In Texas-born writer/director Justin Simien's debut feature, Lionel Higgins (the talented Tyler James Williams, television's "Everybody Hates Chris") bounces around from one "Winchester College" dorm to another, as school administrators try to find a non-harassing home for the nerdy, "only technically Black" freshman.
All the subsets, cliques, and factions of any college or high school movie, and their typically-assigned characteristics, are on display in "Dear White People.â€ť Again. Though it's all building up to "the big party," the deeper looks at characters of an ostensibly less lofty film like "Project X" (2012) are missing. The plentiful stereotypes here are never "smashed," as espoused by A.O. Scott of The New York Times, as much as they aimlessly bounce around and into each other. This movie is herein recommended, not as a good work of itself, but as a good conversation-starter: "Why are these people so lost?"
Spirits if you are there, please tell me is this film worth seeingâ€¦ Oh,
hello there, friend. Just convening with my spiritual review helpers. Whether you are superstitious or think the paranormal is hogwash, "Ouija" will give you some jumpy frights, but ultimately the lack of real scares and overuse of weak horror tropes will underwhelm.
After tragedy befalls one of their friends, a group of teenagers looks for answers from the spiritual tool/game, called a Ouija board; which was once in the possession of their deceased friend. The board allows communication with the spirits of the dead, but there are rules you must follow, or you will suffer the consequences. Terrifying events start to occur and those who play get much more than they bargained for, as the spirits are set free to enact their dark agenda.
Variously credited to Elvis Costello and Frank Zappa, it was most likely actor Martin Mull who first said "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Though fans of the great Russian-American ballet choreographer George Balanchine (for one) know well what dance about architecture looks like, English writer/director Joanna Hogg, in her film "Exhibition," demonstrates something more like "living about architecture."
Interestingly, Hogg chose two artists who work in film, but have no previous experience acting for film, to play the middle-aged lead couple. "D" (Viv Albertine) directed a television series for young audiences. "H" (Liam Gillick) is an established film composer. Here, she plays a performance artist who dabbles in other media, and he plays an architect. Times are slow for both.
Perfectly surrounded by art and beautifully designed furniture in an expansive dream home, they are currently miserable.
All hail the American dream, which doesnâ€™t give a damn where youâ€™ve been and only cares about what you make of yourself. Itâ€™s an ideal wrapped in history and sentiment, glorified by championing the successful and ignoring the downtrodden. It made sense as a sales pitch to the world a century ago, when the United States was the â€śmelting potâ€ť on nationalities from around the globe, but today with a globalized economy and worldwide web the capitalistic virtues of the American dream have cynically eroded, arguably to the point where itâ€™s more a pipe dream than anything else. Then again, maybe it was always a pipe dream.
Dream or no, for some getting to the United States means survival. "The Good Lie" tells the story of four refugees from the Sudan whose families were murdered, leaving them orphans during African civil war. The first half hour of director Philippe Falardeauâ€™s (â€śMonsieur Lazharâ€ť) film shows their journey in and through Africa as children, desperately working together to survive militia, dehydration and starvation as they walk more than 785 miles to a Kenyan refugee camp. There they hope to get lucky and be transported to the U.S. for a better life.
â€śJohn Wickâ€ť is not only the bad-ass action flick we wanted, itâ€™s the one we deserved. After a summer full of genre pieces that disappointed true fans (*cough* â€śTransformers: Age of Extinctionâ€ť *cough*) it was nice to see something simple come along to blow us away. Keanu Reeves has found the perfect role, and hopefully this is a franchise that continues to play out for him.
Itâ€™s important to note that this isnâ€™t a story you should be taking too seriously, or panning over with a fine toothed comb, but one that is meant to be enjoyed for what it is. It almost seems as if even the characters know how ridiculous it is at some points, and that just makes it better. Once we get past the rocky start, where Keanu was forced to try to show range in his acting, the rest plays out like a fine tuned action machine, and doesnâ€™t let go until the satisfying/heart-warming ending.
Sometimes sequels are continuations of stories. Sometimes they are cash grab re-hashes of the first one, only bigger and stupider. Every once in a while, a sequel serves as a re-do, as if the filmmakers know where the weak spots were with the first one and how it could have been so much better, so the sequel serves as a chance to rectify the first movieâ€™s shortcomings. â€śThe Purge: Anarchyâ€ť is one such movie.
Once again the film takes place during the â€śpurge,â€ť an evening in the not too distant future of the United States where all crime, including murder, is legal from 7 pm to 7 am the following morning. However, instead of keeping the movie indoors with one family and making another mediocre home invasion movie a la the first â€śPurgeâ€ť film with Ethan Hawke, this time we go outside to the streets where we really get to see what goes on.
Within the first 5 minutes of â€śThe Best of Me,â€ť the words â€śmiracleâ€ť and â€śdestinyâ€ť are spokenâ€¦and not just once. Theyâ€™re said a few times, and the frequency will only grow as the movie progresses. This should come as no surprise. It is, after all, sign number 1 that youâ€™re watching a Nicholas Sparks movie.Â
Now Iâ€™ll admit, Iâ€™m usually a sucker for them. Sparks has a way of satisfying the â€śromantic tearjerker with ridiculously good-looking peopleâ€ť thing better than any of his contemporaries. His films range from good to bad to â€śI donâ€™t care I love it anyways.â€ť And with nine film adaptations of his best-selling novels, itâ€™s not hard to fall somewhere in the middle. Which is initially where â€śThe Best of Meâ€ť seemed to be heading. But some things just arenâ€™t meant to be. â€śThe Best of Meâ€ť is easily among the worst of the Sparksâ€™ movies, nestled comfortably alongside â€śMessage in a Bottle,â€ť â€śThe Lucky One,â€ť and â€śNights in Rodanthe.â€ť
I never had the pleasure of meeting the tremendously gifted actress Elizabeth PeĂ±a and, if I had, it would have been difficult to reconcile her real-life personality with that of Pilar Cruz, her intelligent, demure, and sexy character in John Sayles' 1996 classic "Lone Star." I'd always imagined the two were one in the same.
Though Pilar is not perfect, she is perfect for the film (co-starring Chris Cooper as Sam Deeds), and PeĂ±a was perfect for the role. I love the way Pilar talks, the slow phrasing and slight Texas drawl so right for that Rio Grande border town. The heat makes everything move slower, even words. Her ultimately forbidden courtship with Cooper's sheriff character is a master class in subtlety and sultry restraint.