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

 

 

I recount the ten worst reasons to enter a cinema in the year that was.

 

 

I recount the ten best reasons to enter a cinema in the year that was.

 

 
 

 
     
 

Total number of print reviews in archive:

1823

 

 

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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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

(PG) jj

Some mysteries aren't worth solving

To quote its full title, POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU isn't a film made for me.  I don't know much about Pokemon.  I'm not a fan of the Pokemon phenomenon.  I don't try to hunt and/or collect Pokemon (either virtually or literally).  And maybe I don't simply get Pokemon.  But I do know that POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU isn't so much a movie as it is a near two hour product placement commercial...

Posted May 20, 2019

APOLLO 11 (PG) jjjj

A doc for all mankind

There are very few films these days that legitimately instill in me a childlike sensation of awe and wonder in their sights and make me feel like I've been thoroughly transported out of my cinema chair and into the events transpiring on screen as an active participant.  Todd Douglas Miller's astonishing new documentary, simply titled APOLLO 11, is one of those decidedly rare breeds of filmgoing experiences...

Posted May 20, 2019

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

(R) jjj

A stone cold heist thriller

The thought of seeing yet another crooked cops thriller really has very little appeal to me these days, seeing as my time to screen movies is precious, not to mention that the genre itself has been literally done to death over the years.  But writer/director S. Craig Zahler's DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE has somewhat renewed my faith in these types of films, mostly because it favors slow burn intrigue and character dynamics versus action...

Posted May 20, 2019

LONG SHOT (R) jjj

The odd couple road to the White House

I don't typically ask much of most romcoms. I honestly don't.  Even when their plots go down the most predictable of paths all that I simply require out of them is to make me care.  These films must give me two characters that are likeable, relatable, and that I want to see live on happily ever after just before the end credits roll by...

Posted May 15, 2019

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE

(No MPAA Rating) jj

 

Confessions of a serial killer

 

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL, AND VILE is an extremely uneven, shockingly misguided, and dull biographical crime thriller.  It’s a portrait of Ted Bundy - one of the most loathsome serial killers of all time - and his relationship with his then girlfriend before the law caught up with him and his heinous crimes.  Sadly, this film is never really sure what it wants to be about...

 

Posted May 15, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

(PG-13)  jjj

We're in the fan servicing endgame now, Tony... 

I remember screening the very first IRON MAN film way, way back in 2008 and, for the most part, shrugged off the final end credit scene featuring a surprise cameo by Samuel L. Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho Nick Fury talking to Robert Downey Jr.'s metal clad hero about "the Avengers Initiative."  Contemplating the massive scope of what was promised here, I turned to my friend at the time and whispered into his ear that an AVENGERS film will "never happen"...

Posted May 6, 2019

UNDER THE SILVER LAKE 

(R) jjj

There's a silver lining to this troubled production

After the twisted, genre busting greatness of writer/director David Robert Mitchell's 2014 art house horror thriller IT FOLLOWS - which I proudly placed on my list for the Ten Best Films of that year - I was willing to jump down any rabbit hole he placed in front of me moving forward.  With its joyously and nostalgically synthesized music score, slick direction, and crafty and sly dissection of teen slasher film troupes, IT FOLLOWS ushered Mitchell in as a bono fide talent...

Posted May 6, 2019

MISS BALA  (PG-13) jj

An AK-47 packing beauty queen 

The new crime thriller MISS BALA is one of those all too frequent and frustrating filmgoing experiences because it contains a wonderfully authentic and textured lead performance that's mostly betrayed from some extremely spotting writing and weak handling of its would-be compelling themes.  The premise itself - if handled improperly - easily inspires chuckles...

Posted May 6 , 2019 

PET SEMATARY (R) jj1/2  

This gravesite needs a spell check

I have vague memories of the original 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 PET SEMATARY horror novel, which places me, I guess, in a somewhat advantageous place going into its modern remake of the same name without having any baggage.  As to the number of changes and tweaks this Kevin Kolsch and Denis Widmyer directed version makes to the source material and the previous film iteration I cannot say...

