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CrAiGeR's REVIEW ARCHIVES

All of CrAiGeR's full-length reviews of contemporary films since Jan 2004

 

 

CrAiGeR's FOUR STAR REVIEWS

Listing of every FOUR STAR review that CrAiGeR has ever written (excludes retro-reviews)

 

 

CrAiGeR's WORST REVIEWS

Listing of every one and a half star or lower review that CrAiGeR has ever written

 

 

CrAiGeR's RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW ARCHIVES

CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

the past

 

 

CrAiGeR's YEARLY BEST/WORST LISTS

CrAiGeR dishes out his TEN BEST and TEN WORST films for every year since 2000

 

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN MOST OVER-RATED FILMS OF ALL-TIME

CrAiGeR unleashes his list of ten films that he felt did not deserve universal fan accolades and critical praise.

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN MOST INFLUENTIAL FILMS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS 

CrAiGeR ruminates on ten films he feels most directly influenced the business and making of movies since 1986.

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 2010's

[NEW]

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 2000's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1990's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1980's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1970's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1960's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1950's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1940's

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS 

(R) jjj

Eternal befuddlement of the streaming viewer's mind

I have a confession to make: I've been putting off writing my review for the latest Charlie Kaufman film I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS for as long as possible.  As a matter of fact, almost for a week now after screening it on Netflix (which produced and released it).  An adaptation of the 2016 debut novel of the same name by Canadian author Iain Reid, this film is almost impossible to classify (and discuss in detail without engaging in spoilers...but I'll try)...

Posted September 16, 2020

THE TAX COLLECTOR (R) j

An urban gangster drama in need of a creative audit

Very few films these days that feature decent talent in front of and behind the camera are as unpardonably wrongheaded and thoroughly wretched as THE TAX COLLECTOR, a new urban gangster thriller that makes so many ill advised decisions that you kind of wonder how the finished product came out in its final form without any measurable checks and balance system.   ...

Posted September 16, 2020

GET DUKED! (R) jjj1/2

Straight outta Highlands

AMAZON PRIME's deliriously bizarre and thoroughly hysterical outdoor survival horror- comedy GET DUKED! (formerly known as BOYZ IN THE WOOD) is like a twisted stylistic merging of Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi combined with its own unique brand of propulsive energy.  Its premise is a basic one: A group of high school lads take a class mandated journey through the Scottish highlands and then are hunted like animals by some sadistic rich folk residing there...

Posted September 16, 2020

TENET (PG-13) jjj

What's happened...happened

There's an action sequence in writer/director Christopher Nolan's newest science fiction spy thriller TENET that almost defies simple explanation, but I'll endeavor to do so here without engaging in any tangible spoilers. Let's just say that it involves a fist fight.  Seems pretty basic, right?  We have two combatants vying for dominance, which is about as obligatory of a setup as there is in a movie.  However, this one is anything but ordinary...

Posted September 5, 2020

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC

(PG-13) jjj1/2

A trilogy capper too good to be thrown in the iron maiden

There's a sly moment in BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC that pitch perfectly encapsulates the easy going vibe of its titular characters as well as the infectiously silly tone of this decades spanning series as a whole. It occurs during a pivotal scene when the now mid-fiftysomething Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) are faced with an insurmountable challenge that forces them into a decision that they fear will hurt their band's (Wyld Stallyns) reputation...

Posted September 5, 2020

THE NEW MUTANTS

(PG-13) jj1/2

Teachers...leave them mutant kids alone!

 

THE NEW MUTANTS - which marks the thirteenth installment of the longstanding X-MEN cinematic universe - is one of the many films this past year that was a victim of horrible release timing as a result of our current global pandemic, not to mention that it faced the added burden of being caught between a very public and recent acquisition of all of the Fox studio properties by Disney...

Posted September 5, 2020

PROJECT POWER 

(PG-13) jjj

A streaming pill mostly worth taking

Even though the latest Netflix original film PROJECT POWER runs out of creative juices during its final act, it nevertheless finds some refreshingly novel ways of fusing together the super hero and drug trafficking genres with a rather ingenious premise.  Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who made the stylish, but empty minded NERVE) conjure up one humdinger of an enticing hook...

Posted August 28, 2020

CHEMICAL HEARTS (R) jjj

Teenage love and other drugs

 

In the wrong creative hands, Amazon Prime's CHEMICAL HEARTS - based on Krystal Sutherland's novel - would have been nauseatingly melodramatic and painfully hard to swallow as a high school coming of age drama.  Thankfully and in large part because of some fine writing and authentically rendered performances, the film emerges as an uncommonly perceptive, genuinely moving, and sensitive portrayal of adolescent heartache, loss, and first love.  And all of this is anchored by its two naturally in tune lead actors in Lily Reinhart and Austin Abrams...

Posted August 28, 2020

SPUTNIK (R) jjjj

In a Russian secret government base...no one can hear you scream

 

Yes, SPUTNIK takes its title from the world famous satellite of the of the same name launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, but it also translates (in English) as "companion," the latter of which makes more sense on a thematic level here.  This Russian made sci-fi horror thriller is a fairly ingenious hybrid: think of it as the love child of the combined work of Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, and John Carpenter.  It's also an unrelenting creepfest that deserves some very worthy comparisons to this year's THE INVISIBLE MAN...

Posted August 28, 2020

AN AMERICAN PICKLE 

(PG-13) jjj

This is the dream...this is the goal...perfect jar of pickle

If you think that movies are utterly bereft of original ideas these days then clearly you haven't seen the new HBO Max comedy AN AMERICAN PICKLE, which contains a premise that has never been done before...or maybe it has, but just not quite like it.  The film stars Seth Rogen (also a producer here) playing a turn of the last century Jewish immigrant that accidentally finds himself locked in a huge vat of pickles and is preserved via its brine for one hundred years, after which time he re-awakens in modern day New York...

Posted August 17, 2020

MADE IN ITALY (R) jjj

Under the Tuscany sun

MADE IN ITALY is an unendingly charming and deeply personal drama made with an added aura of meta heartache and sorrow.  It stars real life father and son tandem Liam Neeson and Michael Richardson playing a fictional father and son tandem that are dealing with the tragic loss of their wife/mother, who died in a hellish car accident.  Neeson's own wife and Richardson's mother, Natasha Richardson, very famously perished in a 2009 skiing accident, which makes the whole emotionally undercurrent of MADE IN ITALY all the more palpable...

