MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Throw out all of the Star Wars fan theories you’ve read or heard in the last two years.  Ignore all of the online noise and irresponsible think piece editorials that have piled up on the web since Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Most importantly, relinquish whatever warped and selfish expectations that have been formulated by the blitz of marketing buzz.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes its mountain of hype and shoves it away to make something nonconformist and wholly compelling in quite possibly the richest and most expressive entry of the storied franchise.

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INFOGRAPHIC: Best Films About Finance

From Oliver Stone’s epic Wall Street to the hilarious Trading Places and the Scorcese hit The Wolf of Wall Street, the topic of finance has inspired many a classic film. Courtesy of ABCFinance, find a handy infographic of 10 Best Films about Finance below. We’ve also analyzed the books to discover how well each film did at the box office, compared to their monetary budget. In the film world of finance, alongside tales of highs, lows, and even humor, there’s definitely some money to be made!

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INFOGRAPHIC: Movie Nightmares

Do you remember those nights when you were younger, utterly terrified by what’s on screen but unable to turn away? And then afterward, having to get into bed, alone and wary of whatever might be lurking in the gloom. Courtesy of Mattress Online, here are an infographic list of top movie nightmares, films that still creep into our consciousness years later, and more than any others, have stopped us from falling asleep.

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20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The best of the rest of 1997

In a new annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year. Partly taking my film critic hat off and adjusting the collar on my fanboy shirt, these next lists follow my “10 Best” list from 1997 with more categories of distinction and remembrance.

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20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The 10 Best of 1997

In a new annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year.  Twenty years ago, I graduated high school in 1997 and the movie milestones matched the personal ones for me.  Here's my list of the best of 1997.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour and Gary Oldman exhibit tremendous fight to match the vigor of the era.  The film builds its mounting prospects of calamity and clashes of dissension with polish and gumption, avoiding many of the dull notes normally saddling most other behind-the-war-room yak-fest.  The screenplay shrewdly skips laborious biographical notes and tautly fixates primarily on the two weeks of debate leading up to Operation Dynamo

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Shape of Water

Soaringly endearing elements of romance enrapture with a heading spoonful of the perverse for good measure.  Fantastical triumphs of mortal spirit over evil forces are applied to inhuman oddities with jarringly violent consequences.  This is a film of stark peculiarity that challenges your safe zones and clashes with your sense of normalcy for the themes at play.  It asks you to relish in an abnormal spectacle that dazzles with vintage style and extraordinary boldness.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s new film puts prickly in the pastoral glazing its country charm with absolute acid every chance it gets.  Part stern crime drama and part small-town chicanery, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri displays the next level of McDonagh’s talent and potential.  Always the sharp storyteller since his roots on the Irish stage, McDonagh’s writing prowess elevates a premise that would fall flat as pure farce in other hands

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mercury in Retrograde

Michael Glover Smith’s words of mounting depth and weight turn idle chatter into soapboxes that eventually become proverbial fortifications built around questioned principles and shattered wills.  The ensemble of performers delivers on the required heavy lifting from the director to make the multitude of human flaws believable yet still approachable.  Mercury in Retrograde is a hidden gem.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Family, friends, coffee, a dog’s love, your favorite blue jeans, J.D. Power-award winning cars, ice cream, a warm blanket, duct tape, God, and Denzel Washington.  That’s the absolute list of the most dependable and reliable things in this world.  The soon-to-be 63-year-old two-time Academy Award winner never gives a bad performance and employs a focus on each role that is second to none.  Cloaked inside a frumpy legal savant, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is another exemplary piece of evidence to this man’s range, focus, and presence.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Coco

Wait until the rest of Coco’s stirring vibrancy awakens even more senses and heartstrings.  Softening a setting of gallows humor as few films have, family entries or otherwise, Coco is a divine representation of the human condition rooted respectfully within marvelous cultural heritage.  Nearly every pluck of an animated guitar string in Coco strums chords of creativity and compassion.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "E-Man's Movie Reviews" podcast for "Justice League"

Emmanuel Noisette of the newly updated E-Man's Movie Reviews called for a wingman on a team-up movie.  He was kind enough to invite me to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson on  a recorded SPOILER-FILLED podcast of our immediate reactions after watching the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon concoction of Justice League.  We sit down and discuss what we saw, what we liked, and didn't like.

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GUEST CRITICS #27: A Bad Mom's Christmas

In a return engagement for a zany sequel, Every Movie Has a Lesson welcomes back the four fine ladies and working moms of the "TTC" (Terrific Teacher Committee).  Say hello again to Donna Ferretti, Kelly Johnson, Manda Torres, and my own wife, Mrs. Thanh Shanahan, the purveyor of this website's "Pillow Rankings" section.  Sixteen months ago, they reviewed Bad Moms on this website as "Guest Critics."  

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "Kicking the Seat" podcast talking "Justice League"

This past week, I was cordially invited and honored to join a panel on the "Kicking the Seat" podcast hosted by Ian Simmons.  As always, Ian is joined by his regular wingman David Fowlie of Keeping it Reel.  We left a seat warm for mutual friend Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man's Movie Reviews, but he couldn't make it.  Ian, David, and I have talked comic book movies before, so it was only proper to get together for Justice League.

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STUDENT-FRIENDLY MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder

I do my best to write professional grade film criticism fit for a formal audience, becoming best friends with a thesaurus and using my big boy words.  By day, I'm an elementary school educator.  At work this year, I've been organizing a special field trip for 5th graders to see Wonder after they've been reading the novel all fall.  This second "student-friendly" movie review is for them and other younger readers.  Revised, this review scales down my review down from an 11.6 Flesch Kincaid readability level to a comfy 4.4 average.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder

Wonder’s buoyant messages are the moving jolt of empathy this generation needs.  Even better, its literal and figurative precepts carry an inspiring weight worthy to last many generations more.  Directed by the good hands of Stephen Chbosky, Wonder is an instant classic, sure to become a new favorite, for its target audience and a winning (and rare) example of a film taking great care to do justice by the book it is based on.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Justice League

Justice League comes across like attempted course correction done on that Etch-a-Sketch.  The artist, or artists in this case, are trying to retrace old paths and smooth over past missteps with redrawn swirls, lighter hues, and a fluffy cover-up we call comedy.  That effort on the cinematic Etch-a-Sketch indeed changes the initial picture, but only after unnecessarily tedious effort and some remaining messy results.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lady Bird

In her solo feature directorial debut, Greta Gerwig has stepped in and pushed this cinematic species tremendously forward with the dramedy Lady Bird.  The film destroys any notion of the “manic pixie dream girl” fakery.  Lady Bird is a cornucopia woven with striking candor and filled with delightful oxymorons artfully composed to challenge taboos and stereotypes. Let’s give each oxymoron a life lesson and a paragraph or two along the way.

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