November Movie Releases

It’s Turkey Month ladies and gentlemen!

Happy Early Thanksgiving! It’s now at the point that we have a great film or films coming out every week and some that will for sure divide films fans. Now let’s jump right into the fray and see what’s coming out!

 

1st

A Bad Moms Christmas (Comedy – STX Entertainment, Huayi Brothers Pictures)

Amy (Mila Kunis), Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell) struggle to cope when their respective mothers visit for the holidays. I’m sure I’m with many who were surprised at how funny the first Bad Moms was and how successful it ended up being. So, and I can’t believe I’m saying this; I’m looking forward toward the sequel to Bad Moms. The film co-stars Jay Hernandez, Peter Gallagher, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon.

 

3rd

Limited Release: LBJ

The story of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Woody Harrelson) from his young days in West Texas to the White House. The film has a pretty impressive supporting cast in Bill Pullman, Jeffrey Donovan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, C. Thomas Howell, Michael Stahl-David and Richard Jenkins.

 

Limited Release: Last Flag Flying

Written and directed by Richard Linklater, and a spiritual sequel to the 1973 film The Last Detail. Thirty years after they served together in Vietnam, a former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) re-untied with his old buddies, former Marines Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. The film looks pretty funny with three friends getting together on a road trip with some drama. The film also stars J. Quinton Johnson, Deanna Reed-Foster, and Yul Vazquez.

 

Limited Release: Lady Bird

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, in only her second directorial film but her first solo film, Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who tries to get through life in Northern California while dealing with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her sick father (Tracy Letts). The film looks pretty great and a nice character piece with Ronan adding another potential great character to her resume. The film co-stars Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Kathryn Newton, Laura Marano, Daniel Zovatto and Lucas Hedges.

 

Limited Release: Blade of the Immortal

The 100th film by legendary director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins), and based off the manga by Hiroaki Samura. The film follows Manji, a highly skilled samurai, who is cursed with immortality and whose path is crossed by young girl looking for the legendary immortal samurai to help her avenge her parents, who were filled by a ruthless warrior and his army. This looks like a crazy, bloody, fun ride that only Miike can create.

 

Thor: Ragnarok (Sci-Fi Action Adventure – Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures)

Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself imprisoned on another planet, and forced into a gladiatorial game against fellow Avenger, The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thor has to survive and must race against time to stop the powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying Asgard and everything in her way. I don’t know about you, but I’m stupid excited for this…that’s all, I can’t wait for this. The film co-stars Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Benedict Cumberbatch and Anthony Hopkins

 

10th

Limited Release: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), in what is described as a “darkly comic drama,” a mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit. I’m a huge fan of what McDonagh has done so far, and I can’t wait to see what he does here, with yet, another great cast. The film-co-stars Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, Zeljko Ivanek, Lucas Hedges and John Hawkes.

 

Daddy’s Home 2 (Comedy – Paramount Pictures, Gary Sanchez Productions)

Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) must deal with their intrusive fathers, played by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson, during the holidays. I didn’t watch the first Daddy’s Home until this year, and I didn’t mind it, so now with the sequel coming out, I’m kind of looking forward to it. The film co-stars Linda Cardellini, John Cena and Alessandra Ambrosio.

 

Murder on the Orient Express (Crime Mystery – 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, Genre Films)

Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs) investigates the murder of a wealthy American traveling on the Orient Express, the most famous train in the world. I loved the teaser trailer with that great tracking shot. Now that we’ve seen a little more of the trailer, I’m hoping this turns out to be great. The film also stars Daisy Ridley, Michael Pena, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Lucy Boynton, Derek Jacobi, Tom Bateman, Marwan Kenzari, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench.

 

17th

Limited Release: Sweet Virginia

A former rodeo champ befriends a young man with a propensity for violence. The film stars Jon Bernthal, Imogen Poots, Christopher Abbott and Rosemarie DeWitt.

