If there is any film that deserved to the quintessential coming-of-age, high school film, it is most definitely Lady Bird. Not only does it evoke memories of the audiences’ own experiences throughout their late childhood, but it does so without needing to resort to a fabricated, fantastical idea of what that time in your life is like. It is not a forced and exaggerated adventure, like the kind made popular with Mean Girls (2004), Easy A (2010) or Paper Towns (2015) – this is the story of wanting an adventure, and realizing that you have been living one all along. It might not be amazing or world-changing, but it is your life that is changing, and stepping back to watch it happening to someone else makes you realize just how wonderful that stage of life was, even when it hurt.
Even if you’ve never actually attended a murder-mystery Victorian dinner party, you’ve always dreamed about one and how fun it would be. Murder on the Orient Express is that dinner party in every way – colorful, rich, and with some questionable backstories and plot points that seem a little too much at times, but are fun enough to waste a couple of hours on. The film relies mostly on visuals and setting to draw the audience in, plopping you right in the center of this 1930s-style mystery, and hoping this will be enough to distract you from just how lost you are trying to keep all of the characters straight. You don’t necessarily have to read Agatha Christie’s novel to appreciate this story (though its reputation highly suggests that you do anyway), and even though the story is not necessarily a twist on the murder-mystery genre, the ending still could be. I made three or four guesses about the true identity of the killer, and additions and changes from the novel put even the biggest Christie fans in the dark.
*Warning: Slight Spoilers*
I’ve always had a difficult time with dark comedies because I can’t tell what is actually intended to be funny versus what is intended to be mocked. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tiptoes across this line very carefully, but that makes whether or not you like the movie a bit confusing. Are you actually supposed to like this character, or is it supposed to be a commentary on this job or that circumstance? But the dark comedy is what you’re meant to focus on, because this is not a movie where the attention is on the case being solved, the killer caught, and justice doled out for the girl who was murdered. That is not the point of the movie – we’re focusing on the effect of an unsolved case and a mother’s grief, not the cause of it. We don’t even witness the murder that is the center of the story; the daughter in question only appears in one scene. You watch to see the effect of the murder and billboards on the community (a ridiculously small one, apparently), and the combination of comedy and darkness sometimes works, and sometimes stutters.
There are certain movies that you go to if you want to enjoy yourself, but this is not one of them. You should not enjoy yourself watching Detroit because it sheds light on a dark time in this country’s history and tries to uncover one of the most terrible nights that the city of Detroit has ever encountered. Director Kathryn Bigelow takes the difficult topic and does not hold back, showing the audience every gritty detail of a night whose details are still questioned. This dark biopic that echoes with more recent events, such as the Ferguson riots, does not aim to entertain us, and nor should it. You watch this movie to gain a better understanding of both a time that has passed and of a time we are currently living in, and hopefully learning a lesson from it. While some execution may be heavy-handed, perhaps that is what is required to truly make the lesson sink in.
Sadly, the next few years of Pixar films are going to be entirely based on sequels and/or reboots. Some of them are eagerly anticipated (like The Incredibles 2, I can’t believe it took us fourteen years to get it), and others are almost feared (I don’t even want to ask what they’re going to do to the Toy Story series with the fourth installment…), but all of them pale in comparison to the idea of having an original, beautiful film. Coco is that beautiful and original film, one of the best that Pixar has ever given us, in my opinion, and it just reminds us that we won’t be seeing anything quite like it for several more years. Though some Pixar tropes are certainly present, the heart and beauty of the film are more than enough to remind us of Pixar’s talent, and we are drawn into a world of culture and love that hold firm in our hearts, even if it is not a culture that we have lived in all of our lives.
Happy holidays to all of you ReelTalk fans! It’s that time of year where you are ready to curl up and avoid the cold outside, and what better way to do so than by traveling to your local theater and partaking in the wonders of the big screen? Sure, you have to go outside to get there, but there are some stories you can’t just see small.
*Warning: Potential Spoilers*
In a story, it is not enough to start out with a really great premise; there needs to be a satisfactory end to follow it up. Not necessarily a happy ending, mind you, but one that feels as though the time you’ve spent (in this case, almost two hours) has not been completely wasted. The ending of The Mountain Between Us does not really provide us with that feeling of “wow, that is a great way to end the story.” While we don’t necessarily want the film to go on any longer (it already feels pretty long as is), the ending doesn’t feel natural either, as though there’s a piece missing that got left up on the mountain. What starts out really well just ends up fizzling and sputtering, and no amount of enjoying Idris Elba’s voice or staring at gorgeous scenery is going to change the fact that we feel a little empty at the end. To be fair, I don’t know how I would have wanted the story to end, or what could have been done to make me feel more satisfied with the story I got, and maybe the writers couldn’t figure that out either. But in the end, I want to be told a story, and at the end of the story, I want to feel as though there was something to hold on to, good or bad. I don’t feel anything, and for a tale meant to be moving and impactful, that’s just disappointing.