In Review: Clemency

Chinonye Chukwu has a very ambitious debut with Clemency, a film that looks to balance advocacy with a poetic delivery that gets at the soul of a contentious American issue. The film is clear in its intentions as an anti-capital punishment drama, pulling no punches in how it grimly unveils the dehumanizing facades of bureaucracy that allow it to continue. And yet the film is also deeply personal, focusing on both inmates and their keepers in a way that refuses to allow us to consider this as anything but a human discussion. It’s dead serious filmmaking that charts a direct line in blood from the political to the social to the soul.

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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: 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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In Review: Ford v. Ferrari

Noise does not equate to excitement, but don’t tell that to James Mangold. With Ford v Ferrari, the director takes an extensively familiar and cliched approach to unexamined industrial history. Despite a somewhat interesting subject of Ford Motor Company’s entry into the Le Mans auto race and cross-continental grudge with the sexier Ferrari, Mangold reduces the narrative to entry-level machismo pathology. Its human story, led by Christian Bale in prickish rascal mode and Matt Damon as his straightlaced compatriot, is granted consideration seldom deeper than the traditional masculine types it reverts to. Even with all the technically impressive vroom vroom (or maybe somewhat because of it), it feels like we’ve seen it all before. And with Mangold unable to find any fresh territory to speak of, it hasn’t gotten any less boring.

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