craiger'scinemacorner©

Full-length reviews of contemporary and classic films by

one of Western Canada's leading online film critics

c r a i g   j.   k o b a n

 

 

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moviequoteoftheweek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children, 'You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.'"

 

CASEY AFFLECK

 

GONE BABY GONE

 

2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CrAiGeR's

pick of the week

 

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

(R) jjj1/2     

 "...a confident, bold, ambitious, and extraordinarily filmed western."

 

 
 

 

 
 

CrAiGeR's movie blog:

[ ARCHIVES ]

 

Days of Future Past: The Validity of Retrofitting Yesterday's Games and Movies for Today's Fans.

September 10, 2015

 

The Most Cinematic Video Games of All-time

June 23, 2015

 

My Top 5 Favorite Video Games of All-Time!

September 19, 2014

 

James Gunn: The Guardian of Science Fiction's Future - Why his 'Guardian of the Galaxy' is the most surprising - and unlikely - hit of 2014.

August 15, 2014

 

 
     
 

craiger'srecentreviews:

Total number of reviews in archive:

1429

 

 

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February 4, 2015

Digital Film Festival Picks

 

My next appearance:

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Previous appearances:

January 22, 2015

Oscar Nomination Snubs

 

January 7, 2015

BEST FILMS of 2015

 

December 21, 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Review

(SPOILER FREE)

 

December 18, 2015

STAR WARS Saga Retrospective

 

November 22, 2015

MOCKINGJAY: PART 2 Review

 

November 12, 2015

SPECTRE Review

 

October 30, 2015

Recent Underrated Scary Movies

 

October 15, 2015

THE WALK review

 

October 1, 2015

Underrated Matt Damon Films

 

September 17, 2015

Underrated Johnny Depp Films

 

September 3, 2015

Fall Movie Season Preview

 

August 20, 2015

WORST FILMS of the Summer

 

August 6, 2015

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION Review

 

July 23, 2015

ANT-MAN Review

 

July 9, 2015

TERMINATOR GENISYS Discussion

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Midterm Movie Report Card

 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Writer That Recently Inspired My Work

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Directors That Began Their Careers In Animation

 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Underrated Tom Hardy Films

 

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Summer Film Preview

 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Most Influential Summer Films of All-time

 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Underrated Will Ferrell Movies

 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kenneth Branagh film retrospective

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Underrated Will Smith Performances

 

Friday, February 20, 2015

If I Picked the Oscar Winners 

 

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Most Anticipated Films of the First Half of 2015 

 

Monday, January 19, 2015

AMERICAN SNIPER and Clint Eastwood's most underrated films as a director 

 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ANNIE, INTO THE WOODS, and movie musicals

 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The BEST films of 2014

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The WORST films of 2014.

 

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 Discussion

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1960s

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1970s

 

Thursday, October 30, 2014 

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1980's

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1990's

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 

GONE GIRL discussion

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2014 

Movies Based on TV Shows

 

Wednesday, September 15, 2014 

INDIE FILM TRIBUTE:

Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 

Fall Movie Preview

 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Robin Williams Tribute

(video unavailable...sorry)

 

Friday, August 8, 2014 

Guardians of the Galaxy discussion 

 

Monday, July 21, 2014 

San Diego Comic Con

 

Monday, July 7, 2014 

Reflecting on my site's 10th Anniversary 

 

Wednesday, June 23, 2014 

2014 Midterm Movie Report Card

(video unavailable)

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 

Edge of Tomorrow Discussion

 

Friday, May 23, 2014 

Memorable Monster Films

 

Friday, May 9, 2014 

Amazing Spider-man 2 Discussion 

 

Friday, April 25, 2014 

Summer Film Season Preview 

 

Friday, April 11, 2014 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Discussion 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014 

DIVERGENT

 

Friday, March 14, 2014 

Great Graphic Novel Film Adaptations 

 

Friday, February 14, 2014 

Unconventional Romance/Date Films

 

Friday, January 31, 2014 

Great Frankenstein Films 

 

Friday, January 17, 2014 

BEST FILMS of 2013

 

Friday, January 3, 2014 

Biggest Movie News Stories of 2013 

 

Friday, December 20, 2013 

Tribute to director Al White / GEEKS 

 

 

CrAiGeR's SELF-IMPOSED RATING SCALE:

 

jjjj GREAT

jjj GOOD

jj FAIR

j POOR

zero stars CRAP

 

 

DR. FILMLOVE

CrAiGeR's intro. to his web site. 

