La La Land is Overrated

la la land movie poster3star“This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!”

La La Land’s ode to old Hollywood has re-ignited our love affair with musicals and the magic seldom seen on screen, but while this movie reminds me why I love classics of yesteryear, it’s respectful homage is also a reminder that it will never match those classics it honors.

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Bogart and Bacall. Tracy and Hepburn. Stone and Gosling? I can’t quite stomach the idea of the latter couple on the same pedestal as the power couples of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, but La La Land desperately wants you to believe that Stone and Gosling are the 21st century golden couple.

With a massive 12 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, La La Land is proving to be the movie to beat this year as critics hail it “the years best” and “an instant classic,” but Ryan Gosling tap dancing around a light pole at dusk doesn’t make him Gene Kelly.

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Review: Arrival is Year’s Best Sci-Fi

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“If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?”
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If E.T.’s landed on Earth tomorrow, what would you do? If you had the option to change the course of your life, would you do it?

Arrival is the most cerebral experience of 2016, and the intimate nature of the film has everything to do with that.

The film is not entirely original; it takes the age-old science fiction premise of aliens landing on Earth with the panicked world asking: “Why are they here?” But this sci-fi addition has all the right ingredients from it’s cast to director to score to script that produces some serious thought-provoking material. The exploration of this archaic, hypothetical reality leaves me wondering when this inevitable future will occur off-screen. I’m. Not. Ready.

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The Magnificent Seven is a Great Remake

the magnificent seven 2016 gif4star-2“What we lost in the fire, we’ll find in the ashes.”

 It’s been 56 years since Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen burst onto the screen introducing a generation to one of the greatest Westerns of all time. Now, director Antoine Funque (Training Day) has decided to resurrect a nearly extinct genre for a new generation of cowboys.

If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of remakes or reboots, especially when you’re tapping into golden nostalgia. I’m also not a fan of Westerns or shoot-em-up flicks, so what sold me on The Magnificent Seven?

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Generations of Magnificence

The Magnificent Seven (1960) is actually a remake of the 1954 Japanese epic Seven Samurai. Whether or not you believe this is a story in need of of re-tellling, Funqua cites our current political atmosphere is the perfect opportunity to modernize a classic with diverse heroes attempting to halt political corruption.

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Hunt For the Wilderpeople Review

Hunt For the Wilderpeople

Rebellious teenage orphan Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is shipped off to live with a foster family in the New Zealand countryside. Unhappy with his new surroundings, he attempts to run away and hide in the unforgiving wilderness. His reluctant caretaker Hector (Sam Neill) eventually finds him, and the unlikely duo survive in the harsh terrain as a nationwide manhunt is launched to find them.

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What I Like About Stranger Things

Stranger Things title gif4star 2“We never would’ve upset you if we knew you had superpowers!”

If you combine the wonder of Steven Spielberg, the dread of John Carpenter and add a heavy dose of Stephen King, then you’ve got all the ingredients of the SciFi Netflix show Stranger Things.

This 80’s nostalgic-heavy hybrid is this summer’s binge-worthy eight episode television experience involving parallel universes, telekinesis and a whole lot of references to 80s classics and culture.

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On November 6, 1983 in suburban Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers mysteriously vanishes. Will’s mother, Joyce, frantically begins her own quest to find Will, while Police Chief Hopper begins his own investigation. The next day a mysterious girl with supernatural abilities named Eleven is found by Will’s friends and claims to know Will’s whereabouts. The closer everyone comes to the truth, the stranger things become. They’ll have to evade a government agency with their own agenda, and a sinister supernatural entity, to get Will back.

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This series hits some serious highs with it’s acting (particularly the child actors), it’s atmosphere, electronic soundtrack (I hear you, Tangerine Dream!), nostalgia and the possibility of Winona Ryder’s Winonaissance. The series even has the immaculate stamp of approval from the almighty Stephen King himself, so why do I feel so lukewarm about it?

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Review: Hardcore Henry – The Year’s Craziest Action Flick

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Bold, hilarious and insane! Adrenaline junkies sign up here.

With the mantra that “nobody must die on the film,” Hardcore Henry gives an inventive point of view of an old concept with new tricks.

Hardcore Henry bills itself as the first point-of-view action film, and its astounding camera-work will ensure disbelief on this roller-coaster ride. But hold on to your barf bags while I explain that Hardcore Henry is exactly what it states…hardcore. If you get motion sickness easily, this flick is not for you!

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Top 10 Movies of 2015 & #OscarsSoWhite

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#OscarsSoWhite, the hashtag heard around the world, has officially upstaged the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio may win his first Oscar this year. Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio is on the verge of being an afterthought.

