Category Archives: Film

Creed Delivers Pound for Pound Entertainment

Rocky Balboa is back—but not as a boxer. He coaches Adonis Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan, in Ryan Coogler’s Creed. Adonis is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed—the heavyweight champion from the first few installments of the Rocky series who eventually dies in the ring. Adonis grows up parentless, living in a juvenile correctional facility where he inherits his father’s fighting spirit. He is later rescued by his father’s wife, Mary Anne Creed, who raises him like one of her own in a wealthy enclave of L.A., keeping him far away from the brutality of the ring.

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Defying Convention: a Curvy Comedienne Becomes the Spy

Spy isn’t your typical espionage spoof. While the trailer for the film might suggest it is a movie in the vain of Get Smart, what actually transpires is a lot more engaging, since it offers a great critique on both the espionage action/thriller genre as well as biting commentary on social norms, and expectations. We don’t normally think of great spies as being overweight or socially awkward, but Melissa McCarthy shows that there is a lot more to being a spy than having the looks and debonair sophistication of a James Bond.

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Star Wars: Return of the Original Trilogy

A long time ago, in 1977 to be exact, George Lucas transported millions of young Americans to a galaxy far, far away. Among them was an 11-year-old named Jeffrey Jacob Abrams, who was utterly blown away, calling it “an incredibly powerful experience”. Now, almost forty years later, it is Abrams’ turn to introduce a new generation of fans to that same far, far away galaxy, and to recreate the glory of the original Star Wars. And while The Force Awakens, simply by dint of being a sequel, isn’t nearly as earth-shattering as the original, it is certainly a worthy addition to the quintessential galactic epic.

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The Big Short, or Banking on Exceptional Acting

I was determined not to like The Big Short.  I felt the subject – the 2008 financial crisis – was both overdone and no longer interesting.  And from the trailers, I felt this movie would be nothing but a more PG version of The Wolf of Wall Street with an annoying self-righteous tone only an Oscar hopeful film can muster.  But I was wrong.  The Big Short is a brilliantly filmed movie which explains the economic collapse in a manner that is both didactic and engaging.  Documentary, mockumentary, drama, thriller . . . whatever genre you want to call this film, it is money.

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Of Trilogies and Old Friends, a New Era for Star Wars

I am an unabashed Star Wars fan.  When I first started watching movies as a teenager, I was introduced to the universe of Star Wars by my cousin.  And when I say the universe, I mean everything.  The movies, the making of documentaries, the books, the games, and even the Legos.  I fell in love with the worlds and characters and spent many hours reading in the extended universe and debating all aspects of the experience of Star Wars.  Needless to say I awaited JJ Abrams’s Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens with the giddy excitement of a puppy and the apprehension of a fan who had been let down by the story and execution of the prequels.  Under JJ’s expert direction and the unlimited resources and power of Disney, I really needn’t have been concerned.

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Trumbo: Not Quite as Good as Trumbo

Paying tribute to an influential predecessor is an understandable—even admirable—artistic impulse. But here’s the catch: honoring someone by doing the very thing they had mastered inevitably invites comparison. This is where Trumbo, a biopic about legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo of Roman Holiday and Spartacus acclaim, falls short of its target. It is a good film—but not nearly as good as one that Trumbo himself would have written.

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Independence Day: Resurgence…because one wasn’t enough

I’ll admit it; when I was younger I loved the first Independence Day movie for what it was.  A good old America hoo-ha action flick that I have watched on many Fourth of Julys.  Was it a great film? Not exactly, but it was memorable for the special effects, the one liners, and the spirit.  Twenty years from the release of the first film, there is now going to be a sequel: Resurgence.  Set in 2016 (and slated for a summer 2016 release date), this movie continues down the alternate timeline in which we were invaded by aliens in 1996.  And what a timeline that is.  The trailer shows how we adapted alien tech to empower our defenses while waiting for the second wave of alien invasion, because like anyone who has ever played Space Invaders knows, there is always another wave coming.

