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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Reviews

19 Mar 2020
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The Hunt, the little B movie that can’t seem to catch a break, finally got released to theaters … in the midst of a national emergency. The results: Not surprisingly, very few people risked COVID-19 in an effort to see it sitting next to people! Originally set for release last year, the film was postponed until 2020 due to its violent nature—and the fact that a cluster of mass shootings had occurred at the time. So the studio picked the safe haven of March for a release, only to have those plans foiled by Mr. Beer Virus. Straight up, this is a fun B movie, but it certainly would’ve benefited from a limited release or Netflix opening. It’s got its virtues, but you probably made the right choice by staying home and watching Disney+. It’s good, but not great. Now, when Tenet comes out, I don’t care if this emergency…
12 Mar 2020
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Onward is one of the weirder Pixar releases—a goofy ode to fatherhood, brotherhood and the geek glory of Dungeons and Dragons-type role-playing fantasy games. While it’s not an offering that can be counted among Pixar’s best (Up, Toy Story 3, The Incredibles, WALL-E), it’s still a good time for kids and adults alike, and it packs a nice sentimental punch in its final minutes. Ian Lightfoot (the voice of Tom Holland) and older-brother Barley (Chris Pratt) are elves living with their mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in a suburban fantasy world also inhabited by trolls and dragons. Their world is now very much like ours (strip malls, smart watches, crappy vans, etc.), but it was once a place of magic full of wizardry and adventure. On his 16th birthday, Ian gets a note from his father—someone long dead who, in fact, never met his son. Ian’s dad has bequeathed to him and…
05 Mar 2020
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The ever-reliable pairing of director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan hits a speed bump with Greed, the weakest movie this duo has produced. The Winterbottom-Coogan combo has now been responsible for seven films, with such winners as the many “Trip” movies, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and, my personal favorite, 24 Hour Party People. When I heard they were working on a satirical film about the fashion world and the upper class, with Coogan headlining as a shifty millionaire, I said: “Sign me up!” Sadly, the result, written and directed by Winterbottom, is a muddled mess with only a few laughs and no true sense of purpose. It starts as a sort of fictional biopic—the making of fashion mogul Sir Richard McCreadie (Coogan), who rises to power by buying up struggling clothes businesses and spinning them for dollars through bankruptcies and other manipulations. He steps on a…
27 Feb 2020
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A grumpy Harrison Ford sporting a David Letterman beard stars alongside a CGI dog in this latest cinematic take on the Jack London classic The Call of the Wild. The filmmakers went for a kid-friendly PG rating, so much of the novel’s violence, against humans and dogs alike, has been removed in favor of a more-family-friendly take—and the dumbing down of the original text might’ve been forgivable if some of the CGI animal antics weren’t so jarringly unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in no mood to see real dogs getting hit with clubs and pulling sleds across frozen tundra, but Buck the cartoon dog would’ve been far more suitable in a completely animated affair. It’s actually the humans who sometimes throw things out of whack: Neither the humans nor the CGI beasts look like they belong together. The scenes where it’s just humans sitting around, or a bunch of…
20 Feb 2020
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Out of the gate, Sonic the Hedgehog looks like it could be one of the year’s worst films. It’s irritating; it’s unoriginal; and it features multiple jokes about cops eating donuts, as if we haven’t heard those before. Then Jim Carrey shows up as the villain—and almost saves the whole damn thing. Almost. Sonic—the videogame character so beloved that his fan base rallied to have his likeness corrected after an abysmal look in the original trailer—is voiced by Ben Schwartz. While this incarnation definitely looks better than the mess Paramount Pictures first tried to get past the masses, the character is still grating. Sorry, Mr. Schwartz, but your voice is nails on a chalkboard. A brief prelude shows Sonic being sent to Earth by a heroic owl; he’s left alone in a cave with a bag of gold rings that provide gateways to other worlds. After an encounter with Tom…
13 Feb 2020
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After being the only thing worth anyone’s time in Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn gets her own movie in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, a marked improvement over the film that featured Margot Robbie’s first go at the role. Unfortunately, “improved” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” There’s something askew plot-wise in Birds of Prey—specifically, it doesn’t really have a plot, and the shards of plot it does have are presented sloppily. The movie hops around time spasmodically, like a tweaker on a pogo stick—and while I love Robbie, her Harley Quinn shtick can grate at times. (By the way, I’m watching Margot on Hot Ones as I write this review, and she’s giving a captivating performance on this YouTube series—not as good as Shia LaBeouf’s performance on the show, but still. She cannot handle her hot wings. I’m actually fearing for her life as I watch…
