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




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




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




CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

the past




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





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




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








You're a killing machine, Harry

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

Posted July 29, 2020


A well oiled character driven robo-drama

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

Posted July 29, 2020  


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

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

Posted July 19, 2020


Immortal beloved

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

Posted July 19, 2020


(R) jj

A psychological horror thriller not worth visiting

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

Posted July 13, 2020


Mad Mel versus the hurricane

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

Posted July 13, 2020


Politically, most things are still the same

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

Posted July 3, 2020

7500 (R) jjj1/2

Terror in the skies above

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

Posted July 3, 2020

INFAMOUS (No MPAA Rating) jj

The viral generation Bonnie & Clyde

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

Posted July 3, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS (R) jjjj

Band of blood brothers

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

Posted June 25, 2020


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

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

Posted June 25, 2020


(R) jj

Apatow's less-than-crowning achievement

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

Posted June 25, 2020

BECKY (R) 1/2j

A less than ideal vacation at the lake house!

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

Posted June 10, 2020


(PG-13) jjj1/2

Look, up in the sky...!

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

Posted June 10, 2020


Greece is the word!

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

Posted June 10, 2020


Living not so happily ever after

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

Posted June 4, 2020


Girls just wanna have fun!

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

Posted June 4, 2020

CAPONE (No MPAA Rating) j1/2

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

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

Posted May 20, 2020


Husbands and wives

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

Posted May 20, 2020


To boldly go where no Biopsherians have ever gone before

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

Posted May 20, 2020

MY SPY (PG-13) jjj

Definitely not a Bautista bomb

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

Posted May 10, 2020

BLOODSHOT (PG-13) jj1/2

We can rebuild him...we have the technology

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

Posted May 10, 2020


A timely rallying cry drama

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

Posted May 10, 2020


A passably thrilling JOHN WICK clone

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

 Posted April 30, 2020



(No MPAA Rating) jjjj

We don't need no education...

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

Posted April 30, 2020


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

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

Posted April 30, 2020


Failing to rise to the call of duty

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

Posted April 30, 2020

LIKE A BOSS (R) 1/2j  

This workplace comedy is dead on arrival

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

Posted April 30, 2020


The bunny hill of remakes

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

Posted April 21, 2020


(No MPAA Rating) jj

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

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

Posted April 14, 2020


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

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

Posted April 14, 2020


(R) jjj1/2

Stand up comedy as mid-life crisis and marital therapy


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

Posted April 14, 2020


How NOT to buy your first home

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

Posted April 5, 2020


Sticking it to your ex in the most roundabout way

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

Posted April 5, 2020


(R) jjj1/2

When quaint small towns harbor big, dark secrets

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

Posted April 5, 2020

THE HUNT (R) jj1/2

We're definitely not in Arkansas anymore

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

Posted March 29, 2020


This unnecessary spin-off throws nothing but gutter balls

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

Posted March 29, 2020

EMMA (PG) jjj1/2

Austen 3:16

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

Posted March 29, 2020


Lost, but not forgotten

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

Posted March 22, 2020


(R) j1/2

Who wanted this incomprehensible mess?

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

Posted March 22, 2020


(R) jj

This action comedy is best kept on the down low

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

Posted March 22, 2020

THE WAY BACK (R) jjj1/2

Affleck gives a three pointer with nothing but net performance

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

Posted March 14, 2020


(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

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

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

Posted March 14, 2020


A REAR WINDOW clone not worth checking into

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

Posted March 14, 2020


A classic horror tale put through a compelling modern day blender

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

Posted March 5, 2020


(PG) jj1/2  

When adaptations get lost in the wilderness

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

Posted March 5, 2020



Close encounters of the farm kind

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

Posted March 5, 2020


Must go faster...must go faster!

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

Posted February 24, 2020

FANTASY ISLAND (R)  zero stars

A horrible piece of wish fulfillment

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

Posted February 24, 2020

HORSE GIRL (R) jjj  

An uncomfortable gallop into the darker underbelly of mental health

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

Posted February 24, 2020



The not-so suicidal squad

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

Posted February 15, 2020

UNCUT GEMS (R) jjj  

Sandler at his most dramatically refined

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

Posted February 15, 2020


An untamed melody of a spy thriller

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

Posted February 6, 2020


Reefer madness!

