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  • I Am Not Your Negro

    I Am Not Your Negro

    ★★★★½

    San Diego CityBeat review, published Feb. 8, 2017

    Listening to James Baldwin describe the 1960s is like peering through a window into the modern day. “America insists on being narrow-minded…simplicity is taken to be a great American virtue.” While issues surrounding race, class division and economic inequality inspired the legendary author’s cutting prose during the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, one could imagine an evenly savage reaction to the morally repugnant and unconstitutional actions taken by the infant (and infantile)…

  • Fire at Sea

    Fire at Sea

    ★★★½

    - San Diego CityBeat Review, Published Feb. 1, 2017

    On Friday, Jan. 23, President Trump issued an Executive Order that temporarily halted admission of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Families were separated with the stroke of a pen, and foreign allies of the U.S. military were sent home despite years of loyal service. This egregious and unconstitutional #MuslimBan has rightly sparked protests at airports around the country, sending a strong message of resistance to a cowardly administration that is…

  • Toni Erdmann

    Toni Erdmann

    ★★★★★

    - San Diego CityBeat review

    The troubled characters in Maren Ade’s films often find themselves out of place, out of sorts and nearly out of their minds. Romantic and professional relationships are bound to disappoint, while familial ties are severed quite easily. Mercury seems to be in perpetual retrograde, where no amount of goodwill or positivity can make things right.

    Her 2003 debut The Forest For the Trees watches in hand-held agony as social isolation and professional disillusionment slowly destroy…

  • Neruda

    Neruda

    ★★½

    - San Diego Citybeat Review

    "I must enter. I come from a blank page. I come for my black ink.” Spoken at the beginning of Pablo Larraín’s Neruda by narrator Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), these decisive words are indicative of the film’s fluid attitude toward history. They also represent the young police officer’s desire to confirm his identity through the relentless pursuit of rebel poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), a popular communist and senator who has gone underground due…

  • Paterson

    Paterson

    ★★★★½

    Writers write because, deep down, they have to. It’s a dual possession of sorts, a love affair with ideas matched by the struggle over how to express them. The central character of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) who lives and works in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, spends much of his free time jotting down poems in a “secret notebook.” During this process, words appear as text on the screen, spoken aloud before being…

  • 20th Century Women

    20th Century Women

    ★★★½

    I spent five years living in picturesque Santa Barbara. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the imposing Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, it can sometimes resemble a bubble where the outside world seems but a distant memory. Set almost entirely in the coastal California city circa 1979, 20th Century Women, which opens Friday, Jan. 20, understands such prevailing winds of blissful isolation, and the desperate need to break free from it.

    Primarily concerned with the singular…

  • Julieta

    Julieta

    ★★★½

    San Diego CityBeat review.

    The jigsaw cinema of Pedro Almodóvar can be bombastic and emotionally robust, but it’s always infused with a deep unspoken melancholy that resides underneath the surface. Often focusing on women trying to make peace with past trauma, the Spanish director populates his movies with important details that help craft a singular perspective. Dynamic wallpaper patterns line hallways. Kitchens and bedrooms are infused with bright splashes of color. Photographs portray memories that could materialize at any moment.…

  • Hunter Gatherer

    Hunter Gatherer

    ★★★

    San Diego CityBeat review.

    Desperate men can only outrun delusion for so long. Hunter Gatherer measuredly embodies this process via the lives of two fringe characters that mistake treading water for entrepreneurial ambition. Set in a low-income black neighborhood, the film takes on a low-key tone toward issues of poverty and inequality, occasionally mixing in bits of magical realism. Director Josh Locy’s debut is not your typical American indie, even if it might initially seem to be.

    When Ashley (Andre…

  • Everest

    Everest

    ★★★

    Surprisingly effective masculine melodrama that ascends quickly and then descends like a slow motion horror film. Good performances, restrained editing, insanely epic cinematography. The final third is a knockout.

  • Triple 9

    Triple 9

    ★★½

    There's something interesting going on here, but I'm still struggling to pinpoint what that is exactly. It's a bleak, no-nonsense, bruising drama that, like LAWLESS, is multiple movies in one competing for attention. But the genre tensions more or less live within the same tonal register.

    Hillcoat creates a mosaic of warnings, escalations, unjustified violence committed to prove a point. For what? Our post-Iraq world is essentially a series of dead-ends, meager betrayals, shallow alliances between "brothers-in-arms." I'm fascinated by…

  • Crimson Peak

    Crimson Peak

    ★★★½

    Sumptuous and rotten, beguiling and dangerous. Each frame contains a distinct sense of time and place, color and texture, but also a subterranean connection with an unspoken past.

    Fascinated by the dichotomy between American grit and British deceit, and how those labels are slowly dying away. Charlie Hunnam's character feels like the best of both worlds without any of the sinister trauma. To me, Chastain is the key here, at least to unlocking what Del Toro is trying to say…

  • Hail, Caesar!

    Hail, Caesar!

    ★★★½

    One strange cookie. Performance, profession & passing the time. Hollywood as one grandiose tangent factory. LA plays itself, so quietly. Alden Ehrenreich = MVP.