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Captain America: Civil… Wait for It… War

It’s almost January, which means the next big Marvel movie is only four months away! We can persevere through the harsh winter and the allergy-ridden spring knowing that the Cap will be back at it again, bouncing people off his patriotic shield and punching his way into our hearts. The Captain America: Civil War trailer displays more of the edgy anti-establishment vibe that the previous installment, The Winter Soldier, had but on a more personal level for our star. However, in order to understand this emotional depth, you’d have to watch the Marvel films that come before it. Oh, did I forget to mention that this is the thirteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? That’s over 25 hours of glorious screen time, but no worries! You have four months to catch up. As the birth child of many action-packed Marvel movies, it opens all sorts of riveting questions about Steve Rogers’ relationship with the New Avengers, Tony Stark, and Bucky…especially Bucky. Maybe too much Bucky, up to the point where it may feel more like a drama than an action film, and the poignant melody and less-than-usual explosions don’t help. And yet it’s a satisfying trailer as a whole; perhaps it’s because it only provides a little sample of what the title pertains to: the vivid conflict between Iron Man and Captain America or, as I like to call it, “the end to the Bromance That Never Was.” Following the now-canon hero-versus-hero format, this movie comes out after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but based on the trailers, Civil War won’t have to try too hard to knock its competitor out of the box office. With these odds, does Cap really want to punch his way out of this? I think we all know the answer to that.

Grade: P

Captain America: Civil War is PG-38 if you add the 25 hours it’ll take you to delve into the MCU.

Batman v Superman v Doomsday v Jesse Eisenberg, Oh & Wonder Woman

Arguably the greatest challenge in making a trailer is treading the fine line between piquing the audience’s interest and spoiling the movie. But this trailer doesn’t even try. It opens with some nice banter between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent as each of them argues why the other’s Superhero isn’t so super. Their critical comments regarding the darker side of superheroes taking the law into their own hands fit nicely with Snyder’s grittier tone. But as the trailer moves on, you gradually realize that this isn’t a trailer, it’s the whole freaking movie. The trailer essentially reveals the entire plot. Batman and Superman’s verbal disagreements escalate into fist fights, okay no surprise there. But then Jesse Eisenberg (allegedly playing Lex Luthor but really just playing the same character he plays in every movie) gets bored watching them not kill each other fast enough, so he uses the corpse of General Zod to create what appears to be a hybrid of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a Lord of the Rings Cave Troll (though it’s probably actually based on the comic villain Doomsday). Then Batman and Superman resolve their differences to take on this greater threat. Oh yeah, Wonder Woman’s there too, but given her utter lack of dialogue, it doesn’t look like she’s the strong, interesting female superhero we’ve been waiting for. A trailer for a movie with such well known characters as Batman and Superman doesn’t need to explain the entire plot. It just needs to show us that there are well motivated reasons behind the conflict between these two heroes. This trailer was made by people at Warner Bros. who didn’t actually work on the film, and it shows. It feels far more clumsy than previous trailers and reveals far too much. To paraphrase Superman, Warner Bros. “What have you done?”

Grade: F

Warner Bros. needs to learn from J.J. Abrams: When it comes to trailers, less is more

Here is the trailer itself. Watch at your own risk.

Sins of the Father

Last year on a trip to Munich I visited Dachau concentration camp. Walking through the barracks, standing in the gas chambers, and looking into the crematoria deeply disturbed me. Yet one of the most unsettling things I remember was something the tour guide mentioned in describing the dismantling of the camp at the conclusion of the war: “Most guards honestly thought they could simply go home and live happy lives with their families as if nothing had happened.” How could someone “forget” about committing genocide? How could they live with themselves? Most of all, how could their own families ever love them again?

David Evans’ What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy deals with this dilemma, focusing on two sons of high-command Nazi leaders, Niklas Frank (son of Hans Frank, who served as Nazi appointed General-Governor of the occupied Polish territories) and Horst von Wächter (son of Otto von Wächter, who served as the Nazi appointed Governor of both Krakow, Poland and Galicia, Ukraine). This simple documentary, expertly narrated and explored by renowned legal scholar Philippe Sands, views the Holocaust through a unique and deeply troubling lens. It unlocks the profound emotions surrounding the sons’ attitudes toward their fathers and highlights the contrasting ways in which they confront their fathers’ crimes: Niklas’ absolute rejection and Horst’s delusional loyalty.

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In the Spotlight

Lance and Maggie are here to discuss Spotlight, a historic-thriller about investigative journalism and the evils of an institution. Named after a team of investigative reporters on The Boston Globe dedicated to the most intense and complex stories, Spotlight shares the riveting account of the team’s early 2000s investigation into Boston’s Roman Catholic Church. What starts as a piece on a single Catholic priest molesting children becomes a revelatory look into the repeated abuse of children by multiple priests in the Boston archdiocese, a tragedy made possible by the Church’s systemic cover-up.

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The Two-Minute Smile

“What. Do. You. Call. A. Three. Humped. Camel?” We’ve all walked into the Department of Motor Vehicles, and then left some life force behind when we emerged hours later. So I must say it’s more fun to watch the suffering than to personally experience it. And I, for one, love watching animated sloths smile at stupid jokes it took way too long for them to tell.

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