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

Posted February 6, 2020


More Bayhem, just minus the Bay

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

Posted January 31, 2020


Doctor Doo-Doo


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

Posted January 31, 2020


Under the sea, no one can hear you scream

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

Posted January 24, 2020

1917 (R) jjj

The one-take war film to end all war films

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

Posted January 24, 2020


The high ranking Catholic Church odd couple


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

Posted January 15, 2020


The dangers of acting like you own the place

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

Posted January 15, 2020


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

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

Posted January 7, 2020


A fair and balanced portrait of real life workplace harassment


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

Posted January 7, 2020

JUDY (PG-13) jj1/2 

A creatively bland biopic about a Hollywood icon

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

Posted January 7, 2020



(PG-13) jj

I have a very bad feeling about this...

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

Posted December 25, 2019


(PG-13) jjj

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

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

Posted December 25, 2019


From hero to zero and back again

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

Posted December 25, 2019


Driver v Johansson


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

Posted December 19, 2019


SHOWGIRLS this ain't

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

Posted December 19, 2019


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


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

Posted December 9, 2019

KNIVES OUT (PG-13) jjjj

The unusual suspects


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

Posted December 9, 2019


(PG-13) jjj1/2

The 1-2-3 kid


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

Posted December 9, 2019


Dawn of auto justice

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

Posted November 30, 2019


Won't you be my biopic neighbor...


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

Posted November 30, 2019


Hello again, Danny...


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

Posted November 21, 2019

MIDWAY (PG-13) jj1/2

A remake which will mostly live in infamy

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

Posted November 21, 2019

JOJO RABBIT (PG-13) jj1/2

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

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

Posted November 21, 2019


(R) jj1/2

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

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

Posted November 13, 2019


(R) jjj1/2


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

Posted November 13, 2019


(R) jjj

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

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

Posted November 3, 2019


(PG-13) j1/2


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

Posted November 3, 2019


(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

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


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

Posted November 3, 2019


Boredom...eviler than the devil

Certain sounds absolutely terrify me, especially ones that incessantly undulate in the background and get under my skin.  The new period psychological horror thriller THE LIGHTHOUSE - one of the best and strangest films of 2019 - contains one sound that proves to be particularly panic inducing: a bass rumbling foghorn.  It's like an omnipotent secondary character in its own right, and with every new blast of it comes an ever increasing sensation that something awful is lurking around every corner of the frame.  Very few films make you feel the isolating and traumatizing dread of its characters the way this one does...

Posted November 3, 2019

GEMINI MAN (PG-13) jj1/2

Attack of the clones!

Ang Lee's GEMINI MAN is a new sci-fi espionage thriller of some strange contradictions.  It represents a pretty astounding leap forward in the area of photo-realistic CGI, but at the same time it contains regressive minded, paint-by-numbers scripting that feels like the product of something that should have been released decades ago (the screenplay itself has laid dormant for years, with many a filmmaker trying to take on the material, but backing away when the VFX technology required for it wasn't up to snuff).  The basic premise for GEMINI MAN is an intriguing, if not somewhat derivative one...

Posted October 20, 2019



(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

Yeeeeah bitch, SEQUEL!!!!


The new Netflix original EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE serves as a sort of prequel, sort of sequel to the series finale of one of the greatest TV shows in history.  Of course, I'm referring to Vince Gilligan created AMC residing BREAKING BAD, which aired for five deeply memorable and tension filled seasons and concerned the financially struggling and cancer stricken high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who teamed up with one of his former students in Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to produce and sell crystal meth...

Posted October 20, 2019


Worst.  Eurotrip.  Ever..

MIDSOMMAR is the latest horror thriller from writer/director Ari Aster, who previously helmed the eerily atmospheric, frequently shocking, impeccably acted, but creatively inconsistent HEREDITARY.  That supernatural drama most assuredly introduced Aster as an absolute master of terrifying mood and chilling tension, but the film, at least for me (and I'm in the minority) really fell apart in its final act, which seemed to traverse down a rabbit hole of overused and obligatory genre troupes, which ultimately made it a hard film for me to wholeheartedly recommend....

