The Circle is one of the most disappointing movies of 2017.
This lackluster film hit the theaters a few weeks back and while it assembles an impressive cast (Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan and Ellar Coltrane), nevertheless; The Circle is not able to overcome its half-hearted themes. We follow a woman (Watson) who lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover a nefarious agenda that will affect the lives of her friends, family and that of humanity. The film floats an intriguing premise, but lands it with a gigantic thud. Actor’s Hanks and Watson failed to overcome director James Ponsoldt’s (The Spectacular Now) botched direction. This so-called technology thriller ends up being a sloppy mess with ham-fisted finishing touches. The future is scary, but The Circle is not…
The Circle is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use.
Get Out is a social critique that's laced with racial tension and packaged in a horror/comedy duo. It’s the best film of 2017 thus far.
I know that I’m late to the party, but Get Out is a thought-provoking thrill ride seamlessly weaved through the mastermind of Jordan Peele (Key & Peele). Peele’s directorial debut could go into the books as one of the most successful first tries ever achieved on film. Get Out will have your heart pumping with your hands on the edge of your seat from the first frame until the last. Spiraling around the story of a young African-American man (the terrific Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (a wonderful Allison Williams) mysterious family estate. Peele unleashes racial paranoia in an effective horror/comedy mash-up.
Get Out not only parallels real world events, but also captures the fears of what real black men and women face every single day. In my opinion, Peele’s first film receives all 5 stars for its sheer brilliance in writing, acting and directing. Get Out’s scarefest will surely leave viewers shaken and stirred. A searing satire that's scary enough on its own terms. In a twist, Get Out finds its tension in black people's fear of white people's fear of black people. Furthermore, I’ll let you enjoy the rest of this madness on your own.
Get Out is rated R (Restricted). For violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
Kong: Skull Island is eye candy grandeur, filled with the nostalgia of the ‘70s and classic rock 'n' roll hits.
You’ve seen this all before, but Kong continues to show us why he’s still “king of the jungle.” In Kong: Skull Island, we get a fast-paced story fueled with more monster mythos. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (The Kings of Summer) newest incantation of the mighty ape never lives up to the original classic. Yet again, this version of Kong never tries to. Vogt-Roberts pumps the story full of homage to past war films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.
Backed by the film's anti-war message, cheeky dialogue and a soundtrack to die for, you’re in for an adventure. Kong's rockin’ tracklist consists of songs like: "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "Time Has Come Today", "White Rabbit", "Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress", "Down On the Street", "Paranoid", "Bad Moon Rising" and “Run Through the Jungle.” Vogt-Roberts also grabs a stellar cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly. Kong: Skull Island is an action-packed fest full of brainless fun. Brewed with vivid portraits of the Vietnam era, this Kong packs in a punch and delivers a blow.
Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.
Let the magic begin! Beauty and the Beast has stormed to theaters with a force of heart, nostalgia and new faces. Your invitation awaits here, while we return back to the castle as familiar guests.
You’ve seen this all before, nevertheless; a “Tale As Old As Time” continues its legacy as the magical gem it has come to know and be. Like clockwork, Disney continues their effort to remake all of their original animated classics into live-action features. Over the years, there have been highs (Cinderella and The Jungle Book) and there have been lows (Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent) with the remakes. Luckily, director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls and Mr. Holmes) retelling of the tale comes out as a high. Condon doesn’t overdo it with the CGI here and instead focuses more on the musical score and character development in this newest adaption.
The little ones will be widely entertained for the full 129 minutes, as will the adults. Now, of course, the live-action remake will never succeed the heights of the original animated classic that soared to theaters over 25 years ago. Back in 1991, the animated version broke a record with begin the first and only animated film to receive a Best Picture nomination. The film also won two Oscars for Best Music, Original Song and Best Music, Original Score. Likewise, 2017’s live-action remake has broken five box office records over its opening weekend. This includes: top domestic opening of all time for a film rated PG, No. 7 launch of all time for any movie, biggest debut of all time for a female-fueled film, biggest domestic bow in almost a year and biggest opening for this genre of Disney live-action remakes.
Condon’s film has already taken in $750 million worldwide and is currently eyeing the billion-dollar club. But enough talk about records, let’s shift our focus to the music and performances. No doubt, that the musical score transcribed wonderfully over and I am pleased to say that all of the performances done by the cast (live and voice) did an outstanding job. While Emma Watson’s Belle is no Paige O'Hara, fear not; Watson continued to show us her fierceness and the range of her singing chops. Dan Stevens (former Downtown Abbey star) does a fantastic job fitting into the beast’s shoes. I saw a lot of “Matthew Crawley” mannerisms expressed in Stevens' emotions throughout.
