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Tuesday, 19 June 2018 15:22

‘Incredibles 2’ is incredible too

We’ll start with the obvious: like anyone who loves great animated movies (or really, great movies, no qualifiers), I’m in the bag for Pixar. Ever since their initial outing with 1995’s “Toy Story,” the studio has produced an exceptional collection of high-quality fare (and also the “Cars” sequels) – and everybody has their favorites.

For me, while I’ve loved many of the movies that Pixar has given us over the past 15 years – heck, the 2008-2010 run of “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3” is as good a stretch as any studio has ever put up, animation or otherwise – but for me, the best Pixar movie has always been “The Incredibles.”

As you might imagine, my affection for that film meant that I was both excited and apprehensive when I heard about the impending sequel. To think that they were finally revisiting that story, bringing these characters and that world into a moviegoing culture that has not only accepted, but passionately embraced superheroes, well … would it work?

Oh yes. Yes yes yes. A thousand times yes.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 15:20

‘Superfly’ is less than super

Here’s a fun fact about my cinematic tastes that might surprise you: I have a deep-seated and ongoing affection for the blaxploitation genre films of the early 1970s. “Shaft,” “Dolemite,” “Avenging Disco Godfather” – even later parodies like “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” and “Black Dynamite” – are all … not favorites, per se, but definitely beloved bits of my movie-watching history.

“Superfly,” the new remake of the 1972 classic of the same name, makes an effort to stay true to the spirit of the original. It’s definitely slick and stylish, directed by noted music video auteur Director X from a script by Alex Tse, but it lacks some of the soul that made the original film so engaging and fun. While this new offering shows some flashes, it can’t quite put the pieces together. The end result is too long and lacking in joy.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 16:06

‘Ocean’s 8’ is more than enough

Anyone who digs a good heist/caper movie carries a fondness for the “Ocean’s” series of movies. 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” 2004’s “Ocean’s Twelve” and 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” were a stylized delight, reinvigorating the genre via the directorial talents of Steven Soderbergh and the tremendous cast, anchored by the movie star triumvirate of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon atop some phenomenal ensemble casts.

It’s such a wonderful trilogy, in fact, that one can certainly understand the skepticism felt my moviegoers upon hearing the announcement of a new, female-led installment in the series. However, “Ocean’s 8” largely puts that skepticism to rest; while the film doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of the initial films, it’s got a powerhouse cast of its own telling a story that – while a bit implausible – is still a heck of a lot of fun.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 16:04

Checking into ‘Hotel Artemis’

World-building – particularly sci-fi world-building – isn’t easy. Creating a consistent, believable genre landscape is tricky business. And doing it in such a way as to allow for both exciting action and narrative engagement is trickier still.

Drew Pearce knows how tough that can be, having penned scripts for iconic franchises like the MCU (“Iron Man 3”) and “Mission: Impossible” (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”). But creating something original presents its own set of unique challenges.

Pearce marks his directorial debut with one such original script in “Hotel Artemis,” a gritty bit of near-future sci-fi storytelling. The simplest way to describe it is if you wanted to focus on what happened to bad guys that John Wick injured but didn’t kill, only a decade or so in the future. It has that same sort of hinted-at rich and complex underworld, centered around a hospital where criminals can receive treatment for injuries suffered in the execution of their duties. It’s brutally violent and darkly funny with moments of surprising poignancy.

All that, plus Jodie Foster. What’s not to love?

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 05 June 2018 15:51

Come sail away – ‘Adrift’

Ever since humans have been telling stories, some of the scariest have been born of the idea of being lost. Of being stranded, held at the whim of the elements with no one to help us and no one to hear us scream.

And few of those stories are as harrowing as the lost in sea stories, the tales of people whose attempts to challenge the ocean are met by her unrelenting, unforgiving power.

