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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




The Edge of Seventeen

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:24:52 PST

Highly Recommended

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Growing up isn't nearly as easy as the movies make it look. Many of us suffered through various personal obstacles throughout high school, as we're trying to discover more about ourselves and how we fit into the world around us. However, most Hollywood films deliver the clich s of cliques and typical relationships that end in ways that are far too obvious. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig clearly seeks to reject such imaginary notions in The Edge of Seventeen that works as one of the most realistic perspectives into adolescence that has hit the silver screen in recent times.

Nadine (Hailee Seinfeld) has always felt less loved by all those around her than her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) is her only friend, who has helped he...Read the entire review




The Eyes of My Mother (AFI FEST 2016)

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:24:52 PST

Rent It

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The horror genre typically goes through a series of highs and lows that continues to adjust expectations. Many casual moviegoers simply assume that they're all either slasher flicks or entirely consumed with jump scares, while underestimating the power of those seeking to have a more psychological impact. This year has been quite impressive for a wide variety of horror films with budgets large and small. Writer/director Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother made some noise at the Sundance Film Festival as being included on such a list of titles. While it's certainly never dull, it didn't quite impact me as it did those earlier in the festival circuit.

A young Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) lives a fairly ordinary life with her parents in the country. When her mother ...Read the entire review




The Red Turtle (AFI FEST 2016)

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:23:41 PST

Highly Recommended

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Studio Ghibli has been known for being extremely selective when it comes to their projects. Their films will always hold a special place in my heart as some of the strongest animated titles one can find. However, there was noticeably something different about The Red Turtle from the moment the studio logo appeared. While the drawing is generally presented on a blue background, it has now been painted in red. This is meant to represent that this is a co-production, and not exclusively Studio Ghibli. Michael Dudok de Wit makes his feature debut after making an impressive array of animated shorts - one of which (Father and Daughter) winning him an Oscar. Will this earn him a second golden statue?

This eighty-minute film follows the life of a castaway on a des...Read the entire review




Nocturnal Animals

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:23:41 PST

Recommended

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Fashion designer Tom Ford shocked movie audiences with his directorial debut A Single Man for its tender use of dramatic romance. Seven years later, he would send a very different set of shockwaves through the film festival circuit with an adaptation of Austin Wright's Tony and Susan, which would come to be titled Nocturnal Animals for the silver screen. It's a dramatic thriller with a stellar cast that has no problem taking audiences to the darkest of places one can imagine. However, it didn't quite put me under the same spell that many others fell for on the film festival trails.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner, who has an abundance of riches and an attractive husband (Armie Hammer), yet remains incredibly unhappy in life. When sh...Read the entire review




Jackie (AFI FEST 2016)

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 12:54:53 PST

Highly Recommended

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The biographical films are coming, which could mean only one thing: Oscar season is upon us. Some call many of these features awards bait. With A-listers in the leading roles, it makes sense as to why the distributors are trying to push so many of these titles for Oscar consideration. After the negative publicity around Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation exploded, Fox Searchlight Pictures focused its sights on Pablo Larra n's Jackie as its new Oscar pony. While every element screams "give us awards!," it has certainly earned nominations, at the very least.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) must deal with the grief of her horrendous loss. When losing her husband and the title that gave her...Read the entire review




Things to Come [AFI FEST 2016]

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 11:18:05 PST

Recommended

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Unless you have been avoiding news from the film festival circuit, this is a big year for Isabelle Huppert. She stars in the lead role in two features that have been making noise at the festivals, although the two projects share little outside of Huppert's involvement. Elle is a light-hearted rape story, while Things to Come is a philosophical look into the life of a woman whose entire life is crumbling around her. Writer/director Mia Hansen-L ve has crafted a film that doesn't necessarily always seek to entertain, but more to inspire thought and introspection.

Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy teacher who seems to have it all: a long-lasting marriage, children, and a job that she loves. When she's fired, her husband soon reveals that he has fall...Read the entire review




Paterson [AFI FEST 2016]

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 11:18:05 PST

Skip It

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Routine is both a friend and enemy in life. It makes us feel comfortable and safe, but it can ultimately begin to feel stale. When life starts to get tedious, that's when depression can take hold. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch tackles the subject matter in a way that wants the audience to relate in a way that is emotionally raw and realistically humorous. However, this is arthouse filmmaking that is a real turn off, as it comes across as being purely pretentious about life. Instead of speaking to the soul, everything about it feels constructed and cold in a way that is more frustrating than anything else.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. He's an introverted man, who keeps a secret journal with a collection of poems that chronicles his feeli...Read the entire review




The Comedian [AFI FEST 2016]

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 14:52:28 PST

Rent It

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The world of comedy is an absolutely fascinating place to set a narrative. While it isn't necessarily a new idea to the silver screen, there are still a wide variety of ways that filmmakers can explore the mind of a comedian. However, most of these pictures generally end up getting confused regarding whether it wants to make us laugh or cry, which results in a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be. Director Taylor Hackford is working with a list of impressive talent in The Comedian, yet it still doesn't manage to find the balance between trying to make us laugh and genuinely connect to its characters.

Jackie (Robert De Niro) got his claim to fame by playing Eddie on an old television show. Years later, he has continued to pursue comedy as a stand-up insult ...Read the entire review




The Salesman [AFI FEST 2016]

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:31:37 PST

Recommended

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Many filmmakers work their entire lives and still never manage to find what separates them from other artists behind the camera. However, this certainly isn't a concern of Asghar Farhadi's, as he has established a narrative flow and visual signature that holds unique to him. The career-defining masterpiece A Separation was my introduction to the filmmaker, who then made the deeply impactful The Past a couple years later. His dissection of marriage is thought-provoking and powerful, which continues to be the case in his newest feature The Salesman. Despite being the weakest of the three mentioned films, it remains to be quite impressive.

Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are forced to find new living accommodations when their o...Read the entire review




Rules Don't Apply

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:31:37 PST

Recommended

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Director: Warren Beatty
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Warren Beatty
Year: 2016

Oscar prediction, or lack thereof; Rules Don't Apply will become the poor man's La La Land, paling in comparison to what might be the Best Picture of 2016 and failing to capture that old Hollywood feeling we as audiences so desperately love. This film is an attempt to transport us in time to a very magical era, to give us a glimpse into the life of one of the most famous men in American history, but also to share with us a classic love story that has been repeated across the ages to varying disastrous or wonderful results. What Warren Beatty had in his head while directing, writing, producing, and starring in this movie may ha...Read the entire review




Rules Don't Apply [AFI FEST 2016]

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:31:37 PST

Skip It

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Stereotypical Hollywood has made countless appearances in modern day filmmaking. The Academy Awards generally seems to love films that essentially congratulate the industry for being what it is, although most of them lack a sense of honesty that makes them feel grounded. Warren Beatty is a name that hasn't graced the silver screen in quite some time, and will always be associated with a time in Hollywood when things were different. Well, now he's back as a writer, director, producer, and actor in Rules Don't Apply. However, the question is: do we really need another movie about Howard Hughes?

Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) is a determined driver with a clear dream to purchase property around Mulholland Drive. In the meantime, he works for Howard Hughes (Warren B...Read the entire review




Elle

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 17:35:05 PST

Recommended

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The Cannes Film Festival is known for premiering an abundance of films that stir up controversy on several fronts. Many artists are able to display their work that push the boundaries on the perspectives that we expect to see regarding various human behaviors. One of this year's most highly discussed films to come from the festival is Paul Verhoeven's Elle. We've all heard of strange mixes in tone, although not quite to the degree of a light-hearted feature about rape. The subject matter and its portrayal will certainly divide audiences; some will find it brave and others will be horribly offended.

Mich le Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a successful businesswoman, who owns a video game company. However, she is divorced and has rough relationships with her mother ...Read the entire review




Arrival

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 12:51:35 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Is it language or science that holds true as the cornerstone of all cultures? They both determine our advancement as conscious beings within our society. We are unable to communicate if we cannot understand one another, although we are unable to advance if we cannot develop. Writer Eric Heisserer has adapted Ted Chiang's story titled "Story of Your Life" into the science-fiction drama Arrival, which tackles such ideas. This feature can best be described as a mature and thought-provoking genre offering that just might be the best film of the year. Given the current state of America after the elections, it's a piece of social commentary that's more relevant than ever.

