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one of Western Canada's leading on-line film critics

c r a i g   j.   k o b a n

 

 

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"Relax, all right?  Don't try to strike everybody out.  Strikeouts are boring!  Besides that, they're fascist.  Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic."

 

KEVIN COSTNER

 

BULL BURHAM

 

1988

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CrAiGeR's

pick of the week

 

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

(PG-13) jjj

 "...a stunningly realized travelogue picture."

 

 
 

 

 
 

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Fun Times Abound at the 2nd IGN Trivia Night in San Francisco..

March 3, 2014

 

The 'Geeks' Geek Out About the Movies: The writer/director, producer, and stars of 'Geeks' reflect on their most memorable filmgoing experiences.  

January 29, 2014

 

Mike Falkow: Creative Expressionist - The versatile writer/producer/actor of MAGDALENA talks about wanting "more of everything" for his career.

January 7, 2014

 

 
     
 

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DIVERGENT

 

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Great Graphic Novel Film Adaptations 

 

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Unconventional Romance/Date Films

 

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Great Frankenstein Films 

 

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BEST FILMS of 2013

 

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Biggest Movie News Stories of 2013 

 

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Tribute to director Al White / GEEKS 

 

 

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CrAiGeR's RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW ARCHIVES

CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

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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

 

 

 

DRAFT DAY (PG-13) jjj     

The day-in-the-life of an NFL GM...no pressure

There’s just something about Kevin Costner sports- themed films that always manage to resonate with me.  Whether it be the minor league baseball comedy BULL DURHAM or the baseball fantasy FIELD OF DREAMS or the golf-centric TIN CUP, the star always manages to bring his ample understated charisma and innate believability to these respective films.  He just seems to confidently occupy a comfort zone here playing jocks...

Posted April 18, 2014

JODOROWKSY'S DUNE (PG-13) jjj1/2

A tale of a potentially masterful sci-fi film that never came to be

 

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE is a documentary that chronicles arguably one of the greatest sci-fi films…never made.  Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowski tried, as only he could, to adapt Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 novel DUNE to the silver screen in the 1970's, and it becomes abundantly apparent very early on in this Frank Pavich directed documentary that this DUNE was going to be unlike any science fiction film of its time...

 

Posted April 18, 2014

RIDE ALONG (PG-13) j1/2      

Trust me...don't get in...just keep walking

I’ve seen so many bloody versions of the buddy/cop film that, at this stage in my life, it will take a really special kind of genre film like it to win me over.  Alas, RIDE ALONG is not one of those films.  It’s a police procedural/action comedy that feels, all throughout its running time, like it were made of spare and regurgitated factory parts from countless other similar films that came before it, and better ones at that.  At face value, I can certainly see what the makers were attempting here...

Posted April 18, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 (PG-13) jjjj      

The "star spangled man with a plan" meets his match

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER – the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and arguably its most richly written and thematically complex – does what all superior and ambitious sequel should do: It takes established characters and thrusts them into an enthralling and new story that segregates itself substantially from its predecessor...

  

Posted April 9, 2014

NOAH (PG-13) jj1/2      

Wait...giant rock creatures helped build Noah's ark?!  Riiigghht!

NOAH is a ferociously ambitious retelling of the classic Genesis flood narrative as detailed in, yes, the Bible.  It’s also a grand scaled disaster film, a parable about sin, judgment, obsession, and the righteousness of God, and a fantasy action spectacle with more than an aesthetic hint of THE LORD OF THE RINGS thrown in for good measure.  NOAH is also a Darren Aronofsky film, and his esoteric fingerprints can be felt all over it...

Posted April 4, 2014

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

(R) jjjj      

You will most definitely enjoy your stay here

Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a wondrous feast for the senses and a startling vivid piece of imaginative filmmaking.  I’ve never seen anything quite like, not even perhaps in Anderson’s own eclectically stylish film resume, which usually highlights his penchant for exaggerated and quirky characters, colorfully surreal environments, and stories that masterfully blend hearty laughs with dark pathos...  

Posted April 4, 2014

BAD WORDS (R) jjj1/2      

The BAD SANTA of academic spelling bee films

BAD WORDS is arguably the only potty-mouthed, hard R-rated comedy that I’ve ever seen about the world…of academic spelling bees.  It marks the directorial debut of star Jason Bateman, a wholeheartedly underrated actor that I’ve admired for quite some time, mostly because he has a matchless ability at ultra dry sarcasm and understated deadpan wit that usually makes a mockery of just about anyone he shares a scene with.  ..  

