Posts in 3 STARS
MOVIE REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe

Far rarer than they used to be twenty-plus years ago, easy and breezy flicks like Always Be My Maybe from Netflix remind us the traditional romantic comedy is alive and well. Best of all, the nostalgia present in today’s artists from growing up during that 1990s heyday are now making their own movies with their own lens. Smash hit stand-up comedienne Ali Wong and the ever-affable Randall Park of Fresh Off the Boat fame are clearly two of those people. Affectionately blending their own societal zest from their place in America’s Melting Pot, Wong and Park bring new voices as a genius comic pairing. Much of the method of Always Be My Maybe may be routine, but the resulting charm is unfailingly welcome.

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MOVIE REVIEW: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

War set to a rate-of-fire beat of melee lead and breaking bones is indeed what you’re getting with John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. Springboarding from its increasing success, one could say the movie stylishly assaults your senses with its own creative focus, commitment, and will behind the camera to match the stoic Keanu Reeves protagonist in front if it. Swelling enough from its redundancies, this symphony of gunpowder and gumption will satiate your summer thrills just fine.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Penguins

Penguins represents the combined work of over a dozen cinematographers documenting the miraculous and treacherous annual life cycle of the Adelie penguins of Antarctica. The two directors sought to give this circle of life character. That’s where the affable Ed Helms comes in as a narrator. He provides color commentary as “Steve,” one such Adelie penguin who is a first-time father for this annual journey. High and low, dry and wet, close and far, and through every blizzard in between, Penguins presents this apprehensive newbie with education and entertainment combined together.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Trained

The opening scene of filmmaker Yuri Rutman’s spare yet sizzling short film tantalizingly begs many questions. What kind of couple are we witnessing? What triggers provoke this passion? A montage follows to show that this wild escapade is not the first time the hearts and loins of these two people have been electrified around the rails of public transportation. This is Jake and Emma, and they are tragically intoxicated by two different things at the expense of each other.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Breakthrough

Too often nowadays in our headline-seeking and attention-starved society, that first definition of “miracle” is stretched and overused to the point of hyperbole, right there next to other words like “epic” and “masterpiece.” There are places where effectiveness has been lost. That second definition calling for divine intervention is a doozy. It calls for higher piety. Well, good believers love divine challenges and so does this Breakthrough starring Chrissy Metz.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Public

The number of debated points in The Public outnumber the aisles and stacks. On one hand, that crowding creates an involving and intriguing machine of tied fates and a roundtable forum sampler for the viewer. On the other, that same populated weight does make the film saturated with many bouncing tangents of rhetoric, not all of which mesh fluidly. Nevertheless, the debate balance of this brouhaha of hubris and sentiment favors the rightly idealized and positive. The Public makes a worthy stump speech for its checklist of modest societal issues.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Dumbo

During this continuing trend of Disney live-action “reimaginings,” one that shows no sign of stopping, fulfillment is an adulation not often realized by these newfangled and amplified tentpoles.  Improvement is another lost reward. Audiences constantly question the values of duplicated enjoyment or tangible purpose for needing anything new and shiny made from something that worked just that way it was intended decades ago.  With Tim Burton’s ambitious Dumbo, we fortunately get both.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Finding Steve McQueen

Finding Steve McQueen carries the boasting superlatives of the detailing the “largest bank heist in U.S. history” and, according to director Mark Steven Johnson, one of “the greatest stories never told.” Don’t expect a film of that kind of scope and size. This is a big crime orchestrated by small people who think they are bigger than they really are. The year is 1972 and the illegal act is the United California Bank Robbery.

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MOVIE REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

One of the most exceptional qualities of the How to Train Your Dragon films are their undaunted sense of encouragement. Too many animated film entries targeted to kids are dominated by crass and crude humor. We may laugh, but we don’t grow. This hit franchise always achieves the latter in splendid fashion. Through its motivating attitude, rich pathos, and indomitable spirit, the final chapter of How to Train Your Dragon celebrates the substance that has made this series triumph.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Fighting with My Family

The new film Fighting with My Family drops the perfect gem of a “soap opera in spandex” and has characters describe themselves as “riddled with wrestling” like an addiction. The fitting melodrama is as ripped as the muscles being flexed. Stephen Merchant’s film borrows and mashes together two tried-and-true movie formulas to tell a very engaging true story of one of their superstars, Sariya-Jade Bevis, better known as Paige.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Then Came You

Peter Hutchings’ comedy Then Came You presents romance entangled by terminal illness. That topic seeped in gallows humor is far from new territory, meaning this is not a very deep film. Then Came You doesn’t have to be a message-thumping torchbearer for anything. Instead, it is squarely comfortable with its pile of pluck and parade of quirks. There’s a place for an easy film like this. Why? Look no further than those qualities of personality and earnestness. Everything difficult and rough is softened by cheeky and easy charm.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Perfect Strangers (Perfectos Desconocidos)

The poster for the Mexican remake Perfectos Desconocidos glows with affluence.  We see a richly appointed dinner party scene flush with refinement from edge to edge across fashions, place settings, and the flowing wine.  What intentionally glows the brightest on the poster is the statement “We all have a secret life.” It symbolically shows materialistic beauty undone by the blunt intrusion of technology. Thematically, that tagline statement is the lightning bolt of tension that charges this entire film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Vice

With more dismissive scowls than joking winks, thinly veiled outrage outweighs the drink-clinking humor in Adam McKay’s film presenting a biography of one of the least favored men in American political history. Hazy in some moments, hasty in others, and always provocative, Vice is easily the most polarizing film of the year. The movie is not unlike Cheney’s own aim with a shotgun, hitting and missing plenty with occasional collateral damage.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Bumblebee

Plenty of loud-and-dumb still comes out of Bumblebee, but at least the pompous hubris and sophomoric fixations that fuel it are exchanged for those three missing elements of tone, character, and heart. The charming zeal of this revisionist prequel stands as the beacon signal to welcome back those who wrote this series off (including this very writer) years ago.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Outlaw King

Filmmaker David Mackenzie’s strapping Netflix epic Outlaw King starts with prologue notes surrounding the glowing heat of a single candle in close-up. The flickering warmth is inviting and a tone of liberating light coming out of darkness is set to parallel the recreated history that will follow. But how much heat can one candle emit? Try as it may, no matter what measures of warm blood and sweaty brawn is infused into Outlaw King, it is very difficult to find or create sizzle out of something balmy.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Silencio

Within in the 98 minutes of Silencio, this little dual-language flick accomplishes what few high concept indie films have been able to achieve with their wildly audacious ideas. It builds a bridge, not a wide and sturdy one, mind you, but a successful structure nonetheless, from the nonsensical to the profound. That is a normally a huge canyon of belief and consideration to cross.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Loving Pablo

The overarching challenge remains making romance out of a villain, enough to soften the depravity of the historical truth. Matching Vallejo’s own findings, Loving Pablo defines that Escobar’s darkness cannot be diluted, making much of this film a difficult and treacherous viewing experience. To its great credit, the merciless edge of Loving Pablo rejects forced cinematic sugar-coating overused in other crime films to romanticize its leviathans.

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