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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Dearest Blog: Having returned from the Big City, yesterday I utilized my recovery day to sneak in another Justice League screening, justified by pairing it with likely awards favorite Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailer.

A grieving mother finds a unique way of holding local law enforcement to account for its failure to find her daughter's killer.

Dear reader(s), Three Billboards left me adrift, so the following may seem disjointed and even contradictory at times. Know that this movie is, without question, worth your time, but it is challenging.

The quality of the performances in Three Billboards is breathtaking. It seems almost unfair to call out anyone individually when the ensemble as a whole is so extraordinary, BUT...Sam Rockwell. Just give this man an Oscar already! Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson are magnificent beyond words, and Peter Dinklage will manage to break your heart with less than 15 minutes total screen time. Incredible all 'round.

Much of Three Billboards is laugh-out-loud funny, despite the somber subject matter and sad consequences of the characters' actions. For the most part, said characters are are bigoted rubes who behave badly and selfishly, yet they aren't unlikable. The story is riveting, but the picture moves slowly and seems quite a lot longer than it actually is. Language throughout is nearly as brutal as the incident that propels the film, not just your garden-variety swearing, but also racial and homophobic slurs. While it may be realistic, it's also jarring and wears thin very quickly, ultimately making the film feel a lot like work. Without divulging any specifics about the ending, I will say simply that it is sure to be one of those controversial love-it-or-hate-it endings that leaves folks talking for months to come. (For the record, I loved it.)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri runs 115 minutes and is rated R for "violence, language throughout, and some sexual references."

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been called the best movie of the year. For my money it's not that, but it is a thought-provoking exercise and an acting master class that's well worth your movie dollar.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gets eight.

Fangirl points: Zeljko Ivanek! John Hawkes!

Until next time...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Coco & Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for a double-bill of Coco and Roman J. Israel, Esq. Talk about mood swings!
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on my agenda was the wonderful animated feature Coco.
A young Mexican boy learns the importance of family, and of being true to yourself, on Dia de los Muertos.
Coco is preceded by a short called Olaf's Frozen Adventure. It runs about 20 minutes and feels like about 20 years. Outside of an amusing number about different holiday traditions, the songs are pedestrian and the story even more so. The animation is lovely, as you'd expect, but that's really about all this one has going for it. Do yourself a favor, dawdle an extra minute at concessions and turn up late.
Once you've survived this latest attempt to cash in on Ana and Elsa, your reward is sweet. Coco is a beautiful, heartfelt story featuring delightful characters, stunning artwork, and a magical score by Michael Giacchino. If the movie is a bit heavy-handed with its message, it's sincere enough that you probably won't mind. Myriad skulls and skeletons could seem a bit macabre to unfamiliar eyes, but bright colors and cheerful patterns keep the tone friendly enough for even very young children. The picture's climax drags just a hair, but it's a petty quibble with a pretty perfect movie.
Coco clocks in at 109 minutes and is rated PG for "thematic elements." Coco is a sweet story brought to life by glorious artwork and enjoyable characters. With just four weeks left in 2017, I’m inclined to call it the year's best animated feature. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Coco gets eight.
Next on my agenda, the perplexing legal thriller Roman J. Israel, Esq.
When his longtime partner passes away, a brilliant lawyer is thrust from the shadows into the spotlight.
Dear reader(s), Roman J. Israel, Esq. is one weird little movie. The titular attorney is a far cry from the cool tough guys Denzel Washington often portrays; instead he's an awkward loner whose odd mannerisms are portrayed by Washington with meticulous attention to detail. Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo are both solid in supporting roles, though I'd have liked them both to have a bit more to do. The story is never dull, but clunky pacing and a sense of moral ambiguity make the movie feel awkward and unsatisfying. Complicated characters are one thing, but this is poorly-fleshed-out enough that it's hard to grab onto anyone's real goals or motivations. I saw a headline over the weekend that called this film "one of the most confounding misfires of 2017," and that says it better than I ever could. There's really no excuse for this not being better than it is.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. runs 129 minutes and is rated PG13 for "language and some violence."
Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a terrific showcase for the acting tour de force that is Denzel Washington, but it doesn't have much else going for it. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Roman J. Israel, Esq. gets five.
Fangirl points: DAMN does Trouble Man sound awesome in that glorious surround sound!
Until next time...

