Movie Review: Moonlight (2016)

Author: Iyanna Armwood

“Moonlight,” is a film that all moviegoers should see. Released in 2016 and written and directed by Barry Jenkins “Moonlight,” is an excellent exploration of race, sexuality and isolation that gives face to American harsh realities. The coming-of-age drama follows Chiron, the main character, through three stages of his life as he tries to figure out his identity while fighting the expectations of Miami and the world at large. Chiron is played by Alex R. Hibbert as a child, Ashton Sanders as a teenager and Trevante Rhodes as an adult.

Contine reading

Review: “Hunger Games” final installment doesn’t disappoint

Excitement buzzed in the seats of the Cinemark Monroeville as Chatham University students waited impatiently for the final installment of the “Hunger Games” series.

“Mockingjay Part 2” follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) on her journey to overthrow the Capitol. The film included the favorite characters from past films, such as Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin).

The film even included Plutarch Heavensbee, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mockingjay Part 2 was the last film Hoffman made before he passed away.

Director Francis Lawrence produced another visually intriguing piece. The film often played with lighting, throwing a character’s face into shadow to increase drama or showing a character in silhouette for a similar effect. Lawrence directed the last three installments of the series.

Jennifer Lawrence did not disappoint with her final portrayal of Katniss. She utilized her acting chops to show a reluctant leader whose life seems to be crumbling around her.

Similarly, Josh Hutcherson characterized Peeta — who is still being rehabilitated after being brainwashed by the Capitol to believe that Katniss is evil — as unsure and vulnerable.

Two surprising standouts were Jena Malone (who played Johanna Mason) and Sam Claflin (who played Finnick Odair). The character of Johanna gave the audience most of the limited moments comic relief, which Malone played carefully, never too over-the-top. Claflin portrayed the role of Finnick with all the grace and kindness that fans adored from the books.

The film overall had nearly everyone in the theater on the edge of their seats. The suspense that we grew to love in the last three movies is certainly not missing in Mockingjay Part 2 — if anything, viewers can expect even more tension and jump-out-and-scare-you moments than any of the films before.

As a lover of the books myself, I was completely satisfied with the film. It followed the storyline of the book very closely, and all of the characters were, as usual, very good portrayals of much-loved characters from the book.

To be perfectly honest, I could find very little that I didn’t like about the film. The one exception to this is the final scene in the film. Those familiar with the book series will likely recall the polarizing epilogue; while some felt it was a nice wrap-up to the series, others felt dissatisfied with Suzanne Collins’ choice to tell the reader how the world changed rather than let them make up their own minds.

Regardless of my personal feelings toward the epilogue in the books, I felt the epilogue in the film was heavy-handed — the wonderful characterization we got throughout the film was stripped away in favor of two-dimensional versions of the characters many years later.

4.5/5 stars

Waiting for Intermission, New on Netflix: Review of “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”

In the mindset of my last review for the Communique, I wanted to choose a movie that would reflect the anxiousness of this part of the semester when all the final projects, final papers, and dreaded tutorials are due. In one of his last movies, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” Robin Williams had been able to portray to us all how important time really is.

Henry Altman is an incredibly angry man. It seems that in this case, the title does give away the film when you meet Henry. In the first 10 minutes on screen, he narrates to the audience that he is adding things to his list of things he hates. He looks worn from a horrible night’s sleep and tired of waiting in traffic, but more importantly, he’s angry that he is late for his doctor’s appointment. Once he’s finally there, he has to wait even longer for a doctor who isn’t even his normal doctor.

Just when things couldn’t possibly get any worse for Henry Altman, he is told he has 90 minutes to live.

Storming out of the clinic with a too-revealing hospital gown, Henry hails a cab to go back to work. But then the news finally sinks in for him. What was he, a man who has spent the better part of the last two years of his life angry, going to do? That’s when 90 minutes become as precious as gold to Henry Altman, and he realizes there are so many things he needed to fix before the clock strikes 6:22 p.m.

