Film Review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)

“Kong: Skull Island” is a well-shot enjoyable action film with some glaring issues

Review of the latest attempt to bring back the classic movie monster

By Carter Bagley

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After seeing the entertaining “Godzilla” reboot back in 2014 it seemed that Warner Bros. was planning something big and when they announced “Skull Island”, later titled “Kong: Skull Island”, it became clear exactly what that was. It was announced that these films were leading up to a King Kong vs Godzilla film, that sounds like a blockbuster that everybody wants to see. Although before we got that we were getting this new King Kong reboot. That’s not a bad thing though I was actually very excited going into it because we’ve never gotten an amazing look at Skull Island itself. So does it hold up? Kind of. The positives were pretty positive but this film had some pretty glaring issues. It features an amazing cast and crew led by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts who directed one of my favorite films of 2014, “The Kings of Summer”. The cast includes A-list actors like Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C Reilly, and John Goodman along with newer blossoming stars like Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann, Jing Tian, Corey Hawkins & Jason Mitchell. There’s no reason that this film should be anything other than wildly entertaining and well-made blockbuster. However, this film reeks of studio interference and Vogt-Roberts clearly didn’t get to make the film that he wanted to make. The action was incredible and the film features several sequences which that will stick in your head months after viewing and it does a great job at establishing the setting and introducing Kong himself. The big problems are the story and the characters. There seems to be no story here at all, pretty much what happens is that John Goodman’s character knows there’s an island full of monsters somewhere in the pacific so he takes a group of soldiers and scientists to go check it out. Once they arrive they start blowing up the ground and Kong shows up and takes down all the helicopters and from there it’s just the characters trying to get off the island. No one has any motive to do anything. Samuel L Jackson plays a Lieutenant who wants to kill Kong just because he killed some people. Even Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are usually great in the films they’re in but here Brie Larson is reduced to a walking stereotype of women from the 70’s. Hiddleston is usually charming and interesting to watch but he looks like any other leading man in this film which disappointed me. The 70’s setting was kind of overbearing at times also because there’s no reason for it to take place back then and it features a great soundtrack of stereotypical Vietnam-era rock songs. Although “Kong: Skull Island” has some obvious flaws it still has great action sequences and a good setting and some genuinely creepy moments with various monsters on the island. For a film that could’ve been “Apocalypse Now” with monsters (which it wanted to be) it ended up just being an entertaining monster flick. Despite the characters not being very great some of the actors managed to stand out. John C. Reilly plays a World War II veteran stuck on the island and his character easily steals the whole movie. John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson are also very watchable and have an undeniable presence though their characters are pretty one note. Thomas Mann even has a couple good scenes and lines and proves that he’s one of the better rising stars today. Kong himself is fleshed out enough for you to care for him and the film ends with you wanting to see more of him. In the end “Kong: Skull Island” is a watchable blockbuster that has vibes of a classic monster B-movie and anyone who enjoys good action and incredible cinematography will enjoy the film enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: “Logan” (2017)

“Logan” stands out ahead of most comic book films as a real human story told through the unique perspective of a beloved comic book character

Review of Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of the character that made him an international star

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve always loved superhero films and I grew up watching “Spider-Man” and “X2: United” and those were some of the earliest films I remember really loving and being obsessed about. The X-men franchise has been steadily releasing films throughout my entire childhood and I remember being extremely excited about each one. I will say that it hasn’t cuaiczwueaaid_w-jpg-large.jpgall been perfect and there’s been many lows (I’m looking at you “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) but there’s been some incredible films to come out this series. Films like “X2: United”, “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” are truly great. If there was one thing that has always worked in the series however, was Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. Unlike some comic book movies where the actors are clearly phoning it in for a paycheck, Jackman has always given his all to this amazing character and he’s been playing him for 17 years now. He’s getting older and him and director James Mangold decided to team up one last time to give a proper send off to this character. The movies have always been PG-13 and marketed towards kids and teenage audiences but this film is definitely not. If you know anything about the comic books you would know that the character of Wolverine is a complicated one. He’s aggressive, strong and reclusive but has an obvious vulnerability to him. He’s a character that has encountered so much pain in his life and he’s bottled it up and separated himself from everyone he cares about. Though there’s one thing about him, he can become very scary when he’s angry. This film is interesting in a way that Wolverine whose real name is Logan is old now. It takes place in the near future and mutants have pretty much gone extinct. Logan is taking care of his mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is very old and sickly and is one of the only soft spots left inside Logan. He’s addicted to alcohol and isn’t healing properly like he used to and he wants to live out his days working as a limo driver and taking care of Charles. This changes however when a little girl named Laura comes to the attention of Charles and Logan. Charles who used to teach mutants wants to help this girl who he says is special and powerful but Logan being the old selfish man he is refuses. When an army of men come after her however they realize how powerful and important this young girl really is and Logan agrees to help her out. “Logan” is not like any other superhero film I’ve ever seen. In many ways it transcends the genre and becomes an indie film at parts or a western and that’s what makes it so brilliant. Hugh Jackman is amazing in the film and so is Patrick Stewart and you feel for these two characters more than you have in any other X-Men film yet. The R rating really works for this film because you get to see the pure animalistic side to Wolverine in a way we haven’t experienced yet. The action is incredible and bloody and brutal and Jackman takes it to the extreme in almost every scene. The little girl played by newcomer Dafne Keen is an interesting character as well and the little girl gives a very impressive performance. Boyd Holbrook also gives a great and intimidating performance as the main villain. “Logan” is exciting and perfectly directed by James Mangold and it’s filled with insane action, award-worthy performances and enough emotion to invest people who wouldn’t normally be interested in these kinds of films. This film marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new type of superhero film at the same time, and years from now I could easily see people look back on “Logan” as a very important and classic film in the genre.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Top 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

