Screened Out – Arrival

By : Stephen Miller
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Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker

If the careful, beautiful film Arrival finds a wide audience, it says more people want well-made intellectual mind-benders. This is smart science fiction, built for deep discussion. Finally, it shows us something about the power of learning someone else’s language.

Is that courage to explore completely foreign viewpoints something Americans need to hear right now, where anyone “alien” to us is considered a threat? I’ll leave that decision up to you.

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Screened Out – Captain America: Civil War

By : Stephen Miller
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Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Brühl, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, William Hurt, Viola Davis

Captain America: Civil War recognizes human loss. That’s a wonderful thing. Now we don’t just see empty cities crumble and cars explode. We know there is death – real and painful human collateral – as these heroes fight to save the Earth. This moral conundrum launches a war among The Avengers. It’s a painful a battle that pits onetime friends and compatriots against each other.

The Russo brothers – the directors behind Captain America: Winter Soldier – have the fighting, explosions, and entertainment. Yet much of Civil War isn’t repeated special effects. Mixed in are actually dialogue-heavy scenes. In fact, these are well written, clever scenes of a good length that help embellish character. Somehow, the Russos built on the convoluted mess of Age of Ultron. From that, they made a film that’s actually worth discussing.

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Screened Out – Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

By : Stephen Miller
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Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin

Typical of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Rogue Nation drops us into the middle of the trouble right from the get-go.

Like the secret agent at its center – Cruise’s Ethan Hunt – we won’t know or understand everything. We take a lot for granted, we figure things out as we go along, and we have a blast doing it. Think about the incongruities, clichés, and plot holes later. Just enjoy the show!

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Screened Out – Avengers: Age of Ultron

By : Stephen Miller
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Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Edris Elba, Andy Serkis, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Voice of James Spader

The only thing that will save many, many a comic book fan from hating my guts is that this film is going to make a kabillion dollars. Nothing I say will stop that. These fans will use the box office as some sort of rebuke when I state that Age of Ultron isn’t very cohesive, intelligent, or engaging at all. Sure, this flick has lots of fights and explosions, beautiful people in tight costumes, and a few cute lines. It’s also bloated, overcrowded, choppy, illogical, and shallow.

In fact, this latest iteration of the Avengers’ world – the seventh film – is damn lucky it has such loyal fans. It’s also fortuitous that most of the other films were much more entertaining than this. Without these previous superpowers behind it, there’s no way Ultron would even make back its $250 million dollar budget.

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Screened Out – Kill the Messenger

By : Stephen Miller
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Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Robert Patrick, Andy Garcia, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta

The C.I.A.’s complicity in America’s crack cocaine problem is a great, true story. Yet Kill the Messenger uses the most common film narrative possible – treating it like it’s an actual mystery. The acting is really great, the art direction is impeccable, and the storytelling is just dull dull dull.

I believe journalist Gary Webb – the man this movie is about – would definitely object.

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