 

Limited Release: I Love You, Daddy

Directed, co-written and starring Louis C.K., when a successful television writer’s daughter becomes the interest of an aging filmmaker with an appalling past, he becomes worried on how to handle the situation. The film co-stars Rose Byrne, Charlie Day, Helen Hunt, Edie Falco, Chloe Grace Moretz and John Malkovich.

 

Limited Release: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Directed by Dan Gilroy, the film stars Denzel Washington stars as Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. The film also stars Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo and Shelley Hennig.

 

The Star (Animation – Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures, The Jim Henson Company, Walden Media, Affirm Films, Franklin Entertainment)

A small but brave donkey and his animal friends become the unsung heroes of the first Christmas. This animated film came out of nowhere really, so I don’t know if I’ll be watching this. The voice cast is impressive though with Zachary Levi, Gina Rodriguez, Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Kristin Chenoweth, Ving Rhames, Anthony Anderson, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Plummer.

 

Wonder (Drama – Lionsgate, Walden Media, Participant Media, Mandeville Films)

Based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio. The film follows August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with a facial deformation who enters fifth grade, in a mainstream elementary school, for the first time. I haven’t read the book, but just seeing the trailer, it looks like we’re in for a dramatic and touching story. The film co-stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Daveed Diggs and Mandy Patinkin.

 

Justice League (Action Adventure – Warner Bros./DC Entertainment/Dune Entertainment/Lensbern Productions)

It’s about time! The other big team-up of well-known superheroes is finally coming to the big screen, whether we like the approach or not. Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), to face an even greater enemy. The film also stars Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, and Diane Lane. Look, the DCEU has been shaky at best – expect you Wonder Woman – so here’s hoping that Justice League can at least put some stability to it.

 

22nd

Limited Release: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Based on the book by Les Standiford, the journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and other classic characters from “A Christmas Carol.” The film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) conjured up a timeless tale. The film also co-stars Jonathan Pryce.

 

Limited Release: Darkest Hour (War Drama – Focus Features/Working Title Films)

Directed Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina, Hanna) Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) leads a charge against Hitler’s army in the early days of World War II. I have to admit this looks pretty damn good. It also helps that the movie has been getting a ton of Oscar buzz. The film also stars Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristen Scott Thomas and John Hurt.

 

Coco (Animation – Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Aspiring musician Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) teams up with charming trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) on an extraordinary journey through the Land of the Dead. As much as we have come to learn not to doubt Pixar, but this is going to have a hard time surpassing The Book of Life in my mind. But, like I said, never doubt Pixar. The voice cast ranges all over the place from unknowns to be names like Benjamin Bratt, Cheech Marin, Renee Victor and Edward James Olmos.

 

24th

Limited Release: Call Me by Your Name

Based on the novel by Andre Aciman, in the 1983, the son of an American professor is enamored by the graduate student who comes to study and live with his family in their northern Italian home. Together, they share an unforgettable summer full of music, food, and romance that will forever change them. I didn’t know too much about this until I starting seeing the film festival buzz, and after watching the trailer, it could not be too bad. The film stars Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Amira Casar and Michael Stuhlbarg.

What are you looking forward to?

Justice League Trailer Thoughts

The long-awaited trailer for Justice League came out this weekend, and I’ve been sitting on my reaction to it because, well, the DC Extended Universe hasn’t been the best. This isn’t me being a Marvel fanboy or a DC hater. I liked Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were both disappointments in their own way, and I’m hoping Wonder Woman is great. Justice League on the other hand has a massive uphill battle for me. The movie can’t be okay, fine, good or alright – it has to be great. Because I’ll be honest, if Justice League is another disappointment, bad or god forbid horrible, then I will lose all hope in the DCEU and no longer care about the DC Comics property at Warner Bros.

 

Is that too much? Maybe. But for me as a fan of these characters, and a fan who has been waiting to see them all together on the big screen, that statement couldn’t be any more true. So let’s move on to my thoughts on the trailer shall we.