Posted August 17, 2020

THE OUTPOST (R) jjj

Defending an undefendable military base

The new fact-based war thriller THE OUTPOST marks a welcome return for director Rod Lurie, who hasn't made a film in nearly ten years (he previously helmed one of the best and most underrated political dramas of the 2000s in THE CONTENDER).  His latest tells the tale of 53 American soldiers and two Latvian military advisors that desperately tried to stave off the invasion of 400 enemy Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.  The U.S. base being attacked in question was a sitting duck, if there ever was one, located very deep in a valley and surrounded by three gigantic mountains on every side. ...

Posted August 8, 2020

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA

(PG-13) jj1/2

Honey, I'm still free...take a chance on me

Despite having one of the most nonsensical titles of recent memory, the latest Netflix original film EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (sorry, it sounds like a HUNGER GAMES spin-off) is a comedy set within the real life titular international competition that (quickly checks notes) introduced the world to the likes of ABBA and Celine Dion (arguably the most well known winners)...

Posted August 8, 2020

GHOSTS OF WAR (R) jj1/2

Ghost in the war machine

I love a solid genre mishmash as much as the next, and the one proposed by director Eric Bress (THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT) is an intriguing one, to be sure, in GHOSTS WAR.  The film builds up an awful lot of initial promise as a World War II, men-on-a-mission flick crossed with an haunted house supernatural horror film.  There have been recent examples of films melding fact and horror fiction (like the superbly underrated zombie-fuelled OVERLORD)...

Posted August 8, 2020

GUNS AKIMBO (R) jj

You're a killing machine, Harry

I will give Daniel Radcliffe full props for flipping the bird to conventional post-HARRY POTTER movie roles.  After seeing GUNS AKIMBO I can positively relay that it gives SWISS ARMY MAN - an absurdist survival comedy that featured the actor playing a chronically farting corpse - a run for its money for being the looniest Radcliffe movie that I've ever laid eyes on...

Posted July 29, 2020

ARCHIVE (R) jjj

A well oiled character driven robo-drama

The cheaply produced, but ambitious indie sci-fi drama ARCHIVE is certainly derivative of about half a dozen other genre efforts, not to mention that its final third doesn't quite equal the quality of its opening sections.  Despite some wobbly scripting at times, though, writer/director Gavin Rothery's debut effort emerges as a rather thoughtful and engaging piece about A.I. and themes of love, loss, and moving on. That, and it contains a genuinely surprising twist ending that feels legitimately unforced and earned...

Posted July 29, 2020  

GREYHOUND (PG-13) jjj

"The waters are the beginning and end of all things on earth."

Tom Hanks has had a creative love affair with World War II history that dates back decades, which began most famously by appearing in Steven Spielberg's Oscar winning SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and was followed up with producing HBO's splendid BAND OF BROTHERS.  He returns to the fold by appearing in front of the camera and serving as screenwriter for the new fictional nautical WWII thriller GREYHOUND, adapted by the 1955 novel THE GOOD SHEPHERD by C.S. Forester.  One aspect that makes this battlefront piece refreshing is its approach...

Posted July 19, 2020

THE OLD GUARD (R) jjj

Immortal beloved

The latest Netflix original film THE OLD GUARD - adapted from the comic book series of the same name - most definitely doesn't score huge points for originality (the concept of super powered immortals fighting evil has been the stuff of movie sci-fi and graphic novels before), but where it does succeed is in how preposterously entertaining the whole package is in having subversive fun with its premise set within the context of a modern action thriller...

Posted July 19, 2020

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT

(R) jj

A psychological horror thriller not worth visiting

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT is one of those types of "PWP" films, or one that contains a premise without payoff.  It's from writer/director David Koepp, who has made a large name for himself in Hollywood, especially as a writer of such blockbusters like the first two JURASSIC PARK films, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and WAR OF THE WORLDS.  On a level of versatility, he's worked in a tremendous number of genres...

Posted July 13, 2020

FORCE OF NATURE (R) 1/2j

Mad Mel versus the hurricane

Not to be confused with the late 90s Sandra Bullock/Ben Affleck romcom of nearly the same name, FORCE OF NATURE is a new action film of startling, almost mind numbing blandness.  Very few genre films like this are a sure-fire cure insomnia...but this one fits the bill.  The $23 million dollar, shot on location production has a premise as basic as it gets (a series of dwellers try to evacuate a Puerto Rico apartment building during a Category 5 hurricane while nefarious criminals also wreak havoc on the inside)...

Posted July 13, 2020

IRRESISTIBLE (R) jjj

Politically, most things are still the same

Jon Stewart spent the better part of two decades as host of THE DAILY SHOW, a politically driven comedic news program that arguably did just as good of a job - if not better - of covering headlines than the more "serious" mainstream news outlets.  Surprisingly, he never achieved super stardom in front of the camera on the silver screen, as over the last few years he has opted to work out his creative fantasies as a writer/director...

Posted July 3, 2020

7500 (R) jjj1/2

Terror in the skies above

7500 takes its name from pilot's code for hijacking, which makes this international film, yes, an airline hijack thriller.  Obviously, there have been so many of these types of genre pictures over the decades, not to mention that some - like Paul Greengrass' masterfully frightening fact-based UNITED 93 - have an even more elevated state of dread and unease because of the events of 9/11...

Posted July 3, 2020

INFAMOUS (No MPAA Rating) jj

The viral generation Bonnie & Clyde

INFAMOUS is one of those criminals on the run thrillers that liberally borrows from the DNA of past great films like BONNIE & CLYDE and NATURAL BORN KILLERS without having much in the way of its own voice with the subject matter.  The premise contained within this Joshua Caldwell written and directed effort is as old of the hills: A pair of young drifter/lovers find themselves committing a robbery spree across America, angering law enforcement, but catching the strange adulation of the general public...

Posted July 3, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS (R) jjjj

Band of blood brothers

To label writer/director Spike Lee's Netflix original film DA 5 BLOODS as a war drama would be misleading.  It's a decidedly rare breed of war genre effort that's less about transporting you to the past and into the hellish battlefields and is more about the psychological imprint that combat leaves on surviving veterans, which is made especially more intriguing when one considers the racial makeup of the people in question.  If anything, DA 5 BLOODS makes for a wonderful companion piece to Lee's last joint in the Oscar winning BLACKkKLANSMAN...

