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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nude review

A row of women, bent over on the river bank, uniform, toiling away at dirty laundry on the outskirts of their village. One of them, Yamuna (Kalyanee Mulay) breaks formation. She turns to dive into the water, and to free herself from the shackles of tradition and gendered expectation. The mere swerve of her foot towards the river feels like an enormous gesture. As she swims to a quiet inlet, she spies on another woman, swinging from the branches, youthful, carefree and detached from concern. But in a moment, that freedom feels curtailed, when a man swims up to the woman on the tree. He is her lover, but there’s something amiss about the setting. Something intrusive about this male presence, sexualizing a moment that ought to feel untethered from time.

Within seconds and without words, Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi-language Nude establishes its emotional stakes, presenting a pristine vision of freedom before snatching it away. The rest of its runtime – a melodic 110 minutes that you’d wish lasted longer – follows Yamuna trying to win back this fleeting feeling. First, by escaping her abusive husband and moving to Mumbai. Next, by becoming a nude model at a college of the arts.

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Revenge Review

There’s an endless supply of revenge thrillers in cinema, and among them are also plenty of thrillers about a woman who wants retaliation after being raped by a man. That’s exactly what Revenge delivers, but what makes this particular thriller stand out is that it hails from first-time French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, bringing a refreshing female perspective to the proceedings that is not only empowering, but also downright bloody and merciless in its literal and figurative execution. Read More »

the party's just beginning review

Karen Gillan is still a relatively unknown quantity in the U.S. After shooting to cult success in Doctor Who, Gillan muddled through a few obscure comedy roles before getting her big break as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. But her prosthetic-covered, blue painted face has hindered her chance at widespread recognition, though her performance in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may have finally earned her the attention she deserves — if people could see beyond the Rock’s pecs.

She deserved to shoot to stardom with the unfortunately titled 2014 TV series Selfie, in which Gillan played a vain, selfish, and damaged heroine addicted to the instant gratification of social media. She gave a stunning performance in a show that was seen by too few and that was gone too soon. But Gillan’s directorial debut, The Party’s Just Beginning, takes that damaged, troubled character and runs with it — spawning an intriguing heroine for a dark, oddball film that deals with the lasting damages of grief.

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Overboard Trailer

As is perhaps only fitting for a romantic comedy, there’s a lot to love in the new Overboard. Lest we forget, the main reason the original Overboard (released in 1987) works is through sheer force of charm — Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are unstoppable. But even so, it’s not a film that plays particularly well to a modern audience. A man kidnapping an amnesiac woman to turn her into a housewife is creepy at best. The kiss that Russell plants on Hawn when he comes to pick her up at the hospital is just the tip of the iceberg. As such, it’s difficult (in a vacuum, at least), to imagine a remake going well. But Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez, under the direction of Rob Greenberg, have made something great.

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Tully Trailer - Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is one of the great living actresses, and Tully is the latest proof. Theron’s ability to fully embody and transform into her characters is already well-documented, from her Oscar-winning work in Monster to the fierce Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Prior to Tully, one of Theron’s better, more acidic performances came in the Diablo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed Young Adult. Now, the actress, writer, and director have come together for a film that’s perhaps slightly less biting but far more resonant in its depiction of the struggles of modern middle-class parenting.

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all about nina review

Movies about comedians are usually a gamble. Often they’re too self-indulgent, or mawkish, or overly mean-spirited. Rarely do they balance the high drama of comedians’ inherent insecurities and the, you know, comedy. But the few that do succeed because they strike a personal chord — one that mirrors the self-deprecating performance and painfully real revelations of a good stand-up set.

All About Nina is as personal as you can get. Written and directed by Eva VivesAll About Nina is a searing, semi-autobiographical portrait of a troubled young woman trying to make her big break in the comedy scene. Played with an intoxicating swagger by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Nina is an abrasive stand-up comedian who never shies away from provoking people on and off-stage, but hides a dark past of her own.

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Song of Back and Neck review

Do we really need another sad middle-age white guy comedy? Probably not, but if we have to have them, at least let them be more like Paul Lieberstein’s Song of Back and Neck. The artist best known to audiences as Toby from TV’s The Office makes his first step behind the camera for feature filmmaking to largely positive results, handling some slightly morose material with equal parts sincerity and dry humor.

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maine review

If you see Maine features a woman hiking a trail alone and assume you’re in for a retread of Wild, think again. In upstart director Matthew Brown’s sophomore feature, we see people fleeing the burdens of their life in the great outdoors in search of escape and fulfillment – but ultimately finding neither. The answers to life’s problems do not simply appear out of thin air in the woods, as much as the film’s two hikers might try to will them into existence. And yet, there’s catharsis in the film’s complete lack of cathartic moments, just as there’s deep feeling in the emotional reserve and an intense connection with characters who can never get outside of themselves to connect to each other.

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