REVIEW: Last Night in Soho

Eloise/Ellie/Elle is a student at the London College of Fashion with a penchant for having visions of the past. Ellie moves out of the college’s student housing and into the upstairs room of an elderly woman’s home. There, she begins to experience 1960s London when she sleeps, and is led toward a young aspiring singer named Sandie’s rise to fame. However, as Sandie discovers the journey to fame is not the glitzy, glamorous life she had expected, Sandie’s past begins to haunt Ellie in the present day. 

Last Night in Soho is Edgar Wright’s first psychological horror film, and this is evident. Though the film is populated with impressive visuals of beautiful and vibrant neon lighting and Sandie’s reflections being replaced by Ellie, Wright relies on a single technique to deliver all of his scares. Because of this, the climax of the film is not as effective since at that point, I had seen the same visual used over and over again in the previous scenes. 

That being said, the beginning of the film is particularly strong, and not just because it is better than the end by default. The audience is introduced to 1960s London as Sandie and Ellie do, and the late night club scene Sandie leads us through is dazzling and sinister all at the same time. However, I will say that the plot/writing of the film relies heavily on the visuals – it sometimes feels as if Wright had inventive ideas for stunning visuals and snappy editing techniques and fit the story to the imagery he had in mind. 

Though the film is so technically impressive, I question some of the writing in the film. For example, Ellie just kind of happens to be a fashion student. Yes, it is clear the film is about the dangers of romanticizing the past, however some of the logic behind the progression of the plot is questionable. It feels like Wright knew where he wanted to start and end the film, but he struggles at some points along the way. 

Aside from the visuals, a lot of credit must be given to the two lead actresses for carrying the film’s momentum. Thomasin McKenzie perfectly encapsulates Ellie’s naive, shy, and thoughtful nature, and Anya Taylor-Joy carries herself with grace as usual as Ellie’s more confident foil. Though the two actresses never share any dialogue despite being in many scenes together, McKenzie expertly portrays Ellie’s despair as she witnesses Sandie’s fall into the rabbit hole of show business. 

Overall, Last Night in Soho is more style over substance, but it is still a refreshing watch and the technical aspects are what make the film worth watching.


Last Night in Soho is the new film from director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Baby Driver). The film stars The Queen’s Gambit actress Anya Taylor-Joy and Jojo Rabbit actress Thomasin McKenzie. McKenzie plays an aspiring fashion designer who is somehow able to shift between time periods, where she encounters Taylor-Joy’s character, an aspiring singer in the sixties. This is Wright’s first psychological horror film, as this ability to time travel is intertwined with something more sinister. 

I am looking forward to seeing how Wright will tackle this psychological horror genre. The trailers are populated by impressive visuals, with neon lighting and shots where the two actresses will switch spots midway through a sequence. I have seen some behind the scenes footage of McKenzie and Taylor-Joy running on and off camera to replace each other, and I’m excited to see all of these technical aspects be translated on screen. As for Wright’s past work, I very much preferred Scott Pilgrim over Baby Driver, but this can be attributed to the fact I prefer the comedy-based-on-graphic-novel genre over the straight action of Baby Driver. I think my preferences for Wright’s work depend largely on the genre he is tackling at the time because I did appreciate his style coming through in Baby Driver even though I did not love the story. I have reasonably high hopes for Last Night in Soho, but I’m most excited to see the two actresses and another example of Wright’s style. 

Last Night in Soho is now playing at the State Theater.

REVIEW: Titane

Disclaimer: this review includes vague spoilers/a fairly cohesive description of the basic plot of Titane, but this is not a film that I recommend you go and watch without possessing any knowledge of the subject matter. 

When you look up the film Titane, you may come across one of many synopses. For example, “after a series of unexplained murders, a man is reunited with his missing son.” Or, “a child has a titanium plate fitted to her head after being severely injured in a car crash.” There’s also the extremely vague, “titanium is a biocompatible metal, often used in prosthetics.” And how could I forget, “a woman is impregnated by a car.” All of these are plot points in Titane, a film director that Julia Ducournau describes as a love story. 

I agree that Titane is indeed a love story, as unconventional as it is. It is more so about familial love, from a woman who has been deprived of proper love and humanity growing up, who needs to be loved but also (desperately) needs to learn to love. Love in the film also comes in the form of a man who possesses an immense ability to love, but has nobody to give it to. This makes the film sound very warm and wholesome, but the film is extremely graphic in terms of violence and sexual content, and its gratuitous nature perhaps detracts too much from the heart of the film.

I personally think Ducournau succeeded in crafting two compelling character arcs that intertwined and concluded in an almost satisfying way, with the highlight being that the character development is clever above all. However, I make this claim after several days of reflection. In the moment, I was more so focused on the variety of bodily fluids in the film being replaced by black car oil, which made me wonder whether the baby would turn out to be Lightning McQueen or a Transformer. I should also mention that the pair sitting next to me got up halfway through the film and never came back. I sometimes find that it can be difficult for films to balance meaningful storytelling through gratuitous means without becoming a film that is simply gratuitous to be gratuitous. Given the abrupt departure of those two audience members, I think I can assume that I was not the only one that night that was failing to identify proper justification for the disturbing visuals and tone in the film. 

