Right now we are seeing Disney test out a concept. With plans to deliver a new Star Wars film every year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the result of moving beyond the episodic entries and into new territory. Sure, there have been novels, TV shows, comics and games that have expanded the universe (not to mention a couple Ewok movies), but this is something new. Fortunately, riding in on the wave of throwback fun that was The Force Awakens, Rogue One succeeds at being more than just a concept that’s fun to say out loud. This standalone story fits in well with the universe, while also serving as its own filmmaking effort.
Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category
Hidden Figures is the kind of winning biopic I can easily champion. It joins a film like Queen of Katwe from earlier this fall, in presenting a story I was not too informed about, with enough confidence to easily please those in search of a good story. The film does little to distance itself from other historical dramas of its nature, but a mainstream film like this that matches up well to the many other films about famous white men who overcame adversity is worth giving notice to. That this film accomplishes so much by focusing on smart women who prove themselves by being good at their work and kind is just a testament to a film that can make certain subjects so cinematically interesting.
Out in the world is someone with an idea that will turn into a great film. Filmmaker Damien Chazelle is proof that these people exist. Managing to do this twice is not easy accomplishment. So seeing Chazelle follow up on the intense joy that was Whiplash with La La Land, a 50s-style musical set in modern times, proves that his first effort was not a stroke of luck. It also shows that the man is a dreamer and fittingly enough, this film concerns people with dreams and what kind of work and sacrifice can go into them to achieve success. La La Land also happens to be a colorful blast of excitement thanks to the performers and style of the film.
Since themes have provided memorable movie selections for this column of late, it felt right to explore a new one in the form of stage to screen cinema that cooks – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! We’re gonna be taking on films that had their humble beginnings as a play on the theatrical stage for a while and our first is a perfect powerhouse in the realm of great actors acting. A high-class prostitute charged with murder, an apprehensive lawyer in over his head, two overly loving parents and one explosive hearing all to determine if the unpredictable accused is indeed…Nuts.
Keeping in touch with the indie flicks of the week amidst a sea of year-end movies, there are more movies being watched than at ten film festivals combined. But bound and determined to give our readers the skinny on cinema, I still managed to check out four smaller films this week and the subjects are diverse to say the least. A song and dance film, a doc on the everyman and two horror outings (is this December or Halloween time?!) grace the chopping block below and make up this edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out my take on La La Land, The Possession Experiment, Tree Man and Abbey Grace below!
For those seeking the holiday film that dials down the action and isn’t trying to make you cry, Office Christmas Party delivers on what you’d expect in a good way. It may not go down as a great comedy or even a great Christmas comedy, but it has a lot of funny people being consistently funny. It’s the kind of movie that sets up its premise in the title and makes you wonder if that sort of bluntness will transfer into something worthwhile. Fortunately, everyone seemed game to make that happen. It only helps that the film plays fairly by its own rules and buries a level of sentiment in a film set during a time that benefits from holiday cheer.
Having recently reviewed and torn apart the lame duck slasher outing The Driller Killer, I felt like I should make amends to Director Abel Ferrara, whom I’m actually a fan of, by recommending one of his five-star masterworks as a critical counterbalance to the condemnation – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! This week I’m going back to 1990 for a little crime drama with a very big cast. It’s the tale of a drug lord who gets released from prison and picks up right where he left off. Guns at the ready, gals galore and drugs a plenty, this one pits gangsters with attitude vs. a gaggle of cops eager to get even and all vying to be the one and only…King Of New York!
I’m taking a pause in between a gaggle of end of year ‘must sees’ (whew!) to pick off five more indie films that may provide some cinematic satisfaction. (Or may not!) Grim tales of horror, dramatic stories of second chances, criminal activities, almighty homicide and gun battles done in a noble fashion – what a group! Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of The Eyes of My Mother, Run The Tide, Anonymous, Blood Brothers and The Duelist all provided below!
Like many children’s stories, A Monster Calls is about death. Think about that. For all the joy that often comes from films intended for children or a family audience, death is a key ingredient. That’s not necessarily bad, as death is a part of life, but interesting. Obviously some of these stories place death further in the background, but others embrace it as a crucial plot point. A Monster Calls deals with the concept head on through the workings of visual wonder and emotional performances.
