Category Archives: Movie Review

Brittany Runs a Marathon Movie Review

At some point in our adult lives, we have to take responsibility for our actions.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is the directorial debut of writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Based on the story of a friend of his, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is in her late 20’s and living in New York City. She has a job, but it is neither professionally or financially fruitful. She drinks too much, sleeps too much and is overweight. Her life, in short, is a hot mess.

Hoping to score a prescription of adderall, Brittany visits a doctor. Instead of receiving the prescription, the doctor recommends that she lose weight. She initially balks, but follows through and starts running. She is encouraged by her neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and Seth (Micah Stock), whom she met in her running group.

The running opens the door to other goals, including running a marathon. But doubt and insecurity gets in the way. Can Brittany succeed?

This movie has it’s pluses and it’s minuses. On the plus side, the characters and the narrative are realistic. Brittany speaks for many people, regardless of size, who are hindered by unseen emotional scars. We live in a world which is dominated by social media. The image that many of us put on our profiles may not reflect reality and may cause those who look at our profiles to compare their lives to ours.

On the minus side, the film is a little longer than I think it should be and is a little predictable story wise.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Life, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, New York City

After the Wedding Movie Review

Secrets, especially family secrets, have a way of coming out.

In the new movie, After the Wedding (based on the 2006 Dutch film of the same name which I have never seen), Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in India. In need of additional funds, she travels to New York City. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is the owner of a very successful media company and is interested in making a large donation to the orphanage.

But before Theresa can discuss the details of the donation, she and her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) must walk their daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) down the aisle. Theresa invites Isabel to the wedding. Instead of it just being an enjoyable evening, it opens the door to a couple of difficult and emotional revelations.

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (who is married to Julianne Moore IRL), this film is a story of family, secrets and choices. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the narrative. The film tries to be dramatic, but does not reach the dramatic heights that the trailer promises. The narrative and what should be the big dramatic reveal was also a little predictable. Though I appreciated the gender swap of the main characters from the original film, it does not make up for what is essentially an underwhelming movie going experience.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

After the Wedding is presently in theaters.

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Blinded by the Light Movie Review

When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.

His story is told in the new movie, Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.

Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?

I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.

I absolutely recommend it.

Blinded by the Light is presently in theaters.

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Luce Movie Review

The topics of race relations and the relationships between parents and teenagers is often complicated.

In the new movie, Luce, (based on the play of the same name) Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is the perfect teenager. He is a star athlete, an A student, respectful, humble and hardworking. Born in the African country of Eritrea, Luce was adopted by Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), a middle class Caucasian couple.

Everything seems hunky dory until Amy is called by Luce’s history teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). One of his papers has caught Miss Wilson’s eye and not for the right reasons. This paper opens the door to suspicion, questions about trust and who these characters really are.

Having never seen the play, I can only judge the narrative by the film.

The word I would use to describe this film is disappointing. There is so much potential in this film and yet it is wasted. The subjects spoken of in this film are so powerful and timely. Instead of using these subjects as a subtle teaching moment, the drama and the tension in the narrative is wasted. As is the the on screen talent.

As the film came to a close, the narrative threads did not come together. I don’t know if this was done on purpose or just laziness on the part of the screenwriters. If it was done intentionally, it was not done well. It was as if the individual parts of the narrative worked together on their own, but never quite gelled as they could have.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Luce is presently in theaters.

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The Kitchen Movie Review

When it comes to gangster films, female characters usually fall into one of two categories. If they are any sort of prominence within the narrative, they usually fall within the romantic or familial label: wife/girlfriend/mistress or the sister/mother/ daughter. If they are not prominent within the narrative, they are a nameless and faceless background character.

The new movie, The Kitchen attempts to change that. Based on the comic book of the same name, the film is set in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in 1978. The Irish mob, known as the Westies, unofficially rules the neighborhood. When three of their members are sent to jail, their wives take their places within the mob organization.

Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) is a devoted wife and mother. Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) is treated like an outsider because she is an African-American woman married to a Caucasian man. Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) has been knocked around by her husband more times than she can count.

Not only must the women contend with opposition from the men, they must also content with the fact they are breaking the law.

