Movie Reviews 

13th

by Alan Rapp on December 30, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 13th
  • IMDb: link

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th movie reviewTaking its name from the 13th Amendment, the documentary from writer/director Ava DuVernay examines the role race plays in the criminal justice system of the United States and how it is used to continue the subjugation of African Americans following the end of slavery. DuVernay makes a compelling case with his film, documenting the racial inequality within the United States with statistics and facts while examining the self-enforcing logistics of the problem.

Connecting Jim Crow laws with higher arrests and convictions of African Americans, DuVernay attacks the system which was designed to continue to view those with a darker skin color as worth only three-fifths of a white man. Along the way he also touches on Southern propaganda and political maneuverings which turned racism into a war on crime.

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Fences

by Alan Rapp on December 28, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Fences
  • IMDb: link

Fences movie reviewAdapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, Fences is notable more for its impressive performances than plot. Denzel Washington, who does double-duty as both lead actor and director, does all that he can to make the stage play fit the big screen but there’s little doubt what venue the story is best suited. As a film the story certainly works, but I wonder how much better it may have appeared on stage.

The talky script, adapted from the stage by playwright August Wilson, offers a slice of Americana in a low income area of Pittsburgh where former Negro League baseball player turned criminal turned garbage man attempts to make the best of the life he’s carved out for himself. The small cast focuses on Troy’s (Washington) relationships with close friends and family including his wife Rose (Viola Davis), son Cory (Jovan Adepo), troubled brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), and best-friend Bono (Stephen Henderson). The more we learn about the outwardly charming Troy the less we like him. Troy is a bully, alcoholic, adulterer, and an all-around son of a bitch. The film’s first hour is a slow boil under the which pressure continues to rise until it boils over when the conflict between Troy and his family comes to a head.

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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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