Movie Reviews 

Hostiles

by Alan Rapp on January 19, 2018

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Hostiles
  • IMDb: link

Hostiles movie reviewHostiles is a wagon train movie, without the wagon train. Christian Bale stars as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker, a career solider who has spent the better part of two decades fighting Native Americans in the late 19th Century. A reluctant Blocker is ordered to escort an old enemy (Wes Studi) and his family (Adam Beach, Xavier Horsechief, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Tanaya Beatty) from New Mexico to Montana and deliver them safely home after years of being prisoners of the Union Army. Along the way, the group will pick-up a woman (Rosamund Pike) whose family was brutally killed in the film’s opening scene and a prisoner (Ben Foster) with a connection to Blocker’s past.

After the initial attack on the Quaid farm, Hostiles falls back into a slow burn of a film as former enemies and strangers will have to rely on each other to make the dangerous trek across country. Writer/director Scott Cooper‘s adapted screenplay doesn’t reinvent the wheel and relies mostly on strong performances to carry a rather straightforward plot that never quite succeeds in presenting Blocker and his prisoners as equals due to the vastly superior amount of time the camera spends on the former compared to the later.

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I, Tonya

by Alan Rapp on January 12, 2018

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: I, Tonya
  • IMDb: link

I, Tonya movie reviewI, Tonya is a compelling, if flawed, look at the life and career of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) memorable mostly for the terrific performances of Robbie and co-star Allison Janney (as Tonya’s mother). Framed as flashbacks told through a series of current interviews (which were actually shot as reference for the script) we watch a young Tonya struggle with acceptance in ice skating despite her obvious talent, her troubled relationships with her mother and husband (Sebastian Stan), and the events leading up to the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

While a bit too apologetic of Harding in an attempt to allow audiences to see her as the victim of circumstance she believes herself to be, writer Steven Rogers embraces the trashy tabloid nature of the the entire sordid affair going so far as to include Bobby Cannavale as a Hard Copy producer. Director Craig Gillespie‘s film isn’t without its missteps including Robbie taking over the role of Tonya at 13 (seriously, was I the only one thinking of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story at this point?) and some awkward CGI that doesn’t always properly fit Robbie’s face to her stunt double on the ice.

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Molly’s Game

by Alan Rapp on December 27, 2017

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Molly’s Game
  • IMDb: link

Molly's Game movie reviewIn choosing to adapt Molly Bloom‘s true story, writer/director Aaron Sorkin begins with an already intriguing subject matter which is only helped by his trademark pacing and smart dialogue. Jessica Chastain is terrific as the failed amateur skier whose life took a dramatic twist after washing out of Olympic qualifying to become the what tabloids dubbed the “poker princess.” Filled with celebrities and high rollers, Molly Brown ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for almost a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Sorkin rounds out the cast with Idris Elba as Molly’s lawyer, Kevin Costner as Molly’s father, and Michael Cera as one of the regulars at Molly’s games.

Sorkin’s script takes us through Molly’s journey from the ski slopes to underground poker clubs, while offering insight on how Molly rose to fame and the struggles she faced long before the FBI started knocking on her door. Although she has a court case looming, and much of the film is spent with her talking about her past with her lawyer, Molly Bloom stays out of the courtroom in favor of flashbacks to her glory days and mistakes made along the way.

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Still Pitchy, and Far From Perfect

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2017

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Pitch Perfect 3
  • IMDb: link

Pitch Perfect 3 movie reviewScreenwriters Kay Cannon and Mike White bend over backwards the third time around to find a plausible reason to reunite the Barden Bellas for a final chance to sing and compete for glory. Given the glut of game shows which are music-based it would seem pretty easy to do. However, Pitch Perfect 3 goes old school and instead sends our ladies overseas to perform on a USO tour for American servicemen abroad. And, because everything in this series has to be about competition, the Bellas are pitted against the other bands competing for an opening act spot for prestigious musician DJ Khaled (playing himself).

Most of the cast return including the talented Becca Anna Kendrick, the awkward and all-the-sudden less-sexually-confused Chloe (Brittany Snow), the competitive Aubrey (Anna Camp), the younger Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), the odd Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), and the annoying Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) who gets her own bizarre subplot involving a long-lost father (John Lithgow) and gangsters… for the micro-audience of those waiting to see Rebel Wilson as a ninja? Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins also reprise their roles as commentators, this time tracking the group overseas for a documentary which would seem to have a very narrow target audience as well.

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Downsizing

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2017

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Downsizing
  • IMDb: link

Downsizing movie reviewDownsizing is an odd film with an intriguing premise and unusual concept that gets a little lost along the way as the film takes a hard-right turn leaving you unsure, exactly, where the story is ultimately heading. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star as a couple who decide to take part in an unusual scientific adventure which will shrink them to only a few centimeters tall. Initially created as a way to preserve the world’s dwindling resources, downsizing gains popularity as a middle-income family like the Safraneks can live like kings for only a fraction of the price in ritzy miniature communities. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned.

Director and co-writer Alexander Payne has delivered some strong films over the years (The Decendants, Sideways, and Nebraska), but despite a promising set-up, Downsizing never reaches its full potential. That said, there’s some fun to be had (even if the ecological preachiness doesn’t match the offbeat humor). Without giving away the twist, the film explores the miniature world through Paul’s eyes focusing on the odd characters he meets (such as Hong Chau and Christoph Waltz) as he learns to look at life from a different perspective that really doesn’t have much to do with his relative size.

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