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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

I CARE A LOT (R)jjj1/2

The care home con game from hell

The ultra black comedy/satire thriller (and ironically titled) I CARE A LOT (streaming either on Amazon Prime or Netflix, depending on your region) begs an often asked question of me: Can a film be truly entertaining if it contains a cavalcade of toxically reprehensible people? I would answer yes, and this film from English director J. Blakeson (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED) is no exception. And, man, are the characters that populate I CARE A LOT ever toxically reprehensible...

Posted February 28, 2021

SUPERNOVA (R) jjj

Making the most of the time that is left

There's nothing in life more emotionally deflating than knowing that a loved one is slowly dying and there's little you can do to prevent it or numb their pain.  SUPERNOVA makes for a compelling companion film to this year's FALLING in the sense that both deal with the debilitating effects that dementia has not only on the sufferer, but also on those caring and concerned family members that try to tend to the needs of the afflicted on a daily basis...

Posted February 28, 2021

BLISS 

(PG-13) jj1/2 

A glitch on the matrix...

BLISS is the kind of high concept sci-fi drama that has an awful lot on its mind and some ambitious concepts that it wishes to explore, but lacks a thorough and satisfying follow-through on them.  This latest Amazon Prime original film comes from Mike Cahilll, the director of the terribly underrated ANOTHER EARTH, another genre brain teaser containing a killer premise that was, in its case, compellingly explored...

Posted February 23, 2021

THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS

(PG-13) jjj

Haven't we met somewhere before?

Is it just me or is the time loop genre becoming the next big genre? Also, is it just me or is the time looping genre becoming the next big genre? Obvious sarcasm aside, the new Amazon Prime original film THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS has the unenviable position of coming out after the critically adored PALM SPRINGS from last year, and both films bare a striking similarity to one another...

Posted February 23, 2021

PALMER 

(R) jjj

Mr. Mom

Justin Timberlake has had a relatively shaky career as far as the movies go.  He has certainly been effectively in supporting roles in the past, as was the case in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, ALPHA DOG, and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, but for every one one of those there's a RUNNER RUNNER, SOUTHLAND TALES, or BAD TEACHER.  I still concede, though, that the pop star can be decent when given just the right movie role, and he's quite stellar in the new Apple TV+ original film PALMER, playing an ex-con that's trying to get a new lease on life outside of the slammer...

Posted February 15, 2021

MALCOLM & MARIE (R) j1/2

Couples therapy...the hard way

If the makers behind MALCOLM & MARIE were aiming to make viewers feel like they were trapped in the same home with a dislikeable couple that's venomously arguing with each other for nearly two hours...then...mission accomplished.  For the most part, this new minimalist, two actor Netflix drama (shot with a skeletal crew and limited resources during the current COVID-19 pandemic) featuring an up-and-coming film director that's on the brink of superstardom having a protracted spat with his girlfriend (that's essentially the plot) is pretentious to the core...

Posted February 15, 2021

FALLING (R) jjj1/2

Of fathers and sons

FALLING is a very difficult film to watch based on its subject matter.  It dives headfirst into the challenges that families have to endure while dealing with an elderly member with dementia, in its case between a son and his ailing father.  This multi-generational drama marks the feature film directorial debut of Viggo Mortensen, and he certainly maintains an assured eye and confident hand in dealing with this problematic and challenging material...

Posted February 15, 2021

LITTLE THINGS (R) jjj

90s detective noir with familiar genre beats

THE LITTLE THINGS comes off as a throwback serial killer/police procedural thriller with definitive echoes of past efforts like SEVEN.  It should come as no surprise, then, that this is John Lee Hancock written and directed effort has been a self proclaimed passion project for him for over thirty years and was actually penned in the early 1990s (with hopes of Steven Spielberg helming it).  With Hancock having a reasonable amount of industry clout now ...

Posted February 9, 2021

PENGUIN BLOOM

(Unrated) jjj 

March of the magpie penguin

If the new Australian-American Netflix produced drama PENGUIN BLOOM wasn't based on a true story then I would have had an awfully hard time swallowing it.  Adapted from the 2016 photography book of the same name by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Grieve, the film chronicles the reality based tale a family from Down Under whose wife/mother suffers from a tragic accident that causes partial paralysis...

