Up in the Air (4 Stars)
Released in 2009, Up in the Air provides a blend of comedy, drama, and romance, all within a fabulous actor’s showcase. The story follows a downsizing specialist(George Clooney) who travels all over the country. He enjoys his solitary lifestyle, until it becomes threatened when he befriends a fellow frequent flyer(Vera Farmiga) and is tasked with training a new hire(Anna Kendrick). Clooney, Farmiga, and Kendrick are all at the top of their game, harnessing their natural likeable characteristics and infusing it with the depth and emotion of real everyday people. The screenplay provides amble wit for the actors to further elevate their performances, while also successfully straddling the line between comedy and drama with effortless balance.
Detroit (4 Stars)
Released in 2017, Detroit is a gut-wrenching social issues drama that combines a great ensemble cast with an important message. This fact-based drama centers around the 1967 Detroit race riots. The strength of the film lies in its direction, with Kathryn Bigelow raising the tension to make this real-life drama feel more like a white-knuckle thriller. Will Poulter is magnificent, along with additionally great turns by John Boyega and Anthony Mackie who all provide depth to these characters and evoke emotion from the audience. The movie is worth seeing solely for a glimpse at a dark moment in our history, but the well-done direction, screenwriting, and acting just make it all the better.
Plus One (3.5 Stars)
Released in 2019, Plus One is a unique romantic comedy that has more on its mind than just being another addition to the formulaic genre vault. Alice(Maya Erskine) and Ben(Jack Quaid) are two longtime single friends. In an attempt to survive a summer full of weddings they agree to serve as each other’s date for every wedding they’ve been invited to. The premise is unique and offers up some fresh takes on the romantic comedy format, strengthened by a terrific lead portrayal by Maya Erskine. She brings an energy that is all her own to the role and delivers a fully shaded character. The remainder of the cast doesn’t offer much else, but the intrigue of the film lies in the chemistry of its two leads. Both characters feel striped from the real world, as this is not some fairy tale, but a funny and heartfelt story about what love truly is.
Rocketman (3.5 Stars)
Released in 2019, Rocketman is a gloriously over the top musical that delivers its product in the same bombastic manner as the person the film is focusing on. This musical biopic follows Elton John(Taron Egerton) from his childhood through his breakthrough years. The film is propelled every step of the way by terrific work from Egerton as the central icon. He is deeply committed in his portrayal, not only looking the part, but also handling all the singing that the part requires. The fantastical structure of the musical format works well for this story, with many creative musical numbers. Additionally, the story isn’t afraid to delve into Elton’s flaws as well as his talents and the movie is that much better for it. The supporting cast is unable to further elevate scenes, but Egerton is able to hold the audience’s attention well enough on his own and create an enjoyable viewing.