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Friday, November 25, 2016


Young navigator Moana (voice of Auli'i Cravalho), the daughter of a Polynesian tribal chief, is chosen to find a precious artifact that could save her people. She teams with demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to locate a legendary island, and together the pair explore fantastical lands and encounter incredible sea creatures in this animated adventure from Disney. The film's soundtrack includes contributions from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony and Grammy-winning creator of the popular stage musical Hamilton. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker    

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Auli'i Cravalho, Jemaine Clement, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Scherzinger. 

Release Date: Nov 23, 2016    

Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.

Runtime: 2 hr. 13 min.    

Genres: Action/Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Family    


Moana is a wonderful breath of fresh air into the Disney princess genre which had relied on damsel in distress for far too long.  Moana luscious visuals and joyful music perfectly captures the energy of the storytelling on display.  Moana’s story is a classic example of “The Heroes Journey” with all the hallmarks evident along the way.  Auli'i Cravalho voices Moana with an earnestness that brings true heart and depth to her character.  Dwayne Johnson is well cast as Maui, a Polynesian Prometheus trickster character, and works as a perfect counter balance to Cravalho.  Moana relies on so many classic tropes that it sounds like it should come off as stale.  Instead it is a vibrant journey which is closer to what I’d hoped Pixar’s Brave would have been.  Moana will likely face a bevy of comparisons to Frozen, an overrated movie in my opinion, but it’s a far better film overall.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Moana & Allied

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the promising double-bill of Disney's Moana and Allied. 
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. First on my agenda: Moana. A young future chief must travel far from the safety of her island to restore it to health and prosperity.
 Dear reader(s): I've got one word to describe Moana, and it is "WOW!" I mean, you know I've got a bunch more words than that, but...WOW. Moana is a beautiful telling of a beautiful story. The art and animation are incredible: majestic scenery, spectacular colors, realistic movement and mannerisms. 
A spirited score by Mark Mancina is complimented by lively original tunes from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i. Thanks to filmmakers' detailed attention to the culture and lore of the Pacific islands, the movie boasts a unique and authentic feel, and Moana is a true heroine for our times: smart, strong, and resourceful. 
She does not sit around waiting for a handsome prince to turn up with her shoe, but she does learn to accept advice and assistance when she should. Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho turns in an earnest, endearing performance as Moana, and, as the demi-god Maui, an animated Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is equally as charming as the real thing. 

Moana is, quite simply, a delight from start to finish. Disney's Moana runs 103 minutes, which includes a depressing little short entitled "Inner Workings." (If you aren't picky about your seat, show up late and avoid that one.) Moana is rated PG for "Peril, some scary images, and brief thematic elements." Moana is perfect. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Moana gets nine. 
Next up: Allied. Espionage and romance with a pair of WWII spies who fall in love and marry in war-torn 1940s Europe. Allied is a suspenseful slow-burner with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. 
Marion Cotillard is perfect as a member of the French resistance accused of being a double agent. Her understated performance is sincere and never gives away the is-she-or-isn't-she mystery. Brad Pitt is wooden, as Brad Pitt tends to be, but the movie smartly elects to focus a LOT on his perfect face, as well as him looking dashing in nifty suits, his military uniform, and an Archer-esque black turtleneck. 
Wise move there, movie. The suspenseful story is deliberately paced, but never so slow it risks losing your attention. War movies are always unsettling, but Allied mostly lacks the explicit violence and gore common in such films. 
Finally, there may come a day when I won't happily pay $7.50 to hear Benny Goodman's Sing Sing Sing in glorious surround-sound, but it is not this day. 
Allied clocks in at 124 minutes and is rated R for "violence, some sexuality/nudity, language, and brief drug use." While it isn't likely to bring home the bacon this awards season, Allied is a tense thriller that's well worth your movie dollar. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Allied gets seven. 

Fangirl Points (so many Fangirl Points!): Anton Lesser! Matthew Goode! Lizzy Caplan! Simon McBurney! Jared Harris! Until next time...

Sunday, November 20, 2016


This spin-off of the Harry Potter franchise jumps back in time to explore the wizarding world of 1926 New York, which is being threatened by both mystical acts of destruction and a group of extremist No-Majs (the American term for Muggles, i.e. those unable to use magic). Author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in the city as part of a global study of fantastic beasts, but he gets caught up in this conflict when some of the magical creatures in his care are accidentally released. Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, and Johnny Depp co-star in this fantasy adventure, which was directed by David Yates (who helmed four of the Harry Potter films) and adapted for the screen by J.K. Rowling from her own book. ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi

Director: David Yates     

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton.

Release Date: Nov 18, 2016     

Rated PG-13 for Some Fantasy/Action Violence 
Runtime: 2 hr. 13 min.     

