“Arrival” Is Timely, Fascinating and a Showcase For Amy Adams’ talents

It’s been hard to muster any kind of enthusiasm, or any kind of feeling besides grief, hopelessness and rage since Tuesday night. No matter what song I put on, what channel I flipped to or what episode of Portlandia I streamed on Netflix, I just wanted to melt into a puddle. I could not stop thinking about the next four years, and they mean for black, latinx and LGBTQ Americans. So when I sat down for my screening of Arrival last night, I was looking to just escape my mind for a minute; I wanted to turn off the thoughts so that I could come back fully reenergized to figure out how I was going to tackle fighting the racism, bigotry and intolerance that is now America’s President-elect.

Arrival is the escapist entertainment I was seeking. Even if it was for two hours, director Denis Villeneuve’s excellent sci-fi character study manages to transport and astound in every frame.

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Natalie Portman is Exceptional in the Transcendent “Jackie”

There’s a scene in Jackie which sees the titular First Lady (played by Natalie Portman) preparing to walk out of the private jet carrying her, husband John and their entourage in Dallas, Texas. She’s rehearsing her speech while applying her makeup. Wearing the now iconic pink Chanel suit, she adds the finishing touch: the matching pillbox hat. She stares ahead never meeting his gaze, with a blank expression on her face.

“Ready?” John asks her.

“Of course,” she says with the slightest grin.

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Emily Blunt is Fantastic in the Otherwise Average “The Girl On the Train”

Ever since The Girl On the Train was released last year, it was hailed as “the next Gone Girl.” Such a comparison was probably a little unfair, despite both novels’ reliance on the untrustworthy narrator device, the switching between POV’s throughout the story and the fact they were shocking thrillers.

And so when it was announced that the film adaption of The Girl On the Train would be announced in October, just days shy of Gone Girl’s (the film) two year anniversary, the comparisons grew. Many wondered if Emily Blunt, starring as the main character Rachel, would secure the first Oscar nomination that has (unfairly) eluded her throughout her career like Rosamund Pike did for Gone Girl. The film would no doubt be a smashing success (it’s already being projected to be the #1 film this weekend with close to $30 million. Not Gone Girl level numbers, but pretty respectable nonetheless). It just needed to be good enough for Oscar consideration, right?

Unfortunately, critics have not been kind to The Girl On the Train. Metacritic has it at a middling 48, with many mentioning or flat out comparing it to Gone Girl.


And while the film does have its issues, one of them shouldn’t be that it’s not the next Gone GirlContinue reading

Lupita Nyong’o is transcendent in the outstanding “Queen of Katwe”

Inspirational, “feel good” movies oftentimes break a sweat trying to earn the audience’s emotions. Through the use of saccharine music, stereotypical character troupes and cliché dialogue, not to mention formulaic plot points. Queen of Katwe, a film that very easily could have fallen into those trap holes manages to avoid all of them while holding onto its uplifting message, hitting you like a shot in the heart.

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“Blair Witch” Review

When The Blair Witch Project was released in theaters back in 1999 it became a phenomenon. There was nothing else quite like it; a scrappy little film made for next to nothing, featuring no big name stars or a high-profile director attached to it. And yet it went on to gross over $240 million, and inspired a long line of films trying to recreate its magic (the Paranormal Activity films).

Enter the sequel, aptly named Blair Witch. Originally disguised as a film called The Woods featuring a cryptic teaser trailer, the film comes over a decade after the first film (and a much maligned sequel that’s generally ignored here). It seems a little weird that this sequel would come so far after the first film, especially given the original being a product of its time. Much of The Blair Witch Project‘s success is attributed to its marketing campaign, which was revolutionary at the time. An online website was created specifically for the movie, with false “legends” and stories about the fictional Blair Witch being spread far across the internet.

