Tags Posts tagged with "Movie Review"

Movie Review

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Sabrina Petroski

My, my, how could you resist seeing “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”? After a 10-year hiatus, the original cast returns to the Greek island of Kalokairi for the grand opening of the Hotel Belladonna. The sequel again showcases the upbeat and fun-filled music of the 1970s pop group, ABBA. With similar themes to the first (love, family, adventure), this movie is sure to be a huge summer hit. 

Written and directed by Ol Parker, the PG-13 movie, which is loosely based on a lesser-known 1968 Italian film, “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell,” opens on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) getting ready for the opening party for the Hotel Belladonna, named after her late mother Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep), with help from her stepfather Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and hotel manager Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia). Sophie gave up her life of traveling to manage the hotel, in hopes of making her mother proud. Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), childhood best friends of Donna, arrive to help Sophie with preparations and begin telling her stories of Donna’s wild past.

Tanya (Christine Baranski), Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Rosie (Julie Waters) in a scene from the movie.

The flashbacks begin with a young Donna Sheridan (Lily James) walking in late to her college graduation, her floor-length graduation gown failing to hide her gold go-go boots. The headmistress of the college calls her up on stage to give her valedictorian speech, but instead, in true dynamo fashion, she breaks into song and invites her backup girls, young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rosie (Alexa Davies), to perform ABBA’s hit song “When I Kissed the Teacher.” 

The film constantly flip flops between past and present, following Donna on the adventure of her lifetime and Sophie in the most stressful time in hers. In present time, a huge storm destroys the decorations and flowers, devastating Sophie and all those involved with the party. The storm also stops the ferries from running, keeping Sophie’s dads, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), from being able to reach the island. 

Going back in time, Donna is traveling the world to find herself, and along the way we see how she met Harry Bright (Hugh Skinner), Bill Anderson (Josh Dylan) and Sam Carmichael (Jeremy Irvine).

If you’ve seen the original “Mamma Mia!” then you know what comes next. Donna gets pregnant while in Kalokairi, is given the old farmhouse to live in and fix up, and decides to stay on the island to raise her baby despite having no one. She doesn’t know who the father is, but doesn’t care. In parallel, Sophie finds out she is pregnant at the same age and in the same place as her mother was. 

Young Tanya, young Donna and young Rosie in a scene from the movie.

Sophie begins to lose hope of being able to open the hotel successfully but is saved by Sky, Bill and Harry, who convince a group of fishermen to bring their friends and family to Kalokairi. Three boats pull into the docks, full of people ready to enjoy the Hotel Belladonna’s opening night.

Toward the end of the movie there is a twist that no one sees coming, including Sophie’s grandmother (Cher) arriving in a private helicopter and crashing the party. She announces she is ready to take on the role of being a grandmother, and now great-grandmother. 

As the party ends, the film jumps ahead in time, following Sophie up the path leading to the church where her child will be baptized. At the same time, young Donna is doing the same walk on her way to baptize Sophie. When they both reach the front of the church, young Donna transforms into her older self and sings a haunting duet with her daughter. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater as Sophie held her mother’s hands for the last time.

Throughout the film, the audience is drawn in by the dramatic themes laced with comedic moments and the romances blooming between the characters. There is passion and fun, as well as somber moments of heartbreak. Each character is well developed and well received, and the younger versions of the main characters shine with the same awkward, funny and sweet personalities of their older counterparts. 

There are some scenes where Lily James mimics the mannerisms of Meryl Streep’s Donna so well you would think it was Streep in disguise. Young Tanya and Rosie capture the aspects of the friendship so well you would think they had known each other for decades.

Of course, it is the exciting musical numbers featuring many well-known ABBA hits from the original movie including “Waterloo,” “The Name of the Game” and “Dancing Queen” along with more obscure songs (“Kisses of Fire”) from the Swedish pop group that tie it all together for two hours of good fun.

With spot on casting, along with the great costumes and beautiful filming locations, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a must see for this summer.

Fred Rogers. Photo courtesy of Focus Features
Make the most of this beautiful film

By Jeffrey Sanzel

Morgan Neville’s documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a portrait of Fred Rogers, a man of deep faith and principles and unique in the pantheon of television personalities. His show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” is lovingly celebrated in this wholly engaging 93 minutes. It does not attempt to be a full-fledged biography but rather a picture of the man in the context of his work and his mission. There are insights into his personal life (interviews with wife and sons), but it is more the story of the evolution of his vocation and his influence on American culture.  