Posted February 9, 2021

THE DIG (PG-13) jjj  

A tale of unearthing the past in the past

NETFLIX's new historical drama THE DIG concerns one of the most famous archaeological finds of all time that occurred in Suffolk, England in the late 1930s.  The so-called "Sutton Hoo" treasure that was unearthed at the time included the astounding discovery of an undisturbed ship burial from the 6th to 7th Century and all of the wealth of astonishing artifacts of the era entombed within it.  Often considered to be the most important dig sites and finds in UK history, the items excavated helped to re-shape what historians thought of Anglo-Saxons of the distant past...

Posted February 9, 2021

OUTSIDE THE WIRE (R) jj1/2  

More human than human

The new Netflix produced futuristic sci-fi military themed thriller OUTSIDE THE WIRE definitely has some compelling themes about the nature of mechanized warfare and the relationship between man and machine A.I., but it simply seems more disappointingly interested in delivering bombastic action and spectacle.  That, and its whole approach makes it come off like some low rent Neill Blomkamp wannabe, minus the thoughtful follow-through...

Posted January 31, 2021

NEWS OF THE WORLD (PG-13) jjj

On the range with Hanks and Greengrass

The very thought of Paul Greengrass shaking his career up by making a period western - and with his CAPTAIN PHILLIPS star in Tom Hanks no less (in his very first western of his career, almost impossible to believe) is beyond intriguing.  Coming after huge critical and audience successes like the last two entries in the original JASON BOURNE trilogy...

Posted January 25, 2021

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

(R) jjj1/2

A MeToo revenge thriller with a scathing satiric bite

Actor turned director Emerald Fennell's rookie effort in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN just might be one of the most audacious filmmaking debuts of 2020.  As a ultra black comedy and utterly uncompromising MeToo revenge thriller, it displays uncommon levels of patience in terms of not laying all of its narrative cards on the table too early in terms of its many revelations.  In this respect, the film almost becomes a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be put together, and it respects audiences' attentions spans as a result...

Posted January 25, 2021

LOCKED DOWN (R) j1/2

Get us all out of this pandemic themed film!!!

LOCKED DOWN is not only a very early contender for one of the worst films of our very young year, but it's also unquestionably a surefire cure for anyone that suffers from insomnia.  I was just twenty minutes into this COVID-19 pandemic themed romantic comedy heist film (yeah, let that settle in quickly...and more on that in a bit) and found it to be almost insufferably dull and lacking in any type of forward momentum...

Posted January 25, 2021

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (R) jjj

Gremlins: The WWII Batch

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD is the kind of film that knows precisely what it is and frequently winks at its audience throughout to let them know that it's in on the gag.  The film is a spectacularly inane hodgepodge of divergent genres, like the creature feature, the World War II men-on-a-mission thriller, and the female empowerment action picture...and with equal parts of TWILIGHT ZONE mixed in for good measure.  It's the type of lurid grindhouse fare that might have had an audience back in the day for midnight drive-in screenings...

Posted January 19, 2021

ANOTHER ROUND (R) jjjj

Having one for the road...but on the way to school

ANOTHER ROUND marks a rather triumphant re-teaming of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg and star Mads Mikkelsen (who last partnered up on 2012's THE HUNT) and it features arguably the most deliriously - ahem! - intoxicating premise of any movie from the year that was.  There have been countless films about teachers, people suffering from mid-life crisis, and those afflicted with alcoholism, but this film manages to cover all three of those elements and blends them together into something that emerges as both darkly funny and touchingly dramatic all the same...

Posted January 19, 2021

WOLFWALKERS (PG) jjjj

Like a storybook fable come lovingly to life

Pixar's SOUL has been dominating the recent conversation as of late about animated film releases - and it is indeed quite good - but I personally think that the wonderful WOLFWALKERS is the better offering that's getting lost in the limelight.  This latest animated fantasy adventure is from the pioneering director tandem Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart via their studio Cartoon Saloon...

Posted January 14, 2021

SOUL (PG) jjj

Defending your life

Pixar's SOUL is one of their weirdest animated films, but that's precisely what makes it one of their finest of their recent crop of offerings.  It not only represents an audaciously strange change of pace for the Oscar winning studio, but it also emerges as a most refreshing kind of innovative change up after their mediocre and easily forgettable ONWARD from earlier this year.  SOUL tells an intriguing tale of a jazz pianist that dies (sort of) and then gets whisked to the afterlife and remains stuck there (yeah, not the most light hearted of fare)...

