judas and the black messiah review

“A badge is scarier than a gun.” So says William O’Neal, a Black man who sits in an interrogation room, bloodied and bruised. It’s the 1960s, and O’Neal has just been caught trying to boost a car while impersonating an FBI agent – and the crime could spell the end of his life as he knows it. His words ring true – he knows he doesn’t need to pull a weapon to frighten African Americans into submission; the threat of a lawman with unchecked power is far more terrifying. O’Neal’s attempt at car robbery sets him on a path towards destruction. He stays out of prison – but his freedom is gone.

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apple buys coda

Apple has just set a new Sundance Film Festival record with its purchase of Sundance crowdpleaser CODA. Directed by Siân Heder, the coming-of-age dramedy was an instant hit when it premiered as the festival’s opening night film, attracting the attention of streamers like Amazon and Netflix, with Apple shelling out a record-setting $25 million to land the distribution rights to CODA.

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First Date review

The best thing I can say about First Date, the wacky new crime comedy from writer/directors Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, is that it almost never takes its foot off the gas. It opens with a bang (someone gets shot in the first scene), and after a very brief sequence which establishes some of the main characters, it quickly kicks back into high gear. But that fast pace means the film never stays in one place for very long, and your mileage may vary on whether or not all of its detours and destinations are ultimately worthwhile. Read More »

the blazing world review

You would think any movie that casts the iconic Udo Kier as an enigmatic dream guide who munches on fireflies would at least be interesting, but no – The Blazing World, an over-stylized, under-baked bit of tomfoolery from writer-director-star Carlson Young never manages to engross the viewer even as it continues to throw out fantastical scenarios left and right. It’s a draining mishmash of Intro to Psych lectures mixed with dream journal excerpts swirled together with some not-so-subtle Pan’s Labyrinth rip-offs. It’s no doubt a film made with the best intentions, but that doesn’t make it any less of a chore to sit through.

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A Glitch in the Matrix review

Rodney Ascher is still best known as the filmmaker behind the enthralling 2012 documentary Room 237, a deep dive into several unconventional readings of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining that ended up being a movie about obsession. He’s directed a few other projects since then, but now he’s back to explore that same topic from a different perspective with A Glitch in the Matrix, a film which delves into the long-held theory that we’re all living in a simulation.  Read More »

land review

“I’m here because I choose to be.” So says Edee (Robin Wright) after she’s been resuscitated from near-death in a secluded cabin tucked away in the Rocky Mountains. As Land begins, we see Edee come to the cabin under somewhat mysterious circumstances: she throws her cell phone in a trash can, and once she’s moved-in she pays someone to come haul her car away so she has no real way to leave without getting lost wandering in all that wilderness. The cabin rests on the edge of a hill and has quite the view – all sprawling mountains blanketed with green and capped with snow. It’s a peaceful place – in theory. But Edee is not used to living like this, and though she came prepared with canned food and other essentials, it doesn’t take long before she’s in mortal danger.

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Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street Review

Documentaries like I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story and Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey have already dug into a couple slices of the magic that makes Sesame Street so beloved by children and adults alike. Now Marilyn Agrelo‘s new film Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (inspired by Michael Davis’ book of the same name) goes back to the origins of the groundbreaking series created by producer Joan Ganz Cooney and writer/director Jon Stone, and shines a light on the hurdles, milestones, and memorable moments that have turned Sesame Street into a worldwide sensation beloved by millions. Read More »

mayday review

“Mary, Alpha, Yankee, Delta, Alpha, Yankee…” a woman’s voice lazily repeats over radio static, as a man parachutes from a helicopter amid a freak storm. That refrain echoes throughout Karen Cinorre‘s surreal drama: “Mayday, mayday” the woman calls, not appearing to need much help at all.

But Mayday is very much about women in need. Women who have taken sanctuary in a dreamlike fantasy world eternally at war, luring men to their deaths with their distress calls like some kind of post-modern siren. Writer and director Cinorre, in her stunning feature directorial debut, has crafted an eerie distorted Peter Pan fable out of a fantasy of a women’s world, which pokes at the fragile barrier between life and death.

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R#J review

Using the same Screenlife technology that powered films like 2018’s innovative Searching, director Carey Williams reimagines William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet through phone screens and social media accounts in his debut feature R#J. That approach might sound obnoxious, but for the most part, it works surprisingly well. Just as Baz Luhrmann did in 1996 with his stylish Romeo + Juliet, Williams aims to keep the story fresh for the next generation, and despite using Instagram and FaceTime as the key methods of communication between his characters, he’s able to tap into the raw romance at the core of this star-crossed lovers’ tale.
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passing review

Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) meet in the restaurant of a posh New York hotel, spotting each other from across the room. Irene mistakes Clare for a stranger at first, but as it turns out, the women grew up together. But as Irene looks Clare over during this reunion, she can hardly believe her eyes. Clare is sporting platinum blonde hair, and for a moment – just a moment – Irene thought she was white. But both women are Black – although they can hide it. Both are light-skinned enough that they can, if they want to, pass for white. It’s something we see Irene do briefly at the start – and she doesn’t seem very comfortable doing it, constantly hiding behind her own hat and avoiding eye contact whenever possible. But for Clare, passing has become a way of life. She even has a white husband (Alexander Skarsgard). “Does he…?” Irene asks, before Clare cuts in: “Know?” He doesn’t.

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