Posted April 27, 2019

REPLICAS (R) j

Man playing God...the really dumb version

 

A few weeks ago I appeared on live TV and defended Keanu Reeves for being a better actor than he's often given credit for.  I also went on to explain that when he's given just the right character, film, and director married to his unique skills then he can be a commanding and charismatic screen presence (the recent JOHN WICK films come to mind).  However, I did concede that the Canadian actor has most certainly delivered his fair share of lousy performances and has appeared in many equally mediocre films over the years...

 

Posted April 27, 2019

HELLBOY (R) j1/2  

Aw crap

Back in 2004 writer/director Guillermo del Toro introduced movie audiences to the bizarre comic book universe of HELLBOY, which in turn was born in comic book form thanks to Mike Mignola.  I enjoyed that film as a preposterously imaginative fantasy that was unafraid to go against the grain of obligatory genre fare of the era.  That, and del Toro painted the screen with luscious art direction and then cutting edge visual effects...

Posted April 25, 2019

MISSING LINK (PG) jjj1/2  

Where the not so wild things are

The unendingly delightful and beautifully rendered MISSING LINK is the latest stop motion animated effort from Laika, the Oregon based studio that previously made one of the best films of its kind in 2016's KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (which, incidentally, made my list of the Ten Best Films of its year).  Their follow-up effort could not be anymore different in MISSING LINK...

Posted April 25, 2019

SHAZAM!  

(PG-13) jjj1/2

HOLY MOLEY!!!

How is it even possible that a comic book character that premiered to readers just a year after Superman in 1939, sold more comic books during the 1940s than the Man of Steel, and has been a pretty consistently popular entity for several decades has never had a lavish big screen live action film all to his own?...

Posted April 16, 2019

A DOG'S WAY HOME

(PG) j1/2

A dog with fleas family drama

Full disclosure: I'm more of a cat man.  Sorry, canine lovers.  However, I don't hate dogs.  I like dogs too.  But I hate dumb movies about dogs.  Actually, I hate dumb movies about any type of animal.  I just wanted to throw that all out there before I officially review A DOG'S WAY HOME, just so I don't, as I move forward, come off as some smug feline lover.  Just to be clear, there have been many movies involving talking animals - in one form or another - that I've cherished...

Posted April 16, 2019

DUMBO 

(PG) jj

Another Disney remake that rarely soars

It's utterly ironic that we can essentially thank Tim Burton for the recent batch of Disney's live action adaptations of their own cherished animated classics. The studio's recent and highly dubious business practice as of late really began with Burton's own large scale and lavish live action iteration of their own ALICE IN WONDERLAND...

Posted April 8, 2019

THE HIGHWAYMEN

(No MPAA Rating) jjj

 

On the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde

 

When cinephiles think of the Depression era criminal ways of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker it's pretty easy to deduce that Arthur Penn's iconic Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway starring 1960's film probably comes immediately to their minds.  That fifty-plus year old classic deserves its legendary status in the industry, most specifically for how incomparably important it was for the then New Hollywood culture...

 

Posted April 8, 2019

THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT 

(PG-13) jj1/2

The butterfly Internet effect

THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is a new techno-thriller that's about a bunch of industrious conmen that want to secretly install a vast fiber optic cable in the ground running from Kansas to New York that, if successful, will allow them a one millisecond advantage on all other investors in stock exchange transactions, thereby making them rich.  Now, maybe the term techno-thriller could be used sarcastically in describing this film...

Posted April 8, 2019

US (R) jjj

Invasion of the body double snatchers

 

I can't think of a single other filmmaker in recent memory that has had as much of an unlikely career transition and meteoric rise in the industry as Jordan Peele.  He went from writing and appearing in TV sketch comedy as part of the two-man group Key and Peele with Keegan Michael Key and literally overnight became a member of the directorial elite with his first feature film behind the camera in 2017's GET OUT...

