Reviews

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Hostages (I) (2017)
Well done, but not a fun watch
10 December 2017
I can't deny the technical strengths of the film. The film is well done. The performances across the board are strong, the cinematography gripping and effective for the kind of story being told, and the screenplay never feels exploitative. However, it's not exactly an enjoyable film to watch. I definitely do recommend it as a piece of filmmaking, but it's one that's hard to love. Still, one can't deny the impact the film has. I think the mysterious incident at the core of it does cloud it in mystery, and the film rightfully doesn't want to give easy answers or excuses for the behaviors shown.
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Coco (I) (2017)
Absolutely magical and beautiful. One of the century's finest animated films.
9 December 2017
It's rare for me to finish an animated film and think "I want that to become a classic." But it happened with this one. As a Latino, I can't put into words just how beautiful it felt to hear the music in the film. I don't remember the last time the music in a film was able to move me so much. That goes for the entire film. I had heard so much about how sad it was, but I honestly think this is one of the most genuinely happy films I have probably ever seen. There's sadness sprinkled in there, but most of the emotion derives from watching such lovable, magical characters convey themes so eternal and personal. A lot of films intend to teach you the importance of family and all that clichéd stuff, but this is that rare film that truly earns it and truly rises above others to make you get it. Maybe I connected so much to it because I am of the culture, but wow do I think this is a truly special gem, needed so badly in a year like this. After it was over my friend turned to me and said "Don't you dare say anything negative about this right now because I won't be able to take it." I'm sure there are flaws in there, but the whole thing conveys such power rarely seen in animated films, and as far as I'm concerned, power that even most Pixar films don't carry. I absolutely think this is one of Pixar's best works and I hope it receives all the recognition it deserves.
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Stronger (I) (2017)
Some fantastic performances, solid film
7 December 2017
I don't really think this film does anything too extraordinary. The good thing is that it could have been a lot more sentimental, hokey, and contrived than it is. On the other hand, it doesn't really do a lot of things to elevate it to greatness. It's a pretty straight-forward film with the usual structure for inspiring films like this. The aspect that does elevate it to greatness is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal is really strong, but perhaps even stronger is Tatiana Maslany. She showed everyone her acting talent as the lead(s) in Orphan Black, and it's great to see her talent in film. She's amazing here, doing so much with such an internal, quiet character. I hope this film helps her get even more film roles.
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Near masterful
26 November 2017
It's hard to put into words exactly the way I felt watching this film. Hours later it's hard to even begin to write my opinion on it. To put as simply as I can, the film perfectly captures its setting and atmosphere in a way few films do. The biggest credit needs to be given to director Luca Guadagnino, who is able to capture the smallest of details. Technically, the film is a marvel and I struggle to think of one flaw. It's beautiful, sensual, luscious in its execution, with absolutely marvelous pacing. In terms of pure directorial achievements, it's definitely one of the best of the year. The performance of Timothée Chalamet is also a pretty perfect portrayal of the character in the novel, and a completely internal performance that is reminiscent of Rooney Mara's wonderful work in Carol. Armie Hammer is also quite strong in the role, although it's a tricky character to get completely right. The novel is told completely through Elio's eyes and so we only imagine and see Oliver from a distance. He's more of an enigmatic figure in the novel than a real, tangible person. So much of that is due to the writing and the way Elio sees him as, so in terms of difficulty, I can imagine how Hammer had quite a task on his hands. Due to the literal nature of film, it's a type of character that always had to lose some of its mystery to its translation from the page, and it's as good one as can be.

I have so much I want to say about this but still can't find the right words, but the one thing I will say is that while the story here is pretty simple, the film really does capture, more than any other in recent memory, the feeling of that fleeting force of love and passion that can come to define one's life. It does so in a melancholic, beautiful way that makes it stand out from others of its kind. I can see why some people wouldn't take to it (and in fact the almost-unanimous positive reviews surprise me) because at the end of the day, the technical aspects work to create a film that can only be defined by a feeling that some people will experience watching the film and that others won't. All that sounds incredibly enigmatic, but it's a difficult feeling to pinpoint and considering the film, I think it's fitting.
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Surprisingly dark and hard to watch
24 November 2017
Ingrid Goes West. Perhaps the most misleading poster of the year, making it seem like a fun, girls' trip-type comedy. Is the film a comedy? Sure, but all the humor is rooted in some really dark, sad, and uncomfortable truths. The film was easy enough to digest in the beginning, but by its last half hour it really does become hard to watch without cringing. I give props to the writers and director for being able to balance the more comedic aspects of the film with the darker dramatic ones, and for being able to do it without losing the theme of the film. I also give props to the cast, who are able to excel and give some truly humane work. In terms of the supporting cast, O'Shea Jackson Jr. immediately stands out. He brings such a vibrancy and warmth to the role in such an effortless way. He, along with Jason Mitchell, were the stand-outs of 2015's Straight Outta Compton, and it's great to see them continuing to show their chops this year (Mitchell in a much larger role in Mudbound). The film belongs to Aubrey Plaza however. This was a role tailor- made for her, and I do think she's gotten type-casted and should probably take a break from similar roles, but she excels in this. She's particularly heartbreaking in the film's final minutes. It's interesting the note the film decided to end on. I could have seen it gone in a more formulaic path, but the final scene is sure to anger many people while impressing others (me) because of its implications.