Finding the right focus and exploring a character in interesting ways is what I enjoy when it comes to biopics. Jackie has the right idea. This is not a film about the life of Jackie Kennedy. It also doesn’t place her in a supporting role, so we can follow someone else around and observe her from afar. What this film does is much more effective. Jackie holds focus on the time surrounding the worst day of her life and what her state of mind was. The result is a dreamy, yet engaging feature.
At long lingering last this column reaches the end of a month long movie shaming festival for yours truly and I’m finishing the guilty pleasure series with a film that truly defies all normal entertaining cinematic comprehension – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! This Boxing Day it’s me gloves to gloves against everyone as I divulge my undying love for a flick that has every bad movie cliché on the docket…and it just doesn’t matter. (Up yours Razzies!) Full of 80’s tropes (high hair, montages and leg warmers galore!), death defying dance numbers and two girls both good and bad it’s time to lay barren my affinity for the sizzling sequel that is….Staying Alive!
It seems as if there is something to praise for making the kind of movie that suggests the phrase, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” Allied seems to be gunning for that reaction. The Robert Zemeckis-directed suspense drama is the sort of old-fashioned war/romance story that assumes you can enjoy it based on the straightforward narrative matched by big movie stars and impressive production values. There is not much in the way of enlightened nuance, but it hits the same sort of marks found in the films that inspired it. Does that mean there’s enough to support a viewing of this romantic mystery tale?
Moana is the 56th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and continues on in a tradition that shows how the studio has built a firm reputation. Of course, more recent entries have really had to up their game in how the princess and princess-type characters are treated. It certainly shows in Moana, a mostly excellent adventure that’s so confident it almost veers too close to how in-the-know it is about what it plans to accomplish. That is hardly a criticism though, as the film is entertaining in all the right ways.
It is irritating to see a filmmaker get close to putting something great out there, but still be ultimately undone by script issues. Split has the makings of a very clever and tense psychological thriller. A terrific turn from star James McAvoy certainly deserves plenty of praise. Still, for every new layer and reveal, there is a feeling suggesting how another look at this screenplay could have helped to better workout some of the old-fashioned ideas and configure a better resolve for the characters. Split does well to work in the moment as tense fun, but misses out on nailing what it promises in a better sense.
With only two more Friday’s left in November my four weeks of sheer and utter movie embarrassment is almost at an end so let’s finish off this second to last selection in the guilty pleasure series quick – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today we’re going into deep, deep character clichés, cornball comedy and stereotypical scenarios for some pure gamey movie cheddar that most would consider sub-par cinema. But for yours truly all of the above B-movie badness is music to the ears with a tale of a man whose dream of finding the right woman comes true – even if she is made of wood, polystyrene and fiberglass. Where can I get a…Mannequin! Continue reading ‘Forgotten Friday Flick – “Mannequin”’
Manchester by the Sea is the equivalent of an arthouse blockbuster. It’s an impressively made drama from acclaimed writer/director/playwright Kenneth Lonergan about a man’s grief, while back in his hometown. It features reserved, but impressive performances from the likes of arthouse favorites Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, with an expanded running time to make sure we follow all the moving parts to these characters and this story. Manchester by the Sea allows for more resonance when it comes to taking in the emotional payoffs of a feature like this. There’s also the universal nature to the film being shown, which means it has enough heart and humor to go along with the drama and make it ultimately quite rewarding.
In addition to being a talented journeyman director, 2-time Oscar winner Ang Lee has shown a profundity for technical ambition in his films. 2003’s Hulk, flawed as it, could still be considered one of the more ambitiously made superhero films of the modern age. Life of Pi is one of the few films in this post-Avatar world to properly utilize 3D as more than just a monetary-based gimmick. Now we have Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a dramatic satire focused on a young Army specialist and how he deals with newfound fame back in 2004 America, following a heroic act while fighting in Iraq. For this, Lee went with the whole shebang, shooting at 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution. That is wild just to think about, but the results are a film that is not only overly familiar from a story standpoint, but lacks the essence of what makes me appreciate cinema.
Still in the midst of catching up on end of the year fare (saw a whopping six movies previously missed in the last few days alone!), there’s only a trio of flicks up for dissection this week. (The Edge of Seventeen and Nocturnal Animals were not made available to yours truly, but thankfully covered by my fellow website cohorts!) So keeping a few indie nuggets alive are a dramatic doc, a strange thriller and a revenge flick that’s not standard stuff. Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of Peter And The Farm, The Similars and Elle below! Continue reading ‘Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Three New Indie Titles’