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Fifty Shades Darker

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:06:56 PST

Recommended

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Director: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Year: 2017

How much you will enjoy the second installment of the Fifty Shades franchise comes down to how often you want to see Dakota Johnson's nipples. If the answer is "not much", then you should probably steer clear. If the answer is "for two hours straight", then you're in luck. Fifty Shades Darker isn't darker at all really, and it's barely racy in the bondage/submission ways that caused so much stir when the books and films were released. Rather, it's a feature film full of Johnson's naked body and the same, repetitive sex scene with the same, repetitive pop song turned into Music To Do It By. I assume that everyone who goes to the theatre to see...Read the entire review




John Wick: Chapter 2

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 06:32:03 PST

Highly Recommended

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With John Wick: Chapter 2, the series officially becomes the Harry Potter of ultraviolent hit man action franchises. You know all those countless Young Adult book and movie series where a secret underground society of wizards, vampires, werewolves, (insert public domain magical being or monster), operates beneath our real world, complete with its own set of cultures, rules, and infrastructure? Replace the wizards with stoic, impeccably dressed, and superhumanly precise and focused hired killers, the wands with guns, the spells with copious amounts of blood and brain matter spraying across the floor after making an unscheduled exit from many, many skulls, and you get the gist of what makes this series so appealing to hardcore action fans.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 06:32:03 PST

Recommended

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Director: Chad Stahels
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane
Year: 2017

John Wick was such a mini-phenomenon simply because it was incredible, and in a very literal sense. It was hard to credit, this out-of-nowhere action flick that felt a little like a first-person shooter, featured a hundred exploding heads, and starred one of the worst actors in all of Hollywood. Basically, it shouldn't have worked on any level, with its lead male sucking, its genre tired, and its body count enormously high. That it did speaks to the fact that there are still ways to make action movies original and to make them work. Just ask George Miller I guess, though ...Read the entire review




The LEGO Batman Movie

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 11:44:18 PST

Recommended

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Director: Chris McKay
Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson
Year: 2017

The Lego Movie was a surprise hit, one of the best animated films of 2014. Almost exactly three years later, we are treated to a second installment, and although the success of the film won't be a surprise this time, the enjoyment we receive from watching Lego come to life will be comparable. Under a different director and not recycling any of the old characters (except, of course, the Dark Knight himself, and a few other DC heroes in short cameo form), The Lego Batman Movie brings audiences want they want in plastic action and prat falls, but delivers some original cont...Read the entire review




Split

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 17:02:58 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley
Year: 2016

The free fall that was the stellar career of M. Night Shyamalan has been well documented, so we'll only touch on it briefly before delving into his newest film. Not everyone will agree, but Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village were all solid, frightening, original, bordering on twisted genius films. Lady in the Water was a turning point, a time where we all said "What?" And then came The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, flashing red flags that someone had lost their voice and their way. The Visit caught our attention again, and Split reassures us that Shyamala...Read the entire review




Gold

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 09:58:53 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Stephen Gaghan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard
Year: 2016

The combination of Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Havoc, Syriana) and Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar) was the secret recipe we needed, we just didn't know it. Gaghan, more a writer than a director, works in the dark. That is to say, his stories are very heavy, sometimes highlight the worst in us, and so can be a bit daunting even when they're strong. McConaughey, who can be a complete goof ball, has also ...Read the entire review




Split

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 05:21:31 PST

Highly Recommended

(image) (image) There was a time roughly a decade prior to the release of M. Night Shyamalan's latest, Split, where the writer/director's original storytelling had started to develop a less-than-stellar reputation, notably for his dependence on plot twists that were more elaborately anticlimactic than satisfying or shocking. People came to expect the big "Shyamalan twist" following his deliberate exposition, which tapered off from the chilling and eloquent strangeness of Unbreakable's superheroic reveals to the inane ecological surprises unearthed in the broadly-panned The Happening. Watching how Shyamalan's creations have gradually spiraled out of control over the years makes one wonder how his earlier intuition toward characters, his attention to darker themes, and ...Read the entire review




Patriots Day

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 10:02:46 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons
Year: 2016

