In Review: Dream Horse

The casual and lovely Dream Horse tells the true story (previously revealed in the Sundance prize-winning documentary Dark Horse) of Jan Vokes and her Welsh community coming together for shared purpose. Played by Toni Collette,Vokes muddles through in her idyllic working class village until she sparks with the idea to raise a racing horse. The exorbitant cost of the endeavor leads her to recruit the financial help of the entire town, uniting everyone not only through a common goal but a shared dream of a brighter existence beyond their simple lives.

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In Review: The Killing of Two Lovers

Robert Machoian’s The Killing of Two Lovers opens on the quaking face of its central father David, played with aimless despair by Clayne Crawford, as he stands over the sleeping bodies of his estranged wife and her new boyfriend. He aims a gun at them with unsure and impulsive hands, but quickly sneaks off and runs to his father’s home, seemingly terrified of the violence he was considering. As we watch his next days, horrific personal violence always looms as an option, like the fog that hangs over his desolate mountainside town.

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In Review: The Courier

Conceived without the benefit of imagination, The Courier is a microwaved and nutrient-free copy of similar Cold War spy dramas, tinny with the shine of its shrinkwrap packaging. Planting itself somewhere between le Carré, Mike Leigh domestic drama, and a burlap sack, the film is confused in its inspirations, chasing other films of more precise ambitions. The resulting hodgepodge of derivative influences flattens the tension, which isn’t aided by an even flatter central performance. But what the film fails to understand about the genre its chasing is that they all came from a unique point of view; it struggles so hard to follow in the Cold War genre’s footsteps that it stumbles to find a path of its own, even as it navigates an untold corner of history. The Courier unfortunately makes the blanched achievement of telling the story of a man you have never heard of before while being a movie that you have.

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In Review: Boogie

Eddie Huang’s Boogie is a sports film most interesting for its unusual punctuations than the blunter plotting it fills itself with. A story of a cocky basketball player torn between the competing expectations placed upon him, it begins with a prologue of his parents visiting an astrological matchmaker warning them of their naturally conflicting perspectives. Their response spells certain doom, which Huang imbues with a knowing wit. Later, their son’s first flash with romance flares with an enticing rush of connection, lust felt down to the core that feels equally as fateful as his parent’s disharmony. Such moments in Boogie feel in dialogue with each other, finding insight into its characters’ futures while rooting them in a sensory here and now. Sadly, it’s just sparks that transcend the film around them.

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In Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

Disney’s latest computer-animated spectacle Raya and the Last Dragon arrives amid pervasive division that continues to define the current moment, and the film is an earnest attempt by the studio to meet it headfirst thematically. Now, the Mouse House is no stranger to stories of heroes who save the day by bringing opposing factions together. Nor has the larger corporate entity shied away from stories that telegraph their timeliness or cultural urgency to overly simplified, emptily hashtaggy results (think Elsa’s hyper-vaguely examined queerness, Captain Marvel‘s even vaguer ideas on female power, etc.). Emotion is also something that Disney’s brand of filmmaking has fallen into more cynical and mechanical tactics of late. But in presenting a divided world brought together by its titular heroine, Raya and the Last Dragon succeeds at telling a story of reconciliation thanks to its well-developed emotional underpinnings, achieving in something that resonates in quite welcome and modest ways.

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