Doctor Movie Critic in the Review of Madness

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CREDIT: Marvel Entertaiment/Screenshot

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg

Director: Sam Raimi

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: May 6, 2022 (Theaters)

So exactly how much multiverse and how much madness is there in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Honestly, there are other movies out there that are more multiversal, or madder, or both more multiversal and madder! But that’s okay, because this movie features a scene in which two Doctor Stranges fight each other with musical notes. And also Bruce Campbell punches himself a bunch of times. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Grade: Medium Rare Sami Raimi Energy

This Is a Movie Review: Aubrey Plaza Stops You Cold in the Instagram Tragicomedy ‘Ingrid Goes West’

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff

Director: Matt Spicer

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: R for Cosplay Hanky-Panky, Surprise Cocaine, and an Amateur Kidnapping

Release Date: August 11, 2017 (Limited)

An early montage of Instagram posts in Ingrid Goes West features Elizabeth Olsen reading out loud the entirety of the captions. This is jarring for a couple of reasons, partly because captions are not designed to be spoken aloud and mainly because the emoji are given concrete descriptions. I would argue that such straightforwardness is antithetical to the spirit of emoji, whose meanings are often implicitly understood but generally maintain a level of fluidity. Similarly, social media posts purport to present a certain specific message, but there are layers of further meaning lurking underneath.

People like Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) interpret public personae with too much unwavering conviction, overly certain that an interaction with a virtual fan is an invitation to become a flesh-and-blood friend. But what Ingrid Goes West suggests is, maybe that is not exactly what she believes. Maybe that rigidity is just a coping mechanism because the alternative is too complicated to handle. Ingrid becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Olsen) not just because her Instagrams of avocado toast represent the height of L.A. cool, but mainly because of the illusion that her life is perfectly put-together. To someone who is obviously mentally ill (and thus whose brain does not allow any stability), that is intoxicating.

Ingrid Goes West is not a condemnation of Instagram, not really. It is just the medium through which some unhealthy behavior that would still exist otherwise happens to be taking place. Still, if you are wrapped up in it, it is an overwhelming medium. What is fascinating about Plaza’s performance is that her excessive social media use does not drive her to make Ingrid excessively fake, but rather unnervingly real. True, she makes “friends” under false pretenses, but her capacity for genuine relationships and deep cavern of pain are what stick with you.

Ingrid Goes West is Recommended If You Like: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The King of Comedy

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Avocado Toasts

This Is a Movie Review: The Writer of ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’ Directs the Snow-Blanketed Mystery-Thriller ‘Wind River’

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CREDIT: Fred Hayes/The Weinstein Company

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R for the Terrible Things That Men Do When They Think They Can Get Away With It

Release Date: August 4, 2017 (Limited)

As a lover of cinema, I favor originality, moreso in terms of premise than subject matter. It is worthwhile to give voice to underrepresented stories, but it can be disheartening when they hew closely to the formulas of familiar narratives. Wind River makes those conclusions a little more complicated by baking the invisibility into its entire purpose. The dead body of a young woman is discovered in the snow in Wisconsin’s Wind River Indian Reservation, and the investigation is complicated by the harshness of the elements, the fact that this is technically a federal jurisdiction, and the lack of attention given to Native American women in peril.

Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), the FBI agent sent to investigate, pulls up right in front of the check-in cabin but cannot see it, as a relentless blizzard erases any concept of visibility. That is not the only way she is unprepared, as the locals assure her that her lack of winter gear  means she is liable to freeze to death in a matter of hours in the woods. She just flew in from Las Vegas but was somehow the closest agent available. The residents of Wind River are bemused, but not offended. They are used to being forgotten and either making peace with the harsh conditions or surrendering to them.

Most of Wind River is a team-up between Banner and US Fish and Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a tracker who knows the land better than anyone and discovered the body in the first place. She is the novice outsider doing her best to understand this world, and he, with a Native ex-wife and son, is the outsider from within. The snow and the lack of hard evidence force them to take meditative breaks and philosophical detours, rendering much of the film a lament about the waste of promising life. For those of you who prefer your mysteries wrapped up neatly, the truth of the crime is eventually revealed in a bravura flashback, but the full extent of it is only presented to the audience. The investigative team puts it all together, but this is still a world in which everything is ephemeral unless someone shines a light on it.

Wind River is Recommended If You Like: Hell or High Water, Mud, Prisoners

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Frostbites