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“Aquaman” is the sixth film in the DC Extended Universe, following on the heels of four films that range from mediocre to atrocious (“Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” “Justice League”) and one of the best superhero films not just of the last decade but of all time (“Wonder Woman”). Unsurprisingly, the overall abysmal quality of the franchise has led countless think pieces to ponder how it might be fixed. While I profess to be no authority, I’ve always found that solutions demanding the original director’s cut of “Justice League” or advocating for an alternate-universe reboot both miss precisely what made Wonder Woman” exceptional.
Here’s a disclaimer: the first season of “True Detective” is my favorite season of television ever made. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the first eight-episode iteration of HBO’s crime anthology series is a near-perfect evaluation of human character in the face of death, evil and chaos. Though the writing is at times heavy-handed and the subtle undercurrent of complicated mysticism never really comes to fruition, that first season is still an engrossing masterwork of intrigue and filmmaking. McConaughey and Harrelson give career-best performances, Nic Pizzolatto’s writing takes brilliant, unexpected turns, and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s sumptuous filmmaking pulls viewers into the Louisiana bayou and doesn’t let them go. After the first season’s final episode left me clutching my head in awed disbelief, I eagerly awaited the show’s second season, only to be left in utter disappointment.
There’s an image in Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” that I still see when I close my eyes at night: a little boy approaches a burning greenhouse. He is inexplicably dripping wet — with water? with gasoline? — and he stares at the flames in a trance.
For a movie about drugs and cartels that was inspired by a New York Times article by Nick Schenk, Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” is surprisingly dull, revealing nothing new with surface-level characters far below the capability of their actors.. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a down-on-his luck former daylily horticulturist who becomes a drug runner, or mule, for a cartel in Illinois. Bradley Cooper plays Colin Bates, the FBI agent tasked with tracking the massive shipments of drugs into Chicago. Taissa Farminga plays Stone’s granddaughter, Ginny. Farminga’s portrayal is sophomoric, and her emotional scenes are unconvincing. When she calls Stone to tell him that his ex-wife is dying, Farmings uses acting class-techniques to touch her face and exasperatedly say, “I can’t believe this.”
Adam McKay seems to have something of an obsession with the American culture of corruption and excess. After his masterfully quirky 2015 film “The Big Short” about the 2008 financial collapse, the writer and director has now turned his sharp, sardonic eye toward former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney. The aptly titled “Vice” is something of an exposé on the infamously secretive Cheney, revealing how president George W. Bush’s VP connived his way into becoming one of the most powerful vice-presidents in American history. While the film doesn’t quite match the sheer brilliance and impact of “The Big Short,” “Vice” is still an impressive piece of filmmaking that displays McKay’s distinctively strange and sarcastic style of writing and directing.
Last June, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby released her Netflix stand-up special “Nanette.” The show received critical acclaim and an entire literature of think-pieces, not because it was especially funny or because the jokes were radical (although they were), but because Gadsby used her special to question what it means to use self-deprecating comedy as a woman, a queer individual and as an “other” who exists in the margins.
In his video “Ludonarrative Dissonance,” film essayist Dan Olson advocates the use of the term “Cinemanarrative Dissonance.” The term describes when an aspect of a film flounders because two or more creative departments did competent work that was nevertheless contradictory due to the lack of a strong, unified vision for the overall product. “Mary Queen of Scots” is full of competent, occasionally even inspired, moments that nonetheless collapse because the film is the new poster child for cinemanarrative dissonance. The film is never truly terrible because everyone in front of and behind the camera is trying; they just never seem to be on the same page.
I’ll be the first to admit it — I am not a gamer. I don’t know much about any specific kind of game, about the world of gaming or of gamers in general. In my rather narrowly-construed mind, video games have been limited to the chaotic fantasy reality of multiplayer games such as “World of Warcraft,” or the brutally one-note first person shooting games à la “Call of Duty.”
Two years ago, I was in the minority when I declared “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to be less than the sum of its parts. Eddie Redmayne was genuinely fantastic as the unassuming, socially awkward protagonist Newt Scamander, and he continues to shine in the sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Moreover, when the first film embraces the whimsical tone inherent to Scamander’s story, it works. Just as often, though, it gets buried in what I described in an old The Dartmouth review as “dour subplots,” most of them revolving around the terrorist reign of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. As the title of the sequel might suggest, the film goes full dark, ditching any possible whimsy as fast as possible. It also ditches compelling character motivation, flowing plot structure and just about everything else that once made the “Harry Potter” stories and their subsequent adaptations and spin-offs so beloved.
