Dope review

Four days in, Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope is the best film I’ve seen so far at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. A coming of age story for the “post hip hop generation” best described as a mix of three films: Doug Liman’s Go, Greg Mottola’s Superbad and John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood.  I’m posting this review the morning after the premiere and its being reported that six studios are rabidly bidding to distribute this film — its insanely accessible movie for a Sundance film and will sure to be a hit that lives on past its festival and theatrical runs. Read my Dope review after the jump.

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The Overnight review

Sundance 2015 has barely begun but already, sex is everywhere. Straight, gay, exploratory, odd, difficult, and, whenever possible, hilarious. It’s all here at the fest and The Overnight (not to be confused with doc The Overnighters) fits right in.

Beginning with a couple played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling frantically rushing through morning sex before their kid bursts into the room, this is the movie where you’ll see Scott and Jason Schwartzman dance together naked. Like, totally naked. OK, actually about 98% naked. That other 2% is a visual gag carries a hefty comic punch and casts a long shadow over the rest of the story. Even better is a free-sprited, swinging performance from Schwartzman, who bats around the comic stereotype of the LA “cool dad” like a kid with a balloon.

The Overnight is a wild, very funny caricature of the supreme awkwardness of allowing yourself to be truly vulnerable in front of the person you love the most. Read More »

Drew Struzan Batkid header

On November 13, 2013, an event happened that showed the best of what this tech-crazed, celebrity obsessed world can do. Ironically though, the person the event was about had no idea what he’d inspired. That’s the story of Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World, which tells the incredibly story of Miles Scott, a young California boy diagnosed with Leukemia whose one wish was to be the real Batman. The San Francisco Make-A-Wish Foundation tried to grant that wish and as word began to spread of their plans, it became an event that – as the title says – was heard around the world.

Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World premiered this weekend at the Slamdance Film Festival. Continue our Batkid Begins review below. Read More »

How to Change the World review

Being too young when the group was in its initial firebrand incarnation to understand, much less appreciate the early activism of Greenpeace, I’ve ended up simply dismissive of the organization as a whole. That’s despite knowing nothing about the group’s founding. The Sundance doc How to Change the World is a good way find a path back through the group’s history.

At its best, How to Change the World is tremendously inspiring, and by turns thrilling, comic, and shocking. A portrait of the achievements of an unlikely group of allies rather than a sales pitch for the modern organization, How to Change the World is drawn from writings by founder Robert Hunter, the group’s shaggy, media-savvy general, and features jaw-dropping footage culled from the Greenpeace archive of film footage. Though while the film offers a vision of Greenpeace I’d never seen, it is also somewhat overlong, and cursed with organizational problems that add nothing to the audience experience. Read More »

The Bronze

The Bronze gets a gold medal for ambition. Directed by Bryan Buckley, it stars the Big Bang Theory‘s Melissa Rausch (who also co-wrote the film) as former Olympic hero Hope Ann Greggory. Think Kerri Strug turned Tonya Harding. A decade removed from a life-changing Bronze medal, she’s now a foul-mouthed, delusional has-been living in her father’s basement and doing unspeakable things while watching her former self.

Hope eats like crap, curses like a sailor, treats her dad (Office Space‘s Gary Cole) awful and is just generally a terrible person. Yet when her former coach dies, she’s given an opportunity to redeem herself by coaching another rising gymnast. Along the way she’ll date Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch, make fun of the gymnast’s mom played by Cecily Strong, and have the most flat out hilarious, disturbing and crazy sex in recent memory with The Winter Soldier himself, Sebastian Stan.

So does that all work? Continue reading our Sundance 2015 The Bronze review below. Read More »

American Sniper header

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran on November 12. We’re bumping it up now that American Sniper is in wide release.

Director Clint Eastwood has great aspirations for American Sniper. First and foremost, he hopes to make a movie paying tribute to the most deadly sniper in the history of the United States. That’s the late Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper. He also hopes to show Kyle not as only a heroic solider, but a complex man confident in his actions and concerned about of their results. The film paints a grim picture of post-traumatic stress disorder and what it does to our veterans, especially in regards to their families. Finally, there’s also a drive to keep things exciting, so there are many gun battles in the deserts of Iraq.

Yes, American Sniper is an incredibly ambitious film with many moving parts. All of those parts work in certain instances, but only on rare occasions do they all come together at once. The disconnection makes the film fall just short of those great aspirations.

American Sniper had its World Premiere on Veterans Day at AFI Fest presented by Audi and you can read the rest of our review below. Read More »

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Paddington movie review

Paddington is a PG-rated family film about a talking bear who moves from the jungles of Peru to London. That premise, based on a popular series of children’s book by Michael Bond, is obviously silly. Yet writer director Paul King‘s adaptation is so on the money, so well-done, so deceptively simple, heartfelt and flat-out entertaining, it make movies with far more plausible plots seem silly by comparison.

Below read the rest of our Paddington movie review, which talks about what the movie does right that others should take note of. Read More »

Star Wars 1 comic

Star Wars #1 might be one of the most anticipated comic book issues in years, as it should be. The series is important for a lot of obvious reasons, as Marvel takes back the publishing rights to the series that Dark Horse has had for many years. But will fans enjoy the first 48 pages of this new Star Wars adventure? Marvel sent me an early digital copy of their upcoming Star Wars comic book series. Read my review of the Star Wars 1 comic after the jump.

Here is why the new Star Wars comic book series matters.

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Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies review

Note: This review originally ran on December 9. We’ve republished now that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in theaters.

Every time Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, we expect something special. All of his Lord of the Rings films got Best Picture nominations and while The Hobbit films haven’t lived up to the achievement of the first three movies, they’ve had their moments. In my reviews of An Unexpected Journey, and The Desolation of Smaug I found things to like about each film, despite their flaws.

So, following the trajectory of the first trilogy, I hoped The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies would be the best of the bunch. Imagine my disappointment to find out it was the opposite. Below, read our Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies review. Read More »

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