Genres: Action/Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi/Fantasy    


Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is charming entry into Potterverse.  Kicking off a series of prequel films can be a difficult task but director David Yates pulls it off with ease thanks to some strong turns from his cast.  Eddie Redmayne leads the cast with his Newt Scamander.  It’s an understated performance but engaging enough to keep you invested throughout even if some of the plot seems scattered and unfocused.  The film is at best when Redmayne is paired with Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol.  You can feel the energy in the film pick up with the quartet is assembled.  As for the story itself, it’s a tad busy which can make it feel like it’s hitting multiple stops with no clear destination in mind.  It’s a shame the film didn’t make better use of Colin Farrell.  Instead he’s given a generic villain who’s not nearly as interesting as he could be.  Ezra Miller suffers from a similar situation but he does manage to elevate it a bit with some nifty acting.  That being said it’s a hard film not to like, there’s an inherit charm built into the story which makes it a good start for the series.


Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them & Bleed for This

Dearest Blog: With Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Oscar hopeful Bleed for This, the pre-Thanksgiving weekend provides a treat that's been all too rare in 2016: a genuinely exciting cinema double-bill. So, with high hopes, I set off once again for Marquee Cinemas. 
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. First on my agenda, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Chaos ensues when a rogue English wizard arrives in New York City with a case full of magical creatures. 
While Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is named after a very short Hogwarts textbook, it is not technically "based on" the publication that shares its title; rather, it is an original story written by Potter author J.K. Rowling about her characters, both new and old. Genre fans still smarting from Peter Jackson's ill-advised attempt to stretch a pretty short book into three pretty long movies needn't be concerned; this isn't that. 
Admittedly, the film still runs a bit long, and the occasionally-awkward script--on which Rowling has the sole writing credit--might have done with a brush-up from Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, but the picture's only other real weakness is that the titular "fantastic" beasts are its least-interesting feature. 
The good news is Rowling's trademark kind-heartedness and magical imagination are in full effect with Fantastic Beasts. Eddie Redmayne's skittish acting style can be annoying sometimes, but he's perfect as Newt Scamander. 

Redmayne nails traits common in those of us who are more comfortable with four-legged beasts than with two-legged ones; he shuffles and looks at the ground when speaking with another human, but is entirely at ease with even the most intimidating other creatures. Redmayne also gets full marks for some extraordinary physical acting that had to be uncomfortable-to-downright-embarrassing to play off only a green screen. 
The solid supporting cast includes Colin Farrell in a menacing turn, and scene-stealer Dan Fogler. Fantastic Beasts boasts glorious effects, good-natured humor, and a charming score by the masterful James Newton Howard. 
It's been five years since Harry Potter's final big-screen foray, and if you'd forgotten just how magical it is when that giant "WB" logo appears to the twinkling accompaniment of Hedwig's Theme, Fantastic Beasts will bring it all right back to you. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them clocks in at 133 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some fantasy action violence." 
Nostalgic yet standing firmly on its own merits, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is great fun and a perfectly-worthy addition to the Harry Potter film franchise. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gets seven and a half. 
Next up: Bleed for This. A boxing champion faces a long road to recovery after a devastating automobile accident. 
Well, dear reader(s), I was going to start by pondering how a sport I dislike as intensely as boxing could spawn movies I love so much, but then I remembered Talladega Nights and figured the question kinda answered itself. 
At any rate, boxing movies always seem to be favorites of mine, and I'm pleased to report Bleed for This is no exception. 
Miles Teller is simply amazing as boxer Vinny Pazienza. He's had good roles in good movies before, but this is a real star turn. The normally-dashing Aaron Eckhart underwent an astounding transformation to portray Pazienza's balding, paunchy, middle-aged trainer, the kind of physical effort that normally earns guys Oscars as long as they aren't named Johnny Depp or Gary Oldman. 

Eckhart's earnest turn is the movie's backbone, but it's Ciaran Hinds who really steals the show with his emotional portrayal of Pazienza's father. For my money, any or all of the three are awards-worthy, and reason enough to see a movie that has plenty more going for it. 
While the boxing scenes aren't quite as authentic as Southpaw or Creed, the matches will leave you holding your breath even when you think you know the outcome. 
At a smart two hours, Bleed for This is wise enough not to wear out its welcome, and--between Pazienza's constant underdog status and his touch-and-go recovery--it's a pretty tense ride. Meticulous attention to the fighter's recovery and training might have bogged down in less capable hands, but here it is mesmerizing. 
Some solid 80s arena rock combines with the soulful sounds of Willis Earl Beal to flesh out the picture's struggling-but-hopeful tone. Bleed for This runs 116 minutes and is rated R for "language, sexuality/nudity, and some accident images." 
It's not quite the Best Picture contender it may have seemed, but Bleed for This is a solid drama bouyed by award-worthy performances. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Bleed for This gets seven. 
Until next time...

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