Throughout his day, Henry tries to reconcile with his loved ones and his close friends before he dies. Unfortunately, everyone he meets manages to make him lose his temper. The only one who seems to chase him down on his last day of life is the doctor who told him he had 90 minutes to live. But the movie shows a minute of happiness is worth a lot more than a year of anger.

Henry Altman was rushing against the clock to be able to travel through one of the busiest, loudest cities in the country to tell his loved ones that he loves them. Altman states, “The only people who don’t look back with regret are idiots and psychopaths. And I got a lifetime of regrets, boy.” Only when his time was running out did he stop and realize what he had become. With all the anger he held against the world for what it was, Henry made himself the thing that he hated the most.

Robin Williams reminded the world of laughter and how the world is full of life and goodness. His character, although starting out as mean and hateful towards the world, manages to teach the audience the same lesson that Robin Williams did.  We need to take a moment to remember that time is precious enough to appreciate it. Final projects, papers, and tests make it easy for us to have a sense of lost time; however it’s when we take the moment to breathe that we acknowledge all the hard work we’ve already accomplished.


Waiting for Intermission: Review of “Cinderella”

Stories about love, kindness, and life are what compel us all to find our happily ever after.  This story begins with a young girl named Ella, living in a house far away from the kingdom walls. She is a beautiful girl who lives with her parents, and she couldn’t be happier.

However, stories don’t start out with a happily ever after. When the young girl’s mother falls gravely ill, her only wish for her child is for Ella to be kind and to have courage. Ella practices every day, even when her father remarries to a cold-hearted woman with two equally cold-hearted daughters. When Ella’s father passes away, she finds her courage growing weak, but she never loses her kindness. One day, she knows she will find that one tiny piece of happiness. All it takes is for her to lose her shoe.

We all know the fairytale of Cinderella–even if it wasn’t from Disney. For many of us (older) fairy tale fans, we heard the famous tale from the Grimm Brothers, with their slightly violent adaptation. Over the years, popular television shows and favorite cinematic classics retell and resell the famous story of the shoeless girl who turned into a princess.

This version had a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett), a fairy Godmother (Helen Bonham Carter), a cat named Lucifer, and a CGI mouse named Gus-Gus. Yet, unlike the classic animated Disney version, the Prince (Richard Madden) isn’t clueless or even a Prince when he starts his search for the shoeless girl. But overall, the movie repeats the original animated version.

Then there were scenes that I had always questioned as a young girl watching the Disney film until my father tried to break the VCR player. When asked by someone as to why Ella stayed in her house with her evil stepmother and stepsisters, Kenneth Branagh finally gave us an answer. Ella didn’t want to leave the house her parents had cherished. She wanted to protect the last memories of her family and her childhood from her dark reality. I thought this answer was better than my father’s muttering of “Just watch the movie.”

What also struck me was that when the stepmother took the glass slipper away from Ella, Ella yelled at her, “Why are you so cruel?” Why was this woman, as beautiful as she was, so heartless to Cinderella? And the Stepmother responded, “Because you are young and naïve and innocent. That’s why.” This woman has been so spurned in life that she repelled anything that was good. Instead of seeking redemption or new hope, the stepmother had turned herself as cold as the world that scorned her. It wasn’t for the audience to feel empathy for the stepmother, but a way to understand why she had resented Cinderella when the girl just wanted to be kind to her. The stepmother couldn’t be kind towards Cinderella because she had forgotten what kindness was.

With a keen eye for bright color and inspiring music, the fairy tale Cinderella has made another fantastic appearance for many of us to relive the wonderment of childhood.


Waiting for Intermission: Review of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

A secret organization of dashing Englishmen in suits, or (in the eyes of everyone else besides Britain) a secret organization of spies, have taken a personal interest in everyday, super genius street thug Gary “Eggsy” Unwin.

