Posts tagged Movie review
DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

The adjectives "titan" and "humble" are not commonly found together.  Famed television producer Norman Lear is an iconoclast in every way.  His successful shows and the waves they created are forever chiseled into that industry.  Away from the his seat as a creative czar, the man remained a hard-working and vigilant self-made man of activism and integrity.  In his 90s, Lear has crossed unimaginable measures of impact and history.  The new documentary "Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" stylishly chronicles his vast contributions.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Free State of Jones

Since Hollywood has become a hit-generating factory more than a garden of artistry and truth, a historical drama film like “Free State of Jones” only has to raise its barometer to a midpoint of “good enough.”  That is because there is nearly unwinnable tug-of-war of disservice between history lessons and entertainment value, especially when your poster reads “based on a true story.”  Veer away from the facts too far with dramatic license and the film becomes disingenuous.  Veer too close to history without cinematic flashiness and no one will pay to see it.  “Free State of Jones” falls somewhere in the middle of that mud pit.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Family Fang

The core of the dysfunctional family at the center of Jason Bateman's "The Family Fang" invokes a particular curiosity.  Do weird parents raise and make weird children?  Name your odd occupation and examine that question yourself.  For example, what are the kids of two circus clown parents like?  Do they grow up with the same sense of humor or performance?  Do they relish that irregular environment because that was their preeminent example or do they rebel and long for something more typically normal?

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ADVANCE MOVIE REVIEW: Deadpool

If you are not a die-hard geek or comic book fan, there's a chance you've never heard of "Deadpool."  After this Presidents' Day/Valentine's Day holiday weekend, you will never forget him.  Take all of the pathos, mythology, gravitas, nobility, and world-rescuing heroism have you come to expect from a superhero film, throw them out the window, and light them on fire.  "Deadpool" is the most red-faced and side-splitting movie of the comic genre to date.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

By tackling the subject of cancer and doing so in the guise of a quirky high school comedy, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" stands out as proof that a movie can be earnest and humorous at the same time.  It can be understated in one moment and then completely outgoing the next.  It is a film that can feel facetious and yet still be profound.  It takes the modern high school setting that is deliberately riddled with innate tropes, stereotypes, and cliches and masterfully steers around every single one of them to offer you something smart, touching, and, most of all, original.  That is no small feat and something to stand up and celebrate.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Jurassic World

Spectacle defines "Jurassic World" perfectly.  Just as the dictionary definition states, the blockbuster is unusual, notable, and entertaining in an eye-catching, dramatic, and very public way.  It is loud and dumb, but, hot damn, it sure is fun.  More discerning tastes will definitely gravitate to the "object of curiosity and contempt" version of the definition and they wouldn't be wrong in doing so.  In the end, the simple definitions seal "Jurassic World" too.  It is an very impressive monster movie and it will indeed attract attention and shock.

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OVERDUE REVIEW: Woman in Gold

In a new subset of movie reviews on my main website, I am circling back to see and review reasonably recent films that I either missed during their main theatrical runs or saw later then their window of mainstream prominence.  As a guy with a traveling day job and a new father of "two-under-two," I can't see everything every week and I have to choose my spots to head out to the theater.  These are my educational-themed "OVERDUE REVIEWS" and the life lessons are still in full effect.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Good Kill

Technology may change in warfare but what doesn't change are the human themes.  The dramas, successes, fears, and results of victories and failures still apply, only the scope and scale has changed.  "Good Kill," the new film written and directed by Andrew Niccol, typifies that signature human impact of war.  Reunited with his "Gattaca" muse Ethan Hawke, Niccol delivers a very timely and provocative slow boiler with a great deal to say about the current modern state of warfare.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Salvation

American Westerns have become a lost art and a dying breed.  So much has been done that it's hard to find a fresh take.  If you have felt that loss and need a jolt, an extremely taut and good homage to the American Western has emerged in "The Salvation," playing now in limited release and Video on Demand, from Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring.  Headlined by Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Jonathan Pryce, the film moved the needle a bit during the 2014 film festival circuit, including a pair of screenings at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival last October (where yours truly caught the ride).

