Figuring All This Out Will Take Some "Fortitude" Review

In the proud tradition of atmospheric small town murder mysteries like Twin Peaks and Broadchurch comes Fortitude, a twelve-episode thriller from the UK’s Sky Atlantic. Like those aforementioned dramas, this show takes its name from its absolutely singular setting--a fictional town situated on the Arctic Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Barely a century old and with only about 800 inhabitants, Fortitude is a peaceful and uneventful place apart from the occasional incursion of polar bears. (Indeed, residents are forbidden from going out into the wilderness without a rifle for protection from the beasts.) The isolated island has never seen a violent crime--that is, until scientific researcher Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston) is brutally murdered in his home.

Jun
20
2015
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No More Will This Plague Be "Forgotten" Review

The Forgotten Plague is the latest in the American Experience series of documentaries. Airing on PBS, each of these films delves deep to tell the story of something or someone that has impacted American life, ranging from Walt Disney to the Vietnam War. Written, produced and directed by Chana Gazit, who is also responsible for episodes that dealt with the Dust Bowl and the Pill, among others, The Forgotten Plague chronicles the history of tuberculosis. Alternatively referred to as consumption, the disease plagued people as far back as ancient Greece, appearing to be everywhere and seeming impossible to eliminate. Based partially upon the book Living in the Shadow of Death by Sheila Rothman, The Forgotten Plague interviews historians, scientists and even survivors of sanatoriums to show how this disease, as terrible as it was, shaped modern America as we know it by being an instigator for expansion, innovation and discovery.

Jun
19
2015
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After 25 Years, "Goodfellas" Finally Comes Home For Its Shinebox Review

On April 25th, at the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival closed out in a big way with the 4K restoration of Martin Scorsese’s virtuoso crime epic, GoodFellas. Audiences watched wide-eyed as they were treated to a trip down memory lane, revisiting the master director’s explosive entrance to a new decade originally released in 1990, leaving no doubt that he was still at the top of his game and redefining storytelling, genres, and cinema itself. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) always wanted to be a gangster. Starting in his childhood neighborhood, idolizing the local hoods, led by Paul Sorvino’s “Paulie” Circero. One of the film’s narrative threds is hit early, when Hill recites the mafia’s mantra: “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.” Oh, how far he has to go.

Jun
19
2015
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Preoccupation With Babes Keeps This Stuck In The "Muck" Review

When a film prominently advertises that the 2012 Playboy Playmate of the Year is in its cast, you can generally suspect what kind of experience awaits you. When the opening credits roll over footage of a topless woman stumbling around a field, her face obscured so that she is literally no more than a pair of breasts, your suspicions are immediately confirmed. Such is Muck, an indie horror flick more interested in sexy women than scares. The debut feature from writer/director Steve Wolsh, it chronicles what happens to a group of hot young things in the fictional Cape Cod town of West Craven (yup) as they are terrorized by a mysterious killer (played by Kane Hodder, a stuntman and horror icon best known for playing Jason Voorhees in four of the Friday the 13th movies). Spoiler alert: Most of them die, in brutal and barbaric fashion.

Jun
18
2015
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Despite Expanding from a Mere "Park", "Jurassic World" Still Feels Overstuffed Review

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the manager of Jurassic World, a theme park featuring live dinosaurs. At the start of Jurassic World, she is juggling three major crises. First, her boss Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is pushing for bigger, scarier dinosaurs to feature in the park, and the new genetically enhanced dinosaur, the Indominous Rex, is proving difficult to handle, even in containment. Second, outside forces have more nefarious purposes for genetically-enhanced dinosaurs than entertaining tourists. Thirdly, the resort and park are packed with guests, including Claire’s visiting nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), who Claire has not seen in years. When the Indominous Rex gets loose and starts killing everything in sight, including other dinosaurs, Claire has to team up with Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor wrangler and her ex-boyfriend, to take down the Indominous Rex and save her nephews as well as the other 21,000 tourists on the island.

Jun
16
2015
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Just Go Ahead And "Jump Street" Review

After the events of 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back on the force and busting drug dealers, or at least trying to. When a trafficking bust goes bad, however, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) decides that they should just go back to their old formula from 21 Jump Street and see if magic happens twice, with a much bigger budget. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) finds a drug case that looks just like their high school case from before, except that this time, Schmidt and Jenko are going to college. As Dickson and Hardy say to stick to the formula, though, Schmidt and Jenko discover that this case won’t be solved by retreading their first case, and their friendship might not survive fraternity life.

Jun
12
2015
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Who'll Get To Sit In "The Chair"? Review

I think it's a cool idea.

Chris Moore, the producer of Good Will Hunting (1997) and many other major films, had an idea to make a television show following two directors who create a film from the same original script. In a world of many disgusting "reality" premises, this one promises to be genuinely interesting and informative of the creative process. And so, for the most part, The Chair (2014) delivers on that promise. They choose Shane Dawson, a YouTube grinder who makes daily, whacky videos for his 10 million subscribers, and Anna Martemucci, a screenwriter with whom the show's producers have made films in the past. So, the show brings a level of meta-realism in the two paths to the director's chair: popular band-wagoning and semi-justified favoritism. Incidentally, at the end of the series they "America" vote for their favorite and the winner gets $250,000.

Jun
12
2015
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An "Outcast" Among Historians Review

Nobody goes East.

Oomph. Outcast (2014) follows Jacob (Hayden Christensen), a knight--possibly Templar--on crusade. That's what I assume anyway because it's the "12th century" in "the Middle East". Since there were numerous crusades during the 12th century, I can't be any more specific than that. What is important, it seems, is that they wore tunics and killed people in the name of God. With him on crusade is Gallian (Nicolas Cage), a rather jaded crusader who finds all this hypocritical and seems only to be following Jacob as a protector. During the introductory battle, some rather dreadful things happen that cause Jacob to head eastward and become an opium addict. Three years later, in "the Far East", Jacob becomes protector to a young Chinese King (Bill Su Jiahang) and his sister (Yifei Liu) who are on the run from their bloodthirsty brother (Andy On).

Jun
12
2015
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Poor Translation Keeps "Ships" From Sailing Review

No need for trust. Believing is enough.

Ali (Ugur Uzunel) is experiencing a debilitating dose of ennui. His father wants him to settle down and help him run his business, but Ali has no interest in that whatsoever. Instead, Ali is consumed by his dreams of a cargo ship named Vamos that he thinks will take him off to his true purpose in life. Eda (M. Sitare Akbas) is a young graffiti artist that seems to be painting the same ship that Ali sees in his dreams. The two meet and agree to find the ship and leave together. Eda is having trouble at home as her father has returned, apparently after years of unexplained absence, and her mother embraces the chance to have the family back together again. I'm not sure what the fish meant, though.

Jun
07
2015
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No Rest For "The Overnighters" Review

The Overnighters, Jesse Moss's documentary feature, earned many comparisons to The Grapes Of Wrath upon release last year, and at first glance seems to merit them. Its portrait of impoverished Americans migrating to North Dakota in search of work recalls that novel and film's almost Biblical image of California as the land of milk and honey, and its central figure Jay Reinke seems cast in the part of its Christ figure Jim Casey. Reinke, however, is a far darker and more conflicted character than any of Steinbeck's migrants, and the sentences of his trials more ambiguous in their meaning.

Jun
06
2015
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