Posted June 25, 2020

ARTEMIS FOWL (PG) j

Not-so-fantastic beasts and who cares if you find them

I knew that I was in serious trouble very early on in my streaming viewing of the new Disney produced sci-fi adventure film ARTEMIS FOWL.  Within the first few minutes of this adaptation of the young adult novel series by Eoin Colfer the titular character's name is mentioned/referenced, like, a dozen times.  We get it.  Seriously.  This film is called ARTEMIS FOWL, it's about a young criminal mastermind named Artemis Fowl, and is the single most Artemis Fowled film in the history of Artemis Fowl...

Posted June 25, 2020

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND

(R) jj

Apatow's less-than-crowning achievement

Judd Apatow's THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND is a new dramedy of strange contradictions. It's the kind of film that has an authentic and grounded texture and some committed performances that work together to intimately invite you into its unique microcosm.  At the same time, I felt that Apatow's efforts here were frustratingly pushing me away at a distracting distance, largely due to some creatively questionable choices that hold the film back from achieving the same sort of comedic greatness that typified his early work...

Posted June 25, 2020

BECKY (R) 1/2j

A less than ideal vacation at the lake house!

I'm not a cinematic snob, nor a prude.  I like B-grade trash.  In the right circumstances, I really do.  And BECKY is most definitely the type of film that would be best described as retrograde and low rent drive-in theatre/grindhouse fare.  But it also happens to be bad trash and an appallingly gory movie featuring adults doing unspeakable harm to kids...and one psychotic kid inflicting barbaric violence on many adults.  It also features Kevin James (yes, that one of PAUL BLART: MALL COP and I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY) as a loathsomely sadistic neo-Nazi criminal...

Posted June 10, 2020

THE VAST OF NIGHT 

(PG-13) jjj1/2

Look, up in the sky...!

There have been innumerable science fiction films over the years that have dabbled into close encounters and/or invasions by extra-terrestrial visitors, but very few are done with such stark filmmaking economy and eerie atmosphere like director Andrew Patterson's THE VAST OF NIGHT, which premiered last year on the indie film festival circuit and is now available to stream via Amazon Prime.  So many examples of this genre typically favor mindless action/spectacle and numbing visual effects, but the Oklahoma filmmaker shot this one on the micro budgeted cheap...

Posted June 10, 2020

THE TRIP TO GREECE (R) jjj

Greece is the word!

THE TRIP TO GREECE is the fourth film in director Michael Winterbottom's mockumentary series of films featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon - playing loosely fictionalized versions of themselves - traveling to all points of exotic and picturesque locales of the world while engaging in some fine dining.  The series actually began on the small screen as the BBC series THE TRIP, which in turn was edited down to form the 2011 feature film version of the same name.  The two sequels - 2014's THE TRIP TO ITALY and 2017's THE TRIP TO SPAIN - followed suit...

Posted June 10, 2020

THE LOVEBIRDS (R) jj1/2

Living not so happily ever after

THE LOVEBIRDS is a stark reminder that the most prosaically scripted romcoms can be made all the more eminently watchable with two finely attuned and likeable lead actors leading the charge.  Premiering on Netflix a few weeks ago after being yet another film on an increasingly long list that have had their theatrical release lives threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic...

Posted June 4, 2020

VALLEY GIRL (PG-13) jjj

Girls just wanna have fun!

I think that I've made it abundantly clear over the years that I typical loathe most remakes of any kind.  It's as creatively lazy as it gets for the medium.  That's not to say that I haven't appreciated some remakes.  In my mind, a good re-imagining of a past movie has to pay some level of respectful homage to what has come before while carving out its own unique tone and vibe that makes the material somehow feel fresh and new.  Otherwise, what's really the point...

Posted June 4, 2020

CAPONE (No MPAA Rating) j1/2

A weird type of gangster picture that fails to pack serious heat

CAPONE is absolutely proof positive that a compelling idea for a movie doesn't necessarily make for a compelling movie.  To be fair, it audaciously tries something different when it comes to telling a story about an unexplored side of one of the most famous gangsters in history in Al Capone that's arguably unknown to most.  That, and CAPONE could not be anymore different than writer/director Josh Trank's previous two efforts...

Posted May 20, 2020

ORDINARY LOVE (R) jjj1/2

Husbands and wives

I might be of the opinion that we have far too many cancer themed dramas for my tastes, with many - but not all - examples going for crude melodramatic sensationalism versus authentically rendered human drama.  Directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn's ORDINARY LOVE could be easily labeled as a "cancer drama," seeing as it concerns a couple's arduous trials and tribulations while navigating through the wife's sudden diagnosis of breast cancer.  Yet, what chiefly separates this film from so many countless others with similar narratives is in how penetratingly honest it feels...

Posted May 20, 2020

SPACESHIP EARTH (R) jjj

To boldly go where no Biopsherians have ever gone before

The Biosphere 2 project was an awe inspiringly ambitious - if not equal parts crazy - scientific undertaking, and is the subject of Matt Wolfe's sometimes unwieldy, but thoroughly intoxicating documentary SPACESHIP EARTH.  For those that weren't around at the time or have forgotten, the Biosphere 2 was the world's first and largest internal ecosystem, built between 1987 and1991 in Oracle, Arizona.  After completion in 1991, a group of so-called "Biospherians" were elected to enter the vast structure and seal themselves within in for two years...

Posted May 20, 2020

MY SPY (PG-13) jjj

Definitely not a Bautista bomb

There’s a moment in the new comedy MY SPY featuring star Dave Bautista shaking two school kids out of a tree...with his bare hands...while playing a game of hide and seek, and another with him camouflage hiding in a toy closet with a puppy to avoid detection. It was at this point when I realized that (a) Bautista is a really game showman and is willing to make himself look cool or absurd when a screenplay requires it and (b) this movie is much funnier than I was expecting, considering that it's occupying a very overcrowded genre that some would argue is on life support...

Posted May 10, 2020

BLOODSHOT (PG-13) jj1/2

We can rebuild him...we have the technology

With the possible exception of the RIDDICK themed sci-fi franchise, can anyone out there frankly remember any of Vin Diesel's non-FAST AND THE FURIOUS starring roles and films?  Outside of PITCH BLACK, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK and RIDDICK, I'm hard pressed to recall (random order) THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, the xXx franchise, and BABYLON A.D. (to name a few) in any detail.  Now, I'm not talking about solid and under appreciated dramatic turns from the fiftysomething actor (like the criminally unseen FIND ME GUILTY), but rather action focused roles...

