Searching

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This movie follows David Kim as he desperately searches for his missing daughter Margot. From that description it may sound like an ordinary mystery film, but there’s a catch: it’s told entirely through the perspective of a computer screen. This isn’t used simply as a gimmick but rather as a filmmaking tool to amplify the emotion and suspense. It’ll shatter your heart within the first five minutes of staring at a large computer screen projected in front of you, and FaceTime and text conversations are made interesting and thrilling. Though the concept is familiar, the plot is absolutely predictable and you can never tell what’s going to happen next. The way it builds up its conflict strongly pulls your interest and from there will find ways to always keep you guessing, as more shocking details are revealed that surprise the audience and put them on the edge of their seat. John Cho plays a loving father whose every action or reaction throughout his search for his daughter feels believable for what a father would do, and Cho displays range, emotion, and humanity in his leading performance. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone from their computer — even when we’re not directly looking at him, we always feel for David and understand how he’s feeling through the whole film. The format doesn’t limit the film’s opportunities and works perfectly throughout the entire runtime. There is never a dull moment that allows you to take a breath from this gripping mystery until the very end. As an audience member you always feel forced to look for clues and details and invited to embark on this father’s journey through his device. The writer has so much to say in this film and the script works on many thematic levels — It’s about a father’s love for his daughter, about how secretive kids choose to be from their parents, how different generations use technology, and how much a computer can tell you about a person and their life. There’s so much to be analyzed and so much the director wonderfully conveys in 100 minutes.

Searching is the original, creative, and enthralling thriller we need right now — it’s a shocking and unique thriller that will grip onto you and not let go until the very end.

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BlacKkKlansman

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The true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective who sets out to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Spike Lee returns to form with the most culturally relevant film of the year that’s also a unique and compelling story on its own. This insane true story is told with dark humor but also resonance by the end. John David Washington makes a name for himself as Stallworth who is charismatic but also courageous and warmhearted. Adam Driver also stands out as the Jewish officer who takes on the task of infiltrating the Klan using Stallworth’s name. Lee makes the writing humorous but also very dramatic and affecting at times, as well as some suspense when the undercover cops are trying to keep their identities concealed. All these reactions — laughs, emotion, and thrills — are all blended perfectly to create this powerful biopic that won’t lose your attention until the end. Even though a couple scenes are written out too long and could’ve used less screentime, the movie knows when to pace itself well and keep you guessing at what will happen next. Not only is the production great as well as the main cast and Lee’s stylish and memorable direction, but also the themes the movie has that apply to the past as well as the present. The final moments of the film will leave you shaken at the consequences of ignorant hate that is still seen today, and maybe we can take away a message from this film about how we should treat those of another race or ethnicity fairly. With BlacKkKlansman, Lee not only crafts a dark and humorous story that’s engaging throughout, but will also leave an impact with its depiction of the issues our country (and our world) still faces today. With this movie’s theme of showing how we must let go of our hate and treat everyone equally, Lee has achieved relevance on a level higher than any filmmaker this year. That is why BlacKkKlansman, though not the best film of the year, should be seen by all and not be missed while it’s on the big screen.

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Sorry to Bother You

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In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.

Sorry to Bother You marks the directorial debut of Boots Riley, who offers his unique voice to a world crowded with single-genre pictures meant to please a wider audience. Riley knows how to make a film his own and dive into many genres, like dark comedy and character-driven drama. He offers dialogue that doesn’t hold back on being extremely dark and bizarre yet humorous and entertaining. The movie gets so weird that eventually everyone will just have to sit back and enjoy whatever new ideas the director throws at you. This is a film that knows when it’s okay to move outside the lines of regular filmmaking and screenwriting, and try something new. Lakeith Stanfield was able to yell the titular phrase in the movie Get Out is now in the spotlight as the lead role of Cassius. He’s skilled, talented, and keeps the viewer into the film with his wide range that he brings into Cassius. Tessa Thompson once again proves herself as Cassius’ fiance Detroit and Armie Hammer has a phenomenal supporting role that’s hilarious and full of energy. The music is vivid and adds another layer to the film, and the writing is always unexpected and engaging. The movie knows when to be impactful, haunting, and thrilling but at the same time doesn’t take itself too seriously and still completely works on both aspects. While this movie is very unique, some may not like this movie or find the insane aspects to be laughable. It’s not a film for everyone, but thankfully my audience loved it so maybe you will too. Sometimes the ideas in different acts of the story don’t really act together to present a common goal or clearly feel interconnected, but I still enjoyed Sorry to Bother You from start to finish. It’s odd and nonsensical but presents itself as a deep story about people living in the modern world, and about the love, hate, hard work, and statements these people express every day.

