Friday, September 1, 2017

Blood Honey: Movie Review

A campy story with death and bees.

There are a number of working titles floating around including “The Hive” and “The Bequest” but I wonder if they considered the very fitting “Death by Bees”. Not only does this film feature a literal death by bees but it also brings to mind the B-horror films like Killer Bees which should attract the right audience for these campy thrillers. Although I’m not sure campy is the right word for a poor story played out very dramatically. 2017

Directed by: Jeff Kopas

Screenplay by: Jeff Kopas, Doug Taylor

Starring: Shenae Grimes-Beech

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wind River: Movie Review


Thoughtful, compelling and distressing.
Wind River starts with the end of a life of a Native American woman. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say murder mystery, but it does feel like that is a cheap description. This film is a drama, a tightly wound drama at times, while on its way to avenging a murder (either through legal justice or revenge) it gives some thoughtful pause to racial tensions between Native Americans and their white neighbours, and the universality of grief. 2017

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner

Friday, August 18, 2017

Lemon: Movie Review


Not a good crazy.
There’s a scene in Lemon where Michael Cera’s character says to Brett Gelman’s character, “I knew you were crazy, but I thought it was a good crazy. I liked it. I liked it a lot; I thought it was fun. Now I know you’re bad crazy; you’re unstable.” The quote also works as a good description of the film. A film that is very clearly crazy, but is it good crazy or bad crazy? Could it be a fun and likable kind of crazy? The answer to the latter question is “no.” 2017

Directed by: Janicza Bravo

Screenplay by: Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman

Starring: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Landline: Movie Review


Witty, genuine and authentic.
Landline is set in the 90s. The filmmakers definitely make that point clear, but at the same time the references are mostly kept in the background. The film is so much more than outdated fashion and culture jokes. It’s a very enjoyable treatise on love – family love and commitment to yourself and commitment to another you’ve professed to love. It hits that remarkable balance between witty silliness and relatable drama of real life. 2017

Directed by: Gillian Robespierre

Screenplay by: Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre

Starring: Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, John Turturro and Jay Duplass

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lady Macbeth: Movie Review


A dark and twisted tale of love and murder.
Lady Macbeth is a film deserving of its namesake, in that there are no likable characters. This is a film filled with sociopathic people completely devoid of empathy – and yet there is something compelling about the murderess protagonist. The film itself is based on the Russian novella "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District" (which of course borrows its title from the Shakespearean character), although veers significantly from the original material. 2016

Directed by: William Oldroyd

Screenplay by: Alice Birch
Based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov

Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Little Hours: Movie Review


A nun sex comedy goes crazy and sometimes funny.
The Little Hours is a medieval satirical farce, a sex romp through a nunnery and its countryside. The movie looks exactly like it could have been a Monty Python sketch. An idea that probably should have remained just that, but writer and director Jeff Baena and the cast with a background in sitcoms were able to stretch it out with enough laughs to keep the audience’s attention. 2017

Directed by: Jeff Baena

Screenplay by: Jeff Baena

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Ghost Story: Movie Review


Creative exploration of life and loss with a uniquely engaging ghost.
A Ghost Story is an incredibly unique and odd experience and although I have no desire to describe it in overly philosophical and broad terms, describing how it accomplishes what it accomplishes is going to be a challenge. First, writer and director David Lowery has chosen a box-like 1.33:1 aspect ratio with rounded corners. Similar to photographs you’ve seen in your grandparents’ albums. It gives the film a worn-out but familiar atmosphere, like this moving story of a ghost’s life is a family photograph held onto and cherished through the years. 2017

Directed by: David Lowery

Screenplay by: David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Detroit: Movie Review


Powerful foray into America’s race riots.
Detroit opens with a cartoon detailing a brief synopsis of the racial history of the early to mid 1900s, that leads into Detroit in the 1960s with African Americans milling about on the streets, many out of work, most just going on with their lives despite the unrest, racist cops sputtering their racist ideas, black politicians being the voice for the brewing civil unrest and black cops not wanting to be the voice for every African American in the country. Tensions boil over, race riots ensue. 2017

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenplay by: Mark Boal

Starring: Will Poulter, Algee Smith, John Boyega, Anthony Mackie

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Incredible Jessica James: Movie Review


