Winter-Spring 2016 Mini Movie Reviews

SPOTLIGHT
11/25/15

Key Players: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo

SpotlightEven though I’ve only spent a couple of short months in a real hustle-and-bustle newsroom and never at a major paper, I still get really amped when I watch movies about that kind of setting. It takes me back to when I worked for my college paper—the Spotlight team’s tiny room sectioned off from the rest of the staff made me nostalgic for our tiny computer lab in the basement of the student union, heavy with the scent of newsprint and stale coffee.

Spotlight truly deserved its Best Picture win—what a powerful film. As a journalist, I easily related to their passion for the story, their sense of duty to discover the truth and unveil it to the world. As a former Catholic school kid, the statistics were staggering. Based on true facts, Spotlight tells the story of how The Boston Globe exposed the wide-spread scandal of pedophilic priests and the massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. It hit the front page of the Sunday paper in early 2002 and sent shockwaves around the country—and, as the end credits show, the world.

Should you see it?
If you enjoy journalism movies or are interested in the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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The 88th Annual Academy Awards: Highs and Lows

2016’s big winners: (L-R) Mark Rylance | Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies,” Brie Larson | Best Actress for “Room,” Leonardo DiCaprio | Best Actor for “The Revenant,” and Alicia Vikander | Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl.”

In a lackluster award show year in the midst of perhaps the most publicized Hollywood controversy over the lack of nominations for actors of color, I knew the 2016 Oscars would be a rather different ceremony than in years past. That being said, I still wasn’t expecting so many uncomfortable moments shoved down the audience’s throat by host Chris Rock in his second stint on the stage.

88thoscars_key_hostWithout touching too much on a provocative subject I’m not exactly equipped to speak knowledgeably about, I thought he might use his opening monologue to address the debate, which he did, and maybe close out the show with some sort of call to action, which he did by citing #BlackLivesMatter, and leave it at that. However, the night was rife with crude jokes, relentless little jabs at the underrepresentation of black actors (not all minorities, just blacks) in film, and several awkward moments that made the talent in the room shift in their seats, tittering as though they weren’t sure if they were supposed to laugh or not. After scanning some reviews, it seems some people were a fan of his tactics, but I happened to find jokes like, “In the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies,” to be needlessly tasteless. Continue reading

Five Favorite Wedding Movies

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and ALL THE PEOPLE who apparently got engaged yesterday … thanks, Facebook, for reminding me that I am still single AF … I thought it was time to explore another trope of romance cinematography: weddings. Whether it’s the central focus of the plot or just a sweet scene in a saccharine will-they-or-won’t-they story, they’re abundant and extravagant across the board, cropping up in a vast number of films. When I started to compile a list, I realized how prevalent they are in quite a few of my favorite movies. Here’s just a small handful (and some honorable mentions). Enjoy!

1. Mamma Mia! (2008)

Mamma

Just reading the title gets the song stuck in my head. (“Just one look and I can hear a bell ring!”) As a huge theater nerd, I love all the stage-to-film Broadway musical adaptations. While Hairspray and Rent are very high on my list, this one is my absolute favorite. It was our favorite show when we saw it our first time back in 2009 and remained our favorite when we saw it again, just this past summer before it ended its 14-year run on the Great White Way. ABBA’s upbeat songs set the tone for a story of a young bride-to-be searching for her father against a stunning Greek backdrop, which ensured a beautiful cinematic version. Then throw Meryl Streep in as your lead—SOLD. I love this movie. It’s just so much fun and I always have an urge to watch it before I go on vacation to somewhere tropical.

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Fall-Winter 2015 Mini Movie Reviews

If you caught my last installment of mini movie reviews, you already know a bit about my movie-going habits. (If not, click here.) If you’re looking for things to Netflix in the coming months, hoping for a couple of decent RedBox rentals, or if you’re just wondering if The Force Awakens is worth all that hype, check out my next batch of reviews below. 

MOCKINGJAY PART 2 | 11/20/15

Key Players: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Mockingjay Part2This was inevitable, as I’ve been following the Games since their first trek to the big screen in 2012. I was a huge fan of the books and eager to see them come to life on the silver screen. The first film was a masterpiece, beautifully true to the book, and wonderfully casted. Same for Catching Fire, my favorite of the three. Mockingjay Part 1 was plodding and slow and started to falter, however, as I sort of expected. Mockingjay is admittedly my least favorite book in the literary trilogy turned film tetralogy, as I felt the climax was glossed over and wrapped up far too lazily to give justice to the story as a whole. I wondered if they would be able to rectify that in the film version.

So, my sister and I continued our tradition of heading to the theater on her first night home for her Thanksgiving break from college and went to witness the “epic conclusion” of the saga that catapulted J.Law into superstardom. It just didn’t feel so epic. It felt harried and disorganized, plotless and tired. Jennifer lacked the conviction and determination that Katniss displayed so indignantly in the first installment. It was, by most counts, a disappointment … but one you have to see to give yourself closure.

See it? If successfully overthrowing corrupt government appeals to you or if you’ve ever wanted to share a pizza and a bottle of wine with Jen. (Who hasn’t, amirite?) Continue reading

16 Movies I Want To See In 2016

A new year means a new batch of film experiences for movie fanatics like myself. Who will be the new Oscar players? The new summer blockbusters? The new book adaptations? What screwball comedies are going to make us laugh? What dramas will make us cry? What actor will have their moment, the one that makes you acknowledge that you’ll be paying much closer attention to their work from now on? I love movies, obviously, and I especially love that there are always so many to choose from. This list is bound to grow as buzz from film festivals and award season starts to spread. (Plus, there’s always the half an hour of trailers that play each time you visit a theater.) Pass the popcorn, another year of going to the movies has begun!

