Category Archives: Coming-of-age

“Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” Movie Review

As of this entry, all entries from the original Star Wars trilogy (the ones that matter) have been reviewed. In hoping that Disney will continue to recapture such memories, I get into spoiler territory with a movie that apparently a lot of fans hate. The third and then-final installment in the epic space opera trilogy received its widely anticipated release on May 25th, 1983, accumulating over $570 million worldwide in box office receipts. Like the previous movie, series creator George Lucas chose not to take the director’s chair in favor of Eye of the Needle‘s Richard Marquand- though he stayed credited in screenwriting and making the story. As the film opens, our favorite robotic duo from a galaxy far, far away C-3PO and R2-D2 arrive on the desert planet of Tatooine. After trying to convince Jabba the Hutt, a nasty criminal lord in the Outer Rim and a cool showcase for ILM’s makeup department, to give up a frozen Han Solo, both of them are forced into Jabba’s servitude. A similar thing happens when a disguised Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher, attempts to save the man she loves and ends up in chains. Any boy who grew up in the 80’s was bound to have some sort of fantasies about her now-iconic metal bikini. (I may have been one of them) After all of this, Luke Skywalker finally pays a personal visit to the Palace. And at this point, Luke is a completely different person than he was in the previous movies. He’s calm, calculating, but still willing to shoot first. Once he overcomes a tense battle with the mechanical Rancor, he and all his friends are sentenced to be throw into the Sarlacc Pit. Thankfully, former traitor Lando Calrissian shows to rescue them, making for arguably the most exciting part of the whole movie. But this also gave Boba Fett, one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars franchise, a lame death. A blind Han Solo bumping into him and setting off his jetpack is such a cartoony way to kill him off. However, because they filmed the scene from the graphic novels, it’s been confirmed that he is still alive in canon. Before meeting up with the Rebel Alliance, Luke keeps a promise and visits Yoda one more time on Dagobah. In one of the saddest scenes of the original trilogy, he dies at the age of 900, telling him, “There is another Skywalker.” Thanks to a ghost Ben Kenobi, Luke learns that the other Skywalker is his twin sister Leia, and they were separated at birth to hide from their biological father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. This revelation makes perfect sense, but also makes the kiss the two had in Empire Strikes Back gross. Later, the Rebellion learns that the Empire is building a second Death Star, and is guarded by an energy shield projected on the nearby moon of Endor. While Lando leads the space cavalry, Chewbacca, Leia, Han, Luke, and the droids take a small squad of soldiers to the surface of the moon to destroy the generator. And this is when we come to the most controversial part of the original trilogy: the Ewoks. Some like them, some loathe them, some can’t enjoy the movie altogether because of them. Were they a tool for George Lucas to sell more toys? Yes, they were. But I rather enjoyed them as a kid, and watching them take down the technologically superior Empire is reminiscent of how the Viet Cong defeated the U.S. Army. While these little fuzzballs are giving our heroes a welcoming feast, Luke decides the only way to truly confront his father is if he leaves and surrenders to Darth Vader’s forces. And when he turns himself in, he just doesn’t understand that Anakin Skywalker is not there anymore. The two of them finally meet the Emperor, played like a Shakespearean villain by Ian McDiarmid. The man is a word smith, knowing exactly how to manipulate his subjects into his will, and reveals that not only is the second Death Star fully operational, but that they are fully aware of the impending invasion. At that moment, as the forces on Endor are fighting for control of the battlefield, the Rebel fleet arrives, completely caught off guard by the entire Imperial fleet. Starting one of the greatest memes in internet history, Admiral Ackbar responds by declaring, “It’s a trap!” And then, after getting constantly taunted by the Emperor, Luke Skywalker grabs his lightsaber and is stopped by Vader, turning into a battle of father-versus-son. Not only is this three-way battle extremely entertaining, but it shows that Luke is a relatable Jedi who’d do anything we’d do in his shoes. After a threat to Leia, Luke wails away on Vader and cuts off his hand. I think he would’ve actually killed him. But when he refuses, the Emperor does something never seen before, and attacks Luke with lightning. Vader is absolutely conflicted, looking back and forth between his master and his son. In the end, he lifts the Emperor up and throws him over a precipice. And late in his dying moment, he takes off his helmet and James Earl Jones doesn’t voice him anymore. Redeemed in the eyes of Luke, Anakin Skywalker dies a hero, fulfilling the prophecy in the prequels. Later, after the Death Star is destroyed, John Williams’ score is sounding off in celebration, a funeral pyre is held for Vader. And Luke is the only one attending. During the final celebration, when all the characters have gathered in joy, the Force ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and a young Anakin are shown one last time before the film cuts to black. Many MANY changes were done in the Special Edition, particularly using crappy CGI early on. And later, Vader yells NO!” when he throws the Emperor to his death. But these changes aren’t enough to hurt the overall quality of the film. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is a satisfying end to a magnificent saga. It may be super late, but May the Fourth be With You Always!

