Recently by Chris Morgan

Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide Book Review: The End of an Era

The book is very substantive, and full of information
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Leonard Maltin appears in the movie Gremlins 2: The New Batch, lampooning his own negative review of the original Gremlins. He was also in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but that's not relevant from a cinematic perspective. This is brought up to illuminate how long Maltin has been a prominent film critic, and not just because of Doug Benson's movie podcast where they play the Leonard Maltin Game. However, an era is coming to an end. In addition to his Leonard Maltin app going out of commission, the most recent edition of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, the 2015

Gremlins 2: The New Batch Movie Review: A Looney Tunes Horror Movie

If there was ever going to be a horror film for the non-horror fan to enjoy, it's this one.
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Gremlins is a horror movie. Oh, it has some comedy in it, sure, but it is very much a horror movie, which is one of the reasons it helped lead to the PG-13 rating. Several years later, in 1990, director Joe Dante decided to make good use of the PG-13 rating in his sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Also, he decided to skew things a bit more toward "comedy" than "horror." OK, a lot more...and he decided to completely let loose in bonkers fashion. Dante is a rather idiosyncratic filmmaker, but if you are on his wavelength, it can

20 Feet from Stardom Movie Review: Backup Singers Take Center Stage

A fine film for any music fan to watch.
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When 20 Feet from Stardom won the Best Documentary Film award at the most recent Oscars, there was some chatter about how the film won in part because it was, frankly, less of a bummer than the other nominees, particularly The Act of Killing. A lot of the people backing that film to win bristled at the presumption than 20 Feet from Stardom took home the award simply because it was funner and more enoyable to sit through, as if though being entertaining wasn't, you know, integral to filmmaking and movie quality. All that aside, even on its own merits,

Rock 'N' Roll High School Movie Review: Nonsense. Sweet, Glorious Nonsense

There is no message here, other than "Hey! Jokes and music! Enjoy!"
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I tend to try and keep first person out of the reviews I write here, but for once I am breaking the rule, much in the way the movie Rock 'N' Roll High School breaks many rules. Rules like not having giant mutant rats attend Ramones concerts. As I watched this film, I noted on Twitter: "I am not sure if Rock 'N' Roll High School is a work of unparalled genius, or the worst movie I've ever seen." In truth, it is neither, but at times it pivots toward both. The movie has names like Roger Corman and Joe

Frances Ha Movie Review: Modern (Platonic) Love

Greta Gerwig is one of those tours de force you hear about from time to time.
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The first minutes of Frances Ha are a bit of a slog to get through. The way the main character, Frances, and her dear friend, Sophie, are introduced is a bit grating. At the same times, it moves too fast but also too slow. Too fast in as much as it feels sort of jolting and slapdash. Too slow because it is also irritating, so it isn't like you necessarily want it to continue. The concern is that these characters, and this script, will be too precious, too twee, too whatever word in a similar vein you want to use.

Say Anything... Movie Review: In Your Eyes

Do you like good music and incredibly enjoyable main characters?
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In reality, teenaged romances are very silly and stupid and overwrought, because teenagers are silly and stupid and overwrought by and large. Movies tend to ratchet everything up a notch or two over reality, to really hit things home for the audience. As such, a romantic comedy about teenagers would seem like a sketchy proposition. This is how you find yourself waiting until 2014 to watch a well-known movie from 1989. Then you watch Say Anything... and you wonder why you bothered waiting so long. The movie was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, a generally overpraised filmmaker, but at

The Talented Mr. Ripley Movie Review: Supporters Carry The Show

If you like to watch people acting for the sake of watching great acting, then The Talented Mr. Ripley is for you.
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In the wake of the death of one Philip Seymour Hoffman, many folks went back to watch movies from the filmography he left behind. Of course, if you had already seen the vast majority of it, and wanted something new, you may not have had much to choose from, especially if you didn't want to bother with something like Along Came Polly. As such, you could perhaps have found yourself in the position of watching 1999's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Sure, Hoffman's role is small, but he is quite impressive, even if it is Cate Blanchett who really steals the

Inside Llewyn Davis Movie Review: At Least It Got One Oscar

This movie feels more traditional, but with enough of that Coen brothers charm to keep their diehards happy.
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The Coen brothers have made the move from idiosyncratic filmmakers to perennial Oscar fodder, and their latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis, has gotten plenty of acclaim already, and had some Oscar buzz to be sure. However, some of that buzz may have faded, and the Golden Globes largely ignored it (and everybody puts so much stock into those), but the Coens probably don't care all that much. They like to make their films, and they've made another good one. This movie is hard to peg within the world of the Coen brothers eclectic ouevre. It is closest to A Serious

The World's End Movie Review: Cheers!