Fred Rogers with Mr. McFeely (David Newell) the delivery man in a scene from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

The film opens with the iconic entrance of Rogers changing into his sweater while singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and we are immediately transported back to the world he created. With its modest production values and its messages of love and understanding, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” became an integral part of our collective experience.

 

The documentary is simple and delicate, mirroring the show and the show’s creator. There are no bells and whistles. We are treated to an assortment of interviews that give perspective on the span and impact of Rogers’ career. What is common to all is that he was exactly who he presented himself to be. An ordained minister, Fred Rogers deeply believed that “love is at the root of everything” — learning, relationships, understanding. He saw television as a wonderful way to connect with children; a tool to make them better and happier people.  

Fred Rogers poses with the puppet Daniel Striped Tiger. Photo courtesy of Focus Features

His wife (and much of the documentary) posits that, in essence, Rogers was Daniel Striped Tiger, the first of the many puppets he employed. The tamed feline represents Rogers’ doubts but also the ability to listen and learn. Daniel Striped Tiger is the bridge between the real and fantasy worlds that Rogers invented. As a child, he had been plagued by various illnesses and spent a great deal of time in bed; it was here that he began to realize the power of imagination and he used this to inform his work.  

The film also touches on his faith, suggesting that the show was his ministry and he wore a sweater in lieu of a collar. The heart of this ministry, of course, is the power of love — love for each other and love for ourselves. The belief is that everyone is special (incorrectly twisted by some as entitlement) and we all have inherent value. The embodiment of this is his song “It’s You I Like” — a reminder that we grow through acceptance.

Fred Rogers presented himself as the friend every adult should be. He made it clear that his journey was to take care of the myriad of children who watched him. Unlike his own unhappy youth in which he was not allowed to be a child or to show his feelings, he aspired to provide a safe space for all of the country’s children.  

Fred Rogers with King Friday XIII. Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Over the years, Rogers tackled everything from racial discrimination to divorce to death (including an episode focusing on grief that dealt with the assassination of Robert Kennedy). After retirement, he returned to do a few short PSAs about 9/11 — the horror of which overwhelmed him. What we take away is that he was unflinching in his desire to be truly honest with children but to always let them be children.

There are a treasure trove of clips, dating back to his pre-Neighborhood television days through his series and later efforts. There is the often-seen but no less-effective testimony that saved funding for public television. Puppets (King Friday XIII, Henrietta Pussycat, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Queen Sara Saturday, X the Owl) and regulars (Mr. McFeely, the delivery man; Lady Aberlin; Chef Brockett; Officer Clemmons), songs and guests … the trolley to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Picture-Picture … they are all here. 

Throughout his work, there was always an emphasis on taking time and not allowing the world to speed up. He believed that “slow” space was not “wasted” space. That silence is a gift. The final moments of the picture are perhaps the most memorable.  He often invited people to take a minute to think of the those who have cared for them. One after another, the various people interviewed are shown to do just that. Like Fred Rogers and his work, it is at once so simple and honest and yet so powerful.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a film not just to be seen but to be shared. Find those people that mean the most to you and spend some time remembering the power of love.

Supersequel was worth the wait

By David Ackerman

After a 14-year hiatus, Pixar’s beloved superhero family, the Incredibles, has returned and immediately picks up where the original left off. “Incredibles 2” follows the Parr family — parents Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) along with kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) — as they strive to find their place in a society that has criminalized their superpowers.  

The Parr family is back to save the day.

The story opens when the city is under attack by the Underminer who appeared in the final moments of the original movie. The fallout from this epic and highly destructive confrontation causes all Superhero activity to be banned in the city, and the Parr family is forced to go underground, taking up residence in a dingy motel.

The outlook is bleak for the superfamily until they are approached by the wealthy and eccentric siblings Evelyn (Catherine Keener) and Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who offer them a chance to restore the reputation of all Supers to the glory of a bygone era.

Elastigirl is chosen to take on the mission independently due to her proven track record of causing minimal collateral damage; leaving Mr. Incredible to deal with the equally daunting task of staying home with the kids. In the new role of Mr. Mom, he struggles to manage Violet’s teenage angst, Dash’s math homework, and the highly unpredictable Jack-Jack, who is beginning to show an impressive range of superabilities including self-replication, morphing into demon form and laser vision.

