Movie Review: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – a zombie movie that succeeds in being different, and a stunning debut performance by young actor Sennia Nanua

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I took a pass on watching this a few weeks ago when the word “zombie” jumped out in the materials, because I’m mostly sick of the zombie sub-genre of horror.  Not that there can’t be good movies about zombies, but c’mon – enough already.  Having said that, I remain a faithful watcher of The Walking Dead, and I recently watched the South Korean zombie movie Train To Busan and found it to be okay.  I won’t regurgitate my feelings about zombie media here – if you’re curious, my Train To Busan review contains them.  So yeah, The Girl With All The Gifts just kind of faded away, subsumed into the background noise of zombie movies that annoy the hell out of me.  But then, it was recommended to me by a friend whose opinions I trust.  Suddenly it was back on the list!

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Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – uneven, underwritten movie that will mostly be only appreciated by hardcore Potter fans

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Wow, I had so many issues with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them that it’s hard to pick a starting point, really.  I’ll preface the following with this disclaimer, though:  I am not, and never have been, a fan of Harry Potter.  Sure, I’ve seen all the movies, but despite trying to listen to Stephen Fry reading the first in the series, my exposure to the books has been nil.  The movies were largely a hit and miss affair for me, ranging from pretty good (& The Prisoner of Azkaban) to mediocre (& The Chamber of Secrets).  I’m certainly not a Harry Potter hater – the books came along at a time when childhood reading habits were plummeting, and Rowling was instrumental in the early development of the YA sector.  So while I will never be a fan of the Potter phenomenon, I have a healthy respect for it.  In saying that, my lack of any intricate knowledge of the Potterverse didn’t contribute to what I felt were shortcomings here.

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Movie Review: OPERATION AVALANCHE – 60s-set conspiracy thriller, heavy on period detail, but light on drama

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If I’d never had Operation Avalanche recommended to me by an old friend, chances are I might never have watched it.  I’d seen some promotional materials for it, even read the synopsis early last year before it was released by Lionsgate, but a found-footage conspiracy drama about the faking of the first moon landing just didn’t grab me.  Well, cut to January 16, 2017, and I’ve just watched it.  There are a few things to like, but it does fall short of being a worthwhile 80 minutes.

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Movie Review: EVEREST – an eye opening look at 1996’s tragic descent from the summit

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Everest, directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns), and written by William Nicholson (Unbroken) and Simon Beaufoy (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) tells the true story of the ill-fated 1996 attempt to ascend Mount Everest that saw multiple commercial guided tours fall victim to a blizzard during the descent.  The movie is based on the book Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest by Beck Weathers, a Texan climber who survived the ordeal, but in doing so lost half an arm, all the fingers on the other hand, and the tip of his nose to extreme frostbite.  Weathers is played by Josh Brolin here, part of an ensemble cast that also includes Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys), who plays Rob Hall and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals), who plays Scott Fischer.

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Movie Review: NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – an absorbing, frustrating dark drama with a terrific Michael Shannon performance at its core.

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The new year is only two weeks old, but Nocturnal Animals is likely going to make my top 5 movies of 2017.  I saw this a couple of days ago on my birthday, a few weeks after being disappointed that it had already left the major theater chains here in Minnesota around Christmas, and I left the movie impressed.  It’s hard to ignore a movie with a cast boasting Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy), Amy Adams (Arrival), and Michael Shannon (Midnight Special), and even though I still haven’t seen Tom Ford’s first movie, A Single Man,  I remembered the good buzz around it.  On the strength of this sophomore effort, I’ll move it up the queue.

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