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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Reviews

08 Mar 2018
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Bruce Willis sleepwalks through Death Wish, a listless remake of the Charles Bronson vigilante movie that made a bunch money back in the 1970s, one year before Jaws was released. (I measure most things in the ’70s by the year Jaws was released. It’s a thing.) On paper, this looked like a potentially nasty fun project, considering Eli Roth was at the helm, and Willis was in the Bronson role. Sylvester Stallone gave the remake possibility some steam years ago, but subsequently chickened out. Then John McClane himself stepped into the role—and the remake started to take shape. Sadly, Willis is phoning it in here—and too many horribly acted scenes reveal that Willis and Roth probably didn’t gel as an actor/director combo. Willis seems tone deaf in some of the movie’s more dramatic scenes, and just plain bored in the remainder. When Willis gives a shit about the movie he’s…
01 Mar 2018
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Annihilation, director Alex Garland’s film starring Natalie Portman, bills itself as a science-fiction/fantasy flick. It is indeed sci-fi/fantasy—but on top of that, it is one of the scariest movies you will see this year. It’s also a legitimate horror film. This alien-invasion movie, loosely based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, explores themes of self-identity and love (as did Garland’s 2014 debut Ex Machina) while mixing in environmental terror involving nightmarish creatures and transforming landscapes. It also features a startlingly brutal take on the ravages of infidelity. And did I mention it’s freaking scary? There’s a lot going on in this movie—yet Garland and company balance it all out to make it a stunning piece of brainy entertainment. In an opening sequence reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing, an object enters Earth’s atmosphere and crashes to the planet. The zone surrounding the crash site becomes something known as The Shimmer, an environmental…
01 Mar 2018
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Give co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein a lot of credit for making a movie about friends gathering for a game night—a premise that sounds kind of stupid—and turning Game Night into one of the funnier dark comedies in recent memory. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play Max and Annie, a married couple with a love of board games and arcades. They host weekly game nights with their friends, but the latest one could be a bit annoying for Max, because it involves his highly successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Brooks asks to take over game night; Max concedes; and what follows is a great and funny series of surprising, twisted and often super-bloody events. I don’t want to give away the big twists; I’ll just say the film managed to trick me on numerous occasions—while making me laugh hard. Bateman and McAdams turn in some of the funniest…
22 Feb 2018
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Selecting Ryan Coogler to helm Black Panther is a major triumph: His entry into the Marvel universe is a majestic, full-bodied, exhilarating treatment of the African-king title character (Chadwick Boseman) with the crazy-cool suit. Marvel has yet another big success with a grand future. Coogler has three feature films to his credit now—one masterpiece (Fruitvale Station) and two very good movies (Black Panther and Creed). He’s officially one of the best directors currently calling the shots. This is also his third collaboration with actor Michael B. Jordan, who brings a fleshed-out, complicated villain to the screen in Erik Killmonger. Man, you need to be bad with that last name. The pre-opening-credit scenes involves Black Panther’s dad and predecessor having a confrontation in 1992, in Oakland, Calif. A major event takes place as some kids playing basketball look on. It turns out to be one of the more brilliant and heart-wrenching…
15 Feb 2018
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I went to see Fifty Shades Freed—the third, supposedly final and treacherously terrible entry in the Fifty Shades franchise—on a Sunday morning, hoping to keep a low profile. I was the only single guy sitting in the dark theater, along with couples of varying ages, primed for groping and sloppy in-theater fellatio. (Hey, we all know what happens at these damn Fifty Shades screenings!) So … this is the one in which Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) get married, creating an eternal bond for their patented strain of lovemaking that involves whips, handcuffs and shitty dialogue. When I sat down to take in this fart to the face, I was thinking, “Say, you know what I want with my miserable, dick-killing soft-core porn? Give me some car chases and kidnapping drama!” And that is what I got … but I wasn’t really thinking that. I was…
08 Feb 2018
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Toward the end of Winchester—the new haunted house movie starring Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke—a character has a moment when she says the words, “I am not afraid,” repeatedly. My sentiments exactly. Mirren and Clarke head a decent cast in what proves to be a movie without any real scares, personality or real reason to sit down and watch it. The acting is terrible; the editing is sloppy; and the special effects are third-rate. This level of failure is very surprising, considering it was directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, the brothers who put together the inventive science-fiction thriller Predestination. Clarke plays Eric Price, a doctor addicted to drugs and alcohol. His wife died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound via a Winchester rifle, a rifle from which he also took a bullet, although he survived. (The script alludes to him being dead for three minutes before being brought back…