In today’s world, online marketing campaigns are seen as a necessity for a lot of films, especially a film like The Blair Witch; a lot of that magic has disappeared due to to the rise of the internet and social media. Even  watching the original film isn’t as magical as it was back in the pre-internet age. Blair Witch doesn’t just set out to continue the legacy of the first film, but recreate some of that magic for a new generation.

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Best Movies of 2016 (So Far)

It feels like at this time every year, everyone is always discussing how disappointing it’s been for film, though this year is the first time it really feels like it.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been any good movies. On the contrary, the high points this year have been exceptionally high. But I’ve seen a lot that’s ranged from just ‘ok’ to flat out awful. Despite a really interesting premise, Lights Out proved to be extremely disappointing, while I’m still not sure we needed to wait all this time for Finding Dory when we had something as special as Zootopia. I did enjoy Deadpool, though it wasn’t a film I walked out of the theater loving. Though I prefer it a thousand times over whatever Batman Vs Superman or Suicide Squad were going for, and The Neon Demon challenges those films for the title of Worst Movie of the Year.

Still, this was the same year that brought us gifts like The WitchLove & Friendship and The Meddler, so I suppose I can’t be too mad.

So, let’s get to it. My favorite films of the year (so far).

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“Ghostbusters” Is Very Good, Sorry (Not Sorry) Haters

When Paul Feig announced his all female led Ghostbusters reboot the last thing I imagined the film would receive was backlash. Then again, I forgot that the internet is filled with sexist fan boys living in their parents’ basement with absolutely nothing better to do than organize campaigns to lower a film’s IMDB score (all before even seeing the movie mind you) so I guess I shouldn’t have been too shocked. The mere thought that four women would fill the roles originally inhabited by men in the 80’s classic was enough to send these nerds into a whirlwind of chaos. That’s sad huh?

“Controversy” aside, Feig and his Ghostbusters (returning vets Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and newcomers Kate Mckinnon and Leslie Jones) aren’t out to duplicate the original film. On the contrary, they use the familiar premise as a templet; Feig has provided his group of actresses their wackiest and zaniest playground yet, and while the hi-jinks aren’t as laugh out loud funny as previous efforts like The Heat or Bridesmaids, they still make for some of the most entertaining moments in film this year.

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Nicolas Winding Refn Can’t Get Out Of His Own Way: “The Neon Demon” Review

“I believe there’s a 16-year old girl in every man,” Nicolas Winding Refn told Entertainment Weekly of his latest film, The Neon Demon. The auteur also said he was inspired by The Valley of the Dolls, the beauty of his wife, the work he had done on some advertising campaigns and the vision of a 16 year old girl coming to Los Angeles.

Reading through Refn’s interview after watching The Neon Demon, it’s as if his inner 16 year old and hodgepodge of visions leapt straight from the auteur’s subconscious and onto the screen. There’s beauty in every frame of the film, whether we’re staring at Elle Fanning’s face, the gorgeous clothes and makeup or some abstract shot filled with lurid lighting. There’s also horror, gratuitous violence, sex, blood and cannibalism. While it all sounds exciting and looks great, none of it makes much sense by the time the credits start to roll.

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“Batman Vs. Superman” Is Just As Bad As You’ve Heard

I finally caught up with Batman Vs. Superman late last night, days after its premiere and a tidal wave of bad press and reviews. Even some of the biggest die hard comic book fans have lambasted the film. It’s hard to keep an open, unbiased mind when there’s been such a strong reaction to something like this, but I gave it my best shot.

The nicest thing I can say about Batman Vs. Superman is that it’s a movie.

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“10 Cloverfield Lane” Review

Going into 10 Cloverfield Lane I didn’t really know anything about it. I had seen vague, quick trailers on TV but had not really paid them any attention. Within the last month or so, however, I noticed the ads picked up and soon it was harder not to pay attention. Suddenly my interest was piqued. I noticed John Goodman’s involvement, and after a quick search online I found out Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Romona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) was the lead. But I still didn’t know what it was about, and I liked that.

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