 

 

FAQ's of CrAiGeR

Answers to all those nail biting questions

 

 

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 SO BAD, THEY'RE GOOD!

CrAiGeR looks at 25 films that he knows are stinkers, but still finds that they are actually kind of good

 

 

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 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

 

 

 

KUNG FU PANDA 3

(PGjjj

SKADOOSH!

I have to be honest here: I didn’t think that there could possibly be three delectably satisfying films about a relatively simplistic, one-joke premise involving an animal – in this case, yes, a panda – that knows kung fu...

Posted February 8, 2016

THE FINEST HOURS 

(PG-13jjj1/2    

A traditionally told human survival drama done exceedingly well

The descriptor “old fashioned” often gets thrown out in film review circles these days with a largely negative connotation.  THE FINEST HOURS is a new historical man versus nature disaster film that’s old fashioned to its very core.  It’s told with broad and traditional strokes...

Posted February 8, 2016

THE 5TH WAVE (PG-13j1/2   

An invasion of overused alien invasion and young adult conventions

THE 5TH WAVE is one of the dopiest alien invasion films that I’ve seen as of late.  It also just might be one of the most lazily derivative, seeing as it seems to be lamentably cherry picking some of the most overused concepts and ideas from countless other past – and better – sci-fi genre films...

Posted January 29, 2016

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (Rjj   

It's no secret: Michael Bayian overkill hurts this fact-based thriller

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is a potentially great reality based military/political thriller trapped within a very mediocre shell.  Based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s 2014 book of the same same, the film deals with the 2012 Benghazi attacks that took place on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2012...

Posted January 29, 2016

Here's where the fun begins!  After much delay, here are my TOP 10 reasons why you all should have rushed out to the cinemas in 2015.  Beyond that, I've expanded my list, as I do every year, to a broader TOP 25 to celebrate the other great films worthy of mention.

Posted January 18, 2016 

Updated January 22, 2016

THE REVENANT (Rjjjj   

Thirsting for vengeance in an oppressively bleak world

As both a meditative commentary on the nature of obsessively seeking revenge and a powerfully rendered outdoor survival thriller, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s THE REVENANT is clearly in a class all by itself.  The recent Oscar winning director (for BIRDMAN) has returned with his sixth film, this time fully exploring the harsh extremes of an oppressively hostile wilderness and how that adds fuel to the emotional fires of men that wish to do harm to one another...

Posted January 18, 2016

THE BIG SHORT (Rjjj   

The long subprime mortgage financial con

THE BIG SHORT is a new comedy satire that displays a remarkable level of creativity and nerve in trying to make sense out of the completely senseless Financial Crisis of 2008.  Based on the 2010 Michael Lewis book of the same name (which chronicled the then housing market and credit bubble)...

Posted January 14, 2016

CONCUSSION (PG-13jjj   

Game brain

It’s sort of amazing to consider that in our modern technologically advanced era that the human brain remains largely a mystery to medical science.  Anyone doubting that assertion needs to consider the fact that properly diagnosing concussions – and treating them as severe injuries to the brain with potentially life altering consequences to those affected - is a relatively new phenomenon...

Posted January 14, 2016

BROOKLYN (PG-13jjj1/2  

Alone in America

BROOKLYN is one of those exceptionally rare period dramas that’s low key, understated, and serenely heartrending.  It’s an intimately and deeply felt chronicle of a young Irish women bravely thrusting herself into the unknown by moving away from her homeland and trying to make a new life for herself in America...

Posted January 14, 2016

LEGEND (Rjjj  

Two Tom Hardys for the price of one

Not to be confused with the 1985 Ridley Scott fantasy film starring Tom Cruise of the same name, LEGEND is a new fact-based crime drama that explores twin brother gangsters that were the foremost leaders in organized crime in the East End of London during the 1950’s and 1960’s...

Posted January 14, 2016

LABYRINTH: 

30th Anniversary Tribute Review

(PG) jjj1/2   

"So, the labyrinth is a piece of cake, is it? Let's see how you deal with a little slice?"

LABYRINTH would never be made today.  In our pixelized-heavy modern age with movie after movie relying on a heavy preponderance of computer generated fakery to tell stories, it sure was a refreshing trip to recently re-visit Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy...

