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Sunday, January 22, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: SPLIT







































An outing takes a sinister turn for three teenage friends (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula) when they are kidnapped by a ruthless stranger (James McAvoy) and imprisoned in his basement. They soon learn that their captor has multiple-personality disorder, forcing them to plot their escape without ever knowing which of his 23 personas -- young or old, male or female, benign or monstrous -- they will confront on the way out. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. ~ Violet LeVoit, Rovi

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Brad William Henke, 
Sebastian Arcelus

Release Date: Jan 20, 2017

Rated PG-13 for Some Language, Disturbing Thematic Content, Disturbing Behavior and Violence

Runtime: 1 hr. 57 min.

Genres: Horror, Suspense/Thriller

Review:

M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a good movie in a long long while.  I’ve personally found him to be one of the most frustrating and annoying directors in recent memory.  Typically his films have an interesting premise but he can’t help but show us exactly how clever he thinks he is.  Spilt suffers from similar issues.  Shyamalan is helped greatly by some stellar performances from James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.  McAvoy is fully committed to the role and its fun watching him switch through personalities with incredible ease.  McAvoy’s role is the center piece but Anya Taylor-Joy is nearly as impressive in a more subtle role.  Taylor-Joy continues to impress after her star making turn in last years The Witch.  She displays some impressive talent that bodes well for her in the future.  Sadly, both performances can’t save a messily made child abuse allegory.  In a better filmmaker’s hand, this could have been a special film that could have really taken advantage of the strong performances.  Instead Shyamalan delivers a heavy handed child abuse parable all the while sexualizing his young stars with some outright creepy shots and plot devices.  Like every M. Night Shyamalan there’s a twist and a pointless cameo by the director.  The twist is entirely inorganic and comes entirely out of left field, its sole purpose is to remind audiences that Shyamalan made decent films a long time ago.

C

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of La La Land & Live by Night

 
Dearest Blog: This weekend it was off to Marquee Cinemas for La La Land (finally!) and Live By Night.
 
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. I will offer thumbs-up or thumbs-down on endings, without divulging specifics; if that's more than you want to know, read no further until you've seen these.
 
First up: Oscar hopeful La La Land.
 
An aspiring actress and a jazz musician chase their dreams in Los Angeles.
 
Let it be noted, dear reader(s), that, from its first trailer, I've anticipated La La Land as a great movie and likely Best Picture winner. I generally love musicals, and--while romances aren't my favorite--who could resist a pairing as adorable as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling? Certainly not I! Well...as it turns out, La La Land IS a great movie, and the probable Best Picture winner...but it's a lousy musical.
 
Getting the bad news out of the way first: La La Land features forgettable original tunes and unimaginative choreography. Neither Gosling nor Stone is a great singer, at least not as demonstrated here. (Stone has done Broadway, so I know she has to be better than this.) The musical numbers are exactly why some folks hate musicals: random songs dropped in mostly random places; there's no flow whatsoever. Finally, the movie has a disappointing finale that's so at odds with the rest it feels as if someone accidentally tacked on the ending of a different film. As La La Land's final impression, it casts a heavy shadow on the whole. (This is not a judgment of a happy or unhappy ending; it's about how the ending fits the rest of the picture.)
 
Having said all that, the good news is, there's lots of good news! La La Land is a compelling enough story that its musical failings are almost entirely forgivable. Stone and Gosling manage to out-cute Lawrence and Pratt as the movie year's most lovable couple, a feat I would have thought impossible. Remarkably, their weak singing voices play as part of a self-deprecating charm, and their characters' struggles and dreams should be relatable to just about anyone. La La Land boasts lovely production design and costumes, and there is one smokin' number, performed by John Legend, that even manages to break the movie's tired-old-showtunes mold.
 
La La Land clocks in at 128 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some language."
 
La La Land is a very good movie, a terrible musical, and a love letter to Los Angeles that fails to sell Los Angeles as anything worth loving. 
 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, La La Land gets seven. 
 
Next on the docket: Ben Affleck's mob thriller Live by Night.
 
A Boston mobster takes over Florida operations for a former rival.
 
By now you've probably heard enough negative commentary to guess Live by Night won't go down in the annals of legendary gangster movies. While that's probably true, that's not to say it isn't a worthwhile afternoon at the pictures.
 
Writer/director Affleck has created an interesting--if deliberately paced--story full of twists and turns. Per usual, he's crafted himself a role that plays to his stoic style and, while he does an admirable job, it's Sienna Miller who steals the show as his sometime girlfriend. If you're into mob movies in general, there are some...erm...offers people can't refuse, but the violence isn't overly graphic, and the movie never feels like a shoot 'em up where the story only occasionally interrupts.
 
Live by Night runs 128 minutes and is rated R for "strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity."
 
Live by Night may not rank among the all-time great gangster pictures, but it's a well-executed tale with a satisfying payout. 
 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Live by Night gets six and a half.
 
Fangirl points: Christian Clemenson! Brendan Gleeson! Titus Welliver!
 
Until next time... 
 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: A MONSTER CALLS







































A young boy (Lewis MacDougall) befriends a wise tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) while coping with bullying and the terminal illness of his mother (Felicity Jones). He moves in with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) as his mom's condition deteriorates, and uses his imagination and friendship with the monster to escape reality. J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) directed this fantasy drama. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Cast: Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Toby Kebbell, Ben Moor, Lewis MacDougall

Release Date: Dec 23, 2016

Rated PG-13 for Thematic Content and Some Scary Images

Runtime: 1 hr. 48 min.

Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review:

Juan Antonio Bayona’s A Monster Calls is an interesting fantasy parable with a very human message.  Bayona crafts together a beautifully gothic tale with some impressive visual flourishes peppered in throughout.  Its pace is decidedly measured and methodical throughout.  It might be a turnoff to some because it does move at snail’s pace during large portions of the film.   The monster and his tales are wonderfully animated through lush water colored animation which is as striking as it is effective. The cast lead by Lewis MacDougall is stellar through out and you’d think with the bigger names in the film, MacDougall might get lost in the shuffle but he never does. He turns in an impressive performance filled with melancholy and visible pain.  Its finale delivers a simple and 
straightforward lesson but do so with a strong emotional punch sure to leave many in tears.  

B+

Sunday, January 8, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS







































Death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) must fend off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the vampire faction that betrayed her. Joining forces with allies David (Theo James) and Thomas (Peter Andersson), she embarks on a quest to end the eternal war between the two races, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

Director: Anna Foerster

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Charles Dance, Tobias Menzies

Release Date: Jan 06, 2017

Rated R f or strong bloody violence, and some sexuality

Runtime: 1 hr. 31 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Horror

Review:

Underworld: Blood Wars is exactly what you would expect from this 5th entry into the on going franchise.  Kate Beckinsale slips back into her latex bodysuit with relative ease but the film’s biggest failing is taking her off screen for large chunks of time to deal with an unnecessarily convoluted plot.  While Game of Throne alums, Charles Dance and Tobias Menzies, are welcome additions to the series, Beckinsale is the reason people turn out to these films.  Anna Foerster delivers the same stylish wire work action people have come to expect and I appreciate that she’s trying to deliver a meatier plot.  Unfortunately, she loses sight of the fact that this series has always been a solid B movie franchise with a singular star.  Losing focus on Beckinsale’s Selene is a major misstep and severely limits how enjoyable this film is.

C


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