Bleed for This – Box Office Review

Based on a true story, champion boxer Vinnie Pazienza was in a car crash that almost completely breaks his neck. He is given two choices from his doctor and he decides to go with the more dangerous option that provides him a slight chance at boxing again. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on “Bleed for This” in this box office review…

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The fact that this was based on a true story and focuses on the triumph of the human spirit should surprise few people being how it was released during the holiday months. This is the time of year for movies like this because now is the time for catching the attention of the Oscars. I can’t say this film will win many awards, if any, but it certainly felt like they were trying to win or at least be nominated. As I watched the film I enjoyed Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart’s on screen chemistry. They both are talented actors and they appeared to dig into the characters they were portraying. From their first meeting, to private training sessions/physical therapy and back into the ring, these two were believable.

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Ben Younger wrote and directed this biopic. I didn’t recognize the name and when I looked at his IMDB page (see previous hyperlink) it made sense. He hasn’t really directed many films. This movie had some serious pacing issues and it felt like it lasted forever. This movie moves at a slower pace than I anticipated which made my enjoyment lessen. Perhaps after a few more films Younger might work out some of the pacing issues I felt in this film. He clearly understands character development and relationships after watching this movie because the characters were all great. I just felt like time had stopped when the boxing stopped and then slowly started picking up again as the physical therapy started. Maybe that was intentional. I don’t know.

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Bleed for This” is in theaters now. You really have to like boxing movies or biopics to see this on the big screen. Like I mentioned, it’s a very slow film that feels like it’s 3 to 4 hours long but the characters are worth watching. If you have a Sunday afternoon and find it on Redbox or VOD I’d recommend that. It’s a good film that just crawls to the finish line.

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Doctor Strange – Box Office Review

Marvel Studios has made an incredible name for themselves from 2008 (Iron Man) to now, 2016. In 8 years we’ve seen a lot of fun and entertaining films that reach levels of character development never really explored in previous films based on Comic Book characters. Fox was close in the early 2000’s with “X-Men” but I argue they didn’t dig as deep into the core of the characters as Marvel Studios. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on the 14th film, “Doctor Strange” in this box office review…

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When Kevin Feige first announced they were making a movie based on the character Doctor Strange I thought, like most people, “Who?” I had no clue who this character was in the greater mythos of Marvel comics. Fortunately I had about 3 years to do research because the leading man Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t announced as playing Doctor Strange until 2014. After buying dozens upon dozens of his comics and reading up on who he is, his stories, his villains and how he plays into the Marvel comic world, I fell in love with this character. To say I was excited for this film would be a gross understatement. I saw this film three times to ensure that what I saw was actually what I saw and not my fan boy eagerness to believe my excitement was what I saw on screen.

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I love this movie! Are there some weak points? Yup. Just like any other movie there are high and low points but the high points far outweigh the low. This film captured the essence of the character of Doctor Strange who is an overly confident, condescending asshole who is involved in a situation only as long as it benefits him in some way to becoming a selfless student of magic and his role of protecting reality, not the world, but the actual fabric of reality. The story arc made sense but I would have appreciated a more definite look at how time is passing while he is training to become the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s not very clear how much time passes from his car accident which leaves him a cripple to the finale where he is facing one of realities greatest threats, Dormammu, ruler of the dark dimension, who is trying to literally transform reality on earth into an infinite abyss of dark suffering and nothingness. Additionally, to this character, I enjoyed how by the end of the film he’s only a Master Magician and not actually Sorcerer Supreme. I appreciated that the story didn’t just wrap it all up in a nice bow but left the sequel open for more development and growth.

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The visuals in this film are revolutionary. I saw this twice in IMAX 3D and once in standard 2D. If you have the opportunity, IMAX 3D is the way to go. This film was made for the depth that 3D films can achieve. I normally hate 3D because I feel it’s a cheap gimmick to raise ticket prices but this is the exception to the rule. This film was colorful, dark and vibrant. The fight scene in his house (Sanctum Sanctorum) had 3 doors that allow him to travel to anywhere in the world and the detail they went into covering the different locations on earth looked stunning. The martial arts meets magic looked spectacular. The reality bending of buildings and cities was beyond impressive. Plus seeing a building twist and shift on top of villains was fabulous. This movie was both the creative and logical side of the brain coming together into one masterful and brilliant film. The different realities that we are taken into look spectacular. It’s like a brain box kaleidoscope of psychedlic crazy brilliance that will be the best visual treat you can give your eyes this year. I’m calling it.

