Screened Out – Live by Night

By : Stephen Miller
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Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Brendan Gleeson

It’s difficult to imagine anyone would want to watch Live by Night twice. In the middle, I found I didn’t want to watch it even once. I checked my watch four times.

Oh, sure, the sepia tones were pretty for a little while. Then all the tans started to remind me of tepid, badly cooked oatmeal – lumpy and dull, like this flick.

By dull, I mean this is a stereotypical 1930s crime film, abetted by being ponderous and meandering. The characters are also boringly beige; the lead character is completely indecipherable. The only good news is that it’s easy to nitpick minor flaws while you’re waiting for something interesting to happen.

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Screened Out – Burnt

By : Stephen Miller
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Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman

There is a whole collection of movies that can be classified as “food porn.” The best among these flicks is Babette’s Feast and Big Night. However, even Ratatouille, last year’s Chef, and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be good examples. Foodies watch them not only for the obsession with everything gustatory; there is also a visual style to the dishes, one that – when filmed well, can cause hunger pangs.

Though the food is always gorgeous, as a movie, Burnt falls somewhere in the likeable but flawed category. This story about a bad-boy chef looking for redemption feels like tasty but reheated leftovers. At one point the chefs say the food in the flick is good but unsurprising; they could’ve been talking about this film. They say the menu rests too much on classic style. So does this plot.

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Screened Out – American Sniper

By : Stephen Miller
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Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

The first shot in American Sniper has expert gunman Chris Kyle deciding whether or not to kill two people. The targets appear to be an Iraqi woman and her young son. They may actually be threats, hiding bombs, ready to attack an advancing US convey of soldiers and tanks.

American Sniper is a troubling film, one that morally fits with Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. In Eastwood’s world, evil is a constant, palpable force that must be fought with brutal force. Yet, that violence takes its toll. Whether the US government is the evil one or not is never argued.

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