Category Archives: Movie Reviews and Features

Jane Got a Gun

Jane Got a Gun

Directed by: Gavin O’Connor Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Ewan McGregor Rated: Rated R for violence and some language. Also contains an off-screen rape. A lot of Westerns have underlying themes of vengeance, the necessity of working together to survive in a harsh environment, and the mysterious loner who saves the day. “Jane Got a Gun” brings us a Western about assumptions – about how assuming things can destroy you, and how moving beyond them can save your life. It’s also just a straightforward good, character-focused story. The action is saved up for the end, but most assuredly does not disappoint. Jane (Natalie Portman) is the core of the film, the focus of the story both in and out of flashbacks. When her fiance failed to return from the Civil War, she went West. When the film opens, she is married, has a young child, and also has a gang of bad folks

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The Forest

The Forest

Directed by: Jason Zada Starring: Natalie Dormer, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken, Rated: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images “The Forest” feels like a mediocre remake of a Japanese horror movie. Alas, it is not a remake (which would at least point us toward a possible good time), it’s just a mediocre movie. The plot has some promise: a woman looking for her lost twin sister in a forest widely reputed to be full of angry ghosts. Unfortunately, the filmmakers went the route of jump-scares and “scary” makeup we’ve seen a million times, and set the movie in Japan for no apparent reason. To make matters worse, the film never really addresses the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death in Japan, and that the forest is not only real but one of the most popular locations for suicides in the world. Our heroine, blonde and serious Sarah (Natalie Dormer),

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The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

Written & Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth Rated: R (for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity) Quentin Tarantino has settled into his groove and is polishing his craft. His latest production, “The Hateful Eight,” is very Tarantino. There’s plenty of graphic violence, humorous and profane dialog, and a general sense of over-the-top-ness. He seems to get a real charge out of having his actors use racial slurs which, while they are context-appropriate, is a bit grating. What “The Hateful Eight” does have in spades is thoughtful, unhurried cinematography, and carefully-paced sequences of dialog that are somehow just as intense and suspenseful as a prolonged action sequence would be. The story is set some years after the Civil War. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is trying to take his latest catch, Daisy Domergue

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Legend

Legend

Directed by: Brian Helgeland Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Rated: R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual and drug material. The Kray twins were gangsters in London’s East End during the 50s and 60s. Between the various biopics based on their lives, the autobiographies they wrote separately and together, and the numerous books about their exploits, they are pretty well-known even outside of the UK. Tom Hardy plays both twins in “Legend,” the latest film version of their story. If you’re on the hunt for a gangster movie, it will hit the spot. Reggie and Ronnie Kray were both notoriously violent. Reggie also had a good head for business, but had to keep his brother under control – Ronnie was schizophrenic and not always willing to take his meds. The film opens with Reggie pulling strings to get Ronnie out of a psychiatric prison. We then follow them as they rise in

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The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter

Directed by: Breck Eisner Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood Rated: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images Vin Diesel is famous for his work in movies where he generally plays a big, strong guy who speaks softly but can kick you across the country and back. He’s also famous among nerds for being a huge, huge nerd himself. In fact, the story and titular character in “The Last Witch Hunter” grew out of Diesel talking about one of his Dungeons and Dragons characters with a filmmaker friend. Even better, it’s a surprisingly good film if you like supernatural action stories. In the world of “The Last Witch Hunter,” witches aren’t human. They look human when they want to, and in the modern day many of them live peacefully among humans. The peace is kept by a longstanding truce between the Witch Council and The Axe and Cross,

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Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

Marketing can make or break a movie, and “Crimson Peak,” Guillermo del Toro’s newest film, is in serious danger. The previews and pretty much every other bit of marketing make it out to be a horror movie, but it’s a classic Gothic romance. Like “Rebecca” and “Jane Eyre,” it brings us a heroine who is drawn by love into the web of a strange and horrifying mystery. People expecting a standard gory, violent modern horror flick are likely to be disappointed, but folks who adore creepy atmosphere, gorgeous and decaying upper-class dwellings, and Tom Hiddleston are in for a treat.

The Martian

The Martian

Directed by: Ridley Scott Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity. The castaway tale is not a new one, but “The Martian” brings us a sci-fi take on it: rather than being stranded on a deserted island, our protagonist is stranded on Mars. While experts and enthusiastic amateurs will doubtless find plenty of errors to point out, this is a ripping yarn suitable for anybody who likes to see human spirit and ingenuity overcome impossible situations. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is one of six astronauts on a manned mission to Mars when a dust storm forces them to abandon their base and cut the planned month-long expedition short. When Watney is blown away by debris and they can’t find him or any trace of his various signals, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) makes

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Black Mass

Black Mass

Directed by: Scott Cooper Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Adam Scott Rated: R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use. Organized crime has long fascinated both Hollywood and of the American public in general. It’s no surprise that one of the many books about it is now a movie: “Black Mass.” What may be a surprise to folks who’ve seen the posters and print ads is that the ensemble cast is led by Johnny Depp in impressive prosthetic makeup. He delivers an excellent performance, reminding us that he can do more than just act drunk and chew scenery. The movie is a solid true-crime tale, likely to please serious enthusiasts as well as those who like serious dramas about people’s bad actions leading to their inevitable fall. Depp plays Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, once an inmate at Alcatraz, now the head of South Boston’s Irish-American

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A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

Directed by: Ken Kwapis Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen Rated: R for language and some sexual references Bill Bryson is a travel writer, one whose books encompass everything from geology to history as they record his roaming in all sorts of places. “A Walk in the Woods” is a film adaptation of his book of the same title: the story of his hike of the Appalachian trail with one of his oldest friends. Like Bryson’s books, the film has a little bit of everything – a little philosophy, a little existentialism, a little comedy, a little romance, all mixed together just so, with some adventures thrown in for spice. It’s a fun film with a solid cast. As played by Nick Nolte, Stephen Katz is the kind of guy you tend to lose touch with, who has accomplished little but adding lots of notches to his bedpost over the last few

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American Ultra

American Ultra

Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content. There are some movies whose trailers don’t quite do them justice, and whose theater runs are all-too-short. “American Ultra” seems destined for that fate: It’s a cross between the Bourne movies and a stoner comedy. Our hero has all kinds of amazing combat skills whose origin he doesn’t remember, and people are trying to kill him – but he’s just some stoner who works at the Cash-and-Carry and is trying to figure out when to propose to his girlfriend. This is not a movie for everybody, but for the right audience, it’s just about perfect. Fans of Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy and other genre mashups will probably feel right at home here. The tone wavers between stoner comedy and black comedy, and once the

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