It’s time to make the chimichangas once more, but Deadpool 2 doesn’t exactly bring a new recipe to the table, more or less reheating his fourth-wall breaking insanity with discerning splashes of new characters to ally and assault. Is it still as funny and biting as the previous film was with savaging the unstoppable superhero cinema franchises? Absolutely, but between the laughs is a lingering element of sequel-itis and overstuffing, a common trait of most superhero sequels that could use a good ribbing. The film may be knowing enough to mock Fox’s lack of character licensing and their poor decisions with previous Marvel movies, but it could stand to defy convention a little more as it defies just about all other expectations of the genre.
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Few films of action and revenge come with a genuine sense of terror and pathos. Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here has enough faith in the audience to piece together its broken hero, his traumatic history and a commentary on his nature of violence with hardly a word. In the tired and formulaic format of action-oriented revenge and rescue films, Ramsay has found something more artful and meaningful past the usual gun-toting. Here is a film that takes its time with its gripping violence, where every kill carries more weight than a rush of adrenaline. Rarely have I received such chills with the tale of a man killing people to save a little girl.
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If the abundance of superheroes at the cinema has fatigued audiences, Avengers: Infinity War may be the most exhausting of the subgenre, albeit the most satisfying of the Avengers films. There are well over 30 heroes present, multiple arcs that splinter and crossover, and the grandest of action scenes in a superhero ensemble to end all superhero ensembles. It’s a mighty ambitious project with a budget as monstrous as its casting, but it’s a relief to report that directors Anthony and Joe Russo have proven once again they can juggle dozens of characters and twice as many plotlines. There isn’t much time for the audience or the characters to catch their breath in this mad dash of an event picture, but the amount of chemistry and pathos weaved into this oversized action picture is an amazing enough feat in itself, daring enough to dizzy even the most astute of Marvel fans.
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If my 8-year-old self knew there’d be a movie adaptation of the city-destroying monster video game Rampage, I’d probably be in a state of perpetual glee until it was released in theaters. Of course, my 8-year-old self had yet to indulge in the campy cinema candy of the Godzilla franchise or the King Kong movies. Your taste in giant monster movies grows a little broader as you get older and it’s sad to admit that the big-screen depiction of a giant ape slamming a giant wolf into giant buildings doesn’t hold as much excitement as I thought it would. It’s still a pleasing treat for the eyes and will probably be held up by many as one of the few solid video game movie adaptations, even if the destructive scenes seem like mild hurricanes compared to the stellar treatments for Godzilla and King Kong.
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Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One reads like a geeky ode of a fanfiction, crossing over several properties into his dream of a limitless cyber adventure. Steven Spielberg is the perfect director to make that dream come true, having enough pull to round up all the toys they love to play with and letting them loose on the big screen. Their combination results in one of the dorkiest fangasms of a movie that visually, narratively, and verbally rattles off pop-culture appreciation like the ultimate machine gun of geek. This aspect may rob the film of being little more than a glorified monument to cool, but as someone who gets a kick out of Gundam, Back to the Future, and Buckaroo Banzai all being present in the same film, I couldn’t help but be delighted by such a boundless trip through a nostalgic wonderland.
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As someone who grew up adoring the giant robot anime of Gundam and Robotech, Pacific Rim made my inner geek explode with joy. Uprising continues to ride that high with a similar story and familiar formula for the first-time director Steven S. DeKnight to slide comfortably into the mecha masterpiece Guillermo del Toro started. Yes, this is very much more of the same, but as someone who dug the tongue-in-cheek silliness and robot-fist-in-monster-jaw action of the previous film, I’m all for a second helping.
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If the previous Tomb Raider films were ridiculous renditions of a sexy James Bond heroine blazing her way through an Indiana Jones plot, this reboot is a gritty female action picture trapped inside a been-there-raided-that treasure hunting story. It does away with all the silly gadgets, skimpy outfits, and ludicrous setpieces to present a film that turns Lara Croft into a female cross of Rambo and John McClain. It even plays it safe by replicating the most recent and gritty video game. If only the writers and director had the foresight to recognize that treasure hunting movies are goofy and not take Tomb Raider so seriously that it turns into the very corny film it was trying to avoid.
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Perhaps it should have been prophetic that Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake had to be rescheduled after the Vegas shooting and is still debuting at the wrong time with the recent Florida shooting. At a time when gun control is the hot topic of debate, the gun-loving insanity of Death Wish comes with bad timing. Or, if you have a throbbing love of guns to an absurd degree, the right time. Yes, I know a film this violent and giddy shouldn’t be approached with a political bias against it, but when a film this bizarre rubs its nose in the issue without saying anything, you can’t help but get a sour taste in your mouth.
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There is a lot of pressure in the tsunami of cinematic superheroes to make something that will stand out from the crowd, but Ryan Coogler is more than up to the challenge with Black Panther. He doesn’t merely give the hero first introduced in Captain America: Civil War a standard solo film to showcase his powers, world, and rogues gallery. Coogler loads his picture up with a unique style, purpose, and, yes, even politics, to create one of Marvel Studio’s best films and not just a bridge to Avengers: Infinity War.
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You can usually tell when a film about Americans doesn’t feel as though it’s directed by one. If you watched Hacksaw Ridge, you could see that Mel Gibson gave the story of Desmond Doss a real perspective and a purpose. Despite the abundance of bloody war scenes, it wasn’t just about the war, but a philosophy on saving lives in a time of violence and how one person can do so much. This is not the case of 12 Strong, a film that seems more concerned with staging cool shots of soldiers on horses than taking in the more personal aspects of such an operation.
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