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In the Spotlight: 20 Films to Watch for in 2016

January 11, 2016

In TheFocusedFilmographer’s Spotlight: 20 Films You Might Not Have Known About For 2016OLEDspotlights-384x225

Initially, I intended for this article to feature the top most-hyped films of 2016 that I expect to disappoint/flop (and there are several that I believe to be over-hyped). There are tons of films slated to release this year. Some will excite and some will disappoint.

However, after reading several redundant articles that featured almost all of the same “most anticipated films of 2016”, I decided to shed some light on some not-so well-known upcoming films to keep an eye out for in 2016 instead. Among the flurry of films that is full of sequels, franchise-continuations and superhero movies lie several unique-looking theatrical offerings that you may wish to see. If you grow weary of the sequels and superheroes, or wish to seek out some originality this year, then this list is for you! Bookmark it, save it, share it, enjoy it! (Click the jump to continue reading) Read more…

Review- The Revenant

January 9, 2016

 

revenantThe Revenant.

  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained, Inception), Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Inception), Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, About Time) and more.
  • Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel, 21 Grams)
  • Synopsis: “Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. Written by 20th Century Fox
  • Rating: Rated R for intense sequences, violence, blood/gore, language, brief nudity and some disturbing images including sexual assault.
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

Let me begin this review by saying this film is not for the faint of heart. The lengths to which actor Leonardo DiCaprio goes while portraying the frontiersman Hugh Glass during his expedition in the wilderness is intense. This “BOATS” (Based On A True Story) tale of survival is raw, rugged, revengeful and rather unrelenting in telling the events of Hugh Glass’s account of his gruesome and gritty 80-day quest in the 1820’s northern wilderness of the United States.

This may just be one of my most favorite roles that DiCaprio has ever taken on. His performance made me forget, at times, that it was him.revenant2 DiCaprio made me believe he was Hugh Glass and that he was going through the exact same peril that he portrayed. He embodied the essence of Glass and, while he may not win any awards or accolades for this film officially, I applaud his work. List other survival films that rely heavily upon the performance of a singular actor (i.e. 127 Hours, Buried, All is Lost, Into the Wild, Castaway, Life of Pi, etc) and it can be noted that the film’s success and/or failure in its storytelling largely rides on the believability of the main character’s performance. The Revenant belongs in the upper echelon of lists of survival films that excel in this aspect. (One of the best performances of the year!)

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu introduces viewers into the rough wilderness of the 1820’s in a manner that refuses to allow the audience to forget the rugged and rough conditions that existed.the-revenant-image-leonardo-dicaprio-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu In this, he creates a character in that of the wilderness itself -its unforgiving and unrelenting nature. Immersed into the environment, it created an experience that caused me to grimace, squirm and possibly look away or bite a nail or two during certain scenes that seemed all the more real due to the direction and cinematography used for the storytelling. The violence (both through fighting and through the conditions of the terrain) is in-your-face, realistic, and, at times, extreme. Where Iñárritu tends to lose his way is in the (what I call) “Malick Moves” in which the style emulates that of director Terrence Malick with certain scenes throughout involving visions and unnecessary slow pans of nature and flashbacks that lend little to the overall tale and cause the film to be drawn out longer than necessary for “art’s sake.”

The film benefits from not only DiCaprio but also a great supporting cast. Tom Hardy plays another accent-toting “Tom Hardy” character that does end up being both a great motivator and villain…perhaps second only to the wilderness itself. Another performance of note is that of Will Poulter who is known more for lighter roles than this. He adds yet another genre to his repertoire of formidable character types. All in all, the supporting cast do exactly that…they support the telling of this incredible tale of survival and revenge and do so without distracting. revenant-nrimages-04-gallery

If you have not read the book already (The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge), this film will make you want to. The terrible and life-threatening mauling that Glass received from a bear in the wilderness is far from the only danger that he faced. And while the film makes that scene with the bear one of the worst and toughest realistic scenes I have sat through in a film, he faced far more…and fought back. (And they say that Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day!)

