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[ four star reviews ]  [ CrAiGeR's Worst[ 3D Review Archives ]  [ Netflix Original Films ]

 

 

POSTED JANUARY 6, 2022 

 

 

POSTED JANUARY 18, 2022 

 
 

 

 
     
 

Total number of print reviews in archive:

2208

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

(R) jjjj

A tale of fractured friendship that has no time for dullness

Writer/director Martin McDonagh's THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN manages to cut so emotionally deep despite its simple, but ghastly premise.  It's the kind of film where everything - even very early on -  just seems to click into place.  Everything from the direction to the performances to its evocation of a time from a century ago is in perfect synch with one another and is executed to a masterful level.  That, and THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN represents a triumphant reunion picture for McDonagh and his stars Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell...

Posted November 23, 2022

A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS 

(PG) jjj

It's a major award...I mean sequel!

I'm struggling to recall a holiday season when A CHRISTMAS STORY was not a part of my yearly must-watch tradition.  Directed with a loving eye by Bob Clark (wait a minute, didn't he also make PORKY'S?!) and scripted (and narrated) by Jean Shepherd (based on his own semi-fictional anecdotes from his wonderfully titled 1966 book IN GOD WE TRUST: ALL OTHERS PAY CASH), this 1983 Yuletide classic has been seen by me countless times over the decades (maybe 25...or perhaps 30-plus...I've lost track), almost as much as I've seen IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE...

Posted November 23, 2022

ENOLA HOLMES 2 (PG-13) jjj

Tis I...again!

It would be deceptively easy to dismiss the first ENOLA HOLMES and its new sequel as just sassy and inconsequential young adult themed Nancy Drew-ian mystery yarns (and they are certainly that, to a small degree).  But they also put a viewfinder on the gender and class norms of Victorian England and how vast and unhealthy inequities existed within them.  I enjoyed the first Netflix produced ENOLA HOLMES romp, mostly because it had a clever spin on classic Sherlock Holmes mythology...

Posted November 13, 2022

CONFESS, FLETCH (R) jjj

Welcome back, Irwin Fletcher

There was a time when I thought that I'd never see another cinematic adventure featuring Gregory MacDonald's literary creation of the smoothly sarcastic investigative reporter Irwin Maurice "Fletch" Fletcher.  The mystery writer penned eleven Fletch novels in total, and despite the character's popularity there have only been two films based on them, 1985's FLETCH (which was taken from the first novel and featured, for my money, star Chevy Chase's greatest role and performance) and the sequel four years later in FLETCH LIVES (easily the lesser of the two and not based on any of MacDonald's previous work)...

Posted November 13, 2022

BARBARIAN (R) jjj

Someone didn't check the reviews for this Airbnb

Writer/director Zach Cregger's BARBARIAN (marking his feature film debut) is the kind of spine-tingling and sensationally effective (at least early on) horror film that seems to write itself into a corner in its latter stages and is ultimately unsure as to how it really wants to conclude its truly grisly storyline.  I will say this with supreme confidence, though: The first 45 or so minutes of this chilling low budget $5 million scarefest are about as pitch perfectly executed as anything that I've seen - regardless of genre - all year...

Posted November 9, 2022

WENDELL AND WILD (PG)  jj1/2

Too hellishly wild and unwieldy

Netflix's  WENDELL & WILD features a pretty damn great creative partnership in celebrated stop motion animation director Henry Selick (who previously and most famously made THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, and CORALINE) and producer/co-writer Jordan Peele (who also appears in voice form with his long-time comedic partner in crime in Keegan Michael Key).  That, and this is Selick's very first animated feature behind the camera since 2009...

Posted November 9, 2022

BODIES BODIES BODIES

(R) jj1/2

OH MY GAWD...so many bodies!

BODIES BODIES BODIES has been frequently described as a "Gen Z horror movie."  That's sort of right, but not really entirely in tune with its marketing, which seemed to go out of its way to label it as a slasher horror flick.  There are elements of that genre in director Halina Reijin's English language feature film debut, to be sure, but this avant-garde indie veteran seems more in tune with making this film more of an Agatha Christie whodunit and a psychological study of friendship circles...