A fitting capper to the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.
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The World's End is, fittingly, the final part of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost's ersatz trilogy of blood, ice cream, and genre twists. This time around, the gang takes on science fiction, but as per usual these tropes are used to tell a more traditional, emotionally resonant story of the characters at the center of the story. The World's End lets us know we can't go home again, because if we do, we may find a bunch of freaky robot things have taken over the town. This time around, Pegg plays the screw-up and train wreck. His Gary

Book Review: Saturday Night Live FAQ by Stephen Tropiano: Just The Facts

Tropiano's book will help you learn a bunch of the good stuff.
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Saturday Night Live has been on for decades, and book upon book has been written about it. However, many of those books are about behind the scenes tensions and scandals and such. On the other hand, Saturday Night Live FAQ by Stephen Tropiano is about getting you as many facts as possible into a book about the show. Is it possible to stuff so many years of TV into one book, and to make it interesting and coherent? Yes, and yes. This book is basically designed to be an encyclopedia about Saturday Night Live. It begins with a historical rundown

Futurama Volume 8 DVD Review: Farewell from the World of Tomorrow!

The last chance to enjoy the adventures of Fry, Bender, Scruffy, and the rest.
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Futurama had one of the more unusual runs in television history. It began as a network show, running a few seasons on FOX, mostly as the black sheep of the Sunday-night family. If a show was going to be preempted by football running late, it would be Futurama. So then it got cancelled, but it came back with four direct-to-DVD movies, which developed enough of a following, alongside Futurama reruns on channels like Cartoon Network, that got Comedy Central to bring it back for another run. Its seventh season was split into two parts, and that second part, which makes
You've heard the prevailing wisdom on The Simpsons. The show was great up to a certain point, a point that vacillates depending on who you are being harangued by, and then it fell off a cliff and now it sucks and the person knows it sucks even though they haven't watched the show in years. Obviously, it makes sense that the general consensus would be that The Simpsons experienced a decline in quality. How could it not? You can only generate so many stories with a limited staff and a limited series of characters and maintain the lofty glories the

A Band Called Death Review: ...For the Whole World to See

This is a very good documentary.
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Perhaps you have heard the rough outline of the documentary A Band Called Death, as the story of the titular band certainly got some traction in various forms of media. In the 1970s, three black teenaged brothers in Detroit form a proto-punk band who, eventually, decide to name themselves Death. Their music falls through the cracks, until it is rediscovered many years later and the band finally gets their due credit and recognition. Indeed, that is a nice, tight summary, and one that is definitely intriguing. It is certainly a unique story, and one that, if told well, could make

White Collar: The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review: Charming Cons Carry This Uneven But Entertaining Show

The main thrust of the fourth season involves Neal looking into his father's past.
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White Collar is pretty indicative of what kind of show the USA network likes to do. It's a fairly light drama with a lot of comedic elements. It relies on the charm and likeability of their main cast. It does a story of the week most of the time, but they include overarching elements because, in this modern era of ours, every show needs a mythology. Season four of White Collar is no different than any prior season, or most USA shows, in this respect. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. After all, the show succeeds in

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction Review: Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction isn't that meaty, but there is enough to keep the audience's interest most of the time.
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Harry Dean Stanton is a legendary character actor. If you watch movies with any regularity, you've seen him, and you can probably recognize him, even if you can't place the name. If you are fortunate enough to have seen Repo Man, you have definitely seen him. He's had a long, successful career, and a long, busy life. He just turned 87, and he's showing his age, and the weathering of a life of age and drinking, and so somebody decided it was the time to do a documentary on him. That movie is Sophia Huber's Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.
If you are familiar with the works of Armando Ianucci, and you are American, it is likely from his HBO show Veep or the movie In The Loop. If you are aware of the latter, then you already know some of the characters from his TV show The Thick of It, which recently had seasons one through four, which likely comprises the entire series, released on DVD in the United States. From the box, you will see Peter Capaldi's pensive face gazing upon you, which makes sense, because his Malcolm Tucker is the most prominent character from the show and

