Friday, March 25, 2016

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Movie Review - Allegiant (PG-13) - By Niels Mank

Allegiant is the first half of the final book in the Divergent series. If you are a diehard follower of this series as I am, you will remember that the final screen in the last book (Insurgent) was Tris looking out over the wall excited to be free from the confinement she had known her whole life. She was filled with hope that life would be better beyond the wall.

Tris quickly realizes at the opening scene of this movie that the world has not changed. The leader of the Erudite Janine has now been killed by the factionless leader Evelyn. Evelyn has closed the wall and forbid anyone from leaving the city. The movie starts with Janine’s conspirators being held on trial. The punishment is death by gunshot. Tris quickly sees that leadership under Evelyn is no better than Janine and rescues her brother and flees the city with her boyfriend “Four”, friend Christina, brother Caleb, and traitor friend Peter. With Evelyn hot on their tails they make it over the wall.

What they find on the other side is toxic wasteland made up of red sand and acid rain. They soon find that there is a large force field surrounding what is left of O’Hare airport. Within this bubble are the “pure” which they explain are the people that have perfect genetics. They are not part of the genetic war failures. The people outside of this bubble are labeled as “damaged” and have a life span of one to three decades.
Tris and her crew find themselves welcomed into the “pure” city and Tris is brought to the Director David who is the so called president of the city. Tris quickly realizes that her home (Chicago) was an experiment to see if the world could heal itself from a genetic war. After realizing that her home was a “Truman Show” for lack of better words Tris fights back to escape back to her home.

She gathers her group, minus Peter, and escapes the “pure” city. Peter however has hooked up with Director David and is sent back in to Chicago to destroy it. Director David plans to erase the memory of everyone in Chicago by using a gas on them. This will allow him to start over. The race is on for Tris to stop Peter and save the city.

Allegiant is a very different movie than Divergent and Insurgent. A lot of the information we were given in the first two movies has been altered in the third which makes it hard to follow. I found myself at many points just giving up asking why they would change it. All in all, the movie was good, but as I said I am a diehard fan. If you have read the book series you know there is a huge surprise coming at the end of the series and I am curious how the final movie will handle it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

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Movie Review - 10 Cloverfield Lane - By Emily Maier

Run time: 103 mins

10 Cloverfield Lane opens with a car being blindsided and flung from the road by an unknown assailant. The driver, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wakes up chained down in a bare, concrete room, which she soon learns is part of an underground bunker. The other two inhabitants of the shelter are Howard (John Goodman), the owner and local conspiracy theorist, and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), an innocent country bumpkin. All Michelle knows of the outside world is what the two tell her (i.e. that the air has been rendered unbreathable due to a chemical attack of unknown origin). The film progresses alongside Michelle’s constant struggle for the truth, as Howard is obviously hiding things, and Emmett isn’t exactly a reliable source of information. 

10 Cloverfield Lane fits under a lot of genres, but it can be mostly summed up as a fantasy-mystery-thriller. Other than that, however, it’s hard to say much about the movie without giving a lot away. What I can say is that 10 Cloverfield Lane is the “sister movie” to Cloverfield (2008), so both take place around the same time. However, this is where the similarities end. Whereas Cloverfield was known for its shaky “found footage” approach, 10 Cloverfield Lane is filmed more conventionally. Also, both movies follow completely different sets of characters, and they focus on different areas of crisis. For example, Cloverfield centered on immediate survival against a common foe, while 10 Cloverfield Lane looked at the blurred lines of friends and enemies in a long-term sense. 

One dangerous aspect of the movie is its tiny cast. With only three recurring characters, it would have been so easy for a bad actor to ruin the entire film, but I was pleasantly surprised. Both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr. performed admirably, and John Goodman was phenomenal. His explosive character was one of the most entrancing things about 10 Cloverfield Lane. It was amazing to watch him go from totally harmless to off the wall crazy all within the same shot; one minute he would be dancing next to the old jukebox, and the next he would be spiraling into a malicious rage. His presence throughout the movie made the threats from the outside seem almost insignificant in comparison.