 

For a teaser trailer, and for fans of the characters/our inner child, the teaser is pretty effective and cool. However, the teaser almost feels like Warner Bros. and DC is trying to pander to those that are starting to lose faith in the films. It’s almost like their saying “See, we put Aquaman on top of the Batmoblie before flying off to fight Parademons! Just like you probably did as a kid!” Okay, let’s get serious.

 

The Humor: Obviously, one of the things that has plagued the DC films is that some people think the films take themselves too seriously, and the films need to inject some humor into them. Of course, the Marvel films are filled with humor, but are also injected with serious moments. The DC films so far have some moments, but to be fair, they are more serious films than their Marvel counterparts. The trailer clearly shows that the film will have humor in it, whether it be dry humor like Bruce telling Barry “I’m rich” or Aquaman’s lines like “it’s on him” or “I dig it” when he sees Batman in full costume. Either way, the humor works on some extent here so points for them.

 

Cyborg: Cyborg has been a much-talked about character in Justice League. I’ve been holding my judgment on him until the film comes out, but the trailer finally shows him off a little more. Honestly, still not sold. The character still looks too CG. Now before everyone gets ready to shout at me. Marvel of course has characters created completed out of CGI, but at least they look better than Cyborg does. He literally just look like floating head at times, and I’m hoping they do some more touch ups in his CG to make him look better because right now, not looking too great for me.

 

The Small Cameos: The teaser actually showed some people I didn’t think we’d see. For one, we see J.K. Simmons’ Jim Gordon, which is one of the most perfect casting calls WB and DC have done. We also get our first – almost – official look at Atlantis with Amber Heard’s Mera getting the highlight. Then there’s Billy Crudup’s Henry Allen in prison. I don’t remember reading he was going to be in the film, but it was a pleasant surprise to see him in the teaser, even if it’s going to be one scene in the film itself. Although this isn’t actually a person, seeing The Crawler in the trailer as Batman rides it up along a wall to save Wonder Woman was kinda cool.

 

The Battle: It’s been revealed that the battle scene we see in the trailer is part of the prologue of the film. It involves the alliance of three armies: The Atlanteans, The Amazons and mankind going up against and stopping one of the invasions by the Parademons and whoever is leading them, whether it’s Darkseid or Steppenwolf is yet to be seen. It also looks like the invasion will continue again with the Justice League having to stop them either here on Earth, or on some version of Apokolips. Also, Mother Boxes will play a role here as well. Hopefully the next trailer helps solve that without spoiling the whole film.

 

The Flash and Aquaman: Almost like Cyborg, I’m not sold on Ezra Miller as The Flash. Miller hasn’t impressed me in anything too much, he’s a fine actor with the right material and his attitude will probably make sense once we see him in action, but he almost looks like the goofy younger brother who finally gets to hangout with his older siblings and do cool stuff with them. When it comes to Aquaman, Jason Momoa is definitely a different pick for the character, but its almost like he’s not playing Aquaman, it felt like he’s playing Jason Momoa playing Aquaman.

Now whether that matters at the end of the day is a different story, but seeing Momoa give that cheer and yelling “yeah” when he jumps on top of the Batmoblie and jumps off to attack Parademons was kind of cool – even though I made fun of it at the beginning.

 

Final Thoughts

Look, inner kid in me liked the trailer, because I mean come on, it’s the freaking Justice League teaming up and fighting on the big screen. Realistic side of me knows we’ve been burned by good looking trailers in the DCEU – and other films too, just to be fair – so I’m not holding my breath for the film. Then again, that’s a trailers job isn’t? Make the movie look appealing and great so that you get out and watch it. Justice League is no different. We all know this movie is going to make a lot of money. Whether it’s the amount of money the studio is ultimately looking for is another question.

 

However, the ultimate question is whether it will good at all. The fate of the DCEU hangs in the balance with this, and at first look I’ll give you what I actually did when I saw the teaser for the first time — sigh.

