Category: New Releases

All the Money in the World Touches Upon Tragedy But Can Resort to Moralizing

Overview: A tragic true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973; Imperative Entertainment; 2017; Rated R; 133 minutes. “Why doesn’t your family love you?”: Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973, and his grandfather, J. Paul Getty, at the time the richest man in the world, who  refused to pay his ransom. Michelle Williams as Gail Harris, mother of John Paul Getty III (referred to as Paul) carries much of the film, and is always committed and often successful. Although her...

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Bright is a Well-Intentioned Mess

Overview: In an alternate present, Officer Ward, a human cop, returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound inflicted by an orc citizen. His partner Jakoby, also an orc, faces a certain amount of prejudice from the other police officers and from Ward himself, but this becomes a secondary concern as the pair stumble into an imbroglio involving a traitorous elf, a magic wand, a street gang, an orc crime syndicate, and goodness knows what else. Netflix; 2017; Not rated; 118 minutes. Uh…: In Bright, writer Max Landis and director David Ayer team up to bring us something...

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With ‘The Post’, Steven Spielberg Affirms A Key To Democracy

Overview: The story of The Washington Post’s effort to publish the Pentagon Papers, a trove of classified documents that the U.S. government wanted kept under wraps. DreamWorks; 2017; Rated PG-13; 115 minutes. Democracy Dies in Darkness: There’s no question that The Post is a film that celebrates and champions the importance of a free press to a democracy. It has a clear point of view, which is emboldened by the current political climate hovering over the world inhabiting the theaters it arrives in. But it’s a Steven Spielberg movie through and through. This stage of Spielberg’s career—say, since 2005’s...

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The Greatest Showman Will Leave You Demanding A Refund

Overview: A musical loosely based on the rise of P.T. Barnum shows the birth of the circus and his vision of true spectacle; 20th Century Fox; Rated PG; 105 minutes. Wasted Opportunities: As a genre, the musical has, at different points in cinema history, been both maligned and celebrated. The advantage of the musical as an art form is that music is easily tied to emotion. For this reason, a moment that could be silly or over the top may fit perfectly into music and lyrics. Done correctly, musicals can invoke intense feeling and emotional moments can be seared...

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Te-Ata Isn’t a Good Film, But It Comes from a Good Place

Overview: Defying cultural and sexual stereotypes, young Chickasaw actress Mary Thompson Fisher, under the stage name Te-Ata,  takes America by storm with gripping, dramatic retellings of her people’s folklore. c. Paladin; 2016; Not Yet Rated; 105 minutes. Third World Cinema in the First World?: Nathan Frankowski’s Te Ata is exactly the kind of film that critics, historians, and social justice advocates have been clamoring for. It is a Chickasaw story about a Chickasaw hero starring Native American performers. It addresses the tragic realities of their persecuted histories without being defined by them, preferring instead to focus on what is...

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The Shape of Water Shows the Beauty in Our Differences

Overview: Against the backdrop of the Cold War, a mute woman who works in a research facility begins a romance with a creature of unknown origin. Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 123 minutes. The Others: For centuries, otherness has been the symbol of the enemy in every form of artistic expression. It is a simple shortcut that the human brain can make in an instant, sometimes without a single, recognizable thought. If something is obviously aberrant from the norm, it must be bad. But there is problem with normality: it doesn’t truly exist. We are all aberrant, in...

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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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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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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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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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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....

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