Posted November 3, 2022

RAYMOND & RAY 

(R) jjj1/2

Everybody loves the Raymonds

The new Apple Original Film RAYMOND & RAY has a premise that's about as odd as its title.  This Rodrigo Garcia comedy-drama deals with two half brothers - named, yup, Raymond and Ray - that have to attend the funeral of their long estranged and abusive father, a man who apparently took devilish relish in tormenting his sons while alive (he gave them both the same name as an early insulting kick to the old baby makers) and now - via some bizarre will requirements - has found a manner of pushing their already sensitive buttons from the grave...

Posted November 3, 2022

BLACK ADAM (PG-13) jj1/2

Do you smell what Teth Adam is cookin'?

It's staggering to consider that one of the fundamental problems with BLACK ADAM - the latest DC Comics inspired blockbuster, based on the Otto Binder and C.C. Beck created character of the same name from way back in 1945 - is not a messy and convoluted origin tale, assaultive CGI overload, a jam packed story with too many characters jockeying for attention, or lazily adhering to genre troupes, but rather that it utterly squanders its lead star's natural and effortless on-screen charm in the titular role...

Posted October 28, 2022

FALL (PG-13) jj

Worst. YouTube livestream.  Evvvver

FALL is a new outdoor survival thriller that contains a premise as economical as they come: Two women climb a 2000 foot tall radio tower and get stranded when they reach the top and have no apparent way down. Yikes. The genre itself has exploited the most widespread of human phobias to great effect, and if you're afraid of heights then FALL will be almost unendurable to sit through.  As a person that's not afraid of heights, I found myself less frightened by the height that these poor souls are trapped at with no where to go and more by the notion that they have zero options to climb down from said height and that no outside help is reachable for them...

Posted October 26, 2022

THE BLACK PHONE (R) jjj1/2

Sinister calls from beyond the grave!

It seems that Disney's loss was the horror film world's gain with Scott Derrickson's THE BLACK PHONE, a stupendously well oiled and intensely thrilling new supernatural horror film.  The writer/director may be familiar to super hero film fans for his work on the first DOCTOR STRANGE solo entry for the MCU, but hopes of him returning for the sequel were crushed when he abruptly left the production due to creative differences, leaving THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS being helmed by Sam Raimi instead...

Posted October 26, 2022

AMSTERDAM (R) jj1/2

A period murder mystery caper that's all dressed up with no place to go

Let's get one thing out of the way right from the get-go: AMSTERDAM is stacked. Like...really stacked. We got writer/director David O. Russell - making his first feature film in seven years after previously scoring large critical splashes with THE FIGHTER, AMERICAN HUSTLE, and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  We got an all-star cast of A-listers that includes (takes a deep breath) Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Robert De Niro, Michael Shannon, Andrea Riseborough, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana and - holy crap! - SNL alumni Chris Rock and Mike Myers...

Posted October 18, 2022

DON'T WORRY DARLING

(R) jj

Strange things are afoot in this Pleasantville-styled town

Olivia Wilde's sophomore directorial effort DON'T WORRY DARLING has arguably gained - for better or worse...mostly for the worse - more unhealthy exposure and notoriety for the infamous behind the scenes drama that plagued its showing during last month's Venice International Film Festival, where evidence of one lead actor spitting on another during the premiere reared up as well as distracting gossip about the toxic working relationship between Wilde and her leading lady on set.  It was the entire talk of social media and with very little discourse being done as to the quality of the film itself...

Posted October 18, 2022

BLONDE (NC-17)  j1/2

Goodbye, Norma Jean...

Netflix's NC-17 rated BLONDE professes to be about Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe - or, at least a fictionalized version of her life and times, based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates - but I don't see much of a thoughtful celebration/examination of this troubled celebrity's life at all.  No, director Andrew Dominik - who previously made one of the most atmospheric and underrated films of the 2000s in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD - has made a film that seems fetishistically obsessed with showing every possible manner that Monroe suffered...

Posted October 11, 2022

THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER 

(PG-13) jjj

Wait...he did what-now in Vietnam???

Hey, did you hear the one about the crazy New Yorker that decided to sneak his way into the Vietnam War in order to bring his fellow besties that were serving in the military there some well earned brewskies?  If this was the premise for any fictional film then I would have never been able to take it seriously...at all.  But director Peter Farrelly's very aptly titled THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER (his first film since his Best Picture winning GREEN BOOK) is indeed based on the very difficult to swallow, but very true story of John "Chickie" Donahue...

