Archive for the 'Features' Category

Hidden Figures
The Crowd-Pleaser We Need Right Now

As I pound away at this review, Academy members have already begun filling out their ballots for the Oscar nominations which are to be announced on January 24th. As usual, the list of expected Best Picture nominees is chock full of heavy-hitting dramas. It is a good batch of films, to be sure, as it has been a fine year, but what the Academy really needs is a crowd-pleaser, a movie your average moviegoer will want to tune in to the awards show and root for on the night of the ceremony. There is La La Land, a movie that I love, but as a classic characters-break-into-song-and-dance musical, that movie has already lost a good chunk of the general public who simply aren’t a fan of the genre. Enter the wild card, Hidden Figures, a PG-rated true story that had the audience at the advance screening cheering and breaking into rousing applause at multiple times throughout the film’s runtime.


La La Land
A Film for Dreamers

Writer/director Damien Chazelle was an unknown before he burst onto the scene two years ago with Whiplash, a tough, but thrilling drama about the challenges a young drummer must face to fulfill his dream of being the best. The movie was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie also made quite a profit, earning 50 million dollars with a budget of only 3.3 million. The success of that movie afforded Chazelle the opportunity to bring his dream project to the screen with La La Land, a charming musical that pays homage to the classic Hollywood musical while at the same time reinventing the genre.


Office Christmas Party
Eggnog, Improv, and Debauchery

Most people who work in an office environment know about office holiday parties. They are often fun, sometimes stressful, and every once in awhile they can be embarrassing. After all, people tend to let their inhibitions go a little when the alcohol starts flowing and they forget that they are partying with people whom they will have to see every single day after. The holiday office tradition is taken to the comedic extreme in the new movie Office Christmas Party, which hopefully won’t have too many people leaving the theater thinking “that reminded me so much of my office.”


Moana
A Magical Ocean Getaway

The new Disney animated film Moana may just be the movie that finally proves once and for all that Dwayne Johnson can do anything. The wrestler-turned-actor has done action well, he’s done comedy well, and now he has added singing a catchy tune in a Disney movie to his resume. Johnson’s performance as the demigod Maui is one of the highlights of this fun adventure of a movie. By hitting the open oceans and exploring Polynesia, Moana ventures where few other animated films have journeyed. The result is an entertaining adventure full of comedy, action, and magic.


Hacksaw Ridge
War Isn’t Always About Taking Lives

Mel Gibson’s career as a director reached a high point in 1996 when the director took home both the directing and producing Oscars for just his second film, Braveheart. He returned to the director’s chair in 2004 and had a controversial box-office hit with The Passion of the Christ. He followed that up two years later with the lackluster Apocalypto. It was around that time that the star’s off-screen behavior caused a serious fall from grace and he disappeared from the cinema, both in front of and behind the camera. He returned as an actor in 2010 and has been steadily working since. Now he is back in the director’s chair for an incredible true story with Hacksaw Ridge, his first English-language film as a director since Braveheart.


The Accountant
Affleck Cooks the Books

Affleck has proven to be a legitimate three-pronged threat in the movie industry as an actor, a director, and a screenwriter. He has already taken home an Academy Award for his screenwriting and directed another movie to the top prize at the Oscars. He is actor only in his new movie, The Accountant, and as long as people don’t go in with a mind to look for reasons to dislike the movie and its star, they are going to find that what they get is a suspenseful and entertaining action thriller.


The Birth of a Nation
An Epic Story of Revolt

Having already been much talked about on the film festival circuit and after taking home both the grand jury prize and the audience award at Sundance, Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation seems primed for an Oscar run. In the same vein as Oscar winners like Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave, its subject matter is often difficult to watch, but it is an important story that needs to be told and its director has done a terrific job of telling it.


Deepwater Horizon
Reliving a Disastrous Night

In April 2010, the off-shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded, leaving oil gushing from an underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico for eighty-seven days. It is considered to be the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history. While the ongoing spill and the attempts to cap it got headlines for months, what was lost in the shuffle was the horrifying experience of those working aboard the rig when it happened. The movie Deepwater Horizon is here to remedy that.


The Light Between Oceans
Doesn’t Burn Bright Enough

Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans is being adapted for the big screen by writer/director Derek Cianfrance, whose previous films Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines have won him some critical praise and indie cred, but have not yet broken him through with most audiences. The subject matter given to him by the novel combined with the A-list cast he has assembled makes this movie an instant Oscar contender on paper. Oscars are not won on paper, though. They are won on the silver screen and this movie does not shine quite bright enough.


Pete’s Dragon
Less Songs, More Fur

Disney has no shortage of movies in their catalogue to remake and it appears as if they plan to go through them all. The animated Jungle Book was given an update earlier this year and now Disney brings us a remake of their 1977 live-action/animated hybrid Pete’s Dragon. Director David Lowery has made it clear that the movie is not so much a remake as it is a “re-imagining.” Gone are the songs and much of the plot, but what remains is the heart of the film, a story of a young orphan boy and his friend, who just so happens to be a dragon.


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