Best of 2017: “Baby Driver” & “Lady Bird” Offer a Fresh Take on Old Tropes

Image courtesy of people.com.

Film Review: “Baby Driver,” directed by Edgar Wright, 2017; “Lady Bird,” directed by Greta Gerwig, 2017

In 2017, two films featuring young protagonists broke the mold to give same old same old tropes a fresh take. In “Baby Driver,” the creative use of music made it an extraordinary heist film, while the unlikely focus of “Lady Bird” on mother-daughter relationship set it apart from other coming-of-age movies. The two films are among the best and most original of last year’s crop of films. (more…)

Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone’s “La La Land”: Perfect Antidote to Gloom of 2016

Photo courtesy of IMDB.

Photo courtesy of IMDB.

Film Review: La La Land,” directed by Damien Chazelle, 2016; winner of seven Golden Globe awards.

“La La Land,” released at the end of 2016, was the right movie at the right time for many Americans like me in want of hope and inspiration, no matter how fleeting. Only the truly cynical and jaded heart would remain untouched by Damien Chazelle’s beautiful film. (more…)

Brie Larson’s “Room” Captures the Novel’s Extraordinary Voice

Room Movie PosterFilm Review: “Room,” directed by Lenny Abrahamson, 2015

When I read Emma Donoghue’s brilliant novel a few years ago, I thought its claustrophobic setting and 5-year-old narrator made the book impossible to turn into a movie. Thank goodness, I was wrong. Lenny Abrahamson’s film succeeds in capturing the book’s positive spirit and the young protagonist’s sense of wonder. (more…)

Natalie Portman’s Feminist Western Deserves More Attention

JGAG PosterFilm Review: Jane Got a Gun,” directed by Gavin O’Connor, 2015

The Hollywood western is the ultimate American film genre, full of maverick heroes and brutish villains amid a sprawling frontier landscape. “Jane Got a Gun” delivers all of that—from the perspective of a young woman protecting her family and home. (more…)

“The Martian” Makes Science Fiction Fun with its Huge Dose of Humor

MartianBookCover-CindyFazziPicFilm Review: “The Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott, 2015

Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” opens with a real downer. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind on Mars by his crew, believing he’d died in a storm. I almost expected a gross scenario to follow in the style of “Alien” and “Prometheus,” the other science-fiction films by Scott. But, no, happily this movie is a lot more fun than those two films combined. (more…)

Jake Gyllenhaal Matures as an Actor in “Southpaw”

SouthpawFilm Review: “Southpaw,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, 2015

There’s nothing more conventional than a boxing movie. From “Rocky” to “The Fighter,” we know what we’re going to get: a good fight. “Southpaw” delivers exactly that. It’s tough and comforting at the same time. (more…)

After 36 Years, “Mad Max” Returns as a Feminist in a Movie about Women

MadMaxMag-CindyFazziFilm Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” directed by George Miller, 2015

It’s risky to infuse a huge Hollywood film with a political message. It takes a visionary director like George Miller to reboot his “Mad Max” franchise with an unabashed feminist theme. (more…)

“St. Vincent”: Bill Murray Gets Better and Better with Age

St. Vincent-CindyFazziPicFilm Review: “St. Vincent” directed by Theodore Melfi, 2014

We’re all familiar with the curmudgeon character made popular by Archie Bunker on TV. Clint Eastwood played a similar character in “Gran Torino” and “Trouble with the Curve.” In “St. Vincent,” Bill Murray’s cantankerous neighbor is a refreshing take on the trope. (more…)

Christian Bale’s “Out of the Furnace” is a Cinematic Slow Burn that Shines Brightly

OutoftheFurnace-CindyFazziphotoFilm Review: “Out of the Furnace,” directed by Scott Cooper, 2013

“Out of the Furnace” is not the kind of movie that jumps on you. It’s a cinematic slow burn that grows on you. The film, set in the steel town of Braddock, Pa., is about the Baze brothers—Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck). (more…)

“Dead Poets Society”: Robin Williams Will Stay “O Captain, My Captain” in Our Hearts

Film Review: “Dead Poets Society,” directed by Peter Weir, 1989

Dead Poets SocietyAlthough “Dead Poets Society” is set in a boys’ prep school in Vermont in 1959, moviegoers relate to it because it puts them squarely on a familiar ground. Most people remember a teacher like John Keating (Robin Williams) who changes his students’ lives. In every school, there’s a passionate soul like Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), a painfully shy kid like Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), and a rebel like Nuwanda (Gale Hansen). (more…)