Posted January 14, 2021

MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

(R) jjj1/2 

All they want is my voice

Netflix's MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM  - based on the 1982 August Wilson play - is set in Chicago of the Roaring Twenties and deals with black musicians trying to make names for themselves in a largely white controlled industry that wanted to use their music to make quick cash, even if it meant crudely exploiting them.  There's definitely something disturbing at play here when it comes to how these businessman yearned to claim an essential part of African American culture - Jazz and Blues - as their own...

Posted January 3, 2020

WONDER WOMAN 1984

(PG-13) jjj

Fighting for truth, justice and the Themysciran way

There is a sly moment in WONDER WOMAN 1984 that thoroughly captures the titular character's power, grace, charm and inherent goodness. It's set in a packed shopping mall during the neon colored Regan-era in question and features a squad robbers trying to make a getaway, with one of them nearly harming a young girl.  The most powerful Themysciran herself swoops in and quickly dispatches of the evil doers with lightning speed and ease...

Posted December 31, 2020

THE MIDNIGHT SKY  (PG-13) jjj

Staring into the apocalyptic abyss

To say that George Clooney the director has had a problematic and inconsistent career would be apt.  Nearly twenty years ago I thought he made one of the best films of 2002 in his rookie filmmaking debut with the biographical spy thriller CONFESSIONS OF THE DANGEROUS MIND and followed that up with the fine newsroom historical drama GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK...

Posted December 31, 2020

PALM SPRINGS (R) jjj

I want tomorrow to be tomorrow

Wait a tick...there's something awfully familiar about this film.  Haven't I seen it some place before?  Not only that...but there's something awfully familiar about this film.  Haven't I see it some place before?  Meta sarcasm aside, the new indie comedy PALM SPRINGS does indeed bare a striking resemblance to the iconic time looping comedy GROUNDHOG DAY, which featured a then highly novel premise of a disgruntled weatherman re-living the same day over and over again in a town he despises on an endless, purgatory-like replay...

Posted December 31, 2020

THE GODFATHER CODA: THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE (R) jjj1/2

Coppola takes a re-edit offer he couldn't refuse

Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER: PART III opened in cinemas 30 years ago this month, which, in turn, came several years after the landmark success of the first two multiple Academy Award winning entries in the series that adapted author Mario Puzo's original novels.  The initial GODFATHER film was a massive audience and critical darling effort that put Coppola on the cinematic map, and its follow-up - just as praised, if not more so - solidified the director as one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation...

Posted December 22, 2020

SOUND OF METAL 

(R) jjjj

Learning to live with the sound of silence

I remember something that the late Roger Ebert once said about the truly great movies being like empathy machines: They allow for us to live vicariously through the lives of different people and grown to understand where they come from, what drives them, and what forces either propel them forward or hold them back.   I could think of no other movie from this past year that fit this description more perfectly than Darius Marder's intoxicating and masterful SOUND OF METAL...

Posted December 22, 2020

FREAKY (R) jj1/2

Freaky Friday the 13th

The new Blumhouse produced horror comedy FREAKY is a wicked combination of FRIDAY THE 13TH and FREAKY FRIDAY, with the former being a mad slasher flick and the latter being a body swap comedy.  It comes from director Christopher Landon, who previously helmed the very funny and underrated HAPPY DEATH DAY, which was a fairly novel GROUNDHOG DAY copycat, albeit with horror film trappings.  Although FREAKY scores some laughs when it needs to and will definitely appease those of the slasher genre...

Posted December 22, 2020

MANK (R) 

jjj

A bed ridden screenwriter versus the boy wonder of Hollywood

I've been thinking an awful lot about David Fincher's new fact based Netflix period drama MANK, which takes its name from the famous American screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who's perhaps best known in cinema circles for co-winning an Oscar for the screenplay to what's largely considered the greatest film of all time in CITIZEN KANE.  Mankiewicz's collaboration with Orson Welles has been the stuff of contentious legend...

Posted December 11, 2020

HILLBILLY ELEGY 

(R) jj

Kentucky, we have a problem

Ron Howard's HILLBILLY ELEGY - streaming now on Netflix - is attempting, I think, to be an inspirational fact based coming of age drama about a young man growing up in abject poverty and strife that tries as best as he can to elevate himself above it without forgetting his roots.  Based on the memoir by J.D Vance that chronicled his troubled upbringing in the Deep South and his attempts to empower and better himself, the film contains so many superficially good performances by multiple Hollywood A-listers...

