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It seems as though we don’t get the same kinds of breakout comedies in the summer that we once did. The season has become overrun with blockbusters, and while I love superheroes and explosions as much as anyone and more than most, it’s nice to change it up once in a while. And occasionally, a comedy will achieve significant summertime success. A lot of factors have to line up for it to happen – timeliness, star power, subject matter, broad appeal and more – for a comedy to be that movie.

“Life of the Party” is not that movie.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 14:53

One bad mother – ‘Breaking In’

While it hasn’t reached the apex of home invasion movies, the subgenre of panic room thrillers has its place in the cinematic firmament. The notion of being (relatively) safe, yet still being trapped by the bad guys – usually with something to lose – is a resonant one and can make for some engaging, albeit fairly predictable, fare.

The new movie “Breaking In” attempts to subvert that basic structure. This time, the bad guys are the ones in the safe space and it’s up to our protagonist to find their way in and save the day. It’s not bad as ideas go – in the hands of really capable filmmakers, you could imagine this working quite well.

Alas, these filmmakers don’t appear to have that kind of capability. What we actually get is a poorly-paced ramble that never bothers to justify or explain the actions, events and decisions that play out on the screen. Gabrielle Union (“The Public”) does her level best in the lead – and gives a performance far better than this movie deserves – but that’s just not enough to overcome the jumbled blandness of literally everything else.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:39

Mother’s milk – ‘Tully’

One of the downsides to the bounteous excess of summer blockbuster season is the fact that it’s extremely difficult for a smaller film to gain any real traction. More thoughtful fare can be drowned out by a wave of superheroes, sequels and CGI explosions.

In the case of “Tully,” the latest product of the director/writer partnership of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, that would be a real shame. This weird little funny/sad film is a lovely piece of storytelling that deserves to be seen, a meditation on motherhood that is genuine and bizarre and driven by an outstanding performance from Charlize Theron (who previously teamed with Reitman and Cody on 2011’s “Young Adult”).

Published in Movies

Hollywood’s recent reliance on remakes and reboots has become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy as of late – people see them because that’s what available and the studios make more of them because people are going to see them and on and on. We’re in chicken/egg territory, only we’ve stopped caring which actually came first.

That line of thinking inevitably results in something like “Overboard.”

Published in Movies

Ever since “Iron Man” hit screens back in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to something. Something big. For the past decade, we’ve watched as nearly a score of movies have been made in the service of telling a massive interconnected metanarrative. It is storytelling where the big picture is made up of other big pictures.

And we’re coming to a crossroads.

That’s what “Avengers: Infinity War” is – a crossroads. It’s the beginning of, well … not THE end, but AN end. What we’re seeing now is the start of a transition, where various batons are being handed off – both in terms of the heroes we’ve grown to love and the actors who play them. It is a tremendous balancing act of a film, an effort to somehow bring together literally dozens of characters and deploy them in the service of a single story, all while maintaining narrative coherence and remembering that every character is someone’s favorite.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 01 May 2018 16:02

Summer movies: 18 for 2018

We begin this annual tradition as we always do, which is with the caveat that it seems a bit silly to be writing a summer movie preview so far in advance of summer.

Still, Hollywood has extended the season, turning the beginning of May into our summer starting point, so if we’re going to catalog the blockbusters, then it has to be from here.

Although if we’re going to be real about it, the biggest movie of the year has already happened – “Avengers: Infinity War” just had the biggest box office opening since, well … ever. And hey – you can check out my review right in this very edition.

But while the biggest may have already landed, there’s still plenty to be excited about.

2018 has plenty of what we’ve come to expect from blockbuster season -  a bunch of sequels and a handful of remake/reboot-type offerings and some superheroes, along with some animated fare and a smattering of comedies. It’s not like we don’t know how it works.

Honestly, there’s a LOT of what we’ve seen before. But hey – familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. Let’s have a look at what the summer of 2018 has to offer.

(Please note: this not a list of the 18 best films, but rather an attempt at a representative sample of what’s coming. There are movies that I expect to love that aren’t here and movies I expect to loathe that are. Still, it looks like there’s something for everyone.)

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 16:13

‘Super Troopers 2’ far from super

Today’s Hollywood is built on sequels. It’s no longer enough to make one movie that achieves box office success – you need to make a movie that will beget another movie that will beget still another movie and so on down the line. Some are designed to be ongoing – think the Marvel Cinematic Universe; others evolve into continuing concerns – the “Fast and Furious” franchise springs to mind.

But what about those sequels that simply shouldn’t be? The ones that are too late and/or too lame to effectively capitalize on what made the original special?

What about “Super Troopers 2”?

Published in Movies

How do you tell the true story of a man who seemingly sprang forth from the mists of myth? How do you ground in reality a man whose life seemed in many ways like fantasy?

How do you do justice to a giant?

That was the daunting task laid before director Jason Hehir when he agreed to make “Andre the Giant,” the very first documentary project springing from the partnership between Bill Simmons’s The Ringer and HBO. And through well-curated archival footage and a host of interviews with people who both knew and cared deeply for the world-famous wrestler, Hehir executed that task to perfection.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:43

‘Isle of Dogs’ is doggone good

Full disclosure: I’m in the bag for Wes Anderson. From “Bottle Rocket” right on through the years, I’ve been onboard with his quirky unorthodoxy. To my mind, he’s made solid contact with every film he’s ever made, even if he hasn’t necessarily hit a home run every time out.

That being said, “Isle of Dogs” is in fact a home run.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:41

Monster mash – ‘Rampage’

Despite its best efforts, Hollywood remains unable to properly transition video game properties to the big screen. There are plenty of obstacles – some obvious, others not so much – and while studios have proven able to overcome many of them, they have yet to fully solve the problems inherent to the necessary shift in storytelling.

So it should come as no surprise that “Rampage,” based on the essentially plotless arcade game of the same name, doesn’t present a particularly compelling narrative. What DOES come as a surprise, however, is that despite the presence of everybody’s favorite action star Dwayne Johnson and some big-budget CGI, “Rampage” isn’t even all that much fun.

Published in Movies
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