After Everything is no Nicholas Sparks film

Even though a health crisis is at the center of this relationship-driven dramedy, After Everything is as far from a Nicholas Sparks film as it gets. Elliott (Jeremy Allen White) works behind a sandwich counter with his roommate and best friend, Nico (DeRon Horton).  It’s all fun and games for the two of them–drinking or getting high–until Elliott learns he is suffering from a rare diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma.  There’s a lot of nitty-gritty detail…

"After Everything is no Nicholas Sparks film"

Madeline’s Madeline: The Definition of Art House

With a standout performance from newcomer Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline lives up to the very definition of art house cinema. Madeline (Helena Howard) is a member of a theater troupe that plays more to the physical side of acting.  There’s a lot of method to the director Evangeline’s (Molly Parker) approach.  The director’s approach, rooted in improvisation, probably isn’t the best idea for this young woman.  Because having been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, Madeline’s…

"Madeline’s Madeline: The Definition of Art House"

Eighth Grade captures Spirit, Awkwardness

Eighth Grade is a film that perfectly captures the spirit and awkwardness of being a student in the final year of middle school. Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) may be close to starting high school but before doing so, she must survive the end of eighth grade.  It’s not easy for the smartphone-obsessed teenager.  Even though she has a YouTube channel where she offers advice to others, she’s not the perfect person when it comes to applying…

"Eighth Grade captures Spirit, Awkwardness"

Leave No Trace: An Emotionally Powerful Film

Debra Granik’s third narrative feature, Leave No Trace, is a emotionally powerful film with a breakout performance from actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. We first meet Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) in their fourth year of living in Forest Park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon.  It’s illegal to live in public land but the two of them have gotten away with living in the woods for so long.  It’s not…

"Leave No Trace: An Emotionally Powerful Film"

Three Identical Strangers: Crazy, Sad, and True

Three Identical Strangers tells the crazy but true and sad story of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman. The three of them were separated at birth when they were adopted by three different families.  Bobby was sent off to live with the affluent Shafran family.  Eddy went to the middle class Gallands.  As for David, he went to live with the blue-collar Kellmans.  All were adopted by Jewish families who had an older daughter living…

"Three Identical Strangers: Crazy, Sad, and True"

Damsel: A Wholly Original Western

A wholly original film with a twist you never see coming, Damsel is a hysterical western from the minds of David Zellner and Nathan Zellner. Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) has tracked down the location of the woman he plans to marry, Penelope (Mia Wasikowska).  As he sets through in his journey, he hires Parson Henry (David Zellner) to officiate the wedding when he finds his future bride in addition to a gift, a miniature horse called Butterscotch.  Samuel…

"Damsel: A Wholly Original Western"

American Animals: A Crazy True-Crime Story

American Animals uses a narrative/documentary hybrid approach in telling the absurd but true story of the Transylvania University library heist. Flashback to the fall of 2003 if you will.  Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) is touring the Special Collections archive at the Transylvania University library.  The freshman finds himself intrigued and fascinated by the artwork of John James Audubon.  Admiring the artwork, Spencer starts to get these absurd idea to steal the rare collection.  He manages to…

"American Animals: A Crazy True-Crime Story"

A Kid Like Jake explores Gender Identity

A Kid Like Jake is a film that ought to add to the conversation about gender identity among young children. The roots of A Kid Like Jake in the theater become very clear in the final act through the performances of Claire Danes and Jim Parsons.  Through Silas Howard’s direction and the camera framing of cinematographer Steven Capitano Calitri, the performances come off as theatrical rather than cinematic.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  While…

"A Kid Like Jake explores Gender Identity"

On Chesil Beach feels Theatrical, not Cinematic

On Chesil Beach doesn’t quite rise up to to the level of previous adaptations of Ian McEwan’s works. Set in 1962, this is a film that can be very confusing to follow.  We eventually learn that Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) just got married a few hours earlier.  They are planning to consummate their marriage at a hotel along Chesil Beach in southern England on the Dorset coast.  However, Florence realizes that she…

"On Chesil Beach feels Theatrical, not Cinematic"

First Reformed: A Mesmerizing Drama

First Reformed is a mesmerizing drama about a pastor who counsels a husband and wife. Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), a former Army chaplain, is a pastor at the First Reformed Church in the fictional town of Snowbridge, N.Y.  The Dutch Reform church has grown some fame by having been a station on along the Underground Railround.  However, as the church approaches 250 years, it doesn’t contain the magic that used to be there.  While…

"First Reformed: A Mesmerizing Drama"