Blood Quantum Review

Blood Quantum, the second feature film from Rhymes for Young GhoulsJeff Barnaby, opens with an intense ancient settler’s proverb that reads, in part: “Take heed to thyself, make no treaty with the inhabitants of the land you are entering,” lest a lot of really heinous things happen, apparently.

It’s an ominous and telling start to a film that follows the Mi’gmaq community of Red Crow and their police chief Traylor (a great Michael Greyeyes) just before, during and six months after a zombie outbreak. Soon, the undead apocalypse has decimated the rest of the earth’s population, but the Red Crow are immune to the zombie virus, and they must decide amongst their population whether to allow into the reserve the non-Indigenous people arriving to take shelter from the hordes of undead.

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The Platform Review

“Hunger unleashes the madman in us. It’s better to eat than be eaten.”

Goreng (Iván Massagué) has volunteered to enter The Pit for six months in order to earn his associate’s degree, have some quiet time to finally read Don Quixote and kick his smoking habit. But what The Administration hasn’t told him is that The Pit is a vertically stacked prison leaving its inmates to starve or cannibalize each other, in Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s sci-fi dystopian horror The Platform.

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Saint Maud Review

Have there been studies linking trauma and piety? How many born-again converts came to their faith through suffering, damage and pain? First time feature filmmaker Rose Glass examines just that, following newly devout nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark) and her relationship with her patient, Jennifer Ehle’s Amanda. Maud most recently worked at a public hospital, but after a mysterious tragedy concerning her last patient, she’s now a private nurse for Amanda, a celebrated dancer dying from lymphoma of the spine. Amanda’s iconoclasm and Maud’s sanctimoniousness make for a dangerous combination, one that Glass takes in fascinating and deeply unexpected places.

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Harriet Review

Awards and festival-season biopics generally follow a pretty strict pattern, and Kasi LemmonsHarriet doesn’t digress too far from that path. But the filmmaker (who debuted her feature film Eve’s Bayou at TIFF twenty-two years ago) went ahead and assured herself a success by casting Cynthia Erivo as abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, and Civil War hero Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross).

Cynthia Erivo sang her way onto our collective radar with an astonishing performance in last year’s Bad Times at El Royale (followed by a smaller but hardly less striking role in Steve McQueen’s Widows), and if she wasn’t already, she’s now guaranteed a forever place in our cultural consciousness with Harriet. This is an incredible turn, and while the film it’s in doesn’t quite match it, Erivo alone would be enough to make Harriet mandatory viewing.

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Bad Education Review

After the candy-colored bite of his feature debut Thoroughbreds, director Cory Finley handily earned audiences’ attention for whatever he did next. And he was gifted with a riveting story in a 2002 NY Mag article detailing a shocking Long Island public school embezzlement scandal. Yet while Bad Education makes for an interesting watch, it’s a little bit of a bummer that it’s missing the unique style and tone of Finley’s first film.

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The Goldfinch Review

How do you make a movie out of The Goldfinch? It’s the question book lovers have been asking themselves since John Crowley’s adaptation was announced last year. And it’s true that Donna Tartt’s thoughtful, decades-spanning, continent-hopping story of a boy and a painting doesn’t really lend itself to an action-packed feature film, but if you’re in the bag for a 150-minute meditation on grief, guilt and the power of beauty, then hey, The Goldfinch is for you.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Review

After the beautiful documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor slayed hearts and flooded tear ducts last year, I admit to thinking, “Do we really need a fictionalized version of Fred Rogers’ story?” And then I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and got my answer: we can never have too much Mister Rogers. Especially now.

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With its second season, Cobra Kai does two things most viewers might not expect from a straight-to-YouTube Karate Kid sequel: it delivers stakes as high as Game of Thrones’, and it establishes Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as one of the most fascinating and complicated characters since the likes of Walter White.

First: this is a spoiler review, so we’re going to get into some season-long reveals here. If you want a spoiler-free review, I wrote up the first two episodes out of SXSW here.

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The Curse of La Llorona opens in Mexico in 1673, as we meet the weeping woman of the title in her, shall we say, better days. The film introduces us to the Latin American legend, in which a scorned woman drowns her children in a river and then becomes overtaken by grief and guilt. It’s an affecting way to begin a movie. It’s also the last time The Curse of La Llorona works on almost any level.

We jump forward 300 years to Los Angeles in 1973, and you might be asking yourself why this movie is set in the ’70s. There’s no real thematic reason for it, and it’s so stylistically bland as to take minimal advantage of such an aesthetically interesting decade. No, The Curse of La Llorona is set in 1973 merely so we can have one throwaway scene connecting this film to the Conjuring universe in the most perfunctory way possible. Tony Amendola’s Father Perez shows up for a hot minute, reminisces about a doll, we get a black-and-white flashback to Annabelle, and BOOM, you’ve got yourself a Conjuring movie.

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Body at Brighton Rock review

With the opening credits of Body at Brighton Rock, writer/director Roxanne Benjamin tells us exactly what kind of movie we’re getting into. A bright yellow, jagged bubble-cursive firmly recalls R.L Stine’s Fear Street series, or any Christopher Pike book published from 1985 to 1999, as fresh-faced park ranger Wendy (Karina Fontes) sprints to work, listening to Oingo Boingo on her headphones.

Wendy’s a bit older than YA and Body at Brighton Rock isn’t set in the ‘80s, but there’s a very Pike/Stine mood here that Benjamin sustains with a sure hand and plenty of style. Wendy’s the kind of heroine that will annoy audiences, because Hollywood perpetuates this stubborn myth that all of our leading ladies have to be hyper-competent and unfailingly tough. Wendy’s always tardy, a little clumsy, a little goofy, and her best work friends (Emily Althaus and Brodie Reed) refer to her as “an indoor kid,” though she happens to work at a decidedly outdoor job. When she volunteers to survey a trail normally reserved for the more experienced of her co-workers, no one thinks she can do it. Read More »