REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story [2018]

You said never improvise. Nine movies into the cinematic world of George Lucas‘ Star Wars—three of which extend past his control over the franchise—and we remain tethered to the Skywalkers. It makes sense. In order for Disney to commoditize the property, they must first reconnect with old fans and familiarize the new. So they stuck with Luke, Leia, and Anakin’s continuing legacy (even if they threw out extended universe material once considered canon). They began with a rousing remake, continued with a spin-off expanding upon a moment we knew occurred…

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Picking Winners at the 90th Annual Academy Awards

The 90th Annual Academy Awards hits airwaves Sunday, March 4th, 2018 at 8:00pm on ABC. For those handicapping at home, here are the guesses of Buffalo film fanatics Christopher Schobert, William Altreuter, and myself. Jared Mobarak: This new look Academy is really starting to pay dividends. The fight for representation might have begun with a focus on the acting categories (there are four POC actors nominated this year out of twenty slots), but it’s expanded much further in a very short period of time. This 90th year of Oscar becomes…

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REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [2017]

It’s hard to know what to do. It’s no coincidence that the dumbest character in Martin McDonagh‘s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri says the most revealing line of dialogue throughout the entire film: “Anger begets more anger.” I guess it’s because Penelope (Samara Weaving) isn’t dumb as much as she’s naïvely innocent and young. She’s still idealistic about a world that has yet to throw any great tragedies her way. She’s still elastic enough to take being laid off from work in stride because there’s always another job out there.…

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REVIEW: The Glass Castle [2017]

“You learn from living. Everything else is a damn lie.” It’s easy to dismiss films like Destin Daniel Cretton‘s The Glass Castle for losing their bite upon reaching a conclusion nobody can deny is melodramatically sentimental. You’ve watched Jeannette Walls’ (Brie Larson) decades-long journey of psychological pain and suffering wrought during her upbringing and ever-present in adulthood. You’ve seen trying times in poverty crosscut with present success, emboldened by her strength to stand tall and be the woman she wants to be no matter what the voices of her past…

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REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes [2017]

“We are the beginning and the end” I’ve never seen the original Planet of the Apes films, but the little I know has always presented the titular apes as antagonists. You don’t cast Charlton Heston as your lead circa 1968 unless you want him to be the central figure with which to align. He’s a man trapped on a foreign world ruled by a species his scientists long held as inferior—prototypes for his own advanced existence. How it ends is hardly a spoiler anymore, its subversion of the entire premise…

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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: Now You See Me 2 [2016]

“You may not be having fun, but I am” The problem with giving a film steeped in misdirection a sequel is that the mysteries have already been uncovered. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle to achieve the same success. Now You See Me had a great magic premise wherein the theatrical audience was as in the dark as the fictional audience attending The Four Horsemen’s performances. We knew something big was happening, but weren’t privy to the plan. We watched the intrigue, received truth from an illusion-debunker,…

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REVIEW: Triple 9 [2016]

“Better him than me” No matter how exciting it is to see a film with the cast John Hillcoat assembled on Triple 9, the old adage “less is more” still stands. The issue with having so many “main characters” is that they all end up becoming periphery players. And if one does rise above the rest, you wonder why so much happens that doesn’t concern him/her. This is where Matt Cook‘s 2010 Blacklist script falls into trouble: Casey Affleck‘s Chris Allen is our lead and yet he’s basically a pawn…

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REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

“They chose you” With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 officially in the books I’m confident in saying Suzanne Collins‘ dystopic trilogy will hold up as one of the most successfully faithful cinematic adaptations ever. And a big part of that is the decision to make it into four movies because, as anyone who’s read the novels knows, Mockingjay is a dense work with little fat where its political and emotional intrigue are concerned. Any issues stem from Lionsgate’s misguided choice of putting a full year’s wait in between…

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REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 [2014]

“If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree” Welcome to the bait and switch. If you’ve read Suzanne Collins‘ Hunger Games Trilogy you know that Mockingjay is by far the meatiest and most resonate installment of the series despite diverting from the blueprint that brought people in. So rich in the politics, revolution, and sci-fi lying underneath the action of the previous entries, splitting it into two films was actually a good idea. They should have placed the release dates months apart a la The Matrix sequels rather…

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REVIEW: Out of the Furnace [2013]

“Let me make this right” I think Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace has been given a bad rap by the critical world. It’s slow, laborious, and perhaps not possessed with the freshest of plots, but there is still a palpable power driving it forward courtesy of fantastic performances and a starkly authentic depiction of a forsaken region not unlike Winter’s Bone’s Ozarks. Whether it’s the gradual shutdown of a blue-collar Braddock, PA way beyond its prime in today’s America or the backwoods justice of a lawless portion of New…

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