Movie Review: Captain America – Civil War

Captain America: Civil War - property of Marvel Studios - movie poster - from

Before I’d ever heard of the Marvel comic event that would eventually beget this film, I had a vision of a superhero story where collateral damage is used as an excuse to discredit superheroes and to call for their arrest or cessation. Captain America: Civil War more or less is that story, and its often serious tone makes for a compelling if sometimes emotionally unforgiving story that strikes a healthy balance between being fun, without being irresponsible (usually), and being introspective, without being depressing.

As did the Avengers films, Captain America in many ways feels like a sequel to the Iron Man films and several other stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as a foretaste of what the franchise will hold in the years to come–but rather than simply being a series of movie-length advertisements and product placements, Civil War feels more like the unfolding of a diverse array of character beliefs and motivations that have become increasingly morally difficult to reconcile. Even though some aspects of the premise feel thinly constructed and halfhearted, the movie finds enough value in its action and its interpersonal stories to excuse the gaps in its foundation. If you’re a longtime Marvel follower seeking a realistic treatment of superheroes that isn’t as dark as DC’s Watchmen, this is that story.

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Movie Review: Ratchet and Clank

Ratchet & Clank - property of Gramercy Pictures and Rainmaker Entertainment - movie poster - from

Movies┬ábased on video games rarely receive warm welcomes, but Ratchet & Clank’s earnest treatment of a well-worn heroic journey is best described as forgettable but not awful: many of the jokes and action scenes feel like they’re working against their own film, but the whole production stays focused and makes too many acceptable design decisions to collapse entirely.

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Dedicated Review: Wolf Children

Wolf Children - movie poster - property of property of Nippon Television Network, Studio Chizu, Madhouse, et al. - from
This review is dedicated to my longtime best friend–a lover of wolves, a conservationist, and an anime fan. And, very recently, the birthday girl!

Director and co-writer Mamoru Hosoda delivers in Wolf Children a gem of an ode to the heartrending challenges and unimaginable joys of parenthood. Hana is a university student who falls in love with a kindhearted man who gives her a daughter and son–and also happens to be a wolf–but is taken from her all too soon. Enduring through her tears, Hana gathers every ounce of her strength and determines to make a life for her unusual family, and to raise her children into wonderful people who would make their father very proud, wherever they may go and whatever they may be.

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Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - movie poster - property of Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, Truenorth Productions - from Star Wars official site

Director J.J. Abrams once said that as a youth he enjoyed Star Wars more than the Star Trek franchise he’s dabbled in, and the high-energy antics he brought to the latter franchise find the warmest of welcomes in George Lucas’ time-honored saga.

The Force Awakens feels reverent of its venerable legacy even to an arguable fault, yet thanks to its wide variety of compelling characters, interesting themes, amazing art designs, and epic battles, beyond a shadow of a doubt Star Wars’ latest entry provides a suitable and stunning look at what the renowned original films might have been like if they had been made today.

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Movie Review: Sicario

Sicario - movie poster - Black Label Media, Lionsgate, Thunder Road Pictures - from

(It feels so good to finally make time to finish a post I’d been too busy to work on for two months.)

After FBI agent Kate Macer gets drawn into a conflict south of the Tex-Mex border, she learns that the war on drugs is much more complicated, and much more tragic, than any one side could have planned for.

The Denis Villeneuve-directed Sicariohitman–excels as a thriller, as a setting and atmosphere showcase, and most importantly as a message, whose predictable yet unpredictable narrative delivers endless questions but always works to invite empathy among all its horror.

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Movie Review: The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises - Studio Ghibli et al. - movie poster - from

There is more to be said about Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of the prestigious Studio Ghibli, than could ever be put into reviews of all of his movies, let alone of one, and never mind his last. The Wind Rises, a dramatized but elegant biography of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, is an artistically gorgeous send-off with some notable writing and pacing issues; despite feeling thematically divided and in some places unpolished, the film for the most part does prove itself worthy of Miyazaki’s name and of a place in his decades-spanning animated canon.

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Mental Wellness in Movies: Inside Out

Pixar Animation Studios - Inside Out - movie poster - from

Life is a bundle of changes for 11-year-old Riley Anderson. A new home, a new state, a new school, a new group of friends. And change can be a scary thing, especially when it comes at a cost. Riley’s unstable circumstances affect how she relates not only to other people but to her own disorganized emotions, and in developing its heroine so strongly as a character and a human being, Pixar’s latest film Inside Out distinguishes itself not merely as one of the long-acclaimed studio’s finest films, but also as one of the most thematically mature and important animated films to come along in a while.

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Dedicated Review: The Fifth Element

Gaumont - The Fifth Element - movie poster - from

Forget May the Fourth, how about some Fifth? This post is dedicated to a dear friend of mine who loves this movie, has a birthday today, and is currently on a mission trip halfway around the world. You can see a sample of the work she is doing for the Lord and for people here.

Korben Dallas is your ordinary 23rd-century taxi driver who has an unexpected encounter with a gorgeous girl who so happens to be key to saving the universe. Aliens and a greater evil are threatening innocent people everywhere, and they and the rest of this delightfully absurd but thoroughly messed-up film are about to learn why you just don’t mess with Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich … or Chris Tucker.

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Movie Review: Avengers – Age of Ultron

Marvel Studios - Avengers: Age of Ultron - movie poster - from

Artificial intelligence really is a doozy–every time you turn around, it seems another robot has turned rogue on its well-meaning maker and needs to be put down. Who better to do the job than Marvel’s delightfully imperfect and thoroughly lovable Avengers, and who better to be responsible than … Tony Stark? Besides demonstrating the clear dangers of a lack of communication, Age of Ultron improves on its excellent predecessor in essentially every way and manages to add in a bigger heart and a greater sense of groundedness in the process, making this a prime example of what a summer superhero film can be.

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[Something Irish for Saint Patrick’s Day!] Movie Review: Once

Once - Fox Searchlight Pictures, Summit Entertainment, and Samson Films - movie poster - from

A romance broken down to its basic elements, rebuilt with the utmost conviction, and then given a much more forward-thinking ending than you might expect: this is Once, a modern musical set in Dublin where intimacy is expressed through devotion and attention, not through shed clothes. Two people become acquainted, spend time with one another, work hard to create something greater than what either could have done alone, and respect and appreciate one another no matter where their lives happen to lead. And sometimes that’s all a movie needs to be an utter success.

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