Peter Berg & Mark Wahlberg have stumbled upon something that works, and I hope they understand just how fragile that simple verb can be. It seems almost boring; the movie worked, the director and the star understand one another, this combination produces watchable films on a consistent basis. But I mean it as a high compliment, not as a throwaway critique of a mediocre film. Berg & Wahlberg have created a process that produces movies that both audiences enjoy and critics appreciate, and that bit of magic shouldn't be taken lightly. Lone Survivor, Read the entire review




Live by Night

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 08:55:30 PST

Recommended

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Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana
Year: 2016

Ben Affleck is no slouch when it comes to directing, but perhaps this time he had a little too much on his plate. Setting aside all the work he's currently putting into the Justice League franchise, he took on almost every role one can play on a film set, which ended up being about three roles too many. Directing, writing, producing, and starring in the film, Affleck put the entire project on his shoulders, and while he's typically more than capable, the weight was a bit too heavy this time. Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo; Affleck has had successes while directing before, and picking ...Read the entire review




Silence

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 19:32:50 PST

Highly Recommended

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Despite the endless attempts of religious dogma to turn belief in god into a tribal experience, faith continues to be an inherently objective and deeply personal part of human life. One person's interpretation of his god might be vastly different than another's, even if they both share the same sect of the same religion. That's what enables people to do equally wonderful and horrific things in the name of their deity, sometimes even using the same lines of holy text as justification. Regardless of a religion's adherence to symbols, traditions, and rituals, everyone's faith belongs to them, and negotiating the simple requirements of faith with the complex nuances of the human condition is a heavy burden to bear.

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That burden is a subject that Martin S...Read the entire review




A Monster Calls

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:48:46 PST

Rent It

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Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones
Year: 2016

At the risk of making light of death, watching A Monster Calls felt like watching a hundred-minute inside joke that wasn't funny in the least. First, there's the book, an unfinished work written by first Siobhan Dowd and later Patrick Ness, following Dowd's death. I haven't read it, it doesn't mean anything to me, and so I have no basis for emotion, not even enough to empathize with the fact that Dowd herself was dying of cancer as she wrote the story, adding extra meaning to its plot. Secondly, Sigourney Weaver. Watching the film at home, I still felt the urge to look around me, to see if there was a prank being played that I w...Read the entire review




Assassin's Creed

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 11:31:45 PST

Rent It

(image) (image) Look, as much as it stings to say so, it might be time to stop anticipating the arrival of that truly great video-game adaptation on the big screen. Assassin's Creed, the long-awaited cinematic take on Ubisoft's continuing franchise, has just about everything going for it to finally get the job done: a promising new director in Justin Kurzel, who delivered a flawed but beautiful adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth; a cast led by several Oscar winners and nominees; and a science-fiction setup that's almost ready-made for a Hollywood blockbuster, one that transports the lead character into virtual-reality journeys throughout invigorating historical events. Coupled with the series' clandestine stealth c...Read the entire review




Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 10:54:18 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
Year: 2016

With the creation of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe was brought back into our lives with a vengeance. You can't quite call the enormity of the success of that film unexpected, since the franchise has always been a homerun-hitter, even with relative duds like Episodes 1 and 2. But I'm not sure that the intense love of so many, of audiences across the board, could have been predicted, and the success the film had in marketing and merchandise was incredible as well. Trust Hollywood to seize any opportunity to make money, and so multiple more films in the series are in the works, including offshoots like Rogue One. I th...Read the entire review




Passengers

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 10:54:18 PST

Recommended

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Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen
Year: 2016

What's the saying, that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is? That's Passengers to a tee, a movie that has everything you've ever wanted from a pure audience entertainment perspective, but can't possibly deliver all that it promises. Sci-fi, thriller, romance, action, drama, comedy, and two of the hottest stars in Hollywood; this movie wanted every element it could grab, wanted to become a genre all its own, but made its first mistake in timing. Why it was released in the midst of Oscar Season I'll never know; Passengers views as a summer blockbuster and might have been a fun way to spend some time on a warm evenin...Read the entire review




I, Daniel Blake

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 13:28:51 PST

Highly Recommended

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A critical success at a film festival and that in a theatrical setting are quite different. While the Cannes Film Festival has hosted many impressive motion pictures in its award winners, they aren't all what they are initially hyped up to be. The Palme d'Or is the festival's highest honor, although the winner can sometimes be a bit of an odd choice. However, this isn't the case in director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty's I, Daniel Blake. They have managed to craft a tremendously genuine drama that is guaranteed to make you feel emotions that are rarely felt this strongly at the cinema.