 

‘Moana’ Review

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Directors: Ron Clements & John Musker (co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams)

Writer: Jared Bush

Cast: Auli’I Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Scherzinger, and Jemaine Clement

Synopsis: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Disney Animation is having a pretty great record recently. They’ve had smash hits in Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and of course the big one, Frozen. However, Moana feels completely different from all those films, and that is what makes the film work. Enriched with the culture behind it, and it’s great soundtrack, Moana is one of those films I think people will be talking about for a while.

Moana follows Moana, voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, is an adventurous teenager who has always been connected to venture into the ocean, but is forbidden by her father Chief Tui (Morrison), who instead wants Moana to lead the village. However, when an old darkness begins to take over the island, Moana sees this as her opportunity to finally get off the island and save her people, but she’ll need the help of the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson).

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The film starts off by telling us a tale of Maui, and what essentially becomes the adventurous tale of finding and returning the heart of Te Fiti, a god amongst the Polynesian people. The tale is a great jumping in point for people not familiar with the Polynesian culture – of course it’s not all of the history – but it certainly makes you understand Moana, and why she has an adventurous spirit. The other nice thing that the film does is we get to spend a great deal of time with Moana and the people of the island. So you can understand when Moana leaves, it’s not only a big deal for her, but also for the people of the island.

Moana herself is a good character. She’s strong-minded and has a good sense of herself, but also naïve when it comes to certain things, which makes her a good character to follow. When it comes to Maui, well, there’s a reason they got The Rock to do the voice for the demigod. Johnson brings his huge and charismatic personality to Maui, and essentially feels like an extension to Johnson himself. But, like Moana, is a flawed hero himself and needs Moana as much as Moana needs him. The pairing of the two, and the voice actors of Cravalho and Johnson, is great to watch and hearing them go back-and-forth with each other would usually be a highlight, but does help.

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The film is pretty much Moana and Johnson, but Rachel House plays an important role in the film and an important character in Moana’s life in her Gramma Tala, Disney go-to now Alan Tudyk does some voice work for Hei Hei, a brainless rooster who is sure to be a fan-favorite amongst youngsters, and the water, yes, the ocean is a character in itself that helps Moana on some occasion, although I kind of wished they would have used it more, but that’s just me being nitpicky. Finally, Jemaine Clement pops in as Tamatoa, a large crab that brings one of the more light-hearted songs of the film that makes sense for his character. Another potential fan-favorite set of characters are the Kakamora, which are coconut pirates – yes, coconut pirates – who are part of a action scene that is very Mad Max: Fury Road inspired.

The highlight of the film here is the music. Each song is catchy, highly entertaining, plays a role in the scene, and more importantly, beautifully done. I have no doubt you’ll be singing or humming these songs when you leave the theater or blast them on your drive home. The music also brings home many themes for not just the characters singing them, but also for the adventure themselves. They’re rather moving songs that even I’ll admit, had me on the verge of tears.

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All in all, Moana is another great addition of the Disney Animation category. Filled with rich visuals, history and music, time will tell how audiences treat Moana, but it is definitely worth your time. Does it fall into familiar territory sometimes? Sure, but it has enough to separate itself from the pack.

Moana

4.5 out of 5

Mini-Reviews: Allied & Manchester by the Sea

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Allied

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: Steven Knight

Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Daniel Betts, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode and Simon McBurney.

Synopsis: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fight on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressure of war.

 

Robert Zemeckis is back with a World War II drama that sees two great actors come together to give the genre a little twist. So it’s a little hard to fathom how Zemeckis was able make a bit of a water-downed film with great performances, but overall the structure of the film really hurts the film.

Allied follows spy Max Vatan (Pitt) who goes undercover in French Morocco in 1942 where he meets with French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) to pull off a mission to kill the German ambassador. The two eventually fall in love with each other and move to London where they get married and have a child. However, Max suddenly gets called in by British intelligence and is told that his wife could be a German spy. Not only that, if it is true, Max has to kill her himself. What follows is Max’s quest for answers to something he doesn’t believe.