Posted January 14, 2016

 

2015 has come and gone, so I've taken it upon myself to inform everyone of the ten reasons why you should have stayed away - far away - from cinemas in the year that was.

And trust me...all ten mentioned here were very worthy contenders.

Posted January 11, 2016

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Rjjjj   

And they're all most assuredly despicable to their cores

Ever since writer/director Quentin Tarantino made an explosive debut 23 years ago with RESERVOIR DOGS he has populated all of his films with a rich and colorful menagerie of degenerate lowlifes that were all somehow paradoxically endearing.  I don’t think that any previous entry on his resume will prepare viewers for the sadistically duplicitous vermin that appear in THE HATEFUL EIGHT...

Posted January 8, 2016

JOY (Rjj1/2   

Jennifer Lawrence mops up after the mistakes of her director

JOY is very odd movie.  

Odd in the sense that David O. Russell directs it with an atypically indifferent and unsure hand.  Odd in the sense that it features an incredibly solid and authentic performance by a largely miscast (I’ll explain later) Jennifer Lawrence...

Posted January 8, 2016

DADDY'S HOME (PG-13 jj

Solid cast, underwhelming comedy

Considering the spirited levels of nincompoop tomfoolery that Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg previously brought to the screen in THE OTHER GUYS I was frankly expecting a whole lot more out of DADDY’S HOME.  Sean Anders’ (THAT’S MY BOY and WE’RE HE MILLERS) newest film is essentially a revenge comedy pitting father and stepfather against each other in an increasingly hostile bit of one-upmanship to secure the love of their family...

Posted January 8, 2016

MACBETH (Rjjj1/2

Shakespeare at its most savagely beautiful

I’m not sure why, but of all of William Shakespeare's plays that I read throughout my high school life it was MACBETH that resonated the most deeply and intimately with me.  His historical Scotland set tragedy tackles weighty psychological themes of personal and political ambition run horrible afoul...

Posted January 8, 2016

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

(PG-13jjj  

The Force is mostly with this long awaited sequel entry

Hindsight is a funny thing.  Back in 2005 when the last theatrically released STAR WARS film saw the light of day in REVENGE OF THE SITH many filmgoers – myself included – thought that we had essentially seen the end of George Lucas’ visionary, pioneering, and iconic cinematic universe...

Posted December 21, 2015

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

(PG-13jj1/2   

Of whale hunting and Melville

Ron Howard’s lavishly produced, but somewhat dramatically empty IN THE HEART OF THE SEA tells a fact based story – based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book of the same name – of the sinking of the American whaling ship Essex in 1820 after an incident involving a massive sperm whale, an event that partially inspired Herman Melville to write MOBY DICK...

Posted December 21, 2015

STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE

(PGjjjj  

A not so long time ago in a cinema very, very near

To quote its full title, STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE was perhaps the first film that I recall seeing that truly transported me.  I have seen it countless times (50…perhaps 100 times…perhaps more), but the one prevailing characteristic that it has is its ability to defy what it means to simply watch a movie.  STAR WARS, in retrospect, can hardly been seen in simple definitions as a popcorn flick...

Posted December 16, 2015

STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

(PGjjjj  

The definitive sequel of the cinema

Many people often ask me what I think makes a film a classic.  I overwhelmingly and confidently respond with a rather simple answer:  A classic film - in my mind -  is a film that I can watch persistently and obsessively, over and over again, and it still nevertheless feels like a brand new experience every time I watch it.  I can’t think of a more quintessential film that fits this description better than the 1980 sequel to the original STAR WARS...

Posted December 16, 2015

STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI

(PGjjjj  

A rousing and fitting climax to the greatest film trilogy even conceived

It’s enormously hard to put into words the level of yearning and almost paralyzing anticipation I had as a young tyke waiting for the third film in the original STAR WARS trilogy (and sixth and final entry in the WARS Sextet) to be finally released in May of 1983...

Posted December 16, 2015

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

(PG-13jj1/2  

It's definitely alive, but not quite fully formed

’m frankly tired of films based on – either faithfully or not so much – Mary Shelley’s 19th Century FRANKENSTEIN novel  I’ve seen so many countless permutations over the years in varying degrees of quality that I'm just exhausted at the sheer thought of screening another cinematic iteration of this iconic literary series...