When it comes to survival tales and films based on true stories, The Revenant impresses in nearly every aspect: cast, characters, screenplay, look & feel, etc. Aside from its lengthy runtime of 156 minutes that lacked certain editing, it draws viewers into the rugged uncharted wilderness of the 1820’s and guides through the story making for an unforgettable “shared” experience (if you will) that highlights the strength and perseverance of the human spirit, struggle for survival and the power that love for another can bring to each. You do not want to miss this one on the big screen. Go…Now!!

My Score: 4 out of 5 stars for The Revenant.

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(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 250 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)

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Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

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T, The Focused Filmographer

Hello! Remember Me? Happy New Year!

January 2, 2016

Hello All! Hi! Remember me?
elf-waving

It’s hard to believe it has been a whole year since my last post. Admittedly life happened and demands on time overwhelmed this movie-enthusiast and then, BOOM! just about a whole year passed without a blog post from your friendly Focused Filmographer! (the last post was dated January 4, 2015! Yikes!!!)tumblr_m7zsj1rdbl1rsy50k

Well, if you are still around, Thank you! Hopefully some of you still continued to follow my constant intermittent stream of posts on social media (Twitter and Facebook).ff fb

I wanted to wish you all very Happy New Year and to let you know that more posts and reviews are coming in 2016. I saw some stinkers in 2015 (and some good films) and want to be sure to help steer you back on the right path when it comes to films!happy-new-year-2016-animation-live-love-wallpaper-in-hd-2

Bear with me as I re-acquaint myself with the new layouts and schedule, etc. but Stay Tuned! TheFocusedFilmographer returneth! :)

T, The Focused Filmographer

TheFocusedFilmographer’s Choice Awards: Best & Worst Movie Picks of 2014

January 4, 2015

Today is the fourth day of 2015! Wow! Seems like just yesterday I was posting 2011’s, 2012’s and 2013’s!

It is time to present my CHOICE AWARDS for Best & Worst picks of 2014!2014 movies

*(As a reminder, any words in gold serve as clickable links to the referenced article.)

Hey, just in case you didn’t know…2015 is here and that means that one of the more disappointing years in movies of recent is complete. Seriously, did you know that 2014 had some of the lowest numbers of moviegoers in a long time? Maybe that’s because of the quality of films released…hmmm. 2014 had so much potential in the theaters…but you made it, from Europe, to Legoland, to Cancun to Middle Earth and back!

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Congratulations. :)

Happy New Year!

With the new year comes tons of posts around the web about the best and worst of 2014 and the expectations for 2015. This past year, I realized that I did not watch as many theatrical releases myself as in years past. Seeing the Golden Globe nominations made me VERY aware of that fact. But, nonetheless, I still saw my fair share of stinkers, silly sequels, super successes and surprises. How about you?sincity22

 

Some actors had some amazing breakthroughs in 2014 (Nice work, Chris Pratt, Channing Tatum, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Steve Carell!)Foxcatcher-movie-article

…while others didn’t even make their presence known: Anybody hear from Ryan Gosling this year?…what about Sandra Bullock after her performance full of gravitas last year? sandrab

2014 gave us plenty more sequels (as is the trend in Hollywood). Over 25 hit the theaters during the year! sequels

2014 also introduced us to some new franchises…some we could only WISH would not continue!new

The Top Ten of 2014 releases included several sequels! Check out the results from 2014!

Top 10 WORLDWIDE Box Office Results of 2014:

EXTRA! EXTRA!  Read All About It!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It!

  1. Transformers: Age of Extinction -$1.1 BILLION
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy -$772M
  3. Maleficent -$757M
  4. X-Men: Days of Future Past -$746M
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier -$714M
  6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -$708.9M
  7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -$708.2M
  8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, pt 1 -$679M
  9. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies -$665M
  10. Interstellar -$651M

Wouldn’t you know, Interstellar is the only through and through original that landed in the Top Ten! Also, The Hobbit finale landed in the Top Ten (as a December release) in the exact same spot as the 2nd Hobbit did in 2013: #9. I’m not sure yet how I feel about Transformers#4 taking #1. But congrats nonetheless!

