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CrAiGeR's REVIEW ARCHIVES

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

 

 

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

 

 

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CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

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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

 

 

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CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1950's

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1940's

 

 

 

 

 

 

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) jjj

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

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

SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL

(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

COLOR OUT OF SPACE

(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

THE NIGHT CLERK  (R) jj

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

THE INVISIBLE MAN (R) jjjj

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

THE CALL OF THE WILD 

(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

A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE:

FARMAGEDDON (PG) jjj1/2  

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

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (PG) jjj

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

BIRDS OF PREY 

(AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (R) jjj  

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

THE RHYTHM SECTION (R) jj1/2  

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

THE GENTLEMEN (R) jjj

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

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE (R) jj

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

DOLITTLE (PG) 1/2j

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

UNDERWATER (R) jjj

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 TWO POPES (PG-13) jjj

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

PARASITE (R) jjjj

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

LITTLE WOMEN (PG-13) jjj 

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

BOMBSHELL (R) jjj

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

STAR WARS:

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

(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

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

(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

RICHARD JEWELL (R) jjj

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

MARRIAGE STORY (R) jjj

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

HUSTLERS (R) jjj

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

THE IRISHMAN (R) jjjj

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, Iím very happy to report that writer/director Rian Johnsonís KNIVES OUT is a most welcome return to superb form for the filmmaker.  Itís 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

THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

(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

FORD V FERRARI (R) jjj1/2

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

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (R) jjj

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

DOCTOR SLEEP (R) jjj

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

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

(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

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE

(R) jjj1/2

SWEEP THE LEG, JESSE!

Writer/director Riley Stearns' THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE is one of 2019ís 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

ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

(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

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

(PG-13) j1/2

Well...well...well...

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

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME 

(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

THE LIGHTHOUSE (R) jjjj

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

EL CAMINO

A BREAKING BAD MOVIE 

(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

MIDSOMMAR (R) jj1/2

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

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD (R) jj1/2

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

BETWEEN TWO FERNS: 

THE MOVIE 

(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

IT: CHAPTER TWO (R) jj1/2

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

THE GOLDFINCH (R) j1/2

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

ISN'T IT ROMANTIC (PG-13) jjj

A romcom within a romcom

I've frequently complained about the relative sameness of romcom entries, with so many that have been released over the years all feeling like they're made of the same regurgitated parts.  ISN'T IT ROMANTIC is, at least in some decent respects, an antidote this genre's most overused conventions, not to mention that it's a solid starring vehicle for Rebel Wilson (her solo debut).  It's a romantic fantasy that offers up a pretty intoxicating premise ripe for all sorts of comic possibilities...

Posted September 22, 2019

ANGEL HAS FALLEN (R) jj1/2

A bad day to die hard

To this very day I've find myself still defending my 3.5 star review of the 2013 DIE HARD clone OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.  That Antoine Fuqua directed, Gerard Butler staring action vehicle never once hid the fact that it was a beyond obvious knock-off of the iconic 1988 Bruce Willis franchise/genre starter, but it emerged as one of the finest emulators of that cherished and very overused template and wholeheartedly delivered on successfully riffing on the bombastic films of a bygone era.  Having said that, I never thought that the superbly engineered OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was requiring sequels...

Posted September 9, 2019

MA (R) jj

Big momma's house of horrors

MA is a new entry in an increasingly generic psychological thriller genre featuring deeply unhinged psychopaths that initially manage to find a way to befriend a small group of people with false displays of amiability before later being revealed as being dangerously unhinged and, well, full-on evil.  This Blumhouse produced effort concerns a group of partying teenagers who become close with a lonely middle aged woman that gives them access to booze and her basement to party...but then she's revealed to be an unchecked nutjob.  There's one thing that helps elevate this fairly pedestrian material: the presence of lead actress Octavia Spencer in the stalker role...

Posted September 9, 2019

READY OR NOT (R) jjj1/2

Here we come!

Just when you thought that the summer film season was all but over and done along comes READY OR NOT to emerge as one of the season's real eleventh hour diamond in the rough delights.  This viscerally nasty, but darkly hysterical screwball horror comedy benefits greatly from two things: (1) a wickedly nifty premise and (2) one of the most thanklessly committed genre performances of the summer (if not the year) by newcomer Samara Weaving, who runs the absolute emotional and physical gauntlet here in a very tricky role...

