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Reviews

10 Nov 2016
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Mel Gibson has directed his first movie in a decade—and it bleeds. It bleeds a lot. As a director, Gibson stands alongside the likes of Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson as a master of bloody horror. In fact, his latest, Hacksaw Ridge, is an all-out horror film in parts. His depiction of World War II makes George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead look like Zootopia. The movie tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a battlefield medic and the first conscientious objector in American warfare history to receive the Medal of Honor. The dude refused to pick up a gun—or any weapon, for that matter—during his time served in Okinawa. That didn’t stop him from braving the battlefields with comrades, eventually saving the lives of 75 men during horrendously bloody battles. Much of the film’s first half is devoted to Doss’ backstory, including a troubled childhood…
03 Nov 2016
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I am grateful for the existence of Inferno, Ron Howard’s latest installment in his Da Vinci Code film series. Without Inferno, Tom Hanks would’ve had no reason to be out promoting a movie around Halloween time. Because he was, he stopped by Saturday Night Live to host for a ninth time. While there, he was in a totally bizarre sketch as David Pumpkins, a weirdo in a haunted house elevator ride accompanied by two beatboy dancer skeletons. The sketch is already a classic. That’s it … that’s the only reason I am grateful for the existence of Inferno. David Pumpkins. The film itself is easily the worst of the series, a series that was already pretty terrible in that both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons blew ass. Hanks returns as Robert Langdon, something the world’s most beloved actor shouldn’t need to do. This series needed to be…
27 Oct 2016
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How bad was Ouija? It was so piss-poor and forgettable that I had to actually look into the archives for a review to confirm I had actually seen the damn thing back in 2014. I wasn’t sure. As it turns out, I had seen the movie, and I proclaimed the following: “The wannabe scares in this PG-13 outing consist of fake-outs and people behind doors—the kind of stuff you’ll see coming if you’ve seen, say, one horror movie in your lifetime. If that is, in fact, true, don’t make this your second horror movie, for you will wind up massively disappointed.” In short, Ouija was a deplorable shit show. This brings us to Ouija: Origin of Evil, which is a bona fide movie miracle in many ways. Ouija was awful, yet it made enough money to warrant a sequel. Still, it shocked me to see the sequel actually made it…
24 Oct 2016
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Horror fans know director Ti West for his cult-classic horror film The House of the Devil, as well as V/H/S, The Innkeepers and The Sacrament. His latest, starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, is a major departure: In a Valley of Violence is a capable, full-on homage to Sergio Leone Westerns. Hawke plays Paul, a drifter who finds himself in a frontier ghost town with few remaining inhabitants. He and his dog immediately get into trouble with Gilly (James Ransone), the son of the town marshal (Travolta). Bad things transpire (think John Wick set in the old Wild West), and Paul sets out for revenge. The resulting gunfights are nicely staged, accentuated by good work from Hawke, Travolta and Ransone. While Hawke is always reliable these days, Travolta’s film career has been on a bit of downslide (one of several his career has endured). His performance here as a semi-crooked…
20 Oct 2016
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The Accountant is a ridiculous, implausible thriller, in some ways even more ridiculous than the recent, somewhat weak film The Girl on the Train. So why did I end up liking it? I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was super-high on weed and mescaline, and I got an extra check in the mail from an employer goof-up that gave me all the money I needed to buy a new couch and lots of snacks. No, wait … I don’t do drugs, and I only dreamt that I got that check. My couch still sucks ass. Instead, I liked The Accountant because it has a fantastic Ben Affleck, and the movie sort of plays out like a deranged Batman pic—with calculator action! Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic man who has managed to harness his extreme intelligence with numbers and physical tics—into the strangest of professions. By day,…
13 Oct 2016
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Despite good performances from a cast including Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux and Allison Janney, The Girl on the Train winds up being a little too ridiculous for a movie that wishes to be taken seriously. Blunt spends much of the movie blotto-drunk as Rachel Watson, a slurring alcoholic who aimlessly rides a train to New York City everyday, spying on the people living in her former house, as well as the neighbors. Rachel is divorced from Tom (Theroux), who couldn’t take Rachel’s drinking ways; he was also upset about their inability to have a child. Tom is remarried to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson); they have a child—and they would really like Rachel to stay away. Tom and Nancy’s nanny, Megan (Haley Bennett), lives nearby with her husband, Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel spies on them during their most intimate moments as she races by on the train, envying what she sees as…
13 Oct 2016
