Review – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

by Armando Vanegas

Just to start, I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed this movie as a lot of animated movies are hard to really win me over. A lot of them are okay but most are mediocre and more than happy to play to the cheap seats. This is disappointing because this is animation so anything is possible but more often than not, they’re so scared to take risks. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse understands this. Like the best kind of entertainment, it knows my time is valuable and as a result, this movie really takes advantage of that in so many unexpectedly brilliant ways. Seriously, this movie works on so many levels. It’s intense, action packed, funny, suspenseful, exciting, unique, and a lot of other words that could be used to describe how great it is. I love how much it’s willing to play with the form. More movies should do this because it’s what makes the theater experience fun.

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Review – Widows (2018)

by Armando Vanegas

Steve McQueen’s Widows is a very entertaining time as it feels like a throwback to the older dramas that used to be a big deal before superhero movies and franchises were a thing. If you want to see great actors doing their thing while a great director does his best job at being artful while being contained in a mainstream bubble, then this is the movie for you. A lot of the ads made this look like a big action-packed heist movie and just know that it’s not that. If you’ve seen any of McQueen’s other movies, you know what to expect from him here. It’s more of a slow burn character study about how three women are forced to break out of their shells created by their now deceased husbands through their crimes by way of financial stability. While that might seem heavy, it’s engrossing from beginning to end thanks to great performances and McQueen’s directing.

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Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

by Armando Vanegas

For as financially and culturally successful as the Harry Potter books and movies were, the first Fantastic Beasts movie seemed to have the shelf life of a forgettable CBS procedural, which might actually be redundant. It was somehow really successful but it seems to not really have any cultural relevance. Like I remember seeing it, but in the words of one of my favorite podcasts, Blank Check with Griffin and David, it’s not a movie that exists. This theory is also supported by the fact that that no one else seems to ever talk about it enough to stand out in anyone’s memory. Aside from the beasts, Colin Farrell as the villain, and Dan Fogler as Jacob, I’m hard pressed to find anything that stood out in that previous movie.

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Review – Phantom Thread (2017)

by Armando Vanegas

The 90’s independent film boom was quite a ride as there were so many unique voices that would be hard to replicate. Not only that, a lot of these filmmakers and their works just carried so much swagger to them that you had to impressed by how confident they came across. Many of them seemed to stay with made them work, but Paul Thomas Anderson seems to always want to challenge himself in a way that sets him apart from the pack as he seems to have a tendency to get out of his comfort zone. While I wasn’t crazy about his last movie Inherent Vice, it was still one of those movies that you had to admire for its weirdness even if it doesn’t totally come together. This was in some ways a return to form for him in some ways even if this isn’t a movie I can say that I totally could embrace. When I first saw this in the theater earlier this year, I remember being really impressed by how well made it was, but that’s to be expected from Anderson. This is still apparent on a second viewing. It’s also different and unpredictable in some ways so it had that going for it in addition to excellent performances from Daniel-Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps.

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Review – Divorce (Seasons 1 + 2)

by Armando Vanegas

Divorce is an HBO series in which Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church are Frances and Robert, a couple who, after a strange event at a friend’s house, realize that they’re stuck in a rut in their marriage, causing them to divorce. Created by Irish actress/writer/producer Sharon Horgan of Amazon’s Catastrophe and IFC’s The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and executive produced by Paul Simms of NewsRadio, Atlanta, and Girls, the series offers an unflinching look at what happens when two adults decide to get a divorce and the complications that come as a result while attempting to keep things as civilized as possible. The show is great at showing how different both Frances and Robert might have their faults, but no one is painted as an outright villain as the actors bring multiple dimensions to their characters, so that we can understand what they loved in each other and what made them break apart.

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Review – BlacKkKlansman (2018)

by Armando Vanegas

It’s a been a bittersweet time in this country that’s been mostly bitter in ways thanks to the current political state here in America. However, part of what’s been sweet about this year is that whether it’s coincidence or not, a lot of black voices have been able to get a chance to express themselves in such original ways as Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, Atlanta, and now Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. For the most part, Lee succeeds with what he attempts to put on the screen. It’s a Spike Lee movie so you can definitely say that it’s not boring. The plot of the movie concerning Colorado Springs’ first black police officer in the 1970’s posing as a prospective KKK member who then recruits a Jewish officer to pose as the member in person to infiltrate the Klan. This is pretty unusual and to the movie’s credit, it does a lot with it by using it as a springboard to comment on recent political issues or social commentary that concerns the black community that may have been said before, but needs to reiterated for those who still aren’t able to get the message. For the most part, it never bothered me because it seems to come from a genuine place. While Lee is still Lee, this seem to be more mature and relatively calm to his other movies in its approach to its many ideas. It’s still very ambitious and maybe has too much to say. But it’s at least got some verve to it that I admire for bringing something to the table that will inspire some great food for thought, while simultaneously being an entertaining time at the movies.

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Review – Eighth Grade (2018)

By Armando Vanegas 

Comedian Bo Burnham’s feature film debut Eighth Grade, a new movie about a young girl going through the last week of eighth grade, will probably make most people’s skin crawl, due to how it manages to hit so close to home depending on one’s personal childhood experiences. But it made this reviewer feel very engaged and invested for just that reason due in part to Burnham’s skills behind the camera. He makes a rather simple slice of life story as convincing enough for someone like its introverted and social media obsessed main character Kayla, played by actress Elsie Fisher. Fisher proves to have a future in movies as her role fits her like a glove. She doesn’t so much announce herself as a star in the making, so much as she quietly nudges to the person next to her and writes it in a note to pass it down the theater aisle. She finds a way to make this character both sympathetic and off-putting, sometimes in the same scene. She makes the moments of her character’s anxiety feel too real and gives a lot of unexpected tension to the proceedings. She also successfully manages to embody the feeling of alienation that one gets from that awkward time in one’s life while struggling to make a connection through social media. This is one of the ways the movie manages to subvert expectations while being more thoughtful and emotionally in-depth than most other coming of age movies.

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