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.

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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In Review!: “Raw”

Crashing in on a giant red wave of French extremity, Raw is one nastily daring debut from Julia Ducournau. Hazing rituals of a veterinary college make for a morbid playground of sexuality, feminism, and subversion in this body horror wonder, as smart as it is profane. As freshman Justine (Garance Marillier) struggles to assimilate to the indoctrination, she feels a growing urge for human flesh – but is this born of stress or a dormant natural instinct? Is it a coping mechanism or an exercise of self-actualization?


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In Review!: “The Zookeeper’s Wife”

Opening with a patient, glistening beauty The Zookeeper’s Wife meets its World War II subject with an earthy passion. A familiar aesthetic is nevertheless enlivened by director Niki Caro. She quickly captures a sense of awe for the animal kingdom that is particularly attuned to a certain part of our humanity, a holistic eye that carries over to the human story at hand.


At once a star vehicle perfectly suited to Jessica Chastain (if you forgive a few chapters that forget her entirely) and a stately untold true story, the film is more absorbing than its recent biopic contemporaries. Chastain plays Antonina Zabinski, the wife and corunner of the warsaw zoo doing the Nazi invasion of Poland. They devise a plan to smuggle Jews out of the nearby ghettos, using their Nazi-overtaken grounds as a hiding place. Over the ensuing months, the refugees and rescuers develop something of a familial bond. For most of the running time, the Jewish struggles are given as much emotional consideration as Antonina’s terrified caregiving, the scattered focus still coherent thanks to richly composed feeling.

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In Review!: “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”

Oz Perkins delivers a creepy and contemplative debut with The Blackcoat’s Daughter, a horror film with familiar devices used in unexpected ways to establish its tone. Instead of pulse rushing thrills or stock jump scares, Perkins’s film is a melting glacier of encroaching dread, a slow build that denies catharsis. While the payoff isn’t completely satisfying, it does leave a lasting impact on the mind if not the nervous system.


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