Posted December 14, 2015

THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED

(PG-13j1/2  

A franchise sequel/reboot that's totally out of creative gas

THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED – which I think is a sort of sequel, sort of reboot to the three previous TRANSPORTER films – is one of the most unnecessary and cheaply disposal films that I’ve seen in many a moon.  I have a been a fairly staunch apologist of the absurdly enjoyable mayhem that THE TRANSPORTER series has bestowed upon us...

Posted December 14, 2015

CREED (PG-13jjj1/2 

A ROCKY franchise spin-off that more than goes the distance

Rather improbably, CREED - much like a certain boxer from Philadelphia - is a film that utterly defies the odds.  It might be the best entry in the iconic ROCKY series since…well…the original 1976 Oscar nominated film that made Sylvester Stallone and The Italian Stallion household names...

Posted December 7, 2015

THE NIGHT BEFORE (Rjj1/2  

Don't get high on your own supply this Christmas

I think that it's decidedly hard to make a lewd and crude hard R-rated comedy that also has sweetness and sentimentality to it.  It’s also extremely hard to make a scatological laugh fest that also tugs at your heartstrings as a Christmas film...

Posted December 7, 2015

THE HUNGER GAMES: 

MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (PG-13jj1/2 

Providing series closure...and an awfully long build up to it

THE HUNGER GAMES saga finally comes to a climatic close in MOCKINGJAY PART 2, and this final chapter, on one level, certainly ups the ante in terms of action and spectacle apart from its predecessors.  Regrettably, though, some of the more thoughtful exploration of the core themes present in Suzanne Colin’s literary trilogy have been left behind in the process...

Posted December 1, 2015

SPOTLIGHT (Rjjjj 

The unsung super heroes of the movies: investigative journalists

Much like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, Tom McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT is a gracefully low key and masterful handled account of real life investigative journalists uncovering a lurid injustice with wide spread ramifications.  Whereas Alan J. Pakula’s 70’s era film concerned itself with the political crime that was Watergate, SPOTLIGHT casts a crucial light on a series of Catholic sex abuse scandals that rocked Boston in the early 2000’s...

Posted December 1, 2015

ROOM (Rjjjj 

Achieving freedom from two different types of prisons

ROOM is one of the most heartbreakingly sad, yet paradoxically uplifting films that I’ve ever seen.  On a basic level, Lenny Abrahamson’s harrowing human survival drama – adapted from the Emma Donoghue novel of the same name – tells the simple story of a young mother and son that try to acclimatize themselves to the outside world after being locked up by a psychopath for several years of forced captivity...

Posted November 22, 2015

THE PEANUTS MOVIE 

(Gjjj1/2

You're a good man, Charlie Brown

THE PEANUTS MOVIE made me happy while watching it in ways that so very few modern films do.  There’s not an ounce of cynicism to be found in its 92 minutes.  Based, of course on the iconic Charles M. Schultz comic strip that debuted – gasp! – 65 years ago, THE PEANUTS MOVIE positively radiates feel-good optimism and joyous nostalgia...

Posted November 22, 2015

SELF/LESS (PG-13jj 

Strong premise, but brain/less scripting

The new sci-fi thriller SELF/LESS is multiple disappointment offender.  Firstly, it’s one of those dreadfully annoying PWP films, or ones that contain a premise without a payoff.  The movie has all of the necessary core elements to make for a thematically compelling sci-fi allegory, but instead it squanders such thoughtful discourse on mindless, paint-by-numbers action sequences...

Posted November 22, 2015

SPECTRE (PG-13jj1/2 

Nobody does it better than Daniel Craig...but he deserves a better Bond film

It’s become abundantly clear after watching the three previous James Bond films that Daniel Craig has wholeheartedly carved out a niche for himself as one of the greatest cinematic embodiments of Ian Fleming’s literary character yet..

Posted November 13, 2015

BURNT (Rjjj

Culinary warzone

BURNT is the type of film that begs one simple question: Can a film that has a deeply narcissistic and wholeheartedly dislikeable lead character still be entertaining to sit through?  Director John Wells (AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY) is certainly no stranger to helming dramas that are populated by personas that you sometimes want to slap across the face.  His new film BURNT (from LOCKE writer Steven Wright, also familiar with dealing with characters with questionable and loose morals)...

Posted November 13, 2015

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (PG-13jj

Hopefully, this will be the last LAST WITCH HUNTER movie

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is one of the most Vin Diesel-y Vin Diesel movies that I’ve seen in quite some time.  He plays yet another in a long line of emotionally grim, stone cold faced, gravel voiced, and ruthlessly determined anti-heroes, but this time he’s immortal, which makes him all the more emotionally grim, stone cold faced, and ruthlessly determined...