Posted August 31, 2019

GOOD BOYS (R) jjj

Bean Bag Boyz 4Life!

If your idea of a good time at the cinema is to spend 90 minutes watching a movie featuring six graders drop frequent f-bombs - and many, many other naughty words that would make the personas of GOODFELLAS cringe - then look no further than the paradoxically titled GOOD BOYS.  As for the rest of you...be afraid...be very afraid.  Okay, sarcasm aside, let me engage in some hard hitting truth bombing on you all.  Kids swear.  Sometimes...a lot...

Posted August 31, 2019

THE HUSTLE (PG-13) j

A dirty rotten remake

Announced in 2016, shot in 2017, and then very unceremoniously dumped in cinemas this year, THE HUSTLE is a remake of a remake that's inexcusable in its wretchedness.  The grifter comedy - with the latter word being used loosely - is a remake of the splendid 1988 Steve Martin and Michael Caine classic DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, which, in turn, was adapted from the Marlon Brando and David Niven headlined 1964 film BEDTIME STORY...

Posted August 31, 2019

TOLKIEN (PG-13) jj1/2

One paint-by-numbers biopic that doesn't rule them all

Outside of my basic knowledge that he wrote some of the most cherished and iconic fantasy novels of the 20th Century, I really don't profess to be an expert or scholar on the life and times of James Ronald Reuel Tolkien, known the world over as J.R.R. Tolkien, the creator of, yes, THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.  Often considered the father of modern fantasy literature, there's simply no denying his massive influence and importance for the genre, which also spawned one of the most critically and audience adored film trilogies ever made...

Posted August 24, 2019

STOCKHOLM (R) jj

A dog of a movie to not watch in the afternoon

The new fact based crime drama STOCKHOLM takes its name from, yes, the Swedish city, but the film is also based on a 1974 Daniel Lang New Yorker article that concerned a real-life bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred at a major bank in the city.  Taking place at Norrmalmstorg square in Stockholm in 1973, this well publicized incident - one of the first criminal events to be broadcast on live TV in the nation - helped coin the term "Stockholm Syndrome"...

Posted August 24, 2019

THE FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

(PG-13) jj1/2

The Transporters

To quote its full and somewhat awkwardly assembled titled, FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW is the very first spin-off entry in the seemingly impervious to death franchise that was arguably born out of a reported clashing of two massive action hero egos.  Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel apparently did not like being in each other's presence while on set of the last F&F film, which meant that separating the pair and giving the former his own entry proved inevitable...

Posted August 17, 2019

I AM MOTHER

(No MPAA Rating) jjj

 

Never to part...baby of mine...

The new Netflix film I AM MOTHER is an atypically handsome looking and thoughtfully scripted sci-fi genre effort for the streaming network, one that refreshingly favors compelling themes and empowered performances over bombastic action and VFX overkill.  Based ever so loosely on the young adult novel THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA by Tony DiTerlizzi, this Grant Sputore helmed film represents a solid feature debut for the Australian director...

Posted August 17, 2019

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

(R) jjj1/2

And the industry lived happily ever after

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino was just a wee young lad in 1969 when he was growing up in the City of Angels, with both that year and location serving of prominent importance to his ninth directorial effort in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.   Los Angeles is, of course, a legendary place deeply entrenched in moviemaking that, by the filmmaker's own admission, has indelibly shaped his life and career.  The film's title hints at not only its fairy tale trappings...

Posted August 5, 2019

CRAWL (R) jjj

Here comes the story of the hurricane...

CRAWL is two movies for the price of one.  It's a monster horror flick about a real life aquatic creature wreaking havoc on a deeply vulnerable family and it's also an outdoor survival drama concerning a dangerous force of Mother Nature baring down on the same said family.  There's not much here that really reinvents the genre wheel, and the Alexandre Aja (PIRANHA 3D) directed and Sam Raimi/Blumhouse produced effort plays into the playbook of those aforementioned types of films without straying too much away from them...

Posted August 5, 2019

THE INTRUDER (PG-13 zero stars

SOMEONE CALL THE COPS ON THE MAKERS OF THIS FILM!!!

