Invisible Life Review

There came a point early on in Karim Aïnouz’s drama of separated sisters, Invisible Life, where I wondered if the way he depicted a scene veered a little too sharply into the melodramatic and borderline hysterical. Then I remembered how the poster billed the film: a tropical melodrama. Once I reset my bearings a bit, I found the narrative quite engrossing and the story rather moving.

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In the year of our Ford 2019, trying to make sense of people’s wildly divergent Star Wars opinions opens up a murky frontier of epistemological questions that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters now, only complicates all the more. Epistemology concerns the nature of knowledge and justified belief. I believe that people believe what they believe when they share their Star Wars opinions but I often wonder how they acquired those opinions in the first place. There’s a precedent for Jedi mind tricks in the Star Wars universe and it leaves me questioning whether some opinions were planted in people’s minds, Kenobi-style, or whether they were genuine reactions that people formed on their own. Like, “Hey, have you Change.org petitioners perchance been inceptioned by the Kremlin?” Or, “Hmm. You journos been getting all chummy with Rian Johnson, listening to him sing subliminal karaoke at film festival bars?”

Discussing Disney’s sequel Star Wars trilogy online is like venturing into a mad minefield decorated with the same bad blood as George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. As the young Lando Calrissian tells us in his Grammy-winning music video: this is America. When J.J. Abrams stepped back into the director’s chair for The Rise of Skywalker, there was always the lingering fear that a big ol’ landmine was planted right under that chair, just waiting to detonate. In 2015, Abrams rescued the franchise, restoring its cultural clout with the $2 billion success of The Force Awakens. Now, he’s essentially trying to re-rescue the franchise from a re-polluted water cooler. This translates visually when The Rise of Skywalker introduces an ocean moon that’s polluted with the wreckage of the second Death Star.

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little women review

Ever since I was a little girl, I hated Amy March. I hated everything the youngest March sister in Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women represented: from her preening vanity, to her obsession with men, to the way life came so easy to her because of her beauty and youth — and of course, the manuscript-burning incident. Like many a Little Women reader, I connected most with Jo, the tomboyish writer who dreams of becoming an independent woman. Alcott too showed a preference for Jo — the de facto protagonist of the book was the feminist stand-in for the author. Jo was easy to like, or at least, easy to aspire to. Every Little Women fan thought themselves to be as strong-willed and smart as Jo, making it easy to look down on an empty-headed brat like Amy.

Alcott may not have intended it, but there was an internalized misogyny in how readers viewed Amy — arguably one of the most hated characters in literature. Jo fit so snugly into the tomboyish hero mold, while Amy was placed in direct contrast to her. The feature film and TV adaptations of Alcott’s post-Civil War era classic would often take on this uncharitable view of Amy too, with little more to her arc than the infamous manuscript-burning and her fall through the ice. Most characters in the Little Women adaptations were tertiary to Jo anyways, the independent, romantic hero who “wasn’t like other girls.” But Greta Gerwig‘s immensely warm and big-hearted 2019 adaptation of Little Women displays the richest understanding of all the different women in the story and performs the greatest miracle: recontextualizes vain, spoiled, silly Amy into one of the most compelling characters of the film.

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cats review

There is a thin line between idiocy and genius, and Cats pukes a hairball on it and rubs its ass all over it. This is a movie where a cat version of Rebel Wilson wears a halter top underneath a fur skinsuit that she takes off with a zipper, before leading an army of cockroaches in a song and dance number alongside mice with human baby faces. And yet there are flashes of gonzo brilliance throughout the Tom Hooper-directed musical — although it’s unclear whether they’re intentional or accidental. Because this is Hooper (the prestige director with no vision) and Cats (the musical about nothing) that we’re talking about, is it possible for Cats to be anything more than a bizarre exercise in digital fur technology?

In the words of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Hal…this is just about cats.”

