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Review: ‘Shazam!’ is refreshing, ridiculous and remarkably fun

(04/16/19 6:00am)

It’s midterms week, I’m currently in season for my sport and I don’t have enough pairs of shorts for the good weather that’s finally arrived. Needless to say, I am stressed. To remedy this, I decided to do what any good student does and procrastinate by going to see a movie to take my mind off my work for a few hours. Fortunately for me, the Nugget was screening “Shazam!,” which proved to be the perfect two-hour distraction I was looking for.


Review: Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ continues to be an inspiring show

(04/12/19 6:00am)

The Fab Five, the beloved group of queer men on the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” are back for their third season in Kansas City, MO — more sparkly and delightful than ever. After two seasons of makeovers in Atlanta, GA, the group hones in on the Heartland of America. Filled with stunning transformations, heartwarming moments and plenty of “yaass girl”s, the third season entertains with its bright, feel-good plot and humor.


Review: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ weaves history into a tale of grief

(04/09/19 6:06am)

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders is a luminary novel depicting a single night of grief. Set in a graveyard where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, is buried, the story follows Lincoln’s visits to the tomb where several ghosts discuss their lives and their deaths. The novel is narrated by these ghosts who all occupy a purgatory-like existence called, after the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, “the bardo.” The ghosts in the bardo have all decided to stay between the living and the dead for a host of reasons. For instance, one of them, a preacher, knows he will go to hell if he leaves the bardo. The most common reason for staying, however, is that most of the ghosts are convinced that they are simply “sick” and set to eventually return to the realm of the living. For Willie, the choice between leaving for heaven or staying in the bardo is only complicated by his father’s return to his tomb. While the other ghosts try to convince Willie to leave — for the bardo is a complicated place where the young often go crazy — he desires nothing more than to stay with his father.


'Apollo 11' is compelling, even without embellishment

(04/02/19 6:00am)

In my review for HBO’s “The Inventor,” I wrote about the varying necessities of documentary art, focusing on the balance between pure recording and critical analysis. I acknowledged that some documentaries only require the deft eye of observance, while others, such as “The Inventor,” need an extra layer of insight and analysis to fully succeed. Todd Douglas Miller’s extraordinary new documentary “Apollo 11” succeeds with such simplicity as a documentary entirely composed of recorded moments and devoid of any analytical imposition. As such a work of art, it is a marvelous testament to the sheer power of observance, carried not by narrative or analysis but rather by the awe and wonder of what it captures on camera. 


The Inventor is a near miss about an American fraud

(04/02/19 6:10am)

HBO’s new documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” chronicles the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose company, Theranos, claimed to revolutionize the world of blood testing. Spurred by an intense desire for wealth and fame, Holmes devised a way to carry out complex blood tests — the sorts that usually require an uncomfortable venous draw — with only a drop of blood obtained through a finger prick. The problem she and her company encountered, though, was that they simply couldn’t get the process to work. Terrified of failure and obsessed with her own legend, Holmes lied and connived to keep Theranos afloat, deliberately misrepresenting the abilities of her company. “The Inventor” dutifully tracks these events with straightforward documentary reporting, but it fails to fully delve into the fascinating character of Elizabeth Holmes or her web of deceit, resulting in a film that lacks intrigue and coherence. 




Review: ‘Us’ is a new masterpiece that blends horror and comedy

(03/26/19 6:10am)

It’s been a while since I’ve been as excited to see a movie as I was to see “Us,” the new film directed, written and produced by Jordan Peele. Like millions of people, I was blown away by how unexpectedly good Peele’s 2017 film “Get Out” was, so I came in to “Us” with high expectations, looking for something just as thought-provoking and well-constructed. While I don’t think that “Us” has “Get Out” beat, I still think it’s a fantastic, smart film that should be watched by everyone looking to walk out of a movie theater all giddy — like you used to before everything became a reboot or a third sequel in a franchise. I enjoyed it so much that I gladly paid to see it twice this past weekend.


Review: ‘Triple Frontier’ has a bloated plot with boring characters

(03/26/19 6:05am)

“Triple Frontier” dropped on Netflix earlier this month with little advertisement but has since exploded into an online sensation. However, I think that the film’s high ratings can be attributed to the hype from its attractive, star-studded cast rather than the quality of the film itself.  


Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ is a blockbuster with an indie touch

(03/26/19 6:00am)

At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has garnered a reputation for tenacity when it comes to selecting unique directors whose prior work doesn’t always make them obvious candidates for mega-budget superhero extravaganzas. This strategy is noteworthy because it has paid off time and time again; the fact that Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler have recently managed to reinvigorate the franchise with “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther,” respectively, suggests that this strategy is extremely viable. 


Review: ‘This Land’ doesn’t provide a cohesive musical identity

(03/05/19 7:25am)

Gary Clark Jr. seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis. After bursting out of the Austin music scene as an heir to greats like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, he settled into a comfortable role as a jam-and-solo blues guitarist.Yet somewhere along the line grew tired of the redundancy. Starting with his 2015 album “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim,” Clark began experimenting with sounds that veered into R&B and funk, and his latest release, “This Land,” is even more of a departure from the traditional blues image he once presented. I would even go so far as to say that “This Land” is not a blues album at all. Rather, it is a sampler of Clark’s genre-bending experimentations, which hover somewhere between rock, R&B and hip hop. Unfortunately, the result is a messy record that has intriguing moments but lacks a coherent identity, sounding like the product of an artist who is still unsure of his own place in the world of modern music. 