2016 managed to be a rough year across the board but despite all that some great films were released. This is a countdown of the greatest films of the year.

Countdown of the Twenty-Five greatest films of 2016

By Carter Bagley

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Last night was the annual ceremony where Hollywood comes together and awards some of the greatest films of the past year. To celebrate the 89th Academy Awards I’ve put together my personal favorite films of the calendar year of 2016.

Movies That Almost Made It

“Indignation” – James Schamus, 2016

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“Zootopia” – Byron Howard & Rich Moore, 2016

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“War Dogs”- Todd Phillips, 2016

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“Sully” – Clint Eastwood, 2016

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“Sully” Review

Now Here It Is, The 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

25. “The Accountant” – Gavin O’Connor, 2016

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A film I didn’t expect to like as much as I did at all was “The Accountant”. It’s the perfect example of what an action movie should be and it gives me hope for the future of the genre. From start to finish it was emotional and exciting and I’m excited to see if this film could get a sequel.

“The Accountant” Review

24. “Star Trek Beyond” – Justin Lin, 2016

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The latest film in the “Star Trek” universe managed to be action-packed while having the same feel and tone as the classic TV series. Justin Lin did an outstanding job on his first film for the franchise and since I had a lot of fun with this one I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

23. “Green Room” – Jeremy Saulnier, 2016

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An amazingly suspenseful and brutal horror film that has one of the most original and terrifying plots in recent years. With a great performance by the late Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart portraying the scary and intimidating bar owner, “Green Room” manages to be intense and memorable.

22. “Snowden” – Oliver Stone, 2016

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This film was bound to be controversial from the moment it came into fruition but I think people overlooked the film way more than it deserved. “Snowden” was a very well made film with an excellent performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

“Snowden” Review

21. “Oasis: Supersonic” – Mat Whitecross, 2016

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An all inclusive documentary on one of my all-time favorite bands so I may be biased here but it’s definitely a powerful and well made documentary.

“Oasis: Supersonic” Review

20. “Doctor Strange” – Scott Derrickson, 2016

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Marvel continues to entertain mass audiences with their crazy visuals and great storytelling. “Doctor Strange” is different than the rest though and manages to stand completely on it’s own as an original and fun film.

“Doctor Strange” Review

19. “Lion” – Garth Davis, 2016

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Another film I saw very recently and I’m glad I caught it in time because it’s a beautiful, tragic and redeeming tale of family that will make anyone tear up just a little.

18. “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins, 2016

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This film has received a lot of love and praise and took home the statue last night (after an unfortunate mixup) and despite being good I don’t think it’s the greatest film of the year by any means, but that doesn’t take away at all from it’s good qualities.

“Moonlight” Review

17. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – Gareth Edwards, 2016

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Another year. Another “Star Wars”. This one, however, isn’t another sequel and instead tells an unconventional story that isn’t perfect but manages to be completely thrilling and entertaining.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Review

16. “The Jungle Book” – Jon Favreau, 2016

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There’s no way in hell I expected to love this film as much as I did. This adaptation of the classic Disney film and novel may be the best one yet and it’s the perfect family movie for anyone to love.