Josh Gad plays a quirky/gleeful LeFou (no controversy here), while Luke Evans steals the show as the egotistical Gaston. Evans’ version of Gaston was spot on and his acclaimed performance stole the spotlight for me in almost every frame. Lastly, the voice cast (Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci) filled in the rest of the cracks for the film. Their voices were flawless as the cursed furniture wooing Belle with “Best Our Guest” and many more delightful songs.
The visuals will stun you, as will the costume design full of piazza and wonder. Beauty and the Beast may fault on familiarity, but it’s one that offers a faithful retelling to the beloved source of material. The enchanting cast with beautifully crafted songs are a glitter to one’s eye. Song likes “Belle", "Gaston", "Be Our Guest", "How Does a Moment Last Forever", and "Evermore" will steal your heart to the very last beat. In the end, Beauty and the Beast’s re-invitation has been well received.
Beauty and the Beast is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some action, violence, peril, and frightening images.
At Last, we have finally reached Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the claw-shredding hero. In Logan, we get that final goodbye helmed through blood, sweat and tears.
Jackman returns in a final outing as a beaten and bruised Logan wondering the deep south in 2029. This near future dystopian gives us a glimpse in the mutant barren world, as we follow Logan (the never better Jackman) and Professor Charles Xavier (the mesmerizing sir Patrick Stewart). Logan’s claws don’t work like they use to and his healing powers are getting slower by the minute. While, Charles has grown older and wearier in his telepathic abilities.
Charles is also suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which is making his telepathy ever more dangerous. Make no mistake, Logan will tear through your heart and bring tears to your eyes as we see our beloved heroes pain be revealed on screen. Earning every right of a hard 'R' rating, Logan is a bloody, brutal and bleak depiction of life. Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine) returns for the third chapter in The Wolverine series, delivering a grand superhero experience that redefines the genre.
Loosely inspired by the Old Man Logan comics, Mangold’s movie feels more like a superior western film, filled at the center with heart and soul. As we continue in isolation, Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban (a fantastic Stephen Merchant) and an ailing Charles. But Logan's legacy abruptly ends when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request--that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl (newcomer Dafne Keen) to safety. The plot then sets the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.
As many ups and downs that the X-Men franchise has been through in the last 17 years, Logan marks as a franchise high for the series. It’s the most real, raw and brutal force superhero film you’ll seen on the big screen. The dialogue is crisp and the action is razor sharp. Emotions running deep through your veins, director Mangold’s film plays like a road-western high running off into the sunset. Hugh Jackman came, saw and conquered the man with claws right down to the very last frame. Sadly, like every hero realizes their time is short and all have an end. In Logan, we get just that and a fulfilling conclusion to the Wolverine.
Logan is rated R (Restricted). For strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.
John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the series winning streak of more gut-punching fun.
Full of thrilling non-stop action and grand choreographed fight scenes, John Wick: Chapter 2 comes to the theaters with a bang! Director Chad Stahelski (John Wick) returns to the director’s chair for another explosive outing. Alongside him is actor Keanu Reeves who plays Wick and has never been better. Legendary hitman Wick (the fantastic Reeves) is forced back out of retirement by a former associate, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), plotting to seize control of an underground international assassins' guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome to square off with some of the world’s deadliest killers. John Wick: Chapter 2 does what any action sequel should, double down on the escapism and fuel it with stylized violence. In the end, Wick is here to stay and will have every action junkie out there applauding by the very last frame.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is rated R (Restricted). for strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity.
And the Oscar goes to...
"My reaction to the Oscars snafu from last night. Through all of the confusion, I believe that Moonlight and La La Land still came out on top. La La Land took home six Oscars, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle.
Chazelle also made history last night by becoming the youngest director to win an Oscar at age 32. Moonlight also shined brightly by taking home three Oscars, including Best Picture. Mahershala Ali also became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. Both films have proven time-over-time this season that they were worthy of winning these top awards.
Shout out to some major class to Producer Jordan Horowitz, who showed grace and kindness to the Moonlight team. Horowitz also handled the weary siltation very well as did the rest of the teams for La La Land and Moonlight.
Jimmy Kimmel added humor to an awkward moment and you could tell that Warren Beatty genuinely felt bad for the Oscars mistake. Human error happens, but unfortunately it embarrassed La La Land, while also putting a damper on Moonlight from getting their raw moment of glory.