Allied works on some levels. Pitt and Cotillard are great together and hold their own when need be. However, the first half of the film is much better than the second half. Also, Cotillard has much more to do and is fleshed out a lot more in the first half than the second. Seeing her work her charm against high ranking German officials so they can get close to the ambassador they need to kill was fun to watch, but afterwards it becomes Max’s story on whether or not his wife is a spy and what is he willing to do to prove it’s not true. There’s nothing wrong with it becoming Max’s story, but when it does turn all its attention to him, Cotillard doesn’t really do anything until the final twenty minutes of the film.

The film also loses some of its intensity after the first half of the film. Some of the big tension moments don’t have the sense of level of urgency or intense moment of fear or not knowing, so it doesn’t really help considering this is a spy drama thriller. There are great moments, I don’t want to take away anything from the film on that front, but overall the film lacked a certain push the film needed to push it over the top.

All in all, Allied is a fine film with good performances, but the sudden change of perspective and it lack of focus and intensity like the first half hinders the film from being great.

Allied

3 out of 5

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Manchester by the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Writers: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, Kyle Chandler and Matthew Broderick

Synopsis: An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

 

Manchester by the Sea’s synopsis sounds rather simple, add in the fact that it’s getting a limited release at first will add to people’s decision to maybe pass this up. However, the film has been making a ton of waves on the film festival circuit, and is already getting people predicting this is a huge front runner come Oscar season. Finally watching the film, I can see why. Manchester by the Sea is truly one of the best films of the year, and one that is very human when it comes to dealing with loss and grief.

The film follows Lee Chandler (Affleck), a loner janitor/handyman in Boston who is a bit rude and doesn’t seem interested in anything going on around him. That changes a bit when he gets a phone call saying his brother Joe (coincidently played by Kyle Chandler) has passed away. Lee makes the journey back to the small town of Manchester to settle his brother’s affairs, which also includes dealing with Joe’s teenage son Patrick (Hedges), and Joe’s wish of Lee watching over him. What follows is Lee and Patrick’s story of the both of them dealing with the loss of Joe, and how the deal with their situation as well as Lee dealing with linger thoughts of his own traumatic event.

Like I mentioned before, the synopsis sounds rather simple but there is a lot to unpack in the film, and all of it is worthwhile. The film doesn’t rely on usual character yelling at each other before reaching that peak moment of emotions that they forgive each other and are finally happy. The film feels real, and lets every character go through their own emotions like everyone does. Everyone grieves differently, and the film shows that in its way.

The great thing is that we spend enough time with Lee and Patrick, and get to know them. Casey Affleck continues to show that he can handle great material and isn’t just Ben Affleck’s brother. Affleck as Lee is rather intriguing to watch. A good chunk of Lee’s backstory is told through flashbacks that not only make us understand a bit of where Lee is coming from, but is tremendous effective and dramatic. I’d be surprised if Affleck isn’t at least nominated for Best Actor come Oscar season. However, it’s Affleck’s rapport with young actor Lucas Hedges that carries the middle of the film. Hedges has done some projects like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and even a small role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but this really allowed him to break loose and show his range. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing Hedges in a lot more things soon. The rest of the cast fairs well too with Michelle Williams making the most of her small screen time with a powerful performance near the end of the film.

All in all, Manchester by the Sea is one of those films you should experience for yourself. It’s a very real emotional film that is lead by Casey Affleck in one of the best films of the year. All the buzz surrounding the film is completely worth it, and while at times the film may feel aimless, it’s done in a way that actually works.