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Director Nate Parker’s biographical film about Nat Turner plays out like the scariest of horror shows—as it very well should. The Birth of a Nation scarily portrays Turner’s slave rebellion in the South, one that resulted in many African Americans being slaughtered in retaliation. It’s bloody; it’s heartbreaking; and it’s the two-by-four to the face the subject warrants. Parker plays Turner, a slave raised as a preacher and exploited for money by his plantation owner (Armie Hammer, in a most scary performance); Parker’s performance is a powerful one. As for his directing, he portrays white plantation and slave owners and preachers as hissing, hateful, almost-cartoonish demons … and I say amen to that. Some of the history might not be 100 percent accurate, but the portrayal of the hatred and the disgusting state of affairs that led to Turner’s uprising is vivid and on target. Jackie Earle Haley, aka Kelly…
06 Oct 2016
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I think my shockingly lustrous eyelashes got singed watching Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg’s harrowing account of the worst oil-rig disaster in American history. Berg’s film drops viewers into a situation where fire and explosions are so realistic that it seems like you can feel the heat and disorientation of the 2010 disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 men and led to an oil spill eclipsing all other oil spills. Mark Wahlberg is first-rate as Mike Williams, a real man who was on the rig at the time of the disaster. Kurt Russell equals Wahlberg’s power as Jimmy Harrell, a man who questions the integrity of the rig—and then proceeds to have the worst cinematic shower since Janet Leigh had a showdown with Anthony Perkins. The setup is a doozy: Williams and Harrell head out for a three-week stay on the Deepwater Horizon along with a couple of BP…
29 Sep 2016
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Director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven (which itself was a remake of Seven Samurai) has enough in common with the Yul Brynner/Steve McQueen original to make it feel like a re-telling of the classic story. It also contains enough departures from the original to make it feel like a fresh take. The Mexican bandits led by Eli Wallach in the original are replaced by an evil, land-stealing company led by a man named Bartholomew Bogue. As played by Peter Sarsgaard, Bogue is a memorable villain who makes skin crawl. He rolls into a mining town; kills a bunch of good, hard working people; and winds up getting the grouping in the movie’s title opposing his ass. Let the spectacular gunfights commence! Fuqua pal Denzel Washington (they also worked together on The Equalizer and Training Day) is first-rate as Chisolm, basically Brynner’s role from the 1960 classic. When the…
29 Sep 2016
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Actor John Krasinski’s second directorial effort is a decent film with a first-rate cast. Krasinski stars in The Hollars as John Hollar, a man working a dead-end job for a publishing company when his girlfriend (the always-great Anna Kendrick) informs him his mom (a terrific Margo Martindale) is sick—and that he needs to fly home to see her. Once there, John has to deal with his weird brother Ron (Sharlto Copley), the oddball nurse who is also his old girlfriend’s new husband (Charlie Day) and his weepy dad (Richard Jenkins). The script goes through some familiar territory, but the performers put new spins on the situations—especially Martindale, who takes the part and really runs with it. Krasinski does a good job of handling the script’s many mood swings, and the relationships feel real … that strange kind of real. The film manages to get laughs, even when the subject matter…
22 Sep 2016
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It’s been 17 years since a whole bunch of people got the shit scared out of them by sticks, twine and Heather Donahue’s mucous in The Blair Witch Project, that success story that got the ball rolling on the now-dreaded and despised “found footage” horror genre. It’s been 16 years since the first sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, One Too Many came out and essentially killed the franchise, although the found-footage cheapie-horror shtick would live on, peaking with Cloverfield (2008), and pretty much sucking before and after that. Now, here in 2016, a second sequel to The Blair Witch Project has made its way into cinemas. Would Lionsgate take the opportunity to reintroduce a once-promising premise into a new style of film—perhaps a traditional narrative about the Blair Witch, set in the forest, without the gimmick of people running around with cameras filming themselves, even when they are…
13 Sep 2016
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If you are a fan of work by directors like David Cronenberg and Dario Argento, then you might be able to make it through Antibirth, a rather unpleasant horror-comedy. A party girl (Natasha Lyonne) blacks out at a rambunctious gathering and finds herself going through pregnancy symptoms shortly thereafter. Those symptoms start with standard nausea and then advance to skin peeling off and teeth falling out; she eventually discovers there’s something well beyond standard procreation at play. Chloe Sevigny co-stars as another low-class party girl for director Danny Perez, whose film gets progressively disgusting through the really, really gross birthing scene. Argento and early Cronenberg were never my cup of tea; I just don’t get down with most body-horror scenarios. That said, this film will have an appeal to those who like their horror hard-core when it comes to the gore quotient. As for the story, it’s a muddled affair…