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Theory of Everything

"The Theory of Everything" elected for the safe side of risk as a biographical film.  Adapted from "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen," the memoirs of Jane Wilde Hawking, the first wife of renowned theoretical physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, by New Zealand playwright Anthony McCarten, the film is the second feature effort from Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker James Marsh ("Man on Wire").  To its credit, "The Theory of Everything" takes decidedly different route than one would expect from a documentarian telling the life story of a world-famous scientist.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Still Alice

If you haven't heard of "Still Alice," I advise you to trust this spoiler-free review and skip the trailer entirely.  It's a beautiful preview, but it skews context, tips its hand, and gives away far too much.  Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by neuroscientist and writer Lisa Genova, "Still Alice" was first adapted as a stage play at the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago in 2013.  The directing and writing team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland crafted it into a feature film.  "Still Alice" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and has increased facial tissue sales ever since with a full release still to come.  Learn the gist from here and let the film unfold before you.

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ADVANCE MOVIE REVIEW: American Sniper

Go right now to YouTube and play the trailer for "American Sniper."  First and foremost, THAT'S how you do a trailer.  That's how you tease a film, still name drop who you need to, and set the stage without giving a shred of your film away.  Second, after watching it, tell me you were surprised to see a name like Clint Eastwood's attached to a film with that kind of setting and tension.  You wouldn't be alone.  In many ways, "American Sniper" is new territory for Clint Eastwood will still retaining his signature hallmark of grit and heart.

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ADVANCE MOVIE REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

With the arrival of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," we have made it to the payoff.  This big story gets its ending, its tidy bow, and its cherry-on-top.  Even if you think the movie studio was milking you for three movie tickets over three years out of a book that probably could have fit into a single film, you now get to see your patience rewarded and your virtue justified.  You will realize it was worth it.  You will feel like you stuck around to see "Superman" save the world, you survived the walk down those basement stairs in "Psycho," and you partied with the Ewoks and spirit Jedis in "Star Wars."  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Foxcatcher

"Foxcatcher" was a passion project for Bennett Miller that he immersed himself into for over two years since 2012.  He spent the better part of 2013 and 2014 solely editing this very meticulous film.  What results, in my opinion, is a flawed sculpture where the artist spent so much time whittling over the immensity of the project and its details that he lost sight what the piece represented.  Without a doubt, the effort and the talent is there in front of and behind the camera, but, somewhere, this film drowned itself out and lost the core of what really mattered.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Birdman

When Keaton's perfection is combined with the film's bracing, topical, and strong social commentary on Hollywood, Broadway, acting, fame, and celebrity for this different modern world, "Birdman" becomes even larger of an achievement for Mexican director and Academy Award nominee Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  Subtitled "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," this new film will earn a high place on many year-end lists for one of the year's best.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Tracks

In 1977, a single woman named Robyn Davidson, along with her dog and four camels, decided to trek on foot across that barren desert landscape from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean.  The route was over 1,700 miles and would be about the equivalent of walking from Omaha, Nebraska to the Pacific Ocean.  In this country, that's a matter of following a few highways and crossing all sorts of populated areas.  In Australia, that journey is unmarked, dangerous, isolated, and devoid of almost any human help or settlement.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Skeleton Twins

Thanks to their outstanding careers on "Saturday Night Live," Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are completely recognized, celebrated, and even typecast as total comedic performers.  We've never seen them do real drama until "The Skeleton Twins."  The success of your like or dislike of the film will come from your desire to either want more comedy or not believe the drama.

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ADVANCE GUEST CRITIC: The Judge

As busy I get from time to time, I find that I can't see every movie under the sun, leaving my friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks for me.  As poetically as I think I wax about movies on this website as a wannabe critic, sometimes a simple sentence or two from a friend says it all.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle's go-to movie guy.  Sometimes, they save me $9 and you 800+ words of blathering.  In a new review series, I'm opening my site to friend submissions for quick-hit movie reviews.

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