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POSTED JANUARY 6, 2022 

 

 

POSTED JANUARY 18, 2022 

 
 

 

 
     
 

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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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPIDERHEAD

(R) jj1/2

Prison love and other drugs

Director Joseph Kosinski is no stranger at all to the sci-fi genre, having previously helmed the terribly underrated OBLIVION as well as one of the best legacy sequels ever made in TRON: LEGACY.  And speaking of legacy sequels, he's on a bit of a creative role as of late with the box office and critical smash TOP GUN: MAVERICK.  Now comes SPIDERHEAD, which is based on the dystopian short story ESCAPE FROM SPIDERHEAD by George Saunders and features a compellingly smaller scale genre effort for the large scale filmmaker...

Posted June 30, 2022

FATHER STU (R) jjj

From pugilist to man of the cloth

FATHER STU is a fact/faith-based drama that doesn't entirely adhere to the type of soft-pedaled and family friendly fare one might expect from the genre.  The film tells the tale of Stuart Long, who was once a down on his luck and low level boxer in the early 1990s that ultimately found his calling to become a man of the cloth after a brutal accident nearly took his life.  Added on to this man's tragic backstory is the fact that he went on to develop a rare progressive muscle disorder that would make performing any physical duties as a Catholic priest increasingly difficult, if not impossible...

Posted June 30, 2022

JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

(PG-13) j1/2

Dodgson...we got Dodgson here!!!

When I left my screening of JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION all I could think of is quoting the series' famous chaos theorist in response to it: That is one big pile of shit. Where the hell is the legitimate sensation of awe and wonder in this film (the sixth and - reportedly and hopefully - last picture in this franchise)?  The more JURASSIC PARK entries (or WORLD, if you're referencing the last few films in this near thirty year old series) that I watch the more apparent it becomes that none are capable of capturing the lightning in a bottle novelty of Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking 1993 original...

Posted June 22, 2022

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2

(PG) jjj

Not all blue justice heroes wear capes

There's a moment in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 that made me laugh...almost uncontrollably.  You may recall that at the conclusion of the first 2020 franchise introductory installment (which I quite liked) that Jim Carrey's latte loving and moustache swirling madmen known as Dr. Ronotnik was soundly defeated by the titular hero and was banished to the mushroom kingdom for trying to steal his super speed powers...

Posted June 22, 2022

HUSTLE (R) jjj

Sandler lays up for a crowd-pleasing winner

Jeremiah Zagar's HUSTLE - a Netflix original film - is an inspirational underdog sports drama that seems, in the early stages, like it's made of many of the cookie cutter ingredients of this well worn genre.  To say that its overall narrative arc is overtly familiar would be an understatement, as the film certainly adheres to many overused troupes.  Having said that, Zagar and screenwriter Taylor Materne and Will Fetters manage to find a way to subvert said conventions throughout as well...

Posted June 22, 2022

INTERCEPTOR

(Unrated) jjj

Die Harder While Under Siege: With a Lady Vengeance

Netflix's new action thriller INTERCEPTOR is pure junk food cinema.  It's like a woefully unhealthy chocolate bar that you know is loaded with stomach busting calories, but one that you nevertheless crave and enthusiastically munch down.  Maybe that's my round about way of describing INTERCEPTOR as my guilty pleasure film of the year thus far: This is a preposterously scripted, but preposterously enjoyable UNDER SIEGE clone (which, in turn, was a DIE HARD clone)...

Posted June 12, 2022

FANTASTIC BEASTS:

THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE

(PG-13) jj

More like Dumble-bore

Every time I screen a new FANTASTIC BEASTS entry I'm forced to continually ask myself one basic question:  Why do these films push me away at such a frustrating distance when they desire to embrace me?  By my own admission (and I've reiterated this constantly in these reviews), I'm a hopeless muggle (a non-magic user to the virginal series fans out there) when it comes to J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER literary and cinematic universes (if anything in regards to the latter, I was harder on that franchise than most critics)...

Posted June 12, 2022

TOP GUN: MAVERICK

(PG-13) jjj

Hot Shots: Part Deux

I know that I'm in the definitive minority for not coveting Tony Scott's original TOP GUN as many others have over the years.  There's no denying that this Jerry Bruckheimer produced action thriller became an iconic blockbuster juggernaut in the summer of 1986 as well as a landmark film for how it helped define - for better and perhaps for worse - the pop culture milieu of mass marketed cinema in the decade of excess in question...

Posted June 5, 2022

THE LOST CITY  (PG-13) jjj

Romantic raiders of the lost stone

THE LOST CITY tries awfully hard to be the second coming of ROMANCING THE STONE, which, in turn, was a romantic comedy riff on the swashbuckling jungle themed adventures of INDIANA JONES before it.  This most certainly pays homage to that 1984 Robert Zemeckis directed film in multiple ways: It contains everything from a mismatched pair from different walks of life that will unavoidably become lovers; a woman that's a celebrated novelist that finds herself whisked into her own real life adventure; and, yes, a MacGuffin inspired treasure...

Posted June 5, 2022

EMERGENCY

(R) jjj

When you're in trouble...and you can't call for help

EMERGENCY is the kind of film that starts out one way and makes you think it's adhering to one specific comedic genre, but as it develops and careens towards its final act it becomes something wholly darker, compelling, and timely.  Directed with a surefire hand by Carey Williams and sensitively written K.D. Davila, EMERGENCY is based on their own 2018 Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize winning short film, and based on its success the pair decided to adapt it to a feature length film...

Posted June 5, 2022

 

MEMORY (PG-13) jj1/2

He can't remember if he has a particular set of skills

I was positively dreading the thought of seeing MEMORY, which I thought was going to be yet another entry on an increasingly long and embarrassingly exhausting list of Aging Liam Neeson Takes Names and Kicks Ass films.  What once started as a fairly cool career rejuvenation move for the former Oskar Schindler/Oscar nominated star with TAKEN (he was then just a baby at 56 years old!) segued into more action heavy roles and has recently morphed into highly disposable B-grade territory...

Posted May 25, 2022

MARRY ME (PG-13) jj

I now pronounce this romcom ludicrous and disposable

Romcoms don't have to do much to win me over.  They really don't.  Even when they're crushingly predictable and meander from one unavoidable beat to the next, if the two lead stars are (a) appealing and (b) have sizeable on-screen chemistry then that's usually enough to placate me and allow audiences to develop a rooting interest in the love conquers all story. The main issue that I had with MARRY ME was not that it doesn't have two easily agreeable stars in Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, but rather that they seem oddly mismatched here...

Posted May 25, 2022

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS

(PG-13) jj1/2

Stephen Strange in the Necronomicon of doom!

The wonderfully titled DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is the 28th entry in the longstanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and, yes, a direct sequel to 2016's DOCTOR STRANGE (which was, astoundingly enough, 14 MCU entries ago).  That character introduction endeavor did a solid job of establishing the mystical and ancient magic unleashing hero that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave birth to in the 1960s...