06 Feb 2020
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Robert Eggers is two films into his feature-directing career, and people are already trying to rip off his style. Gretel and Hansel shoots for the slow-burn, deliberately paced, lushly photographed style that Eggers employed in his 2015 masterpiece The Witch. While director Osgood Perkins has put together a movie that looks OK, the script by Rob Hayes provides little to nothing in the way of chills—the movie is all atmospherics with little substance. On the verge of starvation centuries ago, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) is kicked out of her home with little brother Hansel (Sammy Leakey) in tow. They head into the forest where the only meal they have is hallucinogenic mushrooms—yes, they trip out—until they come upon a house inhabited by a strange old lady named Holda (Alice Krige). Holda is all by herself without a supermarket in sight, yet her table is full of freshly baked and roasted goodies.…
30 Jan 2020
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There are many reasons to head to the cinema for a showing of Guy Ritchie’s gangster-comedy return, The Gentlemen. Chief among those reasons is the cast, led by Matthew McConaughey and an extremely amusing Hugh Grant. Throw in Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery and Eddie Marsan, all in top form, and you are talking about one of the best casts of the 2020—and it’s only January. Also, if you are a big fan of weed, you should go see this movie. The film, directed and co-written by Ritchie, isn’t an amazing piece of scriptwriting. It feels like the other gangster-comedy/drama films he wrote and directed (Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) in that it has zippy dialogue and a fairly routine mystery at its core. However, The Gentlemen is a lot of fun from start to finish, and you will forgive its familiarities and foibles. McConaughey is…
23 Jan 2020
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Twenty-five years have passed since detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) first suited up for Michael Bay in Bad Boys, and 17 years have passed since they joined him again for Bad Boys II. Since the first time Bay assaulted our eyes and ears with his patented brand of cinematic garbage, I’ve grown to almost enjoy said garbage. I hated Bad Boys, but I sort of liked the outrageous Bad Boys II. Bay tends to amuse me now—unless he’s doing a Transformers movie, in which case I check out. I attribute my suddenly liking some Bay movies to brain decay due to aging, a lack of iron and a general loss of spirituality. So, I guess the bad news is that Bay passed on directing Bad Boys for Life, the third installment in the franchise. I would’ve liked to see Bay try to top the almost-self-parodying…
16 Jan 2020
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Kristen Stewart proves she’s a badass movie star in Underwater, a long-delayed and surprisingly decent deep-sea horror/thriller from director William Eubank. While it stands to be the second big-budget box-office disaster in a row for Stewart after Charlie’s Angels, it deserves a better fate: The movie is actually pretty good. The film doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or work any miracles. It’s successful in a very basic way that engages from beginning to end, with an occasional effective scare, a constant sense of dread and high-pressure tension. Stewart stars as Norah, an underwater engineer on a drilling rig in the middle of the Mariana Trench. We first see her brushing her teeth as the lights around her flicker, and then we hear some dull thuds. She glances around; she plays a little with a spider in the sink. She doesn’t seem too concerned. Then, “Boom!” Her section of the…
16 Jan 2020
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Michael B. Jordan stars in Just Mercy as civil-rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, a real attorney who has dedicated his life to freeing wrongly convicted death-row inmates. Destin Daniel Cretton’s film focuses primarily on the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man sentenced to death for the murder of a girl, even though evidence showed he was with friends and family at the time of the killing. What happened to McMillian is depicted competently in the movie, as are some other cases and Stevenson’s struggles to bring injustices into the light. Jordan and Foxx are very good, as are supporting-cast members Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson and O’Shea Jackson Jr. The film is well done, but perhaps a little too routine in some stretches. Still, it’s a showcase for fine acting, especially by Jordan and Foxx. It’ll also get you thinking about problems with the death penalty, and the kinds…
09 Jan 2020
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A couple of British World War I soldiers stationed in France face a harrowing time in 1917, a war action/drama from director Sam Mendes that is one of last year’s greatest technological achievements in cinema—and one of last year’s best movies. Mendes—along with his special-effects team, his editing crew and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (finally an Oscar winner for Blade Runner 2049)—designed the film to look like one continuous shot. They do a seamless job, to the point where you’ll stop looking for the places where edits might be happening and just take the whole thing in. The story never suffers in favor of the filmmaking stunt. Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) are napping at the beginning of the movie. Blake is ordered to wake up and report to command; he takes Schofield along with him. The two pals figure they have some sort of…

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