Posted April 4, 2014

DIVERGENT (PG-13) jj      

A decidedly been-there/done-that young adult novel to film adaptation

If there is one thing that DIVERGENT unequivocally proves is that there’s nothing stopping a modern studio from attempting to cash in on a popular trend.  Hugely cherished event films like THE HUNGER GAMES and TWILIGHT – based on young adult literature – have become such juggernaut box office successes over the years that copycats seem only inevitable.  DIVERGENT – based on a trilogy of novels by Veronica Roth – looks and feels like yet another in a long line-up of copycat efforts...  

Posted March 28, 2014

MUPPETS MOST WANTED (PG) jjj

WHAT?!  Kermit the Frog is in a gulag prison??!!

MUPPETS MOST WANTED charmed the hell out of me within its first few minutes, mostly because of the sly way it acknowledges that it’s a sequel to the cherished 2011 entry and, as such, understands that sequels are typically inferior to their predecessors.  In pure Muppets fashion, the opening section of the film contains a wonderfully self-reverential song and dance number called, yes, “We’re Doing A Sequel”...  

Posted March 28, 2014

NEED FOR SPEED  (PG-13) j1/2      

There's no compelling need to see this video game adaptation

Sadly, this is not the long-awaited sequel for TOP GUN.   Watching NEED FOR SPEED made me feel the need to never again wish to sit through and endure yet another woefully mediocre video game-to-film adaptation.  By my cursory Wikipedia search, there have been over 20 installments of the NEED FOR SPEED game franchise...  

Posted March 21, 2014

ENEMY  (R)  jjjj

You are your own worst...

Like a strange, perverse, and deeply unsettling marriage of the largest extremes of a David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick film combined, Dennis Villeneuve’s ENEMY has puzzled and haunted me in equal measure ever since I saw it days ago.  I’m still trying to process it in some meaningful manner...  

Posted March 21, 2014

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE 

 (R) jjj1/2     

"Tonight, we dine in hell...AGAIN!"

I'm not going to ever apologize for liking 2007’s 300 as much as I did.  In my original review for it I described it as “GLADIATOR on a cocktail of speed and hallucinogenic drugs.”  That still sounds about right.  Director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s 1998 graphic novel source material was a historical action epic – albeit light on history and ultra-heavy on blood-curdling mayhem – and a sensationally evocative visceral thrill ride...  

Posted March 11, 2014

NON-STOP  (PG-13)  jjj1/2

Liam Neeson's enemies don't...stand...a...chance

NON-STOP is a new airline thriller that cheerfully plays upon one of the classic conceits of Hitchockian thrillers: The innocent man falsely accused.  Beyond that, it just may be one of the more fiendishly entertaining entries in the relatively new genre of the Liam Neeson-January/February-released action-thriller, films that contain the cold, cunning, and calculated 61-year-old Irish actor employing a “particular set of skills” to make life miserable for his adversaries...  

Posted March 8, 2014

THE ART OF THE STEAL  (R)  jj1/2

An inspired, yet derivative heist film

THE ART OF THE STEAL is a new heist/caper flick that tries to get by on the breezy charm and appeal of its well-assembled group of actors.  Alas, for as good as they collectively are together, there’s no denying that the film ultimately comes off as a bit too derivative for its own good.  There’s simply too many regurgitated elements from too many grifter films of the past...  

Posted March 8, 2014

POMPEII  (PG-13) j1/2

This film is - ahem! - explosively mediocre

No word of a lie: POMPEII is the only film that I can recall sitting through in all of my ten years as a critic that elicited slow, sarcastic clapping from the audience as its end credits rolled by.  Verbal booing and hissing was also heard by yours truly, but you just know that it takes a special kind of wretched filmgoing experience to allow viewers to get – how shall I say it – creative in expressing their displeasure...  

Posted March 3, 2014

3 DAYS TO KILL (PG-13)  jjj

A solid way to kill two hours

3 DAYS TO KILL is as odd of a cinematic mishmash as I’ve ever seen.  It features Kevin Costner as the lead, director McG at the helm, as is co-written by Euro-action trash connoisseur Luc Besson.  At times, all of these divergent pieces can be felt throughout the film, as it frequently struggles with a precise and consistent tone to maintain throughout...   

Posted March 3, 2014

ROBOCOP  (PG-13) jjj

I'd buy this reboot for a dollar!

This newly retooled and reprogrammed ROBOCOP certainly has some mighty big shoes to fill.  The Paul Verhoven 1987 version looms rather large over it, as it should, seeing as it was a thanklessly meticulous marriage of ultra-violent 1980’s action films and a shrewd and sly social satire.  Yes, ROBOCOP- redux most definitely lacks the sardonic and darkly absurdist humor of its antecedent, not to mention that – with a timid PG-13 rating – it never maintains the original’s fetishistic quotient of splatter and gore...  