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“Power Rangers” Movie Review

There’s not a person alive who saw a trailer for the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. Furthermore, there’s not a person alive who saw the new Power Rangers movie and didn’t think of Chronicle meets The Breakfast Club. This is how the world is made, and it shall continue as such. This science-fiction superhero action film was released by franchise creator Haim Saban on March 24th, 2017. Despite generally positive reactions from the audience, the movie has yet to recoup its staggering $100 million budget and wasn’t even the highest grossing film of its opening weekend. A reboot of the highly lucrative Japanese media franchise, the plot follows five teenagers with attitude- Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Billy, and Zack -in the small town of Angel Grove after bonding in detention. They stumble upon an ancient artifact that leads them to Zordon, a being who informs them of their new position as the new Power Rangers. Now they’re tasked with defending life on Earth from the newly awoken threat, Rita Repulsa. As a child, I grew up with the Power Rangers, from the original Mighty Morphin’ series up to S.P.D. Looking back on it now, however, it’s clear that not only am I not in the demographic anymore, but the shows simply don’t hold up today. So I walked into the theater with some trepidation. And for much of the film, I was sitting on the razor’s edge of liking it and loathing it. However, by the end, I left having surprisingly liked it more than I thought I would. Are there flaws? Absolutely. But right now, let’s divulge the good things about this picture. Getting it right off the bat, the five main actors do a surprisingly great job with their respective characters. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin, and RJ Cyler have bright careers ahead in their future thanks to their commitment and chemistry with one another. Cyler, in particular, was excellent as the Blue Ranger. Though he’s a bit annoying at first, he (and consequently the audience) grows more comfortable with his role with a sense of heart and keeping his wits about. Aside from the newcomer leads, the supporting cast is filled with some rather large players in key side roles. The most notable one is Bryan Cranston as Zordon, marking his return to the franchise after voicing some of the creatures in the pilot episode of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. His role as an almost ethereal mentor to a generation of new potential Rangers is a welcome relief from his villainous performances in T.V. like Sneaky Pete and his iconic character in Breaking Bad. Comedian Bill Hader brings his signature awkwardness to the voice of Alpha 5, a bumbling and precarious robot with good intentions. It’s clear that he loves his role. However, Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of the villain Rita Repulsa didn’t feel believable or interesting. She spent the majority of her screen time over exaggerating her evil voice and stroking her long fingernails over new technology. Her character has always been an over-the-top intergalactic zealot, but it didn’t seem to flow with the tone of the movie. In fact, the areas this movie struggled the most in were in the tone and pacing. Much of the film’s marketing painted it as a darker, grittier reimagining of this kid-oriented franchise. Bryan Cranston, by his own word, even compared it to The Dark Knight. I would never go as far as to say the film has that much substance, but its influence is evident. While it does have moments of fun and humor, Power Rangers relies heavily on gritty story elements and visuals. Even their armor, as cool and practical as it looks, feels like an edgy Iron Man knockoff. The thing that made the original show so appealing is that it knew what it was, regardless of the cheese factor- and there was a lot of it. This one felt as if it suffered from an identity crisis at times. Also, the pacing of the movie was very wonky and inconsistent. In fact, the main characters don’t even get suited up until nearly 80% percent of the way through the 2 hours and 4 minute-long runtime. While they do take on a few threats before then, much of the time is spent examining these individuals’ personal lives. And in some ways, this is an interesting venture. In one particular scene, which was probably my favorite, all five of them sit by a campfire and discuss their deep personal troubles. It just made it feel a bit more human. Especially considering this is the first big-budget superhero movie to feature characters on the LGBT and autism spectrum- even if it felt a bit like tokenism. Known for extravagant action films, Brian Tyler’s score is a diverse one. Switching back and forth with intricate electronic tracks and big orchestral battle tunes is neat, if unmemorable. the best accomplishment from the soundtrack, however, has to be the inclusion of the theme song, “Go,Go, Power Rangers!” from the original show. Hearing that play as the Zords fought it out with giant monsters brought a warm feeling of nostalgia back, as if I were watching the old episodes in front of my old T.V. while acting out the fight moves. Nothing with a lot of substance or rewatch value, Power Rangers delivers great acting and nostalgia-inducing moments, especially for longtime fans. If you’re a newcomer to this franchise, you mayn’t be interested in trying this film out. You could wait a little while until it comes out on DVD or Blu-Ray, especially because this is the first in a planned six-movie story arc. Brace yourselves.