Not as incredible as she thinks she is.
The Incredible Jessica James is only partly a misnomer. The title Jessica (played by The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams) thinks of herself as incredible. She also likes to use many other adjectives to describe how wonderful she is, but it doesn’t take long before the audience just finds her annoying and incredibly insufferable. Oddly the movie around her is mostly non-descript. An unremarkable comedy-drama mixing together a little quarter-life crisis with a romantic comedy. 2017

Directed by: James C. Strouse

Screenplay by: James C. Strouse

Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Girls Trip: Movie Review


Funny and satisfying film about love, sex, pee, drugs, debauchery and self-acceptance.
The thing about Girls Trip that works is that it cares about its characters, and its audience. It’s a funny film – crass, funny, and sweet; and so effortlessly it has us caring about this foursome of women. None of these character types are new to film, and none are overly complicated, but they all contribute to the film and there’s a genuineness to all four of them which makes the predictability and relationship drama easier to swallow. 2017

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Screenplay by: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver

Starring: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dunkirk: Movie Review

Visually and aurally immersive experience of war.

Christopher Nolan decided to tell a World War II movie. One thing needs to be made very clear: this is not a story; this is a visually and aurally immersive experience of war. I’m sure many people were thinking Dunkirk would be something along the lines of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan but updated with today’s impressive technology and added upon with Nolan’s visual flair, but Nolan is striking a very different chord. Dunkirk just wants to get you in your seat and throw a thousand different things at you. 2017

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh

Monday, July 17, 2017

To the Bone: Movie Review


Dramedy tied together with empathy.
To the Bone is a somber yet intriguingly uplifting look at the life of a young woman struggling with anorexia nervosa, and this is the extreme side of the disorder, literally on the brink of death. Or looking at that another way, the film is about a young woman dying who is incapable of saving herself. Not an easy watch, but that’s also only in parts because of the film’s use of humour and introduction of supporting characters there is a feeling of optimism scattered throughout. 2017

Directed by: Marti Noxon

Screenplay by: Marti Noxon

Starring: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Big Sick: Movie Review


Funny, heartfelt romantic comedy with real characters (literally).
The Big Sick explores several topics including the struggle of artists as they try to make it big, the clash of American and Pakistani cultures, relationships with in-laws, and how near-death experiences can change people and their loved ones, and it does all of this while being framed as a romantic comedy. Which is just one of the reasons it’s a good movie: an accessible and entertaining romantic comedy but approaches it from more interesting, and refreshing, view points. 2017

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Handsome Devil: Movie Review


A well-told entertaining and inspiring coming-of-age story for our times.
Handsome Devil is a great film because it effortlessly combines characters both relatable and vital to the well-being of society, important themes of acceptance and self-confidence, and grandiose statements on the nature of growing-up, and put them all in an entertaining story. It brings to mind similar films that have come before it, notably Dead Poets Society and School Ties, but still draws a favourable comparison. This is a film for now, for this generation of school kids, and is good enough to make a difference. 2016

Directed by: John Butler

Screenplay by: John Butler

Starring: Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, and Andrew Scott

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shimmer Lake: Movie Review

Atmosphere and comedy hold together backwards crime drama.

Shimmer Lake has a great atmosphere and an intriguing sense that an interesting mystery is unfolding. It starts on Friday only giving hints as to what happened. Then progressing backwards through the week, providing further clues, and a few dead bodies, to show how it all went down. It takes most of that time to produce a coherent crime drama and the comedic casting makes it difficult to strike the right tone; however, by the end, you have watched a funny, interesting crime drama best told in reverse. 2017

Directed by: Oren Uziel

Screenplay by: Oren Uziel

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rainn Wilson

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Megan Leavey: Movie Review


The bond between woman and dog with emotional strength.
Megan Leavey is a dog movie, but it’s also a war movie. Kate Mara stars as Megan Leavey, a young woman who turned to alcohol following the death of her best friend who died at the hands of drugs and alcohol. She’s very clearly lost in life and has no difficulty admitting it; she blames her parents (mostly her mother) for not letting her cope, but she had to get out of the house and do something, so she joined the Marine Corps. 2017

Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Screenplay by: Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt

Starring: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez

Monday, May 22, 2017

Baywatch: Movie Review


A fun and entertaining ride into the ridiculousness.
When Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) describes their lifeguard job as saving lives, chasing down criminals, uncovering intricate crime rings and doing everything that the police should be doing, Zac Efron’s character Matt Brody responds “that sounds like an entertaining but really far-fetched TV show.” Considering that’s what Baywatch is, it’s only fitting that that’s also what this movie remake is as well. For the most part, entertaining, but also utterly ridiculous and they play that up big time. 2017

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Screenplay by: Mark Swift, Damian Shannon

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everything, Everything: Movie Review

Romance carries the movie, everything else sinks it.