Jack-Jack’s superpowers come out in full force in new Incredibles sequel.

Meanwhile, Elastigirl is faced with her first assignment — to save the passengers on a newly unveiled high-speed train that has been set on a collision course by the mysterious supervillain, Screen Slaver. She accomplishes her mission with flawless style and is applauded for reminding society of the Supers’ value as protectors of the innocent.  Mr. Incredible watches his wife’s success on the news and is forced to reconsider the effectiveness of his macho, alpha-male persona.

The plot remains fast-paced and unpredictable up until the conclusion. Pixar’s brilliant character design and highly creative action sequences will keep your attention from start to finish. 

“Incredibles 2” is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre, which has become saturated with sequels based on unoriginal, formulaic story lines. The superhero film has been brought back to a focus on strong character development, dazzling creativity and a continuous thread of humor and levity woven throughout the story line. While the film maintains a light-hearted tone it also touches on relevant social issues such as gender stereotypes and the public’s obsessive consumption of digital media and entertainment.

Elastigirl in a scene from the movie.

“Incredibles 2” is a worthy sequel that doesn’t disappoint. Pixar has again succeeded in creating a film that will appeal to audiences of all ages by avoiding the typical limitations of a children’s film. The film’s primary strength is in the creativity and beauty of its visual execution and character design. Although the plot is certainly original and engaging, what will keep your attention is the incredible depth of expression that is achieved through character development, world building and visual design.

The film is a must see for Incredibles fans and is bound to be a major hit this summer for all audiences. Running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Rated PG (for action sequences and some brief mild language) “Incredibles 2” is now playing in local theaters.

Photos courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Ryan Reynolds is back for more in ‘Deadpool 2.’ Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

By Kyle Barr

Deadpool, the fourth wall-breaking ninja of the first 2016 film, was everywhere before “Deadpool 2” arrived in theaters. Seriously, everywhere. He was on billboards with his name spelled with a skull and poo emoji. He was in paintings spoofing the Sistine Chapel. His masked face was even put on the slipcovers of DVDs in Walmarts. So instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger looking gruff on the cover of “Predator” you had Deadpool staring out with a bland expression and holding a water gun. 

It was almost too much. It was as if the 20th Century Fox sequel had to convince you even before you stepped in the theater that this movie was going to be zany, off the wall action and satire. 

Well it is, at least for the most part. Really, the film is at its best when it’s playing with common superhero comic and film tropes. It’s at its worst when it’s not.

“Deadpool 2” starts out with our main character, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) laying on a bed of gasoline cans and lighting a match. The explosion causes his body parts to fly every which way. How is this possible?

Ryan Reynolds is back for more in ‘Deadpool 2.’ Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Deadpool cannot die. If he has his limbs removed, they will simply grow back. If he is shot, his wounds will instantly heal. This is bad for Wade Wilson, the man behind Deadpool’s mask, as a terrible tragedy early on makes Deadpool want to quit living. X-Men member Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) tries to make him turn his life around and become a member of the vigilante mutant group, but murderous mutant from the future Cable (Josh Brolin) comes back in time to assassinate a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). Deadpool, who decides to protect him, finds he can’t die just yet.

All the actors do a fine job in this film. Reynolds as Deadpool gives as much an enthusiastic performance as one could ask from a man who made the first film as a passion project. Another standout is Domino, played by Zazie Beetz, as she is just simply a fun character to be around. Her mutant power is Luck, and it was amusing to watch the film’s writers come up with ways her power works. Beetz’ sarcastic and self-confident style does such a good job playing off Deadpool’s antics. 

The film takes a little too long to pick up speed. The beginning act drags, even among the epic, R-rated fight scenes that include our main hero jumping headfirst into bullets and armed men like a kid jumping into a swimming pool on the first day of summer. 

But the joyride comes to a screeching halt as soon as we get to the romantic side of the story. Deadpool and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) had what was an honestly sweet relationship in the first movie, but that mostly came down to how the two characters played off each other’s sense of sardonic and often violent humor. However, in this movie, none of that comes through. At certain points, in dreamlike sequences, Deadpool has conversations with his girlfriend who tells him his heart “isn’t in the right place,” a line that seems to come straight out of a soap opera’s playbook. I kept expecting the joke to continue where Deadpool reaches inside his chest to move his heart back into place, but that never happened. 

