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Honor Among Rogues

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, to say that it had to live up to high expectations would be a tremendous understatement. A decade had passed since the last live-action Star Wars movie was released, and the trailers had promoted the film as an exciting new take on the galaxy far, far away while also promising plenty of nostalgic moments, evidenced by the inclusion of John William’s iconic soundtrack and appearances from Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2. Although The Force Awakens was by no means a bad film, time and nostalgia made audiences and critics willing to forgive its more egregious flaws: mainly that it was a recapitulation of the Star Wars: A New Hope’s storyline albeit with superior special effects. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does not benefit from the same circumstances that surrounded The Force Awakens. The familiar glow of a lightsaber or an incredulous rendition of “I’ve got bad feeling about this” are not enough to satisfy fans anymore.

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Confirming the Excellence of Confirmation

Confirmation is a timely exploration of gender, race and power, based on the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce). However,the movie is not really about Thomas — it follows Anita Hill (Kerry Washington), who shares her experiences as his advisor and assistant, and was subjected to sexual harassment by him. A historical drama at the genre’s best, Confirmation presents the proceedings mostly factually, although leaning to the side of Anita Hill. The bias doesn’t seem to get in the way of fact, and allows an important story to be told. Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas share many characteristics.

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Certain Women: Tender Stories Told with Restrained Patience

The episodic structure of Certain Women falls closer on the spectrum of ensemble pieces to the dark, flaccid mirth of a film like Weiner Dog from earlier this year rather than the rapturous display of interconnectedness of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. However, this is not to say that Certain Women is a bad film. Rather, it is a film composed of three distinct parts — all whose plots intersect in very minor, trivial ways within the same state of Montana — that inherits a problem endemic to “multiple storylines” of this sort: some of the storylines are just much more interesting than others. The film commences with what is probably the weakest of the film’s three stories. A lawyer in Livingston, Montana, performed sufficiently by Laura Dern, is dealing with a disgruntled client attempting to sue his former employer, who later returns to his former workplace and holds a security guard there hostage.

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The Sun’s Top 10 Movies of 2016

From documentaries to animated flicks to art films to crime thrillers, the Arts & Entertainment writers’ picks for the year’s top films reflect the diversity of excellent movies this year. 10. Weiner 

Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg easily could have made a documentary that simply condemned former Representative Anthony Weiner. Yet, Weiner begins on a high note: the Anthony Weiner who appears at the beginning of the documentary is rejuvenated, remorseful about his sexting scandals and ready to fight in New York City’s mayoral race. The positive image doesn’t last long as Weiner, once again, descends into lying and defensiveness as more sexting allegations surface. Kriegman and Steinberg expertly elevate Weiner from an entertaining to a thoroughly thought-provoking movie by catching the moments when Weiner and the people around him reflect on his self-destruction.

COURTESY OF FEELGOOD ENTERTAINMENT

Chevalier: Naming the Most Modern Prometheus

Athina Rachel Tsangari’s film Chevalier, showing at Cornell Cinema this Friday, understates its oddities and creates a hauntingly realistic picture of humanity. The film draws from various and strange inspirations which result in a Frankenstein-esque human species. But, it remains non-committal. Just like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein directly condemns neither the monster nor his creation, Tsangari only subtly questions specific behaviors, habits and desires. Chevalier disguises itself as the story of six friends on a luxury fishing trip.

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Don’t Breathe and Buy a Rottweiler

Just an hour and a half long, Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez, is a film you’re not soon going to forget. It’s a suspense movie about three thieves — Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) — who decide to rob a seemingly helpless war veteran: Blind Man (Stephen Lang). Imagine if Kevin from Home Alone was grown up and psychotic and you’re on the right track. The film opens up in an aerial shot of the Blind Man dragging a woman down a street, setting the uncomfortable mood that dissociates the setting from the rest of the world. You’ll know if you’re in the right theatre within the first few seconds.

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GUEST ROOM | Fish to Fur to Frankfurters: Animation in Summer 2016

The summer box office is the cinematic equivalent to a gladiator battle. Studios put out their best work and compete for millions of audience dollars. It is no different in the animation realm. Over the course of the past few months, we have seen a vast offering of animated releases from both major and minor players. Each studio took their best shot and put out some great movies … and some real stinkers.

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A Conversation With High School Musical Composer, David Lawrence

David Lawrence is a film and television composer, songwriter and producer whose score and song credits include the American Pie films, the High School Musical series, and the forthcoming HBO documentary, Becoming Mike Nichols. The Sun spoke with Lawrence in anticipation of his visit this Friday about movie music, the process of scoring and Frank Sinatra. The Sun: There are so many people who write music to be a pop hit or for the radio.  Was it your goal to write television theme music or soundtrack music? David Lawrence: I went to conservatory in New York.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Everybody Wants Some a’ This Movie!!

Everybody Wants Some!!, the latest by Richard Linklater, that great subtle anthropologist of the mundane and the minute, concerns a bunch of douchebag jocks. The entire movie is a prolonged testosterone-driven hunt for T & A, with lots of beer and competitive ball-busting in between. Every character in the movie is a derelict, a meathead or a womanizer. I loved every single minute of it. The movie is a joyride, every bit as good as Linklater’s perennial high school classic Dazed and Confused, and is destined to become one of the great American collegiate slacker films, up there with Animal House.