Getting Reel

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By Larry Ratliff

The Ides of Cinematic March don’t necessarily signal impending doom or, perhaps worse, boredom at the movies.

At least Academy Awards season, particularly prickly this year due to the diversity debate, is finally behind us.  It’s true that summer’s bombastic blockbuster hopefuls are over a month away.  Yet, from this aisle seat, hope springs eternal that this year’s crop of, shall we say, between-season cinematic segues, will fill the gap with a solid dose of comedy, drama and intrigue.

If you like Tina Fey, the former Saturday Night Live standout-turned-movie star, you could be in for a good time at the movie house with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a war comedy scheduled to open March 4.

Based on journalist Kim Barker’s memoir titled The Taliban Shuffle:  Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Fey as Barker, rising star Margot Robbie (Focus, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Billy Bob Thornton.

Look for gallows humor, common among journalists on the silver screen and in real life, amid the ravages of war.  If anyone can find comic relief in what is usually very tough dramatic territory, Fey and Thornton are a pretty solid bet.

Speaking of the dramatic approach, Eye in the Sky, scheduled to open March 11, takes a potential terrorist situation very seriously.  Talented filmmaker Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) guides Helen Mirren, a best actress Oscar winner for The Queen (2006), through her role as a British military officer in charge of a top secret drone operation in Kenya.

Eye in the Sky is also significant for another reason.  Sadly, it’s the final live action big-screen performance for the late, great British actor Alan Rickman, who portrays Lt. Gen. Frank Benson.

Those with cabin fever might squirm a little during 10 Cloverfield Lane, a mystery-thriller opening March 11.  This one features Mary Elizabeth Winstead (A Good Day to Die Hard), John Goodman (Trumbo) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom on TV) as an uneasy trio living in an underground shelter while something makes some strange, ominous noises above.  It sounds like something’s out there.  But what?

Also look for:  Terrence Malick’s romantic-drama Knight of Cups, with A-list actors Cate Blanchett (Carol, Blue Jasmine), Christian Bale (The Big Short) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) on March 4, as well as the drama Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Garner out front on March 18.

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About Author

Public speaker, humorist and award-winning film critic Larry Ratliff is called “The Jalapeño Guy” because he rates movies on a scale of one-to-four jalapeños. Ratliff writes for and maintains his popular website, LarryRatliff.com, and writes a movie column for The Senior Voice newspaper titled Getting Reel. He also lectures about the magic of movies and life with his Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff classic film presentation series. During 2009 Ratliff wrote celebrity interview features for the statewide Texas magazine ENVY. In 2009 and 2010, he served as the film critic for People Newspapers of Dallas. From January 1996 until January 2009, Ratliff served as film critic and movie feature writer for the San Antonio Express-News newspaper. He also wrote several lifestyle columns for the Dallas Morning News in 2002 and 2003. For over three years, Ratliff's movie reviews and interviews were syndicated nationally and internationally to 210 NBC network TV affiliates in the United States and to 15 foreign countries. Ratliff's comments have been quoted in movie ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as in other newspapers nationwide. His comments have also appeared on video boxes across the United States and beyond. Ratliff was a founding, charter member of the Society of Texas Film Critics and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Ratliff has covered the Academy Awards on several occasions; twice for newspapers and once reporting live for NBC to over 40 network TV affiliates across the United States. A professional film critic since 1983, Ratliff grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth-area city of Grand Prairie. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas. He holds a BA degree in Speech with an emphasis on radio, TV and film with a minor in journalism. Early in his career, Ratliff worked as a radio disc jockey, a radio and TV news reporter and anchorman and as a stand-up comedian and comedy writer. Along with Suellen, Larry’s wife and muse, Ratliff founded Radio Free Ratliff, a daily radio feature of movie and video reviews, previews and interviews that was syndicated to radio stations in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Larry has a passion for good movies and the power of written and spoken words.

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