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I should warn you that this film is also exposition city. The characters talk, a lot. If you’re into what it means to explore the value of individuals in this reality and what their role is beyond this life and deeper meanings, etc, this is a film for you. This film examines what is known and how what is not yet known all play together and how we must be open to receiving the unknown in order to learn from it and evolve into more. If you don’t find yourself thinking about much when you leave the film I will be surprised because it’s like a philosophy class on life with ninja magicians who can shape shift buildings and cities while still being clever and insightful.

Doctor Strange” is in theaters now. I’ll probably see this film another time or two because I enjoyed it that much. Ninja Magicians people. Ninja Magicians. This isn’t like Harry Potter. This isn’t like Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. This is something entirely new and different and director Scott Derrickson knocked it out of the park. Marvel Studios continue to give a fresh approach to story telling with each new film. Go see this film in IMAX 3D! It’s worth every penny, dollar and moment spent in the theater. It’s just so good!

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Birth of a Nation – Box Office Review

Slavery in American history is not an easy topic to tackle when making a movie. The tone, the mood, the characters, the story and dialogue all amount to what could be considered a herculean task to undertake. So what does Nate Parker decide to do for his directorial debut? He made “Birth of a Nation” and we’re now gonna dive in a take a look at my thoughts about this film…

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First, I’m always honest in my reviews so I’ll continue to be honest, I was not aware this was based on a true story going into the theater. I consider myself a bit of a history fan and that reveal was surprising which caught me off guard. So I was glad I wasn’t just watching a story about history but a story about actual history. That elevated my enjoyment of the film up a few notches.

The story revolves around “Nat Turner” (played by Nate Parker) who is a slave that was taught how to read the Bible and slowly becomes a preacher on the plantation he was sold to. Over time, word spreads to other plantations that the slaves on his particular plantation are more well behaved and his master is propositioned to take Nat on a plantation tour to help other slaves become more obedient and docile by his use of the scriptures in the Bible. Over time, and a very personal abuse, he realizes that subservient behavior is not the path he was destined for and he leads a resistance that ends in bloodshed and gun smoke.

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I loved this movie. Nate Parker captured so much emotion and, also as the director, got so much emotion out of the cast I was mesmerized. This film took me on an emotional journey that was not expected. Being unfamiliar with the actual story I wasn’t disappointed in certain creative liberties he and the writers took with this movie. I was completely entranced by every performance. I hated certain characters, was repulsed by others, saddened for some and felt incredible pride for a few. I was sickened. I was delighted. I was offended. I was inspired. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and I couldn’t help but let all the feelings rush through me.

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Now that I’ve gushed about all the wonderfulness this movie had, this is not a movie for the faint of heart. This movie is brutal and vicious in its portrayal of slave treatment. Nate Parker pulls zero punches when it comes the mistreatment of slaves and it will force you to examine your understanding of early, Pre to During Civil War America. One scene in particular, we see a slave who refuses to eat while chained up in a small wooden shed and the insane method of force feeding that takes place. You see it all. The audience is not spared the visual disturbances because Parker made the decision to give you realism that was necessary, in my opinion. My stomach turned and I’m sure yours will as well.

