Malcolm & Marie: exploring fragility and passion within a relationship

A Hollywood couple brings the audience into an intense confrontation 

Directed by Sam Levinson, the creator of the HBO series Euphoria, Malcolm & Marie is a black-and-white movie that tells the story of producer Malcolm Elliot (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie Jones (Zendaya) who spend a full night arguing, putting their relationship to the test.

Once you are 20 minutes into the movie, you already know what it will be about.

The story takes place in a Malibu house that the production company Malcolm works for has provided for him and Marie. They come home after Malcolm’s movie premiere, which went very well for him. He puts some music on, makes himself a drink and celebrates his accomplishment while dancing in the living room. Meanwhile, Marie is in the kitchen, preparing a late night snack for both of them.

Malcolm is happy. Marie seems bothered by something. 

While Malcolm is anticipating the reviews and expressing his excitement about the audience’s response to his film’s screening, Marie lights up a cigarette, nodding at everything Malcolm says. Malcolm suddenly notices something is off in Marie’s energy. He asks her what’s bothering her.

Marie tries to avoid a quarrel since it is late at night. In vain, Marie decides to confront Malcolm and tell him that she is upset with him as he didn’t thank her at the movie premiere.

Marie tells Malcolm that his film, which is about a woman named Imani who struggles with drug addiction, was based on her past life when she was a drug addict when they met.

Malcolm denies Marie’s accusations, telling her the movie has nothing to do with Marie. Still, Marie stays convinced as she tells him that the movie wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if they weren’t together.

Then, Malcolm and Marie go through a series of arguments. In one scene, they scream at each other, letting go of all of their rage that was hidden inside of them.

Frankly, I thought there might be more to the story than seeing two people fighting on screen. The movie was exhausting at times since Malcolm and Marie end up arguing every time there was a tender moment between them. It is as though every hidden feeling or issue with one another was coming to light.

Malcolm & Marie is a romantic drama film, but it is very different compared to other romantic movies. It is not the typical story where both characters fall in love and live happily ever after. On the contrary, viewers find themselves in the middle of a conflict between two people and it is hard to know whether their fight will lead to something good in the end.

There are times where the audience might feel uncomfortable, because let’s face it, there is nothing worse than witnessing a couple fighting. 

As someone who doesn’t like conflict, it wasn’t very pleasant to see both characters in the middle of a fight. Malcolm and Marie said hurtful things to one another when they had a chance. Most of the time, it wasn’t necessary.

Although the movie is emotionally charged, Levinson did an incredible job at depicting a side of couples that tends to be seen less on television. People have issues and relationships aren’t perfect.

Malcolm and Marie love each other very much, but their love is dysfunctional. While watching the movie, it may be hard to pick a character’s side as both of them have a right to being mad at each other.

At the beginning of the movie, Marie says “I promise you, nothing productive is going to be said tonight.” She was right as they tore each other apart in one night, later wondering if their relationship was worth it.

Malcolm & Marie is available to stream on Netflix. 


Nomadland: A solemn tale of poverty in the United States

Chloé Zhao’s third feature film spans a year-long quest by a woman who has lost everything

The United States is broken. With affordable housing being unwaveringly difficult to find in cities like San Francisco and New York, some people have settled on leading nomadic lifestyles. Nomadland, the third feature film from Chinese-born director Chloé Zhao, is a heart wrenching tale of searching for home after one loses everything.

After the town of Empire, Nevada is shut down due to the closure of the U.S. Gypsum plant, Fern, played by the ever-astounding Frances McDormand, sets off to live in her van, effectively abandoning the notion of living a stable life in a quiet town.

Nomadland follows Fern for a full calendar year as she searches for various temporary jobs and shelters that will let her park her van for the night. The movie is plot-lite. There are no action sequences or moments that leave you wanting more. Zhao’s main goal here is to let the viewer examine and analyze the state of poverty in a country as rich and grand as the United States.