Nevertheless, both films took home top honors and both represent a different kind of art to the films. La La Land brought back a dying genre of original musicals to Old Hollywood, while Moonlight shined a light on important stories too rarely seen in cinema. Both need to be seen by the masses and both will go down as new American Classics." - Arnold At The Movies.
Jackie is like portraits of glamorous trauma seeping through the paint.
After witnessing one of the craziest Oscars experiences in recent memory from last night, Moonlight and La La Land are surely still be buzzing in everyone’s head. But lets not forget some of the other potent films from this season, one of them being Jackie. Only nominated for three Oscars, Jackie failed to take home a single award from last night. However, director Pablo Larraín’s (No) film was one of the best from 2016. Jackie will visually and symphonically haunt you by the end of its cut throat montage. The film looks through the eyes of Mrs. Kennedy (Natalie Portman) herself. Portman gives the role of the lifetime as she fully transforms herself into the First Lady in red. It's a stunning and refreshing depiction from a woman's prospective.
Jackie is rated R (Restricted). For brief strong violence and some language.
Moana’s tap-dancing numbers, lush animation and three-dimensional characters will draw you into Disney’s latest Oscar nominated hit.
Moana takes a fresh look on the family-friendly genre, fueled with girl power throughout. In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (voiced by a fantastic Dwayne Johnson) reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, Moana (voiced by a magnificent Auli'i Cravalho) answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right. Nominated for two Oscars, Best Animated Film and Original Song – “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana’s rich narrative and unforgettable journey is all the more rewarding. While, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s soundtrack helps blend the stories oceanic myths to its full potential. Singing from beginning until end, you’ll fall in love with everything about Moana.
Moana is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.
La La Land is, hands down, the movie of the year! It's sheer perfection as it refuels a dying genre. It's my favorite film of 2016.
I'm a sucker when it comes to musicals, but La La Land will sweep you off your feet with its music, dance numbers, performances, direction and vivid beauty. The film pays tremendous homage to past musicals such as Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951), Mary Poppins (1964) and West Side Story (1961), applauding their past perfections in every way. Breathing new life into a bygone genre, writer and director Damien Chazelle’s (The Oscar winning film Whiplash) original musical is the reason why we go to the movies. La La Land’s irresistible tap-dance numbers will have the audience singing from beginning until end.
The movie event of the year has finally arrived and it proved so by winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director - Motion Picture, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Ryan Gosling), Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Emma Stone), Best Original Score and Best Original Song (City of Stars). La La Land tells the simple story of Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in the city of stars. This original musical will explore the everyday life of joy and pain, while pursing your dreams.
These grand musical numbers that composer Justin Hurwitz orchestrates include Another Day of Sun, Someone in the Crowd, A Lovely Night, City of Stars, Planetarium and Audition (The Fools Who Dream). Gosling and Stone’s chemistry radiates throughout the film as we see their love and heartbreaks as passionate artist. Gosling has never been better and Stone is magnificent has she showcases her acting chops. Tapping my toes while I watched this enchanting picture will bring out the very best in you. I guarantee it.
Movies like this don’t come around very often and La La Land is a movie worth cheering for. Simply wonderful, this all around crowd-pleaser deservers all five stars. Filled with nostalgia and a rhapsody of love, La La Land is the film to beat this Oscars season. Chazelle was a born to be a filmmaker as he draws you in with its moonstruck romance. La La Land is a throwback to the Golden Age of musicals as it takes love and turns it into bittersweet moments. I’ve already seen this masterpiece twice now and I can’t wait to see it again. “The city of stars has never shined so brightly."
La La Land is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some language.
Marvel continues to artfully balance its universe stuffed of superheroes with strong visuals, great performances and breathtaking action sequences.
Directed Scott Derrickson (Sinister) continues the MCU’s reign of hero power that started back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Derrickson brings a list of A-class actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benedict Wong) to the table supported with smart writing and wondrous special effects. In the bargain, we get yet another origins story but that’s okay because it helps the audience emotional establish and connect with their protagonist. This is something the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad) has been failing at since the dreary days of 2013.
Our story begins with a disgraced former surgeon named Stephen Strange (The never better Cumberbatch), who becomes a powerful sorcerer under the guardianship of a mystic force known as the Ancient One (a fantastic Swinton). Also addressing the controversy around whitewashing the Ancient One, Derrickson felt that the Ancient One was more of a title rather than a person. Additionally, this was also intended to avoid the risk of portraying any negative racial stereotypes, as the appearance of the Ancient One in the comics is based around the Tibetan Monks. So with Derrickson changing the character to avoid controversy he still received some controversy.