Manchester by the Sea

4.5 out of 5

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‘The Edge of Seventeen’ Review

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Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Writer: Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert, Woody Harrelson, Eric Keenleyside and Kyra Sedgwick

Synopsis: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Coming-of-age films are always a fun experience. Some of them touch a nerve and bring back memories, while others could alienate some people because they didn’t have or share some of those experiences. However, most of them all share one thing in common: we’ve all thought like these kids at point or another, and we all love seeing a character transform in front of us in a a very human way.

The Edge of Seventeen follows high school junior Nadine (Steinfeld), who isn’t like her peers. It doesn’t help that she’s in the shadow of her perfect older brother Darian (Jenner) and has a strained relationship with her mother, Mona (Sedgwick). The only good thing in her life is her lifelong best friend Krista (Richardson), who she can also count on. However, after finding out that Krista and Darian slept together, Nadine feels betrayed and cuts Krista out of her life. What follows is Nadine trying to figure out what to do with her life, and that includes dealing with her nerdy and awkward classmate Erwin (Szeto), her from afar crush and local school bad boy Nick (Calvert) and her rapport with her equally sarcastic history teacher Mr. Bruner (Harrelson).

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Like the coming-of-age films before it, the film isn’t really plot-driven but instead follows Nadine through her misadventures after finding out Krista slept with her older brother and the two have started dating. However, the good thing is that everything feels real. Sure, Nadine follows the trope of being a bit more sharp witted than a real teenager but that doesn’t take away the fun of the film and of her mishaps, which are pretty funny to watch.

What also makes Nadine a great character to follow is how Steinfeld plays her. Nadine could have easily been an unbearable and unlikeable character, and I’m sure some will see her that way and she is to some extent, but Steinfeld plays her so well and with a great amount of charm and wit that it actually makes us invest in. And yes, we want to see her grow and even go through her unfortunate situations and encounters. It also nice to see Steinfeld let loose a bit and find a role that lets her showcase her full potential like she did back in True Grit.

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The rest of the supporting cast is also great and play off each other really well. Blake Jenner has had a breakout year starring in this and Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! Haley Lu Richardson as Krista never comes off as distance or mean, we actually feel for her when Krista and Nadine fight. Hayden Szeto as Erwin is one of the biggest highlights of the film, and someone I hope we all get to see in future films. Woody Harrelson is the other cast highlight as his relationship and back-and-forth between Steinfeld and him is what makes the film just fly by. Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine’s mother has her own arc in the film that was nice to watch unfold.

All in all, The Edge of Seventeen isn’t perfect, as it loses some steam for just a bit, before it picks up again. It’s also not the best or a groundbreaking coming-of-age film, but one that you should definitely take the time to watch. The cast overall is fantastic, and its easily one of the best movies of the year.

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The Edge of Seventeen

4.5 out of 5

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ Review

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Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman and Jon Voight

Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

J.K. Rowling, her first feature film credit, and David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, have returned to bring all of us back to the Wizarding World, and for the most part, it feels pretty great to go back. It also helps that the film is set many years before the events of Harry Potter, so we get to see essentially a brand new world of magic and characters. Of course the action now takes place in American, rather than England, but the new characters and world are fun and enlightening in their way. However, and unfortunately, if you’re not familiar too much with Rowling’s history and lore she’s created, you might be a bit in the dark on some things, which does hinder the experience just a bit.

The film takes place in New York, 1926, as Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives by boat with his magical suitcase that happens to hold bevy, well, fantastic beasts. However, as he makes his way through the city his suitcase gets mixed up with a “No-Maj,” what the American Magic Community call their humans with no magic opposed to the word Muggle, in Jacob Kowalski (Fogler). When Jacob accidentally opens the case, many of Newt’s beasts get out and run rampant around New York. This gets the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston), who works for the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA). During this, head Auror (think security/magic cops) Percival Graves (Farrell) leans on a young troubled man, Credence (Miller) for help to find someone, or something, that is attacking New York City that might cause the magic world and human to go to war. All of this is happening while the looming threat of a dangerous wizard makes his way to America.