The American Dream will have you believe that it is easy to find a spouse and build a nuclear family as industrial jobs sprout left and right. In seconds, however, all of that can dissipate. Fern lost her job and her husband in such a short time that her life came crumbling down and forced her to recreate how she lives.

Fern’s year-long adventure isn’t as solemn as the plot describes, though it does come close. Her travels are tied together by several other nomads living in near-identical situations to Fern’s. Some of these people are played by tried-and-true actors like David Strathairn, who plays David, whose name is the sole characteristic shared between the actor and character. Other actors, however, are simply playing fictionalized versions of themselves like Swankie and Linda May.

It wouldn’t even be a stretch to call those playing themselves non-actors. They are simply people who lived their truths in a deeply personal fictional tale. Fern’s quest for a home turns less into a search for a place, but a search for people who make her feel like she’s at home.

Fern’s relationship with David is never romantic on-screen, but the quiet passion between the two lead us to believe that in another stable life, they could have found peace together. 

Nomadland never wallows in its sadness and morose themes, but instead acts as a 100-minute recapitulation of a woman whose life has been shattered into a million pieces, but can’t be put together like it used to be.

Chloé Zhao’s latest opus shares very similar styles to her 2017 western The Rider. Both tell the tales of midwestern/western people whose lives change in a sudden dramatic way. Each character has, in their brief moments, layers of depth that make them feel less like side pieces in Fern’s tale and more like real people who are just trying to make it.


Horse Girl: Approaching ambiguity in film

Alison Brie loses her grip on reality in Horse Girl

Jeff Baena’s film Horse Girl focuses on a woman named Sarah who slowly loses her grip on reality. She is portrayed by Alison Brie as an awkward and shy woman, and we get a sense of Sarah’s daily life working at a crafts store by day and watching supernatural crime shows at night. At home, she’s pitied by her mean-spirited roommate Nikki, played by Debby Ryan. Nikki organizes a last-minute birthday party for Sarah who was going to spend the evening alone, and later that night she has a strange dream. Soon, Sarah begins to have recurring blackouts and starts to see people from her dreams in real life.

First and foremost, Alison Brie is spectacular. Her performance is believable, strong and moving. No matter how crazy Sarah’s delusions get, you never doubt that she believes them. Brie makes her character’s descent into madness feel rooted in real emotion. John Reynolds charmingly accompanies her as Darren, Sarah’s love interest who accidentally fuels her fantasies. Horse Girl was co-written by Baena and Brie, which marks the actress’s debut as a screenwriter. She is previously known for her stunning range of work in TV shows like GLOW, Mad Men and Community.

Despite being engrossing throughout its runtime, Horse Girl fails in achieving some ambitious goals that would have been integral in making the film memorable. There were plenty of interesting ideas: it’s a character study, it shoots for ambiguity through a possibly unreliable narrator, and it discusses conspiracy theories and issues related to mental illness. 

On a technical level, the film is perfectly fine. There are cool zoom shots, and I particularly like some of the imagery in the film and how it depicts Sarah’s state of mind towards the end. There are some tonal shifts throughout the film as the atmosphere becomes darker and crazier, but these changes are justified because they make sense according to Sarah’s perspective. Additionally, the transitions were smooth.

Horse Girl is a bit slow to start but ambitiously grasps at many big themes, which I respected as a viewer. However, it was this attempt to capture so many ideas that led to my biggest issue with the film: the ambiguity, or lack thereof. Baena seems to be trying to puzzle the audience and make us wonder if Sarah’s delusions might be real. There are some suggestions that create this ambiguity, like scratches on walls or strange people who believe her theories, but the most compelling evidence was introduced too late in the story. Because of this, I was never convinced that any of the strange events were outside of her mind, despite the fact that the film is trying to set it up to be vague. This made the ending, although interesting, less impactful. When it came to themes of conspiracy theories and mental illness, they were not explored in-depth enough to feel like anything was truly being said about it.

