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Toronto Film Review Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley

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Toronto Film Review: Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley

TIFF

Toronto Film Review: Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley

Casting attractive young stars Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, respectively, as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley makes Mary Shelley, director Haifaa al-Mansour’s biopic of the mother of Gothic fiction, a kind of grandfather’s paradox of the modern wave of eroticized young-adult romantic fantasy, reconfiguring the ancestor to match its descendant. The film’s cleverest trick, foregrounded from the moment that a teenaged Mary meets Percy as a radical with scandalous notions of free love, is to suggest that, in YA terms, Percy himself is the monster with whom the bright, ambitious woman falls hopelessly in love. As such, Mary is only able to see his most intoxicating properties and none of his numerous dangers.

Toronto Film Review Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

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Toronto Film Review: Sophie Fiennes’s Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

TIFF

Toronto Film Review: Sophie Fiennes’s Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

It’s enough to just train a camera on the towering Grace Jones and the glam, glitter, and inimitable fierceness will quickly follow. Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) begins her biographical performance doc Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami by seamlessly intercutting two separate performances of the same song from a 2016 concert. In the first, Jones prowls the stage catlike, purring from behind an Eiko Ishioka-designed death mask. In the second, she croons the same lyrics while effortlessly, endlessly twirling a hula hoop. The message is clear: Jones is both these people, and more. She walks on some kind of undefinable razor’s edge, reinventing herself as whim and circumstance dictates, and Fiennes’s film follows that lead.

Toronto Film Review George Clooney’s Suburbicon

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Toronto Film Review: George Clooney’s Suburbicon

Paramount Pictures

Toronto Film Review: George Clooney’s Suburbicon

A truly nasty piece of work, Suburbicon sees a bunch of candidly left-leaning movie stars doing their best to out-awful each other throughout. George Clooney, working behind the scenes as director and co-screenwriter, dusted off an old Joel and Ethan Coen screenplay set in a 1950s suburban tract community and detailing a murderous insurance scam gone wrong. Then, with writing and producing partner Grant Heslov, he grafted on a slow-burn racism subplot meant to resonate with contemporary U.S. anxieties. Yet the result is a hysterical and simplistic—if still in-the-moment compelling—parody of bourgeois American greed and ignorance.

American Horror Story: Cult Recap Episode 1, “Election Night”

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American Horror Story: Cult Recap: Episode 1, “Election Night”

FX

American Horror Story: Cult Recap: Episode 1, “Election Night”

After years of trying to conjure up a universal boogeymen with which to tap into the primal fears of Americans, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have landed almost effortlessly on target. “Election Night,” the first episode of American Horror Story: Cult, knows exactly how to trigger us; in fact, that’s the modus operandi of the show’s central antagonist, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). This anarchist’s most terrifying moment isn’t when he rubs blended orange Cheetos all over his face in a send-up of Glenn Beck’s mocking of Donald Trump, or the thought of him donning a three-faced clown mask to terrorize his fellow Americans, but when he calmly walks into a local city council meeting, clad in a suit, to suggest that government allow fear to reign. “Haven’t you been watching what’s been going on in the world?” he asks.

Insecure Recap Season 2, Episode 7, “Hella Disrespectful”

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Insecure Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Hella Disrespectful”

Justina Mintz/HBO

Insecure Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Hella Disrespectful”

After the end of this week’s episode of Insecure, Natasha Rothwell, who plays Kelli and is also one of the show’s writers, joins Issa Rae for “Wine Down,” the weekly post-show discussion that airs on HBO. Rothwell describes Issa as a human game of Jenga, with the writers taking pieces from the character over the course of “Hella Disrespect” until she’s spent and unstable. As Rothwell puts it, “It’s gotta crumble at some point.”

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Parts 17 & 18

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Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Parts 17 & 18

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Parts 17 & 18

The two-part finale of Twin Peaks: The Return puts us at long last in a position where we can assess the various layers of sense, nonsense, and pure irony contained in the show’s very title. We’ve always assumed that, at the narrative level, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) would finally return to the town of Twin Peaks. And the finale certainly delivered on that promise, albeit in an extremely offhand and attenuated fashion, exemplified perfectly by the fleeting glimpse of the iconic “Welcome to Twin Peaks” sign we catch during Cooper’s limo ride into town. Series creators Mark Frost and David Lynch pointedly frontload “Part 17,” paying off several major storylines in the first half hour, only to spend the next 90 minutes spiraling into a terrifying Moebius strip of time loops and alternate realities that effectively undercuts everything we thought we knew about Twin Peaks.

Taylor Swift Goes Hard on New Song “...Ready for It?”

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Taylor Swift Goes Hard on New Song “...Ready for It?”

Target

Taylor Swift Goes Hard on New Song “...Ready for It?”

The latest piece in the surprisingly swift rollout of Taylor Swift’s Reputation is the album’s opening track, “...Ready for It?” The release comes just one week after the music video for lead single “Look What You Made Me Do,” which dropped just days after the song’s premiere and broke Adele’s record the most views on YouTube in 24 hours.

Computer Nerds As Superheroes Sneakers at 25

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Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Universal Pictures

Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers is a comic-book movie where the superpowers employed are mental, not physical. Its plot and structure will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in the Marvel or DC Universes: A group of uniquely skilled folks from different backgrounds join forces to combat a more powerful, ominous enemy. There’s an overlong yet enjoyable climactic battle where each hero gets a moment to shine; the bad guys aren’t so much defeated as they’re temporarily contained; and the film’s ending hints that the heroes will continue to fight for their brand of justice. Sneakers even has Robert Redford, whom today’s youngsters will recognize from his work in the best of the Marvel movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Insecure Recap Season 2, Episode 6, “Hella Blows”

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Insecure Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “Hella Blows”

Justina Mintz/HBO

Insecure Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “Hella Blows”

There’s a moment in Insecure’s first season when Issa (Issa Rae) is greeted by a chorus of children who, having found a video of Issa displaying her amateur rapping skills online, gleefully parrot their instructor’s lyrics back to her: “Maybe it’s really rough/Maybe it had enough/Broken pussy!” The series may navigate the less raucous aspects of work and romance, but its this adherence to the risqué—and, at times, the downright gross—that’s helped cement the show’s silly, sometimes absurd tone. It also proves that a little raunch doesn’t necessarily diminish earnestness.

Review: The Mythmaking of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Music Video

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Review: The Mythmaking of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Music Video
Review: The Mythmaking of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Music Video

“Um, I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative?” says one Taylor Swift to a dozen-plus others at the end of her decadent new music video for “Look What You Made Me Do.” The video is an expression of melodramatic outrage tinged with the macabre that offers a better indication that Swift is in on the joke than the song itself does.