The ever so elegantly spoken Colin Firth, who plays Harry Hart, wants to repay Eggsy’s late father for saving his life by introducing his son to the underground tailor shop, The Kingsman: the Secret Service. What Eggsy faces in the most dangerous job interview he’ll ever have can only be described as the heart pounding action that adrenaline junkies crave.

While on paper the film seems to be a remake of a James Bond film, Samuel L. Jackson as a caring, queasy-to-violence, hipster villain made this film top notch. It is rated with that big red ‘R’ that we were told to stay away from as young, innocent preteens, so “Kingsman” is not for the faint of heart. After watching the film, I couldn’t help but agree that it would make you squirm in your seat, shield your eyes with those makeshift finger guards, and then force you to cross your legs because of that 16-ounce ICEE you bought just to watch what was going to happen next.

When it came down to it, I thought that this comic book based film was able to compliment and offend everyone on the spectrum. From political choices and class status, “Kingsman” made a statement that ‘evil’ and ‘good’ can be anyone. In any classic action film, the ‘bad guys’ would always fall under a stereotype. The villains were German for Bruce Willis or Nazis for Harrison Ford, and Hydra happened to be German with a touch of Swedish for Chris Evans.

However, Kingsman managed to create the villain, Valentine (Jackson), who was extremely likeable and even somewhat more enjoyable that the normal British charm associated with Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Michael Caine.

Valentine wanted to save the planet from destruction. He didn’t want money, he didn’t want to rule the world, and he didn’t want to watch it burn. Valentine was desperate to save the world. “The world is sick, and humanity is the virus.”

He took care of people, he liked people, but he also wanted people to die. I thought that this was screaming ‘God complex,’ and in a way it was; however, he didn’t have the usual narcissism that accompanied the ‘God complex’ of most super villains.

When he chose someone to protect from his master plan, it was based on how they would help the world and the innocence he thought they would bring to the new age.

I’m not stating that we should all find a mass executioner to install chips in our electronics that would turn us all into evil murderous dogs, but if I could listen to anyone before he killed me off, I would vote for Samuel L. Jackson.


Waiting for Intermission: Review of “Jupiter Ascending”

When asked to watch this film, I had my reservations about it. I appreciate a good action film as much as the next woman, but I worried that the film was overly dramatic based on the trailers.

How does a girl feel when she goes from being an illegal Russian immigrant who cleans toilets, to a space princess who is in line to inherit the Earth?

Surprisingly calm for Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis). I appreciated the step into this action sci-fi direction that the sibling directors, Lana and Andy Wachowski, took to bring this mixed universe of “Matrix” and “Star Wars” (as quoted by Douglas Booth, who portrays Titus) to the cinema.

Space princesses, space werewolves, space capitalism (let’s not forget the bees) make interesting characters to begin with, if not confusing as heck to follow the plot as the film reaches its climax.

I understood enough from the film to get the general idea that Jupiter Jones is the reincarnation of a Space Empress who is now in line to own the Earth, yet the three children of her Space Empress self stand in the way and fight to either kill her, befriend her, or marry her so that they may own the Earth.

Then Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) a splice (a genetic experimentation of wolf and human) comes in the save her when she ultimately throws herself back into danger.

The visual effects brought enough life to the film; however, the sound accompanying the visual effects blew over the dialogue of the actors as they were explaining to young Jupiter what was going on and why the three most powerful heirs wanted to kill the incarnation of their mother.

The film features in several mixed (leaning to negative) reviews, featuring in ‘The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2015’ by

Overall, I wanted more story from the film. There were amusing scenes to make the film lighthearted and some (truly disturbing) dark scenes, yet I would have liked to see more of the world the Wachowski siblings created.

In this universe your signature and the set of currency are genes. How do they live forever? Recycling genes of other planets. Once a civilization reaches the capacity of the planet, it is ripe for ‘harvesting’, meaning that the House of Abrasax (the ruling companies of the gene trade) collects all the human beings of that planet and strips them down to their genes.

