In Review: Dark Waters

There’s an unexpected combination of spiritual material to auteur in Dark Waters, the true life retelling of Ohio lawyer Robert Bilott and his long-lived case against the DuPont corporation. Both a courtroom drama and corporate justice character study in the vein of a much more somber Erin Brockovich, Todd Haynes’ film details the discovery of DuPont’s knowing poisoning of local water supplies and the uphill climb for retribution. Mark Ruffalo returns to the everyman shoes that suit him best as Bilott, brought onto the case from a vague family connection and uncovering implications beyond the local community.

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In Review: Honey Boy

Honey Boy is like witnessing an exorcism no one asked for and the demon is Shia LaBeouf’s dad. The actor, having long since burned out his many chances due to extended bad behavior including an arrest that included spouting racial slurs, has some atoning to do. But the film is less about asking forgiveness than it is laying bare all that has ailed him, including a history of addiction that has afflicted his father and family beyond. Instead of empty signs of promising change or offering excuses in order to alleviate, Honey Boy aims for healing.

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In Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Arresting the senses and stimulating the mind, Céline Sciamma has made one of the most breathtaking screen romances of the decade with Portrait of a Lady on Fire. After her powerful previous features, Girlhood and Tomboy, Sciamma pivots slightly into a new direction, one that expands upon her queer humanism into more formal approaches. The depth of feeling is still wondrous, but moreso than ever before, the auteur has crafted something quite intellectually rigorous and intuitive that further elevates her emotional naturalism. Here she makes something intellectual and expressionist, bent on removing the creative divides between person and object in matters of art and of love. By the end she leaves you dizzy, catching your breath in the passionate throws of the film’s formalist embrace.

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In Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“It’s good to talk.” So goes the old adage of Mr. Rogers and the new film that follows his teachings and unique impact on American society, Marielle Heller’s restorative A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The film uses the simplicity and unassuming depth of those words to examine how learn and hold on to pain, certain that there is nothing more dramatic than two people connecting. The two people on the film’s mind are a journalist named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and his subject, the incomparable Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks as no other performer could have. It’s largely, achingly, two men talking. Or sometimes, for one of them, struggling to talk.

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In Review: Frozen 2

Rather than stepping forward in usual fairy tale sequel fashion, Frozen 2 looks backward. Perhaps not in ways that are expected or all that desired, a strange pivot for one of the most clamored-for sequels in recent memory. Yes, audiences get to be reunited with the ice-spewing queen Elsa and her less emotionally guarded sister Anna, along with her boyfriend Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and that snowman terrorist named Olaf. Packed with even more tunes than before, this film takes us back to the mythos of the sisters’ departed parents and their association to the lands that surround their kingdom of Arendelle.

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