Movie Review – Booksmart

Booksmart (2019)
Written by Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Katie Silberman
Directed by Olivia Wilde

Superbad came out twelve years ago. At the time, I knew this was a high school comedy for a generation younger than myself. With Booksmart we’re presented with a high school comedy about a generation graduating nineteen years after my own, so I have begun to feel the growing chasm in my own experiences and the intended audience of this picture. Booksmart is a movie written with my students of years prior in mind, yet it is inspired by so many films that have come before.

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TV Review – Barry Season 2

Barry Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Alec Berg, Bill Hader, Taofik Kolade, Jason Kim, Duffy Boudreau, Emily Heller, and Liz Sarnoff
Directed by Hiro Murai, Minkie Spiro, Liza Johnson, Bill Hader, and Alec Berg

The tagline for Barry is “a hitman tries to make it as an actor,” a premise which sounds like the worst Hollywood pitch of the post-Goodfellas 1990s. Think about pictures like My Blue Heaven or Analyze This, where mob stereotypes are played for laughs. It’s the theme of Barry that keeps us coming back every week, “Can people who have done bad things still be good people?”. Co-creator and star Bill Hader, known for his comedic chops honed on Saturday Night Live, manages to find the perfect middle ground where he can have moments to play things for laughs but then flip things around in an instant to discover the most heart-rending moments of pathos. Barry is a funny tragedy.

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Movie Review – Boyhood

Boyhood (2014)
Written & Directed by Richard Linklater

Seeing the connectivity and influences that have made your life can be a very daunting task. There are profound moments that stand out, but they alone are not what shaped you into the person that exists today. Filmmaker Richard Linklater decided to attempt to tell the story of one person over the course of the actor’s actually childhood and adolescence, everyone in the cast contributing real-life experiences in a semi-improvised movie. The result is Boyhood, an ambitious piece of cinema but one that doesn’t entirely propel itself into a pantheon of greatest films, in my opinion.

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TV Review – Game of Thrones Season 8

Game of Thrones Season 8 (HBO)
Written by Dave Hill, Bryan Cogman, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Winter has come, and all the players are aligned for the final battle for Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen has arrived with dragons bringing her armies from the East. An alliance has been formed between the exiled monarch and the people of the North. The Wall has been breached and the Night King marches south to destroy anything in his path. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei Lannister has brokered deals with the Iron Islands and the Golden Company of Essos to serve as her protection against the inevitable battle with Targaryen. Jon Snow learns of his true parentage and how this could affect his relationship with the newly arrived leader. The table is set for a new age to begin in Westeros, but will it be any better than what has come before?

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Movie Review – April and the Extraordinary World

April and the Extraordinary World (2013)
Written by Franck Ekinci & Benjamin Legrand
Directed by Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci

April Franklin is a woman living in a world where history took a markedly different turn than our own. During the reign of Napoleon III, a scientist is charged with creating animal-soldier hybrids. He creates two hyperintelligent beings that escape and soon after the world’s greatest scientists and engineers begin disappearing. This impediment to progress leads to a mid-20th century where energy is still based primarily in coal and steam power. April’s parents and grandfather vanished years ago during a government crackdown, and she has been fending for herself alongside her genetically altered cat friend Darwin. The two uncover a plot to destroy humanity and the secret solution for the ultimate formula, a serum that would make all life impervious to harm.

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Movie Review – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2013)
Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

In the decaying Iranian spot of Bad City, The Girl wanders through the night, a vampire clad in hijab and chador, feasting on the not so innocent denizens. Arash is a young man struggling to make ends meet, taking care of his heroin-addicted father who owes money to local drug dealer Saeed. Arash and The Girl’s paths meander around each other for a while before their fateful meeting. A connection is felt between them, and she withdraws, scared to feel connected to a human. No matter how far she runs, invisible forces are intent on bringing them together, weaving a story of comedy and tragedy.

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Movie Review – The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant (2013)
Written & Directed by Clio Barnard

In a rundown northern England city, young teenagers Arbor and Swifty consistently find ways to get trouble whether it’s getting into fights at school or cursing out a parent. They cross a new line when they start stealing copper wire from local utilities and sell it to scrap dealer Kitten. Swifty finds himself drawn to the horses and Kitten owns and the scrap dealer can see the young man’s skill with the animals. Arbor feels the distance growing between him and Swifty, with the latter moving towards a better future than the deeply emotionally trouble Arbor seems capable of having.

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