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So as you can see, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a lot going on, and because of that, the film does stumble a bit to keep it all together and moving smoothly. There’s Newt’s storyline about tracking his beasts down with the help of Jacob, that eventually bleeds into Newt and Jacob meeting Tina and her sister Queenie (Sudol). There’s Graves and Credence’s story that is a culmination of Credence’s story and there’s the MACUSA, lead by President Seraphina Picquery, who have the looming threat of the dangerous and powerful wizard Grindelwald, who is briefly seen in the beginning, and will be the new big bad for this series of films. Each have their fair share of screen time, but everything still feels underdeveloped. Of course, knowing there are at least four sequels coming, it makes some sense, but doesn’t make it okay – Especially if people aren’t familiar with the history and lore.

Of course that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from enjoying the film because it is really enjoyable, especially when it relies on the humor, and of course, the titular fantastic beasts. People will definitely get a kick out of the creatures and beasts that have some really cool designs and lead some of the funniest and great moments in the film, including one particular creature that is introduced early in the film. Some of the dark themed material is interesting too, and again, is a bit underdeveloped but I would have loved to see more of that in the film considering the time period and how strict the magic community is in America.

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The cast chemistry is pretty solid, and one that we invest in right away. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander is equal parts awkward but caring toward the creatures in his case, almost as if he rather be around them than people. That is until he meets Jacob, played by Dan Fogler, who I would arguable say is one of the highlights of the film, and even steals the show – at least human wise. Jacob is also pretty much our surrogate for the film, but also one that is a vital character to how No-Maj’s probably view the world they don’t understand.

The magic community is constantly trying to keep their world hidden from the human world, and it’s something that is on the verge of breaking because of the attacks Grindelwald has been doing. This connects to Ezra Miller’s character Credence, because he’s the adopted son of a Mary Lou, the leader of the Second Salemers, who look to expose the wizarding world saying they are all evil, and that being said, she isn’t the nicest person either. However, when we go to Jacob, he doesn’t see the wizards or creatures he encounters as evil. He is scared when he first encounters them – as all of us should and would be – but he’s more in awe and amazed by them, which leads to the great relationship between him and Newt.

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Katherine Waterston continues to prove she belongs on the big screen and can handle big characters. Although she is sworn by duty to bring in Newt and his briefcase, she eventually knows that Newt is kind hearted and helps him. Alison Sudol’s Queenie is a rather interesting and wide-eyed character who has never meant a No-Maj before. Ezra Miller, who should have had more screen time makes a worthy and worthwhile impression as his tortured soul character. Colin Farrell is always reliable, and is so here, but again, I wish we had more time with his character. Carmen Ejogo as the “President” of Magic doesn’t do much in the film, Jon Voight is in the film for literally three scenes, and while it feels like he’s character is important – and it is in a sense – the storyline is quickly dealt with, which feels rather odd and like a cheat.

While I had fun watching the film, Fantastic Beasts does have some odd pacing and tonal shifts. One moment we go from a fun and humorous moment and then suddenly go to a dark and ominous scene. While I can see what they were trying to do, it was a bit jarring the first time, and it happens more than once.

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All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a good start to a new franchise, however, not without its drawbacks and missteps. If you’re not too familiar with the history and lore that’s not just in the books, you will be a little lost, but thankfully J.K. Rowling probably knew that. This new batch of characters and creatures is a magical – pun intended – bunch, and while I had my reservation about the film, I’m interested in seeing where his new story will take me.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4 out of 5

‘Doctor Strange’ Review

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writers: Scott Derrickson, Jon Spaihts, and C. Robert Cargill

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scott Adkins, Benjamin Bratt, and Tilda Swinton

Synopsis: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

*Reviewer Note 3: I do think the best experience of watching the film is in 3D. I know the extra ticket price and 3D in general might be a pain, but I think it’s worth it to gain the full experience.*

 

 

It feels like the last three years, Marvel has released films that everyone has either doubts about or feels like Marvel is taking too big of a risk. First it was Guardians of the Galaxy, then Ant-Man, and this year is Doctor Strange. And of course, every year those doubts are proven wrong. Not only is Doctor Strange another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it truly is unlike anything Marvel has ever done onscreen.

