Category: New Releases

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

Call Me By Your Name is a Tender Romance Told Tenderly

Overview: A teen and a graduate student reckon with their surprising shared attraction during the former’s six week stay at the latter’s home in Northern Italy. 2017; Rated R; Sony Pictures Classics; 132 minutes. A Stranger’s Touch: It’s easy to become immune to the intimacy of touch. We’ve grown so used to making physical contact with those we’re close with that it doesn’t make much of an impact when it happens. And when we shake hands with someone, we’re expecting it, though maybe we’re taken a bit by the strength of the grip or the coarseness of the hand....

Read More

Mudbound: Two Families, Bound and Separate

Overview: Two families with sons returning from war navigate hard times on a 1940s Mississippi farm. Elevated Films; 2017; Rated R; 134 minutes. More Alike Than Different: Mudbound follows two families who have a lot in common. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) wants to find prosperity through owning farmland, so he moves his family from Memphis down to the Mississippi Delta. He brings his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), their children and his father Pappy (Jonathan Banks) along, while his younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is off flying bombers over Europe in World War II. Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) also dreams...

Read More

Justice League is a Mostly Satisfying Endpoint and New Beginning

Overview: The death of Superman has left the world open to attack from an alien god looking to reshape the world in his image. To stop the invasion, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a team of reluctant heroes who must rediscover hope within themselves and each other in order to save the world. 2017; Warner Bros; Rated PG-13; 120 minutes. One Year Later: The world doesn’t look like it did before. In terms of the space in which these fictional characters live and our real world, things have changed. There’s a psychological need for a bit more optimism, a...

Read More

Vietnam Vets Hit The Road in Last Flag Flying

Overview: Three men reunite 40 years on from their service in Vietnam to bury a fallen son killed in the Iraq War. Amazon Studios; 2017; Rated R; 124 minutes. One Last Detail: The films of Richard Linklater have often focused on two themes: relationships and the passage of time. His latest effort, Last Flag Flying, is also interested in these things. It’s 2003, and Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) doesn’t have much—his wife, whom he describes as “slow,” passed away of breast cancer earlier in the year, and he lives a modest life in New Hampshire. He tracks down his...

Read More

In The Florida Project, Magic Is Wherever You Find It

Overview: A struggling mother tries to provide for her young daughter as they navigate life from a cheap motel in Orlando, Florida. A24; Rated R; 111 minutes. A Whole New World: When Walt Disney was scouring the country for the location of his new theme park in the early 1960s, he settled on a section of Orlando, Florida which was, at the time, a blank slate. He needed space, and lots of it, because what he had in mind couldn’t exist in the regular world. He had to create an entire new one from scratch. Disney World thus became...

Read More

Lady Bird Is A Stellar Debut

Overview: Entering her senior year, a free-spirited young Sacramento girl wades through icky home and personal relationships while hoping to get into an East Coast college. A24; 2017; Rated R; 93 Minutes. Call Me By My Name: Christine grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Sorry, that’s Lady Bird who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. That’s what Christine wants to be called, so that’s what people call her, even her parents. She wants to cross those tracks, not just to the other, nicer side of Sacramento but faraway, to a place “with culture.”...

Read More

Murder On The Orient Express Delivers A Satisfying Remake And No More

 Overview: A passenger is murdered on board the Orient Express; everyone is a suspect, and only Hercule Poirot can crack the case. 20th Century Fox; 2017; Rated PG-13; 114 minutes. Whenever a treasured property is remade, regardless of language change, casting difference, or money spent, there is usually a common question. Why? More specifically, why now? It is likely that those same questions hang over Kenneth Branagh’s updated version of Murder on the Orient Express. This particular story, well known to some and recognized by practically everyone, has been produced many times, on film and television alike. The remake question...

Read More