Film Reviews

Des Moines Double Feature: “Jojo Rabbit” & “Pain and Glory”

Want to know which new movies are worth your time? The Des Moines Film Society has you covered, with our new series: the Des Moines Double Feature! Every so often, we'll be recommending two of the best movies currently playing at Des Moines-area theaters.   This week, we're highlighting two vastly different films from two singular artists working at opposite points in their respective careers: the wildly irreverent satire "Jojo Rabbit," from upstart director Taika Waititi, and...

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“Parasite” Reviewed: A Cinematic Sleight of Hand

“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all.”   So says Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), the patriarch of the impoverished family at the center of “Parasite,” director Bong Joon-ho’s deliriously funny and darkly disturbing thriller about the unforeseen misfortunes that can alter life’s trajectory.   For Ki-taek, making plans seems to have been a futile exercise in his life. He is an unemployed car driver, forced to live in a "semi-basement" apartment with his evidently...

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“Joker” Reviewed: Predicting the Punchline

Few films in recent years have generated as much excitement, controversy and, yes, fear as “Joker,” director Todd Phillips’ dark and twisted origin story about the infamous DC Comics villain. Scrutinized for its potential to inspire real-world violence, “Joker” details one lonely man’s transformation from outcast to killer — all from a highly subjective (and arguably dangerous) point of view.   The fact that “Joker” has elicited such scrutiny, igniting a debate over the moral responsibilities of...

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“Ad Astra” Reviewed: Ambling into the Unknown

The future looks strangely familiar in “Ad Astra,” director James Gray’s space drama about mortality, legacy and familial disturbances.   From the airline-esque accommodations on a shuttle to the moon to a lunar base’s neon Subway sign, there are many times in “Ad Astra” in which we’re left with an uncanny feeling of time periods intersecting, of futuristic facilities being saturated with present-day ephemera.   In other words, what we deem familiar becomes strange. Out of place.    So it goes...

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Music in the Movies of Quentin Tarantino

This summer, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film (tenth, if we’re counting the two “Kill Bill” installments as separate entities), splashed onto cinema screens. The poignant ode to the end of Hollywood’s golden age proved to be as joyously indulgent as any of Tarantino’s other films — many of which resemble a collage of the director’s most cherished cultural artifacts.   The most obvious of these artifacts is, of course, film. Tarantino’s love...

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“The Farewell” Reviewed: An Honorable and Honest Deception

It’s not easy saying goodbye.    Writer-director Lulu Wang confronts this uncomfortable truth, ironically enough, through a series of lies and deceptions in “The Farewell” (A24), her incredibly poignant ode to the shifting nature of family, culture and life itself.   Inspired by Wang’s own family experience (or, “based on an actual lie,” as the opening title card playfully puts it), “The Farewell” follows a Chinese-American family who decides not to tell their grandmother that she’s been diagnosed with...

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50 Years Later: Three Films from 1969 that Changed America

From the Apollo 11 moon landing to the birth of the gay liberation movement, 1969 was a year that brought historic change to America.    The cinema, it turned out, was no different.    Merely a year after the new Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system marked the official death knell for Hays Code-era censorship, American moviegoers were more eager than ever to explore radical, new stories at the theater in 1969.   From Sam Peckinpah’s ultra-bloody western “The...

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“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Reviewed: Reframing the Cinematic Superhero

“People are more than just one thing.”   When a displaced and grieving man by the name of Jimmie Fails admits this simple truth, it feels like a moment of genuine epiphany that, sadly, will never seep into his city’s collective consciousness. In that moment, Fails is, in a way, set free because he is no longer defining himself by a single story or a single purpose. But at the same time, he knows that his own...

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“Toy Story 4” Reviewed: Embracing a Toy’s Impermanence

When “Toy Story 4” (Pixar/Disney) was first announced back in November of 2014, the response from fans could best be described as cautious curiosity, rather than full-blown anticipation.    And for good reason.    After all, the creative team at Pixar had already closed the book on their most beloved film franchise, with the heartrending climax of “Toy Story 3” (2010) bringing every man, woman and child in the world to tears. Did there really need to be a...

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