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Two years ago, I was in the minority when I declared “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to be less than the sum of its parts. Eddie Redmayne was genuinely fantastic as the unassuming, socially awkward protagonist Newt Scamander, and he continues to shine in the sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Moreover, when the first film embraces the whimsical tone inherent to Scamander’s story, it works. Just as often, though, it gets buried in what I described in an old The Dartmouth review as “dour subplots,” most of them revolving around the terrorist reign of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. As the title of the sequel might suggest, the film goes full dark, ditching any possible whimsy as fast as possible. It also ditches compelling character motivation, flowing plot structure and just about everything else that once made the “Harry Potter” stories and their subsequent adaptations and spin-offs so beloved.
In Yosemite Valley, a massive rock formation looms over the sweeping vistas of picturesque splendor. Known as El Capitan, it towers 3000 feet high and commands the attention of all who pass by. For years, one member of that rapt audience has looked at El Capitan with a particularly audacious intent: to climb the sheer granite wall with no ropes, gear or safety equipment.
When I saw “The Old Man and the Gun” last weekend at The Nugget, I was easily one of the youngest people in the audience. The advanced age of the packed crowd was a surprise at first, but upon consideration, it makes sense why this movie appealed so much more to an older demographic; it’s supposedly Robert Redford’s last performance before his acting retirement. The older members of the crowd had most likely grown up with Redford as one of the most celebrated actors of their time — of all time, maybe — and now, in this small theater in Hanover, they were witnessing the last movie he’d ever act in.
It’s the day after Halloween, which obviously means we’re ready to plunge headfirst into the holiday season. This year, “Elf” is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, a holiday in and of itself. Whether revisiting the childhood favorite or seeing the movie for the first time, “Elf” is a classic that is always sure to get me in the Christmas spirit and excited for upcoming festivities. While not ground-breaking cinema, this movie provides the merriment typically expected of the holidays in the best way possible.
Director Damien Chazelle is quickly making a name for himself as the rightful heir to the throne of dramatic cinema. After his mesmerizing 2014 film “Whiplash” set the cinema world abuzz and his 2016 homage to Hollywood artistry and romance “La La Land” made him the youngest-ever recipient of the Academy Award for Best Director, Chazelle has catapulted to the forefront of directorial talent. His next test resides in “First Man,” an intense and engrossing film about astronaut Neil Armstrong and his accomplishment as the first human to walk on the moon. With “First Man,” Chazelle has made another triumphant film that evidences both his innate talent behind the camera as well as his uncanny ability to bring the best out of his on-screen actors.
When one thinks of the quintessential film serial killers, several names come to mind: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Leatherface, etc. However, one name that definitively has secured a place among the great horror movie characters is Michael Myers, “The Shape,” who returned to the big screen in September in this year’s reboot of the 1978 horror movie classic “Halloween.”
I love my Saturday afternoon naps. I really do. Six of the seven Saturdays that I’ve been on campus, I’ve spent buried under a pile of blankets in a coma-like state that I didn’t emerge from for at least three hours. If I don’t have my Saturday afternoon nap, there is a serious possibility I won’t have enough energy to power through the weekend. The one Saturday I didn’t nap was last weekend, when I saw “Bad Times at the El Royale.” Even though I knew very little about the movie and had no real expectations for it, it already had some stiff competition it needed to beat to make the experience worthwhile — because while it had moments of genuine entertainment, it failed to be a better time than a Saturday afternoon nap.
Over the past two years, no band has had a more meteoric rise in the world of rock and roll than the Michigan quartet Greta Van Fleet. Comprised of three brothers — Josh, Jake and Sam Kiszka — along with friend Danny Wagner, Greta Van Fleet has exploded from the small-town suburbia of Frankenmuth, Michigan to the international stage of modern rock and erumpent stardom. Propelled by two fiery EPs, 2017’s “Black Smoke Rising” and “From the Fires,” the band quickly caught mainstream attention for their classic rock revival sound rooted in a Led Zeppelin-esque penchant for thunderous riffs and singer Josh Kiszka’s distinctive howl, which is eerily reminiscent of the great Robert Plant. Unsurprisingly, this launch into the glorious orbit of rock and roll resulted in extremely high expectations and hype surrounding the band’s official debut album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army.”