Posted November 9, 2015

MISSISSIPPI GRIND (Rjjjj

Tapping into the psychology of addiction

MISSISSIPPI GRIND is a new film that happens to have the aura of an old film, which is its chief asset.  On a cursory level, the film is about gambling, but on a whole other more fascinating undercurrent it’s a thoughtful and contemplative exploration of the worst aspects of human behavior...

Posted November 9, 2015

STEVE JOBS (Rjjjj

Discovering the man buried behind his own mythic stature

Because this is my 1400th review as a film critic – and because Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was such a maverick rule breaker when it came to technological advancement – I’ve decided to abandon the usual format for a review.  Instead, I’ve opted to review Danny Boyle’s new film in the form of a list...

Posted November 2, 2015

KNOCK KNOCK (Rjj1/2    

Who's there?

Eli Roth’s KNOCK KNOCK is either an intentionally campy home invasion/erotic thriller or an unintentionally hysterical one.  Perhaps the main problem with this film is that it can’t really decide which hemisphere it resides in.  The core message of this sometimes mean-spirited, sometimes hilarious softcore effort is this: don’t cheat on your wife…or else...

Posted November 2, 2015

ROCK THE KASBAH (Rjj  

A music biz satire that never once brings down the house

Barry Levinson’s ROCK THE KASBAH is one of the most bizarre comedies of recent memory.  It’s also one of the most misguided and messy ones at that.  Much like AMERICAN DREAMZ, This film is attempting, I think, to be a scathing and thoughtful music scene satire that happens to place itself in the crosshairs of Middle Eastern war zone politics...

Posted November 2, 2015 

BRIDGE OF SPIES (PG-13jjj

Good Spielberg, but not essential Spielberg

Considering the powerhouse team of director Steven Spielberg, star Tom Hanks, and the Coen Brothers as screenwriters, the Cold War spy thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES should have been a proverbial grand slam home run for all involved. Somewhat disappointingly, the historically grounded film is more of a confidently staged and workmanlike production for all involved than a masterstroke work...

Posted October 23, 2015

PAN (PG

jj

A revisionist take on Neverland that never really achieves liftoff

Joe Wright’s PAN is a film that wages war on itself.  On one hand, it’s an absolute triumph of costumer/production design and state-of-the-art visual effects ingenuity.  This is one of best looking films based on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan mythology that I’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, the aesthetic brilliance of PAN overshadows the film on a dramatic and story level...

Posted October 23, 2015

BATKID BEGINS (PGjj1/2 

A feel-good doc, to be sure, but not a really deep one

BATKID BEGINS is an awfully nice documentary about awfully nice people doing awfully nice things to make one cancer survivor’s day one to remember.  There’s absolutely no denying the simple power of Dana Nachman’s noble minded film – a chronicle of basic human decency featuring people doing completely selfless acts of kindness to make a child’s wish come true...

Posted October 23, 2015

THE WALK (PG

jjj1/2 

A walk to remember

Robert Zemeckis’ THE WALK is an absolute masterful triumph of visual effects and production design and probably represents the finest usage of 3D technology since AVATAR.  The director is no stranger to making films that have pushed the envelope of what is possible to conjure up on screen....

Posted October 16, 2015

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL 

(PG-13jjj 

A celebration of platonic male/female teen relationships...and the movies  

 

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL covers an awful lot of overtly familiar narrative terrain.  It’s yet another on a long list of offbeat and eccentrically quirky coming-of-age high school films that also happens to be submerged with a cancer melodrama.  On paper, nothing in this film is superficially fresh or original...

 

Posted October 16, 2015

COP CAR (R) jjj 

Two kids, a corrupt police officer, and, yes, a cop car

COP CAR is a minimalist as they come.  Its story is sparse and lean (maybe a bit too sparse and lean) as it chronicles two adventurous young boys searching for thrills that hijack a police cruiser and then are forced to deal with the consequences of such an act when the vehicle’s ultra corrupt cop comes looking for them...

Posted October 16, 2015

THE MARTIAN (PG-13

jjjj

"F--k you, Mars!!!"

Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN - based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Andy Weir -  represents something so decidedly rare in our current cinematic climate: A science fiction film that puts the science back into the genre.  The film is a love ballad to scientific MacGyverism ...