I understand the bit about the car in the film is to emphasize how dehumanizing the environment the protagonist, Alexia, has grown up in, but she is already a serial killer so why was the car necessary? Yes, it shows how far Alexia was willing to go to experience some kind of pleasure, but, again, she is already a serial killer. That being said, I thought the unexplained crimes aspect of the film was very engaging – the action fight sequences were thrilling and John-Wick-esque, set to upbeat music that made the audience exclaim in disbelief and twisted enjoyment.

Especially with a very reactive audience – and I think this film will easily extract audible reactions from most if not all audiences – Titane is a surprisingly fun film to watch. I would not discourage you from seeing this film. 


Titane, the most recent recipient of the Palme d’Or, has been declared by the BBC to be “the most shocking film of 2021.” The film follows an unconventional love story and a series of unsolved crimes, and falls under the horror genre – but specifically body horror. Titane is a French film by director Julia Ducournau (director of Raw), with the title’s English translation being “titanium.”

I’ve heard this film described as “kind of gross” which makes me a little nervous, but I am curious about how tasteful the film’s gratuitous nature is. The film’s description on several websites is accompanied by a blurb about how titanium is biocompatible and therefore often used in prosthetics, and I think I know what kind of body horror that would involve. I am simply not a fan of doctor montages and surgery scenes in films, but there is something about watching such a shocking and possibly controversial film that is a little exciting to me. Wish me luck!

Titane opens on Friday at the State Theater. 

REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Marvel Studios started off strong at the beginning of 2021 with WandaVision, but quickly lost steam with Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Black Widow. However, it seems that Marvel is picking up the pace again.

Out of the newer MCU solo origin stories, I would rank Shang-Chi above most. I would consider Shang-Chi above Doctor Strange; both films closely follow Marvel’s cookie-cutter formula, however Doctor Strange feels more like a copy-and-paste of Iron Man (rich genius is humbled through injury and learns to keep moving and channel their pain into a newfound ability). Doctor Strange does have the upper hand on visual effects, but Shang-Chi does not always feel like an MCU movie – it’s refreshing.

Perhaps the strongest element of Shang-Chi is its action sequences. The use of well-choreographed martial arts makes the film a thrilling watch, even with the knowledge that all MCU films end with a massive CGI battle scene. I prefer these close combat fight scenes because I find myself zoning out when watching hordes of CGI aliens run across the screen. I am all for the suspension of disbelief, especially in Marvel films, but I still feel a massive disconnect the more fantastical things get. Shang-Chi does fight masses of nameless villains, but he confronts smaller groups of antagonists, making the combat feel tighter and making the audience feel closer to the action. Furthermore, location adds a new dimension to the film’s action, specifically to an early fight sequence on a moving bus, which is synced so perfectly with the score. You realize that Shang-Chi is just some guy who happens to be really good at martial arts, and you are inclined to root for him. 

The side characters are also worth noting. Awkwafina plays an Awkwafina character, contrasted with Shang-Chi’s sister, Xu Xialing, who is arguably the same character as Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man (the underestimated daughter who was never allowed to fight when she was young and has become hardened because her family who was never there for her). Nevertheless, it is clear that both Shang-Chi and Xialing have a lot of potential for future MCU projects, though it is slightly disappointing that they were not fully developed in their own film. However, the standouts are the parents, played by Tony Leung and Fala Chen. Tony Leung’s character, Wenwu, is a re-writing of his racist comic book counterpart as a character who is driven by human and more relatable motives, and is not the embodiment of yellow peril. And Ying Li is not simply a mother – she stands her ground and makes decisions for herself. She possesses a kind of grace that makes her presence known throughout the entire film.

Ultimately, Marvel knows how to make movies that will perform well at the box office. Perhaps it would have been too revolutionary for the MCU’s first East-Asian-led film to omit the CGI-Fest at the end in favor of diving deeper into its central character dynamic, but I am happy that Marvel believed in this film’s success.

PREVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The newest installment of the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and Awkwafina. The film follows Shang-Chi (Liu) who is forced to reckon with his past with the introduction of the mysterious Ten Rings organization into his life. Shang-Chi premiered last weekend and shattered Labor Day weekend records, collecting $94.4 million. 

Disney CEO Bob Chapek had previously called the film’s release strategy an experiment, as it would be exclusively in theaters for a 45 day window rather than a joint release on Disney+ – which had been the case for Black Widow – the source for another theatrical release/streaming service controversy. Chapek called Shang-Chi’s release an experiment, which caused Liu to take to Twitter and declare “we are not an experiment,” rallying fans to make history on the film’s release date. Evidently the film has performed well – president of Marvel Studios clarified that Chapek’s statement was a misunderstanding – which is exciting that the MCU’s first Asian-led and Asian-directed film is receiving so much support. This potentially bodes well for Marvel’s next release, Eternals, directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao, who is also an Asian filmmaker. 

The film has received generally positive reviews, with praise for the performances from Liu and Leung as well as the film’s soundtrack, though the visual effects have received mixed reviews. I am keeping my hopes reasonably high that the film is not extremely MCU-formulaic, as over 20 of similar projects in the MCU have lowered my expectations. Nevertheless, I am always excited to be in an audience at a movie theater, especially to watch a big blockbuster film. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing at the State Theater.