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Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

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Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot follows the true story of paraplegic John Callahan and his dealing with alcoholism, as well as his cartoon drawing which made him famous, and his journey of coming to terms with the people in his life.

This movie promises a great cast as well as an interesting premise from a talented director, and it mostly lives up to the promise. Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite actors right now, and it’s hard to find a film where he doesn’t deliver. Here he plays a real-life paraplegic alcoholic so well that you constantly feel his depression and regret present in certain scenes and his brightness in others. Phoenix portrays a physically and emotionally damaged man from real life very intimately and carries the film better than any other actor would have. Also great in a supporting role is Jonah Hill who’s character plays a key role in John Callahan’s recovery. The story is at its strongest when the actor’s performances are at their best, as many scenes’ dialogue are delivered very well by the actors and certain scenes do have an emotional impact. However, the story structure starts to feel weaker in the middle act when not much emotion is present and some scenes didn’t feel too necessary. The story is at its best when it digs deepest into Callahan but sometimes the writing didn’t hit its mark, and the occasional non-linear storytelling felt unjustified and distracting whenever it was hardly there. When the movie focuses on its core themes of recovery and forgiveness, it succeeds greatly but sometimes it focuses more on dark humor or repetitiveness. Thankfully, we do get some great scenes thanks to top-notch writing and acting, and some strong delivery of story and themes.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is elevated by a superb performance from Joaquin Phoenix and a great emotional arc for his real-life character, and though the second act feels lesser to stronger parts in the beginning and end, it’s an often fascinating true story you may want to check out for its cast and writing, and those who like biopics will especially enjoy it when it’s released this July.

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Love, Simon

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Simon is a teenager who has a loving family and a great group of friends, and he’s doing great in school, but he’s got one big secret: he’s gay. One day, Simon becomes pen pals with a boy at his school who comes out anonymously and tries to find out who he is, but soon another classmate finds out about Simon’s secret and threatens to reveal it to the whole school.

Love, Simon tackles what is obviously an important topic in our world, but would it be able to capture these themes realistically or would it try too hard to be a “message” film? Thankfully, it’s the former that we get here. This movie doesn’t get too unbelievable trying to convey the struggles of gay teens to come out to even the people closest to them, and instead presents it as a realistic story of a teen living life in the closet. It’s less about accepting others for being “different” but more about accepting yourself for who you are and being yourself. Simon feels like a person teenagers can relate to if they’ve ever struggled with their sexuality or identity, or if you’ve ever had a secret you’ve felt uncomfortable sharing with others. Nick Robinson is superb as Simon, delivering a humanly nuanced performance as a character you could believably buy as an everyday guy with a secret. His acting is very well-realized in every scene and he brings out a very heartfelt character to follow. Also great is Katherine Langford (who you may remember as Hannah Baker from the powerful Netflix series 13 Reasons Why) as one of Simon’s best friends, as well as Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents.

Love, Simon has a clever story and smart way of tackling its themes, with nearly every scene entertaining and many moments being touching, and though it’s a topic not everyone may love, it’s important to discuss in today’s world, and thankfully it doesn’t feel like propaganda for equality, and instead like a touching and authentic teen love story. We see the love Simon gets from his family and his friends, and one of the most powerful moments is when Simon reminds us that he’s still him, no matter how he chooses to live. Many scenes may get some viewers emotional, especially the heartwarming ending that everyone, regardless of sexuality, can be touched by. It’s a film that even as a critic I can agree is not just a movie with a good message to the world, but also a great film with a powerful story, as we feel for our protagonist as he goes through the film, and ultimately Love, Simon is worth checking out, even though it’s mostly centered towards teens, it’s funny, touching, and emotional for those who choose to see it.

