Tag Archives: Movie Review

The biggest problem with ‘Joy’ is its own director

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“Joy” had scenes. And while some of them were very good, I’m not sure that it’s actually a movie, though.

“Joy,” the latest film by David O. Russell is a biopic that proudly displays a big asterisk on the “bio” part. It tells the true story of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), an overworked, single mother who created the Miracle Mop and became a millionaire.

Now this is the kind of story David O. Russell loves: somebody who is constantly held down by their insane mess of a family. And that is what ultimately hurts Russell at certain points: he is constantly standing in his own shadow.

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Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road


And with one flame from an electric guitar, summer movie season was reborn.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a refreshing shot of adrenaline in every way possible. It is based on a franchise that I have never seen and that doesn’t matter, because it eloquently states a nearly 40 year old backstory in a brief voiceover.

We are transported to a desert landscape that is anything but empty. In the future, Earth is a wasteland. Everybody searches for water and oil. Gangs form, but sides often blur together. The angry Max (Tom Hardy) of the title teams up with Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to bring down the psychotic cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

This is a future ruled by lack of resources, where eating a two-headed lizard is the best form of nutrition.

For a barren landscape, this world sure is populated by bright, colorful figures who all abide by different codes. Sure, this is called “Mad Max,” but “Fury Road” often feels like it is about everybody else, whether you have a pale face, or a flaming electric guitar. But Hardy, of course, is a born action star. Hell, at this point, he can play anything. He doesn’t even do that much “”acting” here. All it takes is a few grunts, and I am on board.

The real star here may be Charlize Theron. Furiosa is both nurturing and terrifying. She is somebody who would take care of you, but definitely not somebody you would ever want to pick a fight with.

This is director George Miller’s full vision, and it feels like something he’s been saving up to do for a long time. “Fury Road” was in development and production hell for many years, and the wait was definetly worth it. The film is settled on a few big action set pieces that last a long time and do not disappoint in the slightest. I think what I am most impressed with is Miller’s ability to turn every possible object into a weapon, whether that be a crane or a flaming electric guitar. He is like a way cooler MacGyver.

Many people have been pointing out a “lack of plot” in “Fury Road.” “Fury Road” has a plot, it is just much more sparse and simple than most blockbusters nowadays. That is a great thing. There is one, straight-forward villain. The heroes are clear. The goals are small and attainable. Nobody is trying to launch a nuclear missile through a wormhole. This is literally a world without rules. You don’t have to shut off your mind to watch “Fury Road,” but it definitely the simplest summer blockbuster to digest.

With “Fury Road,” it feels like George Miller was able to play in his own personal sandbox. Then, he decided to blow it up, crash a few cars in it, and set it on fire with a flaming electric guitar. Just roll with it, and you’ll have the best time you’ve had at the movies in a very long time.

Movie Review: It Follows


The great thing about being a film critic is that you can see a great film before the inevitable hype sets in with a nearly unbiased perspective. The problem with being an unlicensed film critic (do critics get licenses?) is that you see films whenever you get a chance, preferably as soon as they are first released in theaters.

So that is the difficulty with It Follows, which has been touted as the greatest thing for the horror genre since Alfred Hitchcock directed a film about a haunted loaf of sliced bread. It Follows is special in many ways, and I am rooting for it as a little indie that could. At times, it is a great throwback to horror classics. Unfortunately, this is exactly what holds it back.

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Movie Review: While We’re Young


Noah Baumbach has spent so much time shooting around Brooklyn that the borough has become his own personal sandbox.

While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s sixth feature film, allows the director to expand his world all while remaining within the confines of it. While We’re Young isn’t the best film that he’s made, but its by far his most entertaining and accessible.

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Movie Review: Chappie


Image via Collider

Whenever a new movie comes out that isn’t a sequel, remake, or based on a comic book comes out, I have a bad habit of immediately assuming that it will be good. We can define it as confusing originality with brains. A good name for that would be Elysium Syndrome.

With Chappie, Neill Blomkamp manages to pull himself out of a sophomore slump with something that is sometimes frustrating but often fun and filled with interesting, half-realized ideas.

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Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service


“This ain’t The King’s Speech, bro.” Image via Forbes

January and February are typically Hollywood’s dumping ground months. This is the time when studios just want you to see the Oscar leftovers that they released the last week of December. This is the time of Uwe Boll and Kevin Hart to reign. But once awards season ends, there is something refreshing about watching a movie in which nobody dies from a terminal illness. I don’t care what the groundhog said; with Kingsman: The Secret Service, summer has come early.

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Movie Review: The Theory of Everything



Pardon me, but are they going to show this clip at the Oscars? Image via Focus Features

From time to time, I remember Patton Oswalt’s bit about the Star Wars prequels in which he proclaims that he doesn’t care where the stuff he loves comes from, he just loves what he loves. That is how I am starting to feel about most biopics. Or, at least the ones that answers questions that nobody asked.

Stephen Hawking is a figure as fascinating as his findings and a general anomaly of mankind. After all, he was supposed to die two years after being diagnosed with ALS, yet he has lived another 50. So surely, one would think that making a biopic about him would be almost too easy, right? Guys? Guys?

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Movie Review: Still Alice


Image via IndieWire

If you are as cynical as I can be, then a film that drops around awards season about a disease should draw nothing but skepticism. Yes, Still Alice is about an ailment and yes, it is mainly a vehicle for a performance. However, it is a really good performance in a film that handles delicate subject matter very tastefully.

Still Alice stitches together a narrative based on both forgetting and remembrance. Julianne Moore is our Alice. Alice is a widely respected professor at Columbia whose life takes a tragic turn when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We follow Alice as her memory and well being slip further and further away from her.

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Movie Review: A Most Violent Year


Say New York is another character one more damn time. Image via A24

Let me get this out of the way before I formally start this review: I do not know New York City better than people who actually live in New York (I can take a train directly into Grand Central from my local stop; that’s where my credentials end), but I at least understand it better than people who have only seen the inside of the Bubba Gump in Times Square.

So once upon a time, New York City was an awful crime-ridden hellhole. This is what you will hear today anytime you enter a trendy Williamsburg restaurant. Mid-bite of a $30 sandwich, some old guy will begin to rant about how horrible the neighborhood once was, and also how much better the city was when The Ramones were around. Nostalgia is a complicated force with many faces.

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Movie Review: American Sniper


“And the winner of Best Oakleys Commercial of the year is…American Sniper!” Image via Indiewire

There is a rule many screenwriters follow called “Save the Cat,” in which the protagonist must do something good (like save a cat) in the film’s first act in order to be likable. In the first scene of American Sniper, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) kills a woman and a child. Later, he tries to beat a dog with a belt. Now it makes sense why Chris Kyle is an American hero that nobody can stop arguing about.

American Sniper is about the Iraq War. It is a film that should have been made, and for a certain segment of America (re: cheese curd lovers), it will be the defining Iraq War film. For another segment of America (re: kale lovers), it will be seen as a huge missed opportunity. For film critics (re: movie lovers), it will be seen as a big disappointment from a legend of cinematic badassery. I am lactose intolerant and I hate kale, so you can guess which camp I fall into.

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