The Establishing Shot’s Jeff York reviews “Wonder Woman,” “It Comes at Night,” “Awakening the Zodiac,” and “Churchill”

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WONDER WOMAN

Why has the new big screen version of WONDER WOMAN struck a chord with so, so many?

Perhaps it has something to do with loyal fans waiting for decades for a WW movie and their joy at seeing it materialize so spectacularly. Maybe it’s because Gal Gadot already won audiences over with her scene-stealing turn in last year’s otherwise dour BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and fans were ready for more of her clever take on the role. Certainly, a lot of it had to do with talented filmmaker Patty Jenkins avoiding the dark, aloof tone that has characterized the DC style for too many big screen outings now.

No matter, the WONDER WOMAN movie did huge box office its opening weekend and was the number one film worldwide. Praise for the movie was near universal too, holding at a 93% “certified fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes.com. I believe that there are many factors that contributed to its sterling success, probably too many to list in this blog. Still, I can think of ten right off the bat that made it so wondrous.

IT COMES OUT AT NIGHT/AWAKENING THE ZODIAC

In the five years that I was the Chicago Horror Movie Examiner, while that online newspaper was in existence, I saw a lot of scary films. Thus, watching anything labeling itself a frightener helped me identify what makes horror work on a macro level, as well as a micro one. Many horror movies could boast of quality budgets, high production values, and expert acting, yet if the script was problematic, none of that mattered. As the adage goes, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” And in all my years as a fan of horror, long before being paid to critique such movies, I realized that the single most egregious mistake a horror piece could make was creating characters that acted too stupid to truly invest in.

Unfortunately, two new frighteners that just opened make that critical error, repeatedly. There is much to recommend in both IT COMES AT NIGHT and AWAKENING THE ZODIAC, as they’re well done on several levels, but they have filled their stories with stupid characters that act inanely. Rather than covering my eyes in fear, I was rolling them in frustration.

CHURCHILL

Winston Churchill, Time’s Man of the Half Century, continues to fascinate. According to IMDB.com there are no fewer than 67 titles centering on his legacy, in documentary form, as well as scripted dramas. And in our current cinematic age of one superhero movie after the next, it’s important to realize who the real heroes of the world have been, and perhaps that is what drove the filmmakers to once again tell a story about a man who indeed saved the world. Yet, this new take, a theatrical release simply entitled CHURCHILL, is a very different take on the man’s heroics. It focuses on the fears and foibles of the man Time lauded for calling out the “rescue parties.”

CLICK ON THE TITLES TO READ JEFF’S FULL REVIEWS!

 

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