Nevertheless, Swinton gives us a smashing performance as the powerful sorcerer from beginning until end. Actors McAdams, Mikkelsen, and Ejiofor also help support the leads with their wit and brawn throughout the film. Doctor Strange delivers proud MCU entertainment throughout and gives the audience a sneak peak of more to follow. It has been confirmed that Strange will be in Thor: Ragnarok coming out this fall. This will be even more of a treat to see Chris Hemsworth and Cumberbatch’s chemistry working together on screen. Doctor Strange is grand popcorn entertainment infused with eye-popping effects and geek boy thrills. In a year filled with multiple superhero films, Doctor Strange comes out on top.
Doctor Strange is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.
Delivering one of the most real dramas of 2016 filled with full-bodied characters, Manchester by the Sea will destroy your heart and soul.
When watching Manchester by the Sea, director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me and Margaret) will open a volt to your insecurities about life, love and loss. It’s a film so emotionally raw that you’ll be weeping like a sad puppy by the end. Boldly confidant, Lonergan absorbs the struggle of losing someone dear to your heart in this fallen world and at the center of it all is actor Casey Affleck. Affleck gives us one of his most painstaking performances to-date as a heart-sicken man recovering after the sudden death of his older brother Joe (a terrific Kyle Chandler).
Lee (Affleck) also comes into more shock when he finds out that Joe made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Newcomer Hedges gives us a tor de force performance of a son dealing will grief and adjustment to life after the death of his father. Patrick is a spirited 16-year-old forced to tackle the past and his father’s legacy. One of the most tear-jerking moments comes when Patrick realizes that his father can’t be buried until the spring because of the extremely cold winters up in Massachusetts. This leads Patrick to have a mental breakdown in the kitchen when frozen food falls out of the freezer and onto the floor.
Your heart will break for Patrick by relating to a moment in time when we all felt at our most vulnerable. Lee also has his demons still haunting him in Manchester-by-the-Sea (the town), which brings up old memories and heartaches. While there, Lee runs into his ex-wife Randi (a powerful Michelle Williams) who tries to let bygones be bygones with Lee. Affleck and Williams share many crucial moments on screen with each other where they both dig into their past tragedies. Both Affleck and Williams are definite Oscar contenders this season. Affleck, for sure, has my vote for Best Leading Actor of 2016.
Besides the emotional attribute, Manchester also delivers on the vivid beauty of scenery shots throughout the film. Lonergan’s newest masterwork deserves 5 out of 5 stars, as it will emotionally impact you in the days that follow. As I was leaving the theater, I over heard two friends talking about the film and what they thought about it. One of the friends said, “It was sad, just really sad.” Yes, Manchester by the Sea is a sad film, but it’s much more than just that. Manchester is a real film filled with real people as it reflects on life’s most disturbing flaw … death.
Manchester by the Sea is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and some sexual content.
Flawed on every level, this star-studded package of sappiness makes Collateral Beauty plunge into a state of hilarity.
Universally panned by critics, Collateral Beauty makes the Hallmark Channel look like Best Picture. Yes, that’s how bad this film actually is. While the film is well-meant, nevertheless, Will Smith’s latest dud is fundamentally weak. The star-studded cast consisting of Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet are completely wasted throughout the entire film.
Grinding my teeth raw, here’s the plot: When a successful New York advertising executive (Smith) suffers a great tragedy he isolates himself from life. Though his friends are concerned and try desperately to reconnect with him, Howard (Smith) seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. Director David Frankel’s (The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) film is a wannabe tearjerker that lacks all emotional depth itself.
Take Manchester by the Sea, a film that gets it right when it comes to displaying tragedy and emotional turmoil in one’s life. Manchester, by all means, is a far superior film when it comes to filming heartache and loss through the lens of a camera. I would rather watch Manchester by the Sea over-and-over again any given day, before sitting through another showing of Collateral Beauty. The cynical nature rooted within Smith's film will not entertain but frustrate. Collateral Beauty is one of 2016’s worst films and will leave you wanting to wash that bad stench off yourself afterwards.
Collateral Beauty is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and brief strong language.
"Tell the judge I love my wife." Astonishing from beginning until end, Loving is a well-crafted historical drama that pays homage to Richard and Mildred Loving. The film's sensible approach in storytelling blossoms its relevance in today's world.
