First Man doesn’t so much tell a straight story of Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon as much as it tries to slip inside his mind, trying to feel every jolt of the cockpit and every sting of surrounding death. Director Damien Chazelle goes digging for an experience in Armstrong’s path which is certainly debatable in motivation but nevertheless keeps your eyes locked on the objective as strongly as Neil keeps focused. And for the direction Chazelle chooses to steer this towering biography, it’s a trip worth taking.
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If yet another remake of A Star is Born seems like one too many, consider Sam Elliott’s words in the film about the nature of musicians. All songs have a somewhat similar construction and it’s all up to the artist to interpret it their own way. And director Bradley Cooper certainly gives this old story a flavor all its own, sparkling with fantastic songs, character chemistry, and a skillfully edit presentation. At the center is Lady Gaga, taking her well-established singing abilities to the big screen. Can she act as well as she sings? After this film, there’s little doubt she was destined to be an actor. The film’s title couldn’t be any more fitting for her. Continue reading ““A Star is Born” Review”
Few films of action and revenge come with a genuine sense of terror and pathos. Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here has enough faith in the audience to piece together its broken hero, his traumatic history and a commentary on his nature of violence with hardly a word. In the tired and formulaic format of action-oriented revenge and rescue films, Ramsay has found something more artful and meaningful past the usual gun-toting. Here is a film that takes its time with its gripping violence, where every kill carries more weight than a rush of adrenaline. Rarely have I received such chills with the tale of a man killing people to save a little girl.
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“But did you know those actors were the real people from the true events?” Yes, I’ve heard it everywhere. From the TV interviews to the word-of-mouth buzz, to even the usually blank comment cards at the press screening. It’s an admirable gimmick from Clint Eastwood and a surefire way to garner easy praises of patriotism for a film that holds real heroes up on the screen. It may even be an ironclad way to avoid criticism, making a case that those who don’t like the film don’t like the heroes. The truth is I do like the real-life trio brought together for this film that stopped a terrorist on a train. I like them so much I didn’t want to see them flounder on screen with a film that has little to say about them past being average men that did average things in a surprisingly average movie adaptation.
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In the era of so-called fake news and questioning of journalistic integrity, Steven Spielberg’s The Post is both eerie and timely. It’s a mostly reactionary piece to be sure that focuses more on the importance of the Washington Post’s contribution to free press and representation. And, yes, it does slam its points home with the power of Thor’s hammer. But in an age when we tend to devalue journalism to such a degree, such an impact feels warranted.
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Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have been hailed for their amazing lyrical work on last year’s musical hit La La Land, a film with a stunningly invigorating soundtrack of jazz and orchestral wonder. They’re touted on the poster of The Greatest Showman as being hired to breathe that same amount of energy and toe-tapping to the tale of showman P.T. Barnum. Much like Barnum, they do a stellar job at hoodwinking audiences into attending this spectacle for the promise of an entertaining musical. And while director Michael Gracey certainly delivers music and sequences of grand design, there’s an aroma of a machine to its assembly as opposed to the heartfelt biopic of amazing feats this production was going for.
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When Gary Oldman first appears on screen as Winston Churchill, I couldn’t believe it was him. He embodies the historical figure with the right amount of girth, waddling and cantankerous mutterings of a man with the noisy gears constantly grinding in his head. It is such a flawless performance that director Joe Wright lets his camera get in close to notice every detail; the quivering of his lips as he prepares to deliver a speech, the solace he seeks in every cigar, and the look of doubt buried deep within his eyes. Oldman loses himself so deeply in the role that the audience does as well, making for one of his best performances of his career.
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What an astounding recovery for Adam Sandler. His contract with Netflix has led him from making Sandy Wexler, one of 2017’s worst films, to The Meyerowitz Stories, one of the year’s best. I suppose if director Todd McCarthy can go from directing the worst movie of 2015 (the Adam Sandler starring The Cobbler) to the Academy Award winner of 2015 (Spotlight) anything is possible. Yes, Virginia, there is a brilliant Adam Sandler starring movie.
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Let There Be Light is the ultimate and most cartoonish of Christianity wish fulfillment. It’s a wet dream of Midwest Christians that would like to believe every atheist is one near-death experience away from being a believer and that Fox News is the savior of spreading the gospel. You know you’re watching the goofiest of Christsploitation when Sean Hannity swoops in to save the day.
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Kenneth Branagh loves both literature and actors, making him a safe choice to direct the latest theatrical adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel. Almost too perfect. Branagh brings much of what we love and have come to expect from the director/actor. He stages Murder on the Orient Express with plenty beautiful cinematography, A-list actors, brilliant staging and subtle performances. He seems so in love with this mystery that he forgets to give it a boost of character, something that all good mysteries need if they don’t want to get lost in the shuffle of countless entries of the genre. Murder on the Orient Express is less like a modern remake of the classic tale and more of a snoozy stage play on its last week.
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