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: 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: Road to Morocco (1942)

Road to Morocco Year: 1942 Rating: Not Rated Length: 82 minutes / 1.37 hours It’s unfortunate that many people who might be familiar with this film only know it through the homage done on Family Guy. The unfortunate part of this is that most wouldn’t recognize the origin of the bit and go watch the reference material, which is much funnier than Family Guy could make it. Buddy films have been around for a long time, so it’s nice to see how one of the founding films of this comedy sub-genre succeeded at it. The success of a Buddy film comes from the talent of its two main characters. In this case, Orville "Turkey" Jackson (Bob Hope) is the lovably dim partner to Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby), the snarky singer and brains of the operation. Those who might be looking for a pure slapstick comedy are bound to be slightly disappointed, because the gold of this film is in its repartee. Verbal jabs, wordplay, and double entendre...
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MOVIE: Captain America – Civil War (2016)

Captain America: Civil War Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 147 minutes / 2.45 hours When it comes to sequels, I fell very few film franchises do their predecessors justice. In my opinion, a great sequel requires a simple formula: cause and effect. The "cause" should be in the form of the first (or in this case, previous) movie(s). Whatever happens before a sequel should drive the plot of the following movie. This is the "effect." While it wasn't nearly as good as this effort, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) followed the same formula. Cause: Superman destroying most of Metropolis in Man of Steel (2013). Effect: Batman and Lex Luthor wanting to hold Superman accountable. See? Simple as that. What perhaps makes Captain America: Civil War such a great film is the amount of "cause" that led to its "effect." The driving plot of this film was in direct response to the destruction and mayhem brought about by the Avengers trying to save the...
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MOVIE: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day Year: 1996 Rating: PG-13 Length: 145 minutes / 2.41 hours While most people just roll their eyes at the mention of Roland Emmerich as a director, many forget that he essentially started the revival of the "destructive action" film. What used to be common in the seventies, with movies like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Towering Inferno (1974), films showing catastrophes had taken a bit of a back seat until Independence Day. This revival on a globally-catastrophic scale brought about such films as Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). Granted, Emmerich continued to make world destruction a part of his directing career, which is why films like this almost seem hokey today. Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009), and White House Down (2013) haven't been the most critically-acclaimed films of all time, but they certainly carry Emmerich's penchant for demolishing cultural landmarks. One does wonder why Independence Day stands out amongst his other films, almost as an anomaly. While later films by...
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MOVIE: X-Men (2000)

X-Men Year: 2000 Rating: PG-13 Length: 104 minutes / 1.73 hours Up until the 21st Century, DC had dominated the comic book adaptations on the big screen. Film franchises like Superman and Batman were essentially the only acts in town. Of course, by the time the year 2000 rolled around, Superman hadn’t been in theaters for more than a decade, and Batman had become almost as campy and goofy as its 1960’s counterpart. This was now Marvel’s time to shine. Partly due to a large cast of recognizable characters, X-Men was the right choice to reboot the comic book adaptation film franchise. Even though X-Men set the standard pretty high for comic book adaptations, very few have followed in its stead. Where most first films in a hero franchise focus on the origins of the main character, the X-Men spans such an enormous timeframe, with characters coming in and out of relevance, that it would be difficult to give all of their origins at once. Instead,...
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MOVIE: Collateral (2004)

Collateral Year: 2004 Rating: R Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours Having seen this film many years ago when it came out, a recent re-watching of the Blu-ray at home with my wife has cemented itself as a tight and well-done film. While most action films like to confuse the audience with shaky cameras and quick cuts, this one starts calm and builds to an exciting conclusion. Of course, it's not just a steady and methodical thriller, it loops back on itself, tying up all loose ends and bookending the whole plot in a neat little package. Each of the segments where they drive to the next destination gives a chance for excellent character building as well as giving the audience a break from the brief moments of action (which steadily get longer and more intense as the film progresses). Along with the overhead tracking shots and expert use of depth of field, this film almost borders on art. These are what good action films should be. What's...
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MOVIE: Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours Let me just start by saying that I've really become a fan of Disney's animation since about 2010. Before then, I was wild for Pixar, but around the time Tangled (2010) came out, Pixar hadn't been making the quality films I had become used to. Instead, Disney was now churning out great films like Tangled (2010), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), Frozen (2013), and Big Hero 6 (2014). Their latest film, Zootopia (2016), certainly upholds the level of quality expected of this animation studio. Not only were the visuals stunning (as always), but the plot and characters were all on-point. As is almost expected of a film meant for children, but made with adults in mind, there were a number of popular culture references that I found myself laughing uproariously for while the rest of the audience missed the joke. From slight alterations to animal-themed products (i.e. "Cub Soda"), to jokes pertaining to certain animal characteristics...
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