The Matador (2005) Review: A Hitman Movie That Misses

Brosnan did the best he could getting the chance to step out of the role of James Bond. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.
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If people know Pierce Brosnan as an actor at all, it is probably from his stint as James Bond. Unless they are kicking it old school as Remington Steele fans, of course. However, all actors eventually have to move on from that iconic role, and when Brosnan did he stepped into the lead role in The Matador, a "dark comedy" starring him and Greg Kinnear. Dark comedy is in quotation marks because to consider this a "comedy" is to stretch the definition of the word. That, or the comedy is real hard to find in this movie. Perhaps Richard Shepard,

The Guard Movie Review: When Irish Guys Are Quipping

There is enough done well to make The Guard a decent watch.
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The Guard, the 2011 debut film from John Michael McDonagh, is both fairly original and overly familiar. It is also apparently the most successful Irish movie of all-time, so, you know, there's that. More than that, the movie was fairly well-received critically, even in the United States. Maybe it was reminding them of similar, better films? Or maybe they just enjoyed it quite a bit despite its handful of flaws. Honorable men can differ. The movie stars Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Jerry Boyle. He lives in pastoral Western Ireland and is part of some sort of police force. However, he

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Review: A Movie on Cruise Control

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is not a well-made movie.
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It seems somewhat improbable that the Mission: Impossible film franchise would deliver a fourth installment in 2011, with potential for future sequels as well. The first one came out in 1996, at a time when Tom Cruise starring in an action blockbuster made sense. In 2011, it would, in theory, make no sense, but Cruise is no ordinary man, having seemingly not aged too much in the past 15 years, although there is still clearly some wear and tear on Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, but time makes fools of us all. More than that, the general consensus

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse: The Epic Ordeal Behind An Epic Film

An engaging documentary about a man with huge dreams and all the things that conspired to destroy them.
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Apocalypse Now is a legendary film, but, as many movie fans know, the production of Francis Ford Coppola's war epic was just as legendary in its own way. Fortunately, thanks in part to Coppola's wife Eleanor, folks can get a sense of what happened in the behind-the-scenes documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. By the time Francis got involved in the production of Apocalypse Now, he was a huge name, thanks to a couple of films about a mob family. Also, The Conversation. He was a man with big visions, and the willingness to throw his own money into

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Movie Review: It's Fine

A good movie, provided you are cool with watching a movie about the end of human life.
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Steve Carell rose from TV star to movie star pretty quickly, thanks in large part to the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, it would seem, and this may be reductive and, to many people, mostly irrelevant, that the vast majority of his films do not connect with either audiences or critics. You hear very few people espousing the merits of Dan in Real Life, and a Get Smart sequel doesn't seem very likely. As such, perhaps it isn't surprising that it feels like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World flew under the radar, despite the fact

The Man Who Would Be King Movie Review: Not Many Moments to Celebrate

"Being only human, one thing leads to another." - Peachy Carnehan
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A movie starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery, directed by John Huston, and based on a Rudyard Kipling novel certainly has a great deal of name cache. This was the power base behind the 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King. However, the question remains, did all this talent lead to a promising result? The movie begins with the end of the story, as Rudyard Kipling (Christopher Plummer) is met by a grizzled, mysterious figure who we then find out is Caine's Peachy Carnehan. Of course, at this point we don't know anything about this character, but we will,

Hanna Movie Review: A Worthwhile Viewing Endeavor

It's more interesting in concept than in execution.
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Joe Wright's 2011 film Hanna is a film more interesting in concept than in execution. That's not to say that the movie does not suceed to some degree as it is. It's just that it doesn't quite live up to the intriguing premise as well as one would have hoped. Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular Hanna. She lives with her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in the middle of a vast, empty wilderness up in the Arctic Circle. The two live miles from civilization, but Erik makes sure Hanna has plenty to do. Namely, she has been trained to

