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Recognizing “Epic” Mumblecore

The 97-minute, 2016 film Free of Thought ends with John hunched over a sink in a dimly-lit kitchen. Through a doorframe, we see our protagonist doing the dishes and hear him whistling to himself: a quiet, unassuming moment almost all can relate to. What makes this particular, ostensibly-mundane scene so striking are the circumstances that led up to it. The film starts in Melbourne, Australia, where John is in a relationship with Mel. But by the film’s closing moments, John has become a habitual stoner, messily broke up with Mel and migrated to Montreal, Canada.

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The Magic of Cirque du Soleil

For the first time, Cirque du Soleil in Cinema brought their live show, KURIOS- Cabinet of Curiosities, to moviegoers. The special, one-night-only cinematic experience plunged viewers into the fantastical world of the show in a far more intimate way than a live performance. However, this same proximity also lessened some the show’s overall impact. Last summer, I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal, their first show to be set on ice. From 14 rows back, some of the details of each character were lost; their broad movements conveyed their emotions instead of their faces, and the costumes appeared distinct, but not as intricate as they must have been.

Venom (Tom Hardy) in the Venom film, directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Venom Is a Messy Web

Sony’s Venom can best be described as an exemplification of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The superhero genre is simultaneously at the peak of its powers with a whopping 10 films set to be released in 2019, yet for many, the genre has become hackneyed and contrite, offering predictable and contrived storylines that do not take risks. Everything about Venom, from its comic-accurate presentation of its titular character, the Lovecraft-ian horror influences, to its mocking tagline (“The world has enough superheroes”) demonstrated to viewers that it wanted to be more Logan than Guardians of the Galaxy: a thought-provoking genre film that set out to do more than merely entertain. And while the world may have enough superheroes, Venom only augments that argument by its existence rather than subverting it with what it could offer. To its credit, this debut film of Spider-Man’s cannibalistic and violent arch nemesis (note: the wall-crawler himself is nowhere to be found in this flick) lives up to its name: it is not the “cure” that it so clearly poised itself as to the banality of current superhero films but instead the very poison that made readers want to settle for the present state of the genre. Sadly, despite the richness of the character’s backstory in the comics, the film tries so hard to convince its viewers and itself that it is not a superhero movie that it ends up not really being much of a movie at all.

Nicolas Cage on the set of Mandy.

Jesus Freaks: Mandy Is a Bloody Good Time

Ruby: Man, that was wild. It’s going to be hard to get that image of the demon with a knife where his dick is supposed to be out of my head. What do you think the movie is about, though? To me it seems like there’s not much depth to it, since the revenge story has been told too many times. Varun: I love revenge films. I don’t think they get old.

Simon (Nick Robinson) and Abby (Alexandra Dripp) in Love, Simon.

YANG | Creating the New Normal

I’m not the type of person who watches one movie after another on long-haul flights, and usually spend the better part of the sixteen hours sleeping. The trip back from Hong Kong before the beginning of this semester ended up being one rare exception, however, because there was a crying baby in the seat next to me. I had no choice but to cycle through all the MCU movies they had (thank God), and afterwards, set my eye on a movie I had deliberately avoided seeing in the spring — Love, Simon. Despite putting the movie’s soundtrack on repeat the moment it came out, and despite promising every one of my friends who went to opening weekend and raved about it afterwards that I would go see it, I never did after watching the trailer. You would think that as someone who loves rom-coms and never shuts up about representation, the premise itself is enough to make me want to go.

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor in To All The Boys I've Loved Before.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Is a Guilty Pleasure Without the Guilt

From the moment this Netflix Original begins, with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) imagining herself wandering through an idyllic field with the boy of her dreams, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before screams “self-indulgent romance fantasy.” It’s the quintessential teen rom-com: there’s the shy main character, two pouty Hot Boys (Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard) and the crucial misunderstanding that forces her to pick between them. Every character is addressed by their full name and speaks in Tumblr-ready quotes (“Josh Sanderson, I liked you first. By all rights, you were mine.”) Add a fake dating plot, a hair-flipping jealous mean girl and a supportive rebel best friend, and you’ve got a full-blown cliché. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is tropey and cheesy and gooey, but in a good way. It revels in its purest rom-com moments because it knows exactly what it is.

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Crazy Rich Asians Reintroduces a Revolutionary Leading Lady

It’s been a long way back for Michelle Yeoh. The Malaysian Chinese action star who gained renown for her stunt work on a string of popular Hong Kong action films in the 1980s entered a new pantheon when she played the main love interest in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 1997. It was a movie where people glided through the landscapes of China and spun proverbs. It was as if David Lean directed The Matrix, but instead of a frumpy, aged man and heavy CGI, it was the work of an unknown director named Ang Lee and the female leads that carried the film. But it was Michelle Yeoh’s performance, filled with manic restlessness and fierce action work, that redefined what an Asian actress could accomplish on the silver screen.