01 Feb 2018
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Director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is an uncompromising, brutal Western. It makes Clint Eastwood’s classic, somber Unforgiven look like Mary Poppins. Christian Bale turns in another spellbinding performance as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Joe—a quiet, tired, jaded soldier—is spending the closing days of his military career in 1892 capturing and imprisoning Native Americans. He has fought many battles, seen many atrocities, and committed many of his own. When aging and terminally ill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is granted freedom by the president of the United States, somebody who knows his dialect must be chosen to escort him and his family back to Montana. Joe is the best candidate for the job … but it’s a job he doesn’t want: Joe fought against Yellow Hawk and witnessed him murdering his friend many years ago. The idea of leading a man he sees as the worst of murderers to a graceful…
25 Jan 2018
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The latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson finally did in actor Daniel Day-Lewis: He announced his retirement from acting before Phantom Thread made it to movie screens late last year—just in time for awards season. Timing is everything: The film nabbed six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actor nom for Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis tends to kick his own ass when he plays roles. A notorious method actor, he stayed in the role of Abe Lincoln for the Spielberg biopic when cameras weren’t rolling, and word has it that he did heavy research for his role as a 1950s dress-maker and fashion maverick in Phantom Thread. That crazy research and attention to detail most contributes to Day-Lewis’s tendency to inhabit a role like no other. I maintain that the greatest single performance by any actor, anywhere, ever, is his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood—Day-Lewis’s first,…
25 Jan 2018
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Call Me by Your Name is one of 2017’s better love stories—a sumptuously filmed romance set in Italy that is a thing of beauty. Lush settings, stunning locations and two adorable leads in Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet contribute to a sweet, and heartbreaking, story by André Aciman (who wrote the novel), with a screenplay by James Ivory. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Chalamet plays Elio, an American living in Italy with his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg). When his father takes an assistant in the form of Oliver (Hammer), Elio is smitten—and so is the older Oliver. They wind up having a fling that carries deep meaning for them, and for those who know them. Chalamet (who was also terrific in Lady Bird) makes Elio so much more than a confused teen in love; this guy is really in love in a way that will affect his entire life, and the…
18 Jan 2018
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Perhaps the most important journalistic battle in American history gets the Spielberg treatment in The Post, featuring a stellar cast that includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film explores The Washington Post’s decision to print the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam in 1971, a move that raised the ire of then-President Richard Nixon, and put the careers of people like paper owner Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) in major jeopardy. Of course, Hanks isn’t the first movie star to play Bradlee: Jason Robards also played him in All the President’s Men, the classic film that covered the Watergate scandal. Bradlee, who died in 2014, was a journalism giant. The movie starts in the mid-’60s with Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a member of the State Department who is a study for then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) in South Vietnam. Embedded with American troops, Ellsberg sees all…
18 Jan 2018
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Admit it: When Nancy Kerrigan got kneecapped by folks connected to Tonya Harding all those years ago, you just knew there would be a big Hollywood movie about it someday. Well, here it is, starring Margot Robbie as Harding—and it’s funny, nasty stuff. Allison Janney is a sinister hoot as Tonya’s nasty mom, while Robbie proves, weirdly enough, that she was born to play Tonya Harding. The movie is the subject some post-release controversy, as some people are claiming director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers tried to turn Harding into some kind of hero—an innocent in the scheme to take Kerrigan out and pave the way for Harding to become the world’s skating champion. Nah … Harding is not portrayed in a positive light here. It’s just that her mom is the greater villain—a manipulative, back-stabbing monster who Janney brings to hilarious fruition. As she brow-beats Tonya from her…
11 Jan 2018
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Jessica Chastain takes the role of Molly Bloom—a real poker-game organizer and former championship skier—and nails it: Molly’s Game takes a true story that seems too crazy to be real and turns it into a great movie about a woman’s struggle against the justice system, as well as the perils of gambling outside the already-dangerous realm of a casino. This is a great actress firing on all cylinders. Making the experience all the more enjoyable is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), whose stylish, snappy directorial debut here shows he has a big future beyond the keyboard. Bloom was a top-notch athlete, shepherded by her domineering father (an excellent Kevin Costner), who had all of her plans laid out before her. She was going to medal at the Olympics, go to law school and become an entrepreneur. Her plans started to hit a snag when it was discovered that she…