Posted December 11, 2020

MULAN (PG-13) jj

An uninspired Disney retread lacking in creative chi

Disney's MULAN - their umpteenth live action remake of an animated classic - is a real double dipper offender in terms of being wastefully unnecessary and a missed creative opportunity all the same.  Of course, this is based and adapted from the 1998 animated film of the same name, which, in turn, was taken from the Chinese folklore THE BALLAD OF MULAN.  I'll positively concede that it's unlike the studio's previous and near scene for scene remakes...

Posted December 11, 2020

UNHINGED (R) zero stars

Unbearable to sit through

UNHINGED is not only a putrid film, but it also lowers itself to the level of the worst kind of indefensible trash.  On paper, it's a hellishly violent road rage thriller that wants to be lurid, sensationalistic B-grade grindhouse fare and a thoughtful commentary piece about sensitive societal issues.  You simply can't have it both ways.  You can't offer up a portrait of toxically dangerous masculinity run amok and then revel in the bloodshed and carnage contained within while attempting to say something meaningful about what triggers psychopaths in the first place...

Posted November 30, 2020

LET HIM GO (R) jjj1/2

No country for old men and women

LET HIM GO is a thoroughly involving and sometimes positively chilling period thriller that's a welcome throwback to the types of slow-burn, character driven genre efforts of yesteryear that we frankly don't get in abundance anymore.  It's the kind of the thriller that places great respect in honoring the patience of filmgoers in letting its narrative play out slowly and methodically, so much so that when violence does permeate the picture it does so with a shockingly effective immediacy...

Posted November 30, 2020

THE SECRET GARDEN

(PG) jjj

The mystical power of nature

I'm not altogether sure that I coveted the last adaptation of THE SECRET GARDEN (produced by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope) so much so that I couldn't bare the thought of another cinematic iteration of this classic 1911 Francis Hodgson Burnett novel nearly three decades later.  One of the more iconic pieces of children's literature of its era, this fantasy drama has seen its fair share of versions on the silver screen...

Posted November 21, 2020

MORTAL (R) jj

Caught between Ragnarok and a hard place

MORTAL is a new Norwegian/American action thriller from director Andre Ovredal (TROLLHUNTER) that emerges as yet another entry in an increasingly exhausting line of movies with the premise of what if ordinary people possessed god-like powers...and it does so very little of anything compelling with it.  That's not to say that compelling movies can't be made with this premise (see CHRONICLE), but MORTAL is so slow moving, so listless, and so serious minded with its subject matter that it frequently comes off as unintentional self parody...

Posted November 21, 2020

I USED TO GO HERE (R) jjj

You can never go home again

I USED TO GO HERE is absolutely proof positive that a film with am extremely well worn premise (returning home to rediscover your roots) can be bolstered by the charming presence of its lead performer.  This indie comedy's ace up its sleeve is Gillian Jacobs, who's probably more familiar to most for her small screen work on shows like NBC's COMMUNITY and HBO's GIRLS, and here she plays a struggling author who makes a journey back to here alma mater and soon realizes that all of her past educational and career aspirations have hopelessly not come true...

Posted November 21, 2020

REBECCA (PG-13) jj

An attractive looking period romance thriller that lacks true sizzle

Netflix's REBECCA remake is sumptuously shot, handsomely produced, and simply looks sensational. Regrettably, though, it never elevates itself beyond being a dramatically serviceable and visually appealing bore that struggles to leave a lasting impression.  Of course, this is a redo of Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 effort (his only film to ever win a Best Picture Oscar), which in turn was based on the 1938 Daphne du Maurier romantic thriller novel of the same name...

Posted November 10, 2020

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM

(R) jjj1/2

This sequel very nice

It makes perfect sense that the sequel to 2006's - takes deep breath - BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KHAZAKHSTAN crept up on an unsuspecting movie world without much notice, which kind of reflects the go-for-broke and throw caution to the wind comic bravery of its star, writer and producer in Sacha Baron Cohen.  Rumors were circulating online several weeks ago that Cohen shot this follow-up film in secret (both prior to and during our current pandemic) before finally releasing it to a surprised world just in time for the U.S. presidential election...