Posted May 19, 2022

DOG (PG-13) jjj

Tatum's a good boy behind the camera

I have to be honest.  I really had no desire to see this movie.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm a lifelong cat fan?  I dunno.  I don't like to engage in animal kingdom bigotry, but if you've seen one odd couple human/canine flick then you've essentially seen them all, which is mostly why I went into the specifically titled DOG with a lot of trepidation.  There's absolutely no doubt that this film checks off many of the boxes for the multiple genres it operates in...

Posted May 19, 2022

THE DESPERATE HOUR

(PG-13) jj

Run, Watts, Run!!!

Phillip Noyce's THE DESPERATE HOUR is one of those minimalist, one setting kind of thrillers that concerns a mother that shockingly discovers that her son's high school is being targeted by a crazy lone gunman.  She then spends the rest of the film - via phone calls, texts message exchanges, and zoom calls - trying to find out whether or not her son is still alive or among one of the many victims...

Posted May 9, 2022

THE CONTRACTOR

(R) jj

Pine's services are better served elsewhere

THE CONTRACTOR has several good elements in place to make for a solid film: A robustly committed lead performance, workmanlike direction, some noble minded thematic complexity, and strong production values.  Unfortunately, this Tarik Saleh directed thriller (shot in 2019 and finally seeing the release light of day now) seems hopelessly caught battling between two distinct tones: It wants to be a bombastic action picture and a solemn minded message drama about the plight of struggling military veterans and the levels they go to in order to makes ends meet back in civilian life...

Posted May 9, 2022

THE NORTHMAN (R) jjj1/2

GREAT ODIN'S RAVEN!!!

Leave it to director Robert Eggers to take command of the historical epic genre and infuse his own intoxicating  brand of strange and hallucinatory energy into it.  Perhaps the simplest way to describe THE NORTHMAN is that (a) it's a Viking era piece, (b) it's a revenge thriller and (c) it's a work of pure maniacal and frequently absurd fantasy with slasher tendencies.  Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a complex descriptor for his latest endeavor, but nothing that Eggers has done recently fits neatly into compartmentalized boxes...

Posted May 3, 2022

THE KING'S DAUGHTER

(PG) j

A royally awful historical fantasy

Usually when films have their releases delayed it's a rather large warning sign for their quality and a relative box office death sentence.  When films like THE KING'S DAUGHTER are shot eight years ago (yes...eight) and have their original theatrical rollout delayed for seven years (yes...seven) then it's safe to say that said film is dead and buried six feet under before any audience has even laid eyes on it. What happened to this film...

Posted May 3, 2022

X (R) jjj

Backwoods Boogie Nights meets Friday the 13th

You can really sense the variety of cinematic influences that permeate writer/director Ti West's X, a brutally effective and confidently engineered horror thriller.  The film clearly has a fondness for Tobe Hooper's pioneering mad slasher flick in 1974's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (beyond some obvious narrative similarities, both that film and X take place in the 70s).  There's also a smattering of Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, and even a little bit of FRIDAY THE 13TH thrown in for good measure...

Posted April 26, 2022

NITRAM (Unrated) jjj1/2

An exploration of an unspeakable mass tragedy

NITRAM takes its name from the fact based tale of Martin Bryant (first named spelled backwards), a mentally sick and deeply disturbed young Australian man that committed the single worst mass shooting spree in that nation's history.  Over two days in late April of 1996 Bryant murdered over 35 people and injured another 23 more in what would be referred to as the Port Arthur Massacre, which not only was the worst shooting spree in Port Arthur, Tasmania, but also in the entire world.  ...

Posted April 26, 2022

AMBULANCE (R) j1/2

More like am-BAY-lance

I thought that I was going to need an ambulance after seeing AMBULANCE.  No hyperbole here, folks.  This latest Michael Bay-hem directed action thriller literally made me sick while watching it. This is one of the most schizophrenically  directed and edited films that I've ever seen.  Every tool in Bay's tickle trunk of aesthetic horrors are utilized throughout, and in the process I would make an easy claim that there are very few shots contained within that last longer than 3-4 seconds.  Some have described AMBULANCE as a "return to form" for Bay...

Posted April 19, 2022

APOLLO 10 1/2: 

A  SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD (PG-13) 

jjjj

This is Major Linklater to Ground Control...

What if I told you that Neil Armstrong was not the first man to step foot on the Moon?  And what if I also told you that the actual first human to do so was a fourth grader from Houston, Texas that was hand picked by NASA to take part in an ultra top secret mission to do a test run of the journey to the Moon to ensure that Armstrong and company would have no issues whatsoever on their mission?  Sounds bonkers, I know...

Posted April 19, 2022

ALL THE OLD KNIVES (R) jjj

Lovers in a dangerous time

Sometimes one of the best pieces of movie magic is to simply plant the camera on two limitlessly attractive lead actors with great chemistry and set in an equally opulent setting.  And Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are indeed two incredibly photogenic performers. They appear early on in the new Amazon spy thriller ALL THE OLD KNIVES seated opposite of one another in a posh restaurant that overlooks magic hour lit Carmel-by-the-Sea, California...

Posted April 19, 2022

MORBIUS (PG-13) jj1/2

I...never...drink...MCU...wine

MORBIUS certainly can't claim to be the first vampire centric film based on a Marvel Comics character (BLADE beat it to the punch nearly 25 years ago), but it most definitely emerges as one of the more forgettable interpretations of an undead persona that found inspiration on the page.   The character has been around an awfully long time, though, debuting as an adversary for Spider-Man in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #101 way back in 1971.  Despite being a relatively cool villain on paper for the world famous Wall Crawler, Morbius has never been considered anything beyond a second tier baddie at best....

Posted April 14, 2022

MOONFALL (PG-13) zero stars

One giant leap backwards for mankind

MOONFALL is not a movie.  It's a dreadful how-did-this-get-made accident masquerading as a movie.  I doubt that there exists any scientific instruments on the planet that could accurately measure just how galactically awful this new Roland Emmerich sci-fi disaster film is, other than to relay my own personal experience of watching it via Amazon Prime last week (remember, this received no Canadian theatrical release despite being ironically shot in Canada, more on that later)...

Posted April 14, 2022

THE BUBBLE 

(R) j1/2

Apatow's latest should come with a panic room for viewers

Judd Apatow's latest comedy THE BUBBLE hones in on two subjects: Rampant Hollywood phoniness/self-importance and our current pandemic woes.  It's the kind of film, though, that makes you feel like you just spent an arduous and soul-sucking 14-day quarantine with a group of detestable strangers.  THE BUBBLE - much like last year's far better, funnier, but also problematic star-studded DON'T LOOK UP - is a distractingly smug, obnoxiously bloated, and mostly bereft of laughs satire that's a real endurance testing slog to sit through...

Posted April 14, 2022

THE 355 (PG-13) jj

A splendid female ensemble can't save this dull spy thriller

The new spy action thriller THE 355 shows what happens when noble minded intentions meets mediocre scripting on pure autopilot.  It's easy to become taken in with what this Simon Kinberg directed effort is aiming for: a globetrotting espionage affair featuring a squad of female stars taking names and kicking ample ass.  What's there not to like here?  I've been saying this for years in my reviews, but Hollywood definitely needs an infusion of women being injected into genre films that have been dominated by men for as long as the medium has existed...