Posted October 11, 2022

THE WOMAN KING (R) jjj1/2

All hail Viola Davis!

Gina Prince-Bythewood's THE WOMAN KING is an ultra rare historical swords and sandal epic that digs into 19th Century West Africa and concerns an all-female warrior squadron.  These warriors in question were the Agojie that protected the kingdom of Dahomey during the 1700s through 1800s (the film focuses squarely on the latter century).  They're one of the very few documented female armies in recorded history, and something that even I (with my history degree) was not altogether familiar with heading into THE WOMAN KING...

Posted October 7, 2022

EMILY THE CRIMINAL

(R) jjj

Plaza the hustler

EMILY THE CRIMINAL serves triple threat duty as a crime drama, an expose of the haves and the have nots, and a searing character study of how one lone woman turns to theft as a way to get an upper hand her own crushing financial instability in the world.  To say that this John Patton Ford written and directed feature film debut is nihilistic about many of our modern day economic woes would be a grand understatement...

Posted October 7, 2022

DC LAND OF THE SUPER PETS

(PG) jjj

Man of Steel and his Dog of Steel

I've always enjoyed tantalizing what if scenarios in super hero comics.  Like, for example, what if Superman's pet dog from Krypton actually accompanied him on his spacecraft as it blasted free from the doomed planet and grew up with him on his new home on Earth?  What would having a canine with all of the powers of the Man of Steel be like...for the Man of Steel?  The new computer animated film DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS dives head first into this more bizarre, but oddly charming subculture of comic books...

Posted October 7, 2022

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING

(R) jjjj

Be careful what you wish for

George Miller's THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING - his first film since his multiple Oscar winning MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - is a wondrously ambitious, stylistically audacious, and dramatically potent romantic fantasy that taps into a story concerning love, myth, and the desire for connection.  The fact that Miller has made a film with an extraordinary visual density should come of no surprise whatsoever - his last MAD MAX sequel was arguably one of the finest engineered action blockbusters of all time...

Posted September 29, 2022

DO REVENGE 

(PG-13) jjj

Dirty working mean girls

Netflix's new coming of age comedy DO REVENGE is a surprisingly sly and darkly amusing take on...revenge.  It's the kind of film that really wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve and isn't ashamed to show it to viewers.  It's kind of like MEAN GIRLS meets DIRTY WORK meets CLUELESS with a dash of HEATHERS thrown in for good measure...

Posted September 29, 2022

PINOCCHIO (PG) j

Wooden toy turned real boy that's barely in a real film

The more I thought about Disney’s live action PINOCCHIO remake after streaming it (it ain't playing in cinemas, folks!) the more frustrated I got. The original 1940 classic - just Disney's second animated feature ever at that point - remains an untouchable classic and a masterstroke work that was then unparalleled for its pioneering artistry...

Posted September 20, 2022

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

(PG-13) jjj

The Marsh Girl strikes back

If one looks past some of its more logic straining elements and a final act that simply doesn't work really well at all, then it'll be easy to get lost and invested in the Southern period mystery thriller WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, based on the 2018 best selling novel of the same name by Delia Owens.  I would aptly describe this drama as a kitchen sink affair, seeing as it has so many elements thrown in: Family secrets, child abandonment, three way love triangles, backwoods sex, and, yes, murder and a subsequent investigation and court case...

Posted September 20, 2022

METAL LORDS 

(R) jjj1/2

School of...hard rock

Netflix's METAL LORDS is a new high school coming of age musical comedy that - initially at least - seems to adhere to many formulas of the genre that it inhabits.  We get a group of high school misfits and loners that face constant peer pressure and the hostile antagonism of bullies that befriend one another through shared interests to overcome social obstacles and their own inherent fears of failure...

Posted September 13, 2022

I LOVE MY DAD (R) jjj

Confessions of a catfishing father

I watched most of I LOVE MY DAD through my fingers. The fact that this is not a horror film - and is in fact a comedy - is telling. I'll give writer/director and star James Morosini props for committing to his film's bizarre and frankly unsettling premise with an audaciously determined spirit.  It concerns a father that has been driven to the brink of desperation when it comes to reconnecting with his estranged son, so he decides to steal a real young woman's identity and creates a fake Facebook account with it in order to friend his kid and get closer to him...