Book Review: Film Noir FAQ by David J. Hogan

All that's left to know about Hollywood's Golden Age of dames, detectives, and danger.
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When you flip open to the back of Film Noir FAQ, you will find out that it is one in a series of "FAQ" books. This may be concerning to anybody who has read one of those cheap, tossed-off books out of a series. Often you will find these books about sports teams, all basic information and spelling errors. Fortunately, those fears are unfounded. Hogan put a ton of effort and insight into Film Noir FAQ. The last thing that would be used to describe it is "tossed off." Film noir is a nebulous genre, and some may argue that

North by Northwest Movie Review: A Perfectly Fine Movie but Not Legendary

A fine thriller, but there's nothing special about it.
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Alfred Hitchcock is a highly acclaimed filmmaker who, while he never got an Academy Award, he did get a movie about him wherein he was played by Anthony Hopkins. Plus, there was that HBO movie too with that guy who played Truman Capote. No, not Philip Seymour Hoffman. The other guy. While he has many beloved movies, 1959's North by Northwest is high on the list. It features Hitchcock working alongside one of his favorite actors in Cary Grant, and several scenes and set pieces that have become extremely famous. It probably does not require a spoiler alert to mention

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review: Engaging and Worthwhile Throughout

Silver Linings Playbook overcame its somewhat odd name to get a lot of award recognition, and it deserved it.
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The 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook featured a lot of folks whose careers were headed in the right direction. David O. Russell was no longer merely the guy who yelled at Lily Tomlin after the success of The Fighter. Bradley Cooper found fame and fortune starring in The Hangover, even if he will always be "Michael Ian Black's gay lover" in Wet Hot American Summer" to some people. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, which is something even people who know nothing else about The Hunger Games know. The only person not at the pinnacle of their career with a major

Moneyball Movie Review: A Legitimate, Entertaining Film

Good, but it doesn't really rise above the trappings of your run-of-the-mill sports movie.
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Sports movies are made quite often. Usually, they tell the tale of a ragtag bunch of underdogs coming together to succeed, occasionally with the help of angels or a particularly skilled golden retriever. However, the idea of a sports movie that focused on the front office and their use of advanced statistics to gain an advantage, but not to win it all, is on the surface an odd idea. Not only was that movie made, but it garnered multiple Oscar nominations and was a big success. That movie is 2011's Moneyball. Granted, Moneyball is helped by the fact that it

Lincoln (2012) Movie Review: Deserved the Best Picture Oscar

The best movie of 2012 as measured against the known competition.
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Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis. Abraham Lincoln. It is no surprise that a movie combining this trio was getting major Oscar buzz by the time the first poster was released. However, in the end, Lincoln did not win Best Picture in 2012, losing out to Argo. Day-Lewis did get his Best Actor win for his portrayal of the former president, while Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field were all nominated but failed to take home any Oscar statues. Still, that's a lot of prestige for a film, even if it isn't quite what a group that impressive would hope for.

Argo Movie Review: Ben Affleck Has Come a Long Way

Argo takes a really, fairly wild, story and turns it into an occasionally intense, professional film.
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Slowly but surely, Argo built up momentum that led it to winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, defeating expected favorites like Lincoln and 21 Jump Street. All this despite the fact that Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director, making Argo the first movie to win Best Picture without the director getting a nomination since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. Some questioned the movie and whether or not it deserved Best Picture, although to be fair that is true of every Best Picture winner to some degree. Regardless, it certainly shows that Affleck has come a long way since

Skyfall Movie Review: Good but Not Particularly Special

It's a solid film that is mostly well-made that just happens to be featuring a major character from film history.
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The James Bond movie series has existed through 23 films and 50 years, but it's only a film series inasmuch as every movie features James Bond, super spy, as the main character. There are a lot of aspects that show up in most of the movies, but over the years many different actors, directors, and writers have been involved. Plus, thematically, the movies are often quite different. The winking, goofy days of Roger Moore and the modern, serious take on the character led by Daniel Craig barely have anything in common. In fact, the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, even breaks