Two things dawned on me while watching the new home invasion thriller THE INTRUDER: 1. Star Dennis Quaid is impossibly ripped for a man that's five years away from 70.  2. This movie really sucks. THE INTRUDER is a double dipping offender:  It's not just an artistically lazy film, but also a wholeheartedly unnecessary one...

Posted August 5, 2019

THE LION KING 

(PG-13) jj

A broken circle of life

I covet the original 1994 LION KING as highly as anybody.  Disney's 32nd and sumptuously 2D animated feature arguably represented the highest artistic and commercial plateau for the House of Mouse during that era (it came just four years into the company's new renaissance and ended up being the highest grossing film of its year and still remains the biggest money making 2D animated effort in existence)...

Posted July 28, 2019

AFTER (PG-13) j

Unhappily ever after

The new young adult romance drama AFTER is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Anna Todd that's so insipidly scripted that one has to question how the book version even saw the publishing light of day.  It tells a story of hopeless mediocrity and numbing predictability about a young "nice girl" college freshman that finds herself falling for a "bad boy" that has multiple issues...

Posted July 28, 2019

STUBER (R) jjj

RIDE SHARE: THE MOVIE!

STUBER - which takes its name as an amalgam of the name of one of its lead characters and the world famous ride sharing company - is another in an awfully long line of throwback buddy cop action comedies that feels like it's made of regurgitated parts from countless other films.  It wallows in a considerable amount of formulas and conventions, not to mention that its premise, on paper, is pretty silly...

Posted July 28, 2019

THE BEACH BUM  (R) j1/2

Consider the 'McConaughnaissance' over...

Watching THE BEACH BUM was akin to being forced to spend 90 straight minutes with an annoyingly dislikeable goon that simply won't leave you alone despite all efforts on your part to tell him to "go away!"  It was one of the most thoroughly unpleasant filmgoing experiences that I've had this year, which was made all the more unpleasant when one considers that there's sizeable talent in front of and behind the camera...

Posted July 20, 2019

TEEN SPIRIT (PG-13) jj1/2

Here we are now...entertain us!

Two thirds of TEEN SPIRIT work really well.  It contains a winning lead performance as well as stylish and evocative direction by a rookie director.  The remaining third of the film, though, that regrettably doesn't work is its screenplay, which wallows in a lot of tired underdog formulas that we've frankly been exposed to countless times before...

Posted July 20, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

(PG-13) jj

My "Peter Tingle" is...tingling

The super hero movie world was shaken to near Snap- level proportions back in 2015 when Sony and the Disney owned Marvel Studios hatched out a plan to allow for Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a reported five film loan (Sony has owned the movie rights to the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko character for years).  This culminated with a first appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR...

Posted July 13, 2019

YESTERDAY (PG-13) jjj

Still my guitar gently weeps

YESTERDAY is a new musical dramatic fantasy that has one terrific hook: What if you woke up one day and discovered that The Beatles never existed. Now, just let that settle in for a second. Just imagine the musical landscape of the last several decades without the work of the Fab Four.  Their work was not just music, kind of like how STAR WARS was not just a movie.  If erased from history, the ripple effects of The Beatles' influence on multiple generations of musicians would have, in turn, never existed...

Posted July 13, 2019

HIGH LIFE (R) jjjj

To infinity...and beyond!

There have been enough science fiction films that have explored space travel to literally fill a black hole, which leaves most new entries having to work overtime to overcome stale genre lethargy.  HIGH LIVE falls into the aforementioned category, but its genius is in how deceptively it transcends the obligatory accoutrements of these types of space trekking tales, partially because of its masterfully economic scale, but mostly because it's the exact polar opposite of what viewers have come to expect from the genre...

Posted July 13, 2019 

TOY STORY 4 

(PG) jjj

Once again, you got a friend in me...

Pixar has absolutely nothing to prove.  The pioneering animation studio was solely responsible for fundamentally altering the landscape of movies forever with the release of 1995's TOY STORY, which was the very first animated feature film done entirely with computers.  Much like what the original STAR WARS did for visual effects, the John Lasseter directed TOY STORY opened up a whole new portal into how animated films could be conceived and created...

Posted July 4, 2019

DOMINO (R) jj

De Palma's way

I fondly recall a time when seeing a Brain De Palma film reached event status levels for me.  The stylish and acclaimed auteur made some of the most memorable films of the 1970s and 1980s in CARRIE, BLOW OUT, SCARFACE, and THE UNTOUCHABLES.  This led to a bit of a career slowdown in the 90s, and for every solid effort like CARLITO'S WAY and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE there were colossal misfires like THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES...

