Six new March reviews from Linda and Al Lerner on Movies and Shakers

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LOVE, SIMON

If you can’t relate to any of the characters in this film, you never went to high school. This is truly a diverse ensemble cast that works. Each character has their own personality and gets their due, but play really well together. Some liken this film to this generation’s The Breakfast Club. We see that. But we now live in a different time when pressures seem to be even greater.

Director Greg Berlanti (Writer/Producer, Super Girl, The Flash, Arrow) has created a captivating film that deals more than with Simon’s angst and apprehension about coming out to friends and family as gay. Although his heartfelt love story is at the center, it also covers relationships with friends, family, teachers, authority. But it also challenges the anonymity of social media which can embolden some to reveal too much, or be used to wreak emotional damage when it comes to privacy and secrets. It’s based on the book “Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda.” Too long a name for the movie.

TOMB RAIDER

Did we really need an origin story for the Tomb Raider franchise? The two previous movies based on the popular video game had Angelina Jolie as a buxom, sexy Laura. This time we have the lean, petite Swedish Oscar Winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) in the starring role playing a smart, curious, but stubborn 26-year-old with a punch. Wearing the same T-shirt for practically the whole movie which barely gets torn, she takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING

This rock ‘em sock ‘em robot movie does not pack a punch. You’ll see tons of oversize metal Jaegers vs. the alien kaiju coming through the breach you saw in the original film at the bottom of the ocean. The battles feel interminable as the monstrous combatants take down major portions of Tokyo and everything else in their path.

THE DEATH OF STALIN

Can a movie based on Russia’s political power struggles be funny? This one, set in the Soviet Union in 1953, is funny and irreverent. Political satire is a cherished comedic art that lets us laugh at evil. Charlie Chaplin did it with Hitler in The Great Dictator, and Peter Sellers’ Dr. Strangelove are two of the best. Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin (Veep) joins them as an instant  classic of the genre. Written by Iannucci, David Scheider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows and Fabien Nury it’s based on a comic book by Nury and Thierry Robin.

A WRINKLE IN TIME

This is a film that Disney has been hyping for over a year. It has star power and Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th) is the first Black female director to get a $100 million dollar budget. And she used every bit of it. But does this film deliver enough bang for the buck? We think it is overproduced, too glitzy, the colors are over-saturated to the point of being distracting, and there are way too many close-ups; unnecessarily way too close. And we expected a story than hung together better from Screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabitha).

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE

It’s been 42 years since the hijacking of a Tel Aviv – Paris Air France flight landed in Uganda for 7 Days in Entebbe that led to an international situation. But the events that happened as a result as shown in this historic thriller aren’t entirely worth the elongated trip.

Brazilian Director José Padilha (RoboCop 2014 remake) creates, with meticulous detail, the tension and fear of the terrorists as well as the passengers, but his intention to humanize both doesn’t completely connect. Gregory Burke wrote the screenplay which has a documentary feel. there isn’t a lot of dialogue, but there is a lot of uncomfortable, silent, waiting. And  the unobtrusive, ominous music bed also conveys the underlying dread that it could all go terribly wrong at any moment. One of the most human characters is the Air France engineer (Denis Ménochet, Inglorious Bastards, Assassins Creed) who tries to fight for more humane conditions for the passengers.

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