Posted February 21, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE  (PG) jjjj

"EVERYTHING IS AWESOME" about this movie

THE LEGO…MOVIE.  Just let that digest with you for a second.  This movie has absolutely no business being as good and – to take a page out of its show-stopping and catching jingle – as awesome as it is.  THE LEGO MOVIE is, on paper at least, one great big glorified 100-minute toy commercial and a massively elaborate bit of product placement disguised as a movie...  

Posted February 14, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN  (PG-13) jj

Not a very monumental war film

There’s nothing sadder to see than a very noble minded and ambitious film like MONUMENTS MEN desperately grasping for greatness, only to trip itself up and get taken down by its own ill conceived and shapeless scripting.  Originally set to be released in December of 2013 – during which time the makers were hoping for a last ditch Oscar nominations push – this new George Clooney directed and co-written reality- based World War II film was reportedly held back... 

Posted February 14, 2014

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (R) jjj

The folk music scene...Coen-ized

The Coen Brothers’ INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is dark, dreary, and deeply melancholic portrait of a most gifted loser.  Set mostly during one week in the life of a folk singer that’s trying to eek out a living in 1961 – just before Bob Dylan would burst on to the scene and change the musical landscape forever – the film maintains Joel and Ethan Coens’ predilection towards offbeat, colorful, but hauntingly damaged personas... 

Posted February 14, 2014

LABOR DAY  (PG-13) jjj

Labored and heavy-handed scripting is saved by superlative performances

Can a film that has a premise that’s pure melodramatic cornball nonsense be redeemed by solid direction and wonderfully realized performances?  I think an argument can be made for “yes” in LABOR DAY, a new romantic drama that’s adapted from the novel of the same name by writer/director Jason Reitman, who seems  willing to abscond far away from his comfort window that he established with deeply sardonic efforts... 

Posted February 6, 2014

I, FRANKENSTEIN  (PG-13) 1/2j

I...hated this movie

Very few action fantasies have proved to be as aggressively forgettable as I, FRANKENSTEIN, which achieved the near impossible by boring me senseless within its first fifteen minutes.  I don’t have any objections, per se, with filmmakers taking iconic works of literature – in this case, Mary Shelly’s early 19th Century creation – and re-imagining it in a refreshing new light... 

Posted January 31, 2014

SHORT TERM 12 (R) jjj

A drama that's perhaps too short, but packs an emotional wallop

I’ve seen so many countless examples of the inspirational teacher/student melodrama over the years that, frankly, the genre has become relatively stiff and lifeless for me.  Alas, along comes a small little gem like Destin Cretton’s SHORT TERM 12 to reaffirm my faith in these types of movies.  Based on his previous short film that, in turn, was based on his own experiences working at foster care facilities for at-risk-teens, Cretton’s film finds a level of raw grit and verisimilitude that similar past films lack altogether... 

Posted January 31, 2014

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT 

(PG-13) jjj

Jack Ryan Begins

I can certainly respect the inherent difficulties in trying to reboot the cinematic Jack Ryan franchise.  The 30-year-old Tom Clancy envisioned literary character was, after all, a product of Cold War espionage, and now that we are well into the 21st Century and far away from that thawed conflict, trying to make Ryan relevant to a new generation of filmgoers is an unenviable predicament... 

Posted January 24, 2014

 

CrAiGeR's

 

 

2013 was a stellar year for the movies, so I have compiled - as I do every year - not only a TOP 10 list, but also a TOP 25 to honor all of the wonderful films that you all should have actively sought out in the year that was.

 

 

Posted January 17, 2014

 

HER (R) jjjj

She's more human than human

In the absolute wrong hands, HER could have come off as laughably misguided, unintentionally amusing, or, even worse, creepy as hell.  Alas, in the capable hands of director Spike Jonze (directing his own script for the first time ever), the film manages to come off as something more unconventionally meditative, soulful, and surprisingly touching.  HER deals with one of the most unlikely and improbably relationships I’ve ever seen in a film... 

Posted January 17, 2014

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (R)  jjj

The 'Family Feud' from hell

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY contains one of the most hellishly dysfunctional families that I’ve ever seen in a movie.  These people are not just cruel to one another; they hurl out frequent f-bomb riddled insults that would make the crooks in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET blush.  When they’re not doing that, they sometimes engage in fisticuffs.  AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a dark, cynical, and unsavory film to sit through.. 

Posted January 17, 2014

NEBRASKA (R) jjj1/2

A long an arduous journey to collect $1 million

 

Director Alexander Payne has always been a filmmaker that manages to bridge the always-awkward gap between heartfelt pathos and uproarious merriment in his films.  That, and his richly delineated characters always seem to be deeply flawed, endearingly odd, and broken down by life.  Payne has been accused of showing a bit too much mocking disdain for the personas that populate his films, which is a bit misleading...