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“Moonlight” Movie Review

With the Oscars on the horizon, why not review some of the Best Picture nominees? Seems like the only logical thing that every other critic is doing. This captivating coming-of-age indie drama- written and directed by Barry Jenkins -premiered at the Toronto Film Festival before its nationwide release on October 21, 2016. Earning back $23 million in profit against its $5 million budget, it also was host to overwhelming acclaim, awards buzz, and was listed as the 4th highest rated film of all time on the website Metacritic, and for good reason. Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, which was also supposedly taken from his own real life experiences, Moonlight is the story of Chiron. Chiron is a black gay kid who grows up in a rough neighborhood in Miami, tracing his life over the span of 3 decades. Like a play, it is split up into 3 separate acts, each of which is given a name that Chiron associates himself with and focuses on 3 pivotal moments in his complicated life. Being a reviewer, I try not to use the word “flawless” in the description of a movie’s nature. But in this case, there is no other adjective that can be used to accurately describe this film. Moonlight is, indeed, a flawless movie- on every level imaginable. Where to begin? How about the outstanding, entirely African-American cast? Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes all take on the daunting task of portraying the main protagonist at the different stages of his life. Each one has bright future ahead after the attention this film has gotten. Naomie Harris plays his crack-addicted mother Paula so convincingly. Although she was apparently hesitant to play a crack addict, being a black woman, her portrayal of this troubled single mother was an excellent adversarial element against the 3 actors playing Chiron. Her bickering and yelling are utterly realistic- to the point where it borders on being difficult to watch. And although his only around for roughly a third of the 110 minute-long running time, Mahershala Ali’s performance as the drug dealer/father figure Juan is especially powerful. Completely deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination, while he may appear intimidating and stereotypical at first, it’s shown how much he and his girlfriend genuinely care for Chiron as a child, or “Little” as many call him. On a technical scale, this movie is nothing short of breathtaking. Filmed on a widescreen CinemaScope digital camera, the cinematography by James Laxton is beautiful. Each act is kept distinct by a different film stock, with certain colors being saturated and wonderful contrasts. Specifically, the colors blue and red appear often throughout the film and are especially present in the final act. Many of the scenes are shot from the first-person perspective, really putting us into the shoes of Chiron. What makes it more effective is the fact that many of this respective shots are shown in 48 frames-per-second. But unlike other films that use this format like The Hobbit or Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, it isn’t nauseating. Rather, it enhances the realism of the moment, bringing to light more intensity and more subtle details like skin tone. As for the music, it’s excellent. Nicholas Britell eschews the standards of regular soundtracks instead giving us a beautiful score that is unlike any other last year. The score is very string-heavy, with one particular piece early on in the movie evoking the talent and complexity of legendary composers like Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven. It is also accompanied by a consistent bass playing up in the background that adds an almost melancholic atmosphere. The number one thing that Moonlight should be commended for, though, is how there is little verbal exposition. Almost everything major in the plot is given to us in subtext, like when a teenage Chiron’s first kiss on a moonlit beach is cut away to a shot of him grasping the crunchy sand. Or when Little has an intensive stare off with his mother before she returns to her room, where a man is waiting for her. The beautiful themes of Moonlight– such as masculinity, race, identity, and sexuality -are explored in a tender, completely empathetic manner. By the third act, Chiron is an almost completely different person than he was when we last saw him. But underneath all of the tattoos and hardened, muscle-heavy exterior is a fragile soul who just doesn’t know exactly how to fit in. Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, or otherwise, we can all relate to this story because growing up, we struggled to really find our place in the world. Hell, it took me until the latter half of high school to truly find mine own. A carefully handled, layered emotional drama, Moonlight is a beautifully relevant film that forces us to question who we are as individuals. Hauntingly powerful performances give this deeply human narrative much more believability, making this otherwise small indie film a hugely successful tour-de-force that all human beings need to be watching.