Birth of a Nation” is in theaters now! If you enjoy movies about America during the civil war times, or historical movies, this is a movie for you. If you want an oscar worthy film, this is also the film for you. I walked out of the theater talking about this film with the older black couple I sat next to in theater. We couldn’t help but continue discussing this film because it’s that good and that powerful. Be prepared to feel all the emotions and don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking with strangers walking out of the theater about your thoughts and feelings about this incredible film.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Box Office Review

It’s no secret to people I discuss movies with, or to listeners of the Maskerpiece Theatre podcast, that I’m a fan of Tim Burton movies. The visual style he has is unique to him and his vision for how characters and stories should look is something I look forward to when I hear he’s making a new film or I’m revisiting a film he’s already made that I probably own. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” in this box office review…

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First, this film was everything I wanted from a story about kids with powers who live in a creepy home that’s stuck in time, forever repeating the same day. Every day, when the bombers are flying over the house about to destroy it with bombs Miss Peregrine stops time and rewinds it back to the morning of that day. The children all have chores they complete on a very strict schedule because any deviation from that schedule could result in the clock not being reset and the bombs landing on the home destroying everything and everyone. This is of course jumping ahead in the story quite a bit because the main character, portrayed by Asa Butterfield, is a loner who is trying to figure out the mysterious death of his grandfather who everyone believes was crazy or had dimensia. It is in fact the monster he sees after finding his dead grandfather that drives him to investigate his grandfathers life, while his parents believe him to be just as mad as his late grandfather.

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The characters in this story all felt mostly natural, assuming they had the “gifts” they possessed in the film. The only stand out character was “Franklin” the father of Jake, played by Chris O’Dowd. His character didn’t feel natural at all and the American accent he attempted to have was poorly delivered. Considering most of the movie takes place outside of America, I would’ve been fine with his character having a British accent. If he, perhaps, didn’t have to focus on sounding American, he might’ve been able to portray a worried but not overly concerned father who’s into photographing birds.

The action sequences where the special powers are all displayed were entertaining and the villain, portrayed by Samuel Jackson, was also believable however campy. This would be the second film where I felt Sam Jackson was playing a caricature and not an actual villain, the first being his role in “Kingsman”. His performance didn’t bother me, in fact I found him to be a nice adjustment from the more intense characters the children portrayed and the reasons they hid from him. His over-the-top performance felt like a mustache twirling bad guy and considering he eats a bowl of eye balls and is caught fighting a rogue band of skeletons, I was perfectly fine with his performance. It fit in this film and that’s what matters.

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Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children” is in theaters now! If you enjoy Tim Burton films or just a fresh story that is like nothing you’ll see this year, go see this on the big screen. It’s definitely worth it and you won’t be disappointed. It’s fun but not fun for the whole family if you have kids under the age of 13. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and I might even see it a second time while I wait for “Doctor Strange” to arrive in theaters next week.

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Morgan – Box Office Review

The box office is filled with sequels or reboots and I hear often how people want new concepts or stories on screen. Well, when these movies come out it’s exciting because we’ll be treated to something that we can’t precisely figure out from the trailers. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts of “Morgan” in this box office review…

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I was excited about this film from the time I saw the first trailer. I sat in the theater after the trailer ended and could only look forward to something that felt original, terrifying and well acted. The cast in this film was an immediate selling point and I’d recommend following the link to the IMDB page at the end of this review to see all the talented actors. Unfortunately, this film failed to live up to my expectations and according to Rotten Tomatoes I’m not alone in my feelings. This film has a audience score of 35% and the Tomatometer is Rotten 40%. This film was a disappointment.

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The short-comings weren’t actor based and they weren’t special effects based. The actors I enjoyed and the look of the film and the special effects all were entertaining and drew me in. The story fell short, as well as fell apart, in the 3rd act. There’s a scene early on where Morgan is in the forest and sees a deer that is dying because it was impaled by a tree branch. She kills the deer. This is only important because near the end of the movie the character that is chasing her, trying to kill her, also becomes impaled on a tree branch.  Unlike the deer however Morgan doesn’t kill the lady chasing her. So I guess that deer scene wasn’t important because if it was, the tension building towards that ladies death would’ve been completed with her death by Morgans hands. Follow the story telling logic, deer is impaled Morgan kills dear. Lady chasing Morgan trying to kill her is impaled, we as the audience just saw Morgan kill the deer so our tension builds because Morgan should be killing the lady and a surprise character will be responsible for killing Morgan or letting her escape. Either way, the lady chasing Morgan should die because that’s what the deer scene was foreshadowing!

