Earth to Echo Doesn’t Carry Far

Review of Earth to Echo, Directed by David GreenCute, but not enough to overcome its one-dimensional story, Earth to Echo is a poorly executed homage to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The tale has been told before: young friends discovering an alien lifeform only to be caught up in a rescue mission to send it back to its interstellar home, all the while facing evil adults trying to stop them. The young friends are Tuck, Alex, and Munch who spend their last night together following a signal on their … [Read more...]

Drones locks on, arms, and misfires

Review of Drones, Directed by Tonje Hessen ScheiDrones was not a half-bad idea for a low-budget film. I can see what the filmmakers were trying to do here. It had the potential to be a compelling, Rear Window-esque story, told entirely from inside a little drone operating center somewhere in Nevada with a real-time window into a world on the other side of the planet. Given the setting, the premise is predictable but compelling: two drone pilots (Eloise Mumford and Matt O’Leary) are mo … [Read more...]

E-Team an On-the-Ground Encounter With Noble Intentions

A Review of E-Team, screening at the AFI DOCS documentary film festivalAFI DOCS, the documentary film festival formerly known as Silverdocs, has been undergoing a rebirth of sorts the past couple of years, changing its name and expanding beyond the AFI Silver theater in Silver Spring, Md., to several venues in downtown Washington, D.C.Among other changes this year, AFI DOCS has labeled three of its 84 titles Spotlight Screenings, the first of which, E-Team (which stands for “Emergencies T … [Read more...]

Who can say no to a sappy singalong?

Review of Jersey Boys, Directed and Produced by Clint EastwoodWho doesn’t like musicals? Only curmudgeons. And you’d have to be pretty curmudgeonly not to like Jersey Boys, with its rags-to-riches storyline and its feel-good, doo-wopping songs. Heck, it’s hard not to sing along. Clint Eastwood brings this Broadway-Hollywood hybrid to the silver screen, and he does a good—if not spectacularly original—job of telling the story of the rise and demise of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.The … [Read more...]

Memorable Truths Mark AFI DOCS Opener

Review of Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey, Directed by Scott TeemsFilm festival-goers who are serious film lovers know that opening-night selections are usually high-wattage PR vehicles rather than the probing, artful films that are the strength of most festivals. This year’s AFI DOCS international documentary film festival opening night was an exception. If Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey views Twain less than critically, its portrait of Holbrook only flirts with hagiography, al … [Read more...]

Ignore The Signal, It Means Nothing

Review of The Signal, Directed by William Eubank A cross between District 9, The Blair Witch Project, and X-Files, this new sci-fi thriller tries and fails to create something inventive. Nic Eastman (Brenton Thewaites), Jonah Breck (Beau Knapp), and Haley Peterson (Olivia Cooke) are three friends in the long tradition of trios--Nic and Haley are intimate while Jonah plays the lovable third wheel. The three MIT students are taking a road trip to drop Haley off in California for what appears … [Read more...]

Of Family and Training Dragons

How to Train Your Dragon 2, directed by Dean DeBloisThe first How to Train Your Dragon, which came out way back in 2010, was something of a surprise. In addition to the impressive animation and thrilling action--par for the course for these kinds of movies--it had wit, beauty, and a story with real emotional depth. Dreamworks had clearly learned something from Pixar, and the result was pure gold.Now comes the sequel, the crucible that proves whether we have a legitimately engaging m … [Read more...]

Child-Like Wonder at E.T.

E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven SpielbergThe only thing better than watching E.T. when you are five years old is watching it with a five-year-old. Rewatching Steven Spielberg’s tale of a gentle alien trying to get back home with the help of a fatherless boy and his friends--some three decades after I had last seen it, this time with my kids--was movie magic.Here is a rough transcript of my son’s running commentary.“What’s this movie? Is that a spaceship? Is this Star War … [Read more...]

Blade Runner’s Vision of Hell

Blade Runner: The Final Cut, directed by Ridley ScottWhat is hell like? The Bible gives us images of unquenchable fire and a smoke that goes up forever. But C.S. Lewis opted for a different metaphor in The Great Divorce: a drab town where it is always dark and mostly empty. Hell, in Lewis’ depiction, is a failed city: a place of crowded loneliness and frustrated aspirations.I thought of Lewis’ hell as I rewatched Ridley Scott’s 1981 dystopian masterpiece, Blade Runner. The film takes plac … [Read more...]

Edge of Tomorrow both numbs and entertains

Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug LimanEdge of Tomorrow is one of those films that does not have a single original element but manages to combines all of its tropes in a way that is nonetheless entertaining. In this case, the pieces are Groundhog Day (repeating day), Ender’s Game (humans vs. aliens), and the Halo video games (supersuits and cool weapons). At the center of this coward-to-manhood tale stand proven action star Tom Cruise and the oddly-cast but compelling Emily B … [Read more...]