Review: Hozier’s ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ is a pleasant musical surprise

(03/05/19 7:35am)

This past Friday, Hozier’s second studio album was released, closing a five year gap between his debut album from 2014 and his latest. Given the massive success of the Irish singer’s first album, “Hozier” and five years’ worth of expectation, Hozier’s second album was released upon high anticipation. So does ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ rise to the challenge? 


Review: 'Alita: Battle Angel' is entertaining, but its script falls short

(03/01/19 7:16am)

“Alita: Battle Angel” is the latest in the line of big budget, young adult sci-fi films to not do well critically or commercially. Following in the footsteps of the “Divergent” and “Maze Runner” trilogies, I felt like “Alita” tried too hard to recreate the success of “The Hunger Games.” While it might have worked in 2012, I think that today’s audiences are bored of the generic “chosen one” teenaged protagonist who must fight to overthrow a dystopian government, all while having to deal with a ham-fisted romantic subplot that does nothing but drag the plot down. That being said, I did enjoy this movie. 



A Cinematic Review of 2018: Ten great films and five flops

(02/26/19 3:48pm)

The Oscars may have come and gone, but I’m still not quite ready to embrace the new cinematic year. So, as a final send-off, it seems fitting to reflect on the best and worst films that 2018 had to offer. A couple of caveats before I begin, though: 1) Rather than organizing these films into a meaningless ranking, I’ve arranged them alphabetically. However, I have bolded the titles of the best film and the worst film of 2018 (in my humble opinion). 2) There are plenty of films from 2018 that I would have loved to see but haven’t gotten a chance to, largely due to accessibility issues. If you don’t see one of your favorite films from last year on this list, assume that I wanted to see it, didn’t get the chance to and would have included it on this list if I had. That last part is total wishful thinking, but it will keep everyone marginally happy. As a disclaimer, I did see all the Best Picture nominees. 


Review: ‘The Green Book’ doesn’t leave a mark as an artistic work

(02/19/19 7:40am)

After a two-decade career spent directing lighthearted comedy films with his brother Bobby, Peter Farrelly has struck out on his own to co-write and direct “Green Book,” a comedy-drama about the relationship between notable black pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his driver for a tour of the American South, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. The film is set in the 1960s and based on true events, with Vallelonga’s son Nick helping write the Oscar-nominated script. The film has since also been nominated for awards in lead and supporting actor, film editing and best picture. “Green Book” is a movie that seeks to capitalize on the feel-good nature of its triumphant story: that of a white man driving a black piano player through a deeply segregated America and finding friendship and support along the way. Admittedly, the film succeeds in its efforts to enthrall with this trope of race transcended through humanity, and it makes for a highly enjoyable film that nonetheless feels like a glossy magazine print, airbrushed and edited to cater to generalized enjoyment. Ultimately, “Green Book” takes a heart-warming story and ties it up in a neat little bow, resulting in a film that makes you smile and nothing more — it doesn’t challenge conventions or leave a lasting, meaningful impact. 


Review: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is an elegant masterpiece

(02/19/19 7:35am)

Almost two years ago, I wrote an elated review of Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning juggernaut “Moonlight,” extolling it as one of the century’s very best films. Looking back on that review, I wince a little at its naïveté and ignorance — an ignorance which I know can only be born out of the immensely privileged position I occupy. Nevertheless, my fundamental feelings about the film have not changed in the intervening time. Indeed, I’ve watched the film at least half-a-dozen times since I first saw it in theaters; it remains a masterful work, a revelation of astonishing filmmaking fused to a perfectly crafted narrative. As we enter the final year of the 2010s, I’m hard-pressed to imagine that there will be a better film released before this decade officially closes out. 


This year's Oscar-nominated shorts have surprising depth

(02/15/19 7:00am)

Last Saturday, I went to watch the Hopkins Center’s screening of the collection of Oscar-nominated live-action short films without a clue of what I was getting into. I hadn’t looked up any of the films before my viewing, and in my innocence, I assumed that the brevity of the shorts meant they would toe the line between light-hearted and meaningful. They would not be too dark or bleak, I assured myself, before the lights went dim and the title card for the first short appeared on the screen.


Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want it Darker’ inspires beyond the grave

(02/14/19 7:29am)

We are so concerned with what is new and exciting in music that we often forget the artists we’ve lost, the artists that even from the grave figure prominently in our collective imagination. Big names have died in the last few years — Tom Petty, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin — and it feels like time is running out for the musicians who inspired popular music today. Leonard Cohen is one such artist. Cohen passed away in November 2016 at 83, but still inspires people with his not-quite-music-not-quite-spoken-word pieces years later. 


‘Roma’ captures the mundanity of daily life but lacks emotion

(02/14/19 7:30am)

As a film-goer, I watch movies to escape reality — to dive into a fantasy and feel immersed in a new environment. All of this is accomplished by the trademarks of a film: action, dialogue and acting. It’s clear from the movies that often win at the box office that most audiences also appreciate similarly exciting, enthralling films. Yet among the films most critically lauded this year is Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical film “Roma.”




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