Posted May 10, 2020

THE ASSISTANT (R) jjj1/2

A timely rallying cry drama

THE ASSISTANT contains a premise that's so deceptively simple, yet speaks relative volumes about toxic work environments, male toxicity, and the distressing struggles that young up and coming women face while trying to climb the corporate ladder.  It's the product of Kitty Green, making her dramatic feature film directorial debut, who spent a better part of a year interviewing women that once worked for Harvey Weinstein, only later to expand her interviews beyond these people...

Posted May 10, 2020

EXTRACTION (R) jjj

A passably thrilling JOHN WICK clone

I'll challenge anyone that thinks that Chris Hemsworth is a bona fide and bankable movie star.  That's not to say that he's a mediocre talent.  Far from it.  However, if one modestly scrutinizes the Australian actor's non-THOR roles and films then it becomes apparent that he really can't draw mass audiences himself, emphasizing a questionable career trajectory.  People love the actor as the God of Thunder (one of the most pitch perfectly cast MCU characters, for sure), but do any filmgoers honestly remember his turns in box office duds...

 Posted April 30, 2020

BAD EDUCATION 

ORIGINAL MOVIE

(No MPAA Rating) jjjj

We don't need no education...

BAD EDUCATION - which premiered on HBO this past weekend - is director Cory Finley's follow-up effort to this terribly underrated THOROUGHBREDS, and it once again shows him as an ever-evolving and superlative filmmaking talent.  His latest is an utterly intoxicating dramatization of the real life tale of the largest education theft in American history, all of which was exposed, ironically enough, by a high school newspaper reporter that smelled a financial rat when no one else did...

Posted April 30, 2020

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (PG-13) jjjj

An authentic and harrowing of tale of a young woman's tough joruney

One of the very best films of the year is one that I knew next to nothing about before I saw it. I went into Eliza Hitmman's NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS completely cold, having no idea that it was an abortion drama.  Having said that, to simplistically label it as "an abortion drama" would be incredibly misleading, seeing as it's an unflinchingly honest and superbly acted film that never manages to overtly politicize or get aggressively preachy with its subject matter.  Its story concerns a young 17-year-old girl's journey to the big city to abort her pregnancy...

Posted April 30, 2020

THE LAST FULL MEASURE (R) jj

Failing to rise to the call of duty

THE LAST FULL MEASURE is an earnest and noble minded Vietnam War themed fact based drama that's unfortunately mired by some lackluster creative discipline and execution.  It tells a story that absolutely should be seen, that of war hero William H. Pitsenbarger, who personally saved over sixty men during one of the U.S. campaign's deadliest days on April  11, 1966...

Posted April 30, 2020

LIKE A BOSS (R) 1/2j  

This workplace comedy is dead on arrival

If LIKE A BOSS were any less of a movie then we'd barely have anything to actually project on a cinema screen.  Very few workplace comedies are as punishingly awful as this.  It's as disastrously unfunny of a starring vehicle for the trio of Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek if there ever was one.  Equally head scratching is that this piece of disposable trash was directed by the very competent Miguel Arteta, who previously made a quite hilarious - and quite underrated - comedy in CEDAR RAPIDS...

Posted April 30, 2020

DOWNHILL (R) jj

The bunny hill of remakes

DOWNHILL is one of those films that's more forgettable and unnecessary than truly awful.  It's a work that has some genuine talent in front of and behind the camera (proven stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louise-Dreyfus and directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar winning screenwriters of THE DESCENDENTS and the filmmakers behind the sensational and underrated coming of age dramedy THE WAY, WAY BACK).  But considering the team assembled here, DOWNHILL is disappointingly dull and unfunny...

Posted April 21, 2020

COFFEE & KAREEM

(No MPAA Rating) jj

This buddy cop comedy needs a lot more milk and sugar added to the scripting

COFFEE & KAREEM is a new comedy that definitely wants to have its cake and eat it too.  This latest Netflix original film wants to appease fans of multiple genres - the cop buddy action comedies of yesteryear, kid friendly family comedies, and hyper foul mouthed, lewd, and unapologetically hard R-rated raunch fests.  It yearns to be cute and foul at the same time.  So, what audience was this film designed for...

Posted April 14, 2020

ONWARD (PG) jj

Pixar's latest doesn't magically go to infinity and beyond

Pixar's ONWARD is easily one of the studio's oddest animated films, but it's also one of its more regrettably subpar and forgettable efforts.  Their visual maestros and artists have undoubtedly made yet another endlessly gorgeous film on a level of technical craft, not to mention that the underlining story here about the bond between siblings and how families experience great difficulties in letting go of deceased members has potential for dramatic potency...

Posted April 14, 2020

INTERNATIONAL FALLS 

(R) jjj1/2

Stand up comedy as mid-life crisis and marital therapy

 

Amber McGinnis' INTERNATIONAL FALLS begins quaintly as a quirky small town Americana comedy about a struggling and touring stand-up comic that strikes up an unlikely friendship and romance with one of the locals.  Just when you think, though, that you know precisely where it's heading, McGinnis' feature film debut effort manages to subvert our very expectations of such romcom material, and surprisingly traverses down some poignant and distressing paths...

Posted April 14, 2020

VIVARIUM (R) jjj

How NOT to buy your first home

VIVARIUM is a new slow burn science fiction thriller that's made on the cheap, but nevertheless becomes more genuinely unnerving as it unfolds throughout its relatively taunt 97 minutes.  It dabbles in a premise that's seen the light of day, in one form or another, in many previous films (an unsuspecting couple living in an absolute hellish suburban nightmare), but VIVARIUM takes it several macabre steps forward in its narrative evolution...

Posted April 5, 2020

BANANA SPLIT (R) jjj

Sticking it to your ex in the most roundabout way

I would need an infinite number of hands to count how many high school romcoms that I've seen in my 45 years on the planet, especially ones that involve multiple girls fighting over the affections of one hunky male suitor. BANANA SPLIT attempts to subvert many of this genre's most tired and overused clichés - while still adhering to a few of them - in terms of its relationship arcs.  In its case, this film provides for an intriguing twist on traditional female friendship/high school comedies, and one that feels infinitely more grounded and lived in than most..