All in all, Horse Girl is a fascinating study of one woman’s mind and the film stays committed to her perspective. It was not life-changing by any means, despite its attempts at tackling ambiguity and dark themes, and it isn’t as mind-bending as it would like to be. Yet, it’s a fun ride nonetheless. It’s worth it for Brie’s performance alone.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire: A tale of burning desire

A stunning portrayal of queer love, art, and the female gaze

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, written and directed by Céline Sciamma, is a beautiful film, through and through. Everything from the screenplay to the cinematography invokes an abundance of emotion and builds tension between the two main characters, Héloïse and Marianne. In the late 18th century, a woman named Héloïse is about to be married against her will, and Marianne is an artist commissioned to paint her in secret. Marianne keeps her intention unknown because Héloïse has refused to pose for previous painters to defy her imminent marriage. Although Héloïse believes Marianne to just be a walking companion, their relationship develops into something more as their desire for each other grows.

The pacing of this film, due to its direction and writing, is flawless. It is slow without being boring; every scene introduces new emotional elements that keep the film going. The chemistry between the lead actresses, Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant, is remarkable. Their performances are nuanced and natural, bringing raw emotion to the forefront of each scene. The characters’ yearning for each other is expressed through glances, stares and carefully composed body language. The pace makes you anticipate the budding romance, and the tension between the leads is expressed during these slow scenes.

Sciamma explores interesting themes other than love and queer romance through her writing: art, womanhood, memory and the concept of “the gaze”— how we observe art and other people. There is a fascinating exploration of the female gaze and the difference between being looked at and being seen.

Another thing that stands out about Portrait of a Lady on Fire is its sound design and soundtrack. It wasn’t until a song was sung by a group of women in the film that I realized there was no soundtrack at all – every sound is diegetic (meaning it’s occurring inside the world of the characters). Throughout the film, only two songs are heard. In between, every sound overwhelms the space, even noise as small as the movement of fabric. Sciamma’s choice here was clever, for the lack of nondiegetic sound in the film produces a sense of authenticity for the time period. The sounds of the natural world are almost overwhelming, which contrasts with the present day, as the natural world is often drowned out by man-made noise. When music is heard, the experience is elevated to a new emotional intensity, allowing you to connect with the character’s experience.

The mise-en-scène is gorgeous as well. The dark, candlelit rooms evoke a sense of warmth, comfort and intimacy. The bright and colourful exterior shots by the ocean create a feeling of freedom and expression—it is where Héloïse and Marianne share their first kiss, after all. Like the sound design, each shot was carefully assembled for the sake of the story and effectively captured the characters’ longing for each other.

Ultimately, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is an excellent film. Sciamma knows her craft and expertly constructs a film that makes the setting feel genuine and drives the audience to understand what the characters feel. It is an emotional experience that is beautiful to see and hear; it is not something to be missed.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire will be accessible on Video On Demand on April 3.


Birds of Prey: Cathy Yan takes flight

Absolutely all over the place, loud, bright and crazy

Prior to Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan was a relatively unknown director. Yan’s directed three shorts and one feature before, but has pretty much remained off the map. Until now.

With this Harley Quinn-focused DC film, the director makes quite the entrance into Hollywood. If I were to describe the style of the film in one word, it would be “manic.” The film was full of colourful, saturated images that burst with a soundtrack consisting of original and covered hip-hop and pop tracks. However, the film’s writing fell short.

I absolutely loved the look of Birds of Prey. It doesn’t shy away from vivid colour palettes, distinguishing it from other DC films. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), breaks the fourth wall, and Yan depicts this with on-screen text inspired by comic book aesthetics. The soundtrack to Birds of Prey is definitely awesome on its own, featuring songs from artists like Doja Cat, Saweetie, Charlotte Lawrence and more. It adds an extra level of energy to a film that’s already full of it. However, during some scenes, the music was overbearing and distracted from the story itself. Often, these songs played during fight scenes, and since they don’t always carry along the plot, watching them felt like a music video rather than a film.

