First Man doesn’t so much tell a straight story of Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon as much as it tries to slip inside his mind, trying to feel every jolt of the cockpit and every sting of surrounding death. Director Damien Chazelle goes digging for an experience in Armstrong’s path which is certainly debatable in motivation but nevertheless keeps your eyes locked on the objective as strongly as Neil keeps focused. And for the direction Chazelle chooses to steer this towering biography, it’s a trip worth taking.
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What does a solo film about the Spider-Man villain Venom need to be a good film? After the trailer debut, I kept hearing the same things about the look of Venom, fans being excited that the movies had finally gotten the iconic comic book character right. Sure, in about a minute’s worth of footage, he looks great. It’s just the other 111 minutes to fill that the movie turns into a mess as sloshy and unstable as the very alien Symbiote that creates the anti-hero.
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If yet another remake of A Star is Born seems like one too many, consider Sam Elliott’s words in the film about the nature of musicians. All songs have a somewhat similar construction and it’s all up to the artist to interpret it their own way. And director Bradley Cooper certainly gives this old story a flavor all its own, sparkling with fantastic songs, character chemistry, and a skillfully edit presentation. At the center is Lady Gaga, taking her well-established singing abilities to the big screen. Can she act as well as she sings? After this film, there’s little doubt she was destined to be an actor. The film’s title couldn’t be any more fitting for her. Continue reading ““A Star is Born” Review”
There’s something so unbelievably bonkers about Shane Black’s take on Predator that make it narrowly fun amid its messy hit-or-miss method. Rather than go for a more modern and serious retread of the classic action tale of gun-toting soldiers versus high-tech alien hunter, Black throws his picture so far deep into the pool of zany it should come labeled as a comedy, decked out with much winking in its silly banter and over-the-top gore. And sometimes, amid the massive mess of this nutty production, it works.
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The Happytime Murders is all about subversion and relies on it to carry through with a raunchy comedy. We’ve become used to seeing Jim Henson productions of colorful puppets have a wholesome tone that I’m sure it was a delightful shock to advertise that Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson and director of The Muppet Christmas Carol, would make something so filthy. Indeed, the movie does feature felt figures having sex, taking drugs, and pushing the profanity. And, unfortunately, that’s all it has to offer. No engaging story, no interesting characters; just puppets cursing and ejaculating silly-string.
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If modern romantic comedies seem cheaply assembled with contorted premises for laughs and kisses, Crazy Rich Asians is a classic return to the most decadent of rom-com cinema. No expense has been spared to present one of the most lavish, sweet, and memorable films, past a breezy and beautiful date night experience. You don’t need to be Asian, rich, or even crazy to appreciate this modern fairytale.
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The Meg is a B-movie creature feature that seems to be trying so hard to be average, never favoring a tone too serious or silly. It struggles to play it straight with its exposition of underwater research and horrific with the titular shark, but still wants to wink at the camera and have a laugh with a quip or two. A PG-13 rating for a bigger summer box office gross prevents any memorable kills or bloody terror. It’s this assembly that makes the movie more of a dry, by-the-numbers monster movie than a more campier version that pays homage to its lesser and goofier counterparts.
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There’s an enduring spirit to the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood that has made Disney’s many iterations of Winnie the Pooh enjoyable if not as clever. While the stuffed creatures of the classic books may have been slung in everything from direct-to-video specials and TV puppets, Pooh still has an adorable wisdom to his silly nature of misunderstandings and curiosity. This point is best proven in Christopher Robin, a film that tries to place Pooh and company in a CGI/live-action hybrid. The antics of the honey-craving bear and his iconic cohorts hold up far better than a beat-you-over-the-head story about growing up.
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While it is fun to watch Denzel Washington lay waste to rooms full of assassins and pull off that ease of intimidation in his presence, he’s not exactly playing a character in Equalizer 2. He’s more like an action god that gazes down on the innocent and wicked, carefully choosing who to spare with gentle grace and who to execute with extreme prejudice. And while such a Superman story is held firm by Denzel’s strong performance, I wished his omnipotent powers were strong enough to cast aside a tired Jason Bourne ending for the film’s more engaging smaller skirmishes.
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There I was in the theater watching Dwayne Johnson edge across a towering inferno, hundreds of feet in the air, and I’m not feeling that familiar giddy charm and thrill he exudes with nearly every action performance. Everything is present for a popcorn-chomper of Dwayne’s Die Hard, from a foreign-accented terrorist to daring stunts that leave Johnson as battered and bruised as John McClane. It should have been a light bit of brainless summer action but casual passivity of the structure left me wanting, especially as Dwayne gets lost in the dust of the flashier sequences, existing as more beef than brains.
Continue reading ““Skyscraper” Review”