 

Posted April 5, 2019

FIVE FEET PART (PG-13) jj1/2 

Lovers in a dangerous time

FIVE FEET APART is the kind of movie that polarized me more than any other that I've recently screened.  Parts of me greatly admired its layered and authentically rendered performances.  Other parts of me loathed this film for how shamefully manipulative it was in using a particularly awful disease for the purposes of making a pretty paint-by-numbers and on genre autopilot teen romance drama...

Posted April 5, 2019

CAPTIVE STATE (PG-13) jj

A sci-fi thriller held hostage by poor world building

CAPTIVE STATE is a new freedom fighters battling an alien invasion and occupation sci-fi thriller that has an awful lot of compelling ideas and themes as far as this very overstuffed genre goes.  It's a tremendously ambitious movie.  But, gee whiz, it's also messily scripted, ineptly edited, and, worst of all, quite dull overall, which makes it especially hard to care about anyone or anything in the storyPlus, and this might sound weird, but CAPTIVE STATE suffers from, well, being a movie...

Posted March 31, 2019

TRIPLE FRONTIER

(No MPAA Rating) jjj

 

One last score

The new Netflix original film TRIPLE FRONTIER boasts some serious talent behind the scenes.  We have screenwriter Mark Boal, who previously penned and produced ZERO DARK THIRTY as well as winning an Oscar for his script for the Best Picture awarded THE HURT LOCKER.  Behind the camera for TRIPLE FRONTIER is J.C. Chandor, best known for one of the best outdoor survival films ever made in 2013's ALL IS LOST...

Posted March 31, 2019

CAPTAIN MARVEL

(PG-13) jj1/2

I'm just a girl in the world...

Yes, the fact that CAPTAIN MARVEL is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first solo super hero entry that stars a woman and is co-written and directed by a woman is definitely something to be celebrated.  Having said that, it's taken the MCU an unforgivably long time - twenty films and over ten years, as a matter of fact - to release a female driven comic book film, which means that CAPTAIN MARVEL is in the better late than never category...

Posted March 19, 2019

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

(PG-13) jjj

Do ya smell what Paige is cookin'?

Part dysfunctional family drama, part underdog overcoming all odds sports biopic, and part WWE recruitment film, FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY tells the fact based story - with obvious dramatic embellishment and some blind eye turning to history - of Saraya-Jade Bevis, an English professional wrestling personality that would eventually adopt the moniker of "Paige" and become one of the biggest female stars of the WWE...

Posted March 19, 2019

ARCTIC (R) jjj1/2

A most - ahem! - chilling outdoor survival thriller

There have been far too many man versus nature outdoor survival thrillers over the years to seemingly keep track of, which means that any filmmaker trying to impart some much needed freshness of approach in the well worn genre most certainly has their work cut of for them.  Nevertheless, I'm a real sucker for these type of films, especially when they reduce ordinary people down to their primal essence in a desperate attempt to stave off thirst, hunger, predators, and eventually death...

Posted March 19, 2019

GRETA (R) jj

Not everyone needs a friend

GRETA is the kind of psychopathic stalker killer from hell genre exercise that feels so woefully telegraphed, antiquated, and paint-by-numbers that I left my screening pondering why a filmmaker of Neil Jordan's established pedigree would ever bother wasting his time making it.  This is a film essentially made on autopilot, emulating the very popular aforementioned sub-genre that became prominent in the 1980s and 1990s...

Posted March 10, 2019

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON:

THE HIDDEN WORLD 

(PG) jjjj

How to make the perfect trilogy

Dreamworks' HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON franchise has been one of the sublime surprises of the animated film world, which began so modestly, yet powerfully with the 2010 original that told an epically staged Viking fantasy storyline featuring an awkward and shy lad befriending an elusive dragon (mythical beasts that were sworn enemies of humanity)...

Posted March 10, 2019

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT 

(R) jjj1/2

Sam Elliott: Nazi and creature hunter

To quote its gloriously specific - yet monumentally spoilerific - title, THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is a new action adventure film steeped in history and more than a bit of pulpy, comic book inspired intrigue.  Reading that title alone will probably elicit ample eye rolling in some filmgoers, seeing as it will probably make them feel that this is low budget, B-grade fare designed for midnight showings at grindhouse cinemas...

