Ghost World (2001): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowe’s iconic coming of age tale “Ghost World” gets its due from Criterion for hardcore fans alike. Criterion tastefully disregards Scarlett Johansson’s mega star status in favor of advertising the essence of the very weird and unusual tale of a young girl learning about growing up and moving on. In one of her finest roles, Thora Birch stars as the odd Enid, a girl with peculiar taste for Bollywood musicals and off beat culture who is experiencing the end of high school with her best friend Rebecca (Johansson). Enid finds solace with her life through her unusual art where she draws colorful locals in her town.

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Power Rangers (2017)

I’m not going to argue that “Power Rangers” isn’t a movie made by a committee. The action loving, kid in me, however, really enjoyed what “Power Rangers” had to offer. It really is a re-imagining of the “Mighty Morphin” era of “Power Rangers” but tackles every plot element and universe building idea with so much more finesse and logic. The reason why these Rangers control robotic dinosaurs makes sense. The reason why Alpha Five is so important makes sense. Zordon being so crucial to helping the Rangers makes so much sense. The diversity is so much more natural and fluid than the original TV series, where everything just felt tacked on for broader appeal. Best of all, the blue ranger finally gets his due in a movie where he is the heart and soul of the entire group.

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The Wanderers (1979) [Blu-Ray]

After spending many years in a hard to find DVD version, “The Wanderers” is finally given the proper treatment on blu-ray by Kino Lorber with a beautiful 2K restoration. “The Wanderers” is one of the many films from the nostalgia boom of the late seventies and early eighties, that peeks back in to the sixties, where great change was taking shape, and the world was at war. With films like “American Graffiti” making waves, “The Wanderers” is another of those defining era dramas that is shockingly overlooked and not often appreciated. “The Wanderers” is very much a gangland picture but more so a coming of age drama about a young boy growing up in a world filled with allegiances, dividing loyalties, and uneasy questions about where he stands in a gradually shifting society.

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Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini) (2017) (New York International Children’s Film Festival 2017)

Courgette (Zucchini) is a young boy who has had a tough life.  His father is gone and his bother drinks a lot of beer.  One day, something happens to his mother and he ends up placed in a group home.  Through learning to trust others with the other kids in the home, he also learns to love himself and others.

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My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de courgette) (2016)

I truly, truly hope that when “My Life as a Zucchini” comes to the states that people to come to see it. I want people to seek it out, I want people to take their families, and I want everyone to tell others about what is easily one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. “My Life as a Zucchini” is simple and it’s short, but its rich in human themes, and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with. Rest assured I fell in love with every single character, and understood even the antagonists. “My Life as a Zucchini” isn’t a film that shoehorns in a villain. It’s merely a slice of life about the pitfalls and emotional turmoil that comes with being an orphan in a very cruel, and often difficult world.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler is a man who is literally a hollow individual who spends his entire life going through the motions. He works a hard job as a superintendent for four apartment buildings, gets little to no respect, and falls asleep every night in his basement hole in front of his television. On rare occasions he stops by his local bar to get drunk and engage in fist fights with locals. He may not have died the night his house burned down with his children in it, but he might as well be in his grave. Chandler isn’t a man who has given up any hope of a happy life, but a man who has given up on himself and only himself. “Manchester by the Sea” has every opportunity to be a sickly sweet sitcom about a man learning to live again thanks to his nephew. Until the very end, though, director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama is a somber, incredibly compelling masterpiece that confronts guilt, grief, and the difficulty of dealing with losing someone we loved.

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Pearl (2016)

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE – Director Patrick Osborne gave audiences the beautiful and sweet animated short “Feast” about a dog’s love for food and his owner. With “Pearl,” Osborne breaks out of that smaller narrative to create a sweet, touching, and incredible ode to music and the power of family. Patrick Osborne created “Pearl” as one of the first VR animated short films that allowed audiences to experience the movie in 360 degrees.

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The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Easily one of the best films of 2016, Kelly Freman Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” is a wonderful drama comedy teeming with engaging characters and compelling human dilemmas all of which garner a sense of sheer sadness. Not since “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” have I seen a drama comedy evoke the themes of John Hughes so beautifully. Too often when directors and writers try to invoke Hughes, they forget the key element to their narrative that the main protagonists can be and often are as flawed and selfish as the supporting characters and antagonists. The same can be said for “The Edge of Seventeen” where Hailee Steinfeld is incredibly adorable and compelling as Nadine Franklin. From the moment we meet her, Nadine is her own worst enemy, she’s someone who is always doubting herself and on the verge of a break down.

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