Being in an interracial marriage myself, I had a close calling towards Loving. My wife Glynis, who is of Peruvian decent, and I were fully engulfed with Richard and Mildred’s captivating story of love and equality. Before our show began, we had the rare experience of sitting next to a couple who were longtime friends of lawyer Bernie S. Cohen (played by Nick Kroll in the film), who helped the Loving’s overturn the anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. It was a treat talking with them and how they were incredibly excited to see Kroll’s performance of a historical friend.
Once the film began. I was astonished with its vivid scenery director Jeff Nichols (Mud and Midnight Special) precisely played throughout the film, along with the strong performances by both Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving. Nichols avoids the sappiness and focuses on the importance of context rooted within this story. Richard being a white man and Mildred being a black woman could not legally marry in 1958 due to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Upon Mildred discovering that she is pregnant the two decided to travel to D.C. to legally tie the knot. Soon afterwards, the Loving’s are arrested and forced by the judge not to return to Virginia for a suspension of 25 years.
The Loving’s decided to move to D.C. trying to continue a normal life. In 1963, after Mildred witnesses the March on Washington on TV she is inclined to write to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. That leads the Loving’s to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where they meet lawyer Bernie Cohen (played by a humble Kroll). Cohen decides to confer with constitutional law expert Phil Hirschkop (played by Jon Bass) and the two take on the Supreme Court. While the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia is a main focal point planted within the story, Nichols’ heart and soul is really grounded in the Loving's relationship with each other. Richard and Mildred's tenderness and affection for each other will melt you away.
Nichols takes an understated direction in telling a real-life tale and fully blossoms it too life. Nichols was able to accurately tell the story by relying heavily on Nancy Buirski's documentary The Loving Story, which captured many details of the Loving's private lives: "We had this beautiful documentary footage unearthed from the mid-'60s where we got to go into their home and see them and watch them," Nichols said. Because of the Loving’s and the Supreme Court’s decision in 1967 to overturn anti-miscegenation laws nationwide, many interracial couples can embrace the full notion of all love is created equal. My wife and I have, ever since we've been together and this past June we got married. "We may lose the small battles but win the big war."
After the film was over, my wife nicely whispered “Tell Bernie thank you for us” to the couple sitting next to us. Loving is one of best and still most relevant films of 2016. Due to the importance of my marriage and the film’s arousing message it deserves all 5 stars. Nominated for two Golden Globes, hopefully Loving doesn’t get over looked this Oscars season. Loving paints of radiant portrait of how far we’ve come in America and yet - how far we have left to go. The Loving’s painful and heartfelt journey will truly capture your heart. Love inspires everyone.
Loving is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements.
Shot twice as fast as the previous record (Peter Jackson’s 2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 48 fps), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will go down in the books as another failed attempt for the higher frame rate obsession.
Director Ang Lee’s (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi) heart might be in the right place, but sadly these experiments and innovations are merely a distraction. The film used an unprecedented shooting and projection frame rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution. This is five times the normal frame rate, which is usually shot in 24 fps. Lee’s ambition is high, but the overall project comes up a bit scattershot.
The film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (played by Joe Alwyn). Billy and his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad have been hailed as a hero and bringing brought home for a victory tour after a painful Iraq battle. Through a series of flashbacks seen through Billy’s eyes, the film reveals what really happened to the squad during battle. During a halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, Lee grapples with contrasting the realities of the Iraq conflict with America's celebration back home.
Nevertheless, the film has heart and honors our fellow soldiers throughout our country. Unfortunately for me, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk never comes full circle and is engulfed by its visual paintings flashing before your eyes. Actors Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin do their best to save the film, but never succeed. If anything, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will go down as 2016’s glorious technical misfire.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use.
Seen through the eyes of one man’s story, Moonlight welds together a beautifully crafted character study of lives too rarely seen in the spotlight.
Director Barry Jenkins’ (Medicine for Melancholy) eight years in the making masterpiece finally has come alive and it’s a story worth telling. The film is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; luckily Jenkins was able to get this story told to the world. Moonlight travels to new cinematic highs as we view the heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself. Moonlight is told through three different chapters of Chiron’s life played by actors Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes.
Jenkins breaks up each act with a being title (i. Little, ii. Chiron and iii. Black) showing the audience what stages of life Chiron is in during that time. Each chapter is a work of art handily crafted by Jenkins himself. Throughout the film we see Chiron grappling with pain, love and his own sexuality. Moonlight is a timeless story our own human connection and finding your self-discovery in this world. Through this chronicle life of a young African-American man from adolescent to adulthood, we see Chiron trying to find his place in the world while also growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Hibbert is an extraordinary actor for such a young age. With very little lines in the film, Hibbert’s body language will truly move you. Chiron aka “Little” for his meek personality and size, befriends an adult named Juan (the powerful Mahershala Ali). Juan tries to be a brighter influence in “Little’s” life as his mother (the magnificent Naomie Harris) continues to consume herself with drugs and alcohol. Though, only shooting her role in a matter of just three days, Harris’ heartbreaking performance will leave you stunned.