Posted November 6, 2020

ON THE ROCKS 

(R) jj1/2

Father may not know best

There's a sly and effective moment midway through writer/director Sophia Coppola's caper comedy ON THE ROCKS (now streaming via Apple TV+) that showcases star Bill Murray at the absolute zenith of his wily on-screen charm.  His character in Felix (with his daughter Laura - Rashida Jones -  in tow in the passenger seat) are pulled over in the middle of the night in downtown Manhattan by police officers.  The soon-to-be ticketing officer asks him for his license and registration...

Posted November 6, 2020

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW

(R) jjj1/2

A not so sleepy hollow

Writer/director Jim Cummings' THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is an absolutely superb, darkly funny, and intensely enthralling small town horror comedy that plays like a weird and gloriously audacious cocktail of the regional idiosyncrasies of FARGO, the nocturnal terrors of THE WOLFMAN, and the deadpan comic absurdity of a James Gunn.  There have been too many films to count about werewolves, but very few build nail biting tension and macabre laughs as well as this one. ...

Posted November 6, 2020

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7  (PG-13)

jjjj

The whole streaming world is watching!

Aaron Sorkin's new fact-based historical courtroom drama THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (now playing on Netflix) contains the finest acting ensemble of the year and features an absolute embarrassment of performances riches.   Plus, Sorkin's scripting and dialogue - in true characteristic fashion - is as razor sharp and focused as it has ever been. ..

Posted October 29, 2020

SPONTANEOUS  (R) jjj

True love hurts

SPONTANEOUS is one of the strangest high school romcoms that I can recall seeing.  It contains a premise that definitely has not been done before, which is really saying something for the jam packed, dime-a-dozen nature of the genre.  This Brian Duffield written and directed affair deals with a suburban high school where its students start to...spontaneously explode.  Not emotionally.  Not metaphorically.  They literally and physically just explode into geysers of blood and goo...

Posted October 29, 2020

2067 (Unrated) jj1/2

Solving the problem of climate change...the hard way

The new sci-fi thriller 2067 (yes, a creatively lazy title) has a truly compelling time travel premise and some thoughtful insights into topical themes of climate change/ecological disasters, but it never manages to fully commit to these ideas, nor does it handsomely pay them off in any meaningful and satisfying manner.  The central ideas surrounding this Seth Laney helmed film are enthralling enough in the way he chronicles an Earth of the future that has lost all plant vegetation...

Posted October 29, 2020

THE GLORIAS  

(R) jjj1/2

A feminist powered historical road trip biopic

Director Julie Taymor's THE GLORIAS - now playing on Amazon Prime - is a thoroughly involving and superbly acted biopic that utilizes an appropriately unconventional and avant garde stylistic approach to cover multiple decades in the life of iconic feminist leader Gloria Steinem.  Based upon her own book MY LIFE ON THE ROAD, the film honors Steinem's tireless work in her field as an highly influential American activist...

Posted October 14, 2020

VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX  (PG-13) jjj

DIE, SUCKHEADS!

What's worse then gentrification, you may ask?   Gentrification caused by an invasion of blood thirsty white vampires (not metaphorically...literally).  This is part of the darkly amusing and novel hook of the new Netflix original film VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX, which is about as specific of a title as one will come across lately.  Directed with great energy and style by Oz Rodriguez (who previously made a name for himself helming many lauded digital shorts for Saturday Night Live)...

Posted October 14, 2020

AVA  (R) jj1/2

Chastian has a view to a kill

The superb and finely in-tune ensemble cast in the new spy thriller AVA deserved much better than the prosaic, by-the-book scripting that was clearly given to them.  Quarterbacked by the always assured Jessica Chastain (who also serves as producer here) and also helmed by her THE HELP director in Tate Taylor, the film simultaneously tries to subvert genre expectations while playing into the most overused and tired conventions of it, which leaves the final product feeling misshapen and half baked at best...

Posted October 14, 2020

ANTEBELLUM  (R) jjj

Pagin' Rod Serling...

 

ANTEBELLUM is, on a basic level, a psychological horror thriller that - much like GET OUT before it - uses the trappings of the genre to speak out about how racial tensions and the horrors of systemic bigotry affects the modern world.  Where this Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz effort does manage to one-up Jordan Peele's Oscar winning film is in its fairly ingenious plot twisty premise (which I'll get into in a bit and won't shy away from discussing, seeing as the marketing campaign for the film went out of its way to tip it off)...

