The Bellas are fun, but ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ hits many sour notes

“Pitch Perfect 3” – “Three Is a Magic Number” – Bob Dorough, “Schoolhouse Rock!” The Barden University Bellas, or better known as the Barden Bellas, hope that three is their magic number in 2017, as these a cappella ladies – led by Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) – arrive in theatres in “Pitch Perfect 3”. Their initial leap on the big screen in 2012 was a critical and box office hit, and the 2015 follow-up admittedly meandered, but packed enough jokes and even some Green Bay Packers…

‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Three Billboards’ share the Phoenix Critics Circle’s Best Picture award

On Dec. 15, the Phoenix Critics Circle, along with their friends and spouses, enjoyed a festive evening at the Phoenix Film Foundation office and announced its winners for the best films, performances and technical categories of 2017. Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” both took the top prize for Best Picture  – via a tie – during an evening of two other ties as well.   “Three Billboards” was the big winner with four wins, closely followed by Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”…

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ carries visual thrills and missed opportunities

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” – The marketing department behind the Star Wars franchise must be brilliant.  With billions of dollars in tickets sold over eight films (including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)), hired advertising suits certainly know the cinematic beats that will attract their audience.  On the other hand, Star Wars probably does not need a marketing department at all, because after George Lucas’s visionary masterstroke arrived in 1977, fans bought into his wondrous space opera and the films that followed, and rightfully so! Well, as writer/director…

Oldman’s performance brings light to ‘Darkest Hour’

“Darkest Hour” – “I am unwanted.” – Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) Untested, unappreciated and soon-to-be unwanted within Parliament, Winston Churchill became the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister in May 1940, because Neville Chamberlain resigned during Germany’s rapid advance through Western Europe during World War II.  Inheriting a country teetering between appeasement and conflict, Churchill sided with the latter.  Rather than negotiate peace, his instinct was to fight Hitler and his fearsome military, but with 300,000 British soldiers trapped on the French beaches of Dunkirk, treaties between Germany and/or Italy became much…

Does ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ work? Humbug.

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” – Ask any American 6-year-old who invented Christmas.  Depending upon the household, Santa or Jesus would probably be the response, but director Bharat Nalluri and screenwriter Susan Coyne offer a third name. Charles Dickens. Dickens?  Well, the man did write A Christmas Carol in 1843, and his transcendent story has warmly struck jolly and merry nerves over the last 174 years.  In the television/film age, many, many producers have jumped on this particular holiday bandwagon.  Just look at the “Adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’” Wikipedia…

‘Justice League’ team chemistry tops some muddled special effects, lackluster villain

“Justice League” – There is no “I” in team. When confronted by a selfish player, a coach may use that sports proverb to help illustrate that looking out for No. 1 may prove fatal to the team’s success.  Now, if the team has one, some or a collection of self-centered basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, soccer, or insert-your-sport-here players, the end result could be a lost game or perhaps, a lost season. In the movies, an individual superhero might not be self-regarding, but he or she may just not be capable…

Tremblay, Roberts and Wilson kindly deliver in ‘Wonder’

“Wonder” – Be kind. Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) walks with his parents – Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson) – towards Beecher Prep for his first day of middle school, and he is terrified.  Sure, middle school can be terrifying for just about any kid.  Think back to your years during that preadolescent and adolescent brew of confusion mixed with caste systems of rumors, doubt and Darwinism that distract from the primary tasks at hand: reading, writing and arithmetic. His future schoolwork does not concern him, but the potentially toxic…

Leo and Qualley shine during a dim view of the ‘Novitiate’

“Novitiate” – Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) is 17 years old and in love.  She is in love with God.  Conversely, her mom, Nora (Julianne Nicholson), never embraced religion and does not quite understand her daughter’s love and faith.  Soon, everything that Nora knows – her own faith in a sense – becomes severely tested.  Cathleen joins a convent, Sisters of Beloved Rose, to become a nun, and Nora believes that she is too young to make this decision. Faith and coming-of-age rise as the two primary themes in writer/director Margaret Betts’s…

Looking back at ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ director Taika Waititi’s movie catalog

On Friday, Nov. 3, “Thor: Ragnarok” invades theatres, and this latest installment in the Marvel Universe delivers spectacular thrills and oodles and oodles of laughs. (3.5/4 stars)  In fact, one could easily label it as a comedy, instead of an action-adventure, comic book film without an ounce of grief from anyone.   Credit the actors, including Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeff Goldblum.   Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett hop on the comedy train as well, and the film’s overall tone matches its director Taika Waititi. Waititi is no stranger…

‘The Square’ marvelously carries bizarre and hilarious edges

“The Square” – Do you enjoy modern art?   Modern art can offer fascinating trips into extraordinary visions, kooky madness, fashionable imagery turned on its head, and much more.  Walk into a modern art museum, and one might find neon orange cubes that turn purple and then back to their original color every 30 seconds or so.  In another room, one could spot repeated portraits of Sophia Loren layered with newspaper and paraded on the walls, and the adjacent corridor may house an oil painting splashed by one thousand hues and…