Snowden is an actual good movie

Gordon-Levitt is wonderful, obviously, but this feels kind of like a waste of his time. It’s not in any way a demanding or creative role, and most of his effort goes into imitating the real-life Snowden’s vocal ticks. An actor of his talent level wasn’t called for here. Photos courtesy Open Road Films.

Snowden is a bit of a curve ball. The beginning is just a bit better than awful, but the end is just a bit worse than amazing.

The film details the past 10 years in the life of CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It frequently cuts back to the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden gives interviews to Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson). The scene is re-created from Poitras’ Academy-Award winning documentary Citizenfour, which stayed with Snowden, Greenwald and MacAskill in real-time as they published a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories detailing the National Security Agency’s mass domestic surveillance policies.

As Snowden tells the story, the movie shows his public service career with the CIA, but focuses mostly on his relationship with longtime girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). Snowden remains in exile in Moscow and the debate about the information he leaked still rages.

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Blair Witch replaces original excitement with convergent blandness

Images courtesy Lionsgate.

Rhiannon Saegert

Blair Witch takes all the style of The Blair Witch Project and leaves behind all of the substance, resulting in a film just as shaky as the cameras it was shot on.

The film is a direct sequel, following James Donahue (James Allen McCune), whose older sister, Heather, disappeared in the woods near Burkitsville, Md. after the events of the first movie, as he and his friends search the area for any sign of what might have happened to her. His friend Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez) decides to film the search for a class project, because that worked out so well the first time.

There is some logic in updating The Blair Witch Project in 2016. As the movie loves to remind its audience, technology has come a long way since 1999. These doomed college students have ear-piece cameras fitted with GPS, walkie-talkies, a remote controlled drone camera and a few other things that are conspicuously unavailable from my own university’s equipment rental room. These are some absurdly well-equipped film students.

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Sully kicks Oscarbate season off to awful, tacky start

Tom Hanks has almost always been overrated, and he’s really gone off the rails in his last couple of performances. In Sully, as in Bridge of Spies, he’s playing a real-life everyman who did something extraordinary who he clearly has a ton of respect for, so he adopts his super-cheesy “badass Tom Hanks” persona. It’s nothing like how we know Sullenberger behaves from interviews. Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

In January 2009, Chesley Sullenberger successfully ditched a commercial airliner in the Hudson River, averting what would have been a massive plane wreck. Now, Clint Eastwood has made things right by making a biopic about him that is just as big of a wreck as the one he avoided.

Sully is the true story of Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), that fateful flight and its aftermath. Heading out of LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Sullenberger and first officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) run into a flock of geese that destroy both engines, turning their passenger airliner into a very expensive kite at just 2,818 feet. Instead of crashing into the most densely populated city in the world and killing everyone on board and hundreds if not thousands of pedestrians, Sullenberger glided the plane onto the Hudson River, a course of action which caused no one to die. The movie centers around an internal investigation from three unnecessarily antagonistic stooges who are terrible at their jobs (Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan and Anna Gunn) trying to answer the question, “Would it be better if he’d just let everyone die?”

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Entropy on Labor Day — Davids rule the summer, Goliaths crash and burn

Image courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Labor Day weekend 2016 was bad.

If you discount last summer’s abysmal holiday weekend that saw War Room take the weekend crown, you have to go all the way back to 2005 to find a Labor Day weekend that did worse than this year’s abysmal $123 million cumulative total. The three-day total, which doesn’t take the actual Monday off into account, was just $96.4 million, the second lowest grossing three-day of the year only to Feb. 5 weekend’s $95.5 million, and isn’t likely to be undercut by even Halloween weekend, which usually brings up the caboose. The forecasts were so weak, Disney saw it as an opportunity to re-release Finding Dory, because that movie needed more padding on its totals.

This comes on the heels of what was generally a rebound from 2015, which was itself called a rebound from 2014, even though it really wasn’t. But 2016 was actually decent for movies. Instead of being propped up by one movie’s improbable success, comparing it weekend-to-weekend to 2015, it was almost always an improvement.

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Light Between Oceans delivers on promising cast, tough to enjoy anyway

Well they got the title right. “The Light Between Oceans” is an undeniably cool string of words. Photos courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

I’ve never seen a movie that started this slow get this much slower.

Based on M.L. Stedman’s 2012 novel, The Light Between Oceans follows Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) as he returns home to Australia from World War I. Looking to get away from it all, Sherbourne takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island off the western coast, but falls in love and marries a maiden from the mainland, Isabel (Alicia Vikander). The couple lives mostly in bliss, but after two traumatic miscarriages, Isabel has gone straight-up baby crazy. When a dingy washes up from the mainland with a dead man and an infant inside, Isabel convinces Tom to not report it and raise the child as their own. Years later, they the consequences of their decision when they learn of Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz), the child’s biological mother who never stopped looking for her.

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