Once the humans are harvested, an individual can bathe in the static waters and become younger. The matriarch of the House of Abrasax was able to send her future self’s inheritance (Jupiter Jones) to the Earth by using the signature of her genes. If you wish to get married, there is no such use of rings; your genes receive a mark that becomes your signature, showing that you are bound to your partner. It was the most exciting idea of the film for me to see.

As for the reason why the film, originally scheduled to be in theaters on July 18, 2014, was pushed back to February 6, 2015, it was due to the visual effects. The ideas of the project were too complex to be completed in the allotted time used for post-production (Posted by CinemaBlend). The producers and directors needed the extra time to finish the final look of the visual effects of the film. Personally, I am glad they took the extra time for the quality of the effects, the effects didn’t disappoint.


Waiting for Intermission: Top four on Netflix

It’s not all uncommon to hear the word ‘Netflix’ in a conversation at Chatham. It’s generally assumed that we, as college students in the year 2015, would find time to relax and/or procrastinate on writing that intensive paper by streaming films online. I’ve always considered it to be almost like a red beacon, beckoning me away from my studies for just a couple of minutes. As a result, I researched IMDb’s top 4 highest rated films on Netflix to watch.

4.The Pianist (2002)

Director: Roman Polonski

Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finky

There’s a saying that seems very common for anyone who is studying music, or for any of the arts for that matter: ‘Starving Artist.’ Most of us in college dread it whenever someone brings up how difficult the job hunt is. However, for beautiful musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, he starves not because no one will listen to his music, but because he is Jewish. In the era of World War II, a time considered one of the greatest human catastrophes in history, music seems to be the only reason Wladyslaw strives to live. He has to run and hide to be able to survive, and he has to one day be able to play his music.

If there are any words I could use to describe this film, it would be beautifully haunting. Any films that are set during WWII are struck in such hard color and abrasive emotions, because it  is all true. The audience doesn’t relate to the film because of their own set of devastation; they connect purely to the raw emotion behind it. This film (and many other films like it) values the ability for a human being to empathize and be able to appreciate and respect those who we have lost.

3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong

Taking a step back in time to the good ole days of the 1990s, Netflix selects “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” as its third highest rated film to watch. It is the second time that Arnold Schwarzenegger assumes his role as the terrifying Terminator: Robot Assassin, and it is the second time Sarah Connor races against the clock to survive. Yet, instead of what most audiences believed from the first Terminator movie, James Cameron didn’t want to try to kill Sarah Connor again. The Terminator takes charge on screen as the protector of Sarah Connor’s son, John. John, assuming his role as the smart aleck kid, one day defends the rest of humanity and leads all to a brighter future.

I always considered this movie as a classic Sci-Fi film growing up (until I really knew what the word ‘classic’ meant).  Even though it was really well thought of in its time, I didn’t like it as much as the first one. I appreciated John’s character; I also appreciated a woman action hero who knew how to use a gun without whining that she’d get dirty, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see the film again. In my opinion, this film would probably be behind “Reservoir Dogs” as the 6th movie to watch.

2. Memento (2002)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliane

It doesn’t sound so terrible to go to sleep and wake up to a brand new life. If you didn’t like what you did that day, you could wake up to a new mindset. Yet, when most of us feel that way, we don’t actually want to experience it every day. For Leonard Shelby, he wakes up with no recollection of what he did yesterday. Head trauma made him lose his ability to create new memories, and the only memory he really remembers, apart from who he is, is the death of his wife. With new tattoos every morning, he forces his future self to remember parts of what his past self has discovered about the man who murdered his wife and left him for dead. However, he can’t believe anything he has found out. A tale of psychological warfare with friends, family, and himself, Leonard has to race his own mind before he forgets how to take his vengeance.

1. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale

As the highest rated film on Netflix, I was happy that they had chosen this classic Spaghetti Western. Full of drama, intense close ups, and intimate exposures on the Wild West, “Once Upon a Time in the West” doesn’t disappoint. This film is all you would want for a western film to have: a hero with a vengeful backstory, the criminal who caused the pain, an oppressed town with fearful townspeople, and the female love interest that can be as fearsome as a man of her era.

