Mar 15, 2018

Review: Jennifer Lawrence's Edgy Performance Gives "Red Sparrow" a Small Redemption to a Mediocre Story

Scene from Red Sparrow
In spite of an ongoing role in the X-Men franchise, the past few years have marked the start of a new phase in Jennifer Lawrence's career. It started with mother!, which saw her take on challenging material with a performance that was emotionally and physically draining. What could've been an anomaly for her career has blossomed further into a niche darkness with director Francis Lawrence's Red Sparrow: a film that sees her pushing herself further than ever before. While the Lawrences may best be known for The Hunger Games franchise, their take on Russian spies veers more towards an adult tone in which sexuality is used as currency, and the violence is sure to make some cringe. Jennifer Lawrence is officially in her edgy period, of which is meant to deconstruct her good girl image in favor of something more bold and abrasive (something rare for a four-time Oscar nominee). In a sense, it's the reason that Red Sparrow works, if just as a study of where she'll go for a role. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the rest of the film.

Mar 13, 2018

TV Review: "Jessica Jones" - Season 2

Jessica Jones
The time between Jessica Jones season one and two has been a bit rough for the Netflix division of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even with critical praise, the superhero detective series has had to compete with The Defenders and the critically inferior series like Luke CageIron Fist, and The Punisher. To summarize, she is seen as the saving grace to a mediocre franchise, and there's good reason. It becomes clear almost immediately in season two that she isn't just a character who punches people. No, she has more of a deeper emotional core that this time explores a toxic family dynamic that causes her to mature in unassuming ways. This isn't just a show where the villain is being sought after. No, this is a journey against the demons in Jessica Jones' (Krysten Ritter) soul. In that regards, the show remains the smartest, most engaging of The Defenders series, and there's no close competition.

Trailing Off: "Fantastic Beasts:: The Crimes of Grindelwald" (2018)

Scene from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Welcome to the sporadic column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Mar 12, 2018

Review: "Annihilation" is a Meditative Journey Into a World of Great Sci-Fi Potential

Scene from Annihilation
There is something that's immediately unnerving about director Alex Garland's Annihilation. It's not in the disorienting imagery that's to come, but in the way that Lena (Natalie Portman) seems to move through her story. It's like a collage full of mystery as she tries to understand why her boyfriend Kane (Oscar Isaac) has come back a deformed man, with the answers only lying in a chaotic void, known in the film as "The Shimmer." This isn't a film meant to answer the hard questions, but instead create one of the best big budget sci-fi films in years with a story that's thematically rich with moments that provoke the audience. Like The Shimmer itself, the answers aren't clear, and in some ways exist more as a moral quandary for each viewer to solve. It's a film that's more ambitious than Garland's Ex Machina, though maybe not as intellectually satisfying. Still, it's hard not to love a film that creates a world where even the small details feel different. For all of its faults, Annihilation is definitely a film that posits Garland as one of cinema's most promising world-builders. 

Theater Review: The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players' "The Pirates of Penzance" at the Carpenter Center (2018)

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players
To general audiences, opera is an acquired taste full of booming voices and theatrical acting that may seem outdated when compared to the modern musical. However, there is one form of opera (an operetta to be precise) that is likely to convert even the staunchest of skeptics. The work of Gilbert & Sullivan has aged surprisingly well given its release in 1879 simply because it takes everything seriously while telling a story full of slapstick, clever asides, lyrical puns, and an overall sense of joy. It's what made The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players' one night performance of "The Pirates of Penzance" at the Carpenter Center not only a fun celebration of the duo's work, but a fun reminder that art doesn't need to be boring to be great.