Posted April 7, 2022

LUCY AND DESI 

(Unrated) jjj

The first TV power couple

Amy Poehler's intoxicating Amazon Prime documentary LUCY AND DESI aims to do two things (and it does so resoundingly well): Firstly, it wishes to tell a touching love story about two of the most iconic figures in sitcom television history in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.  Secondly, the doc chronicles what a truly pioneering couple they were when it came to pushing the boundaries of what the then new format could do on top of showing Ball as an absolutely fearless comedian that took her job seriously with a near surgical precision...

Posted April 7, 2022

DEEP WATER (R) jj1/2

Indecent proposals

As amazing as it seems, DEEP WATER represents director Adrian Lyne's first feature film in twenty years.  During his heyday, the button pushing filmmaker tackled erotically charged thrillers, such as the zeitgeist defining FATAL ATTRACTION and INDECENT PROPOSAL to his most recent in 2002's UNFAITHFUL (arguably one of his best and most forgotten efforts).  If one really thinks about it, perhaps there's a reason for Lyne's two decade absence from this genre...

Posted March 27, 2022

WINDFALL 

(R) jjj

A CEO, his wife, and a nobody walk into a house...

I'm a sucker for minimalist psychological thrillers, and the new Netflix produced WINDFALL is about as simple and economical as they come.  This Charlie McDowell directed affair involves a desperate man breaking into the remote vacation home of a famous and wealthy tech billionaire, leading to him holding said businessman and his wife hostage when his break and enter goes south pretty fast...

Posted March 27, 2022

THE ADAM PROJECT 

(PG-13) jj1/2

This project needed more time on the drawing board

Netflix's new science fiction action comedy THE ADAM PROJECT plays like LOOPER for dummies.  Both films involve fantastical scenarios involving older men in the distant future utilizing time travel (in one form or another) to journey back several decades to confront their younger selves, leading to all sorts of complications.  The main issue with THE ADAM PROJECT is not that it isn't modestly entertaining (in a largely disposable manner) or competently made...

Posted March 22, 2022

BLACKLIGHT (R) j1/2

A black mark on Neeson's career

Sigh. Here we go again. Yet another entry in an alarmingly overstuffed genre that I like to call Aging Liam Neeson Takes Names and Kicks Ass, and one that seems to be laughably free-falling with increasingly diminishing returns.  I've said this many times in my reviews for these films and it bares repeating again: I have nothing wrong with the pushing 70 Irish actor (or any twilight aged actor, for that matter) trying to re-invent and jump start his career by becoming a one-man army action star...

Posted March 20, 2022

AGAINST THE ICE 

(R) jjj1/2

All is lost

 

A few weeks ago I screened the new outdoor survival/shark attack thriller THE REQUIN and was instantly and completely taken aback by just how pathetically fake the whole film looked.  There are certain kinds of genre films that may benefit from a digital backlot process, but when telling a story of people dealing with the tangible elements it's of paramount importance to have actual tangible elements in said film.  THE REQUIN made the cardinal and unforgivable blunder of shooting everything on greenscreen soundstages...and it egregiously showed...

Posted March 22, 2022

THE BATMAN (PG-13) jjj

The Dark Knight detective

I grew up with the Batman of the 1970s that was drawn by Neal Adams and written by Dennis O'Neil, which came after the  camp iteration of the 60s TV series in an effort to revitalize the character created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and bring him back to his dark and somber roots.  I remember this iteration of the Caped Crusader to be largely stripped down, lean, mean, and spare: There was no child sidekick, no outlandish gadgets, a Batmobile that was basically an indiscrete muscle car, and no comically over the top villains...

Posted March 9, 2022

I WANT YOU BACK 

(R) jjj

The impossibility of moving on

The new Amazon Prime romcom I WANT YOU BACK is one of those types of films that  - despite its twisted and novel premise - manages to adhere to many of the most familiar and overused genre conventions in the book.  This Jason Orley directed affair is as predictable of a romcom as I've seen as of late, and anyone with reasonably sharp wits will be able to deduce exactly where its story is heading at any moment, especially as it makes its way to a fairly unavoidable conclusion...

Posted March 8, 2022

SCREAM (R) jj

Taking a stab at the nostalgia bait legacy sequel

There's a brief moment in the newest SCREAM sequel (confusingly titled just SCREAM despite really being SCREAM 5) that made me literally point at the screen - just like the Leonardo DiCaprio meme - and say out loud "Man, that's some dumb writing right there." Without going into any spoilers, let's just say the moment in question involves a character shooting the franchise's frequently unkillable serial stalker killer Ghostface multiple times in the body...

Posted March 8, 2022

UNCHARTED (PG-13) jjj

Nathan Drake and the raiders of the lost cross

UNCHARTED is a spectacularly dumb archaeological adventure film; at times, it makes the NATIONAL TREASURE films look like INDIANA JONES by direct comparison.  Having said that, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I found it to be pretty damn solid as far as logic defying and very silly globetrotting swashbuckler, made all the more watchable because of stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg's modest charm and breezy chemistry (despite their odd and polarizing casting, more on that in a bit)...

Posted February 28, 2022

FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE (R) j

A handful of mediocrity

I don't consider myself a super hero by any definition, but I saw FISTFUL OF VENGEANCE so you never have to...and I don't think that I should ever have to convince you of my bravery in the future.  This new Netflix produced martial arts supernatural fantasy is a standalone movie sequel to the TV series WU ASSASSINS, which was also produced by the streaming giant and ended its short run by failing to tie up loose ends as well as offering up more than a bit of larger franchise bait...

Posted February 28, 2022

LICORICE PIZZA (R) jjj

A slice of late 70s San Fernando Valley life 

There was a time back in the mid-to-late 90s when  I sincerely thought that Paul Thomas Anderson was poised to become one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation.  In some respects, he achieved that.  After an auspicious debut with HARD EIGHT, he segued into two of the best films of the decade in question BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA that all but cemented my prognostication.  But I grew hard on him after that - perhaps due to the crushing weight of expectations...

Posted February 20, 2022

DEATH ON THE NILE

(PG-13) jjj

Excuse me, but I mustache you some questions... 

There's a macabre, yet strangely hysterical moment well into DEATH ON THE NILE that pitch perfectly encapsulates the personality of its main protagonist in master sleuth Hercule Poirot.  It occurs in a makeshift morgue and involves the aggressively obsessive compulsive Belgian detective (played again by the compulsively watchable Branagh, returning in front of and behind the camera for this Agatha Christie whodunnit adaptation) looking over a dead body...

Posted February 16, 2022

KIMI

(R) jjj1/2

Run, Zoe, run!

Remember when director Steven Soderbergh officially retired from filmmaking back in 2013, citing that "movies don't matter anymore"?  Ha.  Good times, eh?  All kidding  aside, his post-retirement years (okay, maybe I'm not done with sarcasm) have shown the acclaimed director to be in a mini-creative renaissance of sorts, with work as far ranging as the caper flick LOGAN LUCKY to the iPhone shot psychological thriller UNSANE (yes, he has to work on titles a bit) to the sports focused HIGH FLYING BIRD to last year's period crime drama NO SUDDEN MOVE...

