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The Dissident

by Alan Rapp on January 19, 2021

in Home Video

  • Title: The Dissident
  • IMDb: link

The Dissident movie reviewThe Dissident examines events surrounding the government-sanctioned murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident living in Turkey and working for The Washington Post who entered the Sauadi Embassy one day and never emerged. Director Bryan Fogel provides a compelling narrative, outlining Khashoggi’s work as a state-run journalist in his home country before being pressured to leave his family and start a new life abroad. In examining Saudi Arabia targeting Khashoggi, and other dissidents, the film explores frightening levels Big Brother technology. The film also, not so subtly, points out how Donald Trump, ignoring facts brought to light and sanctions from his own Congress, chose to turn a blind eye to the shocking events.

Fogel’s presentation isn’t without some curious choices starting with a bombastic score better suited to a thriller, or Christopher Nolan film, and some narrative choices which rearrange events out of order (such as Khashoggi’s short-run television program). Such jarring choices undercut the natural tension of events which are shocking enough without the need of additional help.

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All In: The Fight for Democracy

by Alan Rapp on January 18, 2021

in Home Video

  • Title: All In: The Fight for Democracy
  • IMDb: link

All In: The Fight for Democracy movie reviewAll In: The Fight for Democracy tackles voter suppression in a documentary that examines both the racial roots of a practice to disenfranchise voters over the color of their skin and specifically Stacey Abrams‘ defeat in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election which led to her becoming a national voice on the subject. Tied both to Abrams’ own account, who produced the film and appears multiple times on camera, while also tackling the larger historical look and voter suppression, at times the documentary from Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus feels a bit fragmented.

Like Slay the Dragon, All In: The Fight for Democracy examines gerrymandering, but here the subject is tackled along with several other aspects of voter suppression including poll taxes, literacy tests, and modern examples such as Voter ID laws. The former feels a bit more targeted with time to go into further depth. However, the film is still quite informative and works as intended – as a rallying cry to fight for your right to vote and be aware of those who would try to take it away for their own selfish ends.

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Palm Springs

by Alan Rapp on January 15, 2021

in Home Video

  • Title: Palm Springs
  • IMDb: link

“It’s one of those infinite time loop situations that you might have heard about.”

Palm Springs movie reviewPalm Springs would fit perfectly in in a triple-feature nestled snuggly between Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow. When we meet Nyles (Andy Samberg), through the eyes of bridesmaid Sarah (Cristin Milioti), he’s already stuck in a time loop around the events of the wedding of Sarah’s sister Tala (Camila Mendes). A flirtatious night between the pair leads to Sarah accidentally becoming trapped in the loop as well (although her circumstances are a bit more complicated than simply being a guest at the wedding).

Director Max Barbakow and writer Andy Siara team-up to deliver an incredibly smart, engaging, and charming film centered around the two leads (and to a lesser extent J.K. Simmons as the only other person aware of the loop). Time is rebooted once they fall asleep, lose consciousness, or die. Unable to break free of the loop, Nyles and Sarah struggle to find meaning in a meaningless existence where one day literally is the same as the next. Although it doesn’t break new ground with the concept, Palm Springs knows how to make the most out of each day and delivers the best comedy of 2020.

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Mank

by Alan Rapp on January 13, 2021

in Home Video

  • Title: Mank
  • IMDb: link

Mank movie reviewMank tackles one of cinema’s most legendary controversies about who should get credit for the script of what many believe to be the greatest film ever made. By the name of the film, the friendly nickname given to writer Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), you can guess which side director David Fincher takes. Using the screenplay from his father Jack Fincher, Mank delivers a story from the perspective of the writer hired by Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to anonymously write the screenplay for a thinly-veiled take on William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) which would become Citizen Kane.

The script glosses over early discussions between Wells and Mankiewicz, and ignores the numerous rewrites Wells made to the script while depositing the narrative that Welles was seemingly only nominally aware that a script was even being written. Despite some beautiful cinematography from Erik Messerschmidt, punchy dialogue from the elder Fincher, and solid performances from all involved, Mank is a bit uneven. The first hour, largely focused on introducing Mank’s over-the-top personality, is nearly flawless, but as the second-half of the film attempts to get more dramatic things get maudlin and melodramatic.

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Possessor

by Alan Rapp on January 13, 2021

in Home Video

  • Title: Possessor
  • IMDb: link

Possessor Blu-ray reviewWriter/director Brandon Cronenberg‘s Possessor is a gory techno-thriller set in a world not unlike our own where a company has devised a method to enter a person’s mind and take control of their body. Rather than use the technology for good, it sells it for profit by making assassins out of anyone they can get their hands on. Andrea Riseborough stars as agent Tasya Vos, although mostly we see other actors playing the bodies she has been given control. As the film opens we can already begin to see the effect of the body swapping on Tasya both in detachment to her real life and during her job which foreshadows larger problems to come.

Possessor is at times a brutal film, and Cronenberg never shies away from gore (even going so far to hold scenes longer than necessary to illicit a response from his audience). Jennifer Jason Leigh also stars as Tasya’s handler, whose team scrambles when something goes wrong with the latest assignment leaving her agent trapped in another body.

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