It’s bad likely because some of the gags in this film are just so good. Most of the best, hardest hitting gags come in the middle of the film. There’s nothing worse than ruining or explaining a joke. Suffice it to say when Deadpool tries to start his own team by the derivative name X-Force, it leads to perhaps the best sequence in the entire film that pokes the hardest at well-worn superhero clichés.

The movie is easily at its best when it relies on this biting satire of the superhero genre. The jokes are so good that they make you want for more. It gets worse when it cannot deliver. There are some great jokes made at the expense of Cable, who is really the stereotype of every jacked-up gritty vigilante hero we’ve had since the ’90s, but in the end those jokes don’t lead anywhere. The best satire often wants to come to a conclusion about whatever its ribbing, but this film lands somewhere in between and can’t seem to break away from the genre convention. 

Worse, it can’t do the romance, and hopefully when they do the inevitable sequel and go for even bigger, they leave all that at home.

Rated R for violence and profanity, “Deadpool 2” is now playing in local theaters.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) in a scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

By Kyle Barr

Marvel movies tread a line between being formulaic comic-book style action movies and surprisingly nuanced examinations of real world problems with real emotional heart. Some do better than others with that. 

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was as much a condemnation of modern government surveillance as it was a spy-style action thriller. “Black Panther” was an exploration of afro-futurism and a condemnation of isolationist policies as much as it was a high-tech, high-flying romp. 

That’s not a bad thing, and in fact the formula has grown to the point it’s now expected that Marvel movies cannot have their introspection without the action, and visa versa.

So what extra edge does “Avengers: Infinity War,” directed by the brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, have to set it apart from its contemporaries in the action genre? Well, to avoid spoilers, the most I can say is that it flips the genre formula where “heroes learn a lesson and win the day” on its head. 

 

In this movie, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the main villain is also the main character. Thanos, played with such subtle menace and intelligence by Josh Brolin, searches the universe for the infinity stones, glowing rocks that control an element of existence, from time to reality. Superheroes from Earth and beyond must find a way to stop him before he commits the biggest act of genocide the universe has ever seen.

Unlike a normal Marvel movie, it is the villain whose decisions drive the plot. In most Marvel movies, the main characters need to learn, grow and change in order to win the day. In “Avengers: Infinity War,” even if a character learns a lesson and even if they make the right decision, it doesn’t necessarily mean they win.

Being that this is the most recent big crossover Marvel movie, it is impossible to list the characters and actors who play them without leaving out a number of characters who all make contributions to the plot. Many of these actors have been in their roles for so many years it seems it would be hard at this point for any of them to not play their characters effortlessly. 

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Chadwick Boseman of this year’s “Black Panther” remains great as the stoic and noble King T’Challa. Robert Downey Jr. adds an extra edge of fear and foreboding to the character that really takes the performance above the usual I’m-too-smart-for you sarcasm of old Iron Man. 

If there were to be a weak link, it would have to be Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, who can’t seem to make an emotional impact compared to the other characters. His jokes land largely flat, and he doesn’t seem to be as invested as the rest of the cast. Another small disappointment is Eitri, the weaponsmith dwarf played by Peter Dinklage, who despite having an interesting play upon the “Dwarf” character, seems stiff and his performance seems almost phoned in.

Although it’s been a conflict built up to through 19 films so far, the ferociousness with how the plot develops is breathtaking. Again, trying to resist spoiling the plot is hard, but none of the characters come out of this movie clean. 

Thanos’ race to find the infinity stones takes place both on Earth and across the stars, but nearly every character plays off of the emotional conclusions of their own separate movies. For those who have been keeping up with every new Marvel release, you might feel as if you’re watching family members being repeatedly punched in the gut. 

If you haven’t been a hard-core Marvel fanatic, it might seem overwhelming. All of these characters have a backstory, and while some of them are meeting for the first time, several have long and troubled histories together like a big screen version of a soap opera. The movie tries to avoid info dumps (though it still has to go and explain what the heck the big colorful space rocks are) so people going into this as their first Marvel movie might have a hard time understanding what’s happening.

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The film ends on a very deep and somber note. Of course that is in anticipation for “Avengers: Infinity War Part 2” to be released in May of next year. The sequel now has quite the task of concluding what happens at the end of Part 1, and one could be skeptical to see how they might manage to pull it off. 

Isn’t it strange how we got here? It has been a decade of nothing but Marvel fever. When the idea for a shared film universe was still new there were quite a few people who were waiting for the bubble to burst. They waited for the first movie that was bad enough to let the whole thing crumble.

