Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Luck – Movie Review

Luck

  • Director: Peggy Holmes
  • Writer: Kiel Murray
  • Starring: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Fonda, Flula Borg

Grade: D+

The animation world has long been searching for someone to challenge Disney and Pixar – and, to a lesser extent, Dreamworks – as the de facto animation studio that kids and adults rely on. Sony Animation has been successful occasionally with Into the Spider-Verse and Mitchells vs. the Machines, and Netflix has been known to put together some interesting titles like I Lost My Body and The Sea Beast. Now entering the ring with its first animated feature film is Skydance, a subsidiary of the studio that co-produced mostly action films like World War Z, The Tomorrow War, and Top Gun: Maverick. Skydance’s animation division had already gotten off to a rocky start thanks to its hiring of John Lasseter as Head of Animation after his forced exit from Pixar, and Luck, which lists Lasseter as a producer, won’t do the studio many favors.

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Nope – Movie Review

Nope

  • Director: Jordan Peele
  • Writers: Jordan Peele
  • Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wilcott, Keith David

Grade: B+

In just three feature films as a director, Jordan Peele has enjoyed a noticeable upgrade in virtually every aspect of his production scale. His reputation as an exciting auteur of genre filmmaking has similarly skyrocketed. Get Out was a left-field cultural smash that garnered critical and popular attention and won Peele an Oscar for its screenplay. 2019’s Us received similar praise but steered more sharply into its horror trappings while still making a unique statement on class. Now comes Nope, a sci-fi/horror blend that manages to have a lot on its mind but never manages to bring it all together cohesively.

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The Gray Man – Movie Review

The Gray Man

  • Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
  • Writers: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
  • Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard

Grade: C

You know your movie is in trouble when the behind-the-scenes happenings are more intriguing than what’s put forth on the screen. Such is the case with Joe and Anthony Russo’s newest action blockbuster The Gray Man. The film represents Netflix’s biggest production ever, a $200 million franchise starter that’s based on Mark Greaney’s book of the same name. And with A-list stars like Ryan Gosling (making his first on-screen appearance since 2018), Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas on board, the streamer is hoping for a big return on its investment.

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The Sea Beast – Movie Review

The Sea Beast

  • Director: Chris Williams
  • Writers: Chris Williams, Nell Benjamin
  • Starring: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke

Grade: B+

Netflix’s quest to win the Academy Award for Best Picture has been a well-documented pursuit in recent years. With The Sea Beast, they perhaps have their best chance at winning the Best Animated Feature. The streamer’s newest animated film arrives on Friday and, while it’s likely to be swallowed up by their bigger, more palatable films, it deserves a spot at the table as one of the best animated films of the year.

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Marcel the Shell With Shoes On – Movie Review

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

  • Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp
  • Writers: Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley
  • Starring: Jenny Slate, Isabella Rossellini, Dean Fleischer-Camp

Grade: A-

More often than not, I’m alone when I go to the theater. Sometimes I even have the theater to myself, which is what I secretly hope for whenever the lights go down and nobody else has entered. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with the sensation; freedom to laugh loudly at all the stupid jokes, freedom to squirm at an uncomfortable development, or freedom to simply stretch myself out. But at my screening of Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, there wasn’t an empty seat to be found, and somehow the experience made the film all the more potent. Because when you’re watching a film that’s all about finding friendship amongst the vast loneliness of the world, being surrounded by a room full of strangers (and right next to my wide-eyed 7-year old) is oddly cathartic.

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Top Gun: Maverick – Movie Review

Top Gun: Maverick

  • Director: Joseph Kosinski
  • Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Ed Harris

Grade: B+

Top Gun became a bit of a peculiar pop culture oddity after it premiered in 1986, and hardly because of the film’s quality (or lack thereof). Tom Cruise would become an even bigger movie star, the volleyball scene became iconic in its own way, a symbol of the queer-coded subtext of the film writ-large, and its theme song outlived any semblance of the movie’s plot. The Navy even saw enrollment jump in the years after its release. Not to mention it was the namesake of a pretty amazing roller coaster at King’s Island in Cincinnati, which I rode to death in my adolescence.

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Senior Year – Movie Review

Senior Year

  • Director: Alex Hardcastle
  • Writers: Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli and Brandon Scott Jones
  • Starring: Rebel Wilson, Mary Holland, Sam Richardson, Zoe Chao, Angourie Rice, Jade Bender, Chris Parnell, Alicia Silverstone

Grade: C

There are two ways to play Senior Year, a comedy about a cheerleader who slips into a coma before her senior prom for 20 years and wants to pick back up where she left off. One is the bonkers 21 Jump Street way in which everything is heightened and anything can happen, sending up the same genre it’s clearly pulling from. The other method is to use the insane setup as a way to explore a character who had the best years of their lives taken from them, in a saccharine, rom-com way. Consider it a coming-of-age comedy in which the central character has technically already come of age. Unfortunately for first-time director Alex Hardcastle, he never fully commits to either type of film. 

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Pleasure- Movie Review

Pleasure

  • Director: Ninja Thyberg
  • Writers: Ninja Thyberg, Peter Modestij
  • Starring: Sofia Kappel, Zelda Morrison, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cook, Dana DeArmond, Mark Spiegler

Grade: B

Perspective is an important, understated tool when creating a film. In Ninja Thyberg’s directorial debut, she wields it like a knife. Specifically, Thyberg shows the ins and outs (no pun intended) of the porn industry from a newcomer trying to reach the top of the world. But Pleasure is more than a retread of Boogie Nights (more on that in a minute) with a female protagonist. The film is an unflinching look at the modern porn industry and the deeply rooted misogyny inherent in how it’s run. Of course, the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the committed performance of its lead, Sofia Kappel.

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Happening – Movie Review

Happening

  • Director: Audrey Diwan
  • Writers: Audrey Diwan, Marcia Romano and Anne Berest
  • Starring: Anamaria Vartolomei, Sandrine Bonnaire, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luana Bajrami

Grade: B+

A film about a woman’s search for an abortion could easily feel like a heavy-handed attempt at political relevance, but that is not what Happening is about. Rather, director Audrey Diwan’s sophomore directorial feature grounds its drama in its lead character’s dilemma. It’s no secret that reproductive rights have been a hot-button issue in America for decades, even after the passing of Roe v. Wade – ironically, I screened this film the night before the draft opinion was leaked that would essentially overturn the landmark case. That the film takes place in France in 1963 and still feels as prescient is no small feat.

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Dual – Movie Review

Dual

  • Director: Riley Stearns
  • Writers: Riley Stearns
  • Starring: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale, Theo James

Grade: B-

In just a handful of feature films as a writer and director, Riley Stearns has firmly established himself as a connoisseur of dark, deadpan humor. But he uses this style of comedy to effectively explore surprisingly complex themes. 2019’s The Art of Self-Defense used its humor as a way to explore toxic masculinity and the ways it permeates our culture. Dual scratches the surface of bigger ideas, but is less successful in its execution. Stearns is unquestionably a unique voice in the independent film landscape today though, which earns Dual a certain amount of brownie points.

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