Saturday - December 3, 2022
 

Fight Or Flight (Movie Review: Prey)

August 19th, 2022

Imagine you’re a filmmaker. You have an idea. It feels like a good one, a very good one. You start writing, and after multiple screenplay drafts, you think you’re in good shape. Then, after assembling a cast and crew, you begin the Sisyphean task of making the movie. Amazingly, you finish without having too many nervous breakdowns. Then, you oversee the editing. After all that, your creation is released into the world, and…people love it! Your movie becomes both beloved and profitable. What happens next? Everybody wants a sequel. Your success is the good news, but the bad news is that sequels... Read More

To Capitalism and Beyond! (Movie Review: Lightyear)

July 5th, 2022

Is Pixar the greatest animation studio in the history of film? Possibly. It can certainly compete with Disney, its quasi-parent, along with the mighty Studio Ghibli of Japan. For my money, Pixar slightly edges out Studio Ghibli and comes out on top due to two factors — the quality of animation and innovative storytelling. From 1995 to 2010, nearly every Pixar release could be considered a classic. I’ll grant you that Monsters, Inc. is well-meaning fluff, and I recognize that Cars is less geared toward families and more aimed at young children. But Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille... Read More

Running and Screaming (Movie Review: Jurassic World: Dominion)

June 17th, 2022

There’s an old belief that all little boys go dino-mad for a minute. I have no idea if that’s accurate, but I do know I was no exception. Back then, I recall a zoo of molded plastic critters, everything from the T-rex to the Stegosaurus. I remember junior paleontology books and a bemused father* taking me over and over and over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science so that I could gawk at the fossils. I love dinosaurs. I always have. Even now. I recently finished the very good book The Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley Black.** Odds are I’ll stop loving them right around the time... Read More

Flyboy (Movie Review: Top Gun: Maverick)

May 24th, 2022

The first time I saw Top Gun, I hated it. As a wee lad, I remember seeing it in a packed theater in 1986. I remember the whooshing of the jets, the omnipresent soundtrack, and the unnerving intensity of Tom Cruise. I remember the buzz of the audience walking out. People adored it, and I remember looking around and thinking, “What movie did you guys just see because that sucked.” Is it still that bad, though?* Of course not, and it’s yet another example where the movie isn’t the problem; I’m the problem. I should like it. Consider that, despite what you might think of his personal life,... Read More

Weird Creature of the Night (Review: The Batman)

March 15th, 2022

There aren’t many fictional characters that have as many character facets as Batman. You could go in a number of different directions beyond horror if your story involved Dracula — comedy, romance, action for starters. I think the same could be said for Sherlock Holmes. If you compare just Robert Downey Jr’s action-oriented take with the more cerebral approach of Benedict Cumberbatch you’ll see that the character of Holmes provides storytellers with a good amount of flexibility. The nature of superheroes, however, is to be iconic, and that iconography can be limiting. Superman is an icon... Read More

Movie Review: “SOLD OUT” The Right Note

February 7th, 2022

As you read this, somebody is working a soulless customer service job. They’re getting screamed at by a customer with an almost sociopathic lack of empathy. They’re trying their best to help while getting paid a shamefully low wage. They have a head full of chaos, but there’s a part of them that the disposable job can’t touch. That’s the part that dreams. That’s the part that creates art. There are untold numbers of people with frustrated dreams. A budding rapper who puts their beats aside for a stable job in city government. A wannabe singer who croons in the car between shifts as... Read More

A Regular Dude (Review: Vengeance Is Mine)

October 25th, 2021

There have been eleven movies made with the title Vengeance is Mine. The first of those films was made way back in 1912, proving that even in those sepia-hued days of the Titanic, massive dinner parties, and the birth of the Oreo, people also wanted to see movies where somebody who’s gotten screwed over achieves satisfaction. I’m perfectly fine with revenge movies. One of the greatest ever made is John Wick, where a thoughtless act of cruelty unleashes a storm of violence on a truly Biblical scale. For a revenge movie to work, three elements need to be firmly in place. They are: An interesting... Read More

Michael’s Game (Review: Halloween Kills)

October 18th, 2021

He was close. He thought he was ready, but at the last moment, he stepped away. Wait — let me back up and I’ll explain. To set the stage, last weekend I knew my upcoming review would be Halloween Kills, the latest entry in the extremely venerable franchise. The film picks up moments after the end of the 2018 Halloween, and as I had a little free time, rewatching Halloween felt like a good move. As my son Liam has gotten older, he’s been developing his own tastes when it comes to film. He has directors he likes* and films he’s been curious about.** The only genre he hasn’t leapt into is... Read More

Antisocial Worker (The Gateway)

October 11th, 2021

Movie stars are good. Serious Actors are better. Best of all are That Guys.* Even if you’re a casual film viewer, you likely have a favorite That Guy. In blockbusters, they’ll show up in supporting roles, often playing the same 2-3 kinds of roles. Michael Biehn, for example, is an excellent That Guy, and he carved out a pretty good niche playing steely-eyed military types and psychopaths.  Better yet is when That Guys get a chance in the spotlight. This almost always happens in smaller films, and to my mind, that’s a good thing. Those smaller films tend to be more interesting, riskier, more... Read More

A Vulgar Business (Review: Worth)

September 26th, 2021

We say that all lives have value. Do they? If so, what exactly is that value? To ponder a question like that is, at best, distasteful. At worst, it’s a monstrous concept that’s so big, it almost can’t be grappled with. But someone has to. Someone has to take the decisions and idiosyncrasies that live in each of our lives and break it all down into some kind of hard data. Consider the lives and deaths of two people on September 11, 2001. One of them worked in Windows on the World*, the restaurant that dwelled on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Directly... Read More

Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu (Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)

September 14th, 2021

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a trend-setter, and it’s kind of amazing considering the risks taken. Consider the lead of Iron Man was a troubled actor with a notable drug problem. Consider that the vast majority of people had no earthly idea who Iron Man even was. Consider that the idea of an interconnected multi-film franchise was looked at as, to be charitable, raging insanity. The irony is that, despite the huge chances taken by the MCU, Marvel Comics originally followed numerous trends instead of inspiring them. The creation of the Fantastic Four was a response to DC Comics’ creation... Read More

Bruja (Review: The Old Ways)

September 6th, 2021

I’m a genre nerd. While a thoughtful documentary or smart drama will capture my attention, nothing gets my nerd radar pinging faster than a film that Wikipedia defines as, “a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.” Luckily, there’s an awful lot of room for filmmakers to operate in when it comes to genre. A war movie only has to feature…well, war. A vampire movie simply needs to have something within it that can be recognized as some sort of vampire. Science fiction... Read More

Uncaged (Review: Pig)

August 30th, 2021

Is it fair to call Nicolas Cage a film icon? Not in the religious sense of the word, but more the idea that an icon represents a concept.  Take a look at his filmography for a moment. You’ll first notice a fairly astonishing amount of good to great films he’s made. Red Rock West. Leaving Las Vegas. Lord of War. The Rock. Mandy. If any other actor had done just one of those films, they’d be looked at as an all-timer. The other thing you’ll notice on said filmography? A titanic amount of crap. Some of it was due to simply picking the wrong projects. Some of it was due to fallout from a high-profile... Read More

Signs and Portents (Review: The Green Knight)

August 24th, 2021

The past is a distant country. The further away we travel from it, the more strange the customs feel and the more unlike our own times it becomes. Consider the life you lead right now, the things you take for granted and consider to be normal. Now consider how jarring it would be to time travel back to, say, 1951. The clothing, technology, standards, everything would feel odd, and 1951 was only 70 years ago. Take that sense of disconnectedness and multiply it. You probably have something close to the chasm between how we think about the Middle Ages and the lived experience of Europeans. From the... Read More

The Do-Over (Review: The Suicide Squad)

August 17th, 2021

Once upon a time, there was a director who got royally screwed. His name was (and continues to be) David Ayer, and his upbringing in South Central Los Angeles informed him well. There are likely two reasons you’re familiar with Ayer. The first is his work as the talented screenwriter of Training Day and the director of very good films such as End of Watch and Fury. The second reason is that he’s the guy who made 2016’s Suicide Squad. Despite making nearly $750 million and winning the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyle, Suicide Squad was critically reviled. I read over my review*... Read More

Everything’s Fine (Review: No Sudden Move)

August 6th, 2021

No Sudden Move is streaming on HBO MAX I adore crime movies, though some flavors more than others. About half of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography focuses on crime, and Pulp Fiction alone birthed legions of imitators. For years, there were scores of films involving loquacious scumbags holding forth on pop culture and committing unexpected (but completely expected) acts of violence. Some of these movies were even good. Tarantino’s crime movies are like a cheeseburger ordered at the trendiest restaurant you can imagine, cooked by the biggest celebrity chef out there. You’ll enjoy that burger,... Read More

Budapest With An S.H. (Review: Black Widow)

July 20th, 2021

Black Widow is streaming on Disney+ Prequels are terrible. That is, until they aren’t. It used to be that the idea of checking out the earlier adventures of beloved characters was nothing more than a craven cash grab. You had the tomfoolery of Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, the nonsense of Hannibal Rising, and the blatant idiocy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Done well, a prequel can add texture and character to a franchise. It can fill in the blanks and even recontextualize the original work. Despite the clunky execution, mostly poor acting, and thunderingly obvious storytelling, George... Read More

Mommy Brain (Review: False Positive)

July 8th, 2021

False Positive is streaming on Hulu In 2016, the World Health Organization estimated that around 830 women die on a daily basis due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. If you read that number and were floored by the lethal math on display, it’s probably because you’re a man. The fact of the matter is, the process of pregnancy has always been tied up with risk. Three hundred years ago, along with the distressingly normal dangers associated with birth, a pregnant woman had to contend with barbaric practices that barely met the definition of medical, as well as an insanely misogynistic... Read More

The Devil Went Down to Connecticut (Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It)

June 14th, 2021

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is streaming on HBO Max Much like life, franchises find a way. Sooner or later, they realize they can’t keep doing the same thing over and over, and they need to evolve. The Fast and the Furious began as a charmingly low rent ripoff of Point Break. With F9 being released a few weeks from now, we’ll see a series that took enormous chances and transformed into something entirely different. We’ve arrived at a point, not unlike the late 1960s, where studios don’t fully know what audiences want and are scared to death about it. Back then,... Read More

Sex Positive (Review: Plan B)

June 7th, 2021

“Plan B” is streaming on Hulu A while back, Toni Morrison said, “All good art is political.” I think that’s about right, yet I’d take it a step further and say that all art is political — full stop. Does that mean that every movie you see and every book you read has an overt political agenda? No. What I would say is that to quote an interesting article from the American Psychological Association, “Politics is personal.”* “But why do movies have to be political? Why do they have to be so woke” I see people whining. These folks conveniently forget that movies have always... Read More