15. “Hell Or High Water” – David Mackenzie, 2016

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An unexpected success story, “Hell Or High Water” is a thrilling and smart heist movie set in small town America and despite it’s small setting and simple premise what it has to say is by no means small.

14. “Don’t Think Twice” – Mike Birbiglia, 2016

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A relatable and simple film set in the world of improv comedy. It doesn’t have much to say but it says what it tries to in such a lovely and entertaining way that it will have a soft place in your heart after you watch it. The cast is fantastic and fun and “Don’t Think Twice” is simply just a fantastic film.

13. “Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson, 2016

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Mel Gibson’s comeback film that’s brutal yet inspiring and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a man who’s courage and moral compass is so admirable that you can’t help but at least enjoy this film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Review

12. “Hunt For The Wilderpeople” – Taika Waititi, 2016

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A film that I didn’t get a chance to see until recently but it was totally worth. It’s quirky and odd but completely deserves your attention.

11. “Everybody Wants Some!!” – Richard Linklater, 2o16

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Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused” is just pure entertainment that’s funny, charming and filled with classic music that’ll take you back to a time that’s passed… even if you never lived it to begin with.

10. “Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve, 2016

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Denis Villeneuve is a masterful filmmaker who’s made great film after great film and “Arrival” is no exception. I just can’t wait until I get a chance to see his take on “Blade Runner”.

“Arrival” Review

9. “Midnight Special” – Jeff Nichols, 2016

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Directed by Jeff Nichols who is starting to become one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation after directing “Take Shelter” and “Mud” which are each brilliant in their own right but now he’s topped himself with a compelling modern sci-fi film that proves he’s poised for great things still.

8. “Swiss Army Man” – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Sheinert, 2016

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A movie that must be seen on it’s insane premise alone. It could’ve easily sold itself on shock value alone but instead it uses quirky comedy and the excellent performances by it’s two leads to craft an odd yet effortlessly charming story.

7. “Captain America: Civil War” – Joe & Anthony Russo, 2016

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Another film that’s gotten a lot of hate from the time of it’s release until now but after rewatching it, it still stands as a near perfect blockbuster and one of the greatest superhero films to date.

6. “Nocturnal Animals” – Tom Ford, 2016

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A movie that was a bit divisive in many ways but it’s incredibly clever and packed with powerful performances.

5. “Deadpool” – Tim Miller, 2016

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A near perfect action-comedy, Ryan Reynolds pushed this thing along for years and it turned out perfectly. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favor and go see it as soon as possible.

4. “Manchester By The Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan, 2016

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One of the saddest but most powerful films I’ve seen in a long time. Casey Affleck really amazes here and completely deserves all the praise he’s receiving.

“Manchester By The Sea” review

3. “The Nice Guys” – Shane Black, 2o16

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Hilarious. Entertaining. Overlooked. This film needs more attention because it’s truly amazing and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an incredible duo. Go watch “The Nice Guys” if you haven’t already.

2. “Sing Street” – John Carney, 2016

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Horribly marketed by the Weinstein Company upon release and overlooked this is a lovely little film that sadly will be forgotten about. Though to the people who saw it, it left it’s mark and to me it’s simply one of the most personal films I’ve seen in years.

“Sing Street” Review

1. “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle, 2016

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This is one of those films that will get tons of hate for a little while and for some reason it’s kind of cool to hate it. This seems to happen to a couple movies every year but while others are released to praise and later get swallowed by the hate this one will be one to overcome it. “La La Land” is a beautiful and entertaining tale that will one day go down as a Hollywood classic. There’s simply no other film that belongs at this spot.

“La La Land” Review

Film Review: “Passengers” (2016)

“Passengers” flashy visuals, great cast and acclaimed director cannot save it from mediocrity

Review of Morten Tyldum’s ambitious science fiction follow up to “The Imitation Game”