The film follows Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), highly popular but arrogant surgeon whose life gets turned upside when he’s in a sudden car accident that severely injuries his hands. When he runs out of options to gets his hands better, he heads to Nepal to search for someone that could potentially cure him. That person is The Ancient One (Swinton), who then reveals to Strange that her way is through the mystic arts. While Strange is learning things he never thought were possible, an old student of The Anicent One, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) is trying to open a portal to The Dark Dimension and summon a dangerous entity in Dormammu.

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Like the previous films I’ve mentioned, Doctor Strange was a risk for Marvel since not many causal movie fans will know who Doctor Strange is, but more importantly, the film is adding something and putting front and center in the MCU: magic. The interdimensional aspect of the film only works because of director Scott Derrickson. He was able to bring some really great and awesome looking visual effects that I’ve rarely ever seen on film. It also helps that Derrickson has worked in horror, because you can see that in some of the shots, especially when the Dark Dimension comes into play. You will definitely walk away talking about the visuals of Doctor Strange. Also, for a film that delves into magic quite a bit, I was surprised how much hand-to-hand combat there was in the film. Not complaining, just an observation.

When it comes to the film itself, Doctor Strange does feel familiar in terms of what we’ve seen before from Marvel in the way of an origin story. We see the arrogant and egotistical character on the top of his game when suddenly something tragic happens and he’s having a self-made crisis until he has to rise to the occasion and prove himself. Of course, it’s always nice to see those stories play out, and Doctor Strange does enough to make that formula work for it, instead of against it.

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Benedict Cumberbatch is pretty much perfect as Doctor Stephen Strange. He finds the right balance of arrogance and likeability to keep us invested in his story until the very end. However, one of the big highlights – cast wise – is Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. “White-washing” controversy aside, which never made sense to me because it’s Tilda Swinton, she almost steals the show every time she’s onscreen. She also has her own balance of being a mentor, but someone who must keep her distance from people because of the responsibly of being the Sorcerer Supreme.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo has his own history before the film that is hinted at, but is a by-the-books kind of warrior that teaches Strange along the way. Benedict Wong’s Wong is another highlight of the film, although I wish we had a little more with him. When it comes to Mads Mikkelsen’s villain Kaecilius, I’m sure many will see him as another underdeveloped villain that doesn’t fix Marvel’s villain problem. I wouldn’t be doing a good job of a reviewer if I didn’t agree with that to some extent.

Kaecilius doesn’t see himself as a villain and that usually makes the best kind of villains. Everything he does he thinks is for a grander purpose and makes a sound enough reason for his actions when he goes face-to-face with Strange, something even he points out that sounds good in theory, but in action not so much. However, the thing that keeps us invest in Kaecilius’ story – even for a moment – is Mikkelsen, who is always great in everything he does, and the same can be said here. But, it would have been nice to spend more time with him, and even see just a bit on how he became the way he becomes onscreen instead of just being told.

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One of the biggest cast missteps is Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer. There’s no denying McAdams is a great actress, and anytime she’s in something you know she’s going to give one hundred percent. However, here, she entirely wasted. Palmer doesn’t add much to the story. She does have one key moment before the final act of the film, but that is about it. Although, many probably won’t know him too much, Michael Stuhlbarg pops in the film as Dr. Nicohemus West, a character from the comics, and somewhat rival to Strange, but it’s nothing more than a lesser supporting role.

All in all, Doctor Strange is truly unlike anything Marvel has ever done before in terms of visuals and the “out there-ness” of it all. While the film does have some familiar beat-for-beat origin story Marvel moments, and loses just a bit of steam in the final act, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton keeps us invest from start to finish.

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Doctor Strange

4 out of 5