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Despite his family's generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Héctor, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.

Release Date: Nov 11, 2017

Genres: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina

Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach

Rated PG for thematic elements


Pixar’s Coco is a wonderful exploration of Mexican culture packaged in a heartwarming multigenerational story.  Directors Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina deliver a lively and vivid world that’s decidedly Mexican through and through.  Anyone coming from Mexican heritage will find so many tidbits here and there sprinkled throughout the film that just adds to the film’s overall authenticity.  Once the film moves to the land of the dead, it’s a Technicolor explosion of colors and wonderfully realized characters designs.  The dead are brought to life as delicately adorned skeletons keeping with traditional Day of the Dead adornments.  The voice cast is strong through with newcomer Anthony Gonzalez  leaving a lasting impression in the lead.  His performance is confident and endearing.  He and Gael García Bernal share excellent chemistry that’s paid off later in the film after a slight twist.  The finale is a tear jerking exploration of family, memory and death.  Coco is everything I’d hoped The Book of Life was going to be years ago.  Coco succeeds on multiple levels and is sure to become a classic.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

April Sokol's Review of Justice League

Movie review: Justice League

Justice League is the latest DC Comic Universe offering. The story picks up shortly after the death of Superman has plunged the world into darkness, chaos and violence.

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fischer, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, JK Simmons, Amber Heard and Ciaran Hinds

My slightly spoilery review:

I feel like in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention before we go further into this review that I am not a DC fan usually. The big shiny exception being the incredible Wonder Woman. I have felt as though most of the DC movies have been dark and dreary and have taken themselves entirely too seriously. So my expectations for this movie were not what anyone would consider “high”. What a shock it was to find myself REALLY enjoying this movie.

Our story is nothing incredibly new or unique. The world is being threatened by the evil demon Steppenwolf (voiced by Hinds) who is set on total destruction. Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) realize that they are going to need more help if they hope to defeat him and save planet Earth. Enter the rest of the team: The Flash (Miller), Aquaman (Momoa) and Cyborg (Fisher). We get glimpses into each of their lives as they are being recruited. This is done without the repetition of Suicide Squad and in a way where I felt intrigued by what each new member will bring to the table. The slight spoiler here is in the resurrection of Superman (Cavill).

Where I feel this movie really scores is in the emotional components. There are some really wonky CGI problems which I was willing to overlook because I felt invested in the characters. The deep layered complexities of what it means to be a human are really explored here in a way that many superhero movies seem to miss. Adams and Lane are back as Lois Lane and Martha Kent respectively. They don't get an awful lot of red meat to work with, but they both do at the very least an adequate job in their roles. Jeremy Irons (Alfred) and JK Simmons (Commissioner Gordon) are good even though both characters are completely unnecessary.

The true winners of this movie have to be Miller and Fisher. They are complex and vulnerable and funny and I would have watched a 3 hour movie of just the two of them. Both are tasked with acting while a significant portion of their faces are covered by either a mask or cybernetic enhancements. Miller in particular really shines in this area. He is able to act with just the use of his eyes and I was thoroughly impressed with him throughout.

Justice League feels far more like a Marvel movie than any of it's predecessors. There is significantly more humor here than what's come before. Both of my showings had very vocal crowd applause and laughter. The villain being somewhat cartoonish and not actually “scary” makes this a family friendly option. My only other slight quibble would be a sort of muddy 3rd act. But my grade is a very solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Give me a Flash/Cyborg movie STAT!
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