Posted March 10, 2019

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL 

(PG-13) jjj1/2

More human than human

Considering that he began his career with remarkable modesty back in the mid-90s making an introductory feature film that cost a measly $7000, it's a staggering experience to witness Robert Rodriguez play within the multi-million dollar budgeted sandbox that is ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL...

Posted February 28, 2019

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U 

(PG-13) jj1/2

Worst.  Day.  Again.  Ever.

Remember 2017's HAPPY DEATH DAY, the GROUNDHOG DAY inspired time looping knock-off that was a surprisingly enjoyable and mostly razor sharp dissection of teen slasher horror films?  For that matter, do you remember 2017's HAPPY DEATH DAY, the GROUNDHOG DAY inspired time looping knock-off that was a surprisingly enjoyable and mostly razor sharp dissection of teen slasher horror films...

Posted February 28, 2019

THE LEGO MOVIE 2:

THE SECOND PART 

(PG) jjj

Everything is sort of awesome with this sequel

I had the lowest of low expectations going into the original THE LEGO MOVIE back in 2014, seeing as I thought it was another lame and bottom feeding attempt on Hollywood's part to try to cash in by make a prominent toy line into a feature length film.  Rather improbably - and some would say (ahem!) awesomely ­- the Chris Lord and Phil Miller animated effort was a joyously unexpected cinematic curveball...

Posted February 18, 2019

COLD PURSUIT  (R) jjj1/2

Revenge is a dish best served...

No beginning of the movie year would ever been complete without the annual right of passage known as the Liam Neeson seeks vengeance, takes names, and kicks ass revenge action thriller.  It's become a staple of the veteran sixtysomething actor's career rejuvenation over the last decade-plus, which highlighted the former Oskar Schindler and Michael Collins actor get down and dirty in some fiendishly enjoyable B-grade exploitation efforts...

Posted February 18, 2019

VELVET BUZZSAW

(No MPAA Rating) jj1/2 

 

Gilroy's art world satire/horror thriller isn't quite so razor sharp

On paper, VELVET BUZZSAW should have been a grand slam home run.  It contains the writer/director and stars of NIGHTCRAWLER in Dan Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rene Russo respectively and features subject matter that's absolutely ripe for nail biting satire: the world of the uber pretentious and self-aggrandizing contemporary L.A. art world and criticism...

Posted February 18, 2019

HIGH FLYING BIRD

(No MPAA Rating) jjj

Soderbergh's near slam dunk sports drama

One thing that I'll give Steven Soderbergh is that - at a relatively late time in his career when most other directors would be too timid to stray too far away from their own established comfort zones - he's unafraid to push his skill set and the medium forward in audacious new directions.  HIGH FLYING BIRD is his latest unorthodox effort, streaming now on Netflix and shot once again utilizing just iPhone 8 cameras...

Posted February 18, 2019

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING 

(PG-13) jjj1/2 

A kid in King Arthur's court

It's crazy to consider that it's been nearly a decade since director Joe Cornish made a film, with his last one being his 2011 breakout cult sci-fi hit ATTACK THE BLOCK (which also helped launch the career of a pre-STAR WARS John Boyega).   Cornish now returns to filmmaking duties with THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING, one of 2019's early and splendid surprises.  The film is sort of a wonderful hybrid work with a throwback vibe...

Posted February 6, 2019

SERENITY (R) j

There's nothing alright, alright, alright about this noir thriller

I don't have the slightest idea how to review this film.  How would anyone, for that matter.  Let me explain.  SERENITY (not to be confused with the 2005 Joss Whedon directed sci-fi film of the same name) is a new neo-noir thriller written and directed by Steven Knight, who previously made the 2014 Tom Hardy drama LOCKE (which miraculously contained ample tension and masterful intrigue despite being a one man movie mostly set in a car)...

Posted February 6, 2019

GLASS (PG-13) jj

A glass half full trilogy closer

At this late stage in the game I think a majority of filmgoers - and critics, for that matter - should be asking one simple question:  How many more chances for cinematic redemption should one give writer/director M. Night Shyamalan?  It's a legitimate question.  The Indian filmmaker was once considered to be the next Spielberg, which feels like forever ago now, and with his career jump starting and multiple Oscar nominated THE SIXTH SENSE his future certainly looked promising...