Posted October 9, 2015

SICARIO (R jjjj

Exploring the heart of darkness of the US/Mexico war on druges

Quebec born filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has a better knack than perhaps any other director for tapping into the darker underbelly of the human psyche, and he does so with a brutally uncompromising authenticity.  His last two films, PRISONERS and ENEMY, explored the nature of paranoia and distrust and how those feelings bring out the worst and most cruel aspects of people when placed in pressure cooker situations...

Posted October 9, 2015

TURBO KID (No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2

A BMX riding, Power Glove shooting post-apocalyptic hero for the ages

TURBO KID is an infectiously enjoyable love ballad to 1980’s pop culture schlock and cheese.  And, boy, does it ever go down well.  The brainchild of Canadian directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, the film wears its excessive nostalgic flavor like a deliriously proud badge of honor and never looks back nor apologizes for it...

Posted October 9, 2015

EVEREST (PG-13

jjj

Dramatically empty, but viscerally powerful

Outside of obligatory rationales like “because it’s there” and perhaps man’s own deeply embedded need to explore the dangerous and unknown regions of our planet, I’ll never fully comprehend why anyone would ever want to climb to the summit of Mount Everest...

Posted October 5, 2015

LOVE AND MERCY (R jjj

Bad vibrations

Bill Pohlad’s LOVE AND MERCY is unlike just about any other big screen musical biopic that I’ve seen.  The film focuses on the life of one of the founding members of The Beach Boys in Brian Wilson, but to ostensibly label it as a Beach Boys biopic would be completely misleading.  It’s more of a piece centered on Wilson himself, compellingly told via two distinct vantage points...

Posted October 5, 2015

MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

(PG-13) jj1/2  

There's a curious lack of maze running in this half-baked sequel

I’m going to come off as slightly hypocritical in my review of – to quote its full title – MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS.  On one hand, I’ve often bemoaned the countless number of mediocre movie sequels that have come out over the years that just slavishly regurgitate the storylines and themes of their antecedents and never fully take the characters down new narrative paths...

Posted September 23, 2015

BLACK MASS (R) jjj1/2   

A less stylish, but more compellingly insular and gritty gangster picture

It has been said that BLACK MASS isn’t as flashy and stylish as the finest of mob genre films from the likes of Martin Scorsese.  Nor is it really trying to be.  Director Scott Cooper (helmer of the recent and terribly underrated OUT OF THE FURNACE) certainly plays with many of the mobster cinematic troupes throughout BLACK MASS, but his film is not meant to be ostentatiously sprawling and visually opulent...

Posted September 23, 2015

THE VISIT (PG-13) jj1/2  

A Shyamalanian house of horrors

At this monumentally low point in writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s career…there’s nowhere for him to go but up.  It’s astounding to ponder that, nearly twenty years ago, Shyamalan was once considered a Hollywood wonderkid and the heir apparent to Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock.  THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS kind of reinforced this very notion...

Posted September 19, 2015

A WALK IN THE WOODS (R) jj1/2

Grumpy Old Men take on the Appalachian Trail

A WALK IN THE WOODS is a harmless and inconsequential fun, made all the more enjoyable – despite its many faults – by the sheer pleasures of seeing stars and industry veterans Robert Redford and Nick Nolte play off of each other for a couple of hours.  On a level of memorable fact-based man versus nature flicks, A WALK IN THE WOODS pales in comparison to finer examples of the genre...

Posted September 19, 2015

THE GIFT (R) jjj1/2  

Some tokens of appreciation...can't be returned

 

As an actor, Joel Edgerton has given one quietly understated and authoritative performance after another, bringing a level of nuanced confidence in films like ZERO DARK THIRTY, WARRIOR and ANIMAL KINGDOM.  He’s also a remarkably shrewd screenwriter, and his work on 2010’s masterful psychological thriller THE SQUARE was testament to that...

 

Posted September 14, 2015

NO ESCAPE (R) jj1/2  

A technically brilliant, but thematically shallow human survival thriller

 

NO ESCAPE is an uncommonly and mercilessly chilling and intense human survival thriller that is, at times, quite masterful at drumming up nerve jangling intrigue.  There are very few recent examples of the genre that I can recall that evoked such a consistent tone of unease and dread throughout; watching this film was an uncompromisingly brutal experience for me...