The premise is very simple, Harley Quinn goes after teenage thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) to save her from Gotham’s new evil menace: the Black Mask. Cain swallowed a diamond containing information valuable to Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). However, this premise was overly convoluted due to the non-linear structure of the film and its fast-paced editing. The non-linear storyline didn’t seem to add anything valuable to the film and instead made it a little rusty. There were offbeat tonal changes. Some scenes felt very out of place, particularly those with violence against women (which was included in the film to emphasize the intensity of the villain’s character.)

The performances were fun and hilarious, with Robbie and McGregor in the lead, and Basco, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Chris Messina supporting. Robbie gives an exaggerated and amusing performance. McGregor takes the cake, managing to play an awful person while still being ridiculous and weird. In terms of acting, everyone is on their A-game and delivers the right amount of absurdity without being irritating.

Ultimately, I loved Birds of Prey’s sense of personality. The film was obviously from Harley’s point of view, and everything in the film supported that, from the loud music and wild colouring to its odd story structure. Even the production design feels like it belongs in a Harley Quinn movie, including weird, provocative decor, abandoned amusement parks, and colourful nightclubs.

Even with its issues, Birds of Prey knows Harley Quinn well. The film was all over the place, loud, bright and crazy. But in the end, Yan wasn’t afraid to use her own style and because of that, Birds of Prey is a load of fun.



Illustration by @joeybruceart


Uncut Gems is pure and utter chaos

The Safdie Brothers’ new film is cinematic perfection

In a single word, Uncut Gems can be described as chaos. To call it that, however, would be a disservice to the insane and loud film meticulously crafted by Josh and Benny Safdie, the masterminds behind 2017’s indie hit, Good Time.

Uncut Gems follows New York jeweller, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), who’s in way over his head trying to pay back numerous large debts he owes to his loan shark, Arno (Eric Bogosian). In an attempt to rid himself of these debts, Ratner purchases an opal from Ethiopia that he believes to be worth over $1 million dollars, which he would then auction off to get his money’s worth.

The rest of the movie follows Ratner as he tries and fails on several occasions to get his money and pay off everyone he’s indebted to. The movie oozes nervous energy at every turn with Ratner making choices so incredibly stupid and egregious that you’ll probably be pulling your hair out strand by strand as you watch.

Sandler’s performance as Howard Ratner is electrifying; this is clearly his best in a film next to Punch-Drunk Love, and his snub in the “Best Actor” category for Uncut Gems at the Oscars is simply baffling. In his acting debut, ex-NBA star Kevin Garnett also plays a major role as himself in the Safdie brothers’ film. Though there was some uncertainty as to how good a basketball player might be in a serious movie, any doubts should be erased before going into the film.

Then there’s Julia Fox who plays Ratner’s mistress, Julia. This is also her film debut and will hopefully not be her last as she is the definitive show-stealer.

The Safdie brothers co-wrote the movie with Ronald Bronstein, and there’s no shortage of great one-liners and sharp conversations between all the cast members. Despite that, there’s an awful lot of yelling that sometimes makes the dialogue incomprehensible; yet, that chaos makes you understand why tensions are always so high.

Uncut Gems’ pace is brisk with very few slowdowns throughout the film; this accentuates what became of Ratner’s life. He’s got a family but is so shrouded by his inability to gamble well that he ends up losing them, since his estranged wife, Dinah (Idina Menzel) wants nothing to do with him anymore. 

Uncut Gems takes place in 2012, and the Safdie brothers do an incredible job of making the movie actually feel like it’s 2012. The iPhone 4S with a pre-iOS 7 overhaul on it, The Weeknd singing “The Morning” off his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, and of course, the tense series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals contribute to a perfect setting that encapsulates what 2012 felt like to a tee.