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There’s more to the ending that I won’t spoil because while I hated the third act of this film I’m sure some people might enjoy it and I don’t want to take away the shock value that the film tried to create at the very end. The very end, by the way, also frustrated me. There is almost zero acknowledgement in this film that the ending would be possible. After the final scene I did say out loud in the theater, “Oh come on!” because it was so ridiculous. I get surprise endings where we as the audience are shocked or stunned but there’s usually some ground work laid in the film prior to that “WHOA!” moment at the end which makes that scene more impactful and believable. The only build up I recall is one scene where Morgan is looking at the top of her hands and then the palms of her hands but that’s not enough to build an ending off of. If you look down for popcorn or yawn (which is possible in the third act) you’ll miss it and then the ending makes even less sense.

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Morgan” is in theaters now. If you like science fiction horror than the first two acts you’ll enjoy and whether or not the third act is enjoyable will entirely be up to you. If you enjoyed the film comment below and please explain why. I’d love to read why someone enjoyed this movie as a complete film. Maybe you’ll change my mind and I’ll go back and revisit it. Maybe you won’t. Either way let me know.

Bad Moms – Box Office Review

When the trailer begins playing there are times we instantly know what we’re getting from a film and there are times we do not. In this particular case, I knew exactly what I was getting from the trailer and I was glad to walk into the theater, turn my brain off for a bit and just be able to laugh. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts of “Bad Moms” in this box office review…

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The first surprise, almost immediate, was that the main character Amy played by Mila Kunis was not a single mother. She was married to a good for nothing man who offered little to the relationship or the family. From the previews I assumed she was a single mother and in fact she may as well have been because the husband offered zero support and only heightened her stress/frustrations. He’s caught jerking off to porn but it turns out that it’s not porn it’s actually a video chat with a girl across the country. And so, the story begins.

The overall story was, I felt, relatable because the characters express many frustrations, concerns, insecurities and emotions I have heard in real life from mothers. Now, being that I am clearly not a woman I can’t speak on the level of relatability but I feel that at least one of the women in this film will speak to mothers on a personal level, if even briefly. The stress for work, self, the home, the kids, the family and more is all discussed and made humorous as well as touching. You don’t dig much further than the surface for these characters but as I stated previously in this review, we knew that from the trailers.

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The story wastes no time which was nice. In fact, I believe the story goes from a crawl to a sprint within the first act. The two mothers who are more reserved and professional turn into party-time, booze infused, dirty talking, morally questionable women in no time. It’s a race to claim freedom and become something from a personal disaster or a sheltered existence. These characters wasted no time and go so far as to have a humorous adventure at the grocery story while shopping for their family, or at least that’s the reason they went to that store to begin with. While this film deals with a few characters it’s “Amy” who drives the narrative and the coming of age tale is fulfilled. What starts off as a comedic look at the life of a woman who is trying to do it all evolves into the story of a woman who does what she can but in that she does all she can for her kids, her work and her personal life.

“Bad Moms” is in theaters now. If you want a fun comedic film that won’t tax your brain, go see this film. It’s funny, at times emotional, and possibly relatable for some women who are single mothers or mothers in a relationship that’s more of a relationshit. If you don’t like crude humor I’d stay away from this film but if your sense of humor knows little boundaries you’ll probably appreciate the comedy and you’ll probably never look at a hoodie the same way ever again. It’s almost hoodie season too which is a shame for those of us who enjoyed and laughed way too had during that scene.

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Sausage Party – Box Office Review

There’s something to be said for the freedom that animation provides with regards to storytelling. What is possible on screen using live action is not always best and it might be animation as the key for particular stories told well, or well enough. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on the animated film “Sausage Party” in this box office review..

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This film starts off letting the audience know exactly what to expect. It’s a song about life as grocery store items and humans being the gods they long to be with. It veers into satirical goodness almost immediately as the German Food items want to kill the “Juice” items and it only grows from there. This film starts with absurdity and ends with food porn so fantastical if you aren’t offended you’ll be crying from laughter. This movie pulls no punches and finds a way to make light of even the big question, “What happens after we die?” It also examines life through two perspectives, one the food and the other the humans with “bath salts” being the only way to bridge the gap between the two worlds. It’s pure insanity and hilarious.