Posted October 6, 2020

ENOLA HOLMES  

(PG-13) jjj

It's elementary, my dear brother Sherlock

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes holds the Guinness Book of World Records distinction of being the most portrayed character of all-time on film and TV.  I don't doubt that in anyway, but it does leave me in a somewhat hesitant state to explore yet another film featuring this iconic detective.  Granted, well known and utilized characters are always ripe for modern reinterpretation, I guess...

Posted October 6, 2020

TESLA  (PG-13) jj

Let the future tell the truth

The fascinating, but poorly executed TESLA tries to cover a lot of history in a far too brief running time, not to mention that the titular Serbian-American inventor, engineer, and way ahead of his time futurist becomes sort of an underwritten cipher in his own movie.  Considering the sheer scope of Nikola Tesla's breakthrough ideas and inventions - some of which included the design of the alternating electrical current and even shockingly prophetic ideas about wireless transmission of currents a century-plus before Wi-Fi was even an ubiquitous thing...

Posted October 6, 2020

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME (R) jjj

Southern Gothic

The new star studded Netflix period film THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is an impeccably acted and handsomely shot multi-decade and generational drama with a sprawling (yet sometimes too unwieldy for its own good) story that's about as unnervingly grim and violent as anything that I've seen this year.  Based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, this Antonio Campos directed effort details the deplorably seedy comings and goings of a series of southern characters in post World War II America...

Posted September 23, 2020

UNPREGNANT (PG-13) jj

A creatively unplanned road trip comedy

HBO MAX's UNPREGNANT sometimes comes off like a annoyingly quirky sitcom version of the alarmingly similar NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, which I reviewed a few months ago and thought was one of the finest dramas of the year.  Both films contain the same basic premise: A high school aged girl discovers that she's pregnant and decides to secretly travel outside of her home state in order to obtain a legal abortion without parental consent...

Posted September 23, 2020

I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (R) jjj

Eternal befuddlement of the streaming viewer's mind

I have a confession to make: I've been putting off writing my review for the latest Charlie Kaufman film I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS for as long as possible.  As a matter of fact, almost for a week now after screening it on Netflix (which produced and released it).  An adaptation of the 2016 debut novel of the same name by Canadian author Iain Reid, this film is almost impossible to classify (and discuss in detail without engaging in spoilers...but I'll try)...

Posted September 16, 2020

THE TAX COLLECTOR (R) j

An urban gangster drama in need of a creative audit

Very few films these days that feature decent talent in front of and behind the camera are as unpardonably wrongheaded and thoroughly wretched as THE TAX COLLECTOR, a new urban gangster thriller that makes so many ill advised decisions that you kind of wonder how the finished product came out in its final form without any measurable checks and balance system.   ...

Posted September 16, 2020

GET DUKED! (R) jjj1/2

Straight outta Highlands

AMAZON PRIME's deliriously bizarre and thoroughly hysterical outdoor survival horror- comedy GET DUKED! (formerly known as BOYZ IN THE WOOD) is like a twisted stylistic merging of Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi combined with its own unique brand of propulsive energy.  Its premise is a basic one: A group of high school lads take a class mandated journey through the Scottish highlands and then are hunted like animals by some sadistic rich folk residing there...

Posted September 16, 2020

TENET (PG-13) jjj

What's happened...happened

There's an action sequence in writer/director Christopher Nolan's newest science fiction spy thriller TENET that almost defies simple explanation, but I'll endeavor to do so here without engaging in any tangible spoilers. Let's just say that it involves a fist fight.  Seems pretty basic, right?  We have two combatants vying for dominance, which is about as obligatory of a setup as there is in a movie.  However, this one is anything but ordinary...

Posted September 5, 2020

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC

(PG-13) jjj1/2

A trilogy capper too good to be thrown in the iron maiden

There's a sly moment in BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC that pitch perfectly encapsulates the easy going vibe of its titular characters as well as the infectiously silly tone of this decades spanning series as a whole. It occurs during a pivotal scene when the now mid-fiftysomething Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) are faced with an insurmountable challenge that forces them into a decision that they fear will hurt their band's (Wyld Stallyns) reputation...

Posted September 5, 2020

THE NEW MUTANTS

(PG-13) jj1/2

Teachers...leave them mutant kids alone!