In Yosemite Valley, a massive rock formation looms over the sweeping vistas of picturesque splendor. Known as El Capitan, it towers 3000 feet high and commands the attention of all who pass by. For years, one member of that rapt audience has looked at El Capitan with a particularly audacious intent: to climb the sheer granite wall with no ropes, gear or safety equipment.
When I saw “The Old Man and the Gun” last weekend at The Nugget, I was easily one of the youngest people in the audience. The advanced age of the packed crowd was a surprise at first, but upon consideration, it makes sense why this movie appealed so much more to an older demographic; it’s supposedly Robert Redford’s last performance before his acting retirement. The older members of the crowd had most likely grown up with Redford as one of the most celebrated actors of their time — of all time, maybe — and now, in this small theater in Hanover, they were witnessing the last movie he’d ever act in.
It’s the day after Halloween, which obviously means we’re ready to plunge headfirst into the holiday season. This year, “Elf” is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, a holiday in and of itself. Whether revisiting the childhood favorite or seeing the movie for the first time, “Elf” is a classic that is always sure to get me in the Christmas spirit and excited for upcoming festivities. While not ground-breaking cinema, this movie provides the merriment typically expected of the holidays in the best way possible.
Director Damien Chazelle is quickly making a name for himself as the rightful heir to the throne of dramatic cinema. After his mesmerizing 2014 film “Whiplash” set the cinema world abuzz and his 2016 homage to Hollywood artistry and romance “La La Land” made him the youngest-ever recipient of the Academy Award for Best Director, Chazelle has catapulted to the forefront of directorial talent. His next test resides in “First Man,” an intense and engrossing film about astronaut Neil Armstrong and his accomplishment as the first human to walk on the moon. With “First Man,” Chazelle has made another triumphant film that evidences both his innate talent behind the camera as well as his uncanny ability to bring the best out of his on-screen actors.
When one thinks of the quintessential film serial killers, several names come to mind: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Leatherface, etc. However, one name that definitively has secured a place among the great horror movie characters is Michael Myers, “The Shape,” who returned to the big screen in September in this year’s reboot of the 1978 horror movie classic “Halloween.”
I love my Saturday afternoon naps. I really do. Six of the seven Saturdays that I’ve been on campus, I’ve spent buried under a pile of blankets in a coma-like state that I didn’t emerge from for at least three hours. If I don’t have my Saturday afternoon nap, there is a serious possibility I won’t have enough energy to power through the weekend. The one Saturday I didn’t nap was last weekend, when I saw “Bad Times at the El Royale.” Even though I knew very little about the movie and had no real expectations for it, it already had some stiff competition it needed to beat to make the experience worthwhile — because while it had moments of genuine entertainment, it failed to be a better time than a Saturday afternoon nap.
“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – Colette
“Eating Animals” is an important film. Based on the 2009 book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, the documentary explores the subject of the American agricultural industry, a topic that’s often neglected in public discussions, and focuses on the highly troubling issue of the factory farming of poultry and livestock. It is a system whose bread and butter, so to speak, is the brutal and barbaric abuse of animals. However, it is one thing to know this as a fact, but it is an entirely different thing to see it happen.
“The Front Runner,” directed by Jason Reitman of “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and “Tully,” stars Hugh Jackman as U.S. senator Gary Hart during the final three weeks of his 1988 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The movie seeks to present the campaign, which is derailed by the reporting of Hart’s affair with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), as a turning point in our nation’s political sphere wherein a candidate’s personal life is used as a litmus test for their governing ability. Reitman is decidedly on a soapbox, but he does not have a clear stance on whether or not we are better for the investigative reporting that brings cameras into bedrooms and back alleys.
One of my fondest memories of my senior year of high school is when my English class read, performed and studied William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy “King Lear.” At that time, the play captivated me with its stark and honest portrayal of human fallibility and tragic loss and it quickly became one of my favorite works of literature. Naturally, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to watch legendary British actor Ian McKellen star as the titular Lear in a performance broadcast live from London to the Black Family Visual Arts Center this past Sunday evening.
Fame. Depression. Passion. Music. Love. The newest remake of A Star is Born (Cooper, 2018) revolves around these central themes and gives new meaning to each one. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut features himself as Jackson Maine, an alcoholic country star, and Lady Gaga as Ally, a waitress with a voice of gold.