There’s nothing I love more that watching a classic after watching so many painstaking tries for new films to be as original as possible. It isn’t because they don’t do their job and every filmmaker deserves their credits for providing entertainment with the right message; but classic films are the films from which filmmakers get their inspiration. With the classic looks and the breakthrough cinematic landmarks, all the big stars of their time have set the bars for filmmakers to jump higher and higher. They all help us remember on how far film magic has come from that first shot of the moving train. Imagination and creativity are what drive filmmakers to break that final barrier of what is real and what can be shown as magical.

Waiting for Intermission, New on Netflix: “A Walk Among the Tombstones”

There’s always a sense of nostalgia for the mystery thrillers of the 1990s. A retired cop turned Private Investigator, a drug addicted army vet, and a medically conditioned homeless kid seemed almost too nostalgic.

Private Investigator Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) runs with the known drug dealers or traffickers (as the drug dealers like to call themselves) of 1999 New York City. Yet, unlike other PI’s, instead of sorting through their trash, Scudder helps uncover two men who are preying on their wives and slowly torturing them for ransom money. The clock ticks on as the audience watches Scudder uncover all the secrets of the drug trade to help catch the real monsters terrorizing New York City.

Since I was watching the film for the action and gut-wrenching drama I knew any movie with Liam Neeson was sure to provide me, I really enjoyed the subtle placement of the film in the great year of 1999. The atmosphere of the big Y2K bug scare, the excitement of the new Yahoo launch, and the late night study sessions with a Gateway computer all felt like a friendly trip down memory lane to a time when I actually used a landline to call someone.

For most people, it doesn’t sound great, especially when there are so many great things to appreciate that perfect replica of the 1980s movie, but it was nice to think, “Oh, I actually remember that time.”  Yet, all the mistakes that we would witness in an action movie of the 1990s didn’t creep into the movie.

For once, we have a movie set in the late 1990s, but with the technological advantages of 2015. That means clearer action shots, better lighting, and in-depth detail of close ups, not to mention high definition features and the chance of Blu-ray.

There were some scenes in the film where it was just a waiting game for me. I knew it was going to happen and all I could do was shout at my computer screen for the character not to make that mistake that gets them discovered and kills them.

Liam Neeson did not disappoint me with his investigations as Matthew Scudder, and he eventually showed everyone else how good he really was. When I ask myself what would possess me to watch this film at two in the morning, knowing full well I would have fear-induced nightmares (and terrifying jumps as my roommate walked into the room at the wrong time of the film), I remind myself that with any Liam Neeson movie I’ve seen, he gives the audience a sense that everything is going to be alright, even when things really aren’t.

So when I woke up the next day in a cold sweat, I really found comfort in the fact that even though there are real evils in the world worse than drug traffickers, there will always be a Liam Neeson character who gives the reassurance that everything is going to be alright.


Waiting for Intermission: Review of Blackhat

Set in the developing world of cyber terrorism, “Blackhat” starts out with a nuclear plant explosion in China. In America, not long after, the Mercantile Trade Exchange gets hacked. With the only leading evidence fried in the heart of the nuclear plant, Chinese and American agents collaborate to bring incarcerated cyber criminal Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) to the game.

What reason do they have to take the convict out of prison? To get inside the mind of the criminal they’re trying to take down. However, even with the watchful eyes of the FBI guards and his shiny ankle bracelet accessory, would you trust Hathaway to do the right thing if you give the unlawful genius your computer?

As the film progresses, there’s no clear reason as to why Hathaway is there, or what he had done to be thrown into the American slammer in the first place.

During a quiet conversation, Hathaway states that he did a little hacking, but no one explains what exactly he was hacking. As for why he was brought to the FBI’s attention in the first place, was it because he was friends, roommates, and brothers-in-computer-arms with Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), a military officer of China’s cyber warfare unit?

