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Third Person: Inside a Writer’s Mind

By Sandra Olmsted

Writer director Paul Haggis presents a negotiation of grief, guilty, and reality in his latest film, Third Person. Much like his earlier film, Crash (2004), Haggis employs his own special brand of magical realism in Third Person, which makes the film strange and confusing as three stories played out in New York, Rome, and Paris and the “characters” who populate them intertwine. They have either sprung from the mind of Michael (Liam Neeson), or he knows them. Three dark-haired women and two blonde women attorneys resemble each other for a reason, which is one of the puzzles Haggis develops. Discovering which characters are fabrications of Michael’s mind provides the central puzzle of Haggis’ film. In Third Person, three stories of a life in disarray explore the loss of a child and the guilt related to it in various situations, but the stories unfold very slowly, making this an overly-long film only for the patient viewer who doesn’t want everything explained quickly and easily in the first ten minutes.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2: A Bit Long, But Still Delightful

by Sandra Olmsted

It’s four years later, and dragons have become an integral part of the Berk, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) and Toothless’s hometown. While the other graduates of Berk Dragon Training Academy play a sport heavily influenced by J.K. Rowlings’ Quidditch, but with nervous sheep as the balls, Hiccup prefers to range the skies and map his world. Unfortunately, Hiccup’s father and head of the village, Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler), need Hiccup to learn to be a leader, so he can take over someday.

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A Fault in Our Stars: Star Crossed Heroics

By Sandra Olmsted     

By definition, a weepie should make the audience’s eyes leak a lot, but sometimes the filmmakers go too far, and audience only gets red eyes and a runny nose with barely a hankie in sight. Eliciting a few sniffles and tears during a few crucial scenes equals moving drama, but wrenching a full blown bawl by making every scene about bilking the audience for tears results in a bad weepie. As a subset of the dramatic film, the best weepies offer the madding need for a hankie and those elusive other emotions. Director Josh Boone masters the form in A Fault in Our Stars.

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Edge of Tomorrow: Perfect Formula for Block Buster Fun

By Sandra Olmsted

A formula to create a blockbuster film has long been desired by Hollywood, and director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, working from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s manga novel All You Need Is Kill, may have stumbled onto one here.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West: Wasted Potential and Disappointment

By Sandra Olmstead

About the only thing “western” about this travesty of a movie is that it was beautifully shot in Monument Valley by cinematographer Michael Barrett; however, it would be nigh impossible to make Monument Valley look bad. Given the rest of this movie’s problems, it’s surprising that this iconic landscape, made famous by director John Ford in Stagecoach, looks good.

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Maleficent: Truly Fairy’s Tale

By Sandra Olmsted

In this compelling tale, Maleficent, actually a beautiful young fairy with strong wings that allow her the freedom and joy of flight, has her heart broken by a human, Stefan. Then and only then, Maleficent’s good and kind heart turns dark, and even those who love her are afraid of her. Maleficent, the film, chronicles the tale of two countries which dwell side by side but could not be more different. Ruled by a king, the human kingdom thrives on ambition, greed, and war while the magically country has no need of a ruler because they trust each other and joy and kindness reign until Maleficent’s darkened heart twists the magic to evil and revenge. In Maleficent, director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton weave a tale worthy of the Brothers Grimm and ponder whether a heart so broken can ever mend.

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