Film Review: La La Land

La La Land

La La Land written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures, PG-13, 128 min) Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Make Hollywood Great Again We live in an era of nostalgia. The largest television phenomenon of 2016 focused on 1980s synths, hairstyles, and sci-fi horror. Beyond cultural nostalgia, we saw an election where a clear motivation at the polls focused on policies pushing America toward the past, toward a time where the nation was considered “great,” at least for a certain kind of American. Trends ebb and flow. Beliefs move in and out of season as if they are fashion chic. While many rightly criticize much of the policies bringing fear to certain groups of… Read More →

Film Review: Cake

Cake written by Patrick Tobin and directed by Daniel Barnz (Cinelou Films, Echo Films, We’re Not Brothers Productions, R, 102 min) Starring Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington. Habits How do you act when you aren’t conscious of your actions? I tend to rub my fingernails. It’s a habit I believe I’ve passed down to my son as he tends to want to rub my fingernails when he’s trying to calm down. The innate habits we possess to get us through life can vary greatly but we engage in them to cope with the minute to the drastic. Meet Claire With Cake, we see a mother coping with physical and emotional pain. Claire (Jennifer Aniston) attends a chronic… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Walking Dead: Season 5

The Walking Dead Season 5

The Walking Dead: Season 5 created by Frank Darabont (AMC, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures) Starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Chad L. Coleman. *Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons* Execution You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if you can’t execute, what’s the point? Millions of businesses start with a great idea. The ones that last are the ones that follow through on it. The dreamers need a balanced team capable of filling in the details of the plan. The Walking Dead has always suffered from this fateful issue. Season after season, the writers attempt to balance violence and action with the… Read More →

Film Review: The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything written by Anthony McCarten, directed by James Marsh (Working Title, StudioCanal, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, PG-13, 123 min) Starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Circles What does a circle represent for you? With no right or wrong answer, the responses could vary drastically. Some might think about the lack of a flat surface. They would reason a circle must be in constant motion, rolling wherever it might go. Others might consider a circle to be inherently equal; by definition, a circle possesses identical distance from any point on the perimeter to the center of the circle. For others, a circle represents completion, the holistic encompassing nature of life. In theory, a circle could be everything. The… Read More →

Film Review: The Immigrant

The Immigrant

The Immigrant written and directed by James Gray (Keep Your Head, Kingsgate Films, Worldview Entertainment, R, 120 min) Starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner. The American Dream What’s your American Dream? A big house? Five cars? Do you have a plan to get there? For many Millennials, the American Dream is more of an American Expectation. The grand ideals of success represent life as it should be, and every day without achievement feels like failure. But isn’t the American Dream about hope? Unparalleled success by definition can’t be for everyone. Were it received by all, it would no longer be unparalleled. What if the American Dream operates as the carrot dangling in front of the rabbit? Hard work… Read More →

Film Review: Birdman

Birdman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) written by Alejandro González Iñárritu and Nicolás Giacobone, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (New Regency Pictures, M Prods, Grisbi Productions, R, 119 min) Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton. Hollywood Award Ceremony Watch one Hollywood award ceremony and you’ve seen them all. Without fail, these shows elicit a self-congratulatory nature. There’s a sense in which every presenter truly believes her craft—acting—exists as one of the most important things in our society. Like medical doctors, social workers, teachers, and non-profit administrators, the actor exposes the injustice of the world, brings healing to others, and educates the younger generations to make this world a better place. Even though she… Read More →

Film Review: Her

Her by Spike Jonze

Her written and directed by Spike Jonze (Annapurna Pictures, Warner Bros., R, 126 min) Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde. Newspaper Trains There’s a photo that’s been making the social media rounds. It shows a black-and-white image of a commuter train with passengers reading newspapers. The inference of the image being: times haven’t changed human nature much. The only difference between then and now is the medium of information. Now our eyes are glued to the iPhone. This image struck me because it made me think deeper about the relationship between technology and human interaction. No matter what innovations occur, we all have the same desire and anger, the same hopes and fears. If… Read More →

Television Show Review: Orange Is the New Black: Season 1

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black: Season 1 created by Jenji Kohan (Netflix, Lionsgate Television) Starring Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning, Jason Biggs, Kate Mulgrew, and Pablo Schreiber. Set Setting On its surface, a series about life in prison doesn’t seem too compelling. Most viewers need some sort of action or changes in setting to pique interest. There’s not much design to a prison setting. Everything is drab. Everyone is locked up. Movement is limited. How can plot develop? Yet, rejecting Orange Is the New Black due to setting limitations would be doing it a great disservice. The series works so far because of its commitment to relationships between its characters. Yes, Orange Is the New Black is… Read More →

Film Review: Les Misérables

Les Misérables written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, directed by Tom Hooper (Working Title Films, Cameron Mackintosh Ltd., PG-13, 157 minutes) Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. The Airing of Grievances Before I go into the general plot summary and the merits of this particular musical, I need to air my grievances Seinfeld style. I love music, but I don’t like musicals. Music is very genuine, raw, and emotion-filled by its very nature. To me (I realize most don’t feel this way), it feels very disingenuous and hollow-hearted when someone randomly bursts into song whilst talking the rest of the time. Musicals usually create a new kind of world where reality doesn’t permeate, where song is the standard,… Read More →

Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook written and directed by David O. Russel (The Weinstein Company and Mirage Enterprises, R, 122 minutes) Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Making Light of the Dark There’s nothing more difficult than creating comedy out of mental disorders, failed marriages, and gambling. These themes are dark; they force the viewer into introspective spaces. The narrative can’t make light of such scenarios because too many people have dealt with the deep pain associated with these occurrences. But Silver Linings Playbook gives it a shot, and it is mostly successful. To Starting Over—or Staying the Same Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he seeks to pick up the pieces of his broken life…. Read More →