The Power of the Dog
Contains spoilers about The Power of the Dog (read our spoiler-free review here) Continue Reading →
Paul Thomas Anderson set out to make a love story with Licorice Pizza, and ended up creating his most joyful flick to date. Seemingly lacking is the dark heart so many of his stories contain, whether it’s in the wildly toxic relationship between designer and muse in Phantom Thread or brutal depictions of loss and loneliness in Magnolia. Instead, Licorice Pizza has a lightness he hasn’t truly approached since Punch-Drunk Love. Continue Reading →
Though their first project made exclusively for Netflix, Robin Robin brings animation studio Aardman back to familiar territory. Aardman’s big claim to fame was Wallace and Gromit shorts released as TV specials like A Grand Day Out or The Wrong Trousers. It may be dropping on a streaming platform rather than on broadcast television, but Robin Robin allows Aardman to once again cram a lot of beautiful animation and charm into 30 minutes of storytelling. Continue Reading →
Kenneth Branagh directs a moving film about a working class Irish family impacted by the Troubles.
Historical films — especially those about devastating and traumatic events — require a precarious balance. If you focus too much on the events themselves, you risk erasing the humanity of the people who experienced them, coming across like a dry textbook. Dive too deeply into the personal — especially if your characters are fictional or fictionalized — and there’s always a chance you’ll make a maudlin melodrama that uses history as little more than a backdrop. This balance becomes exponentially more difficult to maintain when your audience’s main point of access to your story is the eyes of a child, because you’re at constant risk of nostalgia muddying up the proceedings.
Given the subject matter of Belfast and Kenneth Branagh’s deep connection to it (although the film is not a memoir, there are a great deal of similarities between the fictional family and the Belfast-born writer and director’s own), he could have easily faltered with this particular story. It would have been easy to forgive him if he did. Hell, he probably would have made a decent film even if it got too sentimental. This is Kenneth Branagh we’re talking about, after all. But what he’s done instead is craft a film that’s as measured as it is miraculous. Continue Reading →
Four Good Days
In Four Good Days, when heroin-addict Molly is asked what her triggers are, what could get her to use again, she replies, “My life’s a trigger…” Fellow addict Amanda Wendler takes things a step further, though, proclaiming, “Reality’s a trigger.” But Amanda isn’t another character in Molly’s story—she’s the inspiration behind it. In 2016, the Washington Post chronicled a few days in her fight for sobriety in their much lauded article, “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and American Addiction.” Continue Reading →
Joe Begos’ wild, gore-soaked drug trip of a vampire flick is not for the faint of heart.
Creative block is a particularly cruel trick our brains play on us. Sure, you have lots of wonderful ideas, and maybe even the talent to make them come to life, but when it comes time to actually do it, suddenly, the well runs dry. It’s a disheartening, infuriating cycle: when you can’t create, you get depressed, and the more you’re depressed, the less you create. It starts to feel like a great, cosmic joke. Joe Begos’ grisly sensory overload Bliss is what happens when a young artist, desperate for inspiration, descends into a hellscape of drugs and an inexplicable taste of blood.
Dezzy (Dora Madison) is falling far behind in both rent, and in producing pieces for an upcoming show. Though she’s successful enough in her field that she’s recognized out in public, a rotten attitude and a consistent failure to meet deadlines have caused Dezzy to quickly lose clout with both her agent, and her buyers. After a couple of heated exchanges with those she owes either money or work to, she decides that the best course of action to take is to go out and party. Drug dealer pal Hadrian (Graham Skipper) supplies Dezzy with the titular Bliss, a drug that’s snorted but resembles nothing so much as a bag of gunpowder. A combination of heroin, acid, meth and God only knows what else, it’s love at first sniff for Dezzy, even though Hadrian can’t really explain what’s in Bliss, or what the long-term effects of it might be.
Following a decadent (albeit barely coherent) night with friends Courtney (Tru Collins) and Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield), Dezzy wakes up the next morning desperately ill. She assumes she needs more Bliss, and while it helps a little, she feels a darker craving that she doesn’t yet understand. On the upside, she’s suddenly able to paint again, and, seemingly working non-stop (because you can when you’re unable to sleep anymore), Dezzy begins to create a beautiful but eerie mural, perhaps her greatest work yet. Sure, Bliss sends her into murderous rampages where she chews the flesh off of people’s fingers, but, finally, she’s got that artistic flow back! Continue Reading →