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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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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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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The screening of Incredibles 2 began with an apologetic thank you from the cast. Yes, it has taken 14 years for Pixar to construct a sequel for their fan-favorite of a film that perfectly blended the family dynamic with superhero theatrics. But as Samuel L. Jackson assures us, it will be worth the wait. He’s not just tooting the Disney horn, nor is the cantankerous writer/director Brad Bird, who returns to the franchise with fresh ideas to flex those old animated filmmaking muscles. And it is every bit as brilliant, exciting, and dazzling as its predecessor.
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Hotel Artemis depicts an eerily believable future of water conglomerates, dwindling resources, and uncontrollable riots that it’s a very plausible vision of Los Angeles in 2028. But this isn’t about finding a solution to the water shortage or toppling the empire that hordes. Those are far too lofty ambitions for the wealthy residents of the Hotel Artemis, where criminals come for the best healthcare, no questions asked. There are far too many chaotic characters of deception, guilt, and violence stirring inside to be bothered with the outside world. Any more arcs and this unique sci-fi action picture would overdose.
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It should go without saying that there didn’t NEED to be a Han Solo prequel movie. It’s not exactly enthralling to watch the meetings of when Han met Chewy, his blaster, and the Millenium Falcon. I especially didn’t need to know how he got his name. These aspects are as underwhelming in the film as they are in theory. But when the story finally puts down the Star Wars nostalgia guide, it occasionally turns into the enjoyable sci-fi heist picture it should have been.
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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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