“Adrift” tells one such lost at sea story. Based on the book “Red Sky at Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea,” the film tells the story of Tami Oldham, who in 1983 was sailing in the Pacific Ocean when she and her boyfriend ran into a hurricane. It’s a tale of battling through the worst kinds of adversity for the highest possible stakes – survival. But while the movie does have some solid qualities, it ultimately can’t quite manage to stay completely afloat.

Published in Movies

I’ve always had an affinity for watching people get hurt in ridiculous ways. It’s the teenaged boy in me; slapstick, physical humor has always been a favorite of mine. It’s why I have a soft spot for Johnny Knoxville and “Jackass.” The sheer abandon with which those degenerates approached their work (such as it was) … admirable, really.

But such degeneracy is a young man’s game. Truly, in the end, time leaves no man’s balls unkicked.

This brings us to “Action Point,” a film about which I held the exact right degree of low expectations, yet was disappointed nevertheless. It’s a lazy, largely unfunny comedy that spastically flails about and fails to make any real impact, despite an enthusiastic performance by Knoxville (including a couple of stunts sure to delight his longtime fans).

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 14:24

Taking flight with 'Solo'

Full disclosure: I love “Star Wars.” The original trilogy is near and dear to my heart – one of my earliest memories is seeing “Empire” at the drive-in when I was three. And while the prequels left a lot to be desired, Disney’s reinvigoration of the franchise in recent years has been welcome.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the fourth film in this new wave and somehow manages to be both the biggest departure and the most conventional of the bunch. Turmoil seemed abundant behind the scenes – original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Ron Howard; rumblings about reshoots and acting coaches and whatnot were plentiful – so one wondered what the final product was going to be.

It’s … fine. Pretty good, actually. Not as good as the other newer offerings, but with plenty to recommend it. There are moments where it feels stitched together and a bit inconsistent, but otherwise, the directorial drama doesn’t show up much on screen. The performances range from meh to solid to excellent. The story is a bit slight and there are certain narrative mysteries that might have been better left unsolved (along with some tonal inconsistency and a few not-insignificant timeline questions), but all in all, it’s a fun space opera/heist movie with a charming cast and some strong set pieces.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 14:21

‘RBG’ notorious indeed

One wouldn’t necessarily expect an octogenarian Supreme Court justice to become a celebrated pop culture touchstone, but hey – you can’t go predicting what people are going to do.

So it is with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose life and career are brought to the big screen in “RBG,” a documentary directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West. It’s an engaging work, albeit somewhat introductory. That’s not a slight – for those many people whose knowledge of her springs primarily from internet memes, this film will prove to be an educational experience.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 15:00

More meta mayhem – ‘Deadpool 2’

Superheroes are big business at the box office. The biggest cinematic successes of the past few years have involved CGI explosions and spandex. Hell, 2018 alone has seen “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” taking their places atop various all-time lists.

And yet … there’s more than one path to victory.

We got a glimpse of one such path with 2016’s “Deadpool,” the hard-R Ryan Reynolds passion project that brought the unorthodox and profane titular character to the big screen in all of his fourth wall-breaking metatextual glory. The critical and commercial acclaim with which it was met ensured that we’d see another installment.

“Deadpool 2” is … more. More of the self-awareness. More of the snark. More winking jokes and nods. More curse words. Just … more. It is broad and crude and unapologetic. And while it’s maybe a little messier and unfocused than its predecessor, it also opens up and shows some unexpected heart – albeit in Deadpool’s specific and very peculiar way.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 14:58

‘Book Club’ fails to leave a mark

It isn’t easy getting old in Hollywood. Too often, stars flail against the notion of age, desperately trying to stave off the inevitability of time. Aging gracefully isn’t something that most actors have the luxury of doing.

It’s particularly bad for women; there just isn’t a lot of space carved out of the cinematic firmament for actresses of a certain age. So when an opportunity arises – an opportunity for a collection of exceptionally talented women to shine - all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.

At the very least, hope for better than “Book Club.”

Published in Movies
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