How many new releases did you watch this past year? This year I watched just over 60 new releases (which is good for just under 30% of the 220 theatrical releases of 2014), and over 200 movies overall. Wow! How about YOU?

You can always visit my list of films/reviews (called “The Archive“) HERE!

Just for you, as is tradition, I have compiled a list of just 100 movies that released in 2014 split into 4 categories (25 each). My own personal lists of:

  • (1) 25 Movies I’m Glad I Saw
  • (2) 25 Movies I Missed…but wanted to see
  • (3) 25 Movies I wish I could “Un-see”
  • (4) 25 Movies I’m glad I missed

The movies are not listed in any order of preference, the fact that they are on the lists speaks to my desire or distaste for the film…if I’m GLAD I saw it, or not, etc. These are my choices, hence the title: The Focused Filmographer Choice Awards!

Here we go:

(1) Top 25 Movies I’m Glad I Saw in 2014: The LEGO Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Chef, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Interstellar, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1., The Other Woman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hercules, The Maze Runner, The Equalizer, Godzilla, How to Train Your Dragon 2, God’s Not Dead, Snowpiercer, Fury, Ride Along, Big Hero 6 and John Wick.

(2) Top 25 Movies I Missed…but wanted to see…in 2014: Get On Up, Frank, Unbroken, The November Man, The Rover, Laggies, Foxcatcher, This is Where I Leave You, Boyhood, A Most Wanted Man, The Judge, Wish I Was Here, Birdman, The Drop, Kill the Messenger, The Imitation Game, The Signal, The Theory of Everything, Inherent Vice, St. Vincent, American Sniper, Selma, A Most Violent Year, Nightcrawler and Into the Woods.

(3) Top 25 Movies I wish I could “Un-see” in 2014: I, Frankenstein, The Expendables 3, Jersey Boys, The Babadook, The Monuments Men, Winter’s Tale, 300: Rise of an Empire, Walk of Shame, Oculus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Neighbors, Noah, Sabotage, Brick Mansions, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Annabelle, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Tammy, Into the Storm, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Dracula Untold, Dumb and Dumber To, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Divergent and A Walk Among the Tombstones.

(4) Top 25 Movies I’m glad I missed in 2014: Endless Love, Muppets Most Wanted, Rio 2, Million Dollar Arm, The Immigrant, Earth to Echo, Sex Tape, Planes: Fire and Rescue, The Legend of Hercules, The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Shelter, 3 Days to Kill, Vampire Academy, Transcendence, Wild, As Above So Below, The Giver, The Boxtrolls, When the Game Stands Tall, Pompeii, Left Behind, Saving Christmas, Words and Pictures, Annie and The Gambler .

The Focused Filmographer Choice Awards

The Focused Filmographer Choice Award for WORST movie of 2014:

-This is decided by a mix of a few variables: Limited to what I have watched, Considering Expectation vs. Disappointment, Soundtrack, Box Office Results, and my own opinion! This year it is truly hard because so many films teased and created a much higher expectation than what was delivered. And some films just…were bad.

  • Annabelle– With a budget of $6.5 million and riding the coattails of the success of The Conjuring, Annabelle pulled in over $80 million and robbed fans of a promised experience. Nowhere near the quality of its predecessor, Annabelle was the greatest disappointment and cruel sequel/prequel offering of 2014 and thus earns this year’s award as the Worst of 2014! My review.

  • Runner-Ups: Monuments Men, Winter’s Tale and A Million Ways to Die in the West. (Other movies, like Dumb and Dumber To and Walk of Shame aren’t considerations here because I already expected them to be horrible…and they were!)

The Focused Filmographer Choice Award for BEST movie of 2014:

-This is decided by a mix of a few variables: Limited to what I have watched, Considering Expectation vs. Deliverance, Soundtrack, Box Office Results, and MY review score!