Daniel (Dave Johns) is a middle-aged carpenter, who has lived alone since the death of his wife. After suffering from heart problems, he's told that he can no longer work unde...Read the entire review




Fences

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 15:11:26 PST

Rent It

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Phenomenal source material for the silver screen has been coming from the art of plays for many years. However, they are very different mediums that require varying styles of dialogue, plot progression, and acting. August Wilson's widely celebrated Fences has been receiving critical praise for quite some time, which meant that a film adaptation was inevitable. Written for the screen by Wilson, the iconic Denzel Washington is getting behind and in front of the camera to bring this story to audiences everywhere. While there's a lot to be said in this story, it doesn't take a very appealing approach for the silver screen.

Troy (Denzel Washington) is an African-American father, who works as a garbage collector in the 1950s. He lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis),...Read the entire review




Passengers

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 12:40:27 PST

Recommended

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The science fiction genre has taken us to many places that humanity never thought we could possibly go. Yet, many of the crazy inventions have become reality, or are well on their way to becoming so. While the genre often gets a bad name due to the cheesy execution of the lesser contributions, some of the greatest films ever made are science-fiction. However, in more recent times, they have served as big Hollywood blockbusters to be released in the summer to make loads of cash, and then be soon forgotten about. Despite expectations and what will surely be a rough critical reception, Passengers at least does more than the typical modern studio sci-fi flick.

A spacecraft is traveling to a distant colony planet with 5,000 people on board to aid in developing it. Whe...Read the entire review




Neruda

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 04:44:55 PST

Rent It

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Director Pablo Larrain had a few titles to his name, although 2016 would ultimately prove to be a hugely successful year internationally for the filmmaker. After releasing the brilliant Jackie via the Fox Searchlight Pictures brand, he has already earned a Golden Globes nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with Neruda. Only time will tell, although it's likely that both films will ultimately receive some nomination attention at the Oscars. While both historical, they are different features with varying messages. However, his look into the mind of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is much more captivating than this biographical drama.

Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), thrilled audiences everywhere with his relatable words and ch...Read the entire review




Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 13:05:49 PST

Recommended

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At this time last year, fans of the Star Wars franchise were drooling at the notion of The Force Awakens finally hitting theaters. It predictably did great at the box office, although critical and fan reception varied. Some found it to be a masterful journey of nostalgia, while others criticized the fact that the film felt more like a remake than a sequel. With the promise of a separate set of features that take us back to an earlier time in this universe, audiences will be getting their annual dose of the series. While Rogue One works more as a standalone entry, it still spends a bit too much energy trying to deliver upon fan service.

After the news has spread of the Death Star's creation, the Rebellion must act quickly. They find an unlikely hero ...Read the entire review




Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 07:44:13 PST

Highly Recommended

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At an age when franchise blockbuster cinema has turned into mega-budget versions of old 50s serials, where it's damn near impossible to enjoy a stand-alone story without the annoyance of having to wait years to see the next installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should come as a welcome respite for fans and general audiences alike. Old school fans are familiar with the Expended Universe, a series of novels that spin off of the familiar saga of the Skywalker family in order to explore the rest of the vast Star Wars universe.

Watching Rogue One is like experiencing an excellently executed Expanded Universe novel on the big screen. Yes, it's a prequel to A New Hope, and there's enough fan service to directly tie it to the rest of the franchise, but it also stands alone as a single story to be enjoyed in one sitting, with well-developed characters, an engaging plot, and a rousing ...Read the entire review




La La Land

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 08:41:34 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Year: 2016

After Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk fell off the top of many Oscar watch lists, a replacement was needed to receive the excessive buzz that always flies around the #1 slot. La La Land was the film to step up into the breach, bravely deflecting attention from other awards hopefuls. But this movie isn't just a pretty face, it has the potential to actually win, and win big. A modern Hollywood musical starring two of the hottest names in the industry, a dazzling hook of a song, a writer/director coming off back-to-back hits (Whiplash, Read the entire review




