Author: Schyler Martin

Netflix Hidden Gem #3: How to Die In Oregon

How to Die in Oregon Director: Peter Richardson Genre: Documentary Clearcut Productions I’ve said before that a successful documentary shouldn’t simply be entertaining. It should also make an argument. Or at least present an argument. How To Die in Oregon certainly does that. This film presents arguments for and against (Ok, mostly for) the Death with Dignity Act, a law in Oregon that makes physician-assisted suicide legal, and it makes it in a way that never feels manipulative or exploitative. The film follows a number of terminally ill patients in Oregon who choose to take advantage of the Death...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #1: God Bless America

Netflix is awesome. If there’s one thing in this crazy world that we should all be able to agree about, it’s that simple fact. But Netflix isn’t always easy to navigate, and I know I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled, “What are the best movies streaming on Netflix?” or “Top Netflix movies.” But luckily for you, all of this Googling has helped me find some amazing hidden gems that are available to stream right now. So, to make your life easier and just to give me a chance to tell the world about streaming movies that...

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Chinatown

Overview: When private detective Jake Gittes is hired to investigate an adultery case, he discovers something much darker. Paramount Pictures. 1974. Rated R. 131 minutes. Everything Matters: The first time I saw Chinatown, I thought I had missed something. The film propelled me into action and treachery, dirty dealing and danger, so suddenly, that I felt certain that I had missed the first half of it. Alas, I hadn’t, and that’s just how Chinatown rolls. Chinatown is filled with murder, incest, lies and deceit as Detective Gittes uncovers a dark conspiracy that runs throughout the veins of a town....

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Let’s Be Cops

Overview: When two best friends dress up as police officers for a party, they discover that the uniforms come with all kinds of incentives. They continue the charade and action ensues. 20th Century Fox. 2014. Rated R. 104 minutes. The Characters: Jake Johnson plays Ryan, the more daring of the two mock cops. He falls deep into the façade, looking up YouTube videos to perfect his police behavior and insisting on using official lingo. Johnson does well with what he’s given. His delivery is sharp and well timed and though his character’s motivations aren’t ever properly explained, he steps...

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The Sixth Sense – Fifteen Years Later

The Sixth Sense came out in 1999. I was 5 years old (almost 6). I don’t remember very much from that time, but I do vividly remember watching this film for the first time and being absolutely chilled to the bone. It has always taken a lot to scare me. I was raised on the horror genre. I can remember staying up late at night, clinging to my covers and craving the adrenaline rush that came with watching a really bone-chilling scary movie. But The Sixth Sense terrified me. Not because it was violent or gory, but because The...

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So You Think You’re Scary? Well… Me Too (A Defense of Modern Horror)

In his essay “So You Think You’re Scary?”, My friend and colleague Keith Rice has a lot to say about horror films from the past few decades, and it isn’t pretty. Keith thinks that the horror genre has a big problem. He thinks it’s gone “off the rails.” In his own words: “We gave up the truly unsettling and haunting, and we actually celebrate the cheap and the repackaged.” Keith also talks about his love for horror. Well, I too love the genre. When it’s done well, I think it might just be my favorite of any genre of...

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Neighbors

Overview: New parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are trying to adjust to parenthood when a fraternity buys the house next door and turns their world upside down. 2014; Rated R; 96 minutes. What It’s Really About: Neighbors is raunchy, ridiculous, and sometimes cringe-worthy as it earns its hard R rating. It’s filled with intense party scenes, a hell of a lot of weed smoking, and plenty of penis jokes, but it isn’t even close to mindless. Beneath the laughs, Neighbors is a surprisingly poignant film about growing up and facing turning points in life. For Mac and...

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Bad Words

Overview: In Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, he stars as a grown man who infiltrates The Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. Focus Features; 2014; Rated R; 89 minutes. What REALLY Works: More than anything, it is Guy Trilby’s (Jason Bateman) friendship with 10-year-old fellow contestant Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand) that fuels the film. Chopra is sweet, wide-eyed, and as innocent as can be, claiming that his only friend in the world is his academic binder filled with words that he’s learned to spell. He affectionately calls the binder “Todd” and calls it his “key to success.” Chopra is as bright and optimistic...

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The Monuments Men

I have no doubt that George Clooney, who acted in and directed The Monuments Men, had noble intentions. He wanted to show that art is important. That we truly need it. That’s it’s worth saving and even worth dying for. I like that message;

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The Godfather

Overview: In a film that many— including this reviewer — hail as one of the best movies ever made, The Godfather tells the outward struggle of a 1940s Mafia family trying to defend their empire from rival families, and the inward struggle they face as the family’s leadership is forced to shift gradually from father to son. 1972; Rated R; 178 minutes. Sexy Pacing: This film works as well as it does for more reasons that I can probably even appreciate — the acting is pitch-perfect, the writing is sharp, the cinematography is awe-inspiring, the music is dramatic and...

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American Hustle

Overview: American Hustle is a hushed study of character relationships, personal struggle, and the American dream. 2013; Rated R; 138 minutes. Setting the Stage: American Hustle is set in the late 70s and the cast flaunts the gaudy outfits and hairstyles to prove it. From the first minutes, viewers are tossed into a morally gray world where con men aren’t all bad and FBI agents aren’t all good. The underlying theme is that everyone here is chasing something. Maybe it’s fame. Maybe it’s fortune. Maybe it’s just a second of happiness. But every character has a strong motive and...

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Captain Phillips

Overview: Captain Phillips turns the true story of the hijacking of a U.S. container ship by a crew of Somali pirates into a fast-paced thriller. 2013; Rated PG-13; 134 minutes. WHY Did the Film Start This Way?: Captain Phillips does not start strong. We meet Richard Phillips – the ship’s captain and the film’s main character- on land with his family. In the car on the way to the ship, Phillips has a stupid conversation with his wife. The two exchange cheesy, sentimental musings about their children and the “way the world is changing.” I understand the logic behind...

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Blackfish

Overview: Blackfish is a startling and unsettling exposé of SeaWorld and the very idea of captivity. It’s also an example of viewer manipulation at its finest. Magnolia Pictures; 2013; Rated PG-13; 83 minutes. The Blackfish High: When I first saw Blackfish, I was incredibly moved by the cause. Like most who watched the movie, I immediately became convinced that captivity of these aquatic creatures is evil and SeaWorld needs to be destroyed as soon as possible. I told everyone I knew to watch the film, and I know that I’m not the only one who felt this way. One...

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August: Osage County

Overview: After a tragedy, a dreadfully dysfunctional family packs into one stuffy Oklahoma home to deal with loss and try to move forward. 2013; Rated R; 130 minutes. Meryl Streep: I can’t ignore that this has been billed primarily as Meryl Streep’s movie. Justifiably. Streep has a rock-solid critical following, and she deserves it. She has plenty to work with as Violet, the brutally honest matriarch, who suffers from mouth cancer and a debilitating addiction to pills. Violet is a classic tragedy. Her greatest assets —honesty, independence, and unfaltering strength — are the traits that could lead to her...

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The Crash Reel

Overview: The Crash Reel chronicles snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s road to recovery after a traumatic head injury with grace and a touching focus on family. Phase 4 Films; 2013; 109 minutes. Not Just Another Sports Documentary: In 2009, while training for the Olympics, snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury after a horrific crash on the slopes. The Crash Reel tells his story beautifully because director Lucy Walker refuses to shy away from the hard stuff. The film shows Pearce’s triumphs, along with his downfalls and lapses in judgement. With slick editing and plenty of shots of impressive snowboarding tricks,...

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