Movie Reviews 

Lion

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Lion
  • IMDb: link

LionOnly two films in 2016 offered a profound emotional reaction that forced me to tears. The first was a sobering documentary of an athlete struggling with the onset of an incurable and debilitating disease. Like Gleason, Lion has its basis in fact as director Garth Davis‘ film dramatizes the truth story of Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) and his long journey to find home.

Offering us two films for the price of one, Davis expertly balances two threads set in different locales with completely different casts. This is no easy task, yet the film weaves both together into a compelling narrative about a sense of self, home, and place in the world.

Starting in the country outside of Calcutta, we meet a young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). Separated in the city from Guddu, Sarro narrowly escapes a terrible fate on the streets. Even with the help of authorities, the five-year-old can’t find his way back home and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) to be raised thousands of miles from his home.

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Sing

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Sing
  • IMDb: link

Sing movie reviewIn a year without a true standout animated feature it seems fitting that Sing, an animated film as average as they come, closes out 2016. With a paper-thin plot to allow various characters multiple opportunities to perform popular songs and dance around, Illumination Entertainment offers up a film version of American Idol by offering one lucky contestant fame and fortune. Of course the fact that the person offering it can’t actually deliver does through a wrench into the plans of the would-be stars.

With an impressive cast including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, and Nick Kroll, directors Christophe Lourdelet and Garth Jennings deliver a film that is neither more nor less than you would expect. When the story allows the characters to burst into song the movie works well enough. However, when there are stretches without musical performances, where the real-life troubles (family issues, boyfriend issues, daddy issues, money issues, and so on) of the individual performers get in the way of training for their big night, the movie stalls.

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Assassin’s Creed

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Assassin’s Creed
  • IMDb: link

Assassin's Creed movie reviewStop when this gets too silly for you. For hundreds of years a creed (which is the franchise’s term for ill-defined shadowy group) of assassins has been in a secret war with the Knights Templar over control of a divine object know as the Apple that has to power to remove free will from all humankind. The Templars wish to use it to subjugate the human race. To find the lost artifact, the Templars steal a career criminal (Michael Fassbender) from his execution and hook him up to a machine which reads genetic memories from his code so he can relive his ancestor’s experiences while jumping around tied to a giant metal arm with those experiences manifested around him as ghostly visages.

Still with me? In charge of the project is a die-hard believer (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter the scientist (Marion Cotillard) who needs a blood descendant of the last person to have the Apple to lead the Templars to it (on the assumption that no one could have possilby found and/or moved it in more than half a millennium). The only way to find the Apple is to have these decedents of various assassins relive the experiences (gaining knowledge, purpose, and murderous skills which, of course, will eventually backfire on the evil corporation).

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The Most Overrated Movie of 2016

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Jackie
  • IMDb: link

Jackie movie reviewThe goal of a biopic is to offer insight into its subject, to explore the life of an individual and share something new or interesting about its central character. By that definition Jackie is a complete failure. The only takeaway from director Pablo Larraín‘s film is that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was upset by the assassination of her husband. That’s hardly worth the price of admission (let alone the film’s $9,000,000 budget). Natalie Portman may shine in the role, but to what purpose?

Oscar-bait, the film is notable only for its recreation of the time period and for Portman’s peformance. The problem with the former is the glamour is wasted as window dressing on a film without a reason to exist (other than grab Portman some statuettes). The problem with the later is Portman’s performance is undercut by both a questionable accent and Noah Oppenheim‘s script which is never sure who Jackie was, as it jumps from portraying a vapid creature out of touch with reality (as seen in the flashbacks) to a woman of cunning and guile completely controlling an interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup) looking to find the real Mrs. Kennedy.

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La La Land

by Alan Rapp on December 16, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: La La Land
  • IMDb: link

La La Land movie reviewI enjoyed La La Land; it’s fun, light-weight entertainment with likable stars and straightforward (largely predictable) storyline. It doesn’t ask much of the audience other than to enjoy the ride. During the award season release of heavy dramas, the film works well as a palate cleanser. However, I object to the growing consensus that it’s one of the year’s best films.

Writer/director Damien Chazelle‘s film is a nostalgic throwback to the golden age of the Hollywood musical, with a decidedly post-modernist slant. As a love story to Hollywood the film works well enough, as a musical the film runs into a few issues beginning with the choice to cast its stars based on their acting, rather than singing, ability.

In pretty much the most cliched set-up possible, we’re introduced to barista and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and promising Jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who meet cute, dislike each other, and eventually fall in love. Along the way there will be singing, dancing, the inevitable rough patch, and a questionable ending (not unlike Woody Allen’s Café Society) which ends the movie on a sour note.

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