Everything, Everything wants to be both everything and nothing at the same time, and that doesn’t work. On one hand it looks like it wants to be an edgy, surreal, quirky film - at that it fails. At other times, all it's trying to be is a straight-forward teen romantic drama and it definitely succeeds at that. The story is straight out of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, source material that is more fantasy than reality, and this adaptation from a young-adult novel isn't any more convincing. 2017

Directed by: Stella Meghie

Screenplay by: J. Mills Goodloe
Based on the book by Nicola Yoon

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Snatched: Movie Review


Implausibility rules raunchy adventure comedy with mother-daughter relationship.
As demonstrated in Trainwreck, Amy Schumer is really good at playing an extreme version of a regular woman – being relatable and funny at the same time. In Snatched, Schumer’s Emily is more incompetent than the average woman, and is really funny when she quits her job right after she’s fired or breaking up with her boyfriend right after he dumps her (speaking of which, Randall Park was great as said boyfriend). 2017

Directed by: Jonathan Levine

Screenplay by: Katie Dippold

Starring: Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Lost City of Z: Movie Review


A beautifully imagined film leads the audience through the jungle.
The Lost City of Z is a curiously good movie. As the movie begins it looks a lot like an average historical period drama. Taking awhile to get interesting, it tells a methodical story of British Army Col. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) who is tasked by the Royal Geographical Society to survey the border between Brazil and Venezuela in the Amazon jungle. But with each scene and employing everything at their disposal, the filmmakers build it into a mesmerizing picture of survival and mystery. 2016

Directed by: James Gray

Screenplay by: James Gray
Based on the book by David Grann

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Dinner: Movie Review


A long, slow build to a moral dilemma.
The Dinner is described as a moral dilemma thriller. While "thriller" can seem like a misnomer, when paired with "moral dilemma" it should become clear that the suspense is off-key. The suspense comes in the form of wondering if these characters are ever going to say what they are talking about. The film really is a dinner. Husband and wife, Paul and Claire (Steve Coogan and Laura Linney) are meeting Paul's brother Stan (Richard Gere) and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner. 2017

Directed by: Owen Moverman

Screenplay by: Owen Moverman
Based on the novel by Howard Koch

Starring: Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere and Rebecca Hall

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Outcasts: Movie Review

The movie about unpopular high school kids on a power trip that we don't need.

The Outcasts is an indie version of a studio movie. It feels like a movie that cares more deeply about following a formula that will guarantee everyone will want to watch as opposed to just crafting a movie that everyone will actually want to watch. The norm these days is filling high school movies with overly-witty teenagers, but this high school is filled with overly-smart and philosophical teenagers who sound like they just memorized a sociology textbook. I hate that unnatural wit in teen movies, but I’m not convinced this is any better.   2017

Directed by: Peter Hutchings

Screenplay by: Dominique Ferrari, Suzanne Wrubel

Starring: Eden Sher, Victoria Justice

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Their Finest: Movie Review


They’re making a movie and it’s brilliant and funny.
The plot of Their Finest works on many levels. On one side it’s a simple comedy-drama-romance of a young woman finding her way in the world, on another side it’s a comedy about making a movie, but it’s also an historical drama taking a look at the effects of war on everybody left at home, and when war hits the home you know, and how war has changed the role of women in society. Above all, it’s a comedy; a very engaging, very funny comedy about ridiculous actors and how to write a screenplay. 2016

Directed by: Lone Scherfig

Screenplay by: Gaby Chiappe
Based on the novel by Lissa Evans

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin
and Bill Nighy

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Win It All: Movie Review

Gritty and messy, cute and sweet, journey through a gambler's life.

A duffel bag full of cash and a gambling addict - what could go wrong? There’s something very sweet about combining the makings of dark comedy with a much simpler, more accessible, comedy-drama of a damaged man growing up. Win It All is more about Eddie (Jake Johnson) than it is gambling. Eddie is without-a-doubt a gambling addict and much of the comedy of the film derives from what is obvious to us but Eddie is oblivious about. 2017

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jake Johnson, Joe Lo Truglio

Friday, April 7, 2017

Speech & Debate: Movie Review

Conquering intolerance with hilarity and amusement.

