Archive for the 'Features' Category

Battle of the Sexes
Serving up a Fight for Equal Rights

Battle of the Sexes, the new film from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, is to 2017 what Hidden Figures was to 2016. The movie tackles the subject of equality by seamlessly transporting us to a time when conditions were much worse than they are today, showing us at the same time how far we have come and how far we still need to go. Whereas Hidden Figures focused on racial equality along with women’s rights, Battle of the Sexes focuses not only on women’s rights, but those of the LBGTQ community. And it does so in an incredibly entertaining fashion.

The Only Living Boy in New York
Woody Allen Light

Director Marc Webb had a big hit with his first feature, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer, and like most young directors these days who have a big hit right out of the gate, he was offered the keys to a blockbuster franchise. But the Amazing Spider-Man films felt more like studio projects than they did a vision of their director and so it is nice that in 2017, Webb returns to smaller projects with not one, but two new films. The first was the charming, heartstring-puller Gifted, released earlier this year and the second is The Only Living Boy in New York, a Woody Allen-esque, New York City-based drama.

Wind River
A Snowy Mystery

Coming off back-to-back critical successes as a screenwriter with Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan has earned the opportunity to direct that he gets with Wind River. The film is not Sheridan’s first directorial effort—that would be 2011’s low-budget horror flick Vile—but it his first with a halfway decent budget and a couple of prominent actors in the lead roles (two Avengers, no less). The resulting film, like Hell or High Water, is a compelling story about a part of the American landscape that has been all but forgotten by those outside of it.

The Dark Tower
Not the Epic You’re Looking For

For decades, the novels and short stories of author Stephen King have been adapted into dozens of movies, miniseries, and television shows, but the one saga that his fans have perhaps most been clamoring for is a big budget adaptation of King’s The Dark Tower series. Considered by many to be the author’s magnum opus, it is an epic eight-book fantasy series that tells its own story, while also bringing in many of King’s other properties into one giant shared universe. The film project has started and stalled multiple times over the years, but finally director Nikolaj Arcel is bringing The Dark Tower to the big screen.

Atomic Blonde
Spray Painted, Neon Action

Action movies—particularly the R-rated ones—have been going through something of a transition recently. While the past decade was dominated by the shaky camera work and rapid editing popularized by the Jason Bourne movies, movies like 2011’s The Raid: Redemption and 2014’s John Wick have returned action movies to a time when the camera followed the action, rather than took part in it. While looking back, these films have also moved the genre forward by adding a definite, almost balletic style to the action and a smoothness to the images presented on screen. The latest example to hit theaters is Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, shortly after she completely stole Mad Max: Fury Road from its title character.

A Time Puzzle of a War Drama

Director Christopher Nolan has made some bulky movies in his career, with the last two—Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises—clocking in at closer to three hours than two hours. So it was a bit of a surprise to find out that his new World War II drama Dunkirk had a runtime of only 106 minutes. That runtime makes Dunkirk the second shortest of all Nolan’s features, longer only than his debut Following, which clocked in at a brief 96 minutes. The movie also has a PG-13 rating, a rarity among recent war films. But Nolan’s purpose with Dunkirk is not to tell a bloated drama graphically depicting the horrors of war, but rather to tell the true-life heroic story of survival in the time needed to tell the story. For the most part, Nolan succeeds with Dunkirk, but time factors into the film more than just its runtime.

The Big Sick
Summer’s Most Genuine Comedy

The summer movie season is typically filled with big-budget action spectacles, animated kids movies, and broad comedies. But every good summer movie season also usually has at least one breakout independent movie that serves as counter-programming to the blockbusters. Typically, these movies become big hits in their own right thanks mostly to good word of mouth and The Big Sick has been getting good word of mouth ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Baby Driver
Car Chase Karaoke

A year before his breakout hit Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, Edgar Wright directed a music video for the group Mint Royale and their song “Blue Song.” The video featured a getaway driver lip-synching and dancing along with the tunes in his car while waiting for his crew to rob a bank. With his new film Baby Driver, Wright has taken that brief concept—reenacted in the movie’s opening scene—and turned it into a hip thrill ride of a motion picture that should pump some gas into the summer movie season.

The Book of Henry
Follow the Plan

Director Colin Trevorrow followed up his delightful, shoestring-budgeted 2012 debut Safety Not Guaranteed with the slightly bigger budgeted Jurassic World in 2015. That blockbuster shattered box-office records on its way to becoming the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time. Following that success, Trevorrow surely could have lived in the blockbuster franchise realm—he will return to that stratosphere with 2019’s Star Wars: Episode IX—but instead he returned to less extravagant fare for his next film with The Book of Henry, a story of a single mother and her two young boys.

The Mummy
Evil Has Arrived

A few weeks ago, the new film version of The Mummy was just another Tom Cruise action movie that did not seem to be generating much interest. Then Universal announced that the movie would actually be the first in what they are calling the “Dark Universe,” a Marvel-like movie universe that would be shared by some of their most iconic movie monsters, including the likes of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Invisible Man. Depending on who you are, this announcement either meant nothing or it generated a whole new level of interest in the movie. For me, it was the latter; maybe not an increased level of excitement, but it certainly made the film that much more intriguing. Shared film universes are tricky, but when they work, they add an entirely new layer to the movie-going experience.

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