Posted February 6, 2019

ROMA 

(No MPAA Rating) jjjj

Life itself

What a bold and miraculous artistic achievement Alfonso Cuaron's ROMA is, shot exquisitely and with a painterly eye in glorious black and white (he also serves as his own cinematographer) and chronicling a semi-autobiographical drama about his own upbringing in Mexico city.  The very last film the Oscar winning director made was the spellbinding GRAVITY, a science fiction survival thriller set in outer space, and previous to that he made one of the finest dystopian films ever in CHILDREN OF MEN...

Posted January 31, 2019

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK 

(R) jjj

"I'll tell you a story, if I may..."

Writer/director Barry Jenkins previously made the Academy Award winning Best Picture MOONLIGHT, a small scale and budgeted, but profoundly moving and beautifully told drama about the evolution of a homosexual black man's life, told via multiple time periods and with multiple actors playing said character.  In all fairness, it was a gutsy and outside of the box selection from the Academy...

Posted January 31, 2019

ESCAPE ROOM (PG-13) jj

A puzzle box thriller not worth solving

Ah yes, no beginning of the year film season would be complete without another entry in the PWP film genre, or a genre of films containing premises without payoff.  ESCAPE ROOM is a new psychological horror thriller centered on the concept of, yes, escape rooms, a physical adventure game in which players have to solve a series of complicated puzzles and riddles utilizing well hidden clues in order to escape from a seemingly inescapable room...

Posted January 25, 2019

THE UPSIDE (PG-13) jjj

There's no downside to this Cranston and Hart pairing

There's not much of an - ahem! - upside to most movie remakes, seeing as far too many don't honor the original source material while simultaneously spinning it into fresh directions for a new audience.  THE UPSIDE is the inevitable American remake of the 2011 French film THE INTOUCHABLES, which was a huge financial success and critical and audience darling.  That film chronicled the true story of a wealthy and white quadriplegic and his black ex-con caregiver and ultimate BFF...

Posted January 25, 2019

WELCOME TO MARWEN  

(PG-13) jjj1/2

He gets by with a little help from his little friends

Robert Zemeckis' WELCOME TO MARWEN is a new fact based drama that tells the endlessly strange, yet endearing story of artist and photographer Mark Hogancamp, who in April of 2000 was viciously attacked outside of a bar by five men, nearly being beaten to death in the process.  He drunkenly admitted to them that he had a penchant for wearing women's shoes, which precipitated their hate crime attack.  After nine days in a coma and 40 days in the hospital, Hogancamp was discharged and left a mentally and physically broken man...

Posted January 12, 2019

HOLMES & WATSON (PG-13) 1/2j

A mysteriously unfunny spoof

On a superficial level, HOLMES & WATSON is a movie.  No, seriously...it is.  It contains a feature length running time, it has a massive studio and fairly sizeable budget behind it, it stars two bankable and proven comedic actors, and it has been aggressively marketed to the eager moviegoing masses.  But HOLMES & WATSON is barely a movie.  It most assuredly isn't a comedy either, seeing as it contains virtually no laughs.  And it's not - despite a very specific title - a new Sherlock Holmes mystery worth investing in...

Posted January 12, 2019

BUMBLEBEE (PG-13) jj1/2

Almost more than meets the eye

BUMBLEBEE is the very best possible TRANSFORMERS live action movie that I've ever seen.  Now, considering that I've hated the five (dear Lord in Heaven...five) previous Michael Bay helmed franchise installments and that every single one placed high on my lists of ten worst films of their respective year...that may not be saying a whole hell of a lot.  Okay, sarcasm aside, let me get serious for a bit and start on a positive here...