Posted July 4, 2019

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL 

(PG-13) j1/2

Can this sequel be neuralized out of existence?

The somewhat more inclusive minded titled MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL is a pretty bland and creatively lackluster sequel that, last I checked, not too many people were clamoring for, especially without the series' lead actors or creative personnel returning.  It's the fourth film in the science fiction comedy franchise...

Posted June 25, 2019

LATE NIGHT (R) jjj1/2

And heeeeeeeeere's...Mindy!

LATE NIGHT is an intelligently written, wonderfully acted, and hilariously insightful workplace comedy that feels like a most joyous and welcome antidote to the current summer film season's witless remakes and wrongheaded sequels.  It's not only a riotously funny expose on the behind the scenes mechanizations of a fictitious late night talk show program, but is also a highly topical and relevant tale of how race, gender, and modern feminism figures into a male dominated profession...

Posted June 25, 2019

THE DEAD DON'T DIE (R) jj

A mostly dead on arrival horror comedy

THE DEAD DON'T DIE is a new zombie themed effort that felt more like a bizarre and frequently frustrating to endure curiosity piece than it did a fully fledged and realized horror comedy.  The fact that it boasts an impressively assembled and eclectic cast and the idiosyncratic writer/director Jim Jarmusch at the creative helm made my enthusiasm going in exceedingly high...

Posted June 25, 2019

DARK PHOENIX (PG-13) jj

Not exactly rising from the series ashes

There's an unintentionally hilarious - and quite meta - line of dialogue uttered during DARK PHOENIX, the twelfth installment in Fox's X-MEN-centric film franchise and the direct sequel to 2016's X-MEN: APOCALYPSE.  During this scene we see former mass human murdering mutant turned at peace with himself communal hippie once again turned hostile Erik "Magneto" Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) getting fed up with frenemy Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his rhetoric...

Posted June 15, 2019

  

 

 

 

BOOKSMART

(R) jjj

 

ROCKETMAN

(R) jjj

 

GODZILLA

KING OF THE MONSTERS

(R) jj1/2

 

ALADDIN

(PG) jj

 

STARFISH 

(No MPAA Rating)jjj1/2

 

BRIGHTBURN

(R) jj

 

JOHN WICK: 

CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM

(R) jjjj

 

WHAT MEN WANT

(R) j1/2

 

APOLLO 11

(PG) jjjj

 

POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

(PG) jj

 

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

(R) jjj

 

LONG SHOT

(R) jjj

 

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE

(No MPAA Rating)

jj

 

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

(PG-13)

jjj

 

UNDER THE SILVER LAKE 

(R) jjj

 

MISS BALA 

(PG-13) jj

 

PET SEMATARY

(R) jj1/2  

 

HELLBOY

(R) j1/2  

 

REPLICAS

(R) j

 

MISSING LINK

(PG) jjj1/2 

 

A DOG'S WAY HOME

(PG) j1/2

 

SHAZAM!

(PG-13)

jjj1/2

 

DUMBO 

(PG)

jj

 

THE HIGHWAYMEN

(No MPAA Rating)

 

jjj

 

THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

US

(R) jjj

 

FIVE FEET PART

(PG-13) jj1/2 

 

CAPTIVE STATE

(PG-13) jj

 

TRIPLE FRONTIER

(No MPAA Rating)

 

jjj

 

CAPTAIN MARVEL

(PG-13)

jj1/2

 

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

(PG-13) jjj

 

ARCTIC (R)

jjj1/2

 

GRETA

(R) jj

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON:

THE HIDDEN WORLD 

(PG)

jjjj

 

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT 

(R) jjj1/2

 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL 

(PG-13)

jjj1/2

 

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U 

(PG-13) jj1/2

 

THE LEGO MOVIE 2:

THE SECOND PART

(PG) jjj

 

COLD PURSUIT

(R) jjj1/2

 

THE LEGO MOVIE 2:

THE SECOND PART 

(PG) jjj

 

COLD PURSUIT

(R) jjj1/2

 

VELVET BUZZSAW

(No MPAA Rating)

jj1/2

 

HIGH FLYING BIRD

(No MPAA Rating)

jjj