La La Land

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 05:23:33 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Writer/director Damien Chazelle left audiences around the world in awe with the tremendously intense Whiplash. His portrayal and use of jazz music proved to be an exceptional addition to a film about perfection and sacrificing everything to chase one's dreams. Chazelle's newest feature to take the festival circuit by storm titled La La Land contains traces of similar themes, but brings us an entirely different world of jazz. Whether or not you're an enthusiast of the genre, this is a piece of cinema that reminds us of golden age Hollywood in a way that is pure magic. You owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist with the dreams of opening up his own club that performs the traditional sound that he admires so much. Not...Read the entire review




Nocturnal Animals

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:31:18 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Year: 2016

Nocturnal Animals is somehow genius while also not being the best film of the year, excellently made while not being perfect, likeable but in no way lovable. Now, in the words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me esplain." What Tom Ford does in adapting the novel and directing it for the screen is put a story within a story, a metaphorical plot within an actual one. This allows him to be as cheesy, over-dramatic, unbelievable, sensationalizing, and crowd-pleasing as he likes without diminishing the actual quality of his artistic movie. In essence, he can get away with murder while keeping his hands clean, an apt analogy given the context of this thr...Read the entire review




Nocturnal Animals

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:43:15 PST

Highly Recommended

(image) (image) The thought that might creep into one's mind when they hear that a fashion designer has directed a motion picture might be one of artifice, that they've concentrated on style above substance in how they've brought their talents to a storytelling medium. Tom Ford's soulful adaptation of A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood's novel about the lingering effects of losing a loved one, proved that the designer has far more tricks up his sleeve than the glamours and expression of aesthetics, instead paving the way for sheer enthusiasm toward his next project. Ford's second feature, Nocturnal Animals, channels the polish of his freshman film into a layered, challenging psychological drama that explores grief, redemption, and how humans perceive masculinity and strengt...Read the entire review




Manchester by the Sea

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:03:56 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler
Year: 2016

It might be growing redundant to hear film critics repeat the line "one of the best of 2016" with every review they publish this time of year, but that's the nature of the beast, blame the studios for waiting until November and December to release their Oscar hopefuls. As is often the case, since the directors, writers, and actors involved are all top talents, these films are actually as good as they are advertised to be, leading to us as critics heaping praise of everything we publish as the weather gets colder. I attempt to throw in a few caveats; perhaps top ten, as of now, solid for the season, waiting for others before final judgement....Read the entire review




Jackie

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 07:57:28 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Pablo Larrain
Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup
Year: 2016

Natalie Portman will most assuredly be nominated for her third Oscar this year for her performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic event of the season, Jackie. Portman was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2005 for her role in Closer, and she won the award for Best Actress in 2011 for her role in Black Swan, one of the best films of the last twenty years, in this film critic's humble opinion. Is she on her way to another Oscar? Perhaps, and if so, she'll do it almost completely on her own, lacking the supporting cast, the famous director, the score of the century, and the dramatic thrills of a film in Bl...Read the entire review




Loving

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:35:03 PST

Recommended

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Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga
Year: 2016

My love for Jeff Nichols is beginning to know bounds, I'm sad to say, as his newest film Loving follows the same path as his last film Midnight Special, down the road to disappointment. Both films are full of stars, full of promise, full of drama, but also full of holes, as they fail to live up to the expectations set by two other, much stronger of his films, Take Shelter and Mud. Those early successes paved the way for Nichols' growing genius, but his latest attempts just haven't delivered in the way I had hop...Read the entire review




Moonlight

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:28:33 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes
Year: 2016

The out-of-nowhere Oscar frontrunner of the year is Moonlight, a shockingly blunt film that focuses on poverty, minority, homosexuality, and the inability to find yourself in a world that holds opportunities back like punishments. With high praise from audiences and critics alike, this film will find itself in the Best Picture category with ease, although its unorthodox style and subject matter may keep it as a laudable anomaly rather than an award-winning feature. But putting possible prizes aside, and acknowledging that top ratings weren't the point or the goal of this story, Moonlight is a fine film standing all on its o...Read the entire review




Allied

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 10:57:48 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Year: 2016