By Carter Bagley

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Morten Tyldum’s last film “The Imitation Game” really blew me away back in 2014 and was one of my favorite films of that year. This is large part was due to Tyldum’s directing passengers_ver2.jpg
expertise and even though he was a relative newcomer, it put him at high demand for studios who needed a talented director for hire. Then when it was announced that he was attached to direct a space sci-fi film called “Passengers” starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence of course I was excited. The pot of this film is extremely intriguing as it focuses on two passengers who wake up from cryo-sleep 90 years too early on a journey to another planet. With a great crew, an intriguing premise and two of the biggest young movie stars on the planet,  “Passengers” was destined for greatness. So what happened? Well the directing was great, that was not the problem. It really looked and was made with obvious effort and technique. Chris Pratt does his usually charming, everyday guy-next-door thing and Lawrence actually turns in a surprisingly good performance. There were many good qualities to be seen here and it was just filled with potential and I could see it in almost every scene. For a film that should’ve been intriguing and twisting and a throwback to 1970’s science fiction films, it instead reflected many problems with modern day Hollywood. It took a potentially genius science fiction concept and turned it into predictable, forgettable romantic slop. I was really looking forward to an interesting and unique film but instead was given the same film we’ve seen many times before. The script was obviously tampered with many times by the studio and it was clear their only intention was to produce an easily digestible adventure for audiences to eat up around Christmas time, and that is what really disappointed me. Morton Tyldum clearly tried to work with what he had but what was written for him was so inconsistent and annoying that it completely ruined the rest of the film. “Passengers” was a film that was should’ve been exciting and original but sadly it got too mixed up in the Hollywood machine that it ended up being completely watered down. Interesting visuals, a competent score, and two great lead actors couldn’t save this film from mediocrity.

Rating: 4.5/10

 Film Review: “Manchester By The Sea” (2016)

“Manchester By The Sea” is a powerfully touching and human story with timeless themes with incredible talent on and off screen

Review of Casey Affleck’s Oscar caliber tour-de-force “Manchester By The Sea”

By Carter Bagley

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Casey Affleck has been a seemingly underrated talent for years now. Ever since he first broke on the scene in the shadow of his older and more famous brother, Ben, he’s been tragically overlooked for his sheer talent of conveying such deep emotion through his stare and expression alone. Now it seems this year he’s finally getting the universal Manchester_by_the_Sea.jpgrecognition he’s always deserved. The plot of this film is typical “oscar-bait” formula but the performances and the little hints of comedy lightly sprinkled through really make this one stand ahead of the pack. Kenneth Lonergan who has become a master at crafting powerful and emotional masterpieces directs the hell out of this film and knows exactly how he wants every single line and glance delivered and it’s because of this that the actors really thrive. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler who is a depressed and distant handyman in Boston who must travel to his hometown of Manchester, Massachusetts after his older brother passes away. He must cope with the death and find out what it means for his teenage nephew while also battling horrifying memories he has with his hometown. The film really rests on the shoulders of the younger Affleck who proves himself capable of going toe-to-toe with any other actor of his generation. Throughout the film you see this deep and unexplainable sorrow in his eyes and it’s only in time that Lonergan brilliantly reveals the details to this harrowing story and Affleck’s performance really starts to make sense. I will say that if this isn’t an oscar-winning performance than I don’t know what it is. Newcomer Lucas Hedges plays the teenage son of Lee’s deceased brother and he also delivers an impressive and magnetic performance that shows a boy struggling with loss in an honest and subtle fashion. Michelle Williams is up for an oscar also as she plays Lee’s ex-wife who painfully stirs up old memories for Lee who desperately tries to cope with mistakes he made in the past. This film deserves all the recognition it’s being given and any other year might be sweeping the awards floor with it’s strong emotion and powerful themes. Normally I would not expect to be effected emotionally by a film as much as I was after I saw it and the credit is owed to every single aspect of talent that went into this modern emotional masterpiece. “Manchester By The Sea” is a devastating and extremely powerful human story that is guaranteed to move anybody who goes in and gets invested in the film and the many touching performances throughout this tragic drama. It may not have the style and quirkiness of “La La Land” or the social and topical themes of “Moonlight” but it makes up for in it in sheer classic quality and a dramatic timelessness that will never become outdated.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: “La La Land” (2016)

“La La Land” is a romanic and enthralling modern classic that deserves to be seen by anyone who has ever had a dream