1. THE 5th WAVE | 1/22/16

The trailer caught my interest, since I’m into YA sci-fi fiction being turned into movies lately. I also like disaster flicks. It’s been a while since we’ve seen what Chloe Grace Moretz can do in a starring role, so I’ll give it a shot.

2. DEADPOOL | 2/12/16

DeadpoolI love Ryan Reynolds—particularly sarcastic badass Ryan Reynolds. I know nothing about the Marvel character, just that I have a few friends who are insanely excited for this and the trailer cracked me up. I’ve warmed up to Marvel movies in recent years and this one looks far more promising than, let’s say, Ant-Man did.

3. ZOOTOPIA | 3/4/16

It’s a Disney animated movie about animals. If you know me at all, you know why I want to go. Just watch the trailer. So many sloths!

4. The Divergent Series: ALLEGIANT | 3/18/16

AllegiantDivergent is right behind The Hunger Games on my list of favorite YA dystopia literature-turned-film. Shailene Woodley is doing a great job of bringing believability to Tris’ heroism and the all-star cast just keeps getting bigger and better. The first book was phenomenal and the first movie followed it perfectly. But the books lost their way after that and the screenwriters did a great job of keeping the plot on track for the big screen. Insurgent made much more sense on film than on the page, so I’m confident they’ll do the same for the final installments.

5. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 | 3/25/16

GreekI love the original so much, I practically have it memorized. So now that it’s their daughter’s turn to get married, it seems only natural to check in on Ian and Toula and see how they (and the whole big fat Greek family) handle the situation. I can’t wait. This is one sequel I won’t mind at all.

6. THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR | 4/22/16

This prequel is going to take what worked in the first film (bold cinematography, Charlize Theron’s face, Chris Hemsworth’s everything), remove what didn’t (Kristen Stewart and her new favorite director), and add some beautiful, talented women (Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain). Mix that all together and see what happens? We’re already off to a promising start. Continue reading

Fall 2015 Mini Movie Reviews

I go to the movies pretty often, usually once a weekend unless there’s absolutely nothing I want to see or I have other plans. I’ve had this habit for the past few years now, always asking around for friends to join me, but it’s rare that people want to spend the money anymore as ticket prices climb ever higher. Or they only want to go when it’s raining. Or only when there’s something mind-blowingly awesome out, worthy of a big screen night out. Not me. I’ll see anything. With anyone. Or with no one. Hell, I go alone more often than not these days.

You can find me strolling the halls of my local theater on a Sunday afternoon during their discount hours (tickets drop to just $6!) … it doesn’t bother me, in fact, it’s become my me time: I plop down in a practically empty theater, stretch my legs, enjoy my snack, and toss a sheepish grin over to the other people who are there by themselves, as if to say, I get it. We’re the film nuts. The ones who avoid the date nights, the late nights, the crowds, the kids, the squealing teens. We just want to enjoy a good movie. Or a not-so-good movie. We’re there for the experience of it. (Or because we have no social lives, but whatever, who’s judging.)

So, with all that movie-going, I can usually tell you what’s good and what to avoid. I get texts from my long-distance friends asking for my opinions and suggestions. And I’ve got ‘em. So I figured it was time to put that to good use and give you all a run-down of what I’ve seen over the past couple of months, in order of release date …

EVEREST | 9/25/15

Key Players: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington

EverestI saw this one with my mom. (It was either this or The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and she’s afraid of heights—this movie didn’t really do anything to help that either.) It’s the harrowing story of a group of climbers caught in one of the worst storms Nepal had ever seen back in 1996. I’m trying to remain spoiler-free this issue, so if you’re unfamiliar with the tale, just consider this: If you’re afraid of heights, frostbite, freezing to death, or suffocation, maybe skip it. Looking for a triumphant survival story? Wellllll … the cinematography was beautiful and the film had the added bonus (for me) of Jake Gyllenhaal in a minor role. Keira Knightley delivered a couple gut-punches with her tearful phone calls and by the end, I was just grateful I’d never had the urge to climb a mountain. But it was still worth seeing.

See it? If you’re a hiker, thrill-seeker, or into unflinching biopics, sure. Continue reading

Five Favorite Movies Starring … Animals!

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion KingThis gradually became one of my favorite Disney movies as I got older. I never used to consider it one of the core faves (which include The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, and Aladdin), but I have a new appreciation for it now. It was one of the few films that did sequels effectively—Simba’s Pride is pretty solid with a couple goosebump-inducing tunes. I’d have to say it has some of the most breath-taking animation of the Disney world, from the dazzling African landscapes to the herds of wild animals. And what a powerful message! I’m 27 years old and I still cannot make it through Mufasa’s death scene without shedding at least one rolling tear. (I mean, come on, can ANYONE watch that scene?) What has propelled my affection for it over the past couple years is my experience seeing the live theater adaptation on Broadway in the summer of 2012. I love stage shows, but this one knocked everything I’ve ever seen (and there have been MANY) straight out of the park. You don’t think they can orchestrate a stampede on a small stage? Oh, but they can. It was phenomenal. And the music was just amplified; I had so many chills for the entire three hours. It was infused with tribal influences and had some truly wonderful voices bringing the words to life. If you ever get the chance, go see it! Continue reading