One of the most moving scenes in Moonlight is when “Little” asks Juan if he is gay and how will you know? Juan simply tells him “you’ll know.” From there, we travel with Chiron throughout his teenage years and young adult life as he’s trying to discover himself. Actors Sanders and Rhodes all excel the role of Chiron and both bring out the human inside of him. Moonlight is a revolution to the film industry as it helps shine a light in both the African-American and LGBT community. Nominated for six Golden Globes, Moonlight is an active contender this Oscars season. Barry Jenkins’ newest masterpiece truly is “the story of a lifetime.”
Moonlight is rated R (Restricted). For some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout.
Arrival is just has awe-inspiring as past science fiction films, such as Metropolis, Star Wars or even Alien. It's sophistication in writing and drama took me by complete surprise.
Hands down, Arrival is the must-see science fiction experience of 2016. Director Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners and Sicario) engaging sci-fi flick will get your brain thinking and your blood boiling. Based on Ted Chiang’s short story, Story of Your Life, Arrival digs deep into its thought-provoking themes until the final frame. Actors Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner give terrific performances throughout the film, while supporting actors Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg help provide solidarity to the film. The score, alone, is a moving work of art as we hear composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s (Sicario and The Theory of Everything) embellishing score grab the audience in and never let go.
The plot begins when a mysterious spacecraft touches down across the globe, leading the entire human race into mass panic. Now, elite teams, lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Adams), are brought together to investigate the mysterious spacecraft. As mankind threatens on the verge of global war, Banks and military theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) must race against time for answers and communication. Spoiler free, Arrival grapples with so much more that in the end it will catch you by complete surprise. Beautifully shot and excavated, Arrival was worth every cent of my ticket price.
Of a thinking person’s world, Arrival is the holiday movie waiting for you unwrap and enjoy. The film has already made its mark in the Oscar race and definitely has a ticket for Best Picture worthy. Nominated for 10 Critics Choice Awards, Arrival has kicked off its holiday season in a very grand way. After watching Villeneuve’s newest tour de force, I am happy to report that Blade Runner 2049 is in good hands (going to be directed by Villeneuve). So “Why are they here?” I’ll let you find out and decided.
Arrival is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For brief strong language.
Into The Inferno boasts its beautifully shot scenery, filled with rich culture of some of the world's most mythical volcanoes.
Netflix’s newest documentary about the legends and myths of volcanoes around the globe heats things up a bit. Directed and narrated by Werner Herzog (Into The Abyss and Cave of Forgotten Dreams) takes viewers from the comfort of their homes and into the great mystery of the volcanic. Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer embark on a journey to Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iceland and North Korea, capturing the beauty and wonder of volcanoes.
Herzog and Oppenheimer speak with scientists and indigenous peoples alike, as they try to comprehend the complexity and deeply rooted relationship between mankind and the great fire below. Herzog, as usual, artfully blends history and philosophy throughout the documentary giving audience of all ages a rare cinematic experience. Into The Inferno is a journey worth seeking.
Into The Inferno is Not Rated (NR).
Netflix’s newest documentary, Amanda Knox, is an absorbing and complex biopic that reels you in from start until finish. The murder of Meredith Kercher is one of the most haunting stories in the last decade.
"Either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing, or I am you …” I’ll let this line spoken directly from Amanda Knox herself sink in throughout this review. One of the most provocative cases in the last decade, documentarians (Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn) speak hand-to-hand with Knox who was convicted and eventually acquitted for the 2007 death of another student, Meredith Kercher, in Italy. Grey slatted and pasty faced, Knox examines her story to the audience telling it in strange fashioned.
In 2007, Knox was an American exchange student traveling to Perugia, Italy. Young and sexed-obsessed, Knox met a boy named Raffaele Sollecito. In Knox’s own words, “they were lovers.” Though, they had only known each other for a matter of a week, Knox exclaimed they could spend a lifetime together. When suddenly on November 1, 2007, Knox’s roommate (Kercher) was found stabbed to death in her room. This eventually led police of Perugia to arrest Knox, Sollecito and third-party Rudy Guede. The whole case turned the world upside down and was a feeding frenzy for tabloids. Headlines sprang and readers everywhere ate it up.
