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 – The Book of Life

By : Stephen Miller
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Voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Christina Applegate, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo, Ron Perlman

The Book of Life is a colorful, vibrant celebration of Mexican culture – eye popping and full of frenetic energy. When other studios seem to make films primarily to peddle plastic merchandise (I’m talking to you, Disney), The Book of Life sells us civilization and anthropology, which is much more fascinating. Sure, the story is elementary, and the animators take a seductively simple approach. However, the textures, the energy, and the heart make this Day of the Dead cartoon a lively visit to the cinema.

It’s based on a folk tale – one with the Mexican spirit of remembrance, La Muerta (del Castillo), in her constant love/hate relationship with dark, devilish Xibaba (Perlman). They place a wager on three youths – the fiery beauty (Saldana), and her two beaus (Luna and Tatum). The deities wager who will win Saldana’s heart. Tatum plans to become a brave hero. Luna wants to be a troubadour, but his family urges him to follow tradition and become a matador.

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Screened Out – Guardians of the Galaxy

By : Stephen Miller
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Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, David Bautista, Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel

Summer of 2014 – we’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for that fantastic popcorn flick. It’s finally arrived, happening right now in a galaxy far, far away!

Guardians of the Galaxy may not be the deepest or most scientifically sound film ever made. However, this sci-fi hero story is a visual onslaught ripe with humor, loveable characters, and derring-do. It likely marks a few people’s rightful entrance into the big leagues, including actor Chris Pratt (Mr. Anna Faris) and director/cowriter James Gunn (Slither and the new Dawn of the Dead).

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