The decision was super tough for me this year as I enjoyed several movies this year. My top choices remain Interstellar, Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Chef and Fury -all of which kept my interest and were entertaining. I had to narrow it down even further by asking myself, “Which one would I sit and watch numerous times and not get bored and which would I watch/recommend and enjoy the most with friends?” After asking myself those questions, my decision was made:edge_of_tomorrow_np

  • Edge of Tomorrow– So underrated and completely shunned by many “Tom Cruise-haters,” this comic/manga adaptation was one of the best summer blockbusters that entertains over and over again. I enjoyed every single minute of it and watched it not only in a regular theater, but also in 3D Imax! Great cast, great story, great action…and who doesn’t love a good time-travel story? My review.

 

HOWEVER! As is tradition now, I just can’t pass up the opportunity for a TIE for this award. I just have to do it. I couldn’t pass up giving an award to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar which will share the 2-way tie for Best Movie of 2014 from me as it is the only original film to make the Top Ten of 2014 and shows that originality can still succeed. This visual venture is both daring and deserving and is a must-see of 2014.interstellar_movie_poster_3

 

  • Runner-Ups: Guardians of the Galaxy, Chef and The Equalizer.

The Focused Filmographer Choice Award for the BIGGEST SURPRISE movie of 2014:

-Only looking at the film that surprised in a good way, not the ones that I had expectations of being great and then surprised by being terribly disappointing. That being said, I was surprised by a few films this past year that I had no idea what to expect from them prior to watching. Films like Snowpiercer, Edge of Tomorrow, The Other Woman and John Wick (all recommended watches).

But the film that surprised me the most and left me feeling great unexpectedly in 2014 the most was:chef

Chef. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring he along with Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey, Jr. and more, this film was a great gem to see this past summer and, yes, even though I may be a bit bias since it stars the absolute gorgeous Scarlett Johansson :) it really stands out as a film that far exceeded any expectations I had from the director of Iron Man, Elf and Cowboys & Aliens. The movie that, perhaps, he’s been trying to make his entire career, Favreau cooked up a masterpiece with Chef! My review HERE.

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Well, tell me, which movies made your lists?

  1. Did you actually enjoy Dumb and Dumber To?
  2. What about Pompeii?
  3. Did you think Inherent Vice was the best of 2014?
  4. Did you get to see Selma?
  5. How many 2014 movie releases did you buy/do you own on dvd/blu-ray?
  6. What was your favorite movie you watched in 3D this year?
  7. Was The LEGO Movie the best animated film of the year?
  8. Which WWII movie did you like more: Monuments Men or Fury?
  9. Were you a fan of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For?
  10. Did Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb make it on one of these lists for you?
  11. What was the Biggest disappointment for you in 2014 movies?
  12. Which did you like more out of Pompeii, The Legend of Hercules, and 300: Rise of an Empire?
  13. What was the worst sequel of the year? (There were many)
  14. Which ones in 2015 are you looking forward to? (My list of 2015 movies I am looking forward to will post later this week!)…Stay Tuned :)

Share your thoughts/answers in the comment section!

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks for a great year! And for your continued reading! Happy Watching in 2015!

T, The Focused Filmographer

Special Access Review: TRUTH

January 1, 2015

To start off the new year, (Happy New Year, by the way!) here is a special review for an upcoming release from my state here in New Mexico. Recently, I was provided a screener for an independent film entitled TRUTH that was developed and filmed in Southern New Mexico and is making substantial steps toward distribution and release. It’s my pleasure to review it and provide this sneak peek for you here. Enjoy! (for more info, visit the film’s main page HERE).