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“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” Movie Review

If this movie proves anything in life, it’s this: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was not the only awesome film to come out of New Zealand. This adventure comedy-drama landed a limited release in North America on June 24th, 2016, following a lengthy festival run after its premiere at Sundance. It has since gone on to become the highest-grossing native film in New Zealand, with a box office take of about $23 million. Based in part on Barry Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress, the story is set against the extensive wild bush of New Zealand and follows a juvenile delinquent named Ricky Baker, who has recently been adopted by a farmer couple. After a tragic happening, Ricky resolves to run away from his home into the bush, only to be found by his foster uncle Hector. When a nationwide manhunt ensues, they reluctantly have to work together to survive the wilderness. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is brought to us by writer-director Taika Waititi, who also gave us hidden gems such as the moving drama Boy and the hilarious mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. He will also be moving to the Hollywood blockbuster environment this November with Thor: Ragnarok so it would be wise to keep tabs on this one. His trademark quirkiness for characters and dialogue is ever-present in this latest effort, which may be his best work yet. His script is injected with immense heart and poignancy, contrasted by scenarios so absurd that it’s almost impossible to not laugh out loud. During one particular scene, the situation was mirrored to and alludes to The Fellowship of the Ring, something even the characters address. As a fan of the series, this made me chuckle. As for the cast, veteran Irish character actor Sam Neill gives us a performance unto itself completely different from his stint as a paleontologist in Jurassic Park. He’s gruff and occasionally closed off but shows a tremendous capability for compassion and care as a father figure. By his side is a breakout performance from the newcomer, native New Zealander Julian Dennison as Ricky. Even at the age of 14, this kid does a fantastic job with his lovable, yet deeply troubled character. You get the idea that Ricky has had a rough life up to this point, and it also becomes clear at a point that he wouldn’t last 2 seconds out in the wilderness without Hector. These two bounce off of each other with ease, as their relationship is a very believable one. Hector has to show Ricky various tactics for survival, such as building fires and hunting for food with a rifle. But it’s also their less stressful and quieter situations that make for some of the most human moments. Whether it’s when they’re both sitting by the campfire sharing their own painful pasts, or when they’re quietly sitting in the woods looking at a thought-to-be-extinct bird, it’s actually quite impressive how well these scenes were put together. However, we can’t talk about any movie set in the wilderness without discussing the look and aesthetic of it all. In a sense, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has the feel of a modern sitcom because it was almost entirely shot on a single camera. Even with that, the locations in the film look absolutely beautiful. There are so many aerial view shots of the lush green landscape that are immediately edited into quick cuts across the dense forest. This gives the film a feeling that puts it on level ground with the characters. Of all the places in the world that I would like to visit before I die, New Zealand is at the top of that list. This is the final proof of that goal. Commentary should also be given to the music. There is a very minimalist score from Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde, mostly just background guitars. The soundtrack itself is comprised mostly of folk songs, all of which perfectly match the tone of the story. And now for the big negative of the movie: Regret. I regret not seeing this film in theaters in 2016 because it would have easily appeared somewhere on my Top 10 List by the end of the year. So please don’t let its seemingly foreign nature dissuade you; Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an irresistibly quirky and touching dramedy about the sacred bond between father and son. (Or in this case, uncle and nephew) A poignant yet hilarious showcase for great, lesser-known actors, it’s appropriately restrained in its direction. And for that, Hunt of the Wilder people absolutely deserves more recognition from American audiences.