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Impressive in its achievement
23 November 2017
This was actually better than expected! When I first heard about it I was beyond excited. It seemed like such an impressive technical achievement. Then the reviews started coming out and they seemed to indicate that technically it was impressive but substance-wise, it wasn't all that great. I think it's a flawed piece and the animation is definitely the most impressive thing about it, but story-wise it was actually quite moving, and the cast is absolutely wonderful. I guess wanting to solve a kind of mystery like this is bound to be somewhat problematic, but I admire the filmmakers' ambition for trying to go there. Most importantly, although the animation was always going to be impressive, I wondered whether it would make the viewing experience sometimes hard to get into. I heard some of those criticisms but I honestly thought the whole thing worked. I would say it's rather underrated and I hope the filmmakers are bale to get an Animated Feature Oscar nomination.
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Lady Bird (2017)
Charming, entertaining, and incredibly well written and acted
22 November 2017
It's hard to know what to say about Lady Bird. Currently it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with about 150 reviews, which is a testament to how truly likable the film is. It would be hard to see many people disliking this, if any. Despite its acclaim, it's a relatively simple coming-of-age film. We've seen many like this, and while there are many good, even great ones, Lady Bird is one that truly captures the difficulty of growing up and the gratitude that sometimes escapes us about the sacrifices others have made for us. It's simple, but a film with a lot on its mind, and it translates to the screen incredibly well. Both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf deliver some truly powerful, genuine, authentic work, and I really hope both are able to get Oscar nominations for their work here.
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Mudbound (2017)
Flawed, but fantastic acting
21 November 2017
I don't know how to feel about this. There's so much to admire, the biggest being its cast. It's some great work by an incredibly talented cast, with Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund being the best in show. They both deliver some truly fantastic work. The biggest shame is that the film is quite messy. It tries to juggle so much, or maybe in theory it could have worked, but it's brought down so many times by some really questionable directorial choices. The film's music is sometimes overused, the editing jumpy and sometimes prevents you from getting too invested, and the cinematography quite messy. Technically, the film is incredibly flawed. It seems to lack a real sense of rhythm and consistent pacing the more it goes on, even if weirdly the character story lines also become a lot more investing. The main plot summary or premise of the film, or what all sites had it as being, doesn't really kick into gear until the second half, which makes the thing even more confusing. However, the different perspectives through which the film is shown was a great artistic choice (definitely gotten from the novel, and sometimes it does feel very rushed as well). Overall, I'm going to have to sit a bit on this one. I want to like it a lot, but as it is it's a big ol' mess. The final scenes also seem to come out of nowhere, as if the film was in a hurry to end.
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Beach Rats (2017)
Painful and tragic
13 November 2017
Woah. I knew almost nothing going into this but it really affected me like few films this year. It was tough seeing such a repressed, confused character in such a dark state of mind, especially one that was going through such a similar experience to many others and I in the LGBTQ+ community. The lead, Harris Dickinsion, was so authentic and genuine, it made it that much more difficult to watch him go through what he does here. The film doesn't deliver anything in terms of a satisfying conclusion or tidy little arc. Instead, it becomes harder to watch the more it goes. I don't know, I just found this to be quite powerful.
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Hilarious and affecting
12 November 2017
So I watched Three Billboards earlier today. I really may start buying this film's chances as a true contender for Best Picture after all. Considering the incredibly enthusiastic response it got from the audience, it could very well be a consensus pic. For some reason I assumed it would be a "harder" film to love, but not at all. In terms of performances, these actors have really rarely been better. Frances McDormand could probably do this role in her sleep, but that's a testament to her abilities and less about it not being great work. Far from it. This role is a culmination of the many types of roles she's played in the past, and she of course delivers it perfectly. There is absolutely no other actress that I think would be able to give the work that she does. The same goes for Sam Rockwell. None of what he does here is too shocking or "stand out" because, just like McDormand, he's an actor who has shown traits of this role in some of his works in the past. Again, this is not a criticism but simply proof of what an accomplished and capable actor he's proved himself to be in the past. If the Oscar should come down to him or Willem Dafoe, I think it absolutely should be Rockwell's. Woody Harrelson and Caleb Landry Jones also deliver some strong, affecting work in their roles.
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