Rick Famuyiwa’s high school comedy about avoiding gang trouble while finding one’s voice hits its stride early and doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. Shameik Moore as Malcolm gives a performance strong enough to keep us concerned with his high school trials: can he get his Harvard entrance essay completed and unload a few kilos of molly he’s found in his backpack?
Sometimes we look through the overlooked movies and find hidden gems, but Will Bigham’s debut, The A-List, isn’t one of those. As a comedy about the downside to popularity in high-school, it is too predictable with too few memorable moments to recommend to any but the most die-hard fans of teen movies.
More thoughtful than I anticipated, Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam’s documentary takes us inside a gaming addiction treatment facility in China. While it never digs sufficiently into details to be an exposé of a potential sham, the human story is compelling enough to draw one in. The audience is left uncertain whether or not the boys and their families suffer from a real clinical addiction or from social overreaction to contemporary teenage behavior, but it is difficult not to feel a sense that something is wrong with a world that creates compelling virtual universes for people to escape into and then unfairly institutionalizes those who try to escape there too often.
As a children’s film, Kenneth Branaugh’s live action Cinderella is probably worth a visit for the high production values, lush sets, gorgeous costumes, and magical CGI. For adults, however, the movie offers nothing more than Disney’s take on the story from 1950 with no noteworthy changes that might offer a new perspective on the same old story.
Matthew Vaughn returns to familiar territory with Kingsman. With violence and a sexual reference guaranteed to earn an R-rating, but a story clearly aimed a teens, one wonders if the whole project was worth the effort.
Youth really does seem wasted on the young in CM Birkmeier’s drama about the end of a two year relationship. In Bloom starts slowly, but gets more lively after the separation. It makes me wish they’d ended it earlier and had some fun moving on.
True to the storied bear’s origin, funny and cinematically sophisticated, Paul King’s Paddington is a children’s film that actually works. Great care obviously went into the production, with effects placed into a children’s live action film at levels of quality I have not seen since Hugo. What is “real” and what is the effects team’s imagination blend almost seamlessly.
There should be a rich vein of comedy to mine in a send-up of American foreign policy hubris, press incompetence, manipulation and petty dictatorships, but The Interview fails to dig deep enough to make it sting and make us laugh. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have all the ingredients of a farce, but rely on the well-worn stoner-womanizer personas of the leads too often to take the film into more interesting territory.
If one could enjoy a movie for mood and setting alone, Inherent Vice may be the masterpiece of the year. It is America of of 1970 that director P.T. Anderson is laying out, that time of hazy drugs and confused meanings when the entire country seemed to have completely lost the post-war plot. That the rootlessness of the times overwhelms the characters is understandable, but at 2 1/2 hours, viewers may become restless at the meandering developments that always seem to be leading somewhere, but which never reach any specific conclusion.
The first in a periodic series of reviews of films celebrating milestones in 2015
Release Date: January 25, 1995
It is difficult to believe that The Usual Suspects is 20 already. Bryan Singer’s mid-1990s pulp about five criminals attempting a heist to save their lives seemed to be pointing the way toward a noir future when it was released. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about a twist ending that “we never saw coming.” Sure it wasn’t The Crying Game (1992) levels of twisted, but I think we were out of the practice of watching suspense tales unfold, so the question of “Who Is Keyser Soze?…If he even exists” was fresh for us without long film memories at the time.
Kevin Spacey won his first Oscar for his role in the film. Christopher McQuarrie also won an Oscar for original screenplay. Both screenwriter and director would pair up again several times in much bigger budget fare – most notably X-Men, Jack, the Giant Slayer, and Valkyrie. As far as independent movies go, it could be considered a success. Below are four questions to contemplate at 20: