Author: Christina Tucker

Shimmer Lake is Shallow Tale of Small Town Crime

Overview: A small town police officer tries to apprehend three bank robbers, one of which is his brother; Footprint Features, Netflix; 2017; TV-MA; 86 minutes. A county that doesn’t get dead bodies: Officer Zeke Sikes (Benjamin Walker) is a police officer tasked with solving a small-town bank robbery that involves his brother, Andy (Rainn Wilson). The drama of Shimmer Lake takes place in a small town ill-prepared to handle serious crime, and uses this setting and the contradictions therein to address the cynicism of Sikes as he aims to understand the crime that has taken place. Oren Uziel’s Shimmer Lake...

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Vincent N Roxxy Abandons its Characters for Cartoonish Violence

Overview: An unlikely romance between Vincent, a young small-town loner and Roxxy, a young woman on the run, turns to tragedy when Roxxy’s past catches up with her. Unified Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 102 minutes. Tone Trouble: Stories of love between unlikely partners, while well-trodden territory, can always be approached in novel ways, especially if the partners in question provide something new in terms of an interesting dynamic, setting, or concept. Vincent N Roxxy desperately wants to put its leads through trauma and violence to heighten the emotional stakes; what begins as small-town romance with a retro sensibility becomes something...

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Dead Men Tell No Tales Struggles to Put to Rest a Once-Great Franchise

Overview: Jack Sparrow confronts a ghost from his past that seeks revenge. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 129 minutes. Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate: Led by Gore Verbinski’s vision, the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies were marked by entertaining adventure sprinkled with well-integrated magic and inventive, ambitious visuals. The films explored piracy as a rejection of social expectations and moral simplicity, through eccentric and fascinating characters. After a disappointing fourth installment, the franchise seeks real closure in its fifth and final chapter. The way in which directors Joachin Rønning and Espen Sandberg and writer...

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Colossal is a Monster Movie Rooted in its Protagonist’s Psyche

Overview: A woman in the midst of a difficult period in her life finds that her mental state has manifested in a monster that is wreaking havoc in Seoul, Korea. NEON; 2017; Rated R; 110 minutes. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal largely exists beyond genre and plays with expectations in all fronts. It is neither a parody of the kaiju, monster movie genre nor a monster movie played straight. Not wholly tragic but certainly not laugh-out-loud funny. Colossal is rooted in a metaphorical concept: a person’s mental state has manifest physically. The way invading creatures...

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Ghost in the Shell is a Visual Spectacle With an Empty Soul

Overview: In a cyberpunk, futuristic Japan, a cyborg commander known as Major and her counter-terrorism unit Section 9 works to stop hackers and cyber-terrorists. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 106 minutes. Natural and Artificial: The 1995 anime film Ghost in the Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii, is both beautifully animated and profound in its exploration of the human experience, pushing ideas about both technology and subjectivity to their extremes. If a third party can alter someone’s perception, memories, and actions—what constitutes one’s identity? It is a film that’s just as concerned with its main character’s psychology as with its futuristic...

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8 Anime That Deserve Live-Action Adaptations

American film studios have a less than stellar track record in terms of adapting anime and manga. Not only are the released adaptations almost universally disappointing (Dragonball: Evolution, Speed Racer, and even a straight-to-video Fist of the North Star movie have, probably for the best, mostly faded from public memory) even more have been in development for years, such as Akira, Death Note, Gunm, and Cowboy Bebop. In the past decade, studios have seen the lucrative and creative potential of comic book adaptations. To branch out more seriously into anime properties could be fruitful in many ways. That’s not to...

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Lavender Squanders Its Potential & Leans On Clichés

Overview: When a photographer suffers memory loss after a car accident, she must use her photographs and the people around her to recover memories both recent and distant, uncovering secrets about her past that may have been better left forgotten. Samuel Goldwyn Films; 2017; Not Rated; 92 minutes. Final Girl: Lavender, directed and co-written by Ed Gass-Donnelly, and co-written by Colin Frizzell, is a psychological thriller with a strong visual character that loses its cohesion thematically, and falters most grievously in its characterization. Jane (Abbie Cornish), is a photographer with an affinity for photographing abandoned homes. She is the...