Of course that didn’t happen. For now, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the real deal. There are few good movie series like what Marvel has done that combine real emotional heart with comic book action gravitas. As long as they stay good, they still deserve an audience.

“Avengers: Infinity War,” rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, language and some crude references, is now playing in local theaters.

Sherlock Gnomes saves the day in the sequel to ‘Gnomeo & Juliet.' Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

It’s been seven years since moviegoers were invited into the magical world of garden gnomes with Touchstone Pictures’ “Gnomeo & Juliet,” the charming animated film loosely based on William Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy while celebrating the music of Sir Elton John. 

Juliet and Gnomeo are back for a new adventure.

Set in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the story, which features a star-studded cast, takes place in the backyard gardens of two feuding elderly neighbors — Mr. Montague and Miss Capulet. Their garden gnomes, which are blue and red, respectively, are also strict enemies until Gnomeo (blue) and Juliet (red) secretly fall in love and manage to unite the two gnome clans.

I remember taking my daughter and her friends to see this movie and being so enamored by it that I went to a bunch of garden centers the following day and snatched up all the red and blue garden gnomes I could find to put in my rock garden. 

Now Paramount Pictures and MGM Studios bring audiences a sequel to the adorable fairy tale, “Sherlock Gnomes,” with all of the original characters you love including Gnomeo (James McAvoy), Juliet (Emily Blunt), Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), Nanette the Frog (Ashley Jensen), Benny (Matt Lucas), Mankini (Julio Bonet) and Fawn (Ozzy Osbourne) in a brand new mystery adventure directed by John Stevenson.

The Montagues and Capulets have married and moved to London. Their collection of garden gnomes have also made the trip, albeit to a much smaller garden that needs a lot of work, “a fixer upper” of sorts. Gnomeo decides that the garden needs a centerpiece, Juliet’s favorite flower — a Cupid’s Arrow Orchid — and ventures out into the city to find one. When Juliet discovers Gnomeo’s plan, she follows him and ends up rescuing him when he becomes trapped in a florist shop.

Sherlock Gnomes and Watson are on the case of the missing garden gnomes.

When the couple returns home, they find that all of their friends as well as gnomes in seven other gardens have been kidnapped, “an ornamental crime on a scale never seen before.” They must be rescued within 24 hours or they’ll be smashed to smithereens. The police are too busy to help, so Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), sworn protector of garden gnomes, and his trusty sidekick Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) take the case. Sherlock is convinced this is the work of his arch nemesis Moriarity (Jamie Demetriou) and, along with Watson, Gnomeo and Juliet, follows a trail of clues to find the gnomes, with lots of plot twists and turns along the way. Will the case be solved in time?

A nice touch is the many places in London that the detective team visit to find clues including the Royal Green Park, the Natural History Museum, Chinatown and Tower Bridge. While Elton John recently announced he is retiring from touring, his music will live on in this film with catchy songs like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “I’m Still Standing” peppered throughout.  

Although this sequel is not as good as the original, as sequels rarely are, “Sherlock Gnomes” is still worth a trip to the theater for its visually stunning and lifelike animation, wonderful music and positive message to not take your friends for granted. By the same token, it is highly recommended that “Gnomeo & Juliet” be seen first as it will help in relating to the humor and connecting to the characters better. And I’ll be visiting the garden center to stock up on green garden gnomes. Running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes. 

Rated PG for rude and suggestive humor, “Sherlock Gnomes” in now playing in local theaters.

Above, from left, Jamie Foxx and Ansel Elgort star in ‘Baby Driver'. Image courtesy of Tri-Star Pictures

By Kyle Barr

Think of all the songs that use the word “baby.” Think of every time it’s used in a love ballad, a rock song about a girl or close to every country song that comes out over the radio. Baby is mysterious. When we listen to those songs, we create the image for this “baby” in our heads, but we don’t really know much about who it really is.

In Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver,” Baby isn’t the vague object of desire; he’s the main character. The eponymous Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young man whose head is constantly swimming with music. He doesn’t talk much with his mouth, but he expresses himself in the way he moves and the way he drives.

Lily James and Ansel Elgort in a scene from ‘Baby Driver’

The story takes cues from a host of classic crime movies. Baby is involved in a number of high-profile bank robberies. Things get more complicated as he falls in love with a waitress at the local diner named Deborah (Lily James) who loves music as much as Baby does. As Baby is drawn into one final heist alongside Darling (Eliza González), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and the psychotic Bats (Jamie Foxx), he must find a way to escape with Deborah and drive until its all left behind in the rearview mirror.

