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Matt’s Movies: Netflix Nook (Part 3)

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Matt Chouinard, Film Critic

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American Beauty (4 out of 5 stars)

Released in 1999, American Beauty is a drama about the day to day lives of a seemingly typical family. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn Burnham appear happily married and living in a nice neighborhood with their daughter, Jane Burnham (Thora Birch). Truly though, Lester is miserable and depressed, until one day he experiences a mid-life crisis and becomes determined to change his boring life. The plot is simple, but it is a story about real world problems and real life situations that will appeal to many viewers.

The highlight of the film is the terrific acting performances showcased by everyone involved, notably Kevin Spacey as the lead. His character is layered and genuine, exhibiting levels of weakness that are not often seen in a lead character. Spacey goes all out in his portrayal of an everyday man who goes through an immense amount of growth as he strives to find meaning with his life. Spacey’s performance incorporates all kinds of emotions and lead to what is an incredible performance. Annette Benning is right behind him, as she is great as well in her portrayal of a perfectionist working mother who cares more about power and money than her own family. They combine to carry the film through a story that provides nothing new to the audience, but is genuine and entertaining all the same. American Beauty is an example of excellent acting on display from everybody involved and should prove solid entertainment for anybody who is seeking a story about real life.

Groundhog Day (4 out of 5 stars)

Released in 1993, Groundhog Day is a lighthearted tale about Phil Conners (Bill Murray), a weatherman who must travel with his crew, Rita (Andie McDowell) and Larry (Chris Elliot), to cover groundhog day and whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. Phil has to do this story every year and shows obvious disdain for the story, but covers it and is anxious to get out of town afterwards. Phil wakes up the next day though, to the realization that it is groundhog day again and he must relive the same day over and over again.

The story is very creative and the plot line of reliving the same day over and over allows for some very humorous scenes to occur. Bill Murray thrives in the role of narcissistic weatherman who must put up with the same events again and again, and be the only one who knows about it. He is extremely funny in a slightly more subdued comedic role, but one that still allows for lots of witty quips and a good amount of physical humor. The movie is essentially his show and he carries the weight seamlessly, with some good supporting work attributed to Andie McDowell and Chris Elliot. The film has its outrageous moments, but overall is a good story with some romantic overtones and lessons to be learned. Groundhog Day is an excellent comedy that also serves as a quality story and should entertain all who seek it out a good laugh.

Armageddon (4 out of 5 stars)

Released in 1998, Armageddon is the action packed story of a huge asteroid that is hurdling towards Earth and the misfit team of oil drillers hired by NASA to fly up and destroy the asteroid before it ends humanity. The plot of the story is your typical doomsday tale and there is nothing new here, but what audience members can look forward to is the all-star cast which consists of Billy Bob Thornton as the head of NASA, Bruce Willis as the head of the oil drilling team tasked with saving the world, and Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Clarke Duncan as his oil drilling crew.

The acting is nothing amazing, but it is adequate work delivered by everyone involved and Bruce Willis is very entertaining in what is certainly one of his best non-Die Hard performances. Owen Wilson and Michael Clarke Duncan provide some solid comedic supporting performances and Ben Affleck does well as one of the leads opposite Willis. The best facet of the film is the cinematography and action scenes that take place throughout the course of the story. This film is geared strongly towards style opposed to substance and strives to entertain with action shots and visuals, which it is quite successful with. The film is also able to mix in some emotion into the story and create some heartfelt scenes, notably the incorporation of the Aerosmith song, “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” which won Best Original Song for the movie. Overall, Armageddon is a stylish action packed story that will mindless entertain. It’s highly recommended to fans of the action genre.

Fruitvale Station (4 out of 5 stars)

Released in 2013, Fruitvale Station is based on the real life story of Oscar Grant III(Michael B. Jordan), a 22 year old Bay Area resident who woke up on December 31st 2008 and proceeded to live his last day. The film chronicles his final hours, showcasing his relationships with his mother, girlfriend, son, and friends during New Year’s Eve.

The movie is a celebration of human life and revolves solely around one man and Michael B. Jordan gives a great performance as the film’s central character, Oscar Grant. He gives a heartfelt portrayal of the real life character and does his best to capture all characteristics of Grant, down to the smallest mannerisms. It was solid work that guides the film’s story, along with excellent directing work by Ryan Coogler. He sets a very intimate tone to the film as a whole, really allowing the audience to feel close to the characters as the story progresses. The story concludes with a very emotional climax, that is excellently executed by Coogler’s direction and storytelling skills, as he also wrote the screenplay, that prove to be the highlight of the entire film. Overall, Fruitvale Station is a small scale, intimate tale of a real life story that truly deserved to be told, and was expertly told by its writer/director, and lead star. Anyone interested in real life stories is sure to find this a tale worth watching.

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