Posted April 5, 2020

BLOW THE MAN DOWN  

(R) jjj1/2

When quaint small towns harbor big, dark secrets

The new Amazon original Maritime murder mystery noir BLOW THE MAN DOWN deserves legitimate comparisons to the peak work of the Coen Brothers, in particular their Oscar nominated FARGO.  Both films maintain a wonderfully evocative sense of period and place and contain an immersive regional texture.  Both films feature an eclectic menagerie of colorful characters set against the background of small town American.  Both films marry dark comedy and dramatic pathos exceptionally well.  And finally, both films show a drearier underbelly of isolated small town Americana that rarely gets seen in contemporary films...

Posted April 5, 2020

THE HUNT (R) jj1/2

We're definitely not in Arkansas anymore

With the possible exception of THE NEW MUTANTS, I can't think of another film that's been typified by more bad luck release doom than THE HUNT.  Director Craig Zobel's (COMPLIANCE and Z FOR ZACHARIAH) newest film - on its most basic levels - is a satire about American political divide as well as a take on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME premise of people hunting and killing other people for sport.  Universal originally set the film for release back in September of last year, but cautiously balked after a series of mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso last August..

Posted March 29, 2020

THE JESUS ROLLS (R) j

This unnecessary spin-off throws nothing but gutter balls

The Coen Brothers' THE BIG LEBOWSKI is arguably the biggest cult film to emerge of the last 25 years.  Their 1998 crime comedy concerned a Los Angeles based slacker and  bowling fanatic and all of his comings and goings with a rich menagerie of colorful personalities.  It's by the Coens' own admission that - despite the long lasting appeal of their film in the years subsequent to its release - they'd never do a sequel.  That's probably a wise move, especially considering that it's awfully hard to re-capture cult film/pop culture lighting in a bottle twice...

Posted March 29, 2020

EMMA (PG) jjj1/2

Austen 3:16

To quote its full title (including an intriguing bit of punctuation) EMMA. is the newest in what seems like a tremendously long line of Jane Austen movie adaptations.  The author's 1815 romance comedy novel has seen the light of day on the silver screen multiple times over, from the well respected Gwyenth Paltrow iteration of 1996 to, my personal favorite, a radical modern day retelling in 1995's valley girl centric CLUELESS.  You can almost say that Hollywood making versions of Austen's literary world is a unique industry in itself...

Posted March 29, 2020

LOST GIRLS (R) jjj

Lost, but not forgotten

Based on the 2011 New York Magazine story that, in turn, spawned Robert Koller's non-fiction book: LOST GIRLS: AN UNRESOLVED AMERICAN MYSTERY, the new Netflix film LOST GIRLS tells the fact based tale of one woman whose family life was deeply affected by the Long Island serial killer, a still unidentified person that's believed to have slain a dozen-plus people over the course of two decades, with most of the victims being women...

Posted March 22, 2020

THE LAST THING HE WANTED 

(R) j1/2

Who wanted this incomprehensible mess?

The new Netflix thriller THE LAST THING HE WANTED is the kind of ridiculously messy and endlessly convoluted film that feels like the makers should handed out narrative road maps beforehand to everyone that wishes to watch it.  Based on the Joan Didion novel of the same name, this Dee Rees directed affair seems like it was assembled out of multiple ingredients haphazardly thrown into a story blender and without any idea as to how to mix them fluidly together...

Posted March 22, 2020

SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL

(R) jj

This action comedy is best kept on the down low

The new Netflix produced action comedy SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL is ever-so-loosely based on the Ace Atkins novel WONDERLAND, which in turn used character names from the detective series by Robert B. Parker (that work was appropriated into the mid to late 80s TV series SPENSER: FOR HIRE with Robert Urich. Still with me?  It seems that the makers of this film were hoping for it to springboard a new franchise, but it becomes abundantly clear very early on in SPENSER: CONFIDENTIAL that it's really not up to creative speed...

Posted March 22, 2020

THE WAY BACK (R) jjj1/2

Affleck gives a three pointer with nothing but net performance

Not to be confused with the 2013 coming of age film THE WAY, WAY BACK, Gavin O'Connor's sports redemption drama THE WAY BACK has taken on a whole new personal level as far as star Ben Affleck is concerned.  The 47-year-old actor recently and publicly came clean about his own decades-long bout with alcoholism, something that derailed his marriage and nearly shut down his career...

Posted March 14, 2020

COLOR OUT OF SPACE

(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

A crazy eyed Cage-ian sci-fi horror thriller of a different hue

It's hard to imagine that director Richard Stanley hasn't made a feature film in nearly 25 years.  His last attempt at such was the doomed production of 1996's THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, which was a self professed passion project for the filmmaker, but his dreams of seeing that film through to final fruition failed when he was unceremoniously terminated and replaced during principal photography.  Soured to the whole Hollywood system, Stanley has laid dormant from it ever since...

Posted March 14, 2020

THE NIGHT CLERK  (R) jj

A REAR WINDOW clone not worth checking into

The new crime drama THE NIGHT CLERK represents Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Michael Cristofer's first feature film directorial effort in nearly twenty years, with his last film being 2001's ORIGINAL SIN.  This obviously begs the question as to whether or not a two decade absence was well worth the wait for this?  The short answer would be...not really.  THE NIGHT CLERK tries to position itself as a Hitchcockian, REAR WINDOW inspired thriller with some modern day twists...

Posted March 14, 2020

THE INVISIBLE MAN (R) jjjj

A classic horror tale put through a compelling modern day blender

There have been countless films over the years that have been made about unstoppable monsters that stalk their unsuspecting and vulnerable prey, but there's something more unspeakably creepy and horrifying about trying to defend oneself against a silent foe that can't been seen...or...worse yet...that no one around you believes exists. That's something that the makers of the new iteration of THE INVISIBLE MAN keenly understand.  This remake, of course, is the umpteenth version of this premise that dates as far back as the original Universal horror film series of Hollywood's Golden Age...

Posted March 5, 2020

THE CALL OF THE WILD 

(PG) jj1/2  

When adaptations get lost in the wilderness

Harrison Ford.  God love 'em.  The man's an icon of the silver screen that hardly needs any introduction whatsoever, and he's played some of the most legendary and memorable heroes of the medium.  His latest film is THE CALL OF THE WILD, which is, of course, based on the 1903 short Jack London wilderness adventure novel of the same name that's been adapted for film multiple times over, with perhaps the two most well known being the 1935 Clark Gable and 1972 Charlton Heston starring iterations respectively...