Having finally been released on Netflix, Uncut Gems is widely available to everyone, and given that the cost of entry of the movie is a simple Netflix subscription, there is no excuse for missing out on one of the most captivating, chaotic and entrancing movies of the past decade. Sandler infamously said that he’d make an awful movie on purpose if he wasn’t nominated for “Best Actor.” He didn’t and, much to my dismay, now we’re probably going to get another Sandy Wexler.


The Irishman is a marvel of a film

Strong themes make this long film worth the watch

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a complicated film. Bound to the confines of a nursing home, truck-driver-turned-hitman, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) narrates several decades of his life, discussing entering organized crime and the hits of his career. Sheeran enters this world through a Pennsylvania mob family, the Bufalinos, and along the way meets Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the leader of a labour union with connections to organized crime. On the surface, The Irishman is a story about a man climbing the ranks in the criminal world. Underneath, there’s so much more to it, with themes of guilt, loyalty, relationships and family.

Although the premise is simple, several chapters in Sheeran’s life are depicted nonlinearly. The timeline of the film is edited expertly by Thelma Schoonmaker, who has been Scorsese’s editor for over 50 years. With that in mind, The Irishman takes very striking liberties with its editing, from abrupt music cues and cuts, non-simultaneous intercuts, out-of-place jumpcuts and shots that only make narrative sense once the movie is over. At some points, the time jumps can be confusing, making some scenes difficult to follow, but the film was easy to understand even with that uncertainty. Needless to say, the editing was risky and seemingly unusual at times.

The film had a great sense of time, place and character. Everything was thought of meticulously, slowly building up to a climax in the film’s final scenes. Of the three and a half hours, the first two were fantastic, and the last 15 minutes were extraordinary. The pacing was strong and the tension was there. But, there was a lump in the middle that lost my interest and was difficult to get through. I’ll admit, it is a very long movie, and it does feel that way. For young people who didn’t grow up with Scorsese gangster flicks, it could even seem boring and hard to finish. It took me more than a day to watch it, so don’t be afraid to take your time.

The Irishman could be interpreted as a simple gangster flick, but it transforms into something more. We feel Sheeran’s family crumble as his daughter rejects him, his friends become more and more powerful and difficult choices about loyalty emerge. By the end, you realize it’s a story about relationships and, sadly, regret. It asks questions about growing old, and makes you wonder if Sheeran’s actions were actually worth the loneliness they would cause later on.

The core message of the film could have been conveyed in two hours. But, Scorsese made it three and a half, and somehow, none of that time feels unwarranted. Sure, it’s slow, but it takes its time with each scene. It allows dialogue to flow, it allows actors to become cemented into their performances and it allows the scene to resonate with the audience.

The Irishman is a refreshing break from the onslaught of films that are paced way too quickly, and for that reason, I think Schoonmaker and Scorsese did it right. 


Marriage Story: all good things must come to an end

Director Noah Baumbach captures the complexities of life and love

When I first saw the trailer for Marriage Story on my Netflix feed, I was certain that it was going to be a cheesy, sappy, love story. I was wrong. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Directed by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story recounts a couple’s struggles as they go through a divorce.

Watching the film feels all too familiar. It begins with two monologues, performed by a married couple, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) respectively. Each monologue depicts the heartwarming personalities of either individual, as they read aloud what they love about each other. Snippets of their romanticized, wholesome marriage set the scene; a house full of books, creatives living in New York City, family board game nights. They live an ideal life. What could possibly go wrong?

Like all good things, the viewer observes Charlie and Nicole’s relationship inevitably come to an end. The couple begin the separation process amicably, but it ultimately does not end this way. As lawyers get involved, the divorce becomes unpleasant, aggressive and heart-wrenching.

The film touches upon the realities of relationships and divorce while raising numerous issues that impact families and individuals in relationships alike.

The characters are charming, the plot is interesting and relatable and yet, I remain troubled. As the plot develops, the viewer learns of Charlie’s affair. Although Charlie cheated, the viewer is not mad at him for it. Instead, we are left feeling infuriated at Nicole and her decision to go through the divorce with lawyers, and therein lies a bigger problem.

