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 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.
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This is exactly what I needed. After the dense cultural aspects of Black Panther and the darker pathos of Avengers: Infinity War, there’s a refreshing break from the bleak with Ant-Man and the Wasp. There’s no painful conflict of a father trying to be a hero, nor a hugely tragic villain of messy plight for him to best. It’s just a light and bright spectacle of a summer blockbuster that has fun with its size-altering heroes and phase-shifting villains. You remember what fun was like in these movies, right? Before half the universe died in that last Marvel film?
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The second helping of the sour world of Sicario comes with an extra spoonful of darkness for a cartel war that will never end. That’s all good, in the film’s own depressing way of luring us in with its bloody and bony following-finger, but there’s something missing. It could be the skillful direction of Denis Villeneuve that contributed to the atmosphere of brewing intensity. It could be the loss of Emily Blunt as the morality that is chipped away as the war wages on. The lack of that extra oomph in the ouch turns Sicario: Day of the Soldado into a thriller that shouldn’t feel so standard for being so contemplative and brooding.
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I was so enraptured with the giddy delight of adventure in Jurassic World replicating that same wonder from childhood that I brought high hopes to Fallen Kingdom. But then I remembered the sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and how disappointed I was in its struggle to ditch the park for more dinosaurs in action, removed from their secluded island. History has unfortunately repeated itself, albeit with lingering charms and thrills that desperately claw and gnash their way out of a needlessly dense and busy script for a dinosaur romp.
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