Movie review Archive

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 […]