Posted January 12, 2019

VICE (R) jjj

The most unlikely powerful VP in American history

 

In 2015 writer/director Adam McKay was a rather unlikely Oscar winner for his work on THE BIG SHORT, which was an absurd satirical take on the 2008 Financial Crisis and the devastating impact it had on America.  The central theme of that film was how people in places of limitless wealth and power nearly destroyed the country...out of pure greed to attain more wealth and power...and at the expense of the poor.  It was both as hysterical as it was shocking...

 

Posted January 12, 2019

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

(R) jjj1/2

Dear Melissa: All is forgiven

 

I've spent the better part of the last decade coming down hard on Melissa McCarthy, an extremely talented actress that has done her career absolutely no favors by appearing in one witless and puerile comedy after another, like THE BOSS, TAMMY, IDENTITY THIEF , and LIFE OF THE PARTYMost of my reviews of those films have one commonality in wishing that she strayed as far away from the stale and overused conventions of these films and the characters that she played so she can instead embark on something audaciously fresh and novel...

 

Posted January 12, 2019

AQUAMAN 

(PG-13) jjj1/2

Somewhere...beyond the sea...

Let's face facts: Aquaman has never been considered as - for lack of a better word - cool as his other DC Comics super heroes like Batman and Superman.  The notion of an orange and green costumed man that can breath underwater and talk to various aquatic life makes this hero a difficult nut to crack on the silver screen while not making him the butt of easy jokes.  Considering the somewhat shaky ground that the DC Extended Universe has been on lately...

Posted January 4, 2019

MARY POPPINS RETURNS  

(PG) jjj

A spoonful of sugar makes the sequel go down

I asked myself two questions as I left my screening of MARY POPPINS RETURNS:  1.  Outside of obvious financial motive for the studio, was there any need for Disney to make a sequel to the cherished original from over 50 years ago?  Short answer?  Nope.  2. Is MARY POPPINS RETURNS an entertaining sequel worthy of big screen consumption?  Short answer: Yup...

Posted January 4, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE 

(PG) jjj

They all do whatever multiple spiders can

Okay, so shove these facts up your mind, true believers:  SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is, believe it or not, the very first feature length animated film about the world's most famous wall-crawler.  It's also the seventh SPIDER-MAN film since 2000, including Sam Raimi's sometimes masterful and sometimes mediocre trilogy, Marc Webb's equally mixed bag two pack of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN franchise reboots, and, yes, the MCU reboot of the reboot in last year's SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING...

Posted December 26, 2018

MORTAL ENGINES (PG-13) j1/2

A mortally wounded franchise opener

MORTAL ENGINES is an absolutely stunning triumph of visual effects, art direction, and production design.  It's also, rather unfortunately, an abysmal failure on a basic character and story front.  Despite an ambitiously bonkers premise, I simply didn't care about anyone or anything in this post apocalyptic sci-fi film.  I think the overall intent when it comes to cinematic world building is for a film to legitimately feel like it's transporting you to another time and place and makes, in turn, its otherworldly universe seem tangible and real...

Posted December 26, 2018

THE MULE (R) jj1/2 

A rare Eastwoodian starring vehicle lacking in substance

 

I find myself marveling at Clint Eastwood's prolific nature as a director over the last decade - at an extremely ripe 88-years-old - more so than I do at the overall quality of said films during that period.  He's made six films since 2010, which is pretty remarkable in itself when one considers that the former Man With No Name has more than reached retirement home age.  I find his efforts to have been a mixed bag...

 

Posted December 26, 2018

BOY ERASED (R) jjj1/2 

Trying to cure what doesn't need curing 

 

BOY ERASED is based on the 2016 memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley, who is the only child of a Baptist pastor that, when he was attending college at 19-years-old, was outed as homosexual to his deeply religious parents.  Being absolutely petrified with the notion of being openly gay within his fundamentalist family, Garrard was given a choice by his father...

 

Posted December 19, 2018

CRAZY RICH ASIANS (PG-13) jj1/2 

A crazy conventional romcom with historically significant underpinnings 

Something dawned on me just after I finished screening CRAZY RICH ASIANS.   This new romcom is paradoxically a groundbreaking and important film in the annals of Hollywood history...that also happens to be just as achingly conventional and clichéd as just about any other dime-a-dozen romcom out there that preceded it.  Now, hear me out. ..