What I hate is that this movie has so much potential going for it. It has a great cast and a narrative, that if written well, could be compelling. Instead, this movie falls flat on it’s face.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.

The Kitchen is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies, New York City

Flashback Friday-The Covenant (2006)

Stories of witches, magic and the battle of good vs. evil have been with humanity since the begging of time. The question I think that a reader or an audience member has to ask is if the story is new and exciting or just an easy rehashing of an older story?

In the 2006 film, The Covenant, the film starts in 1692. Five families with unimaginable powers agree that only they speak of their powers. According to the outside world, they are five ordinary families. But then one of the families starts to use their powers for less than honorable means. Upon being discovered, this family is banished and forgotten about, until the present.

Four young men, the descendants of these four families attend an elite high school. Like their ancestors, only they know of their powers. Then a student is found dead and the centuries old secrets begin to unravel.

This movie is one of those movies that tries really hard. But it is dogged by a paint by numbers story, 2D characters and a feeling of just being a meh film.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Movie Review

It takes a creative mind to take an old story and retell in a new and different way.

Quentin Tarantino‘s new movie, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, has just hit theaters. Set in Los Angeles in the late 1960’s, Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) career was once red hot. But that limelight has faded. His best friend/assistant/former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is always by his side. While Rick and Cliff try to revive their careers, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is Hollywood’s latest it-girl. But there is danger lurking behind the bright lights and glittering facade. The Manson family is out to commit murder.

This is not the first time that Tarantino has played fast and loose with history. His 2009 film, Inglorious Basterds also played fast and loose with history. What I liked about this movie is that both Rick and Cliff are flawed and likable characters. They just want to return to the success they once had. As Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie tells the story of the real life woman, not the murder victim that we think of today.

If I had to name my favorite aspect of this film, it was the chilling effect of the scenes with the Manson family. Though we know now what plans they had in store, the general public knew nothing about the murders until it was headline news.

I recommend it.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On the 40th anniversary of The Muppet Movie

There are certain movies that no matter how old you get, they instantly take you back to childhood.

One of those films is The Muppet Movie. This year is the film’s 40th anniversary.

Kermit the Frog (voiced by the late Jim Henson) is happily living in his swamp, dreaming of the day when he is a star in Hollywood. While playing on his banjo and singing his signature song “Rainbow Connection“, an agent approaches Kermit about pursuing a career in show business. Intrigued by the idea, he leaves his swamp and heads to Los Angeles.

On route to California, Kermit meets his soon to be best friends: Miss Piggy (voiced by Frank Oz), Fozzie Bear (also voiced by Frank Oz) and The Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz). He also meets Doc Hopper (the late Charles Durning), who will do anything to convince Kermit to be the spokes-frog for his Frog Legs chain restaurant.

This movie has humor, heart, nostalgia and of course, one of greatest final numbers of any movie musical.

I think it says something that decades after a film is released, it is remembered as fondly as The Muppet Movie is. It has entertained four decades of young audiences; I hope that it entertains young audiences for decades to come.

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Thoughts On the Harriet Trailer

One of the ills that comes with racism and prejudice is the lack of on-screen representation. Thankfully, many filmmakers are starting to see the light and tell the stories of those who have been ignored or maligned in the past.

The new trailer for the Harriet Tubman biopic was released today. Entitled Harriet, the film stars Cynthia Erivo as the legendary freedom fighter.

Though some may label this film as potential Oscar bait (as films of this nature usually are, especially given it’s November release date), I think the message of the story is more important than the awards it may or may not win. It is also about time that a woman of Harriet Tubman’s stature and bravery was given her due on-screen.

Now we can only hope that the film lives up to the hype and the trailer.

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Thoughts On A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Trailer

For many of us, our childhood memories are cocooned in three words: Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was more than a TV host, he was a friend, a confidant and a teacher, all in one.

The new movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys is the story of the friendship that blossomed between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

I have to admit that I got a little teary eyed while watching the trailer. Adulthood can bring on cynicism, disbelief in magic and the idea that childhood is just that. My hope is that this film reminds audiences of the wonderment that is childhood and the feelings that only Fred Rogers could bring out in his young viewers.

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