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The characters in this film are basic stereotypes that are exaggerated for the purpose of comedy. We are even treated to a douche, a literal woman’s female hygiene product, being the antagonist who acts like his namesake. If you’ve ever been to a nightclub or a pool party and met anyone who acts like “the douche” than you will find his character well written and humorous. We have a Jewish Bagel and Middle Eastern bread trying to cope with the fact they hate each other but must find a way to coexist in the small strip of shelf space that divides them. It’s fantastic.

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Sausage Party” is theaters now! If you love comedies that make fun of almost everything you will enjoy this film. If you laugh at inappropriate jokes, crude humor and sexual innuendo this is the summer comedy for you. If you hold your religion or personal beliefs to closely to find humor possible, do not see this film. The jokes pull no punches and we are treated to a comedic look at life through the eyes of grocery store products and how life might be if we discovered there is no after life, only this life.

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Suicide Squad – Box Office Review

The last of the summer blockbuster films held the #1 box office spot for its first 3 weeks in theaters. It’s a testament to the quality of the film if you pay attention to these types of things. If you prefer to check Rotten Tomato scores you are probably surprised it was #1 for 3 weeks. So let’s jump in and take a look at my thoughts on “Suicide Squad” in this box office review…

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When asked by people not familiar with the stories of “Suicide Squad” what to expect I would compare it the Dirty Dozen. It’s a band of criminals brought together to stop something terrible that would most likely result in their death. I will say that this was one aspect the film got right. The movie explained, mostly, who the villains are and why they’re in jail. I felt the story could’ve added more depth to what makes them so terrible instead of just bad guys. Also, I didn’t understand why we needed a double introduction for two characters, Harley Quinn and Deadshot, at the beginning of the film. The first time I saw the movie it didn’t bother me but the second time I realized what a waste of screen time that was and became annoyed at that one item.

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The film itself left me feeling divided on how much I actually enjoyed it. The high points were high and the low points were low. The Deadshot scene where he is killing one monster after another was incredible. Most scenes with Captain Boomerang were boring. I don’t recall a moment that left me thinking simply, “that was enjoyable.” I was either loving it or hating it and after seeing it twice I’m leaning towards the negative by maybe 1%. I loved the character of Harley Quinn and Deadshot. I even enjoyed the Rick Flag character. I don’t understand why Katana was in this film at all. The purpose of her sword is to steal souls and that wasn’t used at all to it’s potential. The end of the film could’ve been done with any sword, knife or sharp object. She served no purpose. I was hoping she’d serve as a character like “Snake Eyes” from the GI Joe film but she didn’t. She was pointless and her dialogue was terrible, including delivery.

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Additionally, the CGI animation towards the end of the film was atrocious. I mentioned this on the podcast review I did with “Cinema Head Cheese” but it’s worth repeating here, the special effects towards the end looked like something from the Brendan Fraser “Mummy” movies. It was awful. For a big budget film the special effects should’ve been much better. Also, why do I care about Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, and pretty much anyone else? The story revolves around 5 characters and they are, Harley, Deadshot, Flag, Amanda Waller and Enchantress. Everyone else in this film felt like they were there because someone wrote them in and refused to remove them despite their uselessness to the overall story. The Harley story almost felt like a secondary plot to the film because there was this heavy subplot of her relationship with the Joker running throughout. It was almost two completely different movies.

Suicide Squad” is in theaters now! If you wanna turn your brain off and see some pretty dope action sequences and Margot Robbie in tiny booty shorts, go see this film. If you’re looking for a great summer action flick, this isn’t it. It misses the mark one time too many but I will say that the DC live action movies do make me think more their competition. Unfortunately, those thoughts are usually my figuring our how it’s possible to mess up great existing stories in the way they only seem to be capable of anymore.

