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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There are some horror movies where I enjoy watching the audience reactions more than the movie itself. And then there are ones like John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, where I turn into the reactive horror movie viewer I usually smirk at for being won over by jump-scares. I found myself doing things I don’t normally do while watching horror films; edging on my seat, my mouth agape, and my finger lodged between my teeth with intensity. It’s a rare exception of a film that manages to merge the artfulness of a slow-building dread with the rollercoaster effect of grinding anticipation.
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It’s refreshing to see Wes Anderson bring his dark, dry, and gorgeous gift for comedy to the realm of animation. In a medium that seems to favor the two tones of family-friendly romps and festival-friendly art pieces, Isle of Dogs finds that sweet spot in the middle of the fantastical and the absurd. It’s a parable strong enough to sell its lore and weirdness of a dog-centric adventure in the retro-future, but not above having a laugh with the very concept itself. The consistent surrealness places it alongside the likes of Watership Down and Plague Dogs, films that may leave you baffled at how they were approved, but all the more pleased that they were.
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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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A Wrinkle in Time encourages for children to succeed with the same embarrassment of parents getting too into your school sporting event. It is a film where multiple times the preteen girl protagonist must be reminded that she is special and can change the world. How she can do this is never made clear, making the inspiration in the picture about as effective as a “Hang in there” cat poster. Well, if that poster had fantastical worlds and magic.
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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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I know the story of Peter Rabbit, the blue-jacket wearing rabbit that didn’t listen to his mother and was almost killed by Mr. McGregor for entering his garden. Ah, but this isn’t that same Beatrix Potter tale. Some executive or producer thought that classic book was too old and lame to be hip with today’s kids. Today’s Peter Rabbit needs to be a character that is rude, crude, and condescendingly snarky with his slapstick battles against McGregor set to the tune of today’s top radio music. Also, he kills people.
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