Movie Review – Frank

Frank (2014)
Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

When given an actor like Michael Fassbender, a man with a handsome leading actor face and square jaw, the last thing you would think to do is put him under a paper mache head for ¾ of your movie. In doing this though the filmmakers give Fassbender some freedoms he might not be afforded in more traditional roles in films that call on him to be a smoldering lover or a dashing hero. The character of Frank is a cipher, created by comedian and musician Chris Sievey. Sievey used Frank as a way to express the strangeness and absurdity he might have felt too nervous about showcasing with his face revealed. The film Frank, very different from the real world Frank, is a mentally ill man who is unable to see himself as a valuable person and hides in this mask, which he sees as the ideal form of a face.

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Movie Review – Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Written by David Magee, Rob Marshall, & John DeLuca
Directed by Rob Marshall

It’s The Great Depression in England and Michael Banks is still reeling over the death of his beloved wife. Now he’s a single father with three children, getting support from his sister Jane and their long-suffering housekeeper Ellen. Lawyers from Fidelity Fiduciary arrive one morning to inform the family that due to lax payments on a loan the bank will be seizing the house at the stroke of midnight in five days. That’s when an old friend returns to the lives of the adult Banks children, Mary Poppins. The mysterious nanny from the sky helps the newest generation of Banks kids work through their still lingering grief over their mother and rediscover the magic and joy in life that has been lost during such trying times. Along the way, they are joined by Jack, a lamplighter and former apprentice of Bert the chimneysweep.

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Movie Review – How to Talk to Girls at Parties

How To Talk to Girls at Parties (2018)
Written Phillipa Goslett & John Cameron Mitchell
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

Enn is a young adult at the height of punk in the United Kingdom. He published a fanzine with his two friends where he illustrates the anarchic adventures of his original character Vyris Boy. Enn and his friends frequently cruise the local venues for punk shows and stumble upon what they believe to be a group of American performers doing some experimental performance art/musical show. In actuality, these are alien collectives living in parent-teacher and child groups. Enn falls for Zan, a rebellious member of the visitors and she departs with him to learn about “the punk.” The alien beings see this as disruptive to the biological patterns they have engaged in for countless millennia and set out to undermine Zan or convince her to return home with them.

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Movie Review – Whiplash

Whiplash (2014)
Written & Directed by Damien Chazelle

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Andrew Neiman has one goal in his life, to become one of the great jazz drummers. He’s a first year at the Shaffer Music Conservatory playing in one of many campus bands. He’s chosen by Terence Fletcher to join the prestigious Studio Band. Neiman quickly finds that Fletcher demands near unrealistic levels of perfection from his performers. There are verbal assaults which eventually lead to physical ones. Neiman starts sleeping in a practice room where he sets up his drum kit and pushes himself to go faster, have more control until his hands bleed. However, the tension keeps building, and Fletcher attempts to manipulate and twist events around Neiman that it is driving the young to the brink of a mental breakdown.

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Movie Review – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (1966)
Written by Melvin Frank & Michael Pertwee
Based on the musical by Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart, and Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Richard Lester

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Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) is a slave in ancient Rome who enjoys gambling and disobeying his masters of the House of Senex. His son of his masters, Hero (Michael Crawford) is in love with a woman he has spied only from his bedroom window at the brothel next door. Pseudolus sees this as an opportunity to gain his freedom and makes this the reward if he is able to get Hero’s dream girl for him. What follows is a farce of class and society filtered through the lens of the satires of Roman playwright Plautus and the vaudeville schtick of Jewish comedians. The whole production is directed by English filmmaker Richard Lester who was hot off of The Beatles’ Help! and British sex farce The Knack…and How to Get It. All of this makes for some very wild cinema.

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Movie Review – Baby Driver

Baby Driver
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright

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In the Southern metropolis of Atlanta lives Baby, the best wheelman your heist could hire. He’s under the thumb of Doc (Kevin Spacey), a man who makes the jobs happen. The rest of the crews may change, but Baby is the one constant, Doc’s lucky charm. What makes Baby different than all the rest is that he’s always cranking the tunes, using the rhythm of his music to drive the car, life his life, and fall in love. Everything changes when Baby meets Deborah (Lily James), a waitress who wants to leave town and just drive while the radio blares on the speakers. Baby struggles to extricate himself from the mire of crime he’s drowning in, surrounded by lowlifes and sociopaths (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, etc.). Will he get free and ride into the sunset with Deborah or will this be the day the music dies?

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Movie Review – West Side Story

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West Side Story (1961, dir. Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins)

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It’s 1957 in the West Side of Manhattan and tensions are brewing between the white American gang The Jets and their Puerto Rican rivals, The Sharks. The local police aren’t much better than the gangs but make a weak effort to stop these young men from becoming violent. In the midst of the brewing gang war are Tony and Maria. Tony is a former member of the Jets and still friends with them while Maria is the little sister of The Sharks’ leader Bernardo. Choreographer Jerome Robbins, Conductor and Musician Leonard Bernstein, Lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writer Arthur Laurents take the classic Shakespeare play Romeo & Juliet and place it in this setting, contemporary to them at the time, to find connections between that iconic play and the violence they saw erupting from urban youth.

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