Movie review Archive

Hidden Figures

()
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

()
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

()
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

()
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

(, , , , )
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 […]

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

()
December 16, 2016 Vic Thiessen

J. K. Rowling returns to the world of Harry Potter with a series of films based not on books she has written but on screenplays she is writing directly for the films. The first in the series is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and its blockbuster status assures that we will be seeing the rest of the series (five in total) in the years to come. Fantastic Beasts could have been a classic for the ages instead of merely a fun night at the movies. Fantastic Beasts is directed by David Yates (who directed the final four Potter […]

The Edge of Seventeen

()
December 9, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

While some may dream of going back to high school, The Edge of Seventeen reminds everyone how hard it can be to grow up. Nadine thinks she doesn’t belong, perceives her popular jock brother, Darian, as being favored, and barely survives her mother’s attempts to get back in the dating scene. Nadine wields her wit like a shield to protect herself from a constant sense of loneliness. She picks on her favorite teacher because he doesn’t humor her but rather returns her comments with his own dry wit and concern couched in wise remarks. Her snarky remarks ricochet right back […]

Arrival

()
December 2, 2016 Gordon Houser

The theater where I watched Arrival showed several “coming attractions” before the film. Most were either sci-fi or adventure films with lots of fighting and technological violence. I thought, “Has the person who decided what coming attractions to show seen the featured attraction?” Eventually, we learn that the film has a much larger purpose. . . . It’s interested in the meaning of time itself. While Arrival can be labeled sci fi—it does involve alien spacecraft landing on earth—it is far from the usual genre films of heroes fighting aliens. Instead, it is an arresting, thoughtful drama that explores both human emotion […]

Hacksaw Ridge

()
November 18, 2016 Gordon Houser

It’s rare for a Hollywood film to portray pacifism. Gandhi (1982), The Mission (1986), and 2014’s Selma, among others, have depicted stories of real pacifists. While our culture produces many stories of war heroes or vigilante justice, we can’t seem to imagine pacifist actions. For that we rely on true stories. These intrusions don’t detract from the powerful story. Doss’s actions are indisputably heroic, and the film ends with portions of interviews with the real Doss, who died in 2006. Now we have another true story of a pacifist displaying great courage. Hacksaw Ridge (R) is based on the story […]

Manchester by the Sea

(, , , , )
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, […]