‘Raw’ Review: A Gory French Tale About Cannibalism And Female Sexuality

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Julia Ducournau directs a disturbingly delicious feminist cannibal indie film

Barfing, fainting and disgusting are probably the words that people used to describe Raw when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year. Although some might say it is, for the most parts, it’s not the disgusting gore fest you might have heard of. Not to say that it isn’t all those things but this French horror film works on a much deeper level. Raw challenges society’s views of female sexuality and fills its story with rich symbolism all while eating raw flesh.

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‘Personal Shopper’ Review: Kristen Stewart Stars In An Unconventional Ghost Story

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Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas deliver something you haven’t seen before

Another ghost story is not something the cinema world is in need of right now. The Paranormal Activity franchise has killed the genre, put it in a coffin and nailed the door shut forever burying it six feet under the ground. For director Olivier Assayas to dig it back up, there needs to be a fresh idea there. Not only is Personal Shopper a bright idea, its plethora of genres makes this a unique experience.

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‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ Review: Jessica Chastain Glimmers In Untold WWII True Story

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A zookeeper’s sad and empowering story is brought to screen with a terrific performance by Jessica Chastain

World War II, a difficult subject for most yet a story Hollywood always continues to tell. Not to say that reminding people of history is bad; indeed we must be remembered in order to not duplicate this horrific and terrible tragedy. There are plenty of untold stories to be told from many points of view. Hollywood has continually told Holocaust stories from a man’s point of view. The Zookeeper’s Wife is here to show us this terrible tragedy once more but this time with a fresh new twist – a heroic woman’s point of view.

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‘Logan’ Review: Hugh Jackman’s Last Performance Is Emotional And Important

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Hugh Jackman’s final performance brings about a thought-provoking and emotional comic book movie

With Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart officially leaving the franchise, the X-Men movies’ future has never been so lost yet so confident. What both new entries of the franchise have made it clear is that new additions are welcomed and possible. As their veterans sign off,  new additions become more important.

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‘Manchester By The Sea’ Review: Casey Affleck Gives His All In This Gripping Emotional Drama

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Kenneth Lonergan tackles loss, depression, and death in this Oscar contender

Taking such a personal and intricate concept as death, it needs to be opened and surgically examined from every angle while constructing characters that feel real. Having such a movie bring in humor moments is such a big risk, and therefore, needs to be done meticulously for the film to work. Fortunately, Manchester By The Sea takes its time telling a heartbreakingly bittersweet story that is elevated by Kenneth Lonergan’s script as well as his directing.

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‘Hidden Figures’ Review: Taraji P. Henson’s Feel Good Movie Perfectly Captures Race Relations In America

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Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe shine in this heartwarming forgotten true story

What better time to talk about diversity in America than in a time after the U.S election. After talks of division and race, Hidden Figures brings a feel good story that focuses on inclusion and teamwork. For all that is worth, Theodore Melfi’s new movie isn’t perfect, but it’s damn hard to hate.

Uncovering the untold story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), 3 black women working in NASA in the 1960s, we follow the lives of each woman trying to prosper in a time where differences were judged. All three women are smart, however, working against them are their skin color and gender.

Johnson’s incredible ability to solve math problems, Vaughn’s fantastic leadership skills and Jackson’s dream to become the first female engineer are all important parts to how NASA has won the space race. The only problem is that they are not seen as part of the team. Instead, they are viewed as inferiors, and the only way that NASA will send its first man in space is by embracing the diversity within.

Very much a movie about teamwork, Hidden Figures preaches a message of inclusion, love, and togetherness. Taraji P. Henson does an excellent job delivering what it feels like to have the world against you. Her character’s soft, obedient nature is a powerful depiction of just how black people were to respond. Contrasting her is Janelle Monae’s character, who is the sassy back-talking aspiring engineer. Her performance in this and in Moonlight make her an actress on the watch list in the coming years.

