Orlando Ballet Presents: Contemporary Wonders

Once again, Late to the Theater was very graciously invited to the Orlando Ballet. For a write up of Romeo and Juliet, go here. For a write up of Beauty and the Beast, go here.

For the final performance of Orlando Ballet’s 2017-2018 season, Artistic Director Robert Hill decided to do something more experimental than the season’s previous offerings: three different styles of performance. Although they ranged from modern/experimental to classical, all were united by the common theme of love.

Some guest artists also lent their considerable talents to the show: New York based choreographer Jessica Lang, and local chanteuse Sisaundra Lewis.

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The Avengers: Infinity War Debrief

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The Lineup

By now Infinity War is on track to possibly have the best opening of all time. No one is surprised, but people are walking out of the theater shook, and for good reason.

The spoiler-free review is: Oh man, that was amazing with all the fight scenes and effects and great character moments and whatnot. Casual viewers of Marvel films will be able to keep up, and anyone who’s seen at least half of the 19 Marvel films will also be fine. People who’ve never seen a Marvel movie will more than likely be entertained in between action set pieces and character building.

The spoilery discussion is below the cut.

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In Theaters Now: A Quiet Place

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Shhhh….

After all the buzz surrounding it and a few recommendations from friends, I decided to see A Quiet Place in theaters. Being a horror fan, how could I not?

What A Quiet Place does well, it does very well. Tension draws out and there are genuine emotional scenes with real payoff, such as those moments when a character is finally, finally able to scream or even speak. However, I admit to being underwhelmed.

I am not saying this film was bad; far from it. I would rank it as above average for a mainstream Hollywood horror movie, which any horror fan will recognize as damning praise. From a technical filmmaking perspective, it was beautiful: John Krasinski, who stars and also directs, knows how to frame beautiful compositions, how to work with ambient lighting, how to film action so it’s exciting and tension so it’s heart-pumping, and how to draw evocative performances from his actors. The creatures look cool and their CGI is great.

As mentioned, the actors’ performances are strong, and there are several character moments that really resonate. Krasinski is great as a patient paternal figure, Emily Blunt is his tired, blonde, and eventually pregnant wife, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as the children work well together and the whole ensemble effectively portrays a nuclear family.

Most filmgoers and horror fans will enjoy the jump scares and leave the movie rattled, but I found myself frustrated by the end. There were a number of weaknesses that leapt out and jarred me right out of the narrative, and created what ultimately felt like a missed opportunity.

A more detailed unpacking appears below the cut. As always, there will be spoilers.

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In Select Theaters: Isle of Dogs

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At the advance screening for Isle of Dogs I attended, there were several moments within the film that got laughs, gasps of delight, and rounds of clapping from the audience. As of this post’s writing, Isle of Dogs sits at 93% on Rottentomatoes.com. It is a stop-motion movie about dogs with an amazing voice cast, a creative if not super complex story, and a delightful look. I should have liked it.

I did not. 

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Wes Anderson devotee and am not inured to his unique voice, comedic flourishes, or banter. I enjoyed The Life Aquatic and outside of that I have few impressions of his films, other than they employ bright colors and have a lot of neurotic people struggling to manage family relationships.

Although Isle of Dogs did many technical things very well, it did some pretty major things poorly. The story is not charming or heartwarming enough to compensate for these missteps, and ultimately the whole thing felt like the film version of an ill-conceived rainy day craft project.

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Foxtrot (2017)

This review comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, from whom I received a screener. I was not paid or compensated for this review in any way. 

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Poster

By looking at the poster for Foxtrot, you might draw a few conclusions on the subject, such as life in the midst of war. You would be correct in doing so, but of course the film is much, much more complex than that and honestly I would be at a loss how best to suggest the film’s complexity be expressed in its press material.

In the simplest terms, the movie is an Israeli war drama about the effects of a young soldier’s death on his family. That alone would have held my interest, as war and its cost, when deftly handled, is fascinating enough. However, Foxtrot was not content to showcase such a straightforward premise and instead dives deep into family dynamics and personal demons.

It was warmly received at Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won awards, but for some reason did not receive an Oscar nomination. Politics may come into play, as it depicts the Israeli Defense Force committing a problematic crime against Arabic people, and so the film was denounced by Israel’s Minister of Culture. There are much, much smarter people out there who can speak to the complexities of this subject, and I will willingly admit to ignorance on many of these issues.

Foxtrot, named for both the dance and the Nato phonetic alphabet, is not a light movie but it was a brilliant depiction of loss and raw emotions.

As always, spoilers below the cut.

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