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Retrospective: Best Films of 2016

The year has drawn to a close, and there were lots of movies to see. 2016 was perhaps the most divisive and unique year so far this decade, in terms of cinema. To select the singular best movie of the year is no easy task for a reviewer such as myself. I could have easily made a list of the Top 20 or Top 15 movies of 2016, but in the end, I had to cut it down to just 10 feature films. As I always remind my Followers, only films I actually did see this year are in the running. There were probably at least 20 movies I wanted to see that came out, but this is what I have. So here’s a list of honorable mentions of films I really wanted to see this year, or just didn’t quite make the final cut. Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Movies of 2016.

Honorable Mentions:

Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, The Jungle Book, Lion, Captain America: Civil War, The Edge of Seventeen, Moana, Zootopia, Finding Dory, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, Green Room, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Sing Street, The Witch, The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, Sausage Party, Star Trek Beyond 

10. “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Thought that Disney would get a spot on this list? Well, they’ll have their obligatory place soon enough, but no animation was quite as incredible as this Laika production. Beautiful animation mixed with a bravely original and melancholy story bring this to new heights. Not only that, but the world-building brilliantly establishes a mountain’s worth of rich lore to get invested in. Plus, Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron’s voice performances add a sense of sincerity and humanity to animals. That says something.

9. “10 Cloverfield Lane”

My goodness, wasn’t this an intense film? Dan Trachtenberg’s directorial debut stayed completely secret and unknown until just 2 months before release. May Elizabeth Winestead shines as the beautiful, yet determined and intelligent protagonist. But John Goodman totally steals the show from right under her, as he’s the one thing scarier than anything outside the bunker. Though it virtually has nothing to do with the original Cloverfield, the story and characters will keep you up at night for a few days afterward. Proof that excellent movies can indeed take place in one place for 2 hours.

8. “Jackie”

A fascinating portrait of one of the 20th century’s most scrutinized figures, Jackie serves as a brilliant reminder of the short yet memorable term of JFK. The first of 2 movies on this list that almost made me cry, at the forefront is Natalie Portman’s powerful performance as the titular First Lady. And given the recent happenings in the United States, this story seems very timely. A strong tour-de-force for acting, this is a heartbreaking biopic worth watching at least once.

7. “Hell or High Water”

One of the more overlooked films of the year, Hell or High Water concerns the dilemma of 2 brothers who begin robbing a string of banks and the Texas Ranger hot on their trail. The original screenplay flows along with complete confidence in the pacing of director David Mackenzie. While the 2 brothers are fabulous in their roles, it’s Jeff Bridges’ scene-stealing turn as the Ranger that makes this story so satisfying to watch. Hell or High Water is truly a neo-Western in every sense of the word.

6. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

No “Best of the Year” list would be complete without an entry in the Star Wars franchise. The first entry in the newly planned Anthology series, Rogue One concerns a group of Rebels who have to steal valuable information in order to defeat the Galactic Empire. Aside, from the great performances and stunning visual effects from ILM, this movie also helped clear up one of the biggest plot holes from the original Star Wars movie in 1977. A rare spin-off that stands on its own while tying previous elements together.

5. “Silence”

This has to be Martin Scorsese’s best film he’s made since Goodfellas, 26 years ago. A passion project that took decades to get off the ground, Silence follows a group of Jesuit priests who go to 17th century Japan to save their disgraced mentor. While some people may find this film frustrating and unsatisfying, the themes of holding onto your beliefs and what truly constitutes faith can resonate with damn near anyone. A beautifully filmed and acted movie, Silence may fly under your radar, but at least give it a shot.

4. “Deadpool”

We moviegoers had a bevy of comic book superhero movies to salivate over in 2016. But none of them made me laugh my ass off harder than Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was born to play a foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed costumed crime-fighter, in a role that completely washes the bad taste from Green Lantern and Xmen Origins: Wolverine from our mouths as early as the opening credits. It may not be one to watch with your children, but damn if it isn’t so fun and hilarious.

