Author: David Hart

Dave Made A Maze Succeeds Despite Excess

Overview: A struggling artist builds a maze hoping to complete something and becomes trapped inside. Gravitas Ventures; 2017; Unrated; 80 minutes. We’ve All Been There: No matter the size of the project, finishing anything is an accomplishment. And like anything else, it can create a habit. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Not finishing things, giving up, not having a focus or a passion can be truly damaging. That feeling of struggle, of spinning your wheels in the mud, can lead to a special kind of shiftlessness. Sometimes that lack of drive is replaced by bursts of passion for...

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Hitchcock the… Feminist? A Look Back at Suspicion

Preconceived notions abound when it comes to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Even in his prime, most viewers would walk in expecting certain things; a murder, a beautiful blonde of varying trustworthiness, and some bit of psychology (even if it was pop psychology at best). Certainly those themes reveal themselves in much of his work, but I think that sells him short. Among other attributes, he was a master of changing tone—both within a film and between films—as well as playing with genre conventions, some of which he fostered or created. The cleverness of Hitchcock is that he is...

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Don’t Be Afraid of Hitchcock: Where to Start If You’re a Hitchcock Newbie

Alfred Hitchcock is intimidating. There, I said it. Has there ever been a director with more positive baggage associated with them? Take a look at just about literally every list of “Greatest Directors in History” and he will likely show up in the Top 5. That is a lot of pressure for a new viewer pressing play for the first time on one of his movies. I can almost hear the incredulous response as people read “new viewer.” Especially in film communities, admitting to being a Hitchcock virgin is tantamount to personal insult or an invitation to mockery. I...

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Larson and Harrelson Carry The Glass Castle

Overview: The story of a young girl growing up in a wildly dysfunctional family and her journey both away and towards her father. 2017; Lionsgate; Rated PG-13; 127 minutes Memoir: Real life is not limited by genre or tone. A person’s journey is not a comedy, or a tragedy, or horror. The best stories about humanity are all of these rolled into one and more. Director Destin Daniel Cretton clearly realizes this and has focused on these complications in his first two feature films, Short Term 12 and now The Glass Castle. The latter, based on the memoir of...

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A Quiet Passion Is An Exquisite Dive Into The Poet’s Soul

Overview: The story of Emily Dickinson, detailing her childhood and reclusive adulthood. 2016; Hurricane Films; Rated PG-13; 125 minutes. A Challenging Prospect: Not every film is packaged for mass consumption, or is easy to access. A Quiet Passion is certainly a film of substance, but also one that may prove difficult to connect to on a surface level. It is not a film to be watched passively. There is more underneath than may be noticed on a casual viewing. Even in moments of silence, of which there are many, director Terence Davies is processing a life. A life we...

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The Secret of NIMH: Still The Dark Antidote In Children’s Films

The Secret of NIMH really is something completely different. This was true even more so when it was released 35 years ago. Its creator, Don Bluth, got his start working for Disney, the only game in town when it came to large-scale animation projects. After working on numerous features, including Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and supervising animation on Pete’s Dragon, Bluth struggled in the oppressive big studio environment. After mounting frustration due to Disney moving away from classic style animation, he left with a small number of other animators to create his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions. The...

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Yes, The Book of Henry is That Bad

Overview: A precocious boy hatches a plot to rescue his neighbor from her abusive stepfather. Focus Features; 2017; Rated PG-13; 105 minutes. A Parade of Mistakes: A lot of things have to go wrong in order for a movie like The Book of Henry to exist. This is a film that deals with loss, childhood sexual abuse, illness, single parenthood, and gifted children. Take a deep breath, that’s a lot. When you look at that list of heavy subjects, you might think that the movie would match that serious tone. Well, you could not be any more wrong. This...

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Berlin Syndrome Zooms in On Star Making Performance

Overview: A passionate infatuation between an Australian tourist and a Berlin native takes an obsessive turn. 2017; Aquarius Films; Rated R; 116 minutes A Return to Form: One of the most underappreciated styles of cinema is a good old, slow-burn thriller. These have existed throughout film’s history, and the style can be seen in classics like The Conversation and more modern films, like The Machinist. However, it seems to be a lost art form that has been replaced by films that take their cues from the horror genre. These films tend to employ a scare (even seemingly unrelated to the plot)...

