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 – Ghostbusters

By : Stephen Miller
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Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey

From the get-go, this reboot of the original Ghostbusters faced questions of legitimacy. The ‘80s classic – though not perfect – is so well loved. The other, uglier spirit haunting this relaunch was the sexist question as to whether female comics could carry the franchise as well as the males did in the first. (We’ll pretend the late-’80s sequel doesn’t exist…)

Well, fear not the unknown, people. The women are wonderful. (Apparently you don’t need a penis to be funny…). Also, the last 45 minutes of this film are excellent. The scenes leading up to the big finale, though, are wispy and dismissible.

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Screened Out – Exodus: Gods and Kings

By : Stephen Miller
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Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Isaac Andrews

It might be funny to imagine an inspiring Biblical story rendered as a distracting, schlocky blockbuster – something worth a Saturday Night Live skit. Actually, Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Aliens, Prometheus) does it but takes himself seriously. The rest of us cannot. This is just a big, loud piece of popcorn fluff.

In truth, Exodus was plagued from the get-go. Biblical scholars disparage it for its reinvention of the Moses mythology. Actors hate it because it casts well-known white people as Egyptians (a problem it shared with the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille version, The Ten Commandments). As a special effects orgy of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, Exodus is trite fun. As a sensitive tale about a man discovering his true origin, connecting with God, and then freeing his people, it’s pretty hollow and bombastic.

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