Movie review Archive

Born in China

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April 28, 2017 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If the Academy Award winners were based on cuteness, Born in China would be the runaway winner for best picture, and Mei Mei the baby panda would pretty much win every other category. The latest Earth Day release from Disneynature revels in the cuteness factor of its baby panda, snow leopards, and golden snub-nosed monkeys as they learn to live and survive in the vast China ecosystem. But cuteness only goes so far in life. People eventually yearn for substance, and that bodes true for Born in China. As with its Earth Day documentary predecessors, Disney sacrifices story in favor […]

Beauty and the Beast

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April 14, 2017 Vic Thiessen

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney animated film. Featuring the delightful songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the highest quality old-fashioned animation, and a well-told (if heavily altered) fairy tale, the film has several flaws—the biggest being the redemptive violence at the film’s conclusion. Disney’s typical need to kill off the baddie has nothing to do with the fairy tale on which the film is based. The film’s biggest flaw was entirely predictable and is difficult to challenge in a remake. I am referring to the killing off of the baddie at the end of […]

Get Out

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March 31, 2017 Gordon Houser

Get Out came out more than a month ago, but it’s worth talking about. While it is rated R for violence, bloody images, and language, it tackles an important issue in a creative, disturbing way. The film’s plot draws on other horror films, such as The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby, as a conspiracy is gradually revealed. It also employs humor in many places. The film is by first-time director Jordan Peele, who also wrote and produced it. Made for only $4.5 million, it’s already grossed more than $154 million worldwide. Peele uses some typical tropes of the horror genre but […]

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

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March 10, 2017 Vic Thiessen

The first season of American Crime Story is really a 10-part miniseries on the so-called Trial of the Century: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Unlike many people around the world, including tens of millions in the United States, I didn’t pay much attention to the 1995 trial of O. J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman. Perhaps that’s one reason the show didn’t blow me away the way it blew away many television critics. The People v. O. J. Simpson has received countless awards and overwhelming critical acclaim. For a television miniseries, The People v. […]

The Salesman

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March 3, 2017 Jerry L. Holsopple

The Salesman won the Academy Award for the best foreign film a few days ago. Asghar Farhadi, the director, was not present but had someone else read his statement: “My absence is out of respect for the people in my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.” His statement went on to critique the practice of “dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories.” The cracks begin to appear as Emad wants to know what happened and pressures Rana to report […]

Hidden Figures

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February 3, 2017 Jerry L. Holsopple

The space race is on. Sputnik has orbited and the Russians are in the lead. Hidden Figures tells this based-on-a-true-story in the predictable ways of a triumphal movie. We meet the three African American heroines stranded next to a broken-down car on their way to work at NASA. The challenge of this day is to actually get there, as the car just won’t start. A police officer shows up, and they use his concern for America in the space contest to get past his initial prejudice. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe, also in recently reviewed Moonlight) uses a similar tactic earlier […]

The Crown

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January 20, 2017 Michelle D. Sinclair

To be perfectly honest, The Crown had me at “an inside look at the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II.” I’m such an Anglophile and history buff that this show could have been a shoddily produced back-lot project and I probably would have watched. I’m saying all of this so you’ll take this review with about a heart attack’s worth of sodium. One also has to wonder what the Queen herself thinks about all this. Series creator Peter Morgan told Variety this past July that the royal family has had no involvement in the project. Luckily for me, The Crown is […]

La La Land

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January 13, 2017 Vic Thiessen

The big winner at the Golden Globes this week was La La Land. It was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, a young filmmaker whose only previous film was 2014’s Whiplash, which concerned a young drummer sacrificing everything to achieve his dream of greatness. La La Land pursues a similar theme, albeit with greater subtlety and ambiguity. It’s a film that can generate hours of discussion on the meaning of life, which is a wonderful attribute, though whether the answers it provides are always helpful is a matter for debate. The central question in La La Land is whether love […]

Fences

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January 6, 2017 Jerry L. Holsopple

It is Pittsburgh in the 1950s. Troy (Denzel Washington) and his friend Bono empty trash cans into the back of a truck. It is Friday, and Troy wonders aloud why it is only white men who drive the trucks, while the black men are the ones handling the garbage. He raises the issue in hopes of becoming the first black driver. Later that afternoon, Troy and Bono sit at the back of his house talking about life, and we meet Troy’s wife, Rose (Viola Davis). It is clear she loves him, and it seems like they have a good life […]

The Eagle Huntress

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December 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Talented bird whisperers train eagles to help them hunt for food and fur in treacherous, bone-chilling winters. Matthew Kauffman Smith with special guest writer, Ella When I took my daughters to the bank when they were younger, the teller would always offer them a sticker. He or she would offer a Disney princess sticker to my daughters, even though one time I saw Spiderman stickers in another stash that was offered to the boys. Given the option, my girls may have selected the princesses, but there’s a good chance they would have chosen an alternative. Now my girls are old […]