“Creed II” Review

Creed II has everything I did and didn’t want in a sequel to the Rocky spin-off. While it does present Adonis Creed with another tough boxing challenge and ties directly into his lineage for being the son of Apollo, it also slips too comfortably into the old Rocky movies. The punches are heavier, the stakes are higher, and character drama is amplified to the point of being a melodrama. And while it certainly gets the job done as a blood-pumping pleaser, it does show a bit of wear and tear that threatens to take the Creed franchise down a peg into the lesser Rocky territory. Continue reading ““Creed II” Review”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” Review

The best that can be said of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, is that Rami Malek is fun to watch as Freddie Mercury. He has a lot of the power and vibrancy to rock the stage as the music legend who parades in tight pants and uses the microphone like a baton. That’s all well and good for a Queen tribute of sorts but it’s a bit of a shame that this movie only delivers the bare bones of the story behind the mustache and doesn’t bother to shake them as well as Malek can shake his pelvis.
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“First Man” Review

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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“A Star is Born” Review

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 edited 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”

“You Were Never Really Here” Review

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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“The 15:17 to Paris” Review

“But did you know those actors were the real people from the true events?” Yes, I’ve heard it everywhere. From the TV interviews to the word-of-mouth buzz, to even the usually blank comment cards at the press screening. It’s an admirable gimmick from Clint Eastwood and a surefire way to garner easy praises of patriotism for a film that holds real heroes up on the screen. It may even be an ironclad way to avoid criticism, making a case that those who don’t like the film don’t like the heroes. The truth is I do like the real-life trio brought together for this film that stopped a terrorist on a train. I like them so much I didn’t want to see them flounder on screen with a film that has little to say about them past being average men that did average things in a surprisingly average movie adaptation.
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“The Post” Review

In the era of so-called fake news and questioning of journalistic integrity, Steven Spielberg’s The Post is both eerie and timely. It’s a mostly reactionary piece to be sure that focuses more on the importance of the Washington Post’s contribution to free press and representation. And, yes, it does slam its points home with the power of Thor’s hammer. But in an age when we tend to devalue journalism to such a degree, such an impact feels warranted.
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“The Greatest Showman” Review

Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have been hailed for their amazing lyrical work on last year’s musical hit La La Land, a film with a stunningly invigorating soundtrack of jazz and orchestral wonder. They’re touted on the poster of The Greatest Showman as being hired to breathe that same amount of energy and toe-tapping to the tale of showman P.T. Barnum. Much like Barnum, they do a stellar job at hoodwinking audiences into attending this spectacle for the promise of an entertaining musical. And while director Michael Gracey certainly delivers music and sequences of grand design, there’s an aroma of a machine to its assembly as opposed to the heartfelt biopic of amazing feats this production was going for.
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“The Darkest Hour” Review

When Gary Oldman first appears on screen as Winston Churchill, I couldn’t believe it was him. He embodies the historical figure with the right amount of girth, waddling and cantankerous mutterings of a man with the noisy gears constantly grinding in his head. It is such a flawless performance that director Joe Wright lets his camera get in close to notice every detail; the quivering of his lips as he prepares to deliver a speech, the solace he seeks in every cigar, and the look of doubt buried deep within his eyes. Oldman loses himself so deeply in the role that the audience does as well, making for one of his best performances of his career.
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“The Meyerowitz Stories” Review

What an astounding recovery for Adam Sandler. His contract with Netflix has led him from making Sandy Wexler, one of 2017’s worst films, to The Meyerowitz Stories, one of the year’s best. I suppose if director Todd McCarthy can go from directing the worst movie of 2015 (the Adam Sandler starring The Cobbler) to the Academy Award winner of 2015 (Spotlight) anything is possible. Yes, Virginia, there is a brilliant Adam Sandler starring movie.
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