Marriage Story demonstrates the realities faced by many mothers and parents. As mentioned by Nicole’s lawyer, Nora, mothers have a higher bar to meet. Charlie is a good father, a seemingly nice person with a charming personality, and thus, we neglect the fact that he cheated. Instead, we empathize with him, with the distance between him and his son, and at the thought that he may lose the money he uses to pay his staff at the theatre company.

The compliments and personalities of the characters from the opening scene linger in the back of the viewer’s mind, making it all the more difficult to grasp their divorce. It is safe to say that at this point, much like in our own lives, we are invested in their relationship and hoping they will rekindle their love.

In one heart-wrenching scene, Charlie and Nicole are moved to tears after a vile argument. Adam breaks down, sobbing, after wishing death and illness on his soon-to-be ex-wife. Guilt, regret, and sorrow are among the unpleasant emotions the viewer is left feeling after being privy to such an intimate and pivotal point in the couple’s relationship.

Anyone who has experienced the ramifications of divorce, be it firsthand or secondhand, will experience a melancholic familiarity in Marriage Story. Baumbach captures the complexities of life through the depiction of a compelling family dynamic, all while raising pertinent issues surrounding notions of parenthood.

Marriage Story is real and raw. The characters fight and sob, but do not makeup. There is no fairytale ending. The closing credits begin and, not unlike the characters, we are not left feeling closure, but rather the type of lingering sadness you get when you know something is over, and are left remembering how good it once was.


Film still from Marriage Story


1917: A beautiful film on the tragedy of war

An immersive technical marvel with no shortage of emotion and intensity

The film 1917 is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few months. Everything from the tragedy the characters faced to the illusion of a long-take left me in astonishment. It’s a film that is absolutely fantastic on every technical level while also exploring the trauma of war.

I believe that 1917 can credit its emotional effect on audiences to two reasons: the performances by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, and the bold choice by director Sam Mendes to make the film look like one single shot. The Film has a very simple concept: two British soldiers are given a mission to deliver a message across enemy territory in order to stop an attack. However, there are rich visual details and emotional tones surrounding the story, which is what really builds the movie.

First, the performances by Chapman and MacKay were absolutely phenomenal. They inhabited their characters so well, creating people that were perfectly realistic, tragic and beautiful. Even though I only knew their characters, Blake and Schofield, for two hours, they offered the audience such an intimate connection during that time that it makes you feel like you’ve known them for a lot longer.  For two “unknowns” — which was why Mendes wanted to cast them in the first place — they make themselves not only known, but embedded into your mind and your heart. Their performances will haunt you in the best way possible.

If you’ve already heard a thing or two about 1917, you might have heard the word “seamless.” When describing 1917‘s editing and cinematography, that word is used accurately. Mendes approached his film with the idea of it being in real-time and it was an excellent choice. Following the characters during every minute of the film made it thrilling, tense and, above all, an immersive experience. You feel like you’re witnessing the lives of these two young soldiers, and brought along to experience the horrors of war yourself.

The film’s editor, Lee Smith, stitched together every shot seamlessly. Additionally, it had an incredible score by Thomas Newman that only added to the film’s powerful emotional effect. Even listening to the score without the visuals has the power to tell this tragic story. The striking and beautiful cinematography, done by the remarkable Roger Deakins, in addition to the musical score, completely engulfs you.

In the end, I was grief-stricken by the film’s events, but in awe of its technical wonder. I do believe that it deserves the hype it has in terms of its Golden Globe win for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director of a Motion Picture, and its 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Cinematography, Original Score, Director and Production Design. If you can see 1917 in theatres, do it whether it’s in IMAX or a regular theatre. The experience is worth every penny.