The hashtag has been around since last years’ Oscars, and it’s being used to talk about the lack of diversity in the Oscars. People on twitter are using it to vie for movies like Straight Outta Compton, which only received one nomination for Best Original Screenplay, or for performances by Will Smith and Idris Elba.

Despite the fact that my top 10 list, along with many other bloggers, is diverse in representation, Spike Lee is pissy at what the Academy thinks and about the “lily-white Oscar nominations” this year. And he’s not the only one.

Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, was so aghast with the lack if diversity in this year’s nominee list (read: her husband wasn’t nominated) that she staged a boycott against the Oscars blaming the Academy for the lack of diversity in the industry. The lack of diversity is a disappointment, but the finger-blaming needs to be at the industry where this whole process begins, not the Academy.

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And to make matters worse, the Academy is actually taking the bullet for the backlash against the white-washed Oscars. WHY?

From a different perspective on the matter, Ice Cube said he “can’t be mad” because Academy members can’t see the value in Straight Outta Compton. The film scored over $200 million worldwide, and Cube’s “not surprised” because an Oscars snub is “what they do.” While visiting with The Graham Norton Show, Cube elaborates more. He’s not planning to boycott the ceremony because he “never used to go anyway.” He threw out some more knowledge regarding the issue:

“We don’t do movies for the industry. We do movies for the fans, for the people. And the industry, you know, if they give you a trophy or not or pat you on the back or not, it’s nice but its not something that you should dwell on. We got accolades from all levels, from our core fans to our curious fans, from people who didn’t even think they wanted to see that movie. I think an older generation got an understanding on why we did that kind of music and the younger generation got a history lesson, and we got so much praise for the movie.”

Here’s my list of top 10 personal favorites of 2015. 

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The Hateful Eight – Total Tarantino

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“When you get to hell, John, tell them Daisy sent you…”

Racist, misogynistic, offensive, graphically violent. Would you expect anything less from writer/director Quentin Tarantino?

Tarantino’s eighth film, to no surprise, is receiving it’s fair share of backlash from critics for going too far and being too Tarantino. Although I cringed, felt uncomfortable and covered my eyes at times, this is everything I expected it to be.

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David Edelstein at Vulture writes: “But when the violence comes, it’s more graphic and nausea-inducing than even a hardened Tarantino viewer could have reason to expect.” I thought Django was worse.

And Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post writes: “The climactic bloodletting may make for merry times for fanboys and fetishists, but it’s difficult to reconcile Tarantino’s infectious joie de vivre with the scorched-earth nihilism he uses it to celebrate.” I get where you’re going.

If you don’t expect to be offended by Quentin Tarantino’s new Roadshow Western, than don’t sign up for this bloody wild ride.

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Brooklyn is Beautiful Yet Bland

tumblr_inline_nxyule2hjN1sf9ct2_5403star“Home is home.”

One day the sun will come out, and you’ll realize that this is where your life is. At least that’s what Brooklyn is trying to tell us, but despite its beauty and poetic charm, the movie falls flat for a film considered one of the year’s best.

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Brooklyn is a cinematic art piece on screen, and it tugs at all the right emotions. Irish director John Crowley paints a portrait of a girl most of us (in some way) can relate to–what it feels like to be homesick and the bittersweet emotional complexities of life on foreign soil. I felt immersed in the lush green and  sullen gray landscapes of Ireland and the vibrant shades of New York, but why do I feel like I’ve forgotten the film so quickly after watching it? With its beautiful cinematography, genuine dialogue and heartfelt characters, why has Brooklyn left me feeling empty?

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Crimson Peak Isn’t Scary and That’s Okay


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“It starts holding onto things… keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be.

Mia Wasikowska Crimson Peak

I’m not really sure what director Guillermo del Toro was thinking by adding ghosts as wavering antagonists in Crimson Peak, but while del Toro’s recent work focuses more on style and less on substance, I’m surprisingly okay with that.

The problem with Crimson Peak falls heavily on it’s marketing campaign pushed by Legendary and Universal on the brink of Halloween. Depicted as more of a fright-fest, or House on Haunted Hill, the soul of this plot relies heavily on romance not ghosts. But the romance feels rushed, and the love story borderlines forced between Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston’s characters. The relationship between the two characters felt disingenuous with little chemistry from actors who typically can ooze with lust (read: Tom Hiddleston).

This isn’t Del Toro at his finest, and it’s definitely not the next Pan’s Labyrinth, but Crimson is tied together by breathtaking cinematography and strong performances that were unfortunately shoveled through an awkward script. I have my gripes with the two protagonists and their forced relationship, but a heavily rushed script may have contributed to this problem.

I wish this movie was focused more on a romance gone wrong, complemented with an eerie backdrop, than a story muddled in a mansion with ghosts.

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