Posted February 16, 2022

THE FALLOUT

(R) jjjj

A healing journey with no apparent end

I typically loathe films about youth culture that are too clean cut and saccharine for their own good, or ones that show their adolescent protagonists as being assured and smart enough to have answers for all of life's nagging questions.  The new HBO Max (or Crave TV in Canada) Gen Z high school drama THE FALLOUT is one of the few films about teen culture that understands that the world can viciously conspire against lost souls, leaving them in pitiful states of despair and with answers hopelessly out of reach...

Posted February 9, 2022

THE REQUIN (R) j

On bad greenscreen soundstages, no one can hear you scream...

I'm going to cut right to the chase when it comes to THE REQUIN: This is not only a categorically awful film, but it's also one of the phoniest looking serious minded shark attack thrillers that Iíve ever seen. Iíve read that this Le Van Kiet directed effort contains upwards of 1000 VFX shots, mostly because it wasnít shot on location at all, but rather on sound stages.  That's pretty staggering, when you think about it.  But with a miniscule budget of just under $10 million the level of obvious moviemaking fakery shows here...

Posted February 9, 2022

CLEAN (Unrated) j1/2 

Imagine John Wick as a dirty garbage man...

The new crime drama CLEAN was apparently a small scale passion project for Adrien Brody, who not only stars in the film, but also co-wrote and produced it.  After sitting through it I'm left wondering whether or not this Oscar winning actor's passionate drives need to be given a swift audit.  I was frankly bored senseless by the first twenty or so minutes of CLEAN; its remaining 70 or so proved to be a quick cure for insomnia...

Posted February 9, 2022

ITALIAN STUDIES

(Unrated) jjj

Who am I?

Adam Leon's ITALIAN STUDIES perhaps works much better as a collection of promising moments than it does as a fully realized drama that uses its premise to its fullest.  It's the kind of film that I found both compelling and exacerbating to endure in equal measure, and even though Leon certainly doesn't take the road most traveled approach with his story it nevertheless gets bogged down by its own self-indulgence.  And the central hook of the film is decent enough - a woman suddenly loses her memory and is then forced to navigate her way back home through the strange and newly unfamiliar streets of New York...

Posted January 30, 2022

MUNICH: THE EDGE OF WAR (PG-13) jjj

The art of brinkmanship

On paper, a fact-based thriller about the build-up and aftermath of a famous historical conference involving multiple nations doesn't sound too particularly thrilling.  For the most part, though, Netflix's MUNICH: THE EDGE OF WAR is a commendably good, but sometimes wobbly men standing around and talking/negotiating bureaucratic spy drama that amalgamates fact and fiction in liberal doses...

Posted January 30, 2022

SEE FOR ME  (Unrated) jjj

Defending your home with your eyes wide shut

The doldrums of the January movie release season usually has me in a fairly depressive state, which is why I found the new small scale home invasion thriller SEE FOR ME to be such a wonderful surprise.  This Canadian made nerve-wracker delves into a sub genre that's been done and done to relative death over the years, but what makes this one so wholly unique is its ingenuous take on the underlining material and premise...

Posted January 22, 2022

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH

(R) jjj1/2

No country for king murdering men

What an absolutely audacious move for director Joel Coen to adapt one of William Shakespeare's most legendary plays to mark his solo feature film directorial debut.  And, yes, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH does in fact mark first filmmaking venture behind the camera without his equally famous and revered sibling, which alone makes this film worthy of event film status. At first glance, one of the Coen Brothers deciding to branch out on his own and adapt this Scotland set historical tragedy seems peculiar...

Posted January 18, 2022

THE TENDER BAR (R) jjj

Where everybody knows your name

If you want to witness how a single performance can help to greatly elevate a relatively middling drama then look no further than THE TENDER BAR, the new Amazon Prime original film based on the 2005 memoir of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and writer J.R. Moehringer.  The film tells an obligatory, dime-a-dozen themed coming of age tale that seems cherry picked from better elements from so many other finer examples of the genre...

Posted January 14, 2022

SPENCER (R) jj

A dysfunctional film about a dysfunctional royal

Pablo Larrain's SPENCER is a fact based inspired drama that tells a fictionalized account of Princess Diana's choice to finally break things off with her equally famous husband back in the early 1990s during a psychologically hellish three-day period for her.  This seems like a fitting companion piece to Larrain's own 2016 film JACKIE, which chronicled another famous woman of influence in Jacqueline Kennedy during the post-JFK assassination era, a time when she too was battling enormous stresses from all possible angles...

Posted January 14, 2022

THE FRENCH DISPATCH 

(R) jjj

An Andersonian piece mostly worth subscribing to

Wes Anderson's THE FRENCH DISPATCH - his tenth film - has been self-described by him as a "love letter to journalists."  I would also add that its a love letter to his uniquely idiosyncratic style and probably represents the writer/director at the height of his power for making meticulously rendered hand crafted visuals.  It's been an awfully long time since Anderson returned to the world of live action...

Posted January 14, 2022

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME 

(PG-13) jj1/2 

Spider-Man and too many of his amazing friends

The fundamental problem with the MCU's handling of their SPIDER-MAN films is definitely not with the man behind the wall crawler's bug eyed mask.  I'll be the first to concede that Tom Holland has made for a splendid version of the iconic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Marvel Comics hero.  Alongside his two main co-stars, Holland and company have infused a considerable amount of dramatic heart and soul into the proceedings...

Posted January 5, 2022

DON'T LOOK UP 

(R) jj1/2

The truth is out there...honestly...it's right there!

DON'T LOOK UP contains moments of ultra macabre high hilarity as a scathing (and frequently on point and unnerving) socio-political satire about the absolute worst aspects of science denial culture.  It's just a bloody shame that it's way too self-indulgently longwinded, unwieldy, and undisciplined for its own good. The title of this film is derived from its core premise...

Posted January 5, 2022

 

BEING THE RICARDOS (R) jjj

I love Sorkin

At the very height of the pioneering TV sitcom's popularity in the 1950s, I LOVE LUCY was the most watched program in the United States with an estimated 60 million viewers each week.  To put it bluntly, nearly 40 per cent of all Americans tuned in for this program back in the day.  That's pretty astounding.  Clearly, the heart, soul, and creative epicenter of the show was Lucille Ball, who was a definite trailblazing feminist for the Golden Age of television that paved the way for the sitcom format and other small screen stars to come...

Posted January 5, 2022

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS 

(R) jjj

What happened happened and couldnít have happened any other way...

It's simply impossible to overstate what an incalculable impact that THE MATRIX had on the film industry when it was modestly released back in 1999.  The Wachowskis' lavishly mounted and thoughtfully scripted sci-fi opus mixed in such divergent elements as Eastern Philosophy, Biblical overtones, cyberpunk culture, dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, Japanese anime, Hong Kong-esque martial arts mayhem, and guns (lots of guns) and uploaded it to the moviegoer zeitgeist...