The Master (2012) Combo Pack Review: A Good Movie Not a Great One

It's well-acted, well-directed, and well-constructed. However, there are enough things that end up being off to limit the quality of the film.
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P.T. Anderson's 2012 film The Master seems to have ended up being one of the more polarizing films of the year. Not for the reason some thought, either. The movie centers around a religion/cult called "The Cause" which was, in part, inspired by Scientology. In Hollywood, this can be a sticky wicket. However, it's the content that seemed to divide people. Some thought it was a great movie, others thought it was tedious and mediocre. The film did see three different actors nab Academy Award nominations, but Anderson did not get a nod (but then again neither did Ben Affleck
The 2012 film Safety Not Guaranteed is both a mix of many flavors of film and a showcase for three rising actors. The movie stars Aubrey Plaza (Darius), perhaps best known as April on Parks and Recreation, and it features New Girl's Jake Johnson (Jeff) and Mark Duplass (Kenneth Calloway) of many things, including movies made with his brother Jay, in the major supporting roles. It's a science fiction movie that is a mixture of comedy and drama and romance. It involves time travel, but also lets that literal notion run parallel to characters reflecting on their pasts and their

The Descendants Movie Review: All The Award Acclaim Seems Odd

A pretty good movie, but it doesn't really rise above that.
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When you think of Nat Faxon, former star of Ben and Kate, and Jim Rash, known for dressing like a woman on Community, you don't necessarily imagine them winning Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, and you certainly don't expect it to be for a somewhat somber film about a man dealing with his comatose wife slowly dying. Perhaps that's where Alexander Payne's impact comes in when it comes to The Descendants, a movie he also directed. The film stars noted actor George Clooney as Matt King, a lawyer living in Hawaii with two children and the aforementioned comatose wife. Now,

The Avengers (2012) Movie Review: A Good Action Movie

Who would have thought that bringing together a bunch of popular characters in one movie and handing the reins to a cult hero would yield such positive results?
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In this modern era of blockbuster cinema, where movies based on comic book superheroes, The Avengers still manages to reign supreme above the rest, at least in terms of box office. This is perhaps based upon the shrewd way Marvel built up to this movie. It served as the culimination of a process beginning with the first Iron Man and building from there. Many of these characters were already established, bits of information was dealt out in post-credit sequences, and in the end a group of dispirate superheroes were assembled. The Avengers wastes no time getting down to business, even

The Artist Movie Review: A Good Film, but Best Picture Worthy?

The way they decided to make the film can't help but make it feel somewhat hollow.
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It is an unusual factoid that the only two silent films to win Best Picture at the Oscars are Wings, which won the first one ever, and The Artist, which came out in 2011. The fact that a film in the modern era was made as a silent film, although truth be told it is not completely silent, is odd enough as is, but it also feels sort of gimmicky, like something somebody would make for their senior thesis project in college. However, despite that fact, the movie won a bunch of awards, including Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, and

Jeff, Who Lives at Home Movie Review: A Well-done Emotional Film About a Family

It is funny on the occasion, but it is also genuinely emotionally engaging as well.
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Jeff, Who Lives at Home talks a lot about signs. Both in terms of omens and portents, and also the terrible M. Night Shyamalan film. Fortunately, it is better than the latter, but its use of the former serves as a detriment at times. The movie is written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, known for them ramshackle, low-key, low-fi movies and their appearances on The Mindy Project. They managed to generate an excellent cast for this film. The titular Jeff is played by Jason Segal. His obnoxious jerk of an older brother Pat is a goateed Ed Helms.

Three Stars DVD Review: A Pretty Good Documentary

The CliffsNotes version of being an elite chef with a three-star restaurant.
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The world of the restaurant business and food has become much more prominent in the realm of television. Of course, a lot of it seems to be in the vein of Guy Fieri going places and yelling about how good the food is without edifying anybody. The movie Three Stars deals with slightly higher fare than Fieri's ouevre, however. The title of the film is not a bold suggestion for a critic's rating. It references the Michelin star-ranking system. If they give you three stars, you have accomplished one of the biggest achievements a chef can attain. Three Stars is

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