Wright, who serves as both director and screenwriter, has always had a knack for soundtracks that apply to both the tone and scene. One well-remembered scene from “Shaun of the Dead,” one of his earlier films, was of a group of heroes pummeling a zombie with pool cues to the ironic sounds of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

In “Baby Driver,” the entire movie takes on this schtick. Baby has tinnitus, an ear injury he received as a child, and he uses music to drown out the hum in his ears. All the music in the movie is diegetic, as in the music is listened to by the characters in the scene. When Baby removes a single earbud from his left ear, the music in the theater is coming from the right-hand speaker.

Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey in a scene from ‘Baby Driver’

It’s a brilliant thing to watch when it takes in the whole theater experience of spectacle and sound. Music becomes Baby and it transforms the world around him. It’s hard to tell whether Baby is acting to the beat of the music or the world itself is conforming to the sound.

The action scenes, such as the first car chase playing to “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, take on a new dimension when Baby turns and brakes in time to the song. Yet even the calmer scenes, like when Baby and Deborah bond in a laundromat over music, becoming much more charming even as Baby is incredibly sparing with his words.

It’s no coincidence that the most tense scenes in the movie usually occur when Baby’s earbuds are taken out and the music cuts. The movie is both classic in its heist movie sensibilities and also incredibly dark. Baby matches the audience in his fear and disgust at the death happening around him.

While the dialogue is clearly Wright, it is much more terse than his other films. Doc (Kevin Spacey) has some of the best lines in the film, where exchanges are often short and witty. “I’m looking at some of the country’s finest thugs and of course young Mozart in a go-cart over there.” But while his character is clearly meant to be powerful and frightening, his heel face turn during the movie’s climax comes too much out of left field. The entire climax in that way feels a little too forced, and without any spoilers, some character beats feel a little too forced as well.

But otherwise, “Baby Driver” is an excellent movie on its own, and it is a great way to start off the summer movie season. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself tapping your foot while Baby puts his foot on the gas.

Rated R for language and violence, “Baby Driver” is now playing in local theaters.

by -
0 966

The perfect family movie for the holidays

Meet Disney's newest princess, Moana!

By Erika Riley

Disney’s newest musical movie masterpiece, “Moana,” opened in theaters this holiday season and is unsurprisingly a hit. Kids and adults alike will enjoy its strong protagonist, charming sidekick, beautifully crafted songs and inspirational message.

The story starts with an introduction to a Pacific Islander myth about the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and how he stole the heart of Te Ka. He hoped to bring it to the humans who he lived to serve, but instead opened up a darkness that still crept through the oceans to the present day.

Moana is the daughter of the chief of an island in the Pacific, where everybody lives peacefully and works together to make sure the island is running smoothly. Moana is destined to run the island one day but can’t help wanting to see what’s beyond the reef. Her exploratory nature gets the best of her. When the island is in trouble due to the darkness Maui unleashed, she takes it upon herself to take off on a boat and get the heart back.

The movie feels less like a Disney princess movie after that and more like an adventure, as we watch Moana sail across the ocean in search for Maui. She is simultaneously strong and flawed; while she is confident in her abilities and determined to save her island, she is also not a very good sailor or navigator, or very convincing when she does meet Maui. Yet we watch her grow and learn, and that’s an arc that is rarely seen out of “princesses.” Moana does, however, declare that she is not a princess, insisting that she is the daughter of the chief.

Moana is fronted by new voice actress and native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho, who beautifully brings her to life, especially during her musical numbers. This is the first musical movie that Disney has released since “Frozen” in 2013, and it does not disappoint. Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” co-wrote the original songs for the movie with Mark Mancina and Opetia Foi’a. The songs are both catchy and empowering and have a very similar driving groove to them that can be found in the “Hamilton” sound track. “How Far I’ll Go” and its reprises are the most influential songs in the movie, and can easily be seen as the new “Let It Go.” Johnson makes his musical debut with Maui’s “You’re Welcome,” a catchy and fun song that helps flesh out Maui’s self-righteous and confident character.

