Action film might not be good, but you’ll have a good time

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:17

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ not quite smooth

Film’s flawed storytelling offset by vivid aesthetic, ideas

Published in Movies

It’s easy to feel like Hollywood has run out of ideas. The constant churn of remakes and reboots, the recycling and repurposing … everything old is old again. It’s not always a bad thing – sometimes these projects breathe new life into a worthwhile concept.

But sometimes you get “Death Wish.”

Published in Movies

There are certain literary works that, for one reason or another, are deemed unfilmable. Whether it’s a question of scale or story or power or perspective, these books seemingly defy any effort to effectively translate them to the big screen.

A lot of people hung that label on Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, a collection of genre-bending books telling a surreal, dreamlike and very weird story about an unknown presence encroaching on the southern United States and the agencies tasked with dealing with it. VanderMeer isn’t what you’d call a conventional storyteller – the three books (“Annihilation,” “Authority” and “Acceptance”) are well-written, well-regarded and compelling as hell, but stylistically, they’d seem to warrant the unfilmable tag.

But Alex Garland cares not for your labels.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 17:00

‘Game Night’ a big winner

One could argue that the state of cinematic comedy – at least in terms of mainstream wide-release offerings – has been at a bit of an ebb recently. Sure, there have been a few standouts, but for the most part, we’ve been seeing films that are willing to rely on crassness and/or rapid-fire references as crutches rather than concentrate on storytelling or character or, you know – being funny.

That’s what makes “Game Night” – co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein from a script by Mark Perez – so refreshing. It’s smart and funny, driven by talented actors bringing something real to the table. It has its crass moments and is packed with referential nods, sure, but it’s all in service to driving the narrative and making actual jokes. Dark laughs, surprisingly engaging set pieces and sharp plot twists – all the pieces fit.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 11:44

The brave brilliance of ‘Black Panther’

There’s no disputing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has established real dominance over the box office. These movies – nearing 20 in number – appear to have cracked the code for ensuring ongoing success.

Some might argue that the MCU has become too formulaic in its approach, that it has become a bit of a one-size-fits-all situation that doesn’t leave a lot of room for individual filmmakers to make their mark. And I might even concede that point … to a certain extent.

But then a movie like “Black Panther” comes along, a movie that somehow manages to operate within the established MCU structure while also being something wholly and uniquely itself. It’s a film that addresses serious and complex ideas while still existing in a world of superpowered beings and futuristic technology. We’ve seen superhero space operas and superhero paranoid thrillers and superhero buddy comedies.

And now, thanks to the taut direction of Ryan Coogler, the sharp, intricate screenplay of Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole and the performances of a top-to-bottom outstanding cast led by Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, we’ve seen something altogether new.

Something new, thought-provoking … and spectacular.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 11:42

‘Early Man’ is right on time

Animated movies have become been big business in recent years. Yes, the Disney juggernaut has been rolling for decades now, but in the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen an explosion of cartoon content – these movies have been getting bigger in scale and box office scope, with nine-figure budgets producing ten-figure returns.

But that’s not Aardman Animation’s style.

The studio’s newest feature is “Early Man,” directed by Nick Park of “Wallace & Grommit” fame. It’s another lovely example of the whimsical simplicity that marks so many of their works, short and feature alike. It’s got that wonderful stop-motion look, a dynamite voice cast and the signature cheekily innocent wit that has become a hallmark of Park’s work.

Published in Movies

There are always obstacles when it comes to putting a real-life occurrence onto the silver screen. Mining the truth for drama while still maintaining that connection to what really happened is a delicate balance, one that isn’t at all easy to consistently strike.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:54

Bunny buffoonery - ‘Peter Rabbit’

Bringing beloved characters to life is a tricky business. You have to balance respect for the source material with the necessity of new energy. You can’t tell the same old story, but you also bear a certain modicum of responsibility to that story.

The works of Beatrix Potter have been beloved by generations of children. Her books have delighted kids for decades, creating characters that inspire fond memories in young and old alike.

So if you’re going to make a movie about Peter Rabbit, well … be careful.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:36

‘The Shape of Water’ beautiful and bizarre

It’s a rare thing for a filmmaker to be able to bring together diverse sensibilities in the service of furthering their own particular voice. Finding the balance between craftsmanship and commercialism is never an easy thing to do.

And when I say commercialism, I’m not necessarily referring to box office success (although that’s part of it). What I mean is the art of making commercial fare – a very different skill set than that used in the making of more indie-minded films.

Guillermo del Toro is as good at walking that line as any filmmaker in his generation. He’s probably the best we’ve seen since the heyday of Spielberg. And “The Shape of Water” is the culmination of that journey, precisely filling the Venn diagram overlap between those styles – equal parts “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy.”

Published in Movies
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