Posted September 13, 2022

SAMARITAN 

(PG-13) jj

Not much good about this Samaritan

Amazon Prime's new super hero themed thriller SAMARITAN boasts an initially compelling hook: What would happen to costume crusaders of justice when they just decide to flat-out retire from their trade?  Moreover, what happens to these same heroes when called back into the line of duty and at an age when other mere mortals are finishing off their lives in retirement homes?  This Julius Avery directed and Bragi F. Schut written film has the solid foundations to make for an intriguing take on the comic book film landscape...

Posted September 5, 2022

ME TIME 

(R) j1/2

You'll need some after watching this

ME TIME is a very special kind of film. Within its first three minutes we get a would-be hysterical gag involving star Kevin Hart slipping on a piece of turtle crap and falling flat on his back.  Three minutes later...the very same gag happens again.  It was at this vantage point that I truly felt that this film was serving up multiple warning signs of what was to come over the course of the next 90-plus minutes...

Posted September 5, 2022

BEAST  (R) jjj

Lions...and tigers...and Elba, OH MY!

I can't think of another actor other than Idris Elba that could have given a more gripping and convincing performance playing opposite of a CG man hungry/stalking lion in the new outdoor survival thriller BEAST.  With a lesser thespian at the helm and this film would have been rendered into high camp, but Elba is so grounded and authentic in BEAST that he really helps elevate the otherwise B-movie material.  Director Baltasar Kormakur deserves some credit as well here...

Posted August 31, 2022

RESURRECTION  (R) jjj

Sleeping with the enemy

RESURRECTION - out of all of the films that I've seen thus far in 2022 - was easily the most difficult to sit through.  I mean that mostly as a compliment.  What begins as an engrossing psychological thriller about a woman slowly losing her grasp on her reality with the re-appearance of a toxic ex-boyfriend in her life becomes...well...something wholly more sinister and haunting.  Written and directed with a cold, calculating and observant eye by Andrew Semans, RESURRECTION is an ultra slow-burn affair...

Posted August 31, 2022

DAY SHIFT 

(R) jj1/2

A horror comedy lacking memorable bite

Netflix's horror comedy DAY SHIFT is one of those hodgepodge pieces of cinema in the way that it's cannibalized from so many other parts of better genre efforts before it.  That's kind of a blessing and curse.  Part GHOSTBUSTERS, part MEN IN BLACK, and part BLADE, this J.J. Perry directorial debut concerns a Californian pool cleaner that secretly works for a blue collar underground organization of vampire hunters that defends humanity from blood thirsty creatures.  These monster death dealers also score money on the side by extracting the fangs of their fallen targets and selling them on the undead black market...

Posted August 23, 2022

THIRTEEN LIVES

(PG-13) jj1/2

A technically masterful, but dramatically washed up survival tale

Imagine being one of sixteen children trapped in a flooded cave for nearly three weeks...and with no apparent escape route.  That's pure nightmare fuel for me to ponder as an adult.  I can only begin to comprehend what this frightening ordeal must have been like for a kid.  THIRTEEN LIVES is a new Amazon Prime produced fact-based drama that chronicles a harrowing story of survival and rescue.  In the summer of 2018 the unthinkable happened...

Posted August 23, 2022

PREY  (R) jjj1/2

When the hunted becomes the hunter

The PREDATOR film franchise has always been on a wobbly qualitative pendulum.  Born with the altogether awesome John McTiernan directed and Arnold Schwarzenegger staring 1987 original, this sci-fi action series ushered in a not terrible/mostly decent Arnold-free sequel in 1990 that later begat a 2010 back to basics sequel and then - most recently - a series killer installment of unpardonable awfulness in the Shane Black led THE PREDATOR (and let's forget all of the fairly terrible ALIEN VS PREDATOR entries from the 2000s)...