While the plot of the movie is similar to what Disney has done in the past, with a female protagonist going on a quest with the help of a man, it takes a steep curve in the fact that it does not have a love interest. Even though Moana is traveling with Maui, there is never any foreshadowing that they will be in a relationship, and they remain friends throughout the movie. In the end, it’s Moana who saves the day and figures out how to bring peace and prosperity back to her home, not Maui.

The movie is geared toward kids but will also be perfect for parents and teenagers who are nostalgic for classic Disney movies. While the humor is sometimes geared more toward children, there are some comments throughout the movie where Disney pokes fun at itself that adults will pick up on more.

Moana is a great role model for kids, and the inclusion of Pacific Islander culture is a stark contrast from movies like “Tangled” and “Frozen,” which featured white protagonists. Moana learns more about her culture throughout the movie, and it’s a beautiful part of the plot, and an arc rarely seen in fairy tales.

Moana is a great choice for a movie to see with the whole family this holiday season. It is currently playing at AMC Theaters across the Island, as well as PJ Cinemas in Port Jefferson Station.

About the author: Stony Brook resident Erika Riley is a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She is interning at TBR during her winter break and hopes to advance in the world of journalism and publishing after graduation.

Bridge-of-Spies-w

‘We have parts of the plane and we also have the pilot, who is quite alive and kicking. The pilot is in Moscow and so are parts of the plane.’  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, 1960

By Rich Acritelli

It was a great time to be alive within American society during the 1950s and 1960s. Our nation defeated the fascist powers of Germany and Japan and was the strongest country to emerge from the fighting of World War II. These decades saw the growth of Levittown, Mickey Mantle hitting home runs, massive goods and services being consumed by our citizens and “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Honeymooners” on television.

While this nation enjoyed these positive times, the United States was engulfed in the Cold War. These concerns are depicted through Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ production of “Bridge of Spies.” Once again these two Hollywood icons have created a unique film that will not only be well perceived in movie theaters but will be used by future high school and college teachers to describe the impact of this epic conflict.

Directed by Spielberg, this movie does a masterful job of showing how our government functioned during those tumultuous years at home and abroad. Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, a New York insurance lawyer who was part of the prosecuting team that convicted the top Nazis at Nuremberg in 1945. He was also approached in 1957 by the government to provide a capable defense for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel, played by Mark Rylance, who was arrested with American military intelligence.

While he was apprehensive at first to take this case, he understood that even enemies of the state were entitled to due process. Through this part of “Bridge of Spies” Spielberg depicted how Donovan was able to see both sides of the Cold War through the Soviet perspective. This aspect becomes dominant within the film when Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane was shot down over communist territory in 1960. The creators of this movie supremely showed the paranoia that our Central Intelligence Agency held in training its pilots for the dangerous and secret operations that it conducted.   

Powers, played by Austin Stowell, understood the gravity of the Cold War and accepted the risks inherent in taking high-altitude pictures of enemy troop movements and weaponry. When Powers was shot down, it presented a dilemma for our leadership, which did not want our pilot to be executed for espionage.

During and after his defense of Rudolph Abel, Donovan stressed the need for our government not to execute this spy and to treat him with some decency. Although these were humanitarian views, Donovan continued to counsel the government about the need to show fairness out of the fear that eventually one of our own spies would be caught by the enemy. Well, the movie shows how his assessment comes to fruition.   

Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, played by Peter McRobbie, pushed Donovan to travel to East Berlin to engineer an exchange of the Russian spy for Powers’ release from captivity. From a historical point of view, Spielberg produced the hysteria of the earliest moments when the communists erected the Berlin Wall. “Bridge of Spies” teaches the viewer how the communists tried to isolate the eastern part of Berlin from the western world, the chaos between these powers and the pressure that was placed on Powers to break under imprisonment.

Donovan was tasked with not only getting Powers back but also an American student who was caught behind the wall. With common sense, intelligence and poise, Donovan understood that this incident could have triggered a massive war between these two political and military foes.

The all-star cast also includes Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Billy Magnussen, Michael Gaston, Domenick Lombardozzi and Eve Hewson.

Once again the combination of Spielberg and Hanks has made a film that will be respected by moviegoers that never get tired of watching this type of American history. It is possible that these two men could be one of the best teams to ever make movies of this magnitude. “Bridge of Spies” is a historic thriller that will continually show you how difficult the Cold War was to wage for our government and the serious national threats that were always present against our citizens during and after this time period.

‘Bridge of Spies,’ is now playing in local theaters. Rated PG-13.