Review of Damien Chazelle’s love letter to classic Hollywood musicals

By Carter Bagley

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Damien Chazelle has proved himself to be a talent to be reckoned with now that he’s successfully followed up his 2014 masterpiece “Whiplash” with his newest feature “La La Land”. Every year there’s a few films that just come out of nowhere and completely immerse you and in 2014 that film was definitely “Whiplash”. I went in n0t expecting anything and I came out reinvigorated and excited and this was mostly due to Chazelle’s brilliant writing and impressively fresh directing style. He has a way of working with 1.jpgactors and bringing out their best and worst qualities while entirely humanizing them making them relatable. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons were electric together and both gave standout performances and it’s no different for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in “La La Land”. Both Gosling and Stone deserve Oscar nominations for their parts here and the latter deserves the statue hands down, Gosling is just as amazing it’s just the Best Actor race this year is completely stacked and he has to go toe to toe with all the other amazing performances. The film follows Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) on two intertwining stories of passion and romance that’s filmed and written in such a flawless way that it completely captures the attention of anyone who watches the film. Chazelle brilliantly captures the standouts of old Hollywood musicals while adding in his own quirks and styles in a way that blew my mind. The film is truly a spectacle from beginning to end and the only words I can truly use to describe it are charming and special. The characters are both young and passionate dreamers in a modern day Los Angeles who are driven to accomplish their goals they have both set for themselves. Mia wants to be a huge Hollywood actress while Sebastian wants to be a jazz musician and venue owner. The plot sounds pretty generic and played out but the way it’s made and the characters we’re given make it much more unique and compelling. It sucks you in and makes you really care about both of these characters and their lives along with the beautiful romance we see play out before us. From beginning to end I was completely enthralled and smiling in a way that a film hasn’t made me do in a long time. The music and choreography are incredible and even if you don’t like musicals this film may completely change your opinion on the genre. Every scene is just cinematic perfection and captivating to just look at on a technical level. After the success of “Whiplash” Damien Chazelle was given the permission to make anything he desired to and in a Hollywood where musicals aren’t welcome anymore he completely threw out the rulebook and crafted a modern classic that will be looked at for years to come. It’s really that good and I say anyone should go see this film, if you have experienced passion and love then go see it because I guarantee it will resonate with you in a unique way that you won’t expect. These types of film usually just aren’t made anymore and because a few of them are every year we should give them our complete support because “La La Land” is hands down a masterpiece and really gives me hope for the future of Hollywood. Gosling and Stone are incredible, the soundtrack is beautiful and painful and Chazelle’s directing is on par with the greatest of all time. It truly 100% is. I can’t wait to see what this guy does next, I can’t wait to see this film many more times and I can’t wait to see the status it receives in the next decade or so. Everyone should definitely go watch it in theaters because it captivated me and has to be one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in the past few years, I feel like I witnessed a classic in the making.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: “Moonlight” (2016)

Moonlight is a very realistic and modern coming-of-age story, though one we don’t see much in Hollywood

Review of one of the year’s biggest indie films about the hardships of growing up

By Carter Bagley

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This film really seemed to pop out of nowhere. I had no idea what is was until all the sudden I heard a lot of buzz surrounding it in the past month or two about how it’s some peoples favorite movie of the year and that it’s the “best indie film of the year”. So I went in not knowing anything about the plot whatsoever and although the subject matter surprised me, I found the brilliant artistic approach taken by writer/director Barry Jenkins to be the greatest aspect of this film. He tells the story of a boy named Chiron who’s Moonlight_(2016_film).pnggrowing up in a very poor neighborhood and constantly being bullied by his peers along with having a drug addicted mom. It follows Chiron through three defining chapters of his life from when he was a young boy to when he was an older teenager to when he’s an adult. Each chapter seems to show him struggling with something personally and having a slight realization. The admirable thing I could say about this film could be someone else’s biggest flaw and to me that’s the genuine feeling to it for it comes across as very realistic and subtle. There’s no big climax or that huge scene that everyone’s going to remember, instead the film makes you feel like you know this kid or have known someone like him. Every character feels very authentic and fleshed out and you can tell they have their own purpose and struggle and aren’t just there to serve the main character. All three actors that portray Chiron at the three stages of his life all give amazing performances especially the kids but the standout of all three was definitely Ashton Sanders who even did a better job than Trevante Rhodes who plays the grown up Chiron. However possibly the film’s most interesting character, Juan, played exceptionally by Mahershala Ali could’ve been fleshed out a little more and I would’ve liked to see more of his character. The main problem I have with this film is that it didn’t impact me the way I wanted it to, every time I really started to feel for Chiron and the characters around him it cut away from it. It could’ve been paced a little better and I just feel like the ending didn’t give you the ending the punch that the story deserved and I walked away feeling like I didn’t learn anything. Nonetheless the story I did get to see was human and realistic and the performances were all fantastic. It’s definitely not my favorite film of the year unlike some people, but it’s a modern tragedy in a sense and worth seeing if you truly enjoy films but I wouldn’t recommend it for the average moviegoer. Still I see a very bright future for writer/director Barry Jenkins and many of the young actors featured in it.

Rating: 7/10