Screened Out – A Monster Calls

By : Stephen Miller
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Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, voice of Liam Neeson

Though there are certainly arresting, memorable moments, it’s difficult to understand who A Monster Calls is for. It’s certainly not a film I could imagine anyone wanting to watch repeatedly.

Conor, an English child (MacDougall), is witnessing his mother (Jones) slowly, painfully succumb to cancer. As a result, his grief leaves him damaged, unable to cope with a steely grandmother (Weaver), a mostly absent dad (Kebbell), and a few psychopathic bullies.

A Monster Calls is a special effects dream. It’s also a dark, dense, overwhelmingly depressing fairy tale with no moral. “Jump in the car, kiddies! We’re going to the movies! Be prepared to bawl your eyes out!”

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Screened Out – True Story

By : Stephen Miller
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Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones

It’s no wonder James Franco and Jonah Hill were drawn to this. They’re best friends who usually churn out absurd comedies (This is the End), but True Story was too intriguing to pass up. Unfortunately, the subject matter is more fascinating than this film version, and the real-life characters more complex than the actors.

Hill portrays New York Times writer Mike Finkel – one of four national journalists cited for inaccurate reporting around the turn of the century. It’s a shame, too, because Finkel’s writing style was brisk and entertaining. However, once a journalist makes a choice to misrepresent sources and material, the damage to one’s reputation is pretty permanent.

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Screened Out – The Theory of Everything

By : Stephen Miller
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Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson

What an odd choice! Stephen Hawking is one of the great scientific thinkers of our time – a brilliant mind struck by Lou Gehrig’s disease, bound to a wheelchair, and speaking through a computer. He penned the truly world-changing book A Brief History of Time. Those of us who know more of his biography may marvel at his having three kids and a twenty-year marriage. This exceedingly romantic flick delves into his relationship with his wife, Jane Wilde.

This biopic’s concentration on love certainly humanizes Hawking. Unfortunately, Everything is also short on Hawking’s scientific ponderings, filled with schmaltzy moments, and oftentimes burdened with protracted scenes. What makes it a worthy film are small artistic touches by director James Marsh (Man on a Wire) and the extraordinarily strong performances by its leads, Jones (Spiderman 2) and especially Redmayne (Les Miserables, My Week with Marilyn).

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