Posted August 18, 2022

BULLET TRAIN (R) jj

Multiple murders on the Orient express

BULLET TRAIN is the kind of action thriller that's like a deliriously giddy kid on a bicycle that just made a training wheels free journey and is now screaming "Hey, look!  I did it!  Look at me!  Look at what I'm doing!  I'm doing it!!"  Helmed by former stuntman turned director David Leitch (who previously co-directed one of the finest action thrillers of recent memory in JOHN WICK and then solo directed the terribly underrated ATOMIC BLONDE, the fairly enjoyable DEADPOOL 2, and the mostly disposable FAST AND FURIOUS spin-off HOBBS & SHAW), BULLET TRAIN is perhaps too naively enthusiastic with itself for its own good...

Posted August 18, 2022

LIGHTYEAR  (PG) jjj

Not quite to infinity and falling a bit short of beyond

Pixar's LIGHTYEAR opens in a fairly weird manner.  We get title cards that indicate that "In 1995, a boy named Andy got a toy from his favorite movie.  This is that movie." LIGHTYEAR takes its name, of course, from Buzz Lightyear, one of the main sentient toys that featured heavily in the TOY STORY series of films that began all the way back in the mid-90s.  Co-written and directed by Angus MacLane (who's making his solo directorial debut here having previously co-directing FINDING DORY)...

Posted August 11, 2022

THE FORGIVEN  (Unrated) jjj

Seeking atonement the hard way

THE FORGIVEN contains a relatively intriguing premise in chronicling the worst aspects of white privilege and the racial and economic divide between the haves and the have nots.  Writer/director John Michael McDonagh (brother to Martin, who, in turn, has made some of the best films of their respective years in IN BRUGES and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI) bases his drama on the 2012 Lawrence Osborne novel of the same name...

Posted August 11, 2022

MEN (R) jj1/2

A nerve jangling folk horror piece that gets too grotesque for its own good

Despite its extremely economical and blunt title, writer/director Alex Garland's MEN doesn't fit neatly into compartmentalized genre conventions.  That's probably both a compliment and somewhat of a curse here, seeing as his third film - coming off his critically acclaimed and Oscar winning EX MACHINA and his less assured, but still quite good ANNIHILATION - begins strongly enough in terms of its core premise, but then takes some shocking and grotesque detours that almost defy a tasteful description here....

Posted August 11, 2022

NOPE  (R) jj1/2

Aiming for "Oprah Shot" greatness, but falling short

Writer/director Jordan Peele's third film NOPE is a sprawling, ambitious minded, but frequently messy and oftentimes undisciplined homage to Spielbergian summer spectacles like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and JAWS.  The Oscar winning filmmaker made a gigantic critical and audience splash with GET OUT (a darkly funny, yet unsettling dissection of American race relations) and followed that up with the equally good US (perhaps his most chilling TWILIGHT ZONE-esque thriller that delved into the psychology of urban legends and duality)...

Posted July 28, 2022

THE GRAY MAN 

(PG-13) jj

The bland man

A few things plagued my brain while watching the new Netflix espionage action thriller THE GRAY MAN: Firstly, how on earth did this film cost upwards of $200 million to produce?  That's not to say that it looks borderline amateurish at all, but with this and last year's criminally putrid RED NOTICE (also from Netflix) it has become clear the streaming giant has endless cash to give filmmakers and actors to nab them away from theatrical fare...and with no apparent qualitative checks and balances system in place...

Posted July 28, 2022

THE SEA BEAST

(PG) jjj1/2

A most fantastic animated voyage

If you exclude its rather bland title, Netflix's newest computer animated film THE SEA BEAST is a stunningly designed, epically staged, thematically deep, and undeniably charming aquatic adventure that comes off like a winning hybrid of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and while plotting its own uniquely innovative course. The film marks the solo feature directorial debut of Chris Williams...

Posted July 28, 2022

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER 

(PG-13) j1/2

Dumber than a bag of Mjölnirs

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I say this will all due respect to the character of Thor and the relative greatness of his introduction to the MCU way, way back in director Kenneth Branagh's THOR from 2011 (far and away the best God of Thunder solo entry).  That film had the incredibly tricky job of making this mystical hammer/lightning wielding deity somehow work in live action form and without him coming off as unintentionally cartoony and hammy...

Posted July 19, 2022

DUAL (R) jjj

You are your worst enemy

The finest compliment that I would give writer/director Riley Stearns is that his films have a superficial premise simplicity, but buried deep beneath that is a twisted and oftentimes bizarre complexity that elevates it well above other predictable genre fare.  No more was this true than with his 2019 effort THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE, which started as a basic KARATE KID clone, but then later morphed into a deeply disturbing and ultra black comedy that tapped into the most chilling aspects of male toxicity...