Later on in the film, it seems as if the reason for Hathaway to stay with the project is for Dawai’s sister, Chen Lien (Tang Wei). Why would Hathaway risk his life to help America and China defend themselves from a faceless yet powerful villain?

Somewhat obviously, Hathaway makes a deal with his American captors: if he gets the cyber terrorist, he goes free. Yet there’s no explanation as to why Hathaway isn’t already allowed to walk the streets a free man. After some tension between the FBI agents, the young military officer, and his sister, the FBI reluctantly agree that Hathaway is an asset, and ultimately, they let him run the show. Traveling from America to China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the plot seems to make more sense as more and more people keep dying.

Even with the unsteady camera shots and the (nauseating) movements of cuts, I enjoyed the film. The character introductions and backstories left me wanting to know more about the people I should care about in the film, but I felt that I could focus more on why the characters were together.

The love connection between Hathaway and Chen Lien was a little obvious to me, but it didn’t detract from the main point of the film. The plot kept me guessing–not about what was going to happen next, but why. Why were the antagonists killing people and destroying governments? And, unlike most action films I’ve seen, I didn’t know the real villain of the story until the very end. Straight to the action and slow to the point, I feel that the film “Blackhat,” directed by Michael Mann, is a good film to watch more than once.

Waiting for Intermission: Review of “Into the Woods” and “Wild”

“Into the Woods”

The only message that is expressed in the musical “Into the Woods” is that a wish can take you to an exciting new life, where all your dreams come true. Combing the imagination of Rob Marshall, the creative genius James Lapine (author of the book “Into the Woods”), and just a spoonful of Disney magic, “Into the Woods,” reignites our childhood memories of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

Tales such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood are all intertwined with the original story of a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who have to set out to collect a series of strange items for a magical potion in order to lift the curse that a witch (Meryl Streep, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Into the Woods”) has placed on their house. Does wishing with all your heart truly make it a happily ever after?

I was surprisingly enchanted by the creative vision of the film. Musicals that carry their own weight for the audience are not usually viewed as being very original on the big screen. However, Rob Marshall managed to keep the audience involved in the film without changing the music and lyrics created by Stephen Sondheim.

I always felt that the musical had a stronger sense of reality than most, answering all of my questions as to why the characters did things that even a child would question. Why would Cinderella stay in a house where she was bullied? What would possess a little girl to talk to a (clearly dangerous) wolf? And how daft do you have to be to trade your best friend for a couple of beans?

While the musical has always been one of my favorites, the film made me feel like I was watching the story again for the first time. A wish, leading to a story about young (confused) love, angry giants, charming princes, and a ferocious wolf can all just be the result of stepping into the woods.

Rating: 4/5


Another trip to the theater over the long break took me on another movie journey into nature: “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Based on the book and real life events of Cheryl Strayed’s life, “Wild” tells the story of a young woman’s journey to find redemption.

After the death of her mother, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in “Wild”) finds herself at a crossroads, taking a very dark turn that leads to a heartbreaking divorce and a rocky relationship with her brother. After a very harsh look at herself, Cheryl decides to take the 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

At first, I didn’t want to see the film. I thought it might have been just about hiking and how you should be able to move on with your life after a loved one leaves you. With this in mind, I could not have predicted how emotionally involved I would become with Strayed.

With every mile she conquered, I got a closer look into what her mother meant to her. Her mother (Laura Dern, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Wild”) was the sole model for strength, courage, and survival for Cheryl. Every step that Cheryl took meant a deeper look into what the trail meant for her.

Cheryl wasn’t looking for forgiveness from her failed marriage, nor was she looking for a chance to fix things with her brother. Cheryl was trying to forgive herself.  There is a time where the film brings the audience’s attention to the anger Cheryl felt towards her mother, but the scene only explained why she was on the trail in the first place. The reason Cheryl wanted to finish her painful journey was because she needed to be able to convince herself that she could (literally) walk on her own two feet.

Rating: 5/5