The world is suddenly set in an uproar when twelve mysterious objects levitate directly above the...Read the entire review




Hacksaw Ridge

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 07:39:24 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving
Year: 2016

Mel Gibson makes his directorial return with the war epic Hacksaw Ridge, his first film since Apocalypto ten years ago. Despite his oddities, troubles, and stigma, I actually enjoy Gibson as a director, though his sample size is quite small. Apocalypto was cool, Braveheart is my 2nd favorite movie of all-time, and both A Man Without a Face and The Passion of the Christ were at least well-made. Combining We Were Soldiers with Saving Private Ryan, Gibson as ...Read the entire review




Arrival

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 18:00:38 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Arrival is nothing short of a cinematic miracle: A big budget mainstream Hollywood release with the passion and creativity of a plucky little indie. An adult story that doesn't rely on easy and manipulative action set pieces and eye candy special effects, but instead opts to ask some hard questions about how us humans relate to the universe, to time, and ultimately, to ourselves. A hard science fiction opus that, like the best examples of the genre, uses seemingly clinical and dry science to dig deep into our existential connection to time and space. Who knew that the most human story of the year would come out of a movie about aliens?

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If you've seen the trailers, you might have been intrigued by the story's unique approach to yet another ali...Read the entire review




Doctor Strange (IMAX 3D)

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 04:57:37 PDT

Recommended

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While there was no denying that superhero films would ultimately begin to cross paths with one another, it started to become the backbone of the Marvel formula. This resulted in the cheapening of individual stories in favor of writing the hero into the next Avengers title. Writer/director Scott Derrickson and co-writers Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill bring us back to older Marvel entries, where the individual hero gets all of the attention. Doctor Strange isn't the best that the comic giant has to offer on the silver screen, but it's certainly an entertaining adventure that's well-worth your time and ticket money.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an egotistical neurosurgeon, who finds himself unable to stop his hands from shaking after a br...Read the entire review




Hacksaw Ridge

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 04:57:37 PDT

Rent It

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World War II is a time in our history that has been explored on the silver screen in a wide variety of ways. There are still so many narratives to be explored during this time, although many of them fail to depict that individual's perspective in a way that is engaging and unique. It has been ten years since Mel Gibson has been behind the camera, but he has returned to the director's chair. He has become known for his graphic narratives in Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ. Now, he takes a stab at a war film that incorporates a great deal of religion.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) felt the overwhelming need to serve in the army, as many of his peers were fighting for their country while he was safe at home. However, his deep religious values prohib...Read the entire review




Doctor Strange

Wed, 02 Nov 2016 14:46:22 PDT

Recommended

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Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Year: 2016

Welcome back to the Marvel Universe, as ever-expanding as our own, and also, incidentally, as chaotic. Marvel's newest installment, Doctor Strange, will link into all the others, namely the Avengers films, in due time, this being an origin story meant to introduce the character, the post-credit teasers letting you know just how Stephen Strange will unite with Thor, Cap, Tony, and all the rest. Accepting a casting into a Marvel film is a ticket to guaranteed future paychecks, as this behemoth of a franchise doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon, despite a few of its individual films not holding up to critical stand...Read the entire review




Doctor Strange

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 12:20:08 PDT

Highly Recommended

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Marvel Studios is like the blues of modern blockbuster Hollywood filmmaking. There are only a handful of notes being played over and over again, but it's how they're played that really matters. Yes, with Doctor Strange, we get yet another paint-by-numbers superhero origin story, the structure of which you can now surely recite from memory, with a blindfold on, standing on one leg, under pouring rain.

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But the always energetically trippy and psychedelic borderline sci-fi spiritual backdrop, complete with sorcerers who can bend matter in order to turn metropolitan cities into LSD-induced kaleidoscopes, and magic that allows people to travel between dimensions while breaking all rules of space and time, turns this new Marvel outing into the best,...Read the entire review




Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 08:21:55 PDT

Rent It

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Director: Edward Zwick
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Patrick Heusinger
Year: 2016

The most annoying variety of action hero is the one who knows everything before it happens, including exactly where each villain will throw his next punch. In the original Jack Reacher, the title character was both portentous and pretentious, rubbing his seemingly psychic abilities in our faces in the form of handwritten notes with the answer to our future questions written on them. Heroes like James Bond or Ethan Hunt often end up one step ahead of the evil doers, that's how they win, but rarely are they as smugly and unbelievably knowledgeable as Jack Reacher. One thing that can be said for the sequel, Never Go Back, is that...Read the entire review