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La La Land is a Story of Dreams, Reality, and the Search for Artistic Fulfillment

Overview: In La La Land, a jazz pianist and aspiring actress struggle with the reality of pursuing their artistic dreams in Los Angeles while falling for each other. Summit Entertainment; 2016; Rated PG-13; 128 minutes. California Here I Come: La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is an impressive follow-up to the director’s most recent film Whiplash. With his newest, Chazelle follows Whiplash with another film about the compromises and sacrifices that accompany creative ambition, albeit with an entirely different tone. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are both struggling artists aiming to maintain their creative integrity...

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13th is Informative and Shockingly Relevant

Overview: 13th is a documentary that connects the institution of slavery to the current level of mass incarceration of black people in America. Netflix; 2016; Rated R; 100 minutes. Hazy Shade of Criminal: Drawing its title from the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States, Ava Duvernay’s 13th asserts that the institution of slavery is maintained in the modern structure of incarceration of America, and explores the cultural values that have allowed racism to sustain itself since America’s inception. DuVernay draws a direct line from the institution of slavery to the issue of mass incarceration in the United States,...

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Queen of Katwe is Sometimes Predictable But Worth Seeing

Overview: Queen of Katwe is the story of a girl living in rural Uganda who is introduced to chess and ultimately becomes an international chess champion. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2016; Rated PG; 124 minutes. For Love of the Game: Queen of Katwe, on a structural level, is akin to a sports film in many ways. It’s ultimately a hero’s journey with a basic premise of success from unlikely beginnings. Directed by Mira Nair and written by William Wheeler, Queen of Katwe adheres to the basic formula of this kind of film, but does commit to elements that...

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The Intervention Explores Relationships But Avoids the Ugly Bits

Overview: Four couples come together for a weekend getaway at a country house. Unbeknownst to one of the couples, the other three have conspired to turn this vacation into an intervention for their failing marriage. Samuel Goldwyn Films; 2016; Rated R; 88 minutes. Love Actually: Once the group latches onto the idea that the married couple Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza) absolutely needs to divorce, and nothing less, they will not let it go. Only one member of the six perpetrators of this scheme openly criticizes the idea of a “marriage intervention” as being absurd, but the...

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Honeytrap is a Coming-of-Age Story With a Hint of Shakespearean Tragedy

Overview: 15-year-old Layla moves from Trinidad to Brixton, London and struggles to fit into a new community. As she tries to create a new life for herself and find her way, she is pressured into making decisions that ultimately lead to tragedy. Array Releasing; 2016; Not Rated; 93 minutes. Fortune’s Fool: Newly arrived in Brixton, London, from Trinidad, Layla (Jessica Sula) moves in with her young mother Shiree (Naomi Ryan) who she hasn’t seen in ten years. From their first conversation, Layla is met with tough love, and is told she’s going to have to pull her own weight,...

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Zoom Has An Interesting Concept, But Doesn’t Dig Deep Enough

Overview: A comic book artist, writer, and director create and alter each other’s realities in an inter-dimensional triangle of artistic creation (and eventual destruction.) Screen Media Films; 2016; Not Rated; 97 minutes. Being-for-Others: Zoom focuses first on quirky, insecure Emma Boyle (Allison Pill), whose day job is painting eerie-looking sex dolls. In her free time she is a comic book artist, and brings to life her dream man, Edward, in the form of a comic book character. Edward Deacon (Gael García Bernal) is a handsome playboy director who seeks to challenge himself artistically, directing a contemplative indie film despite being...

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Morris From America is a Charming Coming of Age Tale

Overview: The story of 13-year-old Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas), who has recently moved to Germany (from America) to live with his father, after the death of his mother. Morris struggles to fit in with a new social group, pursue his dreams of becoming a rapper, and navigate the difficulties of young love, all while dealing language barriers and cultural differences. A24; 2016; Rated R; 91 minutes. Straight Outta Heidelberg: Depicted by an early scene in Morris from America, in which Morris walks down the picturesque streets of Heidelberg, Germany as a rap track plays in the background, the stage is...

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