Graphic by @joeybruceart


Knives Out is criminally good

Rian Johnson shows a modern take on a classic mystery

Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) is a film with marvellous writing and great performances, that work in harmony to make the movie theatre experience enjoyable. Johnson, who writes and directs this film, does an excellent job of modernizing a whodunit, making it feel both reminiscent of the past and deeply rooted in the present. It’s a great example of how to make a movie that is complex in its writing yet easy to understand — a film that can be appreciated by cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike.

The story is effectively told through its writing and direction. The screenplay is crafted with complexity and subtlety while managing to still be fun and, most importantly, unpretentious. There are superb elements of foreshadowing that make Knives Out worthy of second and third viewings. The pacing is also excellent, speeding up when necessary but taking breaks to slow down, spend time with the characters, and understand their thoughts. The plot twists in the film are set up in an intelligent way and are well-deserved when revealed, while playing with the structure of a whodunit in a fresh and awesome way.

Of all its twists and turns, what struck me the most was the unexpected lead character. Ana de Armas plays Marta Cabrera, the nurse to the patriarch of the Thrombey Family, Harlan, (portrayed by Christopher Plummer). Walking in, I expected a classic murder-mystery where the audience follows the detective. Instead, we watch the chaos unfold through Marta’s eyes. Having the perspective of the film come from the eyes of an immigrant girl who is overlooked by a rich family makes for a unique and fascinating choice that, frankly, I respect Johnson for. There’s no doubt that the entire cast is exceptional and hilarious, but de Armas’ performance really brought it home for me with her ability to create a character that audiences can sympathize with and understand, while also being funny and headstrong.

Chris Evans also makes a strong departure from his iconic role as Captain America in exchange for something much more mean and brash, and does an awesome job. Daniel Craig plays a detective with a wicked Southern accent and seems to be having much more fun than he does in Bond films, while Toni Collette is hysterical as a shallow Instagrammer and mother.

Everything about the film is well-crafted, and every detail is important and looked after, from the way Craig’s character takes off his shoes at crime scenes to the dishes characters hold. Everything says something, and they all add up to make a fun, thrilling film that doesn’t make the mistake of pulling out plot points from thin air.

Knives Out can be enjoyed by almost anyone. For a movie with a classic mystery set-up, it carries a lot of weight in our contemporary culture as it deals with politics and money in family dynamics in a humorous way.  



Graphics by @sundaeghost.


Star Wars: The rise of mediocrity

JJ Abrams helms the finale of the Skywalker saga with love… and technical difficulties

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a messy movie, but it’s a movie with heart. It’s almost impressive how it balances being nearly incomprehensible and yet a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga.

The elements of The Rise of Skywalker that didn’t sit well were technical, which is surprising considering Star Wars is a multibillion-dollar franchise, giving it the ability to hire the best in the industry to improve every aspect of the film. The editing was choppy to a point where it ruined the emotional value of its scenes. The pacing was too fast, with each scene jumping to the next leaving the audience without time to breathe. I didn’t feel as though I was even spending time with the characters, which is a large part of why most people are there. However, the screenplay is where everything went wrong from the start.

Much of the dialogue was so overly-expository to a point where I kind of feel bad for the cast. But these talented actors were forced to say these simplistic, explanatory lines because of the greatest flaw of the film: it was not related to its previous two films enough that anything in the film felt warranted. Its major plot points and McGuffins (physical objects used as plot devices) seemed like they were made up on the spot with no connection to the rest of the trilogy. It made the film feel poorly thought out and lazy.

There was a surplus of “crisis” moments where it seemed like all was lost for a character, then whatever went wrong was almost immediately corrected a few minutes later, taking away from any genuine drama or investment. In simple terms, it felt cheap. Star Wars is all about the characters, their journey and their struggle with the light and dark forces of life. It’s hard to do that when you fill the movie with unnecessary action, unrealistic dialogue, poor writing and an editor who cuts every scene like it’s a Transformers movie.