Posted March 5, 2020

A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE:

FARMAGEDDON (PG) jjj1/2  

Close encounters of the farm kind

I've run out of superlatives over the years when it comes to talking about the animated films produced by Aardman, the studio that has become absolute masterful pioneers of the thankless art of stop motion.  Their latest endeavor (released internationally last year and finally seeing the light of day here on Netflix), the amusingly titled A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON, is another qualitative home run for the studio...

Posted March 5, 2020

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (PG) jjj

Must go faster...must go faster!

One of the very first large purchases that I ever made with my own money was a Sega Genesis game console.  I was 13-years-old and felt like I just acquired a Roles Royce.  The first cartridge that I inserted into this fabled system was Sonic the Hedgehog, which featured a character that was, yes, a hedgehog that can run at super sonic speeds.  Two things stuck with me as I played it: (1) This is the most ridiculously fast video game I've ever played and (2) this little blue haired creature was oddly endearing...

Posted February 24, 2020

FANTASY ISLAND (R)  zero stars

A horrible piece of wish fulfillment

The big screen adaptation of the late 1970s and early 1980s ABC TV series - which involved a vacation island resort where travelers could literally live out their deepest desires - is absolute garbage of the lowest order and an embarrassingly wrongheaded movie of amateurish trashiness.  This is such a categorically wretch remake/reboot that it never once rises to the retrograde moniker of so-bad, it's-good...

Posted February 24, 2020

HORSE GIRL (R) jjj  

An uncomfortable gallop into the darker underbelly of mental health

The Netflix produced film HORSE GIRL begins with relative modesty and simplicity, but then slowly and somewhat compellingly segues into one of the single strangest dramas that I've seen in quite some time.  On a basic premise level, it couldn't be anymore economical: A chronically introverted and unendingly shy craft store sales associate starts to deal with her mental health slowly, but surely, unraveling...

Posted February 24, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY 

(AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (R) jjj  

The not-so suicidal squad

To quote its full title (takes a deep breath), BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) is like a rainbow hued cocaine fever dream induced comic book film of rampant, insane chaos, quarterbacked by a wickedly loony and absolutely game for anything performance by Margot Robbie and some of the most sensationally realized action set-pieces this side of any JOHN WICK film...

Posted February 15, 2020

UNCUT GEMS (R) jjj  

Sandler at his most dramatically refined

Make no mistake about it, the Safdie Brothers are unqualified cinematic masters of tension and mood.  Their films wash over viewers in a stupendously uncomfortable wave, making us feel all of the fever inducing levels of despair and panic that their characters on experiencing on screen. Josh and Benny Safdie's last film, the Robert Pattinson starring GOOD TIME, was a nightmarish urban crime film that had a hyper adrenalized sense of narrative momentum...

Posted February 15, 2020

THE RHYTHM SECTION (R) jj1/2  

An untamed melody of a spy thriller

Despite flourishes of creativity and some atypically intriguing handling of its lead character, THE RHYTHM SECTION is a globetrotting spy/revenge thriller that feels like a greatest hits package of so many other far better tunes.  The fact that it comes from the iconic EON Productions and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson is of no surprise (they're best known for quarterbacking the James Bond franchise), and it represents an attempt on their part to craft a different type of espionage film...

Posted February 6, 2020

THE GENTLEMEN (R) jjj

Reefer madness!

THE GENTLEMEN represents a decent return to genre form for writer/director Guy Ritchie, who has spent a majority of his recent years getting his feet wet in a variety of large scale Hollywood features of middling quality (see the mediocre and forgettable KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD and the even worse ALADDIN live action remake for the House of  Mouse).  Before dabbling in blockbuster waters, though, Ritchie carved out a cult niche for his high octane and hyper stylized gangster flicks...

Posted February 6, 2020

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE (R) jj

More Bayhem, just minus the Bay

My filmgoing life would have been perfectly fine without the existence of another BAD BOYS sequel.  Coming an awfully long time after the last entry in this action comedy franchise involving two motor-mouthed and reckless cops  (a full 17 years, to be exact), BAD BOYS FOR LIFE doesn't get props for release punctuality.  To be fair, it doesn't hit the aggressively self indulgent levels of masturbatory excess and wretched bloat of its 2003 antecedent (still, for my money, one of the most thoroughly unwatchable sequels ever made)...

Posted January 31, 2020

DOLITTLE (PG) 1/2j

Doctor Doo-Doo

 

I stared at the screen in stunned disbelief throughout a majority of my screening of DOLITTLE, and if that didn't bother me enough the overwhelming sensation of silence in the crowd with me also pinpointed towards dire warning signs.  Since this is a family fantasy comedy, the lack of any filmgoer even modestly chuckling at anything in DOLITTLE is telling.  Perhaps most damming is, as mentioned, this represents Downey's first film since he exited the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

Posted January 31, 2020

UNDERWATER (R) jjj

Under the sea, no one can hear you scream

The new science fiction horror thriller UNDERWATER is a beyond obvious ALIEN clone, right down to key aspects of its characters, storytelling, and set pieces.  Replace the deep space trekking rig workers in Ridley Scott's landmark 1979 classic with a setting miles deep into our oceans and insert in the same essential motley crew of personality types fighting for their lives against a humanity hating and killing beast of unknown origin and you kind of get the idea here...

Posted January 24, 2020

1917 (R) jjj

The one-take war film to end all war films

Watching Sam Mendes' 1917 reminded me considerably of my feelings regarding Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK.  Both are historical war thrillers (albeit about different World Wars).  Both are unimpeachable technological marvels on an uncommonly high level and scope.  But both films feel kind of dramatically inert and lack serious emotional payoffs or any dramatic character development.  They are war films to be admired, for sure, but I nevertheless didn't find that either moved me in any discernable way....

Posted January 24, 2020

THE TWO POPES (PG-13) jjj

The high ranking Catholic Church odd couple

 

The new Netflix original film THE TWO POPES is a sometimes fascinating, sometimes creatively muddled, but superlatively acted chronicle on the relationship between John Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (who would eventually become Pope Francis after the former resigned).  The historical undercurrents at play here are endlessly compelling...

Posted January 15, 2020

PARASITE (R) jjjj

The dangers of acting like you own the place

Part psychological horror film, part home invasion thriller, part black comedy, and part social/economic satire, Bong Joon ho's PARASITE covers an awful lot of tonal and thematic terrain, but it's a testament to the South Korean filmmaker that he manages to hold it together with such confident and masterful fluidity.  It's a film that begins simply enough in terms of its premise, but later builds layer upon layer of complexity...

Posted January 15, 2020

LITTLE WOMEN (PG-13) jjj 

Greta Gerwig merged with Louisa May Alcott...how capital!

