Casual Critics – The New American Church: A Review of “The Founder”

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http://bit.ly/2l25u03

Editor’s Note: “Casual Critics” is a new feature we’re introducing this semester on the Jet Fuel Review Blog. It’s a weekly feature about film, written by two critics, Reno Stramaglia and Donatas Ružys. The two critics will switch off week after week, with this week’s post being written by Ružys.

Ray Kroc revolutionized the American fast food service industry in the mid-1950s by turning McDonald’s into one of the most successful and recognizable businesses in the world. John Lee Hancock’s biographical drama, The Founder (2016), depicts the true-to-life events that propelled Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) from being an obsessively ambitious shake-mixer salesman into one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Surprisingly, the film does not overly rely on the subject matter to draw in audiences. Instead, it is easy to sense the fitting selection of actors for key roles, as they naturally immerse themselves into heart of the narrative and in turn cause the audience to feel a wide range of emotions. Michael Keaton’s performance is exceptional and well deserving of recognition.

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City of Stars: A Review of “La La Land”

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http://bit.ly/2hUxwp2
Movies are supposed to feel magical. They transport us to worlds both familiar and alien, relay stories ranging between grandeur and intimate scale, and introduce us to an array of characters we’ve known our entire lives along with those we’ve yet to meet. La La Land, from Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle, is 2016’s most magical and completely marvelous film. From start to finish, La La Land pays homage to classical Hollywood musicals in a wholly engaging and visually stunning tribute — one that features class performances from co-leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who impressively dance and sing along to its wonderful soundtrack.

Emma Stone plays Mia, a young, aspiring actress desperately hoping to make her break in Hollywood, but is unfortunately stuck working a barista job on a soundstage lot. Opposite her, Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is a down-on-his-luck pianist whose admiration for jazz guides his desire to manage his own jazz club in L.A., but is rather left performing renditions of Christmas songs at a local restaurant.

The two eventually find what they’ve always needed in each other, but as these things always go, there’s initially some chance encounters in which the two butt heads and express how uninterested they are in each other. But it’s apparent that the pair has wonderful chemistry, brought to light early on in one of the film’s best pieces, “A Lovely Night.” The couple elegantly dances around an L.A. street corner as the sun sets — the scene not only being gorgeous to look at, but Stone and Gosling’s voices evoke similarly as much beauty.

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Greatest Hits: A Review of “Bleed For This”

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http://bit.ly/2gQS4l6

Bleed For This, from writer-director Ben Younger, is yet another in a long line of recently released boxing films. Based on the real-life story of Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza, Bleed For This is unfortunately unable to stray from the familiar trappings found in countless boxing films before it. However, it is still successful in many aspects — most notably the dedicated lead performance from Miles Teller and Larkin Seiple’s excellent cinematography — even if it’s never allowed to reach its full potential due to middling fight editing and choreography.

Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) isn’t soft spoken or humble, and he’s definitely not a Rocky type. Instead, he’s a loudmouth, frequents strip-clubs, and has a gambling addiction. But he’s also freakishly dedicated, and an impressive boxer to boot. Bleed For This moves through the motions in its first 45 minutes, still being entirely enjoyable as Younger shows off the aforementioned traits of Pazienza through a couple of his most pivotal matches.

The downside, however, is that it all feels too comfortable in the beginning; these are scenes and character archetypes that we’ve all seen before. But then we’re thrown a curveball when Pazienza is involved in a horrific car accident that breaks his neck.

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Woodstock’s Loss: A Review of “Searching for Sugar Man”

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http://bit.ly/2gekr8X

Most “rockumentaries” follow a standard formula: baby pictures, interviews with family members, the rise to fame, and the tragic drug overdose concluding with the death of the artist.

However, Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary on long, lost musician Sixto Rodriguez breaks this traditional format in Searching for Sugar Man. It’s a film one-part rockumentary and another part mystery, as a music journalist goes on a quest to find out what really happened to the enigmatic singer — did he really set himself on fire at a show? Or was it a bullet to the head?