Posted October 20, 2019

JOKER (R) jjjj

An origin film that dances with devil in the pale moonlight

I needed time after screening JOKER to process all of its limitless complexities.  I resisted the urge to review it immediately after seeing it, mostly because I was still decompressing from it...even days later.  This is one of the most talked about films - in terms of pre and post release coverage - in recent memory, and one that has deeply polarized the media, critics, and fans alike (I'll deep dive into that in a bit).  With all of the smoke cleared I feel confident in just swinging for the fences by saying that JOKER is definitely one of the most dread inducing and depressingly disturbing films in a long while...

Posted October 11, 2019

AD ASTRA (PG-13) jjjj

Into the space heart of darkness

James Gray's AD ASTRA (which is Latin for "to the stars") is an unqualified and masterful triumph.  Not only does this represent an absolute technical marvel that frequently inspires legitimate awe and wonder, but it's also a decidedly rare breed of sci-fi star trekking effort that's more nuanced, thoughtful, and thematically ambitious and contemplative.  The film is a visual dynamo, yes, but despite its embarrassment of production riches AD ASTRA isn't slavishly reliant on VFX and mindless mayhem like most other bloated space epics...

Posted October 11, 2019


A good supply of body bags sequel

It's been an awfully long road for Jonathon James Rambo since he was introduced in the early 1970s in Canadian author David Morrell's novel FIRST BLOOD.  That book spawned a movie adaptation in 1982, which delved into the back story of this former Green Beret Vietnam War vet that faced a different type of war trying to acclimate to his home country after combat, facing a nation of citizens that didn't think highly of the war and his involvement in it.  That gave way to the more aggressively cartoonish, but nevertheless entertaining RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II...

Posted October 3, 2019



(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

Between an interview rock and a hard place


The new Netflix original comedy BETWEEN TWO FERNS: THE MOVIE takes its name and premise from the faux online celebrity interview show of the same name hosted by Zach Galifianakis (playing a version of himself) that was born on FUNNY OR DIE in 2008.  As the very specific title obviously demonstrates, the web series had the actor - in various states of being laughably idiotic and misinformed - aggressively interview various movie stars...

Posted October 3, 2019

SHAFT (R) j1/2

This rebootquel is a bad mutha...shut yer mouth...it's just bad

The original 1971 SHAFT was an urban detective noir that helped usher in the "blaxploitation" genre into the mainstream during its decade in question, and also made star Richard Roundtree a bona fide box office star and sex symbol.  That film spawned multiple sequels, as well as a sort of sequel, sort of reboot in 2000, directed by the late John Singleton and featuring everyone's favorite mutha f-bomb delivering star Samuel L. Jackson assuming the titular role (it turned out that he was actually Roundtree's Shaft's nephew)...

Posted October 3, 2019


A second pennywise for your thoughts

IT: CHAPTER TWO falls victim to the pratfalls of many sequels in terms of mistakenly believing that bigger equates to better.  Whereas the 2017 prequel film (and massive box office hit) did a solid job of adapting Stephen King's source material (albeit with some fairly unobtrusive tweaks and changes here and there), this unavoidable follow-up suffers from an egregiously long winded running time, some unwieldy scripting, and many questionably lazy creative choices overall...

Posted September 22, 2019


As enthralling as paint drying on the wall

I experienced two overwhelmingly positive feelings during my experience of screening THE GOLDFINCH:  (1) The moment I entered the cinema with hope and optimism before the film began and (2) the moment I left the cinema when it was over. I pondered a lot about this film on my car ride home, but the prevailing thought that came to mind while watching - make that enduring - THE GOLDFINCH was "Brotman's Law" (named after the famous Chicago movie exhibitor Oscar Brotman): If nothing has happened by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen...

Posted September 22, 2019

THE FANATIC (R) zero stars

Pulp friction

THE FANATIC is a new stalker thriller of embarrassing, almost unfathomable awfulness, made all the inexcusably disposable because it contains one of the most wrongheaded performances by a former multiple Academy Award nominee that I can frankly recall.  Imagine I AM SAM cross bred with MISERY and THE FAN - except more creatively bankrupt - and you'll have a rough approximation of this inept piece of sensationalistic trash...

Posted September 22, 2019





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