Louisa May Alcott's 19th Century coming of age novel LITTLE WOMEN is so deeply entrenched in the hearts and minds of literary scholars and fans that any attempt by Hollywood to adapt it faces a couple of obvious challenges.  Firstly, some would accurately say that you have to be faithful to the source material in order to not offend the purists.  Secondly, one has to impart some level of newfound creative zeal in the material and somehow and someway make it feel fresh to contemporary audiences (and all while not alienating the legions and generations of devotees of the source material)...

Posted January 7, 2020

BOMBSHELL (R) jjj

A fair and balanced portrait of real life workplace harassment

 

BOMBSHELL is the kind of culturally and historically relevant fact based drama the feels like it could have benefited from a long form mini-series treatment of its subject matter.  Made with slick and convincing proficiency by director Jay Roach (no stranger to helming politically charged films like RECOUNT and GAME CHANGE) and pitch perfectly acted by a trio of female leads, this chronicle of the termination of the Chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Roger Ailes in 2016 (after a series of multiple and damaging accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace) is as compellingly topical as it gets for movies this year...

Posted January 7, 2020

JUDY (PG-13) jj1/2 

A creatively bland biopic about a Hollywood icon

I think we all have our own image in our minds when thinking about Hollywood icon Judy Garland, but I believe that a majority of us probably get whisked away to our first viewing of 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ and witnessing her angelic voice singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  She was bright eyed, effervescent, and extremely talented, and there was certainly no limits to where her superstardom could take her beyond this point...

Posted January 7, 2020

STAR WARS:

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

(PG-13) jj

I have a very bad feeling about this...

Not so long ago in a galaxy very, very nearby George Lucas released what many thought was going to be the last STAR WARS film ever made in 2005's REVENGE OF THE SITH, which was the final episode in the "Prequel Trilogy" that also filled in all of the gaps of the six film Skywalker family saga that included the "Original Trilogy."  For all intents and purposes, STAR WARS - cinematically speaking - was over...

Posted December 25, 2019

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

(PG-13) jjj

Welcome back to the jungle...we got fun and games!

Deep down, my cold and calculating critical mind knows that JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL is kind of the perfect embodiment of sequel cash grab.  For as much as I enjoyed the previous entry in this franchise, 2017's WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (which was, in turn, both a direct sequel and soft reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams' starring intro installment), it was nevertheless a sequel that I never felt required an additional follow-up...

Posted December 25, 2019

RICHARD JEWELL (R) jjj

From hero to zero and back again

The new fact-based drama RICHARD JEWELL is a flawed, but modest return to form for director Clint Eastwood after a recent string of misfires like THE MULE and the disastrously awful THE 15:17 TO PARIS.  The 89-year-old director's 41st film behind the camera is a thoroughly enthralling - albeit with many problematic caveats - chronicle of Richard Jewell, the American security guard that became famous during the 1996 Centennial Park Olympic bombings in Atlanta, Georgia, during which time he was initially hailed as a hero for saving lives, but later became a false prime suspect by the FBI...

Posted December 25, 2019

MARRIAGE STORY (R) jjj

Driver v Johansson

 

Nearly 15 years ago writer/director Noah Baumbach made a huge splash with THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, a deeply personal drama that chronicled the divorce of a couple from the children's prerogative (which, no doubt, stemmed from his own experiences being a child of divorce himself).  His latest endeavor, the Netflix produced MARRIAGE STORY, is yet another divorce centric drama, but this time coming largely from the perspective of the husband and wife....

Posted December 19, 2019

HUSTLERS (R) jjj

SHOWGIRLS this ain't

Outside of the promises of cheap and sensationalistic titillation offered up in its pre-release trailers, I really had no desire to screen HUSTLERS, a fact based crime drama that just also happens to be set in the world of strip clubs.  Based on a New Yorker magazine article by Jessica Pressler, this Lorene Scafaria directed effort tells a story of a group of intrepid and ambitious minded strippers in the Big Apple that decide to drug and steal money from the city's most wealthy and elite males that had been visiting their clubs and taking advantage of them and the disadvantaged for far too long...

Posted December 19, 2019

THE IRISHMAN (R) jjjj

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to paint houses

 

At the risk of opening up a comparative can of worms here, THE IRISHMAN is the AVENGERS: END GAME of Martin Scorsese films, which euphorically showcases the acclaimed Oscar winning director returning to the mafia drama after a long absence with all of his acting super heroes that have graced his previous films in tow, featuring the likes of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel...

Posted December 9, 2019

KNIVES OUT (PG-13) jjjj

The unusual suspects

 

After the disappointing and creatively wrongheaded STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, I’m very happy to report that writer/director Rian Johnson’s KNIVES OUT is a most welcome return to superb form for the filmmaker.  It’s an impeccably directed, ingeniously written, and superbly performed whodunnit murder mystery that has great, unbridled fun within the genre while transcending it all the same.  I've always thought highly of Johnson's work...

Posted December 9, 2019

THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

(PG-13) jjj1/2

The 1-2-3 kid

 

On paper, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON comes off like an exploitative melodrama/buddy comedy road trip movie.  Its story is a deceptively simple one: A young care home residing man that suffers from Down Syndrome decides to break out and, with a little help from some new friends, seeks out a training school to become a professional wrestler...

Posted December 9, 2019

FORD V FERRARI (R) jjj1/2

Dawn of auto justice

The new historical sports drama FORD V FERRARI is one of the more engaging and purely entertaining films of the fall thus far, bolstered by the absolutely winning the winning and charismatic tandem of Oscar winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale as well as its staggeringly impactful and technically brilliant racing sequences. The fact based tale chronicles how the Ford Motor Company...

Posted November 30, 2019

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (R) jjj

Won't you be my biopic neighbor...

 

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD comes out quite inopportunely after last year's truly wonderful and inspiring documentary WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, which covered Fred Rogers' iconic life and times as part of PBS' MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD that ran over five decades.  That doc was a legitimate piece of feel good filmmaking in chronicling the unending goodness of Rogers and what he meant to multiple generations of children...

Posted November 30, 2019

DOCTOR SLEEP (R) jjj

Hello again, Danny...

 

Question: How does one take on the Herculean task of making a sequel to one of the most iconic horror films (and cherished Stanley Kubrick films) of all time, which in turn was loosely adapted from one of Stephen King's most well known novels?  Second Question:  How does one make a sequel movie that appeases both fans of Kubrick's work and King's literature? The short answer?  Very democratically and carefully...