3. “The Nice Guys”

Writer-director proves to us that buddy-action comedy mysteries are far from dead with The Nice Guys. Lost in the superhero shuffle of mid-May, this sharply written story about an enforcer and a private investigator is deliciously funny and intriguing. The two leads, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, are endlessly watchable in their banter and interactions. It’s a bummer not many people saw this picture, but that just adds even more reason as to why you should watch it.

2. “La La Land”

The most important thing we take away from this movie? Musicals can still be made in this day and age. Damien Chazelle channels his passion for jazz and classic Gene Kelly productions with La La Land. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as 2 aspiring stars in modern-day Los Angeles, every musical number is catchy and keeps your foot tapping throughout. The gorgeous costumes and seamless cinematography help pull together La La Land into a heartwarming story about following your dreams, no matter what. A colorful, poignant masterpiece paying tribute to a bygone genre.

1. “Arrival”

After well-deserved acclaim for Prisoners and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve rounds out this list with a breathtaking piece of science-fiction. After UFOs land on Earth, a linguist played by Amy Adams is recruited to communicate with the aliens. Not only is it a showcase of beautiful visual effects and haunting performances, but what truly sets Arrival apart from other counterparts is the concept of how language is so important to human culture. There are many layered metaphors that are best seen in the theater. Heavy on speculative ideas, and a poetic “what-if” story, Arrival is not only the best movie of the year, but also arguably one of the best movies of the decade so far.

Do you agree with my list? What was your favorite movie of 2016? Be sure to let me know in the Comments, and be sure to Like this Post and Follow my blog for interesting content like you see here.

2016 in Film: Retrospective Superlatives

I know what you’re probably thinking right now. You’re expecting me to publish my list of the Top Ten films of the year. Rest assured that is coming, but as a bit of a prelude, I decided to give some superficial awards to other movies deserving to be recognized. To be clear, almost none of these will appear on the Top Ten list to be published in a day or so. Rather, I just had fun because I saw more movies released this year than any previous one. So let’s get down to business.

Most Original Film: “The Lobster”

Never before has a vision of the future been so terrifying yet hilarious. Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy revolves around a newly single man who has 45 days to find a new mate before he’s turned into any animal of his choosing.. in his case, it’s a lobster. Collin Farrell is subtle and low-key as the main character, in the most absurd situation possible. How many other films can you say feature a man who may have the possibility of becoming a crustacean? The answer should be none.

Most Overrated Film: “Hail Caesar!”

Some may remember my overall appraisal of this film in m review back in February. And for the most part, I still stand by it. However, upon a second viewing, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pointlessness in the story. The fantastic cast and sharp script, aside, the Coen Brothers have certainly done better in the past, and I believe they can still do better in the future. A good love letter to fans of classical cinema, and decidedly nothing more.

Most Underrated Film: “The Magnificent Seven”

Despite the criticism it received for its unoriginality, it’s important to remember that this is technically a remake. Going into the theater, all I wanted to see was a reminder of why I love the Western genre. An excellent leading titular crew who share great chemistry, lead by Denzel Washington himself, make this a fun adventure for a modern era. And that final gun battle was really some exciting stuff to behold.

Most Overlooked Film: “Midnight Special”

Overshadowed by other, much larger films released during the Spring, it’s a shame that Midnight Special didn’t see many viewers in the theater. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to watch it. Jeff Nichols’ beautiful science-fiction drama is a gorgeous blend of emotional family drama and action spectacle. A truly original “modern sci-fi,” I implore you to find a way to watch this by any means.

Most Disappointing Film: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

To be clear, I’m not saying this film is outright terrible. It’s just nowhere near as good as the hype had told us it would be. A real tragedy, considering this is the first feature film where the titular heroes and Wonder Woman all appear on-screen together in live-action. The action scenes were undoubtedly enjoyable, but the substance of the story and the relevance of various subplots is still lost on me.

