Movie Reviews

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Belle: An Austen-esque True Story of Race, Class, and Gender

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Amma Asante successfully makes the big leap from TV series to feature films with Belle, which is based on a true story. Belle, played exquisitely by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is the illegitimate daughter of an enslaved African woman and Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a British Navel Officer, who brings young Belle (Lauren Julien-Box) to his family to raise in England when her mother dies. Although having a mixed race child and family member scandalizes their society, the gruff but kindhearted Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), England’s Lord Chief Justice, and the equally kindhearted but practical Lady Mary Murray (Emily Watson) immediately like young Belle, and while raising her with their other illegitimate young niece, Elizabeth Murray (Cara Jenkins as a child and Sarah Gadon as an adult) find ways to cope with the challenges of preparing Belle for the world she will live in as the “mulatto”  lady with the privilege of class and the complication of race in a segregated society with a slave trade economy.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past: A Delightful Do-Over

By Sandra Olmsted

Since director Bryan Singer left helming the X-Men franchise, the story line has fallen into what could be called disrepair, and the characters trapped in a battle they cannot win, even in superhero logic, against the Sentinels, giant transforming, mutant DNA sniffing robots. The newest installment reboots the series by using time travel and changing history to give the franchise a fresh start and new storylines to explore in the characters’ new future. Based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men comic “Days of Future Past” and the story by Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, and Matthew Vaughn, the Simon Kinberg script solves the problem of total X-Men annihilation in the dystopian future, but the new, utopian, total acceptance future might equally be the death nell for the franchise.

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Godzilla: Sixty is the New Terror

By Sandra Olmsted

Godzilla, the star of 29 feature films turns the big SIX-ZERO this year, and with maturity comes a complete remake of the myth and the body. In the director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, there are no zippers to look for in these monsters although the monsters in this version do have the anatomic look of being a human in a monster suit, which is only fitting considering the history of the monster himself. Still an object lesson about the dangers of the nuclear age, Godzilla’s opponents in this film are Muta, a giant creature struggling to procreate with a mate and drawn to the energy of a nuclear power plant.

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Million Dollar Arm: A Re-Branded All New Ball Game

By Sandra Olmsted

In director Craig Gillespie’s biopic, Million Dollar Arm, buddies JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and Aash (Aasif Mandvi), strike out, literally, on their own after working for a big sports management company and desperately need Popo (Rey Maualuga), football star, to sign with them, but he demands a signing bonus that JB and Aash simply don’t have.

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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return: Girl-Power Galore

By Sandra Olmsted

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, seemingly the animated sequel to the Judy Garland-starring version of The Wizard of Oz, starts with Dorothy (voice by Lea Michele) waking up immediately after her return from Oz. Aunt Em (voice by Tacey Adams) and Uncle Henry (voice by Michael Krawic) at her side in their destroyed Kansas home.

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Amazing Spider-Man 2: A Mishmash for Teens

By Sandra Olmsted

The new Spider-Man film a few things going for it, mainly the chemistry between the leads, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Director Marc Webb, who helms again for this second installment in the franchise, also pays a lot of attention to the emotional connections and development of the characters and their back story, which isn’t really new information for anyone familiar with the history of Spidey.

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