Media Matters Archive

Manchester by the Sea

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November 11, 2016 Vic Thiessen

Hailed by critics as a masterpiece and viewed as a likely Academy Award nominee in all major categories, Manchester by the Sea will be coming to theaters on November 18. While I highly recommend this excellent film to most readers, for me it fell short of masterpiece status. Haunted by traumatic memories of his life in Manchester, Lee can neither imagine taking his nephew Patrick away from Manchester nor coming back to live there himself. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a man who returns to his small hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, […]

Moonlight

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November 4, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

Moonlight is an extraordinary tale of growing up, of discovering who you are, and of hiding the truth, sometimes even from yourself. The film is full of irony and contradiction, and this combination is one that makes this movie incredible. We have seen many of the same challenges in films before, but this combination of black manhood and sexual identity is revealing and painful. We meet Chiron as he is running from a group of other young boys and escapes through a fence and hides in an abandoned building. Juan (Mahersala Ali of House of Cards), a drug dealer, sees […]

Two Movies: “Suicide Squad” and “Don’t Think Twice”

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October 28, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

When Suicide Squad was about to premiere in metroplexes across the world in early August, comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeted about the decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to give the movie a tame rating. Birbiglia wrote and directed the comedy Don’t Think Twice, which hit the screens two weeks earlier. Birbiglia didn’t understand why the MPAA deemed his movie more offensive. The MPAA is sending a message that it just doesn’t tolerate violence—it celebrates it. Here’s his tweet from August 2016: Mike Birbiglia ‪@birbigs Suicide Squad has machine gun killings and bombings and got a PG-13 rating. ‪@Dontthinkmovie […]

I, Daniel Blake and A Man Called Ove

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October 14, 2016 Vic Thiessen

I just returned from Edmonton, where I had the privilege of watching 19 feature-length films in 10 days at the Edmonton International Film Festival (now one of the most important film festivals in Canada). Only two of those 19 films stood out for me, and coincidentally they both featured 59-year-old widower protagonists. Critics will no doubt be unhappy with the pedagogical nature of I, Daniel Blake. This is not a film that hides its message. I, Daniel Blake, which will come to American theaters in December, is directed by Ken Loach, most of whose films are about the plight of […]

The Queen of Katwe

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October 7, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

The Queen of Katwe could be your typical sports triumph movie: a coach discovers an unusual talent who wins with amazing skill, overcomes major hardships, considers quitting after a setback, but in the end wins it all. Director Mira Nair, however, uses this true story with its setting in Uganda to create a larger tale. She asks Katende where her safe spaces are, like those he has taught her to look for on the chess board. She studies chess and practices endlessly as she pursues her dream to become a master. It is a story of triumph, and I couldn’t […]

Miss Sharon Jones!

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September 30, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The only lull that occurs at a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings concert is when Jones invites audience members onto the stage to dance with her. Most of the time, the chosen few will try too hard to find their 15 seconds of fame as they attempt to overshadow Jones with goofy, ill-advised dance moves. Jones may stand 4 feet 11 inches tall, but it’s impossible for anyone to overshadow her. Jones gave up a music career at some point because “some record label told me I was too fat, too short, black, and old.” Now 60 years old, Jones […]

The School for Good and Evil trilogy (audiobook)

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September 23, 2016 Michelle D. Sinclair

As much as I enjoy young adult fiction, I’ve been burned by widely popular novels before (Veronica Roth’s Divergent series was a notable disappointment). When I discovered my favorite audiobook narrator, Polly Lee, had performed Soman Chainani’s bestselling trilogy, The School for Good and Evil, I embarked on the series with deep reservations. Could the world-building and characters make me believe in the story? Or would there be a fatal flaw in the presentation that would be too distracting to transport me away? What is the nature of Good? What makes a person Evil? How does True Love fit into […]

Pete’s Dragon

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September 16, 2016 Vic Thiessen

The latest Disney remake of one of its older animated films (the original Pete’s Dragon was made in 1977) is an improbable choice, because the animated film wasn’t very good, and translating this story to live action would appear to be challenging. Nevertheless, relative newcomer David Lowery was given the task of writing and directing a live-action version of Pete’s Dragon, with surprising results. Pete’s Dragon stars Oakes Fegley as the young five-year-old Pete, whose parents are killed in a car accident, leaving him alone in the woods. Pete ends up staying in the woods for six years, surviving only […]

The Light between Oceans

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September 9, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

Six months on an island by himself is the choice Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) makes as the film opens. He is just back from the war and they need a replacement lighthouse keeper. Why would he choose to live in this isolation? What is he trying to forget from the Great War? Is he punishing himself or escaping from having to see other people? Is it appropriate to ease your own guilt through the potential destruction of others? What makes one a parent? Is it better to forgive than to hold onto wrongs committed? These questions are never really answered […]

Kubo and the Two Strings

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September 2, 2016 Gordon Houser

Too many films designed for younger audiences tend to dumb down their stories. They follow a certain arc that includes humor, fighting, and a chase scene or two, followed perhaps by a moral that’s good enough but fairly tepid. It is carried out with such an imaginative array of characters and complications that it doesn’t feel like a typical movie for younger audiences. But some films depart from this tendency and actually respect their viewers’ intelligence. Kubo and the Two Strings is a recent example. The film uses stop-motion animation, which gives the picture a certain depth. It’s an American […]