 

Posted January 17, 2014

 

CrAiGeR's

 

As I lovingly do every year, I have compiled a list of TEN reasons why you should have avoided going to the cinema like the plague in 2013!  Trust me, all of these picks are very worthy of wall of shame honors!

 

 

Posted January 10, 2014

 

SAVING MR. BANKS (PG) jjj

When an author and a mogul collide

SAVING MR. BANKS is a mostly involving, but somewhat peculiar chronicle of Walt Disney’s decades long odyssey to bring the 1964 film MARY POPPINS to the silver screen.  With a flashback structure the rickshaws (sometimes fluidly, sometimes not so much) back and forth from the past to the present, we bare witness to the life of P.L. Travers, an Australian novelist, actress, and writer than emigrated to England, after which time she began penning the MARY POPPINS novels in 1933... 

Posted January 10, 2014

GRUDGE MATCH (PG-13) jj

It's GRUDGEMENT DAY for these aging boxers

 

GRUDGE MATCH is not so much a fully realized film as it is a one-joke gimmick without any discernible punch line.  It also shamelessly takes advantage of our collective memories of two of the greatest pugilist characters in motion picture history (and the stars that played them) and decides to use that as a rather flimsy foundation for a comedy.  I kind of loathe it when a film takes iconic actors of the silver screen and marginalizes their past legendary roles instead of truly holding them up to proper levels of hero worship...

 

Posted January 10, 2014

PHILOMENA (PG-13) jjj1/2

A 50-year journey of a mother to find her son

“I’d like to know what he thought of me.”  So says Philomena Lee in the film PHILOMENA, based on the heart-wrenching true tale of a devout Catholic Irish woman’s five decade ordeal to find her son that she essentially had taken away from her in a forced adoption while she was an indentured servant in her teens at the Roscrea convent.  The book that influenced the film, Martin Sexsmith’s THE LOST CHILD OF PHILOMENA LEE, inspired co-writer and co-producer Steve Coogan to bring this tear-inducing story of personal strife and regret to the silver screen...

Posted January 10, 2014

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (R) jjjj

He's definitely not a good fella at all

If THE WOLF OF WALL STREET proves anything it’s that Martin Scorsese, at a ripe 71-years-old, has not missed a creative beat, especially at a time during his tenure as a director when most others are calling it a career.  It also marks the fifth movie collaboration between the director and star Leonardo DiCaprio, and nothing in those past superlative team-ups – many of which made my Top 10 Films lists of their respective years – will prepare you for the unabashed lunacy of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET...

Posted January 3, 2014

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

(PG-13)  jjj

An unendingly sweet film about self-discovery

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY represents an honest and intrepid attempt by director Ben Stiller to make a clear and decisive break away from his previous film, 2008’s TROPIC THUNDER.  Appropriating elements from the 1939 short story of the same name by James Thurber (which was previously adapted into a 1947 feature film with Danny Kayne), Stiller was on the end of a long list of comedians...

Posted January 3, 2014

47 RONIN (PG-13)  jjj

Blending a reality-based story of masterless samurai with 3D-infused fantasy

47 RONIN is one of those troubled films that, as far as I can tell, does not really show all of its production woes in the final product. Originally set to be released in November of 2012, the film was postponed to February of 2013 and then subsequently put off again until December so that re-shoots, visual effects, and a 3D upconversion could be completed in a satisfactory manner.  To make matters worse, the production budget swelled north of $200 million...

Posted January 3, 2014

AMERICAN HUSTLE (R) jjjj

The art of the con

Writer/director David O. Russell has always had a impeccable knack for getting into the headspaces of his tightly wound up and emotionally damaged characters, as was on display in his two previous films, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and THE FIGHTER.  His newest film AMERICAN HUSTLE - a sprawling, vivaciously stylized, and frequently hilarious 1970’s caper/period film – continues on with his tradition of being drawn into personas that emotionally unravel as the story around them does the same...

Posted December 30, 2013

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

(PG-13)  jjj

Don't act like you're not impressed with this sequel

To take a page right our of his vernacular: GREAT ODIN’S RAVEN, newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has certainly hit rock bottom at the beginning of ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES.  The once iconic San Diego (or is it San Di-AH-go?) reporter has been working alongside his wife, Veronica Cornerstone (Christina Applegate) on a highly prestigious New York news channel.  One day they are dragged into their boss’ office (Harrison Ford, quietly frightening), during which time...

Posted December 30, 2013

 

 

 

 

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