Category Archives: Film Reviews

Live By Night Film Review: A Crime Thriller Mess That Should Have Been Left in the Dark

live-by-night-excerptBen Affleck’s latest directorial/starring venture, Live By Night is billed as a “crime thriller.” There is lots and lots of crime, but to call it a thriller is being extremely generous. Based on the best-selling book by Dennis Lehane (a presumed better option than watching this movie), the film is a series of tired plot points that meander, making this unfocused movie 2017’s first dump into the January cinematic wasteland.

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Patriots Day Film Review: Another Sensitive Hollywood Take on Tragedy

041816_PATRIOTSDAY_KB_419.CR2Peter Berg’s take on the Boston Marathon bombing is an amazing story of the human spirit, but you walk away feeling weird — and even a bit guilty — that it was even made at all considering the sensitivity of the real-life event.

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Fences Film Review: Come For the Film, Stay For the Outstanding Performances

fences-excerptWith its dense dialogue and impassioned emotion, the Denzel Washington-directed drama stays contained, giving the audience a beautifully painted story that comes in waves of joy and agony about a complicated black man and his devoted wife and fractured relationship with his son in 1950s Pittsburgh.

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Collateral Beauty Film Review: An Instructional on What Not to do in Times of Trauma

collateral-beauty-excerptThere’s are many things wrong with the David Frankel-directed drama Collateral Beauty, with the main issue being that someone thought that this would actually be a movie worth making. The convoluted drama is so pandering and sure of itself that it makes you cringe with anger.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Film Review: The Force Grows Strong in the Standalone Saga

rogue-one-excerptDisney’s experiment of standalone Star Wars movies has commenced and wastes no time by hitting light speed with its first solo pic Rogue One. Despite some clunky story problems and gratuitous fan service that could have been left out, the side saga is an entertaining film in the Lucasfilm canon that is worthy of all the hyperspace glory.

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Why Him? Film Review: A Half-Baked Holiday Comedy That Tries Way Too Hard

why-him-excerptWhy Him? is a supposed to be a fusion of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Meet the Parents with a smattering of millennial flair. It sets itself up to meet the standards of the aforementioned comedies but obnoxiously fails with every passing minute of its overly long runtime.

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Hidden Figures Film Review: The Untold Story of Space & Race Adds Up to Cosmic Levels of Inspiration

hidden-figures-excerptHidden Figures is cut from the same cloth as Apollo 13 in terms of the iconic space race era but instead of focusing on the astronauts, it hones in on the brilliant minds responsible for one of NASA’s most historical launches. In this case, it was a trio of women — black women, at that. The film tells the historic untold story that reaches peak black girl magic long before the term “black girl magic” was coined.

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Office Christmas Party Film Review: An Excessive Holiday Romp That Fails to Sleigh

OCP-excerptWith its all-star cast and hilarious trailers, Office Christmas Party is supposed to be a fun, simple story about a party gone wild. Instead, it out to be a mess of plot points that weigh the movie down, making us ask, “Why did they have to include all of this crap?”

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Allied Film Review: An Overwhelmingly Average Tale of War, Espionage, & Romance

allied-excerptAdding elements of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, director Robert Zemeckis has packaged a stunning movie that has the glamorous and old fashioned sheen of classic Hollywood. Even though the art direction and costuming will make everyone swoon, the finely curated World War II “look” doesn’t make up for its overall dullness played out by two talented actors.

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Moana Film Review: A Music-filled Oceanic Adventure To Empower Us All

moana-excerptDisney’s latest continues their track record for subverting the “princess” template with an empowering tale of a young female leader who goes above and beyond their capabilities for the greater good of her family and community — and there isn’t a love interest in sight. But there is a Demi-God and two lovable animal sidekicks.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Film Review: Rowling’s Wizarding World Takes a Dark, Mature and Subversive Turn

fantastic-beasts-excerptFantastic Beasts meets the magical expectations of the Harry Potter franchise, but delivers nothing more or less. Instead of focusing on creating one epic introduction, director David Yates and screenwriter J.K. Rowling thoughtfully build a strong foundation that will open the door to a bigger and better story in the forthcoming Fantastic films.

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The Edge of Seventeen Film Review: A Refreshing Teen Movie of Irreverence and Cynical Delight

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEENKelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut starring Hailee Steinfeld falls under the seldom populated (as of late) category of the “R-rated teen movie” — but a teen movie, nonetheless. Even so, apologies have to go out to the cheerleaders, jocks, and popular kids of high school because this one isn’t for you. This is an entertaining treat for the alienated geeks and weirdos of the school.

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AFI Fest — “The Comedian” Struggles to be Interesting Throughout All the Laughter

1603022_CO_Comedy_Cellar_00446.CR2Everyone loves a comeback story and The Comedian has elements of that in its DNA but it doesn’t amount to anything worth grasping on to. Instead, it tells a very basic story with great actors doing what they do best amidst an uninteresting story about a stand-up comedian.

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AFI Fest — “Rules Don’t Apply” is a Lifeless Celebration of Hollywood Charm

rules-don-apply-excerptWhat is set up to be a charming film about a love triangle set during the heydays of Hollywood turns into an unfocused mess that not only aimlessly wanders about with no intent, but paints Hughes as a multi-layered caricature of madness and an obnoxious example of wealthy privilege.

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Trolls Film Review: A Colorful and Musical Animated Adventure That’s Easy to Forget

trolls-excerptDespite all the felt-laden decor, all-star voice cast, and very impressive tactile animation, Trolls is half-baked and basic. Besides planting an earwig of “True Colors” in your head, there’s nothing else in that movie that sticks.