That said, the film managed to find ways to save itself. Rey has excellent character development as she struggles with her past and her relationship with the force. The emotion that her character brought to the film felt deserved since it was properly established in earlier films. Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron and Finn had fairly good development as well and brought tension, charm, humour and spirit to the story. They’re interesting enough to keep you invested, and the relationships between each character redeem the film for me. On an emotional level, it’s like the fundamental ideas were there, but were assembled together so poorly at every stage of production.

At heart, The Rise of Skywalker is an emotional movie for die-hard Star Wars fans. A fan’s love for and devotion to Star Wars and its characters save the film, but it’s a film that would not work if it didn’t have “Star Wars” in the title. Its flaws are really integrated into the film and the trilogy, but the characters were well-developed and fun to be around.

Watch it if you’re a Star Wars fan, or even if you just like the new trilogy, but if Star Wars isn’t your thing, then don’t bother. Its appeal comes from its fan service.


Los Angeles, November 2019 : Looking back at Blade Runner, 37 years into the future

The 1982 film’s prediction of artificial intelligence, humanity and sexism today 

Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, is one of my favourite films of all time and has undeniably impacted science fiction as a whole. Where would we be without those iconic shots of Los Angeles and those smokey rooms reminiscent of film noir? Blade Runner’s impact can be seen in films like The Terminator or The Fifth Element, and so many more. Don’t forget the film’s quintessential question, which seems to become more significant as technology progresses: what makes us human?

The dark, rainy world is brought to life with neon lights and glowing umbrellas. Blade Runner was a look at the 21st century if humanity remained unchecked and exploited its resources with no thought of future generations. There’s no nature in Blade Runner’s LA, just crowded streets and huge buildings. The average person has never seen a real animal or plant. This may not be our world in 2019, but if we can learn anything from this film or the news, it’s that we may be on our way.

There is a bold use of colours while remaining faithful to the film noir aesthetic by contrasting between dark and bright areas of the shot, whether we’re on the streets with Rick Deckard or climbing through abandoned buildings. Even the replicants in the film (the bioengineered people used for labour) are distinguished from humans by the cinematography. In certain scenes, replicants’ eyes glow, which never happens to any human characters. Jordan Cronenweth, the film’s cinematographer, achieved this effect by placing a two-way mirror and a dim light underneath the camera to reflect said light into the actors’ eyes.

The screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples is great in many ways, but it’s not without issues. On the one hand, the film is kind of basic and a little slow. When you break it down, the plot is about an ex-cop who has to murder four escaped replicants. Then he does it.

However, it has great world-building and examines some fascinating characters, leaving you on the edge of your seat by the finale. The ambiguous ending incites interesting conversation about artificial intelligence and humanity.

There are definite elements of Blade Runner where it loses points for me. Specifically, I’m referring to its outdated treatment of women. The “love” meant to exist between the two main characters is practically nonexistent, and what is essentially a scene depicting sexual assault is set to sensual saxophone music. As if it’s supposed to be romantic. In this particular scene, Deckard is essentially manipulating the female lead, Rachael, into telling him she wants him. It was clear that Rachael didn’t want to do anything with Deckard, but he switched the situation onto her.

Today, this speaks volumes to what is happening in the world with the fairly recent emergence of the #MeToo movement, and even resembles real experiences women have faced. There is a promotion of the idea that men can control women to do what they please. In Blade Runner as a whole, the female characters have no real autonomy as they are replicants. Although it’s an extremely uncomfortable scene to watch today, I can understand that it’s a product of its time. Having been written in the late 70s and early 80s, it was smack-dab in the middle of an overwhelmingly misogynistic time in Hollywood. This scene serves as a reminder that we’ve come a long way in how women are treated in film, but frankly, we still have a very long way to go.

Blade Runner engulfs you into each frame and Scott creates a beautiful and dangerous world you want to explore. All of the characters are kept at a distance where you can understand their motives but leaves room for ambiguity. Blade Runner’s action-movie plot and oppressive treatment of women is where it loses me, but has had an undeniable impression on science fiction with its cinematography, production design and enigmatic ending.

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