Eric D. Snider

Movie Review: "Christine" B+ October 14, 2016

TV journalist desperate to make the news

If you know the name Christine Chubbuck, you also know how her story turned out, as she's one of those unfortunate souls who were only made famous by tragedy. To make a film about such a person is tricky. If the only notable thing about her was a single event, won't the movie seem like it's spinning its wheels waiting for that moment to arrive?

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Movie Review: "The Accountant" B October 14, 2016

He solves mysteries using ... deduction

Having already played Batman, Ben Affleck now sets his sights on another vigilante superhero: The Accountant! Prepare for number- and bone-crunching justice!*

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Movie Review: "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" B- October 11, 2016

Prankery in the name of artistic freedom

As preteen fare goes, "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is better than its bland, glib title, with some heart and soul beneath its pour-paint-on-the-principal shenanigans. Amid the cliches, it manages a neat trick or two.

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Eric's Blog October 7, 2016

Friday movie roundup - Oct. 7

Hello! Whew! It's been a few weeks. I was at Fantastic Fest for a while -- here is a roundup of 14 reviews I wrote there -- but I've mostly caught up. Here's everything I've reviewed since the last time I hollered at you:

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Movie Review: "The Birth of a Nation" B October 7, 2016

And quite a bloody birth it was, too

The greatest accomplishment of Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" might be reclaiming that title from the important and influential but irredeemably racist "Birth of a Nation" released 101 years earlier. That "Birth" said blacks and whites could never be integrated and that the KKK saved the South. The new "Birth" tells the true story of Nat Turner's 1831 slave rebellion, bringing a long-remembered but little-discussed American hero into the limelight with shocking urgency.

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Movie Review: "The Girl on the Train" C+ October 6, 2016

All aboard the despair train! Choo choo!

"The Girl on the Train" is feel-bad misery porn that desperately wants to be "Gone Girl" but lacks that story's surprises and cathartic, twisted resolution. Based on Paula Hawkins' bestselling novel and directed by Tate Taylor ("The Help"), this dreary film has a melodramatic murder-mystery plot that could be straight from a routine episode of "Law & Order," if "Law & Order" focused on the victims and suspects instead of the cops. Everything ends up solved, with no loose ends, but you don't feel like you saw anything of consequence.

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Miscellaneous October 3, 2016

Fantastic Fest 2016: An Exhaustive Report

One of my favorite weeks of the year is the one I spend at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse for Fantastic Fest, a genre celebration devoted to the kinds of movies that other festivals only play at midnight (if they program them at all). Sci-fi, horror, martial arts, dark comedy, action, fantasy, exploitation, and the supernatural are the main ingredients, though the fest has recently begun to expand its horizons and screen movies that don't exactly fit but which the programmers thought the Fantastic Fest crowd might dig. ("American Honey" is the most glaring example this year. Last year it was the concentration camp drama "Son of Saul.")

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Movie Review: "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" B October 1, 2016

Some of them more peculiar than others

Tim Burton directed "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," and while it's a perfect fit for the whimsically macabre filmmaker, he doesn't do much to make it his own. No, the bulk of the story's Halloweenish delights come straight from the Ransom Riggs novel it's based on -- indeed, the film actually lightens some of its darker elements. This seems like a Tim Burton-for-hire work, where he found something that was already Burton-esque and let it do most of the heavy lifting.

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Movie Review: "Queen of Katwe" C+ September 30, 2016

Chess as a means of escaping the slums

"Queen of Katwe" is a mild Disney film telling the true story of a slum-dwelling Ugandan girl who becomes a chess master (mistress?). Directed by the esteemed Mira Nair, a sensitive chronicler of cultural conflicts ("Monsoon Wedding," "The Namesake"), the movie means well in offering something we don't often see -- an inspiring story about Africans, played by African actors -- but its laborious, too-gentle pace drags it down into vegetable territory (i.e., a movie you watch because it's good for you).

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Movie Review: "Deepwater Horizon" C+ September 30, 2016

Disaster in the Gulf only mildly diverting

This week's dramatization of a recent disaster is "Deepwater Horizon," in which director Peter Berg ("Lone Survivor," "Battleship") tells how the offshore-drilling rig went kablooey in April 2010, killed 11 people, and eventually dumped 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Wisely, instead of dwelling on the economic impact (all that precious oil!) or even the environmental one (morally defensible but hard to dramatize), Berg and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand focus on the human element: the noble workers who risked or gave their lives to help others survive, and the greedy British Petroleum executives whose corner-cutting caused the tragedy. Those are things anyone can relate to, even if we don't understand how drilling rigs work or how the accident happened.

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