Parasite Review

For decades now, South Korea has generated some of the strongest, most original cinema in the world. With a pantheon of directors that seamlessly draw from a myriad of genres, their films manage to be deeply provocative, with grand themes and subtle character moments interspersed with broad shifts in tone. Bong Joon-ho has been celebrated for his strange and dark tales like Okja, Snowpiercer and The Host, each of them equipped with high-concept sci-fi elements that create an unsettling vision of the world. With his latest, Parasite, he shifts gears once again, creating a family drama wrapped in a grifter’s guise that’s blisteringly good.

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The Whistlers Review

When even fans of contemporary Romanian cinema describe the films that achieved global appreciation from a wide swath of cineastes, “funny”, “action packed”, and “plot heavy” are not usual talking points. It’s a country that for decades has generated films that are precisely constructed by often being narratively spare, reveling in character beats and the ennui of boredom in works that stretch hours and hours. This “new wave” was embraced by the same fickle arthouse crowd that now just might find themselves thrilled by Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Whistlers, a movie that dares to pander to audiences with such proletarian incorporations like a conventional story line, echoes to Hitchcock and other trappings of genre cinema.

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The Climb Review

The Climb begins, as most Sisyphean tasks do, with a schlepp up a hill. Instead of rolling a boulder up like the original myth, here we meet tragic figures of a different kind. Two Americans, a svelte and athletic Mike (writer/director Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (co-scribe Kyle Marvin) biking in the mountains of Southern France. In a comically long tracking shot that sets the film’s aesthetic, we soon learn between the huffing while velocipeding that Mike has slept with the fiancé that Kyle is about to wed.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Review

It’s more challenging than usual to talk about Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, without spoiling a lot of the power of the film. It’s a work that generates much of its power from surprise, and how it’s willing to diverge from the historical record in ways some may find daring and others disturbing. After all, the Manson murders were real, the events took place and no film, as broad or as manic as this one, can in anyway erase that fact. Yet in three glorious hours, Tarantino imagines something quite different about the events in 1969.

Without diving into the divergences, the key to recognize is what the film does, and does brilliantly, is evoke what the Manson murders represent, and the period that they took place in. This isn’t some superficial look at a bunch of rabid hippies and the violence they committed, but is rather more the story of the wild and rampant societal changes that the end of the ’60s represent.

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The Lighthouse Review

Robert Eggers smashed onto the indie scene with his 2015 Sundance hit The Witch. A highly stylized, theatrical film with dialogue drawn from the 17th century and a diabolic edge, the film made ten times its budget and garnered carte blanche for his follow up film. In the interim, iconic actor Willem Dafoe approached Eggers and said he’s do anything the director wrote. Thus was born The Lighthouse, an acerbic, haunting film of maritime madness and mayhem.

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Bull Review

There will be numerous connections made between Annie Silverstein’s Bull and Chloe Zhaos’s 2017 film The Rider. There’s a similar, documentary-like tone that also involves riding animals, the subculture that surrounds them, and the characters that gravitate towards these powerful beasts. Yet taken on its own, this debut manages to carve out its own path, firmly establishing Silverstein as a director to watch.

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A Hidden Life Review

Terrence Malick has made a career crafting highly sumptuous, often meandering portraits of flawed but well-meaning individuals. He is fascinated by images of nature, and often lingers on leaves, small animals, or the texture of soil with his camera often below knee level to stretch the image to grandiose proportions. It’s thus no surprise that his latest film, A Hidden Life, continues this trend. What may surprise some is that it’s ostensibly a World War II story, telling the tale of an Austrian soldier who refuses to pledge loyalty to his fellow countryman the Fuhrer.

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rocketman trailer

The tile caption for Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is clear enough – “Taron Egerton is Elton John”. It’s a simple caption, indicating a performer who’s focused on bringing a role to life. The same of course could be said about Reginald Dwight, that slightly portly kid from England with an ear for music who had to reinvent himself decade after decade, inhabiting his larger-than-life persona as he conquered the world.

For many, the decades-long career of Sir Elton is easy enough to take for granted, but in the ’70s, particularly in the U.S., he was preposterously successful, claiming some 5% of the total global musical revenue. He made a fortune for himself and those around him, all while struggling with his own demons that can be traced to his childhood.

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Bacurau Review

There’s an area of Brazil dubbed the sertão, the “backlands” of the North East far removed from the urban congestion of the megalopolises like Rio. The dry, deserted, desert land feels like it’s off the map, the kind of vista appropriate for a Leone or Ford film as anything. It’s all the more fitting that award-winning filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho, along with co-director Juliano Dornelles, sets up his latest film Bacurau, as a kind of neo-Western, near-future speculative fiction in these lands, finding in its isolation opportunity to show the power of community and the brutality of humans.

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The Unknown Saint Review

Getting the tone right of a black comedy is excruciatingly hard. Go off too far in one direction and it becomes a maudlin mess, too far the other and it feels churlish or mean, making light of a serious situation rather than maintaining that delicate balance that’s satiric rather than scornful. Add religion and faith into the mix and you’ve got pitfalls deep enough to fell even masters of the form. The fact that a first time filmmaker, Alaa Eddine Aljem, manages such a magic trick with his debut The Unknown Saint is thus all the more reason to worship this gem of a film.

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