MOVIE: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours Perhaps the most controversial film of this summer, Suicide Squad (2016) tells a story that is necessary to highlight the eventual superhero team of the Justice League (2017). While I am aware of the real-life drama surrounding the film, including Jared Leto's method acting, director David Ayer's uncouth comments, and the fandom's revulsion of its negative critical reception, I will try and give an unbiased review here. After all, sometimes the greatest art can stand apart from the artists who create it. Decades from now, most will have forgotten the controversy, resorting to Wikipedia for a reminder. In the realm of superhero films, the motif has always been a dichotomy of extremes. Good vs. evil. In reality, things aren't nearly as clear-cut as this. Sure, there are those who do wrong and those who do right, but each side will have their own motivations. What Suicide Squad does is break down the stereotype of the...
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MOVIE: 42 (2013)

42 Year: 2013 Rating: PG-13 Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours In today's charged racial climate, it seems that we haven't come that far from the 1940's. All the barriers that have been broken to allow equal opportunities to everyone don't seem to matter if the heart of the people has not been changed. Needless to say, several films have been made in the last few years which have highlighted the racial struggles of the pioneers in their respective professions. Initially, I was skeptical that 42 (2013) would devolve into your standard "fight against racism" story, but the expert camerawork, peppy pacing, and superb casting really made this movie for me. Having played baseball myself up through my senior year in high school, the appeal of a story about the game is what initially piqued my interest. The fact that this is a story about one of the most recognizable names in baseball was merely icing on the cake. There have been a number of...
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MOVIE: Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Paint Your Wagon Year: 1969 Rating: PG-13 Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours My first exposure to the musical western that is Paint Your Wagon (1969) was from the 9th season clip show of The Simpsons entitled "All Singing, All Dancing." In the episode, Bart and Homer are looking forward to a shoot-'em-up western with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Instead, they are shocked to find that the film is actually a musical. While the actual film itself did not contain any of the bits from The Simpsons, part of me wished it did . . . or at least an explanation as to why the title is Paint Your Wagon. Needless to say, I knew going into this film that it was going to be a musical, and I was prepared for that. One does wonder if the musical hides topics and themes that aren't really that appropriate in a non-musical setting. I'm not sure this film was comedic enough to have polygamy, greed,...
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MOVIE: Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns Year: 2006 Rating: PG-13 Length: 154 minutes / 2.57 hours Technically the fifth in the Superman franchise that started in the late 1970's, Superman Returns feels a bit like the black sheep of the bunch. There's a sense that it's just tacked on to try and capitalize on some of the popularity of superhero films, in part because of the director's previous successes with other superheroes. Part of me thinks that Bryan Singer should have directed the third X-Men film instead of this movie; since he clearly knew what he was doing with that Marvel property. But what really gets me about this film is the way it "plays to the audience." If you ask diehard fans of two of the most iconic fandoms what their absolute least favorite film is in their canon, you'll get some telling answers. For Star Wars fans, it's Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and for Star Trek fans, it's Into Darkness (2013). But why do they hate...
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MOVIE: Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Dory Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 97 minutes / 1.62 hours As is the case with the rest of Hollywood right now, Pixar is cashing in on the nostalgia factor of their previous films. Just like Monsters University (2013) before it, Finding Dory (2016) brings together the same team of voice actors who brought their respective originals to life more than a decade ago. And while this sequel was more akin to the likes of Toy Story 2 (1999), the amount of time between the two films really gives Pixar the chance to show off how much the power of computers has advanced in that time. Unfortunately, while the visual style has been drastically updated, the plot has not. In its purest essence, Finding Dory is just like Finding Nemo (2003): a fish separated from its parent tries to find their way back home while the parent does everything in their power to find their child. I would have liked a bit more originality from...
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MOVIE: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Year: 2013 Rating: PG Length: 114 minutes / 1.9 hours Let me start by saying that I was skeptical to go see this film, mainly because it starred Ben Stiller. Given his track record of “comedies,” I found myself avoiding his films just because I knew that they’d be crude and not the type of comedy I would enjoy. Much in the same way I was surprised by Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction (2006), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) was a pleasant surprise. I don’t know if it’s because he also directed this film, but I truly enjoyed it on many levels, both as a lover of movies and a lover of photography. The strength of this film lies in its imagery and presentation. The beauty of our world and the way it’s captured in the travels of a man coming out of his shell is truly inspiring. I can honestly say I haven’t seen a...
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MOVIE: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail, Caesar! Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours I like movies as much as the next connoisseur of film, but clearly the Coen Brothers like them more than I do. Specifically, they like the films made during the “golden age” of Hollywood: the 1950’s. From action-packed westerns, to Biblical epics, to underwater choreography, to big-budget musicals, these films exemplified a Hollywood that was on top of its game. Unfortunately, as is the case with any great success, it can be hard to maintain over time. In what could be considered a “love letter” to a Hollywood of the past, the Coen Brothers bring all these films together in Hail, Caesar! (2016). While I could appreciate the references made throughout this film, many of them felt quite disjointed. Sure, there’s the tie-in to real-life Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), but he merely acts as a link between scenes of grandeur meant to show how well the Coen Brothers can follow...
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MOVIE: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours First off, I want to admit that I am more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan. As a result, I have enjoyed the first two of the Star Trek reboot titles because they are structured more like a Star Wars film than a Star Trek one. Of course, this may also be due to my bias toward J.J. Abrams and everything that he directs. For this third installment in the reboot series, we no longer have Abrams, but rather Justin Lin (known for the Fast & Furious franchise). Maybe because of this, I didn't really think this film stood up to the previous two. Sure, there were segments that I thought were interesting and deep, but they were merely bookends in a confusing hodgepodge of action and "buddy up" subplots. I appreciated the beginning, with its humanizing narrative that made sense for the captain's current state of affairs....
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MOVIE: Limelight (1952)

Limelight Year: 1952 Rating: Approved Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours While it is rare to find a film by/starring Charlie Chaplin that isn't uproariously funny, the depth of the drama of this piece certainly shows the range everyone's favorite silent actor could perform. Chaplin will always have the little idiosyncracies in the way he moves, but when they're applied to a washed-up drunk, suddenly they take a much more serious turn. Films like The Dictator (1940) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947) certainly have their amusing moments, but work better as social commentaries, or at least are more direct about their message than the earlier films like The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), and Modern Times (1936). What's really interesting about Limelight is it feels almost as autobiographical as it does groundbreaking. I mean, if we were to name one famous actor who excelled at playing a "tramp", Chaplin is the only one who would come to mind (although Buster Keaton, who also appears in the...
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MOVIE: The Martian (2015)

The Martian Year: 2015 Rating: PG-13 Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours I, for one, am excited that space travel is now a topic regularly covered on the big screen. If the general public becomes even a little bit more interested in interplanetary travel, perhaps I can see man stand on the surface of Mars in my lifetime. The Martian (2015) is merely the latest in a string of space-themed sci-fi movies that brings the excitement of outer space to theaters. While not nearly as continually intense as Gravity (2013), or as epic as Interstellar (2014), what The Martian does right is give a sense of scale to the challenge of returning to Earth from being abandoned on Mars. Gripping and just humorous enough to keep it from being dour, director Ridely Scott uses many cinematic techniques, including several montages, to tell the story many have already read from Andy Weir's novel of the same name. While many sequences and scientific explanations were obviously cut for...
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