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Love & Friendship

At its heart, “Love & Friendship,” Whit Stilman’s adaptation of a previously unpublished Jane Austen novel, is a con-man (or, in this case, con-woman) flick.  It should appeal to fans of movies like “Matchstick Men” or “The Brothers Bloom” as much as those of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.”  It’s smart, and funny, and the costumes and sets are lovely.  It might be the perfect date movie.

It probably ought to be subtitled “…are useful tools to get what you want, or at least avoid poverty.”  Kate Beckinsale (who is fantastic, proving that her verbal dexterity is at least a match for the physical dexterity she’s put on display in all those terrible vampire movies) plays our main character, Lady Susan, and like most of Austen’s heroines, she is dangerously close to destitution and ill repute. Her husband has passed away and left her with nothing but debts, and the number of gracious relatives willing to take her in had dwindled because of her, shall we say, flirtatious behavior. Whenever I read Austen, I can’t help but think about how quickly and easily an Austen heroine could become a Dickens or Hugo tragic figure. It’s hardly ever mentioned, but Austen’s women are always perched on the very edge of the abyss.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Everybody Wants Some!

“Everybody Wants Some” has been described by its director as a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” which is the only other Richard Linklater film I like. (Well… “School of Rock” is ok.) I like this film more than “Dazed & Confused,” so that makes it my favorite Linklater film. That’s faint praise.

But it is praise, and “Everybody Wants Some” is a good movie, maybe one of the best of the year.  It’s about a group of guys who play college baseball in Texas and live together in a rickety old house. Blake Jenner is the center of focus, the freshman pitcher who must figure out how to become one of the guys. Not that it’s hard.  They razz him and haze him and the other freshmen a bit, and he takes it good-naturedly, without complaining, and he’s in.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

My generation grew up watching Star Wars movies and have a fair amount of nostalgia for the Star Wars saga. Rogue One is the story of events immediately preceding the famous Episode IV: A New Hope. The hardest thing about talking about Star Wars is this nostalgia factor; People get remarkably passionate about this topic. And I think that’s a good thing, but I think it obscures looking at the movie as its own thing, opposed to seeing it as a piece of a larger franchise. But I’m going to try to ignore the fandom and the hype and look at this movie on its own merits.

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Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins.

Great Movies Roundtable: Goodfellas

#91 on AFI’s 100 Movies, 100 Years – 10th Anniversary Edition is the 1990 gangster classic ” Goodfellas.”

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”  This film follows the life of Henry Hill, an actual gangster, from when he was a kid idolizing the gangsters across the street in Brooklyn up until the point he testifies against his friends and joins the witness protection program.  Along the way, he befriends the voilent, short-tempered Joe Pesci, and the more measured, calculating, but equally ruthless Robert De Niro.  He lives the high life for a while, spends some time in prison, and gets involved with drugs, with ultimately leads to his downfall.

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Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins, by Will Krischke, Lists, The Classic Movie Series.

Sing Street

In “Sing Street,” Ferdia Walsh-Peelo plays a young man who is just trying to get through one day at a time at the rough new Catholic school where his parents have enrolled him. He used to go to a much nicer school, but times are tough; it’s 1985 in Ireland.  Now, the new rector makes him walk around in his socks because he doesn’t have black shoes. Every kid in the cafeteria looks like he wants to beat up the new guy to prove how tough he is. Walsh-Peelo does his best to be invisible, innocuous, not worth their time.

That is, until he sees Lucy Boynton, a slightly older girl at the group home across the street, who stands, smoking her cigarette, and watches the boys come and go from school.  Suddenly, he is bold and courageous, convincing her to be the pretty girl in a music video he’s making for a band he hasn’t formed yet (but of course, he doesn’t tell her that.)

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Hacksaw Ridge

When he was a young man in West Virginia, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) made a vow to God that he would never touch a gun or intentionally hurt another human being. In “Hacksaw Ridge” there are two incidents that inspire that vow – one, when he is a young boy and hits his brother with a rock.  For a few terrible moments, he thinks he’s killed him.  Then, when he is a teenager, he takes a gun away from his drunken, abusive, self-loathing father (Hugo Weaving,) and almost uses it against him. Which of these is the moment he makes his vow?  In my life, it’s usually not one event, but a collected series of events, that lead me to make life-changing decisions.  Maybe it was the same for Doss.

