Cinema Clash Podcasters talk Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, Wonder Wheel, and the DC Film Critics Awards
Mini-Reviews: I, Tonya
Review: Mudbound
Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mainstream Chick with Greta Gerwig @Middleburg

Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

God bless us, everyone. There’s more than one family-friendly movie worth catching this holiday season. First, there was Wonder, a heartwarming drama based on the best-selling book from 2012. And now there’s The Man Who Invented Christmas, a biopic of sorts about Charles Dickens and the creation of his 1843 classic novella “A Christmas Carol” where Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas after late-night visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. The story’s been adapted many, many, many times for stage and screen. So what makes this film worth seeing when you kind of know how it all plays out? Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Legion, Downton Abbey) and veteran actor Christopher Plummer – especially Christopher Plummer – and a script infused with warmth and wit.

Review: Mudbound

Mudbound was another film we both saw at Middleburg. It won the audience award at the festival and it’s easy to see why: great performances in a tragic epic of two families, one black and one white, in the Deep South in the 1940s. The film confronts race head on as the white McAllan family buys a farm where the Jacksons, black tenant farmers, have been living for generations. Writer/director Dee Rees delivers a powerful story of friendship and hate. It’s is a beautifully shot and very timely film.

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a darkly funny masterpiece. Oscar nods await, no doubt. It’s the story of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) a mother who is righteously pissed that local law enforcement hasn’t come any closer to catching her daughter’s killer after seven months. So she puts her anger on display on three billboards just outside town calling out law enforcement for not doing their job, eliciting an immediate reaction from the whole town – some with her, some not, mostly because she singles out the town’s beloved Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). One of his deputies (Sam Rockwell) who has some serious anger management issues of his own takes it as a slap to the whole department and retaliates, and things just escalate from there.

Review: Justice League

It’s increasingly hard to rate or rank superhero movies when there’s a new one, or two, or three bursting onto the scene seemingly every week. And let’s be honest, the reviews don’t matter. You probably fall into one of three camps: those who see them all, like right away; those who see most of them, eventually; and those who couldn’t care less. For those in the latter category, move on. There are plenty of awesome alternatives hitting the box office right now. For those who do care, or are simply curious, here’s my take on the much-anticipated, long-delayed, rumor-plagued Justice League: It’s pretty good. Not as good as Wonder Woman and not as much fun as Thor: Ragnarok, but it does its primary job: establishing the foundation for DC Comics’ cinematic version of Marvel’s Avengers, i.e. superheroes who are sometimes called upon to ‘assemble’ to save the world.

Quickie Review: Wonder

Wonder is simply a wonderful film for the whole family to watch and enjoy – and sniffle through – as we enter the holiday season. Based on the New York Times best-seller by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the inspiring story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with a rare facial deformity whose parents enroll him in school at the start of fifth grade so he can be around other kids and live a more normal life. It’s not an easy transition. Kids will be kids. But Auggie is smart, funny, empathetic and endearing, and he has a close-knit, supportive family that always has his back.

Review: Lady Bird

Both of us saw this film at The Middleburg Film Festival last month. And we’re both fans. Here are our two mini-reviews, which taken together are really one entire review ☺:

Review: The Florida Project

The Florida Project is from Sean Baker who brought us the wonderful Tangerine in 2015. It has a similar vibe, just a step up from documentary without a lot of story development. Where that one was on the streets of LA, this time it’s summer in Orlando. School’s out for a group of kids who live in low-rent motels not too far from Disney World. They spend their days running around looking for adventure and getting into trouble. 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is the center of it all. She’s foul-mouthed and full of piss and vinegar, just like her ne’er-do-well mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) who definitely loves her, but can’t really take care of anything. Mom’s figured how to get what she needs to hang on, but not much more. And the motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is seconds from throwing them to the curb.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download

Featuring quickie reviews of: Breathe; Darkest Hour; Call Me By Your Name; Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool; Mudbound; Hostiles; Last Flag Flying; Lady Bird; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; I, Tonya; Faces, Places; The Square; Novitiate

For the second year in a row, I ventured out to bucolic Middleburg, Virginia (about an hour’s drive from DC) for the Middleburg Film Festival, a mid-October opportunity for a little bit of schmoozing and partying, and a whole lot of movie-watching. I’m a bit late with my recap, but hey, it took a while to wrap my head around the whole experience: Ten movies, across three venues, in 72 hours. A Mainstream Chick record!

(Spoiler-free) Review: Thor: Ragnarok

What exactly is Ragnarok? I’m not quite sure and I don’t really care. What I do know is this: Thor: Ragnarok is a very funny superhero action-adventure sci-fi fantasy movie that zips to the top of my list of ‘guilty pleasure’ popcorn movies for 2017. Is it ‘THE BEST MARVEL MOVIE EVER!’ as some have proclaimed? No. But it is one of the most entertaining, as long as you’re familiar – to some degree – with the Marvel universe (i.e. the Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, etc.) and have a solid appreciation for the tongue-in-cheek tone of a Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy. The more Marvel movies you’ve seen, the more you’ll get out of Ragnarok. It’s packed with hidden gems, celebrity cameos, sly innuendos, inside jokes and character development that builds off relationships established in earlier films featuring the various Avengers working solo or as a team. No spoilers. Just the gist:

Review: Suburbicon

Clooney. Damon. Moore. The Coen Brothers. Sounds like a slam-dunk, no? Well, not quite. George Clooney’s Suburbicon is entertaining, to be sure, but ultimately it can’t quite seem to decide what it’s trying to say. Set in a 1950s perfectly planned suburb, Matt Damon plays Gardner Lodge, father of adorable preteen Nicky (Noah Jupe, The Night Manager) and husband to invalid wife Rose (Julianne Moore, Still Alice) whose twin sister Margaret is a regular guest in the house. The peace of their idyllic neighborhood is broken suddenly by two unconnected incidents: A violent home invasion at the Lodge’s house and the arrival of the subdivision’s first black family who move in right next door. You would expect that these two things might somehow intersect eventually. You’d be mistaken.