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Hidden Figures perfectly weaves in race relations in its story

All three leading actresses help elevate the feel good story even when it does feel like a glossy history class movie. Its production value is a bit lacking, and some of the shots are blurry and sloppy but what helps the film is the way it grabs you emotionally with well-written characters worth rooting for. The way director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) weaves in all the big or little barriers black people had to overcome, and it is genius. There is a running joke about how Henson’s character needs to walk 30 minutes to the bathroom and back because there is no colored bathroom in her building. Small things like that make Hidden Figures that more compelling.

Jim Parson plays yet another Sheldon type character. Although, Hidden Figures dodges the feeling of being TV at multiple times, Parson’s character kept the movie from fully being cinematic. The casting choice is poor and too on the nose to take seriously. There is no reason to believe that Parson was the only one able to play that character. He takes you out of the movie with every scene he is in from his facial expressions to his dialogue.

The scenes that Parson doesn’t inhabit totally work. Mahershala Ali, Kristen Dunst, and Kevin Costner all do an excellent job. The script gives them space to improve and develop as characters.

Whether it will be sexism, racism or just plain discrimination, Hidden Figures is ultimately a great feel-good story that you cannot possibly hate. You may want more from it, but what we got is a compelling untold story about incredibly smart women who changed history and finally their story can be heard.

GRADE: B+

‘Nocturnal Animals’ Review: Tom Ford’s Sophomore Film Is Both Bizarre And Beautiful

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Amy Adams is spectacular in this high-class dramatic thriller

Rich people can be obnoxious. This is just but one of Tom Ford’s commentary on high-class living. His argument seems pretty relevant as he has seen these behaviors first class working in the fashion world. A lot of pretty faces and luxurious settings bombard Nocturnal Animals and yet Ford meticulously shows the sadness and superficiality, something rich people try to hide.

A sad Susan (Amy Adams) is seen unimpressed by the art surrounding her, standing alone with dead obese women shown on platforms. This is just one of Susan’s art exhibits. But why is she so sad? Her husband (Armie Hammer) didn’t come to her art show. Wanting to confront him at home, something catches her mind as she comes home – a package is waiting for her. This mysterious package is revealed to be a draft of her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The draft of a novel dedicated to her.

The novel’s story is of dark, sad and violent nature, not the content one would want to be associated with. Though, the story reveals something closer to home, Susan’s relationship with Edward. As she reads through the pages, Susan can only think about her memories with Edward and how it eventually went all wrong.

On the surface, it seems like a boring story, but it’s elevated with a great script. Going back from a novel to reality is in fact, Nocturnal Animals‘ greatest strength. Not one story is superior to the other. Instead, both stories offer a fascinating look into each character without being overly intolerable. The novel story helps the audience get an interesting look into Jake Gyllenhaal’s character which is only seen in a couple real life shots. A bold choice that is rewarded more than once.

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Ford beautifully captures the essences of egotism and superficiality

Tom Ford plays each right cards, and the biggest most audacious card is played at the very end where he leaves it to the audience to decide just how much both stories mirror themselves. On the one hand, Ford shows an incredibly violent and gritty Texas story perfectly contrasting the wealthy and fancy lifestyle Susan inhabits. Proving that this isn’t just another “sad rich people” story. Her life, filled with beautiful dresses and decadent parties, paints a portrait of why her character seems so sad. But in the end, it’s the actions and the depth of the relationship that pulls the story to its own.

Playing with similar themes to the ones in The Neon Demon, an apparent similarity between both Nicolas Winding Refn and Tom Ford emerges. Not only is Karl Glusman and Jena Melone in both film but the aesthetic of Nocturnal Animals fair strikingly similar to Refn’s. Although, enough effort is made to differentiate both films, this is sure to come up in the minds of people who have seen both films.

Helping out with the movie’s excellent story are the incredible performances across the board. Adams’s sad eyes leave just enough room to see her broken soul. Same goes to Gyllenhaal as he shines as a sensitive author. However, easily the favourite is Michael Shannon’s depiction of a Texas sheriff.

Proving once again that his eye for fashion translates well to film, Ford’s scrupulous nature and vibrant visuals take centerpiece. Made with high precision and attention to detail, Nocturnal Animals is the biggest gamble of the year. In a movie where nothing should cinematically work, almost everything does.

GRADE: A