truthhTRUTH

  • IMDB page <-click
  • Starring: William McNamara, Robert Dean, Sabrina Gomez, Jon Tabor and more.
  • Directed by: Michael Cramer, Troy Scoughton Jr.
  • Synopsis: “In response to the days following 9/11, a covert government agency funds a black book project to develop a live virus, Nano-Technology based truth serum. Nanotrack Industries successfully develops Veritas PVH 13 and although it produces psychological anomalies in some subjects, this chemical crowbar permanently removes a subjects ability to deceive. Large scale testing on enemy detainees in a secure, off the grid, New Mexico research facility initially exceed all expectation, but when the virus mutates, it indiscriminately kills both prisoners and researchers alike. Ten years later, a group of racially diverse college students and their Professor, unwittingly stumble upon this buried secret while out on an extra credit assignment to document the mysterious Passion Valley Hospital hidden in plain sight in the Gila Mountains of New Mexico. The story is a science fiction, horror/thriller that entertains while at the same time offering deeper themes that explore who we really are when we lose the ability to live by deception.”
  • Rating: Pending
  • Trailer:
  • Review:

Conspiracies, cover-ups and covert ops abound in this film following a group of curious and captious colleagues on a mission to expose a rumored alleged undercover government project in the forgotten and abandoned desert areas of Southern New Mexico. As the mystery unfolds, revelations of multiple kinds show that things are not as they may have appeared. The truth, sometimes stranger than fiction, can also be dangerous and, as the investigative crew soon discovers, perhaps ignorance truly is bliss.truthpic1

Filmed in a style that will remind moviegoers of the likes of other horror films such as The Darkest Hour, The Chernobyl Diaries, Quarantine [rec] and The Descent, Truth delves a little bit deeper into the conspiracy and captures the suspense of the characters’ expedition as they wander and wonder through the rooms of an abandoned hospital with more secrets held and subsequently revealed than perhaps should be shared. As the truths begin to be exposed, tensions rise, relationships unravel and dangers increase while the group discovers they have bitten off more than they can chew.truthpic3

As most films like these go, Truth inevitably falls victim to its predictability as the plot progresses. The characters’ importance as a whole is lost amid the conspiracy (perhaps the most impressive “character” being the location/hospital which adds so much to the film and could be considered a character of sorts all on its own.).truthpic4

A few plot devices such as the mysterious government solution PVH13 keep the interest and intrigue throughout leading to its expected end. A few elements of the film, while distracting at times (such as overbearing music, forced acting/interactions and back-and-forth pacing) do not prevent the film from moving at a decent rate.

Truthfully, Truth is not all too new in concept but its use of story, location and overall look and feel make the effort and experience all the more impressive. Look for the film soon on multiple venues as it continues its journey.

My score: star3 out of 5truthposter

A special Thank You to PRC Productions for the screener access and opportunity to review TRUTH. For more information on TRUTH, contact PRC Productions at:

PRC PRODUCTIONS

PO BOX 13369

Las Cruces, NM 88013

info@prc-productions.com

 

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(Remember, to read this review and over 300 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)

Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

T, The Focused Filmographer

Guest Review- Dear White People

December 31, 2014

 

Here is a guest review from my friend David O. sharing his thoughts on the satire, Dear White People.-one of the lesser viewed movies of 2014 that is on the list of Films-you-missed-but-shouldn’t-have-in-2014.

dear_white_peopleDear White People

  • Starring: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner and more.
  • Directed by: Justin Simien
  • Synopsis: “A social satire that follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where controversy breaks out over a popular but offensive black-face party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in acutely-not-post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.”
  • Rating: Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use.
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

Each generation touts theirs as a paradigm shift in racial culture in America and perhaps each claim has some merit. “Dear White People”, a satire directed by newcomer Justin Simien tries to define multiple aspects of the black campus experience at a fictitious Ivy League school named Winchester University. The movie has heaps to say about this experience for the four main characters as they navigate race and racism on campus. This film gets to the core of identity. It dissects how we portray ourselves to others and on occasion how we passively let others define us. Each of the characters seem acutely aware of who they really are versus what others think of them and yet unsure how to balance the two. There’s an element of hypocrisy in each of us and the brilliance of Simiens’ vision is the way he deconstructs the archetypes in the film through their hypocrisies.dwp