Posted December 19, 2018

THE FRONT RUNNER (R) jj1/2 

A flawed political drama with its Hart in the right place 

Politicians having their careers tainted by scandals involving adulterous affairs hardly seems so shocking these days.  In some respects, their professional lives are hardly affected at all.  President Bill Clinton managed to finish two terms as the Commander-in-Chief during the 90s after a much publicized affair, and the current President managed to even get elected after being caught red handed in an embarrassing audio recording condoning sexual assault...

Posted December 11, 2018

BLINDSPOTTING  (R) jjj

An urban dramedy with very few creative blind spots

BLINDSPOTTING is the second film from 2018 alongside Boots Riley's SORRY TO BOTHER YOU that is set in Oakland, California and contains themes of race relations, gentrification, and how the identities of communities are all but being destroyed by corporate interests that are only in it for themselves and to make a quick buck... 

Posted December 11, 2018

GREEN BOOK  (PG-13) jjj1/2

An odd couple of a different color

I can only begin to imagine the pitch meeting for GREEN BOOK: "It's like a reverse engineered DRIVING MISS DAISY meets THE ODD COUPLE...and it'll be a funny, yet sobering take on race relations in segregationist America in the early 60s...and it'll be directed by one half of the team that made DUMB AND DUMBER, KINGPIN, and THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY..." 

Posted December 2, 2018

CREED II  (PG-13) jjj

"I must break you...again!"

At the risk of mixing sports metaphors, 2015's CREED was a real cinematic curveball thrown at audiences, especially to fans of the ROCKY series in general.  The Ryan Coogler directed soft reboot/sequel to the iconic Sylvester Stallone pugilist franchise was far greater than it had any business of being, and it imbued a renewed lease on life for a series that, to be fair, went out on a high note with 2006's ROCKY BALBOA, which in turn came out after a series of so-so to mediocre sequels over the last few decades...

Posted December 2, 2018

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD  (PG-13) jj

A prequel/sequel that needs a spell of enchantment

To quote its full tongue twisting title, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is a sequel that seems to have this annoying insistence on pushing me away at an uncomfortable distance instead of luring me in to its expanded upon cinematic universe.  It's the tenth overall film set in the wizard heavy mythological world of HARRY POTTER and the direct follow-up to 2016's FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM...

Posted December 2, 2018

WIDOWS  (R) jjjj

Never send in a man to do a woman's job

Steve McQueen is a filmmaker that seems positively unafraid of subject matter or genre challenge, having seriously wowed me with such diverse film offerings such as 2008's HUNGER (about the 1981 Irish hunger prison strike), 2011's SHAME (about a man dealing with a debilitating sex addiction) and 2013's 12 YEARS A SLAVE (a historical period drama about a New York African American that was kidnapped into slavery in the mid 1850s).  After a far too long absence the British director has returned to the silver screen...

Posted December 2, 2018

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB

(R) jj1/2 

A tangled web of espionage intrigue

Considering our current Me Too movement era, a cinematic return to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series would seem positively fitting.  The franchise was born out of author Stieg Larsson's best selling literary works, which introduced the world to its ferociously empowered female hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander...

Posted November 26, 2018

OVERLORD (R) jjj1/2

Inglourious Nazi zombie hunting basterds

OVERLORD is like an EC Comics/Weird Science tale come lovingly to life.  Its plot concerns a bunch of American soldiers that are dropped in behind enemy lines before D-day and make some ghastly discoveries of Nazi scientific experiments that have re-animated dead soldiers, with the end result resembling what's essentially zombies.  In many respects, OVERLORD is kind of a nice companion piece to, say, Quentin Tarantino's historically sketchy INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS...

Posted November 20, 2018

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY 

(PG-13) jjj

Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy?

Freddie Mercury came an awfully long way in his relative short life from his time as a college student that worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport in the early 70s.  Of course, I'm referring to the legendary frontman of the British rock group QUEEN, whose music was responsible for nearly a quarter of billion records being sold, which cemented their status as one of the best selling artists and greatest bands of all time...

