REVIEW: Bumblebee [2018]

I can fix you. I get the appeal to capitalize on nostalgia and credit to Hasbro and Paramount for doing exactly that with the original live-action Transformers film. They went for wall-to-wall explosions courtesy of Michael Bay, leaned into the male gaze with an out-of-the-lead’s-league love interest, and brought a sarcastic nerd to life who could probably be argued into filling the role of a proto-Gamer Gate type entitled prick. The goal was to excite twenty-year old men who played with the toys in their youth in the hopes they…

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REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [2018]

It’s just puberty. You have to hand it to Sony for thinking outside the box. Not long ago they had the number one cinematic superhero property with Tobey Maguire donning the Spidey-suit to take on the Osborns. They tried to strike gold twice with a new “Amazing” iteration starring Andrew Garfield, but the results simply couldn’t compete with the creative and financial gains Marvel proper had with their Disney-backed universe. So they buckled. They made the compromise they said they never would and allowed the Spider-Man character to become an…

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REVIEW: The Edge of Seventeen [2016]

“You should look out for run-on sentences” If you ever wondered what a John Hughes movie would look like without the cutesy cliché and overblown 1980s caricatured comedic appeal, Kelly Fremon Craig‘s The Edge of Seventeen is it. So don’t treat the talk about it being a “twenty-first century Hughes” film as hyperbole or a slight because the shoe fits its depiction of angst-fueled, hilarious embarrassment. What it lacks is the need to feed into stereotype, sentiment, and melodrama that weigh reality down into fairy tale. This is the life…

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REVIEW: Pitch Perfect 2 [2015]

“And there are the props” A surprise hit from 2012, Pitch Perfect was more than hype. It was good. Good enough for a sequel? Sure. I was excited to see what might happen until the trailer dropped. Boy did that thing look like a train wreck attempt at capturing lightning in a bottle by mimicking the original with supposedly higher stakes (but really just bigger scale/budget). Why deal with a capella at a collegiate level again when you can expand internationally? Because small was a proven success, that’s why. It…

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REVIEW: Barely Lethal [2015]

“Like, totem pole” Much like director Kyle Newman‘s first theatrical release Fanboys, his sophomore effort Barely Lethal is built for a niche audience with minimal wiggle room to capture the excitement of casual viewers just stopping by. You don’t need to travel farther than the backlash-riddled comments section of its YouTube trailers to understand this. Snide remarks about its apparent quality, jokes about Samuel L. Jackson loving money, and easy comparisons to fare like Agent Cody Banks are the norm in today’s internet culture of anonymous hate and sarcasm for…

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REVIEW: The Homesman [2014]

“God will strike you down” I didn’t necessarily love The Homesman, but it’s hard not to respect it. This is a dark story in the desolate Mid-West with outlaw justice and remorseless murder surrounding the charitably selfless journey of Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and the three crazed women she’s taking across the Missouri into Iowa so they can be cared for under reasonable conditions. It can’t have been an easy adaptation of Glendon Swarthout‘s novel for director Tommy Lee Jones and his co-writers Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley A. Oliver…

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REVIEW: Ender’s Game [2013]

“The enemy’s gate is down” While speaking during a Q&A at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April, author Orson Scott Card stated that Gavin Hood‘s adaptation of his seminal novel Ender’s Game was “the best that good people could do with a story they really cared about and believed in.” He also went on to say it was “damn good,” a sentiment with which I can’t wholly agree. The first quote, however, is a pretty spot-on description when you consider the amount of detail and political unrest…

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TIFF13 REVIEW: Begin Again [Can a Song Save Your Life?] [2014]

“Yeah. I just phased out my cassettes.” To answer the title’s question—Can a Song Save Your Life?—writer/director John Carney says, “Yes.” A song can save someone from jumping off a subway platform and someone else from the searing emotional pain of being scorned in love. Music in general is an art form that can move us to tears with one simple chord or touchingly real lyric. It alters us in a way that can’t be explained; the same song telling a person there is purpose while the guy standing a…

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The 83rd Oscars recap through tweets …

@jaredmobarak • Oscar time … congrats to The King’s Speech … why bother with the show when everyone thinks they know the winner? The 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony was quite possibly its worst incarnation the past decade. And things finally seemed to be going the right way. Hugh Jackman was fun; Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were lukewarm, but the show was fun; and Neil Patrick Harris is Neil Patrick Harris. NPH can do no wrong. Much in that vein, I thought the pairing of James Franco and Anne…

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Picking Winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Spree contributing writer William Altreuter, graphic designer Jared Mobarak, and I are going to share our thoughts on this week’s Oscar nominations. Let’s kick things off with a category whose victor—Colin “Mr. Darcy” Firth—seems to have already been agreed upon. — Christopher Schobert Best Actor:Javier Bardem: BiutifulJeff Bridges: True GritJesse Eisenberg: The Social NetworkColin Firth: The King’s SpeechJames Franco: 127 Hours William Altreuter: If the Academy had wanted to make a statement Jim Carrey‘s amazing turn in I Love You Phillip Morris would have found its way onto this list. Wouldn’t that…

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REVIEW: True Grit [2010]

“A saucy line will not get you very far with me” The Coen Brothers have been on such a roll the past four years. While they’ve gone serious for the most part, the trademark wit has not disappeared from the dramatic entries to their oeuvre. Still able to hit the funny bone full bore—see Burn After Reading—the comedies have gone subtler with a more dire tone, (A Serious Man), and the dramas have gone grimmer themselves, right into consistent Oscar contention, (No Country for Old Men). Going back to Charles…

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