Funniest Film: “Keanu”

Predictable? Yes. Funny as hell? Yes. As a fan of Key and Peele’s sketch show on Comedy Central, I had been looking forward to their first theatrical movie together. And boy, did they deliver on the laughs? Remaining 100% self-aware the entire time, the chemistry between the two leads, alone, is worth the price of admission. All of the pop culture references hit the right chords, and the scene where Key is tripping balls in the club was probably the hardest I laughed all year long.

Worst Film: “Now You See Me 2”

They can’t all be good, though, and that’s why my pick for the worst film of 2016 is Now You See Me 2. At what point after the first one’s release did they see the need to produce a sequel that’s somehow even less comprehensible than its predecessor? I was all set to give this spot to Meet The Blacks, but I remembered this movie and just became infuriated. Numerous plot holes and forced acting aside, the magic tricks are condescendingly and unbelievably explained, making me just mentally check out. Avoid this.

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“Sing Street” Movie Review

During my years in high school, I tried putting a band together with my friends. Now after watching this movie, I’m tempted to do so again. This musical dramedy from writer-director John Carney premiere at the Sundance Film Festival before gaining a release in the United States in April of 2016, going on to gross $13.6 million at the box office. It initially gained little attention from Western audiences, but the rave reviews encouraged the Weinstein Company to give it a run in select theaters in the U.S. Set in inner-city Dublin in 1985, the story follows a young teenager named Conor Lawlor who is moved to a free-state Catholic school in the middle of family turmoil. After making some friends, he meets a beautiful model named Raphina. In order to impress her, he assembles a band called Sing Street whose music videos she can star in as a stock character. This movie already sounds more boring than it actually is, but it surprised me. Everything in Sing Street oozes 1980’s fodder, from music records to retro music videos MTV to outfits to the original songs. If you are an adult who grew up during this decade, this movie could be one of the biggest nostalgia bombs ever conceived. I mean it; it’s trippy. All of the child actors, lead by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as the charismatic head of the titular band, are terrific. Something tells me that I’m going to be seeing a lot more of them in the future. In supporting roles, Game of Thrones alum Aiden Gillen is mundane as the protagonist’s father, Don Wycherley is a stern school teacher whom Conor frequently butts heads with, and Maria Doyle Kennedy is unstable as the mother. The real standout player, however, is Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother. A washed-up, profane, yet oddly insightful burnout, his unconventional sincerity make for some of the sweetest scenes in the movie. Some scenes made me laugh when he would be verbally pouring out his knowledge of 20th-century music, others left me breathless at how realistic his relationship with Conor is- to the point where it’s almost hard to watch. Reynor’s performance may be one of the greatest siblings ever put to the celluloid, be it in this century or the last. And of course, what’s there to talk about a musical without actually talking about the songs themselves? I call it a musical because even though nobody breaks out into song in the middle of a scene, there are enough original songs in the soundtrack that help tell the story to qualify. My personal favorite from the selection was the track “Drive It Like You Stole It,” which is played about two-thirds of the way through the plot. Easily the biggest throwback to the 1980’s in the entire movie. “Why,” you might ask? Watch Robert Zemeckis’ original Back to the Future film from 1985, and it will make sense as to why it was so awesome to watch. But there’s no denying that every song written for the movie is totally original, and invokes the vibe of this lost decade. Synthesizers? Check. Ridiculous wardrobes for music videos and live stage performances? Check. Absurd vocal range? Check. Sappy, mushy love ballads contrasted by fast-paced anthems? Double Check. Also, the two leads in the movie share great chemistry with one another. Lucy Boynton as Raphina was mysterious and intriguing, just said in the band’s song,l “The Riddle of the Model.” Their story is completely heartwarming from start to finish, wearing a fierce sense of optimism firmly on its tweed jacket shoulder. Looking at the decrepit state of inner-city Dublin, you know they should just find a way to get out of there. So whether you’ve ever done absurd things to impress someone you have a crush on or have a sibling you can rely on for help, I don’t see a reason why audience members wouldn’t be able to relate to this movie. If you can’t, well that just means you haven’t been running around in the social world long enough to understand. Available on the streaming service Netflix for free, Sing Street is an understated yet beautiful love through music and character interactions. I encourage my American viewers to give this one a shot, if you haven’t already.

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