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  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

    Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

    ★★★

    Expected a feature-length version of the "Just a Girl" fight scene from Captain Marvel mixed with the overbearing fourth-wall breaks and cringe-inducing snarky humor of Deadpool, but was delighted to find that, while there's still plenty of fight scenes underscored by themes of empowerment and winking humor, it's all far more organic. My biggest knock against it is that the narrative plays out at a breakneck speed and doesn't really grant much time to develop the characters or their relationships…

  • 1917

    1917

    ★★½

    In my short entry for Dunkirk, I wrote that it "would have been more suspenseful if the editing choices didn't consistently break the tension." 1917 an unfortunate overcorrection. I'm not at all opposed to "one-take gimmicks" (I love Victoria, a single-take film which doesn't even use hidden cuts, and plenty of my favorites of the past couple decades feature extreme long takes), and the material seems perfect for it here, so I should prefer this to Dunkirk in theory, but…

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  • The Assistant

    The Assistant

    ★★★½

    Kitty Green’s new film The Assistant is a searing and confrontational work that offers a stark look at a system that allows for continued abuse, told from the perspective of a ground-level employee. Though he’s never named, the high-level film executive at the film’s center is clearly intended to be an analog of Harvey Weinstein, but Green isn’t interested in making an easy cut-and-dry condemnation of a monstrous sexual abuser. Through her naturalistic sensibilities, she immerses the viewer in an…

  • Raising Cain

    Raising Cain

    ★★★

    I always found it difficult to get completely on De Palma's wavelength - even Blow Out didn't do much for me - but maybe I'm finally starting to see the merit in his Hitchcock-on-LSD style and his obsession with reverse engineering a film out of a thrilling climax. Though I once found his full-on embrace of convoluted plot mechanics uninspired and maddening, it now feels almost endearing, even if I'm still occasionally laughing at the absurdity.

    This was one of…

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  • Us

    Us

    ★★½

    Starts off strong, effectively creating tension through fantastic cinematography and notably sharp editing/pacing, but once the table has been properly set, it's a gradual nosedive to the perplexing finale. The acting is undeniably committed and the child actors are pitch-perfect, but the exaggerated, go-for-broke lead performances teeter into overkill and would have been more effective if reigned in a bit. Also, the frequent attempts at humor, though sometimes successful, completely undercut the unnerving tone. It felt like Peele wasn't confident…

  • Joker

    Joker

    ★★

    It’s impossible to go into a film without preconceptions. You can avoid trailers and reviews, mute words on twitter, and try to go in with an open mind, but as the lights dim, you’ve got a general idea of what you’re about to watch and some level of hope or expectation of how you’ll feel about it. Joker even more so, since it’s based on a massively popular character that’s already had numerous depictions in the past decade alone. Beyond…