Year: 2016

‘Birth of a Nation’ delivers a potent cautionary message

‘Birth of a Nation’ delivers a potent cautionary message

“The Birth of a Nation” (2016). Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Union, Tony Espinosa, Justin M. Smith, Allen Scott, Griffin Freeman, Kai Norris. Director: Nate Parker. Screenplay: Nate Parker. Story: Nate Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin. Web site. Trailer. When pushed to the breaking point, there’s no telling how any of us might react. Some may walk away, but others may lash out, perhaps even violently. That’s particularly true for those subjected to an egregious injustice (or, worse, a series of injustices). Retribution often results, frequently with dire consequences, both for the perpetrators of those wrongs, as well as those looking to right them. Such is the case in the new film adaptation of the legendary cautionary tale, “The Birth of a Nation.” In 1809 Virginia, the Turner cotton plantation was a thriving operation, in large part because of the hard (but coerced) work of its African slaves. However, while many of the area’s other plantation owners routinely treated their slaves brutally, the Turner family took a comparatively progressive approach. Even though they had their prejudices ...
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This Week in Movies with Meaning

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of “Denial,” “Operation Avalanche” and four Chicago Film Festival offerings are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the Blog Page of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here ...
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‘Operation Avalanche’ asks ‘What do you believe?’

‘Operation Avalanche’ asks ‘What do you believe?’

“Operation Avalanche” (2016). Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles, Jared Raab, Andrew Appelle. Archive Footage: John F. Kennedy, James Webb. Director: Matt Johnson. Screenplay: Josh Boles and Matt Johnson. Web site. Trailer. From time to time, it’s not unusual for each of us to stand back, take a look at our existence and ask ourselves, “What are we to make of our world?” When we ponder that idea, many of us invariably turn to deciphering our beliefs in an effort – sometimes successful, sometimes not – to make sense of our reality. That’s the conundrum faced by a pair of naïve, idealistic neophytes in the quirky new thriller, “Operation Avalanche.” This new “found footage” offering takes the genre in an inventive new direction, going beyond the cheesy horror flicks that have long typified it. Set in 1967, the picture follows the sometimes-comical, sometimes-sinister exploits of a pair of fresh-faced college grads (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams playing “themselves”) recently recruited by the CIA as part of its effort to mine American universities for the best and brightest young minds. The newly arrived nerdy, clean-cut novices look to find their way within the agency. But, no matter what work they’re ...
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‘Howards End’ extols the virtues of kindness, compassion, integrity

‘Howards End’ extols the virtues of kindness, compassion, integrity

“Howards End” (1992, original release; 2016, re-release). Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins, Samuel West, James Wilby, Adrian Ross Magenty, Nicola Duffett. Director: James Ivory. Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Book: E.M. Forster, Howards End. Web site. Trailer. A little kindness goes a long way, sometimes much further than any of us might expect. That’s a meaningful lesson for those who need some gentle nudges in that direction, and it’s an imperative for anyone who brazenly puts self-interest before all else. Such is the message of the 1992 award-winning screen classic “Howards End,” recently released in theaters in a digitally restored 25th anniversary edition. Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, the story of this engaging drama is rather involved, but it basically concerns the relationship of two sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter), with members of early Twentieth Century London society at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Margaret befriends Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), the kindly but dying matron of a wealthy family who adores the sanctuary of her country home, Howards End. Ruth so appreciates the compassion that her new friend shows her that she seeks to bequeath the estate to ...
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‘Miss Peregrine’ validates the ‘peculiar’ found in each of us

‘Miss Peregrine’ validates the ‘peculiar’ found in each of us

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (2016). Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker, Raffielle Chapman, Pixie Davies, Aiden Flowers, Nicholas Oteri, Helen Day, Philip Philman, Jack Brady, Scott Handy, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones. Director: Tim Burton. Screenplay: Jane Goldman. Book: Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Web site. Trailer. In an age where many of us feel like we’re being coerced into various forms of social homogenization, it can be difficult for those who are “different” – perhaps even downright unconventional – just to get by. The pressure to conform can be unbearable, maybe even perilous, especially when confronted with the intolerance of the powers that be. Thankfully, though, there are those who are not afraid to stand up for themselves – or who are willing to protect those who are unable to do so – to keep dastardly influences at bay. That’s the drama that plays out in the delightful new Tim Burton fable, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Based on the book of the same name, this colorful adventure’s plot is ...
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‘The Beatles’ celebrates the beauty of collaboration

‘The Beatles’ celebrates the beauty of collaboration

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” (2016). Cast: Interviews: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Elvis Costello, Larry Kane. Archive Footage: John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Yoko Ono, Ed Sullivan, Pete Best, Billy Preston. Director: Ron Howard. Screenplay: Mark Monroe. Story Consultant: P.G. Morgan. Web site. Trailer. When one thinks of a cultural icon that helps to shape the character of a generation, a rock ‘n roll band probably wouldn’t be the first candidate that comes to mind. Yet, for those who came of age in the 1960s, fewer symbols hold nearly as much meaning, both personally and collectively, as a quartet of musicians from across the pond – the Fab Four, the Liverpool moptops, the band that became virtually synonymous with a generation, the Beatles. Their impact on music, culture and the sensibilities of Baby Boomers coming into their own – especially in the band’s early days – is the subject of a fun and lively new documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years,” currently playing in a limited theatrical run and streaming on demand on Hulu. Director Ron Howard, a longtime Beatles fan, has created ...
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