 

THE NEW MUTANTS - which marks the thirteenth installment of the longstanding X-MEN cinematic universe - is one of the many films this past year that was a victim of horrible release timing as a result of our current global pandemic, not to mention that it faced the added burden of being caught between a very public and recent acquisition of all of the Fox studio properties by Disney...

Posted September 5, 2020

PROJECT POWER

(PG-13) jjj

A streaming pill mostly worth taking

Even though the latest Netflix original film PROJECT POWER runs out of creative juices during its final act, it nevertheless finds some refreshingly novel ways of fusing together the super hero and drug trafficking genres with a rather ingenious premise.  Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who made the stylish, but empty minded NERVE) conjure up one humdinger of an enticing hook...

Posted August 28, 2020

CHEMICAL HEARTS (R) jjj

Teenage love and other drugs

In the wrong creative hands, Amazon Prime's CHEMICAL HEARTS - based on Krystal Sutherland's novel - would have been nauseatingly melodramatic and painfully hard to swallow as a high school coming of age drama.  Thankfully and in large part because of some fine writing and authentically rendered performances, the film emerges as an uncommonly perceptive, genuinely moving, and sensitive portrayal of adolescent heartache, loss, and first love.  And all of this is anchored by its two naturally in tune lead actors in Lily Reinhart and Austin Abrams...

Posted August 28, 2020

SPUTNIK (R) jjjj

In a Russian secret government base...no one can hear you scream

 

Yes, SPUTNIK takes its title from the world famous satellite of the of the same name launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, but it also translates (in English) as "companion," the latter of which makes more sense on a thematic level here.  This Russian made sci-fi horror thriller is a fairly ingenious hybrid: think of it as the love child of the combined work of Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, and John Carpenter.  It's also an unrelenting creepfest that deserves some very worthy comparisons to this year's THE INVISIBLE MAN...

Posted August 28, 2020

AN AMERICAN PICKLE

(PG-13) jjj

This is the dream...this is the goal...perfect jar of pickle

If you think that movies are utterly bereft of original ideas these days then clearly you haven't seen the new HBO Max comedy AN AMERICAN PICKLE, which contains a premise that has never been done before...or maybe it has, but just not quite like it.  The film stars Seth Rogen (also a producer here) playing a turn of the last century Jewish immigrant that accidentally finds himself locked in a huge vat of pickles and is preserved via its brine for one hundred years, after which time he re-awakens in modern day New York...

Posted August 17, 2020

MADE IN ITALY (R) jjj

Under the Tuscany sun

MADE IN ITALY is an unendingly charming and deeply personal drama made with an added aura of meta heartache and sorrow.  It stars real life father and son tandem Liam Neeson and Michael Richardson playing a fictional father and son tandem that are dealing with the tragic loss of their wife/mother, who died in a hellish car accident.  Neeson's own wife and Richardson's mother, Natasha Richardson, very famously perished in a 2009 skiing accident, which makes the whole emotionally undercurrent of MADE IN ITALY all the more palpable...

Posted August 17, 2020

THE OUTPOST (R) jjj

Defending an undefendable military base

The new fact-based war thriller THE OUTPOST marks a welcome return for director Rod Lurie, who hasn't made a film in nearly ten years (he previously helmed one of the best and most underrated political dramas of the 2000s in THE CONTENDER).  His latest tells the tale of 53 American soldiers and two Latvian military advisors that desperately tried to stave off the invasion of 400 enemy Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.  The U.S. base being attacked in question was a sitting duck, if there ever was one, located very deep in a valley and surrounded by three gigantic mountains on every side. ...

Posted August 8, 2020

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (PG-13) jj1/2

Honey, I'm still free...take a chance on me

Despite having one of the most nonsensical titles of recent memory, the latest Netflix original film EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (sorry, it sounds like a HUNGER GAMES spin-off) is a comedy set within the real life titular international competition that (quickly checks notes) introduced the world to the likes of ABBA and Celine Dion (arguably the most well known winners)...

Posted August 8, 2020

GHOSTS OF WAR (R) jj1/2

Ghost in the war machine

I love a solid genre mishmash as much as the next, and the one proposed by director Eric Bress (THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT) is an intriguing one, to be sure, in GHOSTS WAR.  The film builds up an awful lot of initial promise as a World War II, men-on-a-mission flick crossed with an haunted house supernatural horror film.  There have been recent examples of films melding fact and horror fiction (like the superbly underrated zombie-fuelled OVERLORD)...