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The Mummy (1932) Still Looms Over the Landscape of Monster Movies

The Mummy has always been there. Like the best monsters, this creature is omnipresent and unsettling. This is how I felt when finally sitting down to watch the original 1932 version of this Universal creature. The Mummy, along with other seminal creatures, like Dracula and Frankenstein, is something you know even before you have seen it. Whether it was from Saturday Morning Cartoons like Scooby-Doo or dime store Halloween costumes, the Mummy is an absolute fixture. My own personal introduction, strangely, was in a comedy I watched with my father, Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy. Of course, there...

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Is There Room for Big Ideas in a Big Budget World?

Science fiction is a tricky genre to pin down, and defining it tends to change depending on your audience. Even experts cannot agree on when it started or a true definition. A quick Google search offers up several different viewpoints. They range from the purposefully obtuse: “Science fiction is anything published as science fiction” – Norman Spinrad To the amorphous: “a selective tradition, continuously reinvented in the present, through which the boundaries of the genre are continuously policed, challenged, and disrupted, and the cultural identity of the Science Fiction community continuously established, preserved, and transformed. It is thus essentially...

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War Machine’s Satire Is Off Target

Overview: War Machine examines the rise and fall of military commander General Glen McMahon and his struggles in Afghanistan. Netflix; 2017; Rated R; 121 minutes. War Stories: It seems that we will never have a dearth of war stories on film, and our times are no different. Just this year, Netflix has released two such movies, both set in Afghanistan. War Machine certainly has the star power of a major release, featuring names like Brad Pitt and Ben Kingsley. Also buoying expectations is the previous work of director David Michod, namely The Rover and Animal Kingdom. Taking on a dark...

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Whatever You Desire: L.A. Confidential’s 20 Year Anniversary

L.A. Confidential is a movie, probably under-viewed by more modern audiences, which will never age. It simply masters the art of the period picture. Even after many rewatches, there are few, if any, moments that feel either too dated or too modern. This is rarer than it sounds. Yes, it is aided by the fact that it is set during a time that few of its viewers were alive to see. But it would be simple to list many period films that do not manage to avoid these pitfalls. Is it the script, the performances, the impeccable direction from...

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‘Sand Castle’ Cannot Even Be Saved By Superman

Overview: A group of soldiers attempt to repair and protect the water supply of a small Iraqi village. Netflix; 2017; Rated R; 113 minutes. Not Much New Here: Sand Castle is a film about war that never quite breaks new ground. It falls firmly in the “War is Hell” subgenre and makes no effort to stretch beyond it. The film begins with a promising opening line from Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult): “A war story can’t be true unless it’s got some shame attached to it.” With this beginning, we might hope for a new kind of war tale, or at least a...

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‘Gifted’ Boasts a Great Cast, But Doesn’t Pass the Test

Overview: A man grapples with the difficult process of raising his highly intelligent niece. 2017; Fox Searchlight Pictures; PG-13; 101 minutes. Uneven Emotionality: Gifted, the story of an uncle raising his prodigy of a niece, has all of the ingredients of a crowd-pleaser designed to pull at the heartstrings of the audience. Included in these ingredients is a precocious child prodigy, and numerous courtroom scenes that will determine whether her uncle should be her legal guardian. The aforementioned child, Mary Adler (McKenna Grace), is presented unevenly. One example of this is the constantly changing maturity level of the character...

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The Ticket Boasts Great Performances But Needs Focus

Overview: A man, long blind, recovers his sight inexplicably. His life changes in expected and unexpected ways. 2016; Shout! Factory; Not Rated; 98 minutes. More Style Than Substance: The Ticket is the story of a man who regains his sight in near miraculous fashion. Additionally, it offers an exploration of the human psyche and the effects of such a gift. The film focuses on the effects of regaining sight as opposed to explaining what is happening medically. Regardless of the lack of explanation, it’s unfortunate that more time is not spent on James (Dan Stevens) before this major event. In a...

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