Solo Review 2

There will always be something transporting about the music that John Williams has composed for the Star Wars universe. As soon as the old themes and styles of orchestrations (lavish strings, sharp brass) kick in during Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s difficult not to feel a little jolt of excitement — or hope.

The key to the film — to my eye, at least — is that feeling. When Solo works, it soars, but it’s more to do with making what’s being retread feel fresh (not just in terms of familiar property but in terms of its coming-of-age — or perhaps more accurately, coming-of-scruffy-looking-nerfherder — plot) than dazzling audiences with any new material. What purer joy is there, after all, than a romp through space, species, and systems?

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noblemen review

The New York Indian Film Festival played host to several Shakespeare adaptations this year. Among them were Bornilla Chatterjee’s The Hungry and Abhaya Simha’s Paddayi, relatively direct transpositions of Titus Andronicus and Macbeth, though unassuming upland bullying drama Noblemen decided to use the Bard more obliquely: as a moral backdrop for its twisted tale.

Set in a co-ed boarding school but focusing on boys in their volatile teen years, Vandana Kataria’s debut feature sees a Founder’s Day The Merchant of Venice production host a tale of mercy gone awry. It’s a nuanced piece that spirals into stomach-churning violence (more implied than overt, yet unflinchingly realistic) as the unique nexus of Indian Christian schooling and silent, deadly homophobia come to an explosive head.

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deadpool 2 spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: David Leitch’s surprisingly funny Deadpool 2.)

“This is a family film,” Deadpool tells us early on in Deadpool 2. It is, of course, a joke – a movie loaded with vulgar jokes and ultra-violence can’t really be a “family film.” And yet, there’s an air of truth to this. Because a family indicates growth, and growth is exactly what Deadpool 2 showcases. For all its flaws – like the first film, it’s never quite as funny or subversive as it thinks it is – Deadpool 2 takes the meta world created by the original Deadpool, and builds upon it. It finds new ways to tell an old joke, and for that, it’s (mostly) a success.

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Fahrenheit 451 review

Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 gets a slick, stylish update for the Trump era courtesy of 99 Homes director Ramin Bahrani. On the surface, taking Bradbury’s book about the suppression of knowledge and setting it firmly in a world that seems to be crafted in the image of Donald Trump makes sense, and there’s a potentially brilliant movie to be made from this concept.

This isn’t that movie, though. Instead, Bahrani weighs Fahrenheit 451 down with a near-painful lack of subtlety, to the point where the film feels like it’s screaming in your face with a megaphone, “GET IT?” Bradbury’s source material wasn’t exactly subtle to begin with, but writer-director Bhrani takes things to the extreme.

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solo review

After a troubled production, Solo: A Star Wars Story is here. The good news: the behind-the-scenes woes weren’t enough to sink the film and create a mess. The bad news: that doesn’t necessarily mean everything in Solo runs as smoothly as it should.

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Deadpool 2 review

Much like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is less a movie than a smirky, feature-length meme generator. Though the sequel has a new director and some new cast members, Deadpool 2 is unsurprisingly doubling down on what made the first film such a big hit, including jokes about exactly how big of a hit at the box office it was, as well as plenty of other fourth-wall-breaking moments. Considering that the original was successful, it’s somewhat predictable that this sequel is going to the same well of snark and glib ultra-violence, but this is just as obnoxious as its predecessor, if not more so. Read More »

venus review

I’m going to spoil Venus for you up front: it’s a film that ends happily.

This isn’t so much a spoiler, though, as much as it is a reassurance of what becomes amply clear mere minutes in. It’s a family comedy – in tone, structure and everything else – and thus, it’s a queer narrative that doesn’t wallow in the misery of its protagonist. Things don’t often end well for queer women in fiction (for trans women especially), and so a film that not only centers a trans woman, but does so this lovingly, is undoubtedly worth noting. What’s more, it exists at the nexus of Canada’s queer and Punjabi-immigrant cultures, bringing with it not only a whole host of quirks, but the requisite nuances therein.

Indo-Canadian trans woman Sid Gill (Debargo Sanyal) discovers the teenage Caucasian son she fathered when she identified as a man in her teen years. She doesn’t have the bandwidth to compartmentalize this disruption. Her son Ralph, well… Ralph wants to be more Indian than Sid has ever allowed herself to be, whether in terms of music or language or food. It is, quite simply, a delight.

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the hungry review

The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus is one of the harder-to-adapt Shakespeare plays. Its ultra-violence can border on self-parody if mishandled, and losing that element of the story leaves it somewhat limp. Even when juggled deftly, it’s simply grotesque. Though as with any transposition of the Bard to a modern setting – in this case, New Delhi – it’s the adaptation of context that seems to matter most.

Enter Bornilla Chatterjee’s The Hungry, Andronicus loosely set against family industrialism in northern India. The Andronicus’s and Goths are now the Ahujas and Joshis, agrarian business partners entangled in political corruption on the eve of a family wedding. The play’s basic framework remains, a cyclical revenge saga (minus the rape), though its characters are combined for an easier follow.

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Breaking In Review

It was just last summer when Halle Berry’s Karla Dyson took matters into her own hands when she jumped into her minivan and chased down a pair of villains who abducted her son in Kidnap. That marked the first time in far too long that we saw a woman of color — and “of a certain age” — centralized as a badass hero and a mom on the big screen. She was no longer merely the sidekick or the villain the main character (usually a white actress) knocks off within the film’s first 30 minutes. She was the star.

I felt a similar sense of progress while watching Breaking In, the new thriller starring Gabrielle Union. In it, she plays a mother who stops at nothing to fight off armed criminals (Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, and Mark Furze) who break into her home and threaten her and her children.

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Life of the Party Review

Over the last decade, Melissa McCarthy has helped boost a handful of comedies with her fierce comic charm and timing. Spy, The Heat, Bridesmaids, and the Ghostbusters remake (which wasn’t perfect, but was still pretty damn funny) all were elevated by her ability to play someone who’s wild and outlandish while managing to feel slightly rooted in reality. Her immense talent in these films makes it all the more puzzling that the three films she’s co-written and produced, including the new comedy Life of the Party, are so scattershot. Life of the Party has a familiar, straightforward premise, but is hampered by dull jokes and a poor sense of pacing.

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