Stand up and sing, or say something, or just do anything. Speech & Debate does an excellent job in helping its lead characters find their voice. This is about the injustice in high schools: an aspiring journalist being told exactly what to write and not being helped to get into a good school, an aspiring singer denied the lead role in the school musical because she’s too theatrical, outspoken and not pretty enough, and a gay kid not allowed to really be himself because the community is just not progressive enough. 2017

Directed by: Dan Harris

Screenplay by: Stephen Karam
Based on the play by Stephen Karam

Starring: Sarah Steele, Liam James and Austin P. McKenzie

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Most Hated Woman in America: Movie Review

Draws an interesting line between victim and villain.

The Most Hated Woman in America is a good movie, but they made a fundamental error which stops it from being a great movie: they focused on the least interesting aspect. There are actually many interesting and compelling aspects to the movie which should keep most viewers mildly interested throughout at the very least. The story is about American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the most hated woman in America. Granted, I hadn’t actually heard of her prior to this movie, but given the daily extreme death threats she received every day of her life, her moniker fits. 2017

Directed by: Tommy O'Haver

Screenplay by: Tommy O'Haver

Starring: Melissa Leo, and Josh Lucas

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gifted: Movie Review


A world of injustices with humour and heart.
On the surface, Gifted is everything that all of us have seen before, but there’s also a lot to like about it. In the small moments, it will do something just a little bit unexpected, which makes the movie that much more interesting, and that much more enjoyable. Chris Evans stars as Frank, raising child prodigy Mary (Mckenna Grace) as per her mother’s instructions, but his child-rearing abilities are called into question as those around her realize her gifted status. Many movies have taken similar elements, and while Gifted isn’t all that different, it is still a really good version of it. 2017

Directed by: Marc Webb

Screenplay by: Tom Flynn

Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate

Thursday, March 23, 2017

CHiPs: Movie Review

An action comedy too obsessed with sex jokes.

I haven’t seen the original CHiPs, but I don’t think that matters at all as I doubt this bears any resemblance other than the primary set-up. This CHiPs is a raunchy, buddy, action comedy. I was trying to decide what order those adjectives should go in, but it doesn’t really matter since they are all equally-weighted. Take that as you may, but I’m not convinced a movie should spend just as much time on ass jokes as it does on anything else. 2017

Directed by: Dax Shepard

Screenplay by: Dax Shepard

Starring: Michael Pena, Dax Shepard

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Highway to Havasu: Movie Review

Indie version of high school boys trying to get laid.

Highway to Havasu is an independent raunchy buddy comedy. Not unique in anyway, but it is the overlapping of the two styles that makes it appear different, on the surface at the beginning, at least. The plot is your typical high school boys want to get laid and embark on a ridiculous in-your-face sex-filled adventure – which Hollywood has attempted many times over, as have indie filmmakers, but a lot fewer in number. 2017

Directed by: Jeff Janke

Screenplay by: Jeff Janke

Starring: Andrew Fromer, Caleb Thomas

Monday, March 20, 2017

Country Crush: Movie Review

Finding its own country musical niche, in a generic, uninspiring way.

It should be made very clear that Country Crush is a musical. There’s a big difference between a drama about a singer, and a musical-musical. While lead character Nancy (Madeline Merlo) is a singer and a third of the plot is her musical aspirations, this movie is pure musical. But more specifically, it’s a country musical. Similar, at least in part, to High School Musical, but make it country, very country. That description alone should turn off many viewers, but for those that are left, it does make this film unique. 2016

Directed by: Andrew Cymek

Screenplay by: Andrew Cymek, Jake Helgren

Starring: Munro Chambers, Madeline Merlo

Thursday, March 16, 2017

1 Night: Movie Review

Teenagers and adults converge in short and sweet romantic drama.

What 1 Night does well, really well, is examine love as a thirty-something adult and as a teenager. Four main characters: Bea and Andy are attending their high school prom, and Liz and Drew are at a turning point in their marriage. It’s about the similarities and differences as people age and grow up, and then finding something to relate to in all of these characters. 2016

Directed by: Minhal Baig

Screenplay by: Minhal Baig

Starring: Anna Camp, Justin Chatwin