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Inferno Film Review: Robert Langdon’s Latest Adventure Has Little Flicker in its Flame

inferno-excerptIf you like seeing Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones relentlessly running through the streets of Florence and, at the same time, quickly spewing out historical facts about Dante mythology, then Inferno will be a 121-minute party for you. As for the rest of you, the third installment is a spectacular movie — but the frantic and unfocused story leaves you burnt out.

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Doctor Strange Film Review: Marvel Astonishes with a New World of Mind-bending Mysticism

doctor-strange-excerptMarvel Studios steps into ambitious territory, opening a portal into a whole new world of magic, sorcery, and mysticism that would be elevated to levels of psychedelic proportions with the aid of hallucinogenics. It’s all stunning, complex, and… weird. That’s a good thing considering the movie is titled Doctor Strange.

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In a Valley of Violence Film Review: The Wild West Revenge Pic Isn’t Wild Enough

violence-excerptIndie horror denizen Ti West attempts to tackle the Western genre with In a Valley of Violence with Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, and Jumpy the dog leading the charge. Although a valiant effort as an homage to the genre, all the pieces of a classic western are there, but some of the pieces fit together better than others.

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The Handmaiden Film Review: Park Chan-wook Paints a Lurid & Lavish Romantic Masterpiece

the-handmaiden-excerptPark Chan-wook’s films have always been provocative, but with his latest, the celebrated Korean filmmaker brilliantly and beautifully elevates his brand of twisted storytelling by blending the tale of a con-artist with a secluded heiress for an erotically charged — and empowering — romance.

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KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES Review: The Boys Have All The Fun in This Action-Comedy

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

It’s been a very hit-or-miss year for comedies, but as pop culture pushes itself for more diverse depictions of women, Joneses takes a step back into formulaic territory. It’s a fun hour and a half, but you can’t help but feel writer Michael LeSieur and director Greg Mottola were holding back.

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The Girl on the Train Film Review: Emily Blunt is on the Right Track in This Pedestrian Thriller

girl-train-excerptSomewhere between Gone Girl and a legitimately captivating psychological crime thriller is The Girl on the Train. Not to say that this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel is a wreck, but it isn’t a runaway success either.

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Deepwater Horizon Film Review: Mark Wahlberg Real-Life Disaster Pic Could’ve Had a Bigger Impact

deep excerptPeter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon easily entertains, with the likeable presence of Mark Wahlberg, some lean and mean plotting, and of course, that big fiery wreck at the center of it all. Yet, there’s a nagging feeling that the disaster film, based on a true story, could have been a movie with more to say.

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Queen of Katwe Film Review: An Inspirational Disney Sports Movie Minus the White Savior

queen-of-katwe-excerptIt’s that time of year when the leaves fall, everything gets flavored with pumpkin spice, and Disney releases a sports movie to leave us inspired. Their latest, Queen of Katwe, carries the torch from its predecessors and tells an uplifting story about the real-life Ugandan chess marvel Phiona Mutesi. It’s an endearing win, but the biggest triumph is the long-delayed progressiveness for the Mouse House’s long legacy of sports movies.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children Film Review: Tim Burton Creates Another Visually Fantastic Bore

peregrine-excerptTim Burton’s movies have always been filled with a fantastically Goth quirkiness that bleeds through the screen with utter delight. But as of late, his Burton-isms are nothing but cosmetic distractions to his painfully dull movies — and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is the latest in his collection of lifeless pics.

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Bridget Jones’s Baby Film Review: Rom-Com Delivers Laughs and Entertainment

bridget excerpt12 years after Bridget Jones approached The Edge of Reason, Bridget Jones’s Baby delivers what fans of the franchise enjoy about the films, whilst refreshingly eschewing many of the clichés that plague other romantic comedies.

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“Blair Witch” is a Celebration of Adam Wingard Rather Than a Surprise Sequel of a Classic Horror

blair-witch-excerptLionsgate made a genius stealth marketing move by surprising the world with the sequel to the 1999 groundbreaking horror classic. Fanboys and fangirls were going crazy while diehards of the original were eating up the nostalgia, but it’s director Adam Wingard who comes out as the MVP from all of this.

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Snowden Film Review: Oliver Stone’s Latest Political Biopic Doesn’t Quite Hack It

Sacha_1633.NEF Snowden is a decent film that applies typical Oliver Stone elements of distrust and paranoia to the red hot topic of surveillance and privacy in the modern age. But if you’re looking for a truly compelling film about America’s most controversial whistleblower, watch Citizen Four.

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14 Film Reviews From TIFF 2016

la-la-land-excerptThe Toronto International Film Festival kicked off on September 8 and our resident film reviewer Dino-Ray Ramos hit the ground running, catching over a dozen screenings of some of this year’s most talked aboot titles at TIFF.

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TIFF — Natalie Portman is Phenomenal in Pablo Larrain’s Finely Crafted Biopic “Jackie”

jackie-excerptThe Academy Award-winning actress is set for a wave of nominations with this astonishingly nuanced portrayal of the former First Lady. There have been many “Jackies” in TV and film, but none like Natalie Portman’s.

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TIFF — Awards Bait Musical “La La Land” Is An Enchanting Instant Classic

LLL d 29 _5194.NEFDamien Chazelle’s movie musical La La Land balances levity and humor with auteur-grade filmmaking for an incredibly enchanting movie-going experience that will put a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step.

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