Movie review Archive

Kubo and the Two Strings

(, , , , )
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 […]

Hell or High Water

()
August 26, 2016 Michelle D. Sinclair

Classic Westerns have a look about them: beaten landscapes, dusty shirts, and a hardness in peoples’ eyes that says they’ve seen the worst and don’t expect anything to get better. Hell or High Water doesn’t have to work too hard to apply those hallmarks to its modern-day setting. In fact, the New West looks worse than the old one, a place where hope grew despite itself before succumbing to the relentless pressures of oxidation and a downturned economy. Still, hard times makes good fodder for storytelling, and this tale is a whopper. Where does the line between doing the right […]

The Secret Life of Pets

()
August 19, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

The animated feature film market is oversaturated now, with the major studios releasing one seemingly every other week (and in fact, that is the average since Angry Birds came out in May). While that is way too many in my opinion, it does have one benefit: it is helping my kids distinguish between what they think is a good movie and a just okay movie. At this point in their lives, they haven’t truly disliked any movie, but some movies don’t stick. At this point in their lives, they haven’t truly disliked any movie, but some things don’t stick. When […]

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

()
August 5, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

Hunt for the Wilderpeople by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi is a fun-filled adventure in the wilderness, a coming-of-age tale, and a buddies-on-the-run-road film. But mostly it is about the difficult journey to find or create a family. Finding a family requires the protagonist to explore his or her own character, and to enter the mess that is relationship. While you might guess where the story will end, you can’t begin to chart the course as Waititi keeps changing the pacing, zigging and zagging between heartfelt emotion and pure craziness. Ricky (Julian Dennison) has gotten in trouble for stealing and […]

Captain Fantastic

()
July 29, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

If potential moviegoers view the poster for Captain Fantastic, they may get the wrong impression. Ben (Viggo Mortensen) wears a bright-red suit while flanked by his six children, who are dressed in clothes ranging from semi-formal blazers and dresses to pajamas and a green jumpsuit with gas mask. They stand next to Steve, the family bus. Anyone expecting to see a comedic, fish-out-of-water story will be disappointed. Anyone willing to be simultaneously entertained and challenged will be rewarded. The poster screams QUIRKY COMEDY! Even the film’s name implies something whimsical. While the movie is quirky and features comedic moments, the […]

Ghostbusters (2016)

(, , , )
July 22, 2016 Michelle D. Sinclair

The 2016 remake of Ghostbusters hit theaters last weekend with more than 30 years of ectoplasm dripping off its back. First of all, the very idea of remaking Ghostbusters strikes my generation as heresy. It’s as ridiculous as remaking Back to the Future or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then you have the brouhaha over putting four women in the packs and jumpsuits, and it’s easy to forget there might be an actual movie under all the nasty Internet comments. A little silly, a little scary, and a whole lot of humor that somehow manages to be old school and […]

The BFG

(, , , )
July 15, 2016 Vic Thiessen

Steven Spielberg rose to fame and fortune as one of the world’s greatest film directors because of his uncanny skill in reading the inclinations of the masses, resulting in one blockbuster after another (though there were a few misfires along the way). That skill seems to have deserted him with his new film, The BFG, which has bombed all over North America despite being (in my opinion) one of the better children’s films made in this century. Unlike the nonstop action featured in most children’s films made today, The BFG is a slow, thoughtful film. Based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 […]

Tangerine and Risttuules (In the Crosswind)

()
July 8, 2016 Jerry L. Holsopple

What does it mean to have a homeland and to long to return to it, or to choose to stay where you are because you have buried too many family members to pick up and leave again? What is worth sacrificing for your homeland? Two recent Estonian films flirt with answers to that question with very different narratives and styles. Two recent Estonian films flirt with answers to that question with very different narratives and styles. Tangerine opens in 1992 with a saw blade running through a board as Ivo makes another tangerine crate. He is Estonian but has lived […]

Free State of Jones

()
July 1, 2016 Gordon Houser

Whenever a new movie comes out that addresses the period of slavery in the United States, viewers must confront that sordid history anew. In 2013, we saw 12 Years a Slave, and a month ago, we saw a remake of the miniseries Roots. Now comes Free State of Jones, another of the many films that are “based on a true story.” (See my column “Not Based on a True Story,” Jan. 30, 2015.) We easily decry the evil of “those people,” whose racism is so blatant and so violent. But this doesn’t necessarily challenge our more subtle or hidden racism today. […]

Finding Dory

()
June 24, 2016 Matthew Kauffman Smith

In the 1960s, psychologist Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment with laboratory rats, identifying half of them as smart and the other half as not smart. In reality, the rats were indistinguishable from one another. They were all just lab rats. As Dory starts piecing her story together and other characters enter the plot, the movie starts to find its own identity. Rosenthal gave a rat to each of his multiple helpers, told them if their rat was smart or not-so-smart, and then had them guide their rat through a maze. Rosenthal concluded that the rats deemed “smart” fared better because […]