In Review: Black Widow

At long last, this? The latest Marvel offering finds the titan of franchises folding in on itself, looking backwards with a floundering lack of ideas for one of its most popular icons. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, after arriving in Iron Man 2 to become one of the original Avengers, is finally the star of her own standalone film. One that sadly cannot measure up to the wait. Like a reheated Bourne film with its visual identity zapped like nutrients from a meal in a microwave, this entry features some of the most popular cinematic world’s stalest tropes and characterizations. The assembly reeks of half-heartedness, a complacency for what will merely suffice instead of what will enrich and best suit the character. After waiting a decade for Black Widow to have her own movie, we are served one that could basically belong to anyone.

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In Review: Disobedience

The saying “you can never go home again” means something different for queer folks. At best, our formative communities and family units still carry the feeling of before and after we became someone else. For those of harsher reality, a return brings it’s own consequences, a reckoning of lingering past, anxious present, and uncertain future. If this person is permitted to return at all.


In Disobedience, the latter is closer to the truth for Ronit, a photographer and former member of an enclosed conservative Jewish community, played with tense reserve by Rachel Weisz. Her return is prompted by the funeral of her strict father to which she was estranged, but the real coming home is to her former trio unit with the doting Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams). Dovid has risen in the ranks of the Orthodoxy as a rabbi and Esti is now his wife, creating odd maneuverability around what their group has been and how it has changed.

But the meaningful glances between Ronit and Esti tell us all we need to know about this repressed shared past. And yet the palpability of the unspoken brews questions upon questions for us until they can now more stifle themselves behind their darting eyes and hesitant sentences.

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In Review!: “Denial”

There is a moment in Denial where Rachel Weisz, capped in a ludicrous wig, grills corn while wearing a tweed blazer. It’s a “blink and you miss it” flash, made all the more garish and dumbfounding by a hatchety edit job that flings the audience like a rag doll. While this scene may be one of the more inappropriately funny examples of how Denial gets so derailed from its historical importance and conventional entertainment, such instances are unfortunately not few and far between. It’s as if the filmmakers were making a screwball 90s period piece, with characterizations and design choices alike coming dangerously close to crossing the line of farce. Not only do you constantly question its taste, you often question the film’s intentions.


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Trailer Drop: “The Light Between Oceans”

Rumored to potentially hit in 2015, Derek Cianfrance’s literary adaptation of The Light Between Oceans has finally released a trailer. It stars this year’s Oscar nominees (and ubiquitous 2015 staples) Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a lighthouse keeper and his wife that take in an orphan newborn into their isolated island life. Things become heartbreakingly complicated when their life returns to the mainland.


The source novel is an absorbing weepy that surprises as its themes take hold. The complexities and intimacies of a marriage and also the lingering effects of legacy have been explored soulfully by Cianfrance in previous films Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. Here he looks to be just as introspective across a large canvas. With a prime festival season release date, expect this one to pop up somewhere on the fall festival bookings.

The Light Between Oceans opens on September 2!

In Review!: “Youth”

Opening with a chic and hip cover of Florence and the Machine’s “You Got the Love” and delivering sumptuous primary color visuals, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, the follow-up to his Best Foreign Film-winning The Great Beauty, never becomes as fresh and incisive as its potential. Skimming the surface of the surface of giant themes about aging, love, and legacy, even the vibrant visuals become dull as the Sorrentino’s script favors the trite over the profound. Like a two-hour music video for a band you’re not cool enough to listen to, Youth exhausts audience good will with its frustratingly thin ruminations on Big Ideas.


At times one wishes they could just enjoy Youth volume free, as the visuals hold far more subtext and intrigue on the film’s thesis. The aural experience is also loaded to the hilt with music cues that lack that early charm and become obtrusively repetitive. For a film as expressive as this, subtlety goes a long way and Sorrentino never operates in the middle – the audience is alternately served complete graceful serenity or complete braying platitudes.

The director does give ample room for his actors to plumb the depths of his half-shallowness to find what humanity they can grasp in characters equally as psuedo complex. Set in a spa in the Alps, composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) escapes his pain as lifelong friend and past-his-prime filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) preps a new film. Caine hasn’t had a role so suited to his introspective soulfulness in some time, and his performance is the film’s strongest facet. He illuminates whole timelines of Ballinger’s life with more pathos than the film really knows what to do with – he (like the film) is most insightful when no one’s talking.

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