‘Belle’ is a Fantastic Fairy Tale Set in a Wondrous Online World (Review)

‘Belle’ is a Fantastic Fairy Tale Set in a Wondrous Online World (Review)

In 2018, anime director Mamoru Hosoda received an Academy Award nomination for Mirai, which enthralled audiences with gorgeous animation and a wondrous coming-of-age narrative that explored the psychology of its child protagonist well, yet was lacking in thematic weight. His newest film, Belle, aims to improve upon that with a story set inside an online role playing game, and the result is one of the best animated features to come out this awards season thanks to a well-written character arc, clever storytelling, creative world building and gorgeous animation from Studio Chizu.

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Joel Coen Brilliantly Adapts ‘The Tragedy Of Macbeth’ with Masterful Minimalism (Review)

Joel Coen Brilliantly Adapts ‘The Tragedy Of Macbeth’ with Masterful Minimalism (Review)

William Shakespeare’s timeless play Macbeth has been adapted to film several times over the years, from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai epic Throne of Blood and Orson Welles’ 1948 adaptation to Justin Kurzel’s dreamlike retelling that starred Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in 2015. Now Joel Coen takes a stab at bringing the tragedy to the silver screen in The Tragedy of Macbeth, and the results are as great as one would expect from the more dramatic half of the Coen Brothers thanks to striking high-contrast cinematography, practical art direction and set decoration, and captivating performances from its two leads.  Read more

‘Licorice Pizza’ is a Hilarious and Heartfelt Coming-Of-Age Opus from Paul Thomas Anderson (Review)

‘Licorice Pizza’ is a Hilarious and Heartfelt Coming-Of-Age Opus from Paul Thomas Anderson (Review)

Ever since debuting with Hard Eight and Boogie Nights in 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson has
been a constant presence in the conversation about the best contemporary filmmaking auteur
working today, and he continues to solidify himself as such with his new film, Licorice Pizza.
Curiosity has been rampant about how a melodrama would feel in the more nuanced style he’s
refined since There Will Be Blood in 2007, and sure enough, the results place his coming-of-age
story among the best movies of the year for its nostalgic tone, the infectious chemistry between
the two leads, and a script that’s as funny as it is heartfelt in its depiction of platonic love and the
boundlessness that came with youth in the 1970s.

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‘The Hand of God’ is a Unique but Uneven Tale of Two Halves (Review)

‘The Hand of God’ is a Unique but Uneven Tale of Two Halves (Review)

After winning the Academy Award in the now-titled category of Best International Feature Film in
2014 with The Great Beauty, writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has solidified himself as a
filmmaker on the rise with the overlooked drama Youth and the miniseries The Young Pope in
addition to its sequel, The Two Popes. He looks to gain another Oscar this awards season with
The Hand of God, a semi-autobiographical story about his adolescent living in Naples, Italy;
however, as impressive as Sorrentino has evolved his filmmaking style and despite the
emotional punches that his personal story punches, his latest film is ultimately a tale of two
halves that’s held back by a myriad of issues in the script that audiences may or may not find
easy to overlook, yet saved by the rich, gorgeous city in which it takes place and the eccentric
characters that populate it.

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‘Belfast’ is a Nostalgic and Heartfelt Coming-Of-Age Crowdpleaser (Review)

‘Belfast’ is a Nostalgic and Heartfelt Coming-Of-Age Crowdpleaser (Review)

From film versions of Shakespeare plays like Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V as well as adaptations of Agatha Christie novels Murder On The Orient Express and the upcoming Death on the Nile, to studio fare like Thor and the live-action Cinderella remake, Kenneth Branagh has dabbled in a plethora of film genres to the point where he has become as prolific a director as he is an actor. This year, he releases a film that’s smaller and more personal to him in Belfast, a film that not only won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, but also has cemented itself as a prime Oscar contender this awards season despite its flaws thanks to strong performances from its acting ensemble, gorgeous black and white cinematography, and confident direction that tells its story with powerful intimacy and heart. 

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‘Last Night in Soho’ is a Creepy and Captivating Celebration of Italian Horror (Review)

‘Last Night in Soho’ is a Creepy and Captivating Celebration of Italian Horror (Review)

Giallos are far from the most accessible horror subgenre; a lot of them are often sold as straightforward horror films but end up being slow-burn mysteries with little gore and suspense until the third act, while the journeys within them are populated with several jarring mood changes and shifts in tone. Leave it to the genius of writer-director Edgar Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns to make the genre accessible for general American audiences with Last Night In Soho, a mesmerizing, engrossing and eerie mystery-horror film that wears its Italian giallo influences on its sleeve, takes viewers back in time to 1960s London with a massive, energetic soundtrack, and is as wondrous as it is unnerving thanks to creative visuals. 

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‘Maya And The Three’ Is An Epic Animated Triumph About The Marvels of Mesoamerica (Review)

‘Maya And The Three’ Is An Epic Animated Triumph About The Marvels of Mesoamerica (Review)

In the ongoing push for more creators from diverse backgrounds in the film industry, one of the most prominent filmmakers in the world of animation has been Mexican writer-director Jorge R. Gutierrez, who first made waves on Nickelodeon with his cartoon series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and feature film The Book of Life. Gutierrez continues to be a voice to pay attention to with Maya And The Three, a new Netflix animated miniseries that tells a marvelous, fantastical tale for families of all races and ages to find enthralling thanks to gorgeous animation and stellar performances from its voice cast, as well as Gutierrez’s energetic writing and direction. 