Talk about star power. The combination of these two marquee actors caused a divorce, according to rumor, and shows just how caustic an alliance like this can be. When two people with this much talent and passion come together it isn't just another day at the office, and acting isn't just a job. Sometimes you give yourself too deeply, and sometimes that's to our benefit. Such is the case here, so audiences should be thankful that Brad and Marion brought real chemistry to the screen; we don't often watch a love story with as much feeling behind it. And we can't leave out Zemeckis when we talk about the stars that aligned to make Allied; he's been a...Read the entire review




Moana

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:09:34 PST

Highly Recommended

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The world of Disney princesses has been expanding in recent years to be a more diverse world that is more representative of the one that we live in. Not only was this idea sure to make a ton of money, but it's much more interesting storytelling that has the potential to explore different perspectives. Moana brings the first Polynesian Disney princess to the silver screen, as well as one of the best animated films of the year. if you're looking for a movie to bring the whole family to, this is one that everybody can equally enjoy.

Born as the daughter to the chief, Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) has always had dreams of navigating the sea. However, the people on her island have strict rules to never cross the reef due to a fear of various dangers. After being chosen by t...Read the entire review




Arrival

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 14:22:59 PST

Highly Recommended

(image) (image) Denis Villeneuve has explored dark themes and big concepts in his previous works, from the grayness of renegade justice against accused child abusers in Prisoners to the necessary evils of combating Mexico's drug trade in Sicario, composing beautiful films with heavy, bleak substance. Arrival marks Villeneuve's first true foray into science-fiction, leaving one to ponder what might've drawn the director's complex outlook on the human condition to its story about figuring out how to talk with visitors from outer space, as well as the potential somberness that it might hold. While containing tough, incendiary reflections on the ways in...Read the entire review




Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:47:27 PST

Recommended

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J.K. Rowling has become something much more powerful than a name. She has crafted a world that has transported readers and viewers of all ages into another universe via the book franchise and the motion pictures. However, Rowling has managed to maintain her incredibly inspirational image in a way that has allowed many of us to believe in magic again; maybe not of the spell casting sort, but in perseverance and confidence. With the Harry Potter stories coming to a close, Rowling has brought audiences back many years before our introduction to this world of wizards in order to extend the universe that we all know and love.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a wizard from London, who has travelled to New York with nothing but a suitcase. Little do those around him r...Read the entire review




20th Century Women (AFI FEST 2016)

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:47:27 PST

Recommended

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Feminism is often misinterpreted by most in today's society, especially with how the Internet often attacks this perspective. Many confuse it with the idea that women are better than men, which simply isn't true; feminism promotes the notion that men and women are equal, and should be treated as such. Writer/director Mike Mills explores this subject in 20th Century Women in the framework of a coming-of-age story, told from the perspective of a teenaged boy. It sounds fascinating from a glance, but the one major question I asked myself walking into the screening was whether it would exploit feminism or explore it naturally.

The year is 1979 in Santa Barbara, CA. Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) lives with his single mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening). She begins to feel t...Read the entire review




Arrival

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:42:06 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Year: 2016

Arrival is the perfect marriage of writer, director, and lead actor, putting so many other films who have attempted the same to shame. For a bit of background, Ted Chiang wrote the short story that this movie is based on, Story of Your Life, as part of a collection called Story of Your Life and Others, published in 2002. His book is part sci-fi, part philosophy, presenting a world in which a scientific premise is fact rather than fiction, and then launching the plot from that point. He has a lot to say, a ton of depth to his stories, although at tim...Read the entire review




Manchester By the Sea

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:46:55 PST

Highly Recommended

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As the saying goes, it's the quiet ones that you have to look out for. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By the Sea left audiences breathless at the Sundance Film Festival, which only continued to impress each step it took along the festival circuit. However, this isn't your typical over-the-top drama that seeks to infuse as many tear jerking moments as possible. Rather, it feels more like a portrait of life in its rawest form, and when it rains, it pours. This film is quiet in its delivery, but certainly impactful in its execution of deep themes, such as family, loss, and coping with life.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives a seemingly lonely life as a janitor. When he receives an important call that his brother (Kyle Chandler) has passed away, he re...Read the entire review