The beginning of Bendjelloul’s film depicts animations of Rodriguez, an unknown troubadour in America but South Africa’s equivalent to Bob Dylan, walking down a Detroit street.

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Editor’s Perspective: Disco, Drugs, and Kids With Guns: A Review of “City of God”

Last week, we featured reviews from two students on the 2002 film City of God. Below is another perspective on the same film, written by Jet Fuel Review Managing Editor Sam Gennett.

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http://bit.ly/2ff77RL

Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, City of God (2002) is a formalist film that explores the binary between power and peace through outstanding cinematography. The film takes place in Rio de Janeiro during the 1970s where our narrator, Rocket, walks us through the story of a poverty-stricken town that’s ruled by superfluous amounts of gun violence.

Many of the scenes are shot in high contrast lighting with subtle tints of gold, which resembles a photograph from the 70s and effectively catapults the viewer into the era. This tinting also connotes gold as the characters’ thirst for riches and power — the two ultimate driving forces for everyone in the film. In many scenes, the dominant contrast is a handgun in a given character’s hand; the camera is always emphasizing guns as they are the key to money, power, and the root of all evil in the film.

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Student Feature: Two Reflections on the Cinematic Masterpiece, “City of God”

Below are two student’s perspectives on the 2002 film City of God.

Reno Stramaglia

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http://bit.ly/1LfkVZp

Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 film, City of God, is a work of art that is full of realistic depictions of the violence and drama associated with the impoverished favelas in Cidade de Deus during the 1970s. By utilizing the viewpoint of a young photographer (known as “Rocket”), this film immerses the audience within a story that needed to be told.

Based on a true story, Rocket experiences how the early influence of “Robin Hood-like” gangsters caused the growth of dark lawlessness and corruption within this Brazilian city. Although his peers and older brother, Goose, surrender to criminal activity in order to survive, Rocket struggles to avoid these temptations of misdeed. It is the sociopath, Li’l Zé, who leads the mayhem of murder and crime that takes place within the neighborhood. This film utilizes a wide variety of unique cinematographic techniques in order to convey the truth behind the activities of these gangsters.

Meirelles’ use of fast editing within the film helps to display the true nature of Rocket’s environment. From shot to shot, events happen in a fast-paced manner. Cutting to different depictions of violence within a small amount of time causes the audience to fully experience the chaotic environment. Life is hectic and stressful within these slums. Meirelles utilizes classical cutting in order to help the audience to understand this different way of living. In addition, music in this film acts in a similar manner. The fast rhythm suits the rapid depictions of action within the slums. The choice of music also acts to paint a picture of the Brazilian culture while providing the film with surge of energy to keep the audience on their feet.

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Bree’s Melancholic Tales: A Review of “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

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http://bit.ly/2eDFEez

This week, I’ve taken a look at the melancholic elements in Lorene Scafaria’s indie drama, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). For anyone who has already seen this film, you may be wondering how it even qualifies as something melancholic with its quirky and romantic-comedy themes. While it’s true that such themes run rampant throughout the film, I do believe that they aid in a different kind of sadness — one in which the audience hopelessly sympathizes with the main characters. Coinciding these themes, Scafaria uses graphic or violent scenes in order to bring the audience back to the reality of the dire situation. Scafaria alternates and often even combines such themes and scenes, challenging the audience to view this film with mixed feelings — wherein lies the melancholic elements of the film.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opens with a radio broadcast announcing that efforts to stop the seventy-mile-wide asteroid hurling towards Earth have failed, and that there will only be three weeks until impact and ultimately the end of the world. Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife Linda (Nancy Carell) are silently driving at night as they listen to the broadcast. The broadcaster goes on to say that they will continue up-to-date coverage of their “countdown to the ‘End of Days’” alongside playing “classic rock favorites.” Dodge comments how he thinks they’ve missed the exit, which subsequently causes Linda to flee from the car without a single word.

This bizarre opening scene is extremely significant because it sets the overall tone of the rest of the film. The contrast of the broadcaster casually speaking of the approaching end of the human race versus Dodge’s subdued shock that causes his wife to run away is one of many strange moments that tampers with the emotions of the audience.

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