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Review: Soul (2020)

Soul (2020) TLDR: For a year where many may feel like they have lost a little piece of their own, Soul has arrived to remind us all what's most important in life. This is a Pixar film that is arguably more important for adults to watch than kids: it is beautiful - in both story and art, it is quirky, it is heartfelt and, as these trying times endlessly push on, it reminds us that there is still a lot of good in this world to enjoy and reflect upon.  Note: some spoilers below. It takes a little bit of time to ease into Disney/Pixar's Soul. Though the film starts out in a lush and beautifully rendered NYC filled with delightful jazz music as we follow Joe around his everyday boroughs, things very quickly run astray. Suddenly, we are thrown into an abstract world filled with Picasso-like wiry characters and massively heady existential concepts like 'where do we come from', 'the great beyond', and much more. If it's not immediately apparent, it soon becomes clea
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Review: How to With John Wilson (Season 1)

How to With John Wilson (Season 1) TLDR: It's hard to describe exactly what How To is or why exactly it works, but there's a certain point in every episode when the comedy begins to click and then the human element - the surprising poignancy and the everyman/woman relatability - comes out in spades. This documentary series is unlike anything else out there and absolutely worth your time. Who exactly is John Wilson? That's the first question that comes to mind when HBO's new documentary series is recommended to a new viewer. The name is in the show's title, and yet John Wilson is rather a nobody in the grand scheme of things as well as in the entertainment industry (at least he was prior to the becoming a bonafide hit). However, not long ago, contemporary comedy icon Nathan Fielder discovered Wilson and, after seeing his work and style, decided to jump on board as a producer for a new series made by Wilson.  So, again, what exactly is this show? Well, each episode of

Review: Sound of Metal (2020)

Sound of Metal (2020) TLDR: Easily one of the best films I have seen in a long while. Grounded by an absolutely stellar performance by Riz Ahmed (and co-star, Olivia Cooke), Darius Marder's Sound of Metal is a moving and deeply-empathetic look into the journey and struggle to find peace with one's self through the lens of a musician who loses his hearing.  Have no doubt, if you are not yet familiar with the names Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke you are about to be. Both actors - Ahmed in particular who leads the film - are transcendent in Darius Marder's Sound of Metal. Ahmed plays Ruben, a heavy metal drummer, in a duo group led by guitar/singer, Lou, played by Cooke. The two are as much a pair off-stage as they are on it. It is clear from early on that they are all that the other really has in life and they are content to travel across the country in their RV together playing shows and making ends meet as best they can. However, all goes awry when Ruben - who batters his eardr

Review: Pierrot le Fou (1965)

Pierrot le Fou (1965) TLDR: Despite being a 'classic' and perhaps one of the quintessential European New Wave films, Godard's Pierrot le Fou is the antithesis to today's contemporary mainstream movie-going experience. It is an entertainingly goofy affair yet also baffling and often indecipherable. It is both an homage and also a commentary on the medium of film, and one that requires a good deal of contemplative afterthought to ponder what exactly it is you've just watched... I will admit that Pierrot is the first film by the legendary Jean-Luc Godard that I have seen. While I knew his status as an auteur and as one of the best of his craft, I didn't quite know his 'style' going into this film. As anyone who has seen some of Godard's will know, within twenty minutes or so, I was taken for quite the turn - I quickly felt like I was part of Ferdinand and Marianne's chaotic joy ride through the European countryside filled with romance, crime, non-se

Review: The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020) TLDR: A sad, dismal final chapter in Fox's once-acclaimed X-Men saga. The New Mutants shows promise in fragments, but its poor script and plot and often awkward execution makes for a sickly overall package that is quite fitting for this equally-sickly year that it has finally been released in... The New Mutants were an alt-X-Men team created in the early 80's in an effort to revamp and re-contemporize a new team of teenage X-Men. The new series became a smash-hit with new star mutants like Magik, Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane and Mirage, all of whom continue to headline Marvel comics to this day. Josh Boone's The New Mutants, which was announced more than five years ago and shot in 2017, has finally seen the light of day in 2020... The film seeks to adapt the team's beloved 'Demon Bear' storyline, while introducing audiences to this fresh team of mutant superheroes. In doing so, Boone tries to create an omelet-homage from the likes of Ste

Review: The Before Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)

The Before Trilogy TLDR: As a whole, and in each of its separate parts, Richard Linklater's 'Before Trilogy' is the cinematic experience in its absolute finest form. The story of Celine and Jesse speaks to the core of the human experience - surprising joys, inevitable obstacles and eventual pains, and, most importantly, the mystery and intrigue of love - and it does it in an affecting way that, almost unlike any other film, is simultaneously theatrical and also remarkably raw and realistic.  "It's just, people have these romantic projections they put on everything. That's not based on any kind of reality." - Jesse, Before Sunrise Even more than the multitudes of other incredible introspective bits of wisdom and philosophy that Celine and Jesse converse in across the three movies, this quote perhaps sums up the trilogy best of all. What are romance movies other than certain individuals' projections of what romance - often, idealized romance - is. Most o

Review: Whiplash (2012)

Whiplash (2012) TLDR: On multiple levels Whiplash is a brilliant film. A dual character study. An ode to jazz music supremacy. And a cautionary (or inspiring?) tale of what it takes to become the world's greatest. In an instant, Whiplash cements Damien Chazelle as one of today's youngest and most talented filmmakers brimming with artistry, intensity and craftsmanship. This is not one to miss. It was surprising that the first time I saw Whiplash, I left the theatre with a slightly nauseous feeling in my gut. Not because of the film itself - its visuals or audio per se - there is nothing to criticize about its radiance. It was in its simple yet utterly-effective and haunting discussion of what it takes to become the greatest in one's field that left me feeling torn and conflicted. While most of the film seems to be a cautionary or reprimanding tale of jazz instructor Fletcher's (JK Simmons) brutal methods of 'mentorship', its ending posits perhaps an equally stron