The “Foxy Knoxy” headline was a worldwide sensation. Knox was found guilty at the end of the first trial and then later acquitted due too a messy forensics investigation by the Perugia police … oh the madness! So is Knox a cold-blooded psychopath who brutally murdered her roommate or a naive student abroad trapped in an endless nightmare? I’ll let you be the judge and watch the documentary yourself only on Netflix. In a dog-eat-dog world, this true-crime case takes an eerie look at the inner demons inside the media and the very people around us. Amanda Knox is a documentary for the ages as we take the full 92 minutes to self-examine her underneath “sheep's clothing.”
Amanda Knox is Not Rated (NR).
Audrie & Daisy takes a harsh look at the painstaking recounts of two sexual assault cases through innocent eyes in this porn-addled boys world.
Netflix’s newest documentary shares the heartbreaking realities of sexual crimes that send ripple effects through families and communities across the nation. The documentary examines two teenage girls lives has they are broken from the aftermath of rape. Filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President, The Rape of Europa) take an in-depth look at the age of rape culture and cyber-bullying gone out of control.
Audrie & Daisy examines how our society encourages the horrible excuse of “boys will be boys" mindset. With this set of mentality, our culture allows young men to disregard other people’s innocence and sense of humanity. Both cases take place in 2012, the first being in Saratoga, California and the next being in Maryville, Missouri. Audrie Potts, sadly, committed suicide after events of her assault and online bullying. After Daisy Coleman’s assault her rural town of Maryville literally split into two sides. Some taking the boys side, while others supported Daisy.
At times infuriating, filmmakers show the horrors of sexual crime that goes unpunished because there are people who would rather blame the victims for what happened to them. While Audrie & Daisy gets a little messy in its editing and timeline, nevertheless, the film’s unflinching story and underlining message succeeds. Audrie & Daisy offers a redemptive message of compassion and hope. In the end, the documentary advocates a voice for women all around the nation to be strong and to speak out.
Audrie & Daisy is rated NR (Not Rated).
The 13th delivers stunning commentary of America's tangled racial history striking a cord with your inner self.
One of the best documentaries of 2016, director Ava DuVernay (Selma) goes full throttle into America’s past history and where we are now as a society. DuVernay’s documentary refers to the 13th Amendment of our Constitution, which reads "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."
As we read and see there’s a surprising loophole written within the 13th Amendment, as DuVernay teaches us a history-lesson of indictment on "new slavery.” This term refers to the mass incarceration of African-Americans within the American criminal justice system and it’s a major wake-up call. The documentary starts off with the abolishment of slavery in 1865 as a rejoicing community comes to a new start of possibilities. Unfortunately, this is also known as the beginning of an era known as mass criminalization. This affected all minorities inside the United States, particularly the African-American community.
The documentary travels through time as we explore the horrors and progress of our society. DuVernay unveils a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men. The 13th is a powerful look at what it means to be a black man or woman in America. It will certainly make you rethink history and where do we go from here?
Calm and controlled, DuVernay also explores the movements that have helped progress our society like the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. In the end, The 13th engulfs its audience with dense information and an underlining message of hope. Note to the Academy: The 13th is hands down one of the best documentaries of 2016 and deserves every bit of that Oscar. Go and watch it one Netflix’s right now.
The 13th is NR (Not Rated).
Before the Flood is an epic documentary two-years in the making as we follow Leonardo DiCaprio’s quest on the effects of climate change around the world.
Before the Flood is a very solemn film about the man-made effects climate change rapidly hurting our planet. Although, the documentary may not cover new ground, nevertheless, Leo’s message of urgency is one that every human should hear. Director Fisher Stevens (Crazy Love) coherently layers scientific evidence with facts throughout the 96-minute film.
On and off the film set of The Revenant, DiCaprio travels the world to examine firsthand the effects of climate change, while also learning how to prevent catastrophic damage that could make the Earth unsustainable for human life. During Leo’s journey, he speaks with leaders such as President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Elon Musk. DiCaprio also makes a speech before the United Nations as he calls for greater action on this pressing issue.
Before the Flood is a compelling as it is important for the sake of our planet. Viewers will take it or leave it before the film even begins, but for the sake of our environment try to watch with an open mind. You can watch the full-feature documentary right here or on YouTube by National Geographic. If you want to learn more about climate change or be apart of the cause go to https://www.beforetheflood.com/ “You are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it or we, and all living things we cherish, are history.” – Leo
Before the Flood PG (Parental Guidance). For thematic elements, some nude and suggestive art images, language and brief smoking.