 

Posted September 5, 2015

Z FOR ZACHARIAH (R) jjj1/2  

A patient and intimate post-apocalyptic drama

Z FOR ZACHARIAH is an atypically intimate and meditative post-apocalyptic drama.  This new film from director Craig Zobel (whom previously helmed the masterfully unnerving COMPLIANCE) doesn’t slavishly utilize stale and overwrought genre troupes.  Instead, Z FOR ZACHARIAH is more compellingly about the oftentimes-tumultuous nature of human relationships set against the backdrop of a nightmarish environment...

Posted September 5, 2015

HOT PURSUIT (PG-13) 1/2j

A buddy cop/road comedy that barely generates any traction

HOT PURSUIT is so criminally awful in so many incalculable ways that I simply lost mental track as I left the screening and ventured home.  On one modest positive note, the makers here are trying to establish a female-centric footmark in a largely male dominated “buddy cop” movie genre.  I'll give this film points for that endeavor, which is no easy feat in this cinematic day and age...

Posted September 5, 2015

AMERICAN ULTRA (R) jj1/2  

An ultra ambitious, yet ultra hollow stoner-infused action comedy

AMERICAN ULTRA is a movie that’s simultaneously trying to be multiple movies.  Sometimes the divergent tones and genres presented here coalesce relatively well, but other times the film can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a Jason Bourne-esque espionage flick, an  action adventure film, a B-grade grindhouse exploitation thriller, a love story, a stoner/slacker comedy of errors…or all of these very things...

Posted August 29, 2015

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

(R) jjj1/2  

A straight up compelling musical biopic

I’ve never liked gangster rap.  My exposure to it during the course of my life has been limited, to be sure, but the genre always felt too assaultive for my tastes, not to mention that I find its content and message ethically questionable.  Exploring the world of this musical culture has very little personal interest to me, but part of the subtle genius of F. Gary Gray’s musical biopic...

Posted August 22, 2015

SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE

(PG) jjjj  

Little sheep...big city

 

When it comes to animation…I’ll take stop motion any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  The meticulously hand crafted nature of these films have something that even the ultra-high tech look and sheen of Pixar films lack: A truly immersive tactile quality.  Not to take away anything from the finest of computer animated films that have graced the silver screen for decades, but stop motion's rich multi-dimensional aura is something that even the finest computers can’t duplicate...

 

Posted August 22, 2015

MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (PG-13) jjj  

A fantastically wasteful Marvel Comics adaptation 

Guy Ritchie’s MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is proof positive that you can make a fully enjoyable and engaging spy thriller built strongly on the merits of stunning production design and, most importantly, the charisma and camaraderie of its main stars.  Based loosely on the NBC TV series of the same name that aired in the mid-1960’s (never viewed by me)...

Posted August 22, 2015

FANTASTIC FOUR (PG-13) j1/2  

A fantastically wasteful Marvel Comics adaptation 

There's no other way to slice it: FANTASTIC FOUR is one of the most utterly joyless, misguided, and wrongheaded comic book adaptations that I’ve ever seen.  It mournfully strips away all of the awe, wonder, whimsicality, and endearing weirdness of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s iconic super hero creation and instead turns it into something needlessly ponderous, dreary, humorless, and bereft of genuine thrills and excitement...

Posted August 15, 2015

INSIDE OUT (PG) jj1/2  

Looking at the emotional spectrum from the outside looking in

INSIDE OUT – Pixar’s 15th feature film – is a sumptuously and gorgeously animated, thematically ambitious, but ultimately problematic medication on a child’s perspective on emotions and growing up.  It’s from director Pete Doctor, whom previously made the masterful UP, which is highly fitting (that film focused on the nature of growing older, which makes it a nice counterpoint/companion piece to his newest effort)...

Posted August 15, 2015

CHILD 44 (PG) jj1/2  

A Cold War-era murder/mystery thriller that's lacking in sufficient thrills

 

CHILD 44 is a mystery-thriller set in 1950’s Cold War-era Russia that contains an endlessly intriguing premise that’s amplified by rock solid period production design and another bravura, scene stealing lead performance by Tom Hardy.  It does a captivating job of fully immersing viewers in the dreary paranoia-fuelled minutia of a mid-20th Century Soviet Union...