Let’s meet the four main players–

Samantha ‘Sam’ White (Tessa Thompson) operates a provocative campus radio show and is the reluctant face of the black movement on the predominantly white campus. “Dear White People, the amount of Black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man Tyrone doesn’t count.” She pulls no punches about the conditions at Winchester as she sees them.SamDearWhitePeople Sam finds herself elected President of the all black residential hall Parker-Armstrong, much to the dismay of the previous President Troy, who has political aspirations of his own beyond Winchester. The residents of Parker-Armstrong unite behind Sam, and view this as an opportunity for her to spearhead opposition to attempts by the administration to dissolve the hall in the name of diversification. Sam commands the respect of her constituents and while she is comfortable criticizing the way things are from behind the microphone, she bristles at the idea of being the face of a larger black movement. By secretly hooking up with the white TA from film class she reveals cracks in her militancy. Is she Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr, something in between, or none of the above? Her persona threatens to swallow her whole as racial tensions mount on campus when a prestigious white campus house plans a Halloween party with the theme “Liberate Your Inner Negro”. Parker-Armstrong demands that she protest the party and the people behind it. She feels the weight of the moment and finds support in surprising places, but can she rise to the occasion?

Troy Fairbanks (Brandon Bell) has aspirations for a certain station in life and struggles with his and his families’ expectations. As a popular athlete and son of Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert), he has rarely dealt with adversity. Losing the election to Sam strikes a blow to his ego. He comes to grips with the realization that his brand of politics may work on a grand scale, but the racial awakening the residents of Parker-Armstrong are experiencing requires a sharper sword. In political terms, he alienates his base by treating them as a stepping-stone in his personal pathway.bell Can he represent them fully while dating the white daughter of the University President (and his fathers’ boss) who is also the sister of the head of the white campus house, Kurt Fletcher (Kyle Gallner)? He seeks refuge in his association with Kurt and the other white campus house students spearheading the Halloween party. Troy tries to endear himself to them by authoring the official invitation to the “Liberate Your Inner Negro” party. He deals with the mounting pressure to be the perfect future political leader at all costs like any other college student would; by sneaking away to smoke weed in the bathroom behind his girlfriends back.

Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners (Teyonah Parris) represents a new student seeking to shake her past and make her own mark at Winchester. Hailing from inner city Chicago she hopes to shed perceptions of her lower-class upbringing by using her more palatable-to-whites nickname and seizes opportunity in the budding campus controversy.coco She and Troy form a bond while spending time partying with the white folks in hopes that the end justifies their means. When she discovers a television producer is hot to tell Sam’s black-fish-in-a-white-pond story on a reality show she plans to co-opt the idea for her self. As an underclassman she doesn’t have the cache Sam does on campus, but she has a plan to upgrade her stature. She willingly enters the lion’s den by aligning with the white students and setting herself up as hostess of the controversial Halloween party… all for the cameras of course.

Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) faces struggles of his own as a wallflower looking for a garden to grow in. He is part nerd, park geek (yes, they’re different), part genius, and all original. Rocking a sweet afro that white folks can’t keep their hands off of, he flinches at the attention. Lionel represents the closest thing to a stand-in for the audience. Some scenes find him reacting to the circus the way the audience reacts and in others he controls action on-screen. On a campus where he feels like an outsider because of his race and sexuality, he transforms his weaknesses into strengths. He parlays his perceived blackness into a writing position for the school newspaper that want an “insider” to write about the increasing racial tensions.images The editor of the paper seeks to manipulate him through their shared sexuality while Lionel proves he is the smartest one in the room. Writing about the show from the cheap seats does not suit Lionel and he seeks to be a lead actor in this play as the Halloween party looms.
Each of the main characters in “Dear White People” remains engaged in a personal battle of expectations. Will they fit a mold society has predetermined for them or will they stand up and say, “I will define me”? As the climax of the movie approaches, we find Sam retreating to her room haunted with the idea of leading the black students in an effort to stop the controversial party that openly mocks stereotypes of their culture. Troy finds himself torn between his desires to keep his white connections and blowing up their plans. Coco is determined to see the party come to fruition as long as she can capitalize on the spectacle while Lionel is gripped with the concept of no longer remaining passive and becoming the centerpiece of anything.