The only negative thing I have to say about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it waits a long time to give the audience any answers. Of course, half the fun of the movie was trying to figure out the various plots and subplots going on, but the ambiguity became frustrating very quickly. The film does eventually pull out of it, however, so patient viewers will definitely be rewarded. All in all, the movie delivers some great acting, shocking twists, and an eerie feeling that will linger long after you’ve left the theater. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Movie Review - Wiskey Tango Fox Trot (R) - by Anne Libby

Run time: 1hour 51 minutes = 111 minutes

Rated R

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a comedy that takes place in 2002 Afghanistan. It is about a news reporter named Kim Barker, who feels like she is moving backwards in her life, and wants a new challenge. The challenge ends up being a few years in Kabul, chasing stories, relationships and air time. 

Tina Fey is very good in this laugh-out-loud movie. The cast, including Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman, do an amazing job at balancing the war time seriousness with just enough humor to make an enjoyable movie for all the adults. I say adults because it is rated R, and sex, alcohol use and slurs are sprinkled throughout the film. 

It starts with a quick bang, literally, as Kabul is bombed, and the house full of foreign reporters jumps into action and we see Kim Barker (Tina Fey) reporting in the mists of all the chaos. Then we jump back to see what has led her into such a situation. Before long she’s saying goodbye to her long term boyfriend and is flying to Afghanistan. Once there she is introduced to her translator Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott) and is introduced to the Afghani culture. After a few months she learns that her boyfriend back in America is cheating on her, and she decides to turn a new page. She also meets another reporter, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) who she sleeps, and then falls in love, with. As this is going on, she is also interviewing powerful men in the country, including Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) who eventually tries to sleep with her, and she responds with a bit of blackmail to help save Iain. There is one thing Kim has to remember though; the Kabul effect isn’t real, and all the partying, alcohol, violence and war shouldn’t be and isn’t normal.

Overall I really liked this film. It was funny and happy, and a bit real at times. This is a movie set in a place of turmoil, but still had a light feeling and it didn’t take itself too seriously.

Friday, March 4, 2016

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Movie Review - The Witch (R) - Review by Jordan dos Santos

For many horror fans, the wait for director Robert Eggers’s The Witch has been quite a long one. After playing the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, word quickly spread that Eggers had made a film unlike any we’ve seen—at least not in many years. Often, the hype surrounding a movie like The Witch is exactly that, nothing but hype. In this case, however, the wait has been worth it (in my opinion) and we’ve finally been given the kind of genre period piece that we deserve.

Eggers plays his hand fast and simple: A family of 17th century English settlers, now in America, find themselves leaving those they came with when there’s opposition in their religious beliefs. Left to start on their own, father William (Ralph Ineson) leads his clan of six in their new home, landing near a wooded area straight from The Brothers Grimm. Quickly into the story we witness the oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy) loses her baby when, during a game of peek-a-boo, it seems that something from the woods has snatched the child away. In a second, the baby is gone. While the family suspects an animal at first, we, the audience, know this was an incident touched by something supernatural; it doesn’t take long for the family to be under the same impression. The kidnapping quickly triggers a spiral into madness, with the mother of the family (Kate Dickie) fearing this is the work of The Devil. 

While Eggers does so many things well here, the best choice was to make The Witch into a movie that moves at a decent pace. Directors often make the mistake of taking moody material, only to think that “moody” means long, ceaseless shots. There’s a huge difference between dread and boredom, and Eggers proves he knows that well. The suspicions of witchcraft and Satanic work escalate when it’s revealed that the family’s twins speak to a goat, named Black Phillip, and he might actually be speaking back. It’s a plot device that would normally seem ridiculous, but in context to the time and history of witchcraft, it works to the story’s advantage. A woman sat next to me in the theater and kept exclaiming, “I don’t get it!” I found it to be upsetting that this same woman could probably watch a horror movie that takes place in present day, no matter how ridiculous the scenario, and have no problems “getting it”. Yet she can’t accept a tale that takes place in a time in which suspicions of witchcraft caused true hysteria. Whether the witchcraft from our history was real or not, it’s plausible to think that such madness might have occurred with no record of it whatsoever. And this is what makes The Witch so successful. We’re witness to one isolated family’s horrors. There are no cell phones to call for help, no nearby police stations to run to. The twisted scenario that unravels around these people feels intimate, therefore it reads as all the more disturbing. The Witch is both important and unique because it proves that there is a place for quiet, unnerving horror that doesn’t take place in this day, year, or century. Robert Eggers proves he has the chops for a New England folk-tale (aptly billed that way as a subtitle) and I can’t wait to see what he creates next.