Posted November 21, 2019

MIDWAY (PG-13) jj1/2

A remake which will mostly live in infamy

The new historical war drama MIDWAY is the second lavish budgeted silver screen account of one of the more instrumental battles and turning points for America's involvement in the Pacific Theater of World War II.  Taking place roughly six months after Japan's sneak attack on the U.S. bases at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the Battle of Midway represented a major victory for the U.S. as they stopped an attacking and invading Japanese naval fleet.  Of course, this story was first told in movie form in the 1976 Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda starring war epic...

Posted November 21, 2019

JOJO RABBIT (PG-13) jj1/2

It's definitely not a good time to be a Nazi

JOJO RABBIT is director Taika Waititi's newest self described "anti-hate satire" that tries to wag a sarcastic finger of shame at Nazi Germany.  The very idea of making a comedy about something that drums up endless nightmarish thoughts about a brutal historical regime and time period may not be everyone's cup of tea, but JOJO RABBIT is certainly not the first time that a filmmaker has tackled the Third Reich in a comedic vein (see Charlie Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR, Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS, or Roberto Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL)...

Posted November 21, 2019

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

(R) jj1/2

There's no dark sequel fate but what we make for ourselves

I've been awfully kind to the TERMINATOR sequels over the years.  To be sure, nothing in this already improbably long franchise has topped the higher echelons of James Cameron's original 1984 introductory chapter (which launched Arnold Schwarzenegger into pop culture action hero icon status) or his 1991 sequel in T2: JUDGMENT DAY (still one of the greatest action films ever made, not to mention one of the best pure sequels in existence).  The unavoidable TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES from 2003 (the first of many Cameron-less enterprises) was solid, but inessential...

Posted November 13, 2019

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE

(R) jjj1/2

SWEEP THE LEG, JESSE!

Writer/director Riley Stearns' THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE is one of 2019’s great cinematic curveballs.  It begins as a potential THE KARATE KID clone and then morphs into an ultra dark comedy that takes many unnerving and unpredictable twists and turns.  I found it to be a simultaneously hilarious and unexpectedly chilling commentary on toxic masculinity.  What Stearns has ultimately achieved here is an extremely tough balancing act: There's a deadpan and frequently amusing comedic element to the whole enterprise, but mixed in with that is the decidedly bleaker underbelly of a disturbing thriller...

Posted November 13, 2019

ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

(R) jjj

It's time to nut up and shut up...again!

There have been so many zombie themed movies over the years that any new effort seeing the light of day has to work relative overtime in terms of infusing some innovation in this over-packed genre.  I think it's easy to forget what a relative breath of fresh air 2009's ZOMBIELAND was, which found a way of balancing gore and undead mayhem with a satiric sensibility that helped segregate it well apart from other offerings.  Cleverly amalgamating self-aware laughs, splatterhouse action sequences, and a very game cast that all seemed in on the subversive joke...

Posted November 3, 2019

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

(PG-13) j1/2

Well...well...well...

Even though I didn't admire it altogether too much, I will give 2014's MALEFICENT kudos for one thing: It represented an attempt by Disney to produce a live action adaptation of one of its beloved animated classics that presented the mythology from the vantage point of the villain and not the hero.  Considering the unending slew of mediocre cash grabbing remakes that the studio has been somewhat lazily manufacturing as of late, MALEFICENT was a decidedly different breed in terms of how it re-imagined the cherished 1959 animated feature SLEEPING BEAUTY instead of just copy and pasting its storyline wholesale...

Posted November 3, 2019

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME 

(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

He handcuffed lightning and threw thunder's ass in jail!

 

Ruby Ray Moore wore many guises over the course of his colorful career, from musician, singer, actor, and movie writer and producer.  He's arguably best known for his contribution to the blaxploitation genre with his ultra low budget action comedy DOLEMITE in 1975, with the titular character seeing the initial light of day on a 1970 debut comedy album that managed to crack the top 25 on the Billboard charts...

Posted November 3, 2019

  

 

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE

(R) jjjj

 

GEMINI MAN

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

EL CAMINO: 

A BREAKING BAD MOVIE 

(No MPAA Rating)jjj1/2

 

MIDSOMMAR

(R) jj1/2

 

JOKER

(R) jjjj

 

AD ASTRA  

(PG-13) jjjj

 

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

(R) jj1/2

 

BETWEEN TWO FERNS: 

THE MOVIE 

(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

 

SHAFT (R) j1/2

 

IT: CHAPTER TWO

(R) jj1/2

 

THE GOLDFINCH

(R) j1/2

 

THE FANATIC

(R) zero stars

 

ISN'T IT ROMANTIC

(PG-13) jjj

 

ANGEL HAS FALLEN  

(R) jj1/2

 

MA  

(R) jj

 

READY OR NOT

(R) jjj1/2

 

GOOD BOYS

(R) jjj

 

THE HUSTLE

(PG-13) j

 

TOLKIEN 

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

STOCKHOLM

(R) jj

 

THE FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

I AM MOTHER

(No MPAA Rating)

jjj

 

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

(R) jjj1/2

 

CRAWL

(R) jjj

 

THE INTRUDER

(PG-13 zero stars

 

THE LION KING

(PG-13) jj

 

AFTER

(PG-13) j

 

STUBER

(R) jjj

 

THE BEACH BUM

(R) j1/2

 

TEEN SPIRIT

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

(PG-13) jj

 

YESTERDAY

(PG-13) jjj

 

HIGH LIFE

(R) jjjj

 

TOY STORY 4

(PG) jjj

 

DOMINO

(R) jj

 

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL

(PG-13) j1/2

 

LATE NIGHT

(R) jjj1/2

 

THE DEAD DON'T DIE

(R) jj

 

DARK PHOENIX

(PG-13) jj

 

BOOKSMART

(R) jjj

 

ROCKETMAN

(R) jjj

 

GODZILLA

KING OF THE MONSTERS

(R) jj1/2

 

ALADDIN

(PG) jj

 

STARFISH 

(No MPAA Rating)jjj1/2

 

BRIGHTBURN

(R) jj

 

JOHN WICK: 

CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM

(R) jjjj

 

WHAT MEN WANT

(R) j1/2

 

APOLLO 11

(PG) jjjj

 

POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

(PG) jj

 

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

(R) jjj

 

LONG SHOT

(R) jjj