Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Movie Reviews: 'The Shape of Water' and 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' are exciting, lovable films

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, directed by Rian Johnson. U.S.A., English, Color, 152 minutes) Grab your lightsaber and favorite droid because you'll be in for a good time with the latest "Star Wars" movie. After dishing out a lot of fan service in "The Force Awakens", the seventh episode in the "Star Wars" franchise, "The Last Jedi" really opens up its potential with a methodical film that gives us deeper characters and emotions than its lighter predecessor. Now that audiences have been reacquainted with old friends and have welcomed new ones, we can get into the meat of this new trilogy. The First Order continues to drive out the Resistance as Rey tries to lure Luke Sykwalker to help with the cause and Finn and Poe try to keep ahead of the Order's trailing forces.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Movie Review: Important message outshines 'The Post'

20th Century Fox
The Post (2017, directed by Steven Spielberg. U.S.A., English, Color, 115 minutes) As a journalist I'm automatically bias toward films about my profession. I get wrapped up in watching the whole process of sourcing, interviewing, uncovering great secrets, the emotional attachment to the story. I love it all and "The Post" doesn't disappoint on that front.

Released at the most appropriate time when the press is constantly being discredited and attacked, "The Post" is a throwback to one of the defining journalism cases of the 20th century: The publication of the highly classified Pentagon Papers. Unfortunately, "The Post" uses that watershed moment as nothing more than a platform for the filmmakers' own political message. This story deserved more than what Steven Spielberg rushed to get made.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Movie Review: 'Call Me By Your Name' is the ultimate love fantasy

Sony Pictures Classics
Call Me By Your Name (2017, directed by Luca Guadagnino. Italy/France, in English/Italian/French, Color, 132 minutes) "Call Me By Your Name" is the ultimate gay fantasy escapist film. It has a lush, sweeping romance playing out between two handsome guys against a gorgeous, foreign locale. Lazy summer days in Northern Italy where the sun kisses your face on leisurely bike rides with your crush seems like perfection, and a hyper-realized ideal that will have the gays (and anyone else, really) swooning. It is so stylized and precise that it makes you wish we could experience love in such a way. What could be better than beautiful people falling in love in a beautiful space? Not much. 

But does a beautiful setting make up for another run-of-the-mill love story?  No.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Movie Review: The 'Quest' for a better life starts with family

The Rainey family featured in "Quest": Daughter Patricia 'PJ' and her parents Christine'a 'Ma Quest' and Christopher.
First Run Features
Quest (2017, directed by Jonathan Olshefski. U.S.A., English, Color, 105 minutes) Living in the Philadelphia suburbs all of my life (save college) I've always had an idea of what neighborhoods in the city to avoid due to violence and safety concerns. My views have been shaped by what has been reported on the news, of course. But as I started my career in journalism here in the suburbs you go into neighborhoods you may not be familiar with and you see the potential there, a relic of what its former self used to be and should be again. "Quest" gave me that hope for North Philadelphia.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Movie Review: 'Three Billboards' is an aggressively funny, harsh look at society

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, directed by Martin McDonagh. U.S.A., U.K. English, Color, 115 minutes) We cringe to think justice has not been served when a crime is committed against ourselves or loved ones and no one pays for it. It's no secret that the legal system can move at a glacial pace, with rigidity and luck to ensure that the perpetrator is rightfully convicted. Sometimes the cops can be lucky and find their suspect in a quick amount of time. Sometimes it can takes weeks, months, years, or even never. We don't like feeling wronged having someone get away with a crime.

This is the outline for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", a universal tale about society's expectations for the police to do something when it seems like they're not trying at all. "Three Billboards" balances that drive between social justice and police capabilities with dangerously sharp quips that tackle the process and the emotional turmoils of dealing with it all. There's a stark humanism here that has you rooting for the civilians as much as the police in equal amounts of laughs and heartbreak. Needless to say, it's one of the most satisfying movie-going experiences of the year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

No, you 'Get Out!' Horror film on racism is gravely comedic

Universal Pictures

Imagine being a young black man whisked away to a hyper rich, affluent country suburb where your girlfriend's well-off white family resides. Her parents fully embrace you and boast about their admiration of America's first black president, Barack Obama, as if they're conforming to the politically correct social register of appeasing any black guest that walks through their door with  such an obvious plea that they are accepting of a black man courting their white daughter. Unfortunately, the Stepford persona of the family and their house staff, friends and other family members wears off in a situation that is so grim and fantastical you could never believe it was true if it weren't being told on the silver screen.

That is "Get Out" in a nutshell.

It is the incredibly relevant and popular story for the directorial debut of comic Jordan Peele who also penned the extremely creepy and  funny film that tackles the current social climate of racism. It was recently announced that "Get Out" was classified into the comedy/musical genre field for the 75th Golden Globe Awards in 2018 and drew criticism for deeming a satirically serious - an oxymoron? - film about race relations as being anything but dramatic. Some viewed it as white privilege laughing at racism. Given that the persons who award the Golden Globes are foreign journalists, I doubt many are of the Aryan brethren.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie Review: 'Lady Bird' and 'Last Flag Flying' soar high

"Last Flag Flying" and "Lady Bird" are two movies set in the few years proceeding 9/11 and how the social landscapes mold their varied and complicated characters. It's as much about these characters going through their own journeys as it is how we dealt with the greatest act of terrorism ever committed on our shores. Both films are pretty subtle about using that tragic event as a plot point instead opting to delve into the societal impact it had on our behaviors. These films are at times laugh out loud funny and equally heartbreaking. 

Lady Bird (2017, directed by Greta Gerwig. U.S.A., English, Color, 93 minutes) "Lady Bird" in its most basic form is a teenage coming-of-age film. It's a familiar subgenre, but some in the category are more interesting than others. This film, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, combines the whipper-snapper appeal of "Juno" and "Ghost World" with just the slightest dash of "Napoleon Dynamite" to round it out. Saoirse Ronan is the titular character who is smarter beyond her years and yet just basic enough for her posh Sacramento Catholic School upbringing in 2002. She clashes with her opinionated mother (Laurie Metcalf) and is adored by her father (Tracy Letts) as she navigates her young life with confidence, with friends, some lovers and a wicked sense of humor.