Category: Reviews

The Last Jedi is a Mostly-Successful Exploration of Morality and Legacy

**CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD** Overview: The members of the Resistance struggle to stave off the quickly approaching First Order, and Rey seeks help from Luke Skywalker. Lucasfilm; 2017; Rated PG-13; 152 minutes. I came to this island to die: The Last Jedi is ambitious thematically, narratively, and visually. Numerous plotlines involving several new characters are explored in various locations, and although some feel vastly less successful than others, the heart of the film, as grounded in Rey, Luke, and Kylo Ren, and their struggles with the burden of the force, carries The Last Jedi to greater heights. Strongest and most...

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5 Best Additions Star Wars Comics Have Made to the Canon

Originally published on May 4, 2016. We’ve all experienced the overwhelming joy of The Force Awakens by now, but Disney’s licensing opportunity has created another rewarding experience within the Star Wars universe. Through Marvel Comics, a new Star Wars canon is being built, one that is filling in the blanks between films and creating new characters and plot points that feel just as much a part of this saga as the ones we’ve known for the past 40 years. Smartly, Marvel has decided to keep their Star Wars output small, ensuring continuity and quality. Unlike other comic books and...

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I, Tonya is Fourth Wall-Breaking, Genre-Defying Fun

Overview: From “redneck” childhood to Olympic near-glory and then on to infamy, this is the story of a life bigger and more cutting than any hack punchline. 2017; Rated R; Clubhouse Pictures;119 minutes. Full 90s: I, Tonya opens with a statement that its story is based on “irony free, wildly contradictory” interviews with the real people involved in the events depicted in the film. What initially reads as qualifying—in other words, be warned you might not be getting the full truth—instead quickly becomes a promise as you’re introduced to the principals. By the time you realize someone (possibly many...

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The Disaster Artist Offers Studio Comedy Caricature

Overview: The true story behind the making of The Room and the bizarre friendship held between its two principal actors, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. A24; 2017; Rated R; 104 minutes. James Dean and Marlon Brando: The circumstances that gave birth to The Room border on the unbelievable. Written and directed by its enigmatic leading man, Tommy Wiseau, the film was independently funded by him to the tune of $6 million. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Wiseau’s magnum opus doesn’t look like a $6 million motion picture. Far from it, The Room is marked by a peculiar narrative and lacks...

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Now Available on Amazon Prime: Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge of Cinema as Religious Text

Originally published on January 16, 2017. Silence is now available for streaming for Amazon Prime subscribers. Overview: Upon hearing that their mentor has apostatized, two 17th Century Jesuit priests venture into Japan, where Christianity is outlawed, to find him. Based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 161 minutes. What’s In The Frame?: Martin Scorsese famously said, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out,” a sentence that might be as useful as any working definition that has been offered for the art form as it hits its toddler stage. But the...

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Now Available on Netflix Instant Streaming: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Is A Heartfelt Embrace of the Weird

Originally published on May 4 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now available on Netflix Instant streaming. Overview: The cosmic adventures of the mismatched team continue as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) uncovers the secrets of his true parentage, bringing him into contact with his father (Kurt Russell). Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 136 minutes. Band of Outsiders: Ayesha, High Priestess of The Sovereign sits on an opulent throne, boasting of the perfect evolutionary state reached by her species. The Sovereign are covered in gold, from their clothing and skin all the way down to...

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Darkest Hour is a Case for Conviction

Overview: Winston Churchill takes over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a crucial point in World War II. Focus Features; 2017; Rated R; 125 minutes. Help Wanted: In Darkest Hour, we first meet Winston Churchill in the dark. He’s lying in a robe in bed, and strikes a match temporarily illuminating the entire room before it fades back to black. Soon, he’s dictating words to a young female typist, who mistakenly types his memo single spaced. Churchill likes—no, demands—that things be double spaced. The young typist leaves the room in embarrassment and tears. It’s 1940 and World...

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Roman J. Israel, Esq Presents a Character in Search of a Story

Overview: An LA-based criminal defense lawyer fights the system after his small firm disbands. 2017; Rated R; Columbia Pictures; 129 minutes. What Do You Stand For?: What do you do when an opportunity presents itself? Do you go for it, or shy away? It depends on the type of person you are. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the type of person who gets an opportunity and sees it as a chance to fulfill his calling. What’s Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s calling? To find the answer to that, you’d have to track down and ask Dan Gilroy, the writer and...

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Shines With Honesty

Overview: A small Midwestern town is thrown into chaos when a grieving mother puts up three billboards accusing the local authorities of incompetence in their investigation of her daughter’s rape and murder. Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 115 minutes. [Warning: Includes spoilers] The Personal Heresy:  The genius of Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri rests in a single scene about thirty minutes in. Local gift-shop cashier Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) has been dragged into the police station by Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) on a charge of assaulting a dentist with his drill during a routine check-up. Mildred...

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New on Amazon Prime: The Big Sick is Exactly What We Need

Originally published on July 5, 2017, The Big Sick is now available for streaming for Amazon Prime users. Overview: A new couple is challenged by familial, cultural, and medical issues. 2017; Apatow Productions; Rated R; 119 minutes. Some Background: Before getting into the movie as a whole, it’s important to talk about how Kumail and Emily got to where they are today. Back in the early days of podcasting, I met the couple through The Indoor Kids, a podcast where the couple and a guest played and talked about video games and the culture that surrounds them. When I...

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New on Amazon Prime: Fences is a Performance Powerhouse With Questionable Follow-Through

Originally published on January 9, 2017, Fences is now available for streaming for Amazon Prime customers. Overview: Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Fences examines the struggles of an aging black man in the 1950s as he tries to provide for his family, while his personal failures isolate him. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 139 minutes. August Personage: We’d be hard pressed to find a writer who so exquisitely captured the voices of black Americans during the 20th century like August Wilson. Wilson’s works carry blackness within their very punctuation, each break, stammer, or interruption illuminating a great...

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Debuts: Ridley Scott – The Duellists

The Filmmaker Before Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott worked in television as a set designer for BBC shows like Z Cars and Out of the Unknown. He was very almost the man given the job of designing the Daleks for a brand-new science fiction show called Doctor Who but a scheduling conflict got in the way. He eventually rose through the ranks and began directing episodes of BBC shows including the comedy, Adam Adamant Lives! Scott’s most notable work from this early period is actually a commercial for bread. In 1973 he directed an...

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Blade Runner 2049 is an Epic Personal Journey

Originally published on  October 9, 2017; republished in celebration of Director Ridley Scott’s 80th birthday. Overview: 30 years after the events of the original film, Blade Runner K uncovers the body of a replicant who died in childbirth. Investigating this seeming impossibility unravels a mystery that can change the world and stop human progress dead in its tracks. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 163 minutes. Fearful Symmetry: Blade Runner 2049 begins with an eye, before the scene shifts to a spinner vehicle moving through dark, towering structures. This opening directly recalls the opening of Ridley Scott’s film, all...

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The Best Years of Our Lives and the Invention of a Necessary War Narrative

War films are imbued with a sense of fatalism, with protagonists caught in the vast maelstrom of events of which they are only a very small part. Their actions when multiplied carry the weight of the entire endeavor while each individual carries the burden of their specific relationship to it. For decades, American cinema predominately concerned itself with the former, while explorations of the latter have been comparatively rare. Hollywood films, forever representative of escapism, often remain as insulated from the direct ramifications of war as the American public. William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives bridged that...

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