 

Posted August 15, 2015

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION (PG-13) jjjj 

An impossibly strong sequel

There’s a sly and wonderful moment in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION that fully evokes why Tom Cruise is the most commanding movie star in the world.  During the scene one of Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) allies explains the details of his team’s upcoming mission.  It involves infiltrating a ridiculously secure server room that happens to be underwater...

Posted August 6, 2015

VACATION  (R) j 

A cinematic trip not worth taking

It’s very fitting that the new VACATION – the sort of sequel, sort of reboot of the National Lampoon VACATION series – has one sequence showcasing multiple characters covered in human excrement and another when one poor soul is dowsed with the blood, guts, and brain matter of an unintentionally murdered cow...

Posted August 6, 2015

PAPER TOWNS (PG-13 jj1/2 

An authentically performed, but illogically written coming-of-age drama

I had great difficulty deconstructing PAPER TOWNS.  It’s a coming of age high school drama from the director of the criminally underrated ROBOT & FRANK and the writers of THE SPECTACULAR NOW and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, two wonderfully sensitive portraits of young love.  PAPER TOWNS also has an exceptionally well-rounded cast that displays ample and credible chemistry throughout...

Posted August 6, 2015

SOUTHPAW (Rjjj1/2 

Punch drunk love

I've frequently lamented about how so many modern Hollywood films chew up and spit out the same tired and stale genre conventions on an endless basis.  Antoine Fuqua’s SOUTHPAW is a pugilist drama that definitely follows the boxing drama playbook through and through and does very little in the form of creative innovation with storytelling formulas...

Posted July 31, 2015

PIXELS (PG-13)

jj

Save your quarters

PIXELS is a film that’s joyously bathed in a wonderfully nostalgic haze for classic video games…at least during its opening sections.  It’s 1982, when coin operated arcade machines – and the businesses that harbored them – reined supreme.  Before the inevitable industry crash of the early 80’s, the arcades were the social hangout destination...

Posted July 31, 2015

ANT-MAN (PG-13)

jjj1/2 

What's this!? A Marvel super hero movie for ants?!

At face value, Ant-Man may be, dare I say it, the least sexy and most goofy of all of the Marvel comic book characters.  The whole concept behind this character is rather outlandish, to say the least: he’s a super hero that – via some advances in miraculous technology – can shrink himself down to the size of a penny and…can mentally control ants...

Posted July 23, 2015

TRAINWRECK (R) jjj

A Schumer-led comedic juggernaut

TRAINWRECK may be Judd Apatow’s fifth film as a director, but make mo mistake about it... this is Amy Schumer’s film through and through.  I knew very little about her before walking into TRAINWRECK, a new romcom the she both wrote and stars in (her feature film acting debut).  Schumer has been lauded in stand-up comedian circles for her nail-bitingly sarcastic and self-deprecating material, often directed at her own awkward and problematic social and sex life...

Posted July 23, 2015

SPY (R) jjj

A good day to spy hard

Spy comedies and lampooning the genre are hardly anything new.  At nearly two hours, SPY does have moments of inspired and spirited frivolity throughout, but it sometimes feels far too long for its own good.  Granted, writer/director Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS and THE HEAT) seems to have a keen sense of what spy film genre troupes to both adhere to and mock at the same time...

Posted July 16, 2015

THE LAZARUS EFFECT (PG-13) j1/2

Resurrecting lame horror film clichés

THE LAZARUS EFFECT is yet another one of those dime-a-dozen horror thrillers that suffers from a condition that I like to call "PWP Disorder," or a film that contains a premise without payoff.  The story here taps into ageless themes that have dominated films and literature for as far back as we can remember – the inherent perils of scientists/doctors playing God and attempting to bring people back from the dead...

Posted July 16, 2015

TERMINATOR GENISYS (PG-13)

jjj

Old, but not obsolete

Despite the fact that THE TERMINATOR series has been one of the more prevailing and popular film mythologies of the last three decades, the franchise fanboy in me was more than a bit reticent at the notion of yet another sequel.  James Cameron’s landmark 1984 sci-fi/action time travel mind bender gave way to the superior TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY...

Posted July 9, 2015

TED 2 (R) jjj

Thunderbuddies for life!

There’s a fairly inconsequential, but remarkably droll scene in TED 2 that had me laughing longer and harder than just about any scene from any movie that I’ve seen lately.  It occurs at the grocery store that the titular character works at as a cashier (once again voiced with a unrestrained gusto by Seth MacFarlane)...

Posted June 9, 2015

 

 

 

 

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