The Halloween party depicted onscreen represents one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the movie. White folks in blackface fill the screen carrying pimp goblets sporting NBA jerseys, baggy clothes, and other various forms of ass-hattery (yes, that’s a technical term). Kurt revels in the proceedings. Troy finally comes to his senses and races to find his father to stop the horrific display. Coco lets her desire for fame blind her as she parades around the party that openly mocks her filming the whole thing. Lionel takes the reigns and organizes the minorities on campus to crash the party and put a stop to the madness. Sam snaps out of her funk, embraces her bi-racial background (and her love for Taylor Swift-gasp!) with the assistance of her lover/TA/wannabe boyfriend and joins in on the efforts.dear-white-people-10 The uninvited succeed in crashing the party in a spectacular manner by slipping in and absorbing what they are witnessing. Lionel takes matters in his own hands and announces his displeasure on the sound system before angrily toppling the speaker stacks. Chaos ensues as the administration descends upon the party. Things begin to get physical between Kurt and Lionel and the party devolves into the proverbial scene of the racial crime. (This also doubles as the most awkward on-screen kiss of the movie).

The coda of the film tries to neatly tie up the movie, but doesn’t quite put a bow on the proceedings. For those who think that the Halloween party, or ones like it, are fictitious plot-devices of Hollywood productions I encourage you to stick around for the credits as if it were a Marvel movie. If you haven’t been paying attention, cross-racial stereotype parties have been happening across the country for years now and their inclusion helps ground the film before it. images (1)

Simien is a director with tons to say and in some cases it feels like he is determined to fire off all of his bullets in this one movie rather than offer a tighter offensive. He uses title cards to begin scenes and lets plot strands string together some of the disjointed scenes. He offers characters that wear masks to define themselves to certain characters and use their actions towards others. Their motivations mimic the motivations in each of us. The film provokes conversation and deserves a wide audience of all races. It makes you laugh, eye roll, squirm, and correctly or incorrectly feel comfort in some of your current understandings about all races. I believe this is exactly the reaction Simien is chasing.dwp2

While titled “Dear White People”, the film could very easily be titled “Dear ______ People” and be equally engaging. If you feel like you have issues of race all figured out, you see the title and may find yourself less inclined to seek out this film and you would be worse off for it. The title is meant to be provocative and while “Dear White People” is not a perfect film, it is perfectly engaging and I cannot wait to see what Simien has to say next.Justin+Simien+Dear+White+People+Reception+yTLFAV_81xDl

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(Remember, to read this review and over 300 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)

Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

T, The Focused Filmographer

***Special thanks to David davidO for watching the film and sharing his thoughts with this review.

Review- Exodus: Gods and Kings

December 12, 2014

 

exodus_gods_and_kings_ver7Exodus: Gods and Kings

  • Starring: Christian Bale (The Fighter), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Aaron Paul (Need for Speed) and more.
  • Directed by: Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus)
  • Synopsis: “Epic adventure Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of one man’s daring courage to take on the might of an empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”
  • Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of battle.
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

Let me begin this review by telling you…this is not The Ten Commandments.

Director Ridley Scott boldly brings another retelling of a well-known tale and…(*sigh*)…takes several liberties and leaves much more to be desired. (I felt the same about his retelling of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe.) Amid the controversial casting and the comments of Christian Bale, this Biblical tale retold is far from epic. In a time in which the Bible appears to be a growing source for content of cinematic storytelling, it is perplexing to me that the stories told deviate so far from the Source. Much like in my review for Aronofsky’s Noah, I remind readers and viewers that Exodus: Gods and Kings is a movie, and adaptation, and not a source of doctrine. For that, read your Bible. Albeit, I personally was disappointed with the inclusions and exclusions of Ridley Scott. That aside, as a film, Exodus: Gods and Kings had plenty of misfires all on its own.exodus-gods-kings-cast

(Hit the jump to read the full review below)
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