“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – Colette
“Eating Animals” is an important film. Based on the 2009 book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, the documentary explores the subject of the American agricultural industry, a topic that’s often neglected in public discussions, and focuses on the highly troubling issue of the factory farming of poultry and livestock. It is a system whose bread and butter, so to speak, is the brutal and barbaric abuse of animals. However, it is one thing to know this as a fact, but it is an entirely different thing to see it happen.
Airing in July this past summer, HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” an adaption of “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn’s book of the same name, sets out to remind its audience of what is unique to the identity of the Midwestern United States and what is possible within the supposedly limited format of the miniseries. Following the story of St. Louis Chronicle journalist Camille Preaker, played by Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects” takes its audience on the journey of an investigative reporter who must vanquish her own demons while hunting down others. Assigned to report on a murder and a series of child disappearances in rural Missouri, Camille is forced to return to the fictional town of Wind Gap, Missouri, the hometown she had long left behind.
Simultaneously making readers want to revel in the narrative as long as possible while also powering on to the end of the tangled story, “Providence,” by Caroline Kepnes is a novel about love and obsession, full of gripping emotional detail and a compelling New England narrative backdrop.
“The Front Runner,” directed by Jason Reitman of “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and “Tully,” stars Hugh Jackman as U.S. senator Gary Hart during the final three weeks of his 1988 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The movie seeks to present the campaign, which is derailed by the reporting of Hart’s affair with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), as a turning point in our nation’s political sphere wherein a candidate’s personal life is used as a litmus test for their governing ability. Reitman is decidedly on a soapbox, but he does not have a clear stance on whether or not we are better for the investigative reporting that brings cameras into bedrooms and back alleys.
One of my fondest memories of my senior year of high school is when my English class read, performed and studied William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy “King Lear.” At that time, the play captivated me with its stark and honest portrayal of human fallibility and tragic loss and it quickly became one of my favorite works of literature. Naturally, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to watch legendary British actor Ian McKellen star as the titular Lear in a performance broadcast live from London to the Black Family Visual Arts Center this past Sunday evening.
Fame. Depression. Passion. Music. Love. The newest remake of A Star is Born (Cooper, 2018) revolves around these central themes and gives new meaning to each one. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut features himself as Jackson Maine, an alcoholic country star, and Lady Gaga as Ally, a waitress with a voice of gold.
When I was eight years old, I begged my mom for weeks to let me see “Iron Man.” I remember the excitement I felt when she finally relented and said yes. I saw it opening weekend, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. That moment began a 10-year love affair with superhero movies that, while tested at times, is still going strong. “Venom” is one such movie that tests that love.
There’s crazy, there’s satire, there’s dystopian and then there’s “Sorry to Bother You.” Musician Boots Riley’s 2018 directorial debut takes place in an alternate universe’s Oakland — but don’t let the term “alternate universe” fool you. The film is a funhouse mirror for our world that only reflects everything going on in our reality.
“I have a hangover that is a real museum piece,” Lee Israel writes, imitating writer Dorothy Parker in a particularly famous forgery of Parker’s letters. Israel, a biographer who became a literary forger in the 1990s as her writing career came to a standstill, is the subject of the Telluride selected film, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Melissa McCarthy gives incredible nuance to her role as Israel, offering both sympathy and humor to her portrayal.
Is it indie pop? Techno? R&B? Hip-hop? Blood Orange’s new album “Negro Swan” revives Devonte Hynes’s genre-transcending sound with an earnest meditation on the state of those existing on the fringes of society.
Spike Lee’s latest film, “BlacKkKlansman” is very much a movie created for and about the current American political and racial environment. Though set in the 1970s, Lee’s film is an unsubtle indictment of a Trumpian America that finds itself battling a harsh racial divide despite expectations that our progress and modernity should have left such racism behind long ago.