He’s a Christian (specifically, a Seventh Day Adventist) and a man of strong conviction. But it’s easy to be a pacifist during peacetime. Our convictions and beliefs aren’t worth much until they are truly tested. And when World War II begins, Doss can’t just stay home while his brother – and all of his friends — head off to die in service of their country. So he enlists as a medic, determined to keep his pacifist vow, even in a soldier’s uniform.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Moana

Now I’m sure when a lot of people heard that Disney was going to make a movie with a Polynesian heroine, they got very nervous. People were worried about how Disney would treat this different culture. I am happy to report that “Moana” is an excellent movie. It tells the story of a young Polynesian girl named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) whose island home is being affected by this blight caused by the theft of a sacred stone by a demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson). She’s told by her grandmother that she must seek this demigod and return the sacred stone to its rightful place. She sets sail to find Maui and to return the stone in order to save her home and her people.

Okay, now I have to return back to why people were nervous. They are worried that this was going to be another “Pocahontas”.  Now I’m not saying Pocahontas is a bad movie; it is gorgeous and well produced. But it told a heavily fictionalized account from what a lot of people would consider a tragic episode in history (feel free to Google Pocahontas and you’ll find a lot of sad websites detailing the sordid story). I was really worried that there would be a repeat of this controversy.  But “Moana” handles Polynesian culture with remarkable sensitivity. It turns out the Disney team created a whole task force of cultural consultants to help them in the filmmaking process. And I think that shows in the movie. As a viewer I think I got a small glimpse into a culture that is not my own. To see some of their hopes, their dreams, their prayers and their beauty in the movie.

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Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins.

Arrival

Why is it so dark in here?

In “Arrival,” Amy Adams plays a very quiet, professional linguist who is called in by Army colonel when a giant UFOs descends in remote Montana.  11 other UFOs have appeared in other places around the globe. The aliens seem interested in communication and interaction, but the humans are freaked, and on the edge of panic (because the first thing we want to do, when confronted with something we are unfamiliar with, is attack it.)  So Adams, with the help of Jeremy Renner (who seems to be no help at all) must learn the alien’s language, and how to communicate with it. This is no small task, as the aliens look like giant squid and talk like a lightrail train.

Doing so has unexpected consequences for Adams, and there’s a storytelling bait-and-switch in “Arrival” that feel more like a trick than a treat. Nonetheless, what works best in “Arrival” are the ideas; this is a sci fi think-piece on communication, particularly on what a tricky and confusing thing language is. I feel like that’s a subject worthy of exploration, but this movie leaves an awful lot on the table.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

Allied – Casablanca Revisited

Robert Zemeckis tends to make a good movie. His new movie “Allied” was quite enjoyable. It tells the story of a Canadian intelligence operative, played by Brad Pitt, and a French resistance fighter, played by Marion Cotillard. Brad Pitt Falls head-over-heels with this fellow operative and decides to marry her. We proceed on to an almost too adorable marriage during the height of the second World War when suddenly she is accused of being a German spy by his superiors. Brad Pitt character decides to investigate and try to prove his wife innocent.

I like historical dramas. I think they capture a type of storytelling where we have a drama but take place in an almost fantastic world that no longer exists anymore. The production design of “Allied” is pretty impressive and appealing. I had the sensation of actually being in the past, which is the best thing historical drama can do. The world of 1940s Vichy-occupied Casablanca comes to life in living color. In fact it all looks new. I’m a fan of the classic “Casablanca,” so it was fun to visit that famous city once more. We get to sit through London during some of the later air raids of the Blitz, and I was impressed with how realistic it looked with enemy aircraft catching on fire and crashing into the ground, as well as anti-aircraft munitions flying up and exploding in the sky. The cast is pretty great in this movie, including the criminally underused Jared Harris. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are at the top of their game.

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Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins.

Dr. Strange

Bringing Dr. Strange to the big screen is a big challenge. Maybe even more so within the particular confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may feel like anything can happen in a universe with room for a Norse god, a guy who shrinks or grows at will, and a foul-mouthed raccoon (-ish thing) who loves weapons. But the Marvel creators have been pretty careful to update all their characters in a way that grounds them in science and technology – albeit, technology that doesn’t, and probably never will, exist. There’s a semi-rational explanation for all of these characters, even the god, who isn’t really a god, but a being from another dimension. Whatever that means.

But then there’s Dr. Strange.  He’s a magician.  Not the kid’s birthday party kind, not even the “make the statue of liberty disappear” kind, but the old-fashioned, spells and talismans kind.  The Harry Potter kind. Is there room for him in this world? And more importantly — if so, does that make Tony Stark a muggle?

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.