Just when you thought there were no more horrible stories to tell about the Nazi atrocities during World War II, we get The Zookeeper’s Wife, a movie based on the best-selling book by Diane Ackerman, which tells a familiar (but still harrowing) story of civilians who tried to help Jews escape the Nazis, and also reveals yet another subset of victims of the Third Reich: animals.
I’m a huge animal lover, so I was resistant to see The Zookeeper’s Wife. The movie tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, a Warsaw couple who run the city’s zoo. When the Nazis invade Poland in September, 1939, the zoo is bombed and the animals are, well, obviously, “displaced,” one way or another. I was prepared for this, I tried my best to steel myself, but, even with my eyes closed for about 6 minutes, it was still quite traumatic.
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Don’t worry about Kristen Stewart. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Having earned international fame and fortune from the Twilight movies, she has now parlayed her Hollywood status into the ability to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. And the movies she wants to make, it seems, are small, stimulating and thoughtful. In other words, as un-Twilight as you can get.
Since the last Twilight movie imploded our box offices in 2012, Stewart has colored in her resume with almost nothing but independent/low budget/foreign films, garnering better and better reviews along the way. Her performances in movies such as Still Alice, Certain Women, Clouds of Sils Maria and Café Society finally led everyone to realize that this girl-who-was-famous-for-being-Bella actually had some depth—both to her acting and to her career aspirations. (Fun fact: in 2015, Stewart became the first American EVER to win a Cesar award—France’s Oscars—for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria)
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It is the rare occurrence in Hollywood when a sequel comes out that actually feels right. Most, generally speaking, are churned out too soon and for all the wrong reasons, mostly money. However, when there is sincerely more story to tell or a legitimate desire to revisit characters, sequels do make sense. In the case of T2 Trainspotting, both are applicable. The sequel to director Danny Boyle’s 1996 indie classic Trainspotting is not only welcome, but, as it turns out, glorious.
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Public Service Announcement:
If you, like me, are really curious and interested to see the new movie Get Out because of its phenomenal reviews and record-breaking box office numbers, but are nervous to actually go to the theatre to see it because it’s a horror movie and you just don’t do horror, well, I’m here to tell you: Get In.
Get Out’s writer/director, Jordan Peele, just made history by being the first African-American director whose debut film crossed the $100 million mark in box office earnings. And it reached that milestone in just 16 days. A little film that cost only $4.5 million to make, has no big names in it and is labeled a “horror-satire” with shades of social commentary has already made $100 million dollars two weeks in? That’s almost as unheard-of as a $1.5 million movie by a black director, with an all-black cast and a gay storyline winning Best Picture at the Oscars. Oh, wait….
So Get Out is making history. That’s great, but that’s not even the best story about this movie. The best part about Get Out is….it’s really good.
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Old superheroes never die, they just fade away…. Or get recast so a whole new franchise can begin anew with a younger actor, ignoring all movies that had come before it.
One thing I will give to Logan, the newest (and last—we think) installment in the Wolverine series of films from the X-Men superhero franchise, is that 20th Century Fox actually lets its tentpole lead character get old. Wolverine is played by Hugh Jackman, and has been since he first appeared on screen in 2000 in the original X-Men movie. So that’s 17 years of the same actor playing the same character…almost unheard of in Hollywood, the place where they’ve replaced Spider-Man 3 times, Superman 7 times and Batman 5 times. And the fact that Hugh Jackman was already 32 when he first appeared as Wolverine meant that it wasn’t about attracting the young audience to the character and his story, but it was truly about the actor, character and arc. And that is definitely to be applauded.
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Writer/Director Mike Mills’ acclaimed 2010 film, Beginners, which brought Christopher Plummer an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, was, by his own admission, a movie about Mills’ father. Now, his latest project, 20th Century Women, is an homage to his maternal side. Starring Annette Bening in the role inspired by Mills’ mother, 20th Century Women is a tender, insightful and charming movie about mothers, sons, friendship and what the world was like in the time just before the internet, AIDS and Reagan shaped it. And, just like Beginners, Oscar may come knocking again, this time for Bening, who shines in perhaps the best role of her career.
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