The Accountant brings fun-filled action to the big screen, while also adding depth to the script with strong character narratives.
Ben Affleck’s newest feature film is a real doozy; The Accountant brings action junkies a new level of excitement to the cinemas. Director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) and scriptwriter Bill Dubuque (The Judge) help infuse tension and paranoia into the film. Affleck’s acting is strong and subdued as he recalculates his daily routine of life in a small-town.
Christian Wolff’s (Affleck) day job is being a math wiz for a small-town CPA office. As for Wolff’s night job, he’s a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. The CPA gig is just a cover-up for Wolff as he bellies down in the underworld of crime. Wolff is also autistic, which plays a huge role in the plot and to his life on mathematics. O’Connor tightly allows the film to play to both Wolff’s strengths and weaknesses throughout. Also, trying to break Wolff’s true identity is the U.S. Treasury Department led by actors J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson.
Actors Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Lithgow help balance the character depth throughout the film. O’Connor grapples with many twist and turns as he weaves character's stories to help piece the plot together. At times, The Accountant can seem outlandish; nevertheless, the actor’s performances and nicely packed action sequences help prevail the film to satisfying results. The Accountant jumps in during an exciting time at the cinemas, leaving viewers thrilled for more to come.
The Accountant is rated R (Restricted). For strong violence and language throughout.
“To save a life is to save all of humanity;” this is The White Helmets humbling message as we follow the lives of volunteer rescue workers in the midst of the Syrian civil war.
Watching this documentary-short is emotionally devastating as director Orlando Von Einsiedel (Virunga) brings the civil war to reality through the screen. Running at a short 41 minutes, The White Helmets leaves no room for breathing. Instantly, we are thrown into the chaos of the streets of Aleppo, Syria and Turkey as the violence intensifies. Following these volunteer rescue workers as they put everything on the line to save civilians whom are affected by the war.
This moving and provoking film will leave you in tears wanting to watch more. Netflix compellingly tells these real stories happening overseas, right now, in the world today. Everyday, there are bombs dropped all over Syria as the White Helmets bravely gather to rescue the civilians from turmoil. Director Von Einsiedel’s decision of using shaking cam allows the audience to fully grasp the realities of these events depicted. The White Helmets is a humbling portrait of the power of the human spirit and is more than just a movie … it’s real life.
Since the creation of the White Helmets, the group has saved more than 62,000 people from the attacks in Syria. To learn more about and possibly support the White Helmets go to https://www.whitehelmets.org/ “We don’t always know what will make history. This could be the thing that multiplies the movement of support for the White Helmets and forces world leaders to act to stop the bombs raining down on Syrian families. 141 White Helmets have been killed saving lives. For them and for every Syrian civilian, let’s watch this film, share it with our friends, and demand support for the White Helmets and their message of peace.” – Netflix
The White Helmets is Not Rated (NR).
Emily Blunt comes prepared to deliver a prestigious performance, while the rest of the film derails halfway through due to a muddled direction and narrative.
Based on the psychological thriller by British author Paula Hawkins, Girl on the Train has been praised as the “Next Gone Girl.” Unfortunately, for the film that doesn’t seem to add up. Leaving the book aside, director Tate Taylor (The Help and Get on Up) doesn’t do the film any justice as he lurks into dull flashbacks and exploitative melodrama. The one aspect the film did succeed from was Emily Blunt’s outstanding performance as Rachel Watson.
Rachel, an alcoholic and a recent divorcé, spends her daily commute fantasizing about a perfect couple living in a house that her train passes every day. Until Rachel sees something out of the ordinary and from there a mystery unfolds. With not spoiling too much of the plot, Girl on the Train tries to carefully unveil it’s scandal of entanglements slowly throughout the film. What may have been the book’s silver lining is instead the film’s Achilles heel because director Tate Taylor fails to cohesively bring together the books mysteries as a whole.
Taylor’s envision for the film comes out scatterbrained, leaving actors Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez in a rut. There were, however, moments that did grab your attention all thanks to Blunt’s impeccable performance. In the end, Girl on the Train comes and goes leaving viewers stranded on the tracks. The film is Gone Girl without the thrill, but Blunt was still able to shine through all of the narrative whoopla. Nevertheless, the film’s premise intrigued me enough to want to read the best-selling book on a cold fall day.
Girl on the Train is rated R (Restricted). For violence, sexual content, language and nudity.
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