Posted November 20, 2018

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

(R) jjj1/2

The Sundance Kid's swan song

I remember the very first time I saw Robert Redford in a film.  There was a mischievous look in his eyes that was accompanied by a disarming smile.  He gave the impression that he was winking at the camera and, in turn, audience without actually doing so.  I sat back and fully realized what star power meant in this instance, and throughout my life watching Redford's movies I'm constantly reminded of his presence as a screen performer...

Posted November 20, 2018

HUNTER KILLER (R) jj1/2

Hunter Killer!  Qu'est-ce que c'est!

All while watching the new political action thriller HUNTER KILLER I was chiefly reminded that submarines aren't inherently very interesting on a visual level.  With their simplistic shape and relatively slow pace across the screen, there's simply not much dynamism on display, which leaves it up to the director and cast to make what happens inside of the vessel all the more engaging and appealing...

Posted November 10, 2018

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (R) jjj

This satire can have more than a minute of your time

The new absurdist black comedy SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is one of the strangest films that I've ever seen.  It's a work that - to its credit - defies basic genre classification.  It's part social/cultural satire, part  sci-fi parable, part broad workplace comedy, and part commentary piece about race, class, and capitalism run amok.  The film marks the directorial debut of Boots Riley, the Bay area rapper turned filmmaker, and his first film positively brims with audacious and bizarre originality...

Posted November 10, 2018

HALLOWEEN (R) jj1/2

Same old genre tricks, not enough new treats

It's impossible to understate the relative importance that John Carpenter's 1978 horror thriller HALLOWEEN had on its genre and on the larger movie industry as a whole.  He all but single handedly invented the mad killer "slasher" horror genre all on his own and, for better or worse, went on to inspire an unending number of copycat efforts throughout the 1980s...

Posted November 3, 2018

HOTEL ARTEMIS (R) jj1/2

Almost worth checking in

 

HOTEL ARTEMIS belongs on a list of films that I like to call PWP efforts: ones that have a great premise without payoff.  It's a new cyberpunk futuristic sci-fi thriller from writer/director Drew Pearce (making his feature filmmaking debut), who has devised a mostly unique concept for his dystopian film, which also benefits from a very strong ensemble cast, a swift and assured momentum, and a low-rent vibe and feel that somehow doesn't feel like disposable B-grade junk food...

 

Posted November 3, 2018

  

 

 

FIRST MAN

(PG-13) jjjj

 

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

(R) jjj

 

VENOM 

(PG-13)

jj1/2 

 

A STAR IS BORN

(R) jjjj

 

LEAVE NO TRACE

(R) jjjj

 

LIFE ITSELF

(R) jj1/2

 

GOTTI

(R) j1/2

 

THE PREDATOR

(R) j1/2  

 

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

(R) jjj

 

MANDY

(R) jjj1/2 

 

ALPHA

(PG-13)

jjj1/2  

 

WHITE BOY RICK

(R) jjj

 

HEREDITARY

(R) jj1/2

 

PEPPERMINT

(R) jj1/2

 

BLACKkKLANSMAN

(R) jjjj

 

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS

(R) 1/2j

 

UPGRADE  

(R) jjj

 

SUMMER OF '84

(R) jjj

 

MILE 22

(R) j1/2

 

THE MEG

(PG-13) 

jjj

 

EIGHTH GRADE

(R) jjjj

 

LIFE OF THE PARTY

(PG-13) jj

 

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN 

(PG)

jjj

 

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

(PG-13) jjj1/2

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT 

(PG-13

jjjj

 

THE RIDER

(R) jjjj

 

THE EQUALIZER 

(R) jjj

 

I FEEL PRETTY

(R) j1/2

 

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP  

(PG-13)

jj1/2

 

THE FIRST PURGE

(R) jj1/2 

 

SKYSCRAPER

(PG-13) jj

 

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

(PG-13) jjjj

 

FIRST REFORMED 

(R) jjjj

 

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO

(R) jjj

 

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

(PG-13) j1/2

 

THE DEATH OF STALIN 

(R) jjjj