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the rise of skywalker review

There was so much promise in the new Star Wars trilogy. A young, fresh, likable cast of characters was brought in to interact with classic characters. The legacy lived on. The excitement was palpable, and even when missteps were made, there was a real sense that we were experiencing blockbuster filmmaking at its finest. And that makes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all the more heartbreaking. What started so promisingly with The Force Awakens and reached exciting heights with The Last Jedi ends in almost unthinkable disappointment. What should have been the big, triumphant conclusion to the Skywalker Saga has instead ended with plenty of sound and fury signifying nothing.

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The Expanse Season 4 Spoiler Review

The Expanse fans weren’t the only people who rejoiced when Amazon saved the much-loved series from SYFY’s cancellation; the cast and crew, who have a strong bond with their fans, were ecstatic as well, and eager to take the show to new places. “It’s exciting for us as actors and also for fans to get a new version of their favorite show,” Dominique Tipper, who plays Naomi Nagata on the series, told /Film. “Obviously it still has all the things you know and love, and the characters you know and love. But there is a widening of perspective.”

Tipper’s description is an apt one—The Expanse is thriving in its new home. Not only has Amazon Prime Video given the show significant promotion in the lead-up to the drop of Season 4 on December 12th (a day earlier than advertised, no less), but also in terms of the quality of the actual show. If you haven’t watched the new season yet, check out /Film’s non-spoiler review from a couple weeks ago, which explores why this season is just as good as the ones before it, if not better. 

If you watched all ten episodes, however, read on for a spoiler-full take on some of the major occurrences of the fourth season. This is your final warning: spoilers abound below, so read on at your own risk.

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bombshell review

Megyn Kelly was a minor Fox anchor before she shot to nationwide fame with the polarizing declaration that Jesus Christ was a white man. It wasn’t the most auspicious way to achieve national celebrity, but Kelly would soon take advantage of it by positioning herself as the conservative feminist opponent to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Despite being an avowed non-feminist, Megyn Kelly more often than not was positioned as some kind of conservative feminist figure — whether it was against Trump during the 2016 elections, or whether it was when Fox News was upended by the sexual assault allegations against its CEO, Roger Ailes. And Megyn Kelly finds herself positioned as a sort of feminist hero once again, this time by the fictionalization of the Fox News controversy, Bombshell.

Directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo), Bombshell seeks to tell the story of the Fox news controversy surrounding Roger Ailes, who resigned from his position as Fox News CEO in 2016 following a slew of sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him by several Fox News female anchors, from the perspective of the women. It’s a sticky subject considering the reputation Fox News has gained as a conservative propaganda machine that aims to stir up resentment against minorities and progressive issues. But on the other hand, it seems like a timely and powerful subject to tackle during the height of the #MeToo movement. In Roach’s hands, it ends up being about neither.

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The 2017 film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ended quite definitively for a brand extension. A quartet of teenage heroes, having survived the experience of being sucked into the video-game version of the mysterious and malevolent Jumanji, take a bowling ball to the 90s-era game cartridge in the hopes of ensuring that it never bothers them again. But Welcome to the Jungle was an unexpected smash hit two holiday seasons ago, grossing nearly a billion dollars worldwide. So of course Sony has brought the world of Jumanji back for a follow-up film, Jumanji: The Next Level. Yet what felt surprisingly charming two years ago now feels a good deal more desperate.

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Knives and Skin Review

If you filtered a classic character-driven film like The Last Picture Show through a giallo color palette and infused it with impending dread of a horror flick, you’d get something that looked a lot like Jennifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin. The writer-director begins her film with a missing girl, the inciting incident for any number of genres, and lets it spiral away outwards organically. It’s a thriller, a bit of noir, a lot of coming-of-age tale, always small-town domestic drama. To Reeder’s immense credit, her film glides forward with an aura of mystery but never feels like genre mix-and-match.

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Little Joe Review

Maybe it’s the success of TV’s Black Mirror, maybe it’s just the general state of the world, but it feels a bit like we need our high-concept science fiction delivered to us in purely dystopian form. Technological advances are inherently suspicious, the conventional wisdom seems to suggest. Our humanity alone might not be enough to save us. It’s oddly comforting, strange as it sounds, to come across a film like Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe, which takes the form of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style horror film but dares to suggest that perhaps the things we fear aren’t quite as ominous as they appear.

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