Greetings From Movie Review, N.J.: ‘Blinded by the Light’ Review

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CREDIT: Nick Wall/Warner Bros.

In my review of Yesterday, I took the disappearing-Beatles film to task for failing to answer all the questions it raised. (Yesterday, I don’t mean to bag on you too hard; you’re enjoyable even though you’re so silly.) Now another movie about the power of one classic musical act has come along, and it benefits from a much tighter focus. Instead of imagining what the entire world would be like without Bruce Springsteen, it captures the profound effect the Boss has on one British-Pakistani teenage boy in 1987 small-town England. But that tight focus doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of questions to be answered.

Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) is immediately enraptured the first time he encounters the poet laureate of Asbury Park, and despite their (superficial) cultural differences, he sees a model of inspiration to break out of his hometown and make it as a successful writer. But his new favorite music doesn’t change the fact that he’s growing up in a traditional immigrant family beset by financial struggles and prejudice from their neighbors and the National Front party. Javed thinks that Springsteen’s message is pretty simple, and in some ways, it fundamentally is. But the challenge for him is to look outward with that message when he is tempted to remain inward. Luckily, Blinded by the Light is up to the challenge of answering the questions of how one artist with such a personal touch can inspire someone to be a good son, friend, sibling, boyfriend, neighbor, and overall human. The journey it presents is unfailingly earnest and bursting with ebullience

Blinded by the Light is Recommended if You Like: Bend It Like Beckham, Sing Street, Standing up to neo-Nazis

I give Blinded by the Light 90 Death Traps out of 100 Runners in the Night.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Christopher Robin’ And a Silly Old Bear Remind Us of the Importance of Family

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CREDIT: Laurie Sparham/Disney

This review was originally published on News Cult in August 2018.

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen, Toby Jones

Director: Marc Forster

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG for Some Bumpy Rides on Trains and the Streets of London

Release Date: August 3, 2018

One reason the Winnie the Pooh stories have endured, particularly in cartoon form, is because of their commitment to the intense, occasionally overwhelming, wonders of the imagination. Ostensibly, the original fount of this imagination is Christopher Robin, whose stuffed animals have sprung to life in the Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher Robin the movie, starring Ewan McGregor as the grown-up title character, initially presents itself as being about the importance of retaining your inner child, as Pooh, Piglet, and the rest of the gang return unexpectedly after decades to visit their old friend. But along the way, Marc Forster’s film is powered along by the lessons of treating employees fairly so memorably espoused way back when (and year after year) in It’s a Wonderful Life. The businessmen of Christopher Robin are not quite as warped and frustrated as Mr. Potter, but they prevent people from properly enjoying their time with their spouses, children, and stuffies, and that cannot be abided.

The major conflict is that Christopher is unable to spend a weekend in the countryside with his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) because of work commitments. Far from a workaholic who has forgotten how to have fun, he is instead a businessman who is constantly stressed out by the demands of his bosses and his commitment to do what is asked of him. As the efficiency expert at Wilson Luggages, he is tasked with finding the most cost-effective way to lay off staff, and he must have his presentation ready by a Monday morning meeting. He gets to work fulfilling this heartbreaking task, resigned to being stuck in a rigged system. Then Pooh Bear shows up, and through a series of mishaps, Christopher is able to see this problem anew with fresh eyes and discover a way for decent, hardworking people to keep their jobs AND have paid vacation time while still retaining efficiency.

The presence of talking stuffed animals could be played to make Christopher Robin appear insane to the rest of the world, but the Hundred Acre Wood gang is too un-self-conscious to hide their true selves to anyone. Thus, Pooh’s presence is disarming to all his human friends, acquaintances, and audience. His propensity for simple wisdom in the vein of Zen aphorisms is on full display, as he remarks, “it’s usually today” when Christopher Robin screams out, “It’s tomorrow!” and later declares that today is in fact his favorite day. We all can benefit greatly from leaving room for Pooh in our hearts. When life feels like it is just making our floors sticky and breaking our glassware, we just need to take that as an opportunity to assess the situation differently and realize what is really important.

Christopher Robin is Recommended If You Like: It’s a Wonderful Life, Winnie the Pooh cartoons, Making time to vacation with your loved ones

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Honeypots