Posted December 28, 2021

BELFAST (PG-13) jjjj

Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart

Coming off the qualitative drudgery of last year's truly wrongheaded young adult sci-fi adventure ARTEMIS FOWL, Kenneth Branagh's BELFAST represents a masterful return to form for the acclaimed British filmmaker.  This is also  arguably his most deeply personal film to date.  Drawn from the actor/director's own experiences living as a child during the worst stages of the ethno-nationalist conflict that gripped Northern Ireland for three decades...

Posted December 28, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY 

(PG-13) jjj1/2

Somehow, someday, somewhere...

Even though I loathe remakes in general, itís really hard for me to overlook Steven Spielbergís WEST SIDE STORY as a robustly made triumph, which is as confident of a stylistic showcase reel for the 75-year-old Oscar winning filmmaker as any as of late.  Of course, this is a musical romance period drama based on the 1961 Robert Wise iteration of the 1957 stage musical by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the recently passed on Stephen Sondheim (which, in turn, was loosely inspired by Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET)...

Posted December 24, 2021

ROCKY IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO -  ULTIMATE DIRECTOR'S CUT 

(PG-13) jj1/2

Yo, Adrian!  I did it...AGAIN!!!

I know what you're all thinking...Wait a tick...didn't ROCKY IV come out 36 years ago?  The answer is yes, but you have a right to do a double take when looking at the promotional material for the somewhat unnecessarily longwinded titled ROCK IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO - THE ULTIMATE DIRECTOR'S CUT, which - based on that last part - is indeed a newly minted version of the decades old sequel that featured everyone's favorite punchy southpaw pugilist from Philadelphia square off against an impossibly steroided up and seemingly indestructible Russian brute...

Posted December 24, 2021

THE POWER OF THE DOG 

(PG-13) jjjj

The potency of Campion

 

The best advice that I could possibly give to you regarding viewing the new Netflix produced THE POWER OF THE DOG is to go into it as cold and as soon as possible, as I surely did.  This early 20th Century neo-Western - directed with great passion and a keenly observant eye by Jane Campion, her first film in over a decade - is a most unusual genre effort (unlike most period westerns of the late 1900s, this one takes place in 1925 Montana) that fascinatingly plays out as a masterful game of bait and switch with audiences...

Posted December 16, 2021

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

(PG-13) j

I don't want this film to write to me ever again

I fully believe that the makers behind the new musical drama DEAR EVAN HANSEN had nothing but the most noble hearted of intentions.  The film is, after all, based on the musical of the same name that won six Tony Awards and is directed by Stephen Chbosky, whom previously made one of the best youth oriented films of recent memory in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.  Having said all of that, within the first few minutes of DEAR EVAN HANSEN I just knew that something was just really, really off about this film...

Posted December 16, 2021

HOUSE OF GUCCI (R) jj1/2

House of Gaga

On paper, HOUSE OF GUCCI should have been a cinematic home run.  It boasts the typically authoritative and acclaimed veteran director in Ridley Scott (coming off of a recent career high with THE LAST DUEL) at the helm, and flanking him is a relative smorgasbord of decorated Oscar nominated talent.  And on top of that, this true life crime drama focuses on one of the seminal and most recognizable families in the fashion industry in Gucci and the power play struggles that existed between its members that tragically led to one of them being murdered in cold blood and another being sent to prison for it...

Posted December 8, 2021

tick...tick...BOOM! 

(PG-13) jjj

Time is of the essence

TICK...TICK...BOOM is a new musical biography that's equal parts uplifting, inspirational, and tragic.  Marking the feature film directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda (who has made a huge cinematic splash as of late with big screen adaptations of his HAMILTON last year and IN THE HEIGHTS this year), this Netflix produced effort chronicles the all-too-brief life and career of Jonathan Larson, a musical playwright that's perhaps best known for penning RENT and never being able to bask in its glow...

Posted December 8, 2021

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE

(PG-13) jjj

Stranger things are afoot with these young spirits

The original 1984 GHOSTBUSTERS remains one of the most cherished comedies of its decade, if not of all time.  I'd also label it as a surprise blockbuster smash considering the relative simplicity of its premise (get a group of comedians to play disgraced paranormal scientists that go into business for themselves as ghost-hunters/trappers for hire), which, no doubt, inspired a sequel (the not as bad as everyone remembers, but mostly so-so one from 1989)...

Posted December 3, 2021

HALLOWEEN KILLS (R) j1/2

Please...die...already...

HALLOWEEN KILLS is a most strange cinematic beast.  It's the direct sequel to 2018's HALLOWEEN, which was, in turn, a direct sequel and soft reboot to John Carpenter's pioneering slasher effort of the exact same name from 1978 (it should be noted that David Gordon Green's film all but threw up the finger wag of shame to all of the HALLOWEEN sequels that we've received over the last several decades and  ignored them...continuity be damned!)...

Posted December 3, 2021

RED NOTICE 

(PG-13) j

Raiders of the lost...Cleopatra's eggs

There's a moment in Netflix's new action comedy RED NOTICE that had me incredulously rolling my eyes so much that I thought they were going to be blasted out of the back of my skull. During the scene in question, Ryan Reynolds' character is being confronted by a squad of Interpol agents that are looking to arrest this most wanted thief.  We see this guy guzzling down on what appears to be gin...but it's not just any gin...

Posted November 24, 2021

PASSING 

(PG-13) jjj1/2

A tale of Prohibition era duality

 

PASSING marks the directorial debut of Rebecca Hall (whose work as an actress I've admired for many years, in films as far ranging as THE TOWN to THE PRESTIGE to VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA).  This Netflix produced period drama - based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen - has been Hall's passion project for quite some time, not to mention a deeply personal one (she learned that her own grandfather was a black man that tried to live as white)...

Posted November 24, 2021

THE ETERNALS (PG-13) jj

Celestials v Deviants: Dawn of Justice

There's just so damn much to take in and admire in THE ETERNALS, the 26th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It has one of the most ethnically diverse casts of any super hero film of recent memory as well as containing ambitious ideas and endlessly sumptuous visuals.  That, and it has Oscar winning director in Chloe Zhao (who just this year became the only woman of color and just the second woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar for her work on NOMADLAND) leading the charge...

Posted November 16, 2021

THE HARDER THEY FALL (R) jjj1/2

How to jump start an aging genre back to newfound life

 

The Western genre is as old as the proverbial hills and has been literally done to death over the years, but what Netflix's THE HARDER THEY FALL does with it is pretty thankless.  It's a sensationally realized western that plays into its troupes, to be sure, but like a hypodermic needle to the genre's heart it injects some much needed stylistic freshness and innovation into the proceedings on top of boasting one of the finest ensemble casts of this past year.  It's a mishmash of multiple influences...