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Phantom Thread

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Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

I’ve always been a big fan of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, so I was glad to hear when this film was announced, as his previous collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent and even got Day-Lewis an Oscar. He is definitely one of the greatest actors of our time and it’s unfortunate that he recently decided to retire from the profession, but this is a very impressive film and a great sendoff for his career, with a superb final performance from him. He completely dominates every scene with his clever but quietly terrifying and greedy protagonist, a well-written character by the name of Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is a fashion designer who is too caught into his work sometimes to care about others and demands to stay in his routine, but his lover in the film finds a soft spot in him as they fall in love. The actress who plays his lover Alma is also very good and has great chemistry with the lead, and their relationship is the center of the film. It’s a dark and twisted love tale in a way but also deep and tense, but Anderson knows how to make us care for this relationship overall. Astounding production and cinematography can be noted throughout, but one of the best technical aspects of the film is the beautiful music which fills every scene artistically. This is a very different film than most, like all Anderson’s films are. He makes movies that don’t fit in certain genres, but films about people and the traits that construct them. Phantom Thread is a great example of what he can do, and this genius director hasn’t lost his steam since the ’90s. It’s occasionally slow, but at best it’s gripping and done like something not many other filmmakers would create. The ending is something I have to think about as well, as though I haven’t grasped the complete meaning of it, it will probably grow on me over time. Phantom Thread is not for everyone, but the elegant technicality and smart writing make this a nicely done character piece with a scene-stealing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, and once again a home run for Paul Thomas Anderson.

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The Post

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The Post is the latest film from Steven Spielberg, and follows the true story of a cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents and pushed Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) the country’s first female newspaper publisher and her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

There isn’t much to be said about why everyone is seeing this movie: Nothing can possibly go wrong when you have a trio like Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep, right? Well, the three of them continue to prove themselves in this timely tale of one of the biggest battles the press has ever faced, and how the biggest secrets of the Vietnam War were exposed to the public. Nobody could have delivered a story like this better than Spielberg himself, with the energy he brings into his sets and his extended camera movements (shot incredibly by frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski) never leaving the film. Meryl Streep is at her best (like always) as an important female figure in the history of the press, as Kay Graham was the first female head of the newspaper and helped publish classified secrets in the Washington Post. The strength she gives to her strong lead will captivate the audience and even have them clapping at some of Streep’s best moments in the film. Teaming up with Spielberg once again is the one and only Tom Hanks, whose talent is once again evident as the spirited Ben Bradlee who never loses faith in Graham and in the Post. Hanks and Streep have great chemistry and always demonstrate dedication to their roles and bring a lot of what makes Graham and Bradlee so important to the screen quite convincingly. This historical topic has a very important story that wasn’t just relevant then, it still is now. This movie is about telling the truth and about the freedom of the press, which we mustn’t forget is supported by the First Amendment. What happened then may happen in the future, and we must fight to let our people know what is really going on and not let the government punish what is supported by the Constitution. This is a very relevant theme to today’s politics and journalism, and I learned a lot from this fascinating story about perseverance and taking risks to do what’s right. Nobody could have executed this story better than Steven Spielberg, and I don’t think we could have asked for a better Kay Graham than Meryl Streep (same with Hanks for Bradlee). Streep’s empowering female protagonist is powerfully portrayed, as women were facing sexism while mostly men worked at these kind of jobs. Graham took a leap and brought the Post and this country to where it was today, and this kind of leading role is what will inspire many. Although a few scenes were a little long/slow-paced, and some of the editing could have used a little more music, speaking of which is incredibly done by John Williams, but other than that, I don’t see a reason why not to go see this relevant and thought-provoking true story that’s now in theaters and bound to shine at this year’s Oscar season.

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