Posted July 19, 2022

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (R) jjj

Michelle Yeoh and the multiverse of madness

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is an incredibly apt title if there ever was one.  Just about everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in for good measure here: It contains elements of black comedy, fantasy, science fiction, martial arts, animation, and a whole hell of a lot of rampant absurdity and visual chaos.  The film comes from the equally absurd minds of writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively referred to as the "Daniels"), whom you may or may not recall made one of the strangest films that I certainly have ever seen in 2016's SWISS ARMY MAN...

Posted July 13, 2022

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (R) jjj1/2

Rules of attraction

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE is a sex movie. Characters talk about sex.  They discuss sexual positions.  They chat about foreplay leading into sex.  They dissect what sex means to various age groups.  They ruminate on the psychological baggage that sex can bring and how to break down barriers that impede pleasure.  Oh...and these characters - two of them, anyway - have sex in the film too.  Multiple times.  And there's copious amounts of nudity here of the male and female variety.  Annnnnnd full frontal for both as well...

Posted July 13, 2022

ELVIS (PG-13) jjj1/2

The man who would be king

"It was the greatest carnival attraction I've ever seen..." So says Colonel Tom Parker (as played by Tom Hanks, unrecognizably caked under pounds of makeup) upon coming across what would become his financial meal ticket in the future King of Rock n' Roll in director Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS.  What could a film about one of the most significant cultural, historical, and musical figures of the 20th Century tell audiences at this point what so many other previous films, documentaries, and TV specials haven't already...

Posted July 6, 2022

THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT (R) jjj1/2

Leaving Los Angeles

There's a hysterical moment in the wonderfully titled THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT that features star Nicolas Cage (playing...Nicolas Cage) being taken to the ultimate Nicolas Cage fanboy shrine room of a ridiculous rich Spanish man that has hired him to be a guest of honor at his birthday.  In said shrine is a glass encased full scale statue of Cage from his 1997 magnum opus action thriller FACE/OFF (incidentally, one of my all-time favorite Cage films)...

Posted July 6, 2022

THE MAN FROM TORONTO (R) j1/2

The city - and laughs - are AWOL here

Very few films that I've seen as of late have annoyed me to no end as much as THE MAN FROM TORONTO.  Filmed three years ago with Sony Pictures backing it, the film was then shelved (as so many have been for the last few years due to pandemic woes), but for a looooooog time before the studio probably knew what a dog with fleas that they had, leading to them selling the distribution rights to Netflix, which unceremoniously released it to the streaming masses and without much fanfare a week-plus ago...

Posted July 6, 2022

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 I’ve ever seen. I’ve read that this Le Van Kiet directed effort contains upwards of 1000 VFX shots, mostly because it wasn’t 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 couldn’t 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, it’s really hard for me to overlook Steven Spielberg’s 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

 

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

(PG-13) j

 

tick...tick...BOOM! 

(PG-13) jjj

 

HOUSE OF GUCCI

(R) jj1/2

 

GHOSTBUSTERS: 

AFTERLIFE

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HALLOWEEN KILLS 

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RED NOTICE 

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PASSING 

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THE ETERNALS

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THE HARDER THEY FALL 

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LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

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ARMY OF THIEVES

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FINCH 

 

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DUNE  

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DON'T BREATHE 2 

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THE LAST DUEL  

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ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

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

 

SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS

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VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE 

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THE CARD COUNTER

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THE GUILTY

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THE FOREVER PURGE 

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TIL DEATH 

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PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

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IN THE HEIGHTS  

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SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS  

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THE COLONY  

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INFINITE  

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KATE 

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DEMONIC  

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CRUELLA  

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HITMAN'S WIFE'S BODYGUARD

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THE GREEN KNIGHT (R) jjjj

 

SWEET GIRL

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THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD 

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FREE GUY  

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CODA 

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SUICIDE SQUAD  

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BECKETT  

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VAL 

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JUNGLE CRUISE  

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F9  

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PIG  

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JOLT (R) j1/2

 

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE 

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OLD  

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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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