Posted November 16, 2021

FINCH (PG-13) 

jjj1/2

Post-apocalyptic comfort food

Is it possible to make a good feel-good post-apocalyptic movie?  After watching the new AppleTV+ original film FINCH I'm inclined to say yesThis film is set in a horribly inhospitable post-apocalyptic future that just so happens to star one of our most likeable and dependable of actors in Tom Hanks, who - believe it or not - is making just his second sci-fi film appearance here of his career (after 2012's CLOUD ATLAS).  FINCH is a weird piece of hybrid cinema, to say the least...

Posted November 18, 2021

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (R) jj1/2

It's my happening, baby, but it doesn't really freak me out

Let it be stated that I've been a staunch admirer and supporter of Edgar Wright's films since the beginning of his career.  His work hardly needs any introduction whatsoever, but everything from his landmark zombie apocalypse comedy in SHAUN OF THE DEAD through his comic book adaptation of SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD to, most recently, his crime caper thriller BABY DRIVER has shown him as a virtuoso cinematic stylist of incomparable gusto...

Posted November 9, 2021

ARMY OF THIEVES

(R) jjj

Ludwig Dieter Begins

If you're going into Netflix's newest heist comedy thriller ARMY OF THIEVES asking yourself "Why does this title sound so awfully familiar?" then, don't worry, because you won't be alone.  This is actually a prequel film to the Zack Snyder zombie apocalypse heist thriller ARMY OF THE DEAD from a few months back, which, as far as my knowledge of cinema history goes, represents the first time that a film and its prequel have been released in the same year and just six months apart...

Posted November 9, 2021

DUNE (PG-13) jjj

The sleeper has mostly awakened

What a bold and thankless task it was for French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (or any filmmaker, for that matter) to helm a silver screen adaptation of the legendarily unfilmable 1965 Frank Herbert sci-fi novel DUNE.  Largely considered to be alone in the upper echelon of the genre (and a series of novels whose influence on countless other sci-fi/fantasy properties - including STAR WARS - cannot be understated)...

Posted November 1, 2021

DON'T BREATHE 2 (R) jj1/2

Don't invade Stephen Lang's home...twice!!!

Sequels don't come any more fascinating and problematic than DON'T BREATHE 2, which comes out five long years after the first spectacularly effective nerve wracking home invasion horror thriller.  2016's DON'T BREATHE from director Fede Alvarez - who returns here as co-writer - featured a group of selfish thieves that broke into the absolutely wrong home at the wrong time, which was occupied by an elderly former Navy SEAL that, yes, was blind, but was still a ruthlessly effective killing machine...

Posted November 1, 2021

THE LAST DUEL (R) jjj1/2

When chivalry was truly dead

The Ridley Scott directed and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon co-scripted THE LAST DUEL is an intoxicating and compellingly told RASHOMON styled medieval historical drama that ambitiously and intricately tells a multi-perspective take on a horrible wrong.  Scott is absolutely no stranger to these types of lavish and epic productions that tap into the distant past (see his Oscar winning GLADIATOR and his terribly underrated KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), which makes his overall approach in adapting Eric Jager's non-fiction book all the more thankless...

Posted October 28, 2021

ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS (PG-13) j

Does this series come with a 'game over' switch?

I like movies that are good dumb fun as much as the rest of you out there, but - to quote its full title - ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS is easily one of the most hilariously preposterous and nonsensical sequels that I've ever seen (and, yes, I've seen HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING).  It's one of those efforts that unintentionally comes off like one of those SCARY MOVIE-esque genre spoofs...except...this isn't a spoof...and it takes itself as seriously as a heart attack...

Posted October 28, 2021

NO TIME TO DIE (PG-13) jj1/2

A shaken and stirred franchise

It's almost hard to imagine, in pure hindsight, what a relative unknown commodity Daniel Craig was way, way back in the mid-2000s when he was cast as Pierce Brosnan's replacement to play James Bond.   Just the sixth actor to fill the tuxedo of Ian Fleming's iconic creation, Craig defied all of his critics and became - at least for my money - one of the very finest 007s to ever occupy the silver screen.  Mixing no-nonsense toughness, a steely eyed bravado, and a joyously liberating lack of campy frivolity, Craig's Bond was like no other and perhaps the closest to the literary Bond...

Posted October 19, 2021

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS

(PG-13) j

Silent, but deadly in the wrong ways

The awkwardly titled SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS might be one of the dullest films about a super sweet action figure that I can ever recall.  It comes after two previous silver screen adaptations of one of the most popular toy lines of the 1980s (of inconsistent worth) in 2009's goofy and just-okay G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA and the fairly terrible sort-of-sequel, sort-of-soft-reboot G.I. JOE: RETALIATION from 2013.  Both of those militaristic Hasbro toyetic films featured every kid's favorite mute assassin in Snake Eyes, and now  comes his very own film here...

Posted October 19, 2021

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE (PG-13) j1/2

Let there be garbage

I found myself in an awfully considerate mood when I reviewed the first VENOM film from 2018, which was a somewhat committed, by mostly problematic live action treatment of one of Spider-Man's most famous villains from the pages of Marvel Comics.  Though not approaching the head shaking levels of disposability of the character's lackluster cinematic introduction and appearance in the last chapter of Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN trilogy, the alien symbiote cursed Eddie Brock was sort of a darkly funny Jekyll and Hyde creation in VENOM...

Posted October 13, 2021

THE CARD COUNTER

(R) jjjj

Schrader's all in here

Writer/director Paul Schrader has spent a majority of his career focusing on the darker underbelly of his characters that  - in some form or another - try to find personal salvation that seems hopelessly out of reach for them.   He seems attracted to these doomed people, and all you have to do is look at his earlier career penning some of Martin Scorsese's greatest films like TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL to see proof positive of that...

Posted October 13, 2021

THE GUILTY (R)

jjj1/2

The verdict is out: this is Fuqua's comeback

After this year's truly terrible sci-fi thriller INFINITE, director Antoine Fuqua has returned to solid form with the intensely gripping THE GUILTY (a remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name), and it's easily the filmmaker's finest and most assured work in many a moon.  The film's minimalist premise is deceptively simple: A disgraced and demoted LAPD officer works a night shift as a 911 operator...and hell breaks loose (literally) in the Hollywood Hills and with one life and death emergency situation in particular...

Posted October 6, 2021

THE FOREVER PURGE (R) jj1/2

This series needs a cleansing

THE FOREVER PURGE is the fifth film in THE PURGE Cinematic Universe (if one could call it that) and a direct sequel to 2016's insanely enjoyable THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR, which I thought was the series' ludicrous high point on a level of pure retrograde trashiness.  You may remember that in ELECTION YEAR a new political party beat the New Founding Fathers of America and pledged to end the annual Purge in America...indefinitely...

Posted October 6, 2021

TIL DEATH (R) jjj

Dealing with the old ball and chain...the hard way

The new psychological thriller TIL DEATH is a real piece of sucker punch cinema.  It starts off as a pretty routine and paint-by-numbers erotic thriller about marital infidelity and then quickly - and thankfully - simmers into one of the more nimble footed, cleverly macabre, and fiendishly creative and suspenseful cat and mouse home invasion thrillers in quite some time.  The genre bait and switch approach here from director S.K. Dale (making his feature film debut) is welcoming...

