Screened Out – Martin Scorsese’s Silence

By : Stephen Miller
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Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

One can feel the devotion and love in Martin Scorsese’s historic fiction about Christian faith and doubt in feudal, 17th-century Japan.

However, like most people’s obsessions, if Silence were told with more enthusiasm and much more attention to its audience, it would be more successful. This is over 160 beautiful, careful, delicate, faithful, boring, slog-like minutes.

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Screened Out – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

By : Stephen Miller
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Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Jon Voight

Really, it should be called Fantastic Bits and Where to Find Them. They’re here – the magical moments Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has always provided – spread throughout this, her first direct-to-film writing. However, her many, many, many ideas would really wow us if they strongly connected to each other.

You do have Newt Scamader (Redmayne), bringing his case of magical creatures into 1920s New York. For Potter fans – and I fully admit I’m one of them – this is wondrous stuff. Because we remember Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the famous textbook Harry Potter uses under Hagrid’s tutelage. We’ve heard of Newt before, but we didn’t know his back-story.

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Screened Out – Trumbo

By : Stephen Miller
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Bryan Craston, Alan Tudyk, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, David James Elliott, Robert Bart, Dean O’Gorman

Bryan Cranston got nominated Best Actor for playing Dalton Trumbo; he is better than this movie. Trumbo was the brilliant screenwriter who was blackballed in the 1950s as a Communist. Trumbo was also better than this, too. Trumbo wrote Spartacus, Papillon, Johnny Got His Gun, and the Oscar winners The Brave One and Roman Holiday.

It’s not just ironic, it’s somewhat sad that this script about a genius scriptwriter swings between good and awkward, blunt, and even boring. Only great acting raises this up.

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Screened Out – Stonewall

By : Stephen Miller
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Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Jonathan Rhys Meyer, Ron Perlman, Otoja Obit, Ron Perlman

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 are such a seminal moment in LGBT rights. So, it’s frustrating – and even insulting – to see the center of this film be compromised with dull, melodramatic fictions.

The phrase “melodramatic fictions” is the key to everything wrong with Stonewall. The events were only 46 years ago – people who were there are still alive and able to tell their stories. Yet, this main plot here is artificial, inaccurate, shallow, drippy, meandering, and histrionic. I am flummoxed as to why the filmmakers couldn’t have interviewed a few people – or picked up a book – to introduce a real story!

I hated this on so many levels, and I wanted to support it – or any film that takes on our struggles for equal rights. After seeing this flick, I believe people who know the history will find Stonewall offensive and disturbing. Audiences who don’t know about that New York City summer won’t find the movie’s overly dramatic characters at all intriguing, engaging, or sympathetic. Until the actual riots in the last part, the film is boring.

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Screened Out – Ricki and the Flash

By : Stephen Miller
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Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan, Audra McDonald

Movies and rock songs have a lot in common. They often play on recognizable themes, but they should explore them in new ways. Despite some enjoyable roadhouse rock, Ricki and the Flash doesn’t provide enough variety to its familiar refrains.

Streep portrays another anti-hero (her fifth in a row) – this time a rough-hewn cursing-and-drinking mommy who abandoned hubby Kline and her three kids nearly three decades ago. She moved to LA to become a rock goddess; she didn’t quite make it. Now, broke and working two dead-end jobs, she gets a fateful call from Kline.

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Screened Out – Annie

By : Stephen Miller
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Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale

Are you asking yourself why anyone would choose to update the movie musical Annie? Well, keep asking.

Even with a new streetwise patina, this dusty story is about a rapscallion child (Wallis), who keeps hoping her parents are alive. A rich tycoon wants to adopt her. In this version, Foxx plays the moneybags (his name changed from Daddy Warbucks to Mr. Staxx) – a cellphone entrepreneur running for mayor of New York City. After Foxx spits some food on a homeless man, he needs photo ops with this cute kid to get his campaign back on track.

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