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Wednesday, 17 February 2016 09:24

The profane perfection of Deadpool'

Film offers crass, clever take on the superhero genre

Considering the current ubiquity of superhero movies, one might think that we're past the point where any of these films might be capable of surprising us. We've got the ongoing Marvel brightly-colored world-building and the DC dark-and-gritty take about to commence what else is there?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 09:13

How to Be Single' deserves to be alone

Rom-com attempts edginess, fails to resonate

Plenty of people critics and consumers alike are happily dismissive of romantic comedies out of hand. I, however, am not one of them. There's something inherently romantic about the medium; movies are great vehicles for the telling of love stories. Call them cheesy, call them trite, call them whatever you like they can absolutely have value. They don't always, mind you, but they can.

This is where a distinction needs to be made; I'm talking about WELL-MADE romantic comedies here. There are certainly plenty of terrible rom-coms out there, just like there are terrible examples of every genre of film. Granted, romantic comedy tends to lean into formula and hackneyed tropes more than most, so it's always a delight when a solid one pops up.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 08:59

Zoolander 2' a fashion victim

Too-late sequel neither funny nor necessary

Sequels are inherently subject to the law of diminishing returns. Revisiting the same people doing the same things is almost always going to result in a lesser experience. The degree of diminishment, however, is variable. Sometimes, you get a sequel that stands fairly strong; it's particularly nice when a sequel allows itself to change in a significant way.

Other times, you get 'Zoolander 2.' This wildly unnecessary 15-years-later sequel to 2001's 'Zoolander' has no real reason to exist. The original managed to take advantage of a cast operating at or near the peak of its collective comedic powers to elevate a barely-viable concept into a fun, eminently quotable cult classic. The sequel doesn't.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 13:45

Austen undead Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

Adaptation of literary mash-up marries gentility and gore

In 2009, writer Seth Graeme-Smith created a sensation with his literary mash-up 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' a work in which he took Jane Austen's 1813 novel and introduced a rash of zombie-related incidents into the narrative while still maintaining the basic structure of the original story.

After years struggling through the development process, the film adaptation has finally made it to the big screen. Directed by Burr Steers, who also wrote the adapted screenplay, 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' takes two wildly incongruous parts the complex romance of Jane Austen's masterpiece and the lurid pulpiness of the zombie undead and attempts (mostly successfully) to make them one.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 03 February 2016 16:08

Kicking it with Kung Fu Panda 3'

Animated sequel familiar, but still plenty of fun

As much as we might bemoan the lack of originality in Hollywood, there's no denying the reality that there's a lot of money to be made by giving people what they've already shown that they like.

Animated movies are among the guiltiest of offenders. Any animated film that achieves even a modicum of success swiftly becomes a franchise, a family-friendly cash cow that can be counted on to generate serious box office and merchandising revenue over and over and over again. Granted, all of these animated franchises fall prey to the inevitability of diminishing returns, but some manage their drop-offs better than others.

'Kung Fu Panda 3' is a good example of that sort of quality management. The folks at DreamWorks have never been shy about hitting the same notes repeatedly ('Shrek,' 'How to Train Your Dragon' and most egregiously 'Madagascar'), but they've handled this particular series with a lighter touch. The end result is a film that, while undeniably familiar, still manages to retain a bit of freshness.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 12:04

'13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'

Flawed film features solid action, questionable accuracy

There are few filmmakers in Hollywood who are as commercially successful and as critically reviled as Michael Bay. His over-the-top explosion-laden aesthetic has proven to be extremely popular at the box office, much to the chagrin of just about anyone who actually cares about movies as an art form.

However, it should be noted that Bay has occasionally managed to transcend his inherent schlocky dudebro-ness and create something more. And I do mean occasionally I can think of two, the most recent being 2013's 'Pain & Gain.' Make no mistake these offerings are still very much Michael Bay movies. They just have a less 'lowest common denominator' vibe than his usual fare.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 21:57

A very bumpy Ride Along 2'

Buddy cop sequel blandly mediocre

One of the wonderful things about Hollywood is that you just never know. Every once in a while, a film will come along that becomes a surprise box office hit, drawing huge audiences and making back its relatively meager budget five-fold.

However, one of the not-so-wonderful things about Hollywood is their general attitude of 'If it worked once, it'll work again.'

Published in Movies

Tarantino's latest a stylish, violent Western

Considering his seeming ubiquity in the pop culture landscape since bursting onto the scene with the one-two punch of 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction' in the early 1990s, it's a little surprising that Quentin Tarantino has only directed eight films.
(Well by his count, anyway. Depending on how you choose to categorize the two-volume 'Kill Bill' or the 'Death Proof' half of 'Grindhouse,' you could argue that this latest is actually his ninth.)

'The Hateful Eight' is Tarantino's newest work; once again, he's paying homage to a beloved genre in this case, the Western. The director (who also wrote the screenplay) provides himself an abundance of opportunities for sweeping shots and extreme violence just the sort of combination that allows Tarantino's vision to shine brightest.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 19:01

Shooting blanks The Gunman'

There has never been a better time to be an aging action star. We are in a geriatric golden age; whether you're looking at the reinvigorated over-the-top stardom of guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger or the reinvention of guys like Liam Neeson, the silver screen has seen plenty of old guys shooting guns and blowing stuff up.

Apparently, Sean Penn decided he wanted to get in on some of that action despite not necessarily having a good understanding of what makes those movies work. 'The Gunman' is the unfortunate result of that ill-informed decision.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 18:59

The caste and the furious Insurgent'

Second installment a step backward for series

It goes without saying that these days, franchises foot the bill in Hollywood. Big-budget multi-movie extravaganzas are the current watchword and if they can be based on a preexisting pop cultural phenomenon, so much the better.

Published in Movies
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