Posted October 6, 2021

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

(R) jj1/2

Welcome to the Cage-ian apocalypse

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is weird.  Like, really weird.  Like, Nicolas Cage journeying through a post apocalyptic wasteland while wearing a booby trapped outfit that can blast his nut sack off at the slightest moment of arousal...weird.  Oh, and the wasteland in question contains a town set in a region of Japan that was quarantined from the world and has amalgamated samurai and wild west cultures in a freakishly outlandish hybrid.  Yeah.  This is weird...

Posted September 27, 2021

IN THE HEIGHTS (PG-13) jjj1/2

These streets were made for music

HAMILTON may have cemented its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in the public eye, but it was his other stage musical that came out before it with IN THE HEIGHTS that put him on the map.  Long delayed because of our current and ongoing pandemic woes, this Jon M. Chu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS) directed silver screen adaptation of Miranda's critically and audience adored 2002 work is an undeniably vibrant, colorful, and toe tapping song and dance delight.  Beyond its musical trappings, IN THE HEIGHTS largely succeeds because of its densely layered thematic undercurrents...

Posted September 27, 2021

SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (PG-13) jjj

Ten rings to rule them all

Very much like BLACK PANTHER before it, SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS - the 25th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - is a bold and rousing step forward for inclusiveness for the MCU, not to mention that it places prominent faith in its characters/world by telling a satisfyingly solid standalone effort that doesn't feel slavish to become a glorified MCU cameo-athon or a placeholder vehicle to expand AVENGERS storylines...

Posted September 21, 2021

THE COLONY (PG-13) jjj

After Earth

THE COLONY is a new German-Swiss post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that contains ambitious amounts of atmosphere and world building on what I'm assuming is a limited budget.  It's an interesting cinematic cocktail, to be sure (think WATERWORLD meets MAD MAX meets CHILDREN OF MEN) and has a central narrative that involves humanity leaving the climate change ravaged Earth of the distant future to find a new home on a different planet, only to then return back to Earth 150 years later to see what has become of their former home...

Posted September 21, 2021

KATE (PG-13) jj

Not enough quality gunpowder in this milkshake

One of the curses of being a film critic and seeing as much of what comes out as possible is that I'm exposed to the same material being dragged out and recycled over and over...and over again.  Netflix's latest action thriller KATE feels likes its ripping off the streaming giant's own properties at times.  Here's a film about a lethal, steely eyed, and ravenously driven assassin for hire with a traumatized backstory that ends up on the run and also has to care for an innocent young girl while fending off the constant barrage of male thugs...

Posted September 13, 2021

INFINITE (PG-13) j1/2

To infinitely terrible...and beyond!

You know that hilarious GIF that's been circulating online for years that features Mark Wahlberg's character from THE HAPPENING looking utterly confused as to what's happening to the world around him?  You know the one I'm talking about.  Just Google search "Mark Wahlberg GIFS" and it will literally be among the top 4 or 5 that generate. Anyhoo', now that you know what I'm talking about, you'll understand me when I say that I had the exact same reaction while watching INFINITE...

Posted September 13, 2021

DEMONIC (R) j1/2

A hellish turn for Blomkamp

DEMONIC is a new low budget, high concept supernatural horror thriller that's so wrongheaded that it constantly makes you question the proven credentials of its maker.  It's the first film from writer/director Neill Blomkamp in over half a decade, and just his fourth feature of his career.  But, my oh my, how strongly his career began with his Oscar nominated, game changing alien invasion sci-fi thriller DISTRICT 9, which he later followed up with the criminally underrated ELYSIUM a few years later.  After both of those films came his most recent in 2015's CHAPPIE...

Posted September 13, 2021

CRUELLA (PG-13) jj

A cruelly unnecessary origin tale

I was struck with three overwhelming thoughts while watching CRUELLA: 1) The production/set/costume design of this film is sensational. 2) This film rarely, if ever, makes a compelling case study that this titular character - first seeing the light of day in Disney's own 1961 animated classic 101 DALMATIANS - requires a live action origin story at all. 3) This film is a tremendous waste of director Craig Gillespie's sizeable talent...

Posted September 8, 2021

SWEET GIRL

(PG-13) jj

This revenge thriller fails to hit the sweet spot

The new Netflix action thriller SWEET GIRL has a lot of things it wants to say about its subject matter, but doesn't really have the scripting smarts to follow through on its lofty aims.  It wants to be a revenge style thriller involving a struggling everyman (well, in this film's case, AQUAMAN star Jason Momoa is the everyman...more on that in a bit) who takes aim at the corporate greed of a pharmaceutical company that denies his wife life saving medication, leading to her untimely and preventable death...

Posted September 8, 2021

THE GREEN KNIGHT (R) jjjj

Not your grandfather's tale o Camelot

Very few medieval fantasies have such a hauntingly dreamlike aura like David Lowery's masterfully revisionist take on Camelot, THE GREEN KNIGHT.  Loosely based on the 14th Century story poem SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT - but remaining honorable to the source text while carving out a deconstructivist slant to it - Lowery has made a dazzling and hallucinogenic trip of a movie here, and one that continues to show the startling evolution of a mature filmmaking talent...

Posted August 31, 2021

HITMAN'S WIFE'S BODYGUARD

(R) 1/2j

I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!!!

Three things overwhelmed my thoughts all throughout my screening of HITMAN'S WIFE'S BODYGUARD: 1. Why doesn't this film have a THE at the beginning of its title?  HITMAN'S WIFE'S BODYGUARD seems odd and grammatically incorrect.  It simply doesn't roll off of the tongue very well.  Now, try saying THE HITMAN'S WIFE'S BODYGUARD.  See the difference? 2. Is this the only film in history to have back-to-back apostrophe S words in its title?  I think so...

Posted August 31, 2021

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD 

(R) jj

Where the hell is the high water?

I was utterly floored when I discovered during my screening of THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD that this thriller was directed by Taylor Sheridan, the same man that has written some of the best films of recent memory in SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER on top of penning and directing one of the most overlooked gems of the last several years in WIND RIVER.  Those films were textbook and masterful exercises in nail biting tension and thoughtfully intricate character development, which, at the very least, should have translated well to this wilderness survival thriller...

Posted August 31, 2021

FREE GUY (PG-13) jj

This video game satire requires a firmware update

FREE GUY thinks it's funnier and smarter than it actual is as both an offbeat romantic comedy and satire of video game lore and culture.  Baring a striking amount of almost plagiaristic similarities (at least in its opening sections) to THE LEGO MOVIE, this Shawn Levy (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM) directed affair imagines the vast and unimaginably huge world within a video game that's played by people the world over and shows us what life is like for a NPC (or nonplayer character) when he becomes self aware of his reality...

Posted August 24, 2021

CODA (PG-13) 

jjj1/2

An American ASL idol

When I finished watching the new Apple TV+ original movie CODA I was quite convinced that I've seen its story told - in one form or another - countless times before: A young and talented teenage girl trapped in a small town with lofty educational/career ambitions, but feels trapped by her responsibilities to her eccentric and tightly knit family unit to keep their heads financially above water...