Posted August 8, 2020

GUNS AKIMBO (R) jj

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

ARCHIVE (R) jjj

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  

GREYHOUND (PG-13) jjj

"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

THE OLD GUARD (R) jjj

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

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT

(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

FORCE OF NATURE (R) 1/2j

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

IRRESISTIBLE (R) jjj

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

ARTEMIS FOWL (PG) j

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

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND

(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

THE VAST OF NIGHT 

(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

THE TRIP TO GREECE (R) jjj

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

THE LOVEBIRDS (R) jj1/2

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

VALLEY GIRL (PG-13) jjj

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

ORDINARY LOVE (R) jjj1/2

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

SPACESHIP EARTH (R) jjj

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

THE ASSISTANT (R) jjj1/2

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

EXTRACTION (R) jjj

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

BAD EDUCATION

(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

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (PG-13) jjjj

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

THE LAST FULL MEASURE (R) jj

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

DOWNHILL (R) jj

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

COFFEE & KAREEM

(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

ONWARD (PG) jj

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

INTERNATIONAL FALLS 

(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

VIVARIUM (R) jjj

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

BANANA SPLIT (R) jjj

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

BLOW THE MAN DOWN  (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

THE JESUS ROLLS (R) j

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 GIRLS (R) jjj

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

  

 

 

THE LAST THING HE WANTED

(R) j1/2

 

SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL

(R) jj

 

THE WAY BACK 

(R) jjj1/2

 

COLOR OUT OF SPACE

(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

 

THE NIGHT CLERK  

(R) jj

 

THE INVISIBLE MAN

(R) jjjj

 

THE CALL OF THE WILD 

(PG) jj1/2  

 

A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE:

FARMAGEDDON 

(PG) jjj1/2  

 

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 

(PG) jjj

 

FANTASY ISLAND 

(R)  zero stars

 

HORSE GIRL

(R) jjj  

 

BIRDS OF PREY 

(AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)

(R) jjj  

 

UNCUT GEMS

(R) jjj  

 

THE RHYTHM SECTION 

(R) jj1/2  

 

THE GENTLEMEN

(R) jjj

 

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE 

(R) jj

 

DOLITTLE 

(PG) 1/2j

 

UNDERWATER 

(R) jjj

 

1917 

(R) jjj

 

THE TWO POPES

(PG-13) jjj

 

PARASITE

(R) jjjj

 

LITTLE WOMEN

(PG-13) jjj 

 

BOMBSHELL

(R) jjj

 

JUDY

(PG-13) jj1/2 

 

STAR WARS:

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

(PG-13) jj

 

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

(PG-13)  

jjj

 

RICHARD JEWELL

(R) jjj

 

MARRIAGE STORY

(R) jjj

 

HUSTLERS

(R) jjj

 

THE IRISHMAN

(R) jjjj

 

KNIVES OUT

(PG-13) jjjj

 

THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

(PG-13)

jjj1/2

 

FORD V FERRARI 

(R) jjj1/2

 

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

(PG) jjj

 

DOCTOR SLEEP

(R) jjj

 

MIDWAY (PG-13)jj1/2

 

JOJO RABBIT

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

(R) jj1/2

 

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE

(R) jjj1/2

 

ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

(R) jjj

 

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

(PG-13) j1/2

 

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME

(No MPAA Rating)

jjj1/2

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE

(R) jjjj

 

GEMINI MAN

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

EL CAMINO: 

A BREAKING BAD MOVIE 

(No MPAA Rating)jjj1/2

 

MIDSOMMAR

(R) jj1/2

 

JOKER

(R) jjjj

 

AD ASTRA  

(PG-13) jjjj

 

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

(R) jj1/2

 

BETWEEN TWO FERNS: 

THE MOVIE 

(No MPAA Rating) jjj1/2 

 

SHAFT (R) j1/2

 

IT: CHAPTER TWO

(R) jj1/2

 

THE GOLDFINCH

(R) j1/2

 

THE FANATIC

(R) zero stars

 

ISN'T IT ROMANTIC

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ANGEL HAS FALLEN  

(R) jj1/2

 

MA  

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READY OR NOT

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GOOD BOYS

(R) jjj

 

THE HUSTLE

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