film has its heart in the right place, well-meaning and holistically aimed, but makes crucial and sometimes repeated missteps that sink the entire enterprise. It’s a film too lacking in self-awareness to get out of its own way and to detrimental effect.

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In Review: Colette

The mere presence of sex is not sexy. But tell that to Colette, the new biopic on the famed early century literary sensationalist from Wash Westmoreland and starring Keira Knightley. It’s a film that finds the suggestion of kinky congress to be enough to stimulate, less soberly matter-of-fact about the true sexual adventures of its subject than it is clinical. Here sexuality is like a scientific catalog, presented with the chaste informativeness of a bibliography. “I don’t know if you know this,” the films whispers at us through a musty lace handkerchief, “but people are prone to bump uglies. And in various sorts of ways!”

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In Review: A Star Is Born

Remakes seldom come with as much Hollywood heft as A Star Is Born. Carrying a legacy almost as old as the cinema itself, this new version comes with its own added baggage of risk: it’s the big screen debut of global superstar Lady Gaga as the eponymous emerging talent and Bradley Cooper takes his first singing role and takes on his first directing duties. But none of that pressure can be found on the screen. Instead, this update of the classic love story is crafted with a palpable affection and passion. Cooper’s take is personal, ingenious, and raw.

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