Posted August 24, 2021

BECKETT (R) jj

My big fat horrible Greek vacation

I don't have a fundamental problem with new films trying to emulate the genre masters of old, but far too much of the Netflix produced BECKETT came off like Hitchcock for Dummies.  Sure, it boasts a highly competent lead star and director in John David Washington and Ferdinando Cito Filomarino respectively (the latter making his English language feature film debut) and the film's core setup contains modest interest.  But, yikes, this a total poser thriller if there ever was one...

Posted August 24, 2021

SUICIDE SQUAD (R) jjj

Task Force X redux!

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (heavy emphasis on THE) is the tenth entry in the DC Extended Universe of super hero based films and can be best further described as a sort of sequel, sort of reboot, sort of overhauled redo of what came before it, specifically 2016's critical maligned SUICIDE SQUAD (that one lacked the...THE).  Although I was in the clear minority for liking some of what director David Ayer brought to the table with his attempt at the material...

Posted August 15, 2021

VAL (R) jjj1/2

He's still a huckleberry

Is Val Kilmer one of the greatest actors to have never been nominated for an Oscar? I would argue yes, especially when one considers the superlative range that this former Juilliard trained prodigy has demonstrated for decades in terms of his roles.  His work playing Doc Holiday in TOMBSTONE and his more iconic turn as Jim Morrison in THE DOORS should have at least solidified Academy Award consideration, but he was egregiously snubbed.  Apart from that, he's occupied seemingly every type of movie genre with relative ease...

Posted August 15, 2021

JUNGLE CRUISE (PG-13) jj1/2

I feel like I've been on this ride before...

 

JUNGLE CRUISE is the ultimate distillation of Disney's recent aggressive minded creative policy framework: If it worked before, why not repackage it again for a new audience? Of course, I'm referring not only to the House of Mouse's insistence on remaking their large catalogue of animated classics into live action form, but also their churning out of popular Disneyland theme park rides/attractions into silver screen adventures...

Posted August 9, 2021

F9 (PG-13) jj1/2

Too fast, too ludicrous

Pretty remarkable to think that when the first FAST AND THE FURIOUS film was released twenty years ago it was a relatively grounded POINT BREAK knock-off that explored the underground world of Corona beer drinking and tank top shirt adored street racers that stole high end VCRs and DVD players. Yeah.  Good times. I keep sounding those nostalgic bells in my reviews for these films, but it's hard not to.  Watching the evolution - if one could call it that - of this cinematic universe - if one could also call it that - makes for a fascinating case study...

Posted August 9, 2021

PIG (R) jjjj

Hell's kitchen

Writer/director Michael Sarnoski's simply titled PIG is like the ultimate cinematic Rorschach test. Upon initial scrutiny it seems like it's one type of film, but the more that you allow yourself to become deeply immersed in the story and characters then it becomes a whole different kind of experience altogether. And at a very cursory read of its premise, PIG certainly does come off like just another embarrassing paycheck grabbing effort for Nicolas Cage: A hermit seeks revenge against crooks that have kidnapped his truffle-hunting pet pig.  It all sounds utterly daft...

Posted August 9, 2021

JOLT 

(R) j1/2

Self-help/anger management therapy taken to a whole new level

I was just ten mere minutes into the new Amazon Prime action thriller comedy JOLT when I realized that I didn't think any ten more minutes of it would be required viewing.  This...this is some kind of movie, alright.  Beneath its bat-shit crazy premise lurks a fairly paint-by-numbers and cheaply forgettable genre exercise...but...that premise!  Oh boy.  Let's just say it involves Kate Beckinsale (who deserves a committed participation medal, if they were awarded to movie actresses)...

Posted July 31, 2021

OLD (PG-13) j

Life's a beach, then you die

I felt like Max Cady from the CAPE FEAR remake while watching OLD - I just started uncontrollably laughing at everything, often to the annoyance of the other few filmgoers in my cinema.  This is unquestionably one of the funniest films that I've seen in many a moon.  The fact that it was intended (I think) to be a TWILIGHT ZONE-esque horror thriller is ultimately telling...

Posted July 31, 2021

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE  (R) jj

All sugar rush and no substance 

The preposterously titled new Netflix action thriller GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE is - to take a page out of the PULP FICTION vernacular playbook - not quite five dollar shake good.  More like a cheaper, less flavourful, and forgettable discount beverage way down on the genre menu.  This Navot Papushado directed affair is kind of like a hodgepodge of JOHN WICK meets THE KINGSMAN, but with a squadron of kick-ass women leading the murder-death-kill charge...

Posted July 27, 2021

  

 

 

 

NO SUDDEN MOVE

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BLACK WIDOW (PG-13) jj

 

A QUIET PLACE: 

PART 2

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THE TOMORROW WAR

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THE ICE ROAD

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WRATH OF MAN

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THE COURIER

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NOBODY  

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AWAKE 

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SKATER GIRL

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RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

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RUN

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THE DRY  

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JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

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IN THE EARTH

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ARMY OF THE DEAD

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RIDERS OF JUSTICE 

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THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW 

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LAND  

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OXYGEN 

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PERCY  

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STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET  

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TOM CLANCY'S WITHOUT REMORSE

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MORTAL KOMBAT 

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STOWAWAY 

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CHAOS WALKING 

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BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR

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THE MARKSMAN

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CONCRETE COWBOY

 

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THUNDER FORCE 

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NOMADLAND 

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GODZILLA VS KONG

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THE WORLD TO COME 

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THE FATHER 

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MINARI

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ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE

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MY SALINGER YEAR 

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BOSS LEVEL 

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YES DAY

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CHERRY 

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COMING 2 AMERICA

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THE MAURITANIAN

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COWBOYS

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PSYCHO GOREMAN 

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I CARE A LOT 

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BLISS 

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SUPERNOVA

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THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS

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PALMER 

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LITTLE THINGS

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FALLING

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MALCOLM & MARIE 

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PENGUIN BLOOM

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THE DIG

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OUTSIDE THE WIRE 

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NEWS OF THE WORLD

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PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

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LOCKED DOWN 

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SHADOW IN THE CLOUD 

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ANOTHER ROUND 

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WOLFWALKERS 

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SOUL  

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MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

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THE MIDNIGHT SKY

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WONDER WOMAN 1984

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PALM SPRINGS  

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THE GODFATHER CODA: THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE

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SOUND OF METAL 

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FREAKY 

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MANK 

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MULAN 

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HILLBILLY ELEGY 

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UNHINGED 

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LET HIM GO 

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THE SECRET GARDEN

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MORTAL 

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I USED TO GO HERE

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REBECCA 

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BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM 

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ON THE ROCKS 

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THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW

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THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

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SPONTANEOUS

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2067

(Unrated)

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THE GLORIAS 

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AVA

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VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX

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ANTEBELLUM

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ENOLA HOLMES

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TESLA

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THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

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UNPREGNANT

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THE TAX COLLECTOR

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GET DUKED!

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I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS

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TENET 

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BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC

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THE NEW MUTANTS

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PROJECT POWER

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CHEMICAL HEARTS

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