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Strong Performances Save ‘The Last Duel’ From Flaws In Its Script (Review)

Strong Performances Save ‘The Last Duel’ From Flaws In Its Script (Review)

Ever since his feature film directing debut in 1977, Ridley Scott has been a master of crafting the epic movie no matter the genre, from the Crusades-set Kingdom of Heaven and the Oscar-winning Gladiator set in ancient Rome to the sci-fi dystopia Blade Runner and several films in the Alien franchise. He succeeds once again in the epic genre with his latest film, The Last Duel, which tells a grand and timely yet intimate and secular tale based on actual events with an innovative story structure that’s not without its flaws, but they’re more than made up for by strong performances from its cast, authentic set and costume design, an ominous tone and thrilling action sequences.  

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The Protégé is a Stylish, Skillfully Directed Action-Thriller (Review)

The Protégé is a Stylish, Skillfully Directed Action-Thriller (Review)

The partnership between film distributor LionsGate and production company Millennium Media has been shaky as far as their output in the action movie genre is concerned; for every box office success like The Hitman’s Bodyguard and The Expendables franchise, there’s an underwhelming disappointment like the 2019 Hellboy reboot and Angel Has Fallen. Thankfully, their latest collaboration, The Protégé, is on the former side of the spectrum thanks to strong direction from Martin Campbell, entertaining action sequences, and solid performances from Michael Keaton and Maggie Q.  Read more

Yasuke is a Bloody & Brilliant Anime About an African Samurai Legend (Review)

Yasuke is a Bloody & Brilliant Anime About an African Samurai Legend (Review)

From Masaaki Yuasa’s gonzo Devilman Crybaby and the fighting anime Kengan Ashura to a CGI continuation of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and LeSean Thomas’s original Cannon Busters, Netflix’s anime catalog is full of standout originals and manga adaptations with something to satisfy every anime aficionado, whether one likes robots, shamans or samurai warriors. LeSean Thomas’ latest anime, Yasuke, combines all that and more, as it is a series loosely based on an actual figure: Yasuke is historically recorded as the first African samurai warrior, serving under the feudal lord Nobunaga Oda in 16th century Japan. Read more

Lucky is a Sharp & Surreal Horror Film That Speaks Terrifying Social Truths (Review)

Lucky is a Sharp & Surreal Horror Film That Speaks Terrifying Social Truths (Review)

If there’s any niche of the film industry that rising filmmakers commonly break into, it’s the horror genre, and Iranian-American director Natasha Kermani should do just that in her second feature film, Lucky. Together, she and writer-lead actress Brea Grant have crafted a darkly funny but terrifying truthful film about the horrors women face on a daily basis, and the film presents these truths in captivating fashion through a surreal tone, a creative script, incredible visuals and Grant’s standout lead performance.  Read more

Minari is a Lovely & Intimate Look at an Asian Family’s Pursuit of The American Dream (Review)

Minari is a Lovely & Intimate Look at an Asian Family’s Pursuit of The American Dream (Review)

Lee Isaac Chung’s directorial debut film Minari is getting buzz in multiple categories at the Academy Awards this year, and upon first watch, it’s easy to see why it’s worthy of all the accolades it’s sure to receive. The film dedicates itself to depicting both an Asian-American experience and the trials of life on farmland in the deep South through an authentic, heartfelt script, grounded, realistic performances from its ensemble cast, and a feel that’s as gorgeous aurally as it is visually. Read more

The Boys In The Band is An Intimate & Powerful Window Into The Past Piloted By A Phenomenal Cast (Review)

The Boys In The Band is An Intimate & Powerful Window Into The Past Piloted By A Phenomenal Cast (Review)

In 1970, William Friedkin adapted The Boys In The Band, Mart Crowley’s controversial but famous play about a circle of closeted gay friends celebrating a birthday party that turns into a night of uncomfortable revelations for the silver screen. Fifty years later, producer Ryan Murphy assembled an all-LGBTQ cast to bring the story to life once again, and the result is an intimate, heartbreaking film anchored by phenomenal performances from everyone involved, and capped off with a stark reminder about the uncertain times in which we currently live. Read more

The Invisible Man Is A Terrifying Horror Film With A Tremendous Turn From Elisabeth Moss (Review)

The Invisible Man Is A Terrifying Horror Film With A Tremendous Turn From Elisabeth Moss (Review)

From Sinister in 2012 to Happy Death Day in 2017, Blumhouse Productions is a production company that prides itself on crafting low-budget horror films from a growing list of rising auteurs, although, for every masterpiece like Get Out, there’s a dud on the level of Truth or Dare. Thankfully, The Invisible Man is on the positive end of that spectrum thanks to creative direction from Leigh Whannell, a stellar lead performance from Elisabeth Moss, and a clever way of grounding the classic H.G. Wells character into our modern times. Read more