Ben Is Back Trailer

This awards season will see two different stories of drug addiction hitting theaters. There’s Beautiful Boy showing the turmoil that addiction creates between a father and son played by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, and then there’s Ben Is Back, the new film from director Peter Hedges showing how addiction impacts an entire family, with Julia Roberts doing everything she can to keep her addict son Lucas Hedges from heading down a dangerous path when he returns home. And the latter just released a harrowing new trailer to pull at your heartstrings.

Watch the new Ben Is Back trailer below. Read More »

TIFF Midnight Madness

The Toronto International Film Festival is best-known these days as a Big Daddy of the awards season. Major films that premiere at TIFF – of which there are many – tend to do so with glamorous red-carpet events, stars congregating outside any one of the gorgeous theatres in the closed-to-traffic festival zone. Many are slick, prestigious studio dramas from celebrated filmmakers – think First Man, A Star Is Born, or If Beale Street Could Talk – and they’re rightly festooned with attention.

I did not attend TIFF this year for those films. I attended for Midnight Madness. Read More »

if beale street could talk review

Art reflects the culture it’s created in. In the ’30s and ’40s, directors like Frank Capra produced optimistic comedies and dramas to help uplift a national morale brought low by the Great Depression and World War II. In the late ’70s and ’80s, punk music and hip-hop spoke to political frustrations. Part of the value of the art that makes up popular culture is what a piece of music, literature or cinema can tell us about the prevailing cultural attitudes at the time it was made.

In this way, events like the Toronto International Film Festival are valuable not just as marketing tools by studios to kick off their awards campaigns, but as a way to show audiences what ideas are currently dominating our cultural conversation. By gathering the biggest, newest films in one place, festivals like TIFF invite the world to consider what’s been on our collective minds, and provide a space to have a dialogue about it.

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birds of passage review

We’ve seen plenty of films giving us stories from the South American drug trade from the colonial-style perspective of the white man. Now is the time for Birds of Passage, a filming providing a gripping look at how the burgeoning business of marijuana affected the indigenous tribes of Colombia.

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Olivier Assayas’ Non-Fiction shows one of the great contemporary filmmakers at his most perceptive and loquacious. His latest film strays away from the mysticism of recent entrancing efforts like Clouds of Silas Maria and Personal Shopper, instead portraying an hour and 45 minutes of exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) conversations about the state of the arts and society at large. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to capture all his brilliant observations on everything from the discussion on the decline of the critic as tastemaker to a sly bit of visual humor ridiculing the multiplicity of electronic devices in our lives.

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Peterloo Review

Mike Leigh intentionally delayed the production and release of his film Peterloo to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the event it portrays, a massacre of peaceful protestors in Manchester by the British Army. Yet its historic status should not obscure that Peterloo is less a moment in time preserved in amber and more of an ongoing struggle. Though the period dress and dialogue are different, the conversations about forcing a democracy to respond to its neediest citizens are depressingly relevant.

Better yet, Leigh does not need to resort to rubbing our noses in the contemporary parallels. His methodical, delicate approach to depicting what led up to a watershed moment in British political history makes its own case. Leigh trusts his audience to understand the slow drip of social change and how a speech or a small act of defiance can ripple outwards. Peterloo might not be a particularly rousing political drama, but fans of other procedurals like BPM depicting the funneling of activism into progress will find the film’s patience a refreshingly honest change of pace.

Find out more in our Peterloo review below. Read More »

Dogman Review

Italian director Matteo Garrone has risen to international stardom with lightning speed, especially since his 2008 film Gomorrah took the second-highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Yet, for all his acclaim, I have tended to find his work remote and slightly inaccessible. Garrone’s latest film, Dogman, is a film worthy of his stature and the first time his bite has been as strong as his bark. This morality tale wrings gripping drama from an imperfect man backed into an unenviable corner.

Find out more in out full Dogman review below. Read More »

Teen Spirit Review - Elle Fanning

If A Star is Born was the folk song of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, a familiar tune brilliantly rendered by cover artist Bradley Cooper, then Teen Spirit was its pop song. The film is derivative, calibrated to appeal to a lowest-common-denominator audience … and yet admittedly catchy, even if it’s immediately recognizable as an interchangeable work.

Find out more in our Teen Spirit review below. Read More »

Can You Ever Forgive Me Review

“Who’s the master, the painter or the forger?” asked Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle as he looked at a fake Rembrandt hanging on the walls of a major museum. Director Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? asks the same question, albeit from a much less cynical perspective. The film tells the true-life tale of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a writer who began crafting forged letters from dead celebrities when her literary career plummeted. As Lee buries herself deeper into a pit of deception, Heller finds both entertainment and involving drama.

Find out more in our Can You Ever Forgive Me review below. Read More »

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In fabric review

Berberian Sound Studio and Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland once again pays homage to Euro-horror of yesterday, crafting a sumptuous sensory overload. In Fabric finds the filmmaker following a haunted dress from a demonic department store, and it’s every bit as weird and amusing as that scenario suggests.

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