Screened Out – About Time

By : Stephen Miller
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Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Lydia Wilson

The instant do-over: it’s one of the great fantasies of anyone who’s lost a huge opportunity, screwed up a vital life decision, or stumbled through a serious social gaffe.

About Time shows us an English father and son who have this remarkable power, they can keep going back in time until they get the right girl, until they remember to tell the people around them they love them, and until they have the perfect day. With fun characters and intelligent writing, it’s an experience that’s not only fascinating, it’s also sweet, lively, and quite emotionally overwhelming.

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Screened Out – Ender’s Game

By : Stephen Miller
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Asa Butterfield, Hailie Steinfeld, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin

Should you see Ender’s Game? It offers some spectacular visuals; that alone wins over many moviegoers. The 1980 novel is well written enough (despite Orson Scott Card’s nasty comments about LGBT rights, and I’ll delve into that later).

However, this film is only average. So much emotional punch depends on teenaged actors who fail to deliver. The filmmakers never strike a balance between entertainment and exploration of difficult themes. The impressive effects have to carry this film, because the more dramatic, troubling moments are left seriously wanting.

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Screened Out – Last Vegas

By : Stephen Miller
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Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen

Last Vegas is being pitched as The Hangover for the AARP set. I’d sure like to say this film is better than that reductive description. It’s chock full of great actors, but the story they’re trapped in swings wildly between being emotionally engaging and embarrassingly infantile.

I imagine the Hollywood conversation went something like this:

“Hey, I have an idea! Let’s make a film with five Oscar-winning older actors. We’ll set it in someplace fun,  like Vegas! And have the characters say and do lots of entertaining, sexist and slightly humiliating things! Audiences will love it!”

“OK, but to attract that kind of talent, you realize we’ll also have to write one or two scenes with real emotion and complexity.”

“Yeah, yeah, but just one or two moments, don’t kill the fun!”

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Screened Out – Captain Phillips

By : Stephen Miller
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Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener

Some actors are so subtle, so consistent, that you forget how good they are. Tom Hanks is, in a way, the perfect American everyman, not nearly as debonair as Clooney, nor really as versatile as Downey Jr. or Penn. But Hanks is sure-footed and steady. He’s been successful at both comedy and drama, and he’s one of our few actors who’s won back-to-back Oscars (Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, two entirely different roles).

Hanks’ fortitude is needed in abundance in Captain Phillips, the biopic about the Maerck Alabama captain taken hostage by Somali pirates in a deadly, six-day gambit for ransom money.

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Screened Out: We’re the Millers

By : Stephen Miller
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Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts, Ed Helms


We’re the Millers is an average flick about petty criminals pretending to be the average American family. This is my namesake, and like my family, Millers is alternately very funny and very predictable.

Have you ever watched a film where you saw the next four plot points whole scenes before they happen? Millers is that kind of trip, but it’s bolstered by fine comedic chemistry.

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Screened Out: The Spectacular Now

By : Stephen Miller
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Miles Teller, Shailene, Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Lee

The Spectacular Now presented a new approach to teen-in-trouble films.

Most flicks about youth with serious problems, alcoholism, drug addiction, pregnancy, or depression, are heavy on the message. They also follow a pretty standard path, complete with finger pointing and a vital message, usually delivered by the protagonist in an overwrought monologue or voice-over.

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Screened Out: Percy Jackson: Seas of Monsters

By : Stephen Miller
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Starring: Logan Lerman, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci

This kid-friendly epic isn’t going to get any Olympian attention.

Sci-fi and fantasy audiences who love exploring cohesive worlds with clear characterization are in for a letdown. PJSOM misses all these opportunities, plus a bit more. It feels cobbled together from Homer’s Odyssey, Harry Potter, and Spy Kids. The first Percy Jackson film wasn’t much better, but at least it aimed at a unifying theme.

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Screened Out: Men of Character

By : Stephen Miller
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SOFruitvaleStationFruitvale Station is an intimate biography that accomplishes great things. Based on an enraging 2009 tragedy, this film realistically shows us a deeply flawed character on the last day of his life. Michael B. Jordan’s nuanced performance deserves some serious award attention.

On Jan. 1, 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant (Jordan), his girlfriend, and their friends were coming home from celebrating New Year’s in San Francisco. A fistfight on the Bay Area Rapid Transit train got them pulled off and detained by an overzealous police force. While trying to handcuff Grant, surrounded by an increasingly confusing melee, an officer shot Grant in the back. Grant was at the time lying facedown on the platform at Fruitvale Station.

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