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Florence Foster Jenkins – Box Office Review

The summer blockbuster season has come to a close and what better way to usher in the dramatic, character driven films of “Oscar” season than a Meryl Streep movie? “Florence Foster Jenkins” is based on the true story of a New York Heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer despite her wretched voice.  So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on this film in this box office review…

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It’s refreshing to see Hugh Grant back in the role I enjoy him performing. The classic gentleman is a personality that I have always enjoyed from his performances, when called for. He always shines when his character is a bit reserved but driven, caring and thoughtful. While he does entertain moments of base desire his character overall is remarkable once realized. The lengths we see him go to for his love is enough to make you feel a sense of warmth and by the end of the film you might be touched emotionally by his characters story. I was surprised by the relationship he and Florence had not knowing anything about the true story this is based on and I couldn’t appreciate him more by the end.

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There’s plenty to be said for Meryl Streep’s performance as Florence because we are treated to a woman who is suffering, should be dead but survives her life because of passion. She lives on because of her hearts drive for music and the arts. That is what keeps her going and it’s the journey Streep takes us on as this suffering character who is purely a passionate being that is incredible. The interactions between characters is telling if you pay attention to her reactions. She is passion and the moment she senses any false emotion her expression and demeanor changes signaling to us the audience she is aware and feeling stifled, if not lied too. It’s her passion which inspires characters throughout the film, not her talents, to find something within themselves they might not have discovered otherwise.

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The overall story is a period piece set in New York City and the story does well to capture the time. I wasn’t distracted by minutia which can become overwhelming if done poorly in period piece films. I don’t want to be distracted by music that isn’t from that time or slang that represents modern day unless the piece is set in modern day. This film captured the 1940’s, including artists, slang and clothing style. I was completely taking in by this film.

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Florence Foster Jenkins” is in theaters now! If you enjoy character driven stories, or movies based on true events this will definitely wet your appetite for “Oscar” season. I did, at one point, wonder if people were cutting onions in the theater because I found myself getting a bit misty eyed towards the end. So, if you decide to enjoy this movie on the big screen you might ask the folks at the theater for the non-onion theater show times. It’s a touching film with a great cast and the story is about one woman’s passion for music and the arts and how that passion can inspire others, even strangers.

 

Hell or High Water – Box Office Review

I will continue to say that genre isn’t as important as story. It doesn’t matter if the story is Fantasy, Action, Science Fiction or in this particular case, a Western as long as the story is good. Movie goers want a story that will allow them to experience feelings and take their minds to a make believe world for an hour and twenty minutes or more. So let’s take a look at my thoughts of “Hell or High Water” in this box office review…

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This film is a modern day western with an attempt at adding a Robin Hood theme to it. I say attempt because the bank robbers aren’t giving the money to the poor, they’re just trying to creatively help their family using stolen money and established investment practices. The methods and tactics are well thought out and we are led to believe that people would be ok with bank robbery if they benefited from it because after all, banks are robbing the average man anyway. So in this story, I suppose, turn about is fair play, to a point.

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The cast in this film is dynamic. We have Jeff Bridges (who basically is playing the character he played in “True Grit”), Chris Pine and Ben Foster. The surprise performance for me was Chris Pine. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy his performance but his character develops nicely throughout the film and by the end we are seeing a different man than when the film started which was exactly what needed to happen. Ben Foster I am a huge fan of. Most people don’t remember his name but they do remember his face. He’s an actor that everyone asks “Who?” then when they see his face usually respond with “Oh, I love that guy! He was in…(insert any number of films).” He has so far always elevated the enjoyment of the films he’s in that I’ve seen. He’s an incredible supporting actor that only makes those he’s sharing screen time with better. This film is no exception. He really helps bring out the best in Chris Pine and adds a new dimension to his character that we might not otherwise get to experience. Foster’s character knows exactly who he is and acts his part to excellence all the way to the end of the film.

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Hell or High Water” is in theaters now! If you don’t mind some social commentary on the banking industry this film is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. If you hate banks you’ll appreciate this film even more and should probably see it twice just because. If you enjoy Westerns this is also a very entertaining modern version. It’s got some short comings in dialogue and some slower moments in the 2nd act but overall this was an enjoyable film.

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