Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Movie Review: Scary is not what 'It' is

Warner Bros.
It (2017, directed by Andy Muschietti. U.S.A., English, Color, 135 minutes) Imagine planning a party for someone. You get all of the close friends and family together for months to prepare for a great memory for everyone. It's been promoted all over social media while people gab with each other in special messaging sessions and event walls to get everything ready. The day of the event is here and everyone is waiting for that special honoree, the space overflowing with excitement in anticipation of the big "SURPRISE!" burst to greet them. When the honoree comes, they say "you took me away from my day for this shit?"

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie Review: 'Victoria & Abdul' keeps it short and sweet

Focus Features

Victoria & Abdul (2017, directed by Stephen Frears. England, English, Color, 112 minutes) It has been 20 years since Judi Dench last played Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown", and what a perfect way to return to the role that earned her her first Oscar nomination than with a story that takes place in about the same timeframe where that film left off? Like in "Mrs. Brown", the matriarch finds herself enamored with a younger man, but this time it's a young Indian, Muslim servant named Abdul. It's a timely story about cross-cultural interactions among people, but it never has that heft that makes it anything more than a lighthearted piece of social commentary.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Theater Review: Regional debut of 'Hunchback' rings triumphant

Pat Walsh as Quasimodo in Upper Darby Performing Arts Center's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Rachel Lombardo
The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" this weekend has prompted a couple of firsts: one, it was the first performance I've ever seen at the PAC, and second, this was the first regional production of the stage version off-shoot of the 1996 Disney animated musical. After the first "Hunchback" performance on July 28, I asked myself in amazement why I hadn't been to shows at the PAC before, then I wondered why more theaters weren't putting on this gorgeous, grandiose show. I couldn't answer the former, but the enormity of the production answers the latter.

"Hunchback" is an elaborate and big musical based on the Victor Hugo novel about the grotesque Quasimodo that takes place on a single 30-foot tall cathedral set that houses a 30-member chorus, features a stain glass impression and is decorated with large bells, kind of like the real Notre Dame in Paris.  At the helm for the Philadelphia-area premiere is the PAC's own Jeff Dietzler who is graced with having such a large venue to host the massive production and having all of the talent needed on- and off-stage to tackle the epic production.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Movie Review: 'Detroit' burns down with its message

Detroit (2017, directed by Kathryn Bigelow. U.S.A., English, Color, 143 minutes) The most important thing about a society steeped in the arts and culture is the ability to observe our own behavior. Every form of media can be used to deliver a message about who we are, or who we have been, as a civilized group of people. In the history of American cinema we have seen film used to glorify the KKK ("The Birth of a Nation") and even excoriating a presidency ("Fahrenheit 9/11"). Needless to say, it's one of the most powerful and controversial mediums in the world for the stories it tells. "Detroit" is a movie presented as a contemporary art piece that exploits extremely raw emotions of modern events to create a telling of a previous heinous event in our history. The film is as empty, shallow and void of feeling as the society we live in.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Movie Review: 'Dunkirk' is an intense, beautiful film

Dunkirk (2017, directed by Christopher Nolan. U.S.A./U.K., English, Color, 106 minutes) In the realm of war movies, the most memorable one of recent years is 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" - even though "The Hurt Locker" is better. It's violent, it's bloody, there's a human interest aspect to it, and it has pretty boys in it acting out a young man's fantasy of shooting guns and fighting off the Nazis.

Almost 20 years later and Christopher Nolan releases "Dunkirk", a film with a keen eye for suspense and storytelling that it easily eclipses Spielberg's one-trick pony of a film.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie Review: Emotions sink like a stone in dried up 'Wind River'

The Weinstein Company
Wind River (2017, directed by Taylor Sheridan. U.S.A., English, Color, 111 minutes) In his directorial debut following his Oscar nomination for writing last year's "Hell or High Water", Taylor Sheridan continues his passion for crime with "Wind River", the incredibly mean-spirited and drab story about a young girl found frozen to death in the middle of a Wyoming Indian reservation. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen team up as the Fish and Wildlife Service officer and FBI agent, respectively, tasked with combating personal conflicts and cultural differences to solve the crime in the barren, frozen lands.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Movie Review: 'Lady Macbeth' is a powerful masterclass

Lady Macbeth (2017, directed by William Oldroyd. England, English, Color, 89 minutes) Lady Macbeth is a memorable figure in Shakespeare's epic tragedy "Macbeth," but the film "Lady Macbeth", an ode to the manipulative wife of the titular character, is not the main character of this film. Instead, a young bride named Catherine is the driving force of this morbid story set in mid-19th century rural England, but her affects are reminiscent to those of the Lady herself.