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There was a certain flavor of film that we used to see fairly often back in the day, films that were part rom-com, part adventure. These movies brought together action elements with love stories and steeped the whole thing in quippy banter and moments of slapstick. Now, were these movies always good? Of course not. But they were almost always fun – and that was more than enough.

We don’t see as many of those films these days, what with the industry’s pivot to IP blockbusters and franchise development. But when they do turn up, it can be a reminder of how much fun these kinds of movie experiences can be.

“The Lost City,” directed by Aaron and Adam Nee from a screenplay they co-wrote with Dana Fox and Oren Uziel, is a throwback to those delightful mélanges of comedy, adventure and romance. Thanks to some engaging performances, headlined by Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, and a distinctly retro storytelling sensibility, the movie proves to be a lovely romp, a frothy, goofy trifle of a film that refuses to take itself too seriously.

Sure, it might not be great cinema, but I definitely had a great time … and I bet you will too.

Published in Movies
Monday, 21 February 2022 16:12

Tatum and company offer up a good ‘Dog’

Full disclosure: I am a sucker for dogs.

Seriously – all a filmmaker has to do is place a dog prominently in their movie and I will be absolutely enraptured by it. And if that dog is placed in trying circumstances of any sort? Cue the waterworks, particularly if those trying circumstances involve said dog’s relationship with a human.

(Please note: I DO NOT CARE about the well-being of the human, save for how that human’s well-being will impact that of the dog. Do whatever you want to the people, just keep the dog safe.)

So I was ready for “Dog” to pluck at my heartstrings. The film, which stars Channing Tatum and marks the actor’s first time in the director’s chair – well, co-director’s chair at any rate (Reid Carolin, who also wrote the script, served as co-director) – tells the story of a former Army Ranger who is tasked with getting the service dog of his fallen comrade to the man’s funeral.

It’s a surprising film, one whose emotional beats feel largely earned despite sporting the cheat code that is a dog; this movie is aware that it is pushing buttons, but manages not to come off as doing so cynically, all while being a good deal funnier than you might anticipate. Yes, the film has its share of issues, but “Dog” is actually rather well-made – certainly solid work from a pair of first-time directors.

Published in Style

One of the tricky aspects of being a movie critic is finding the balance between one’s personal (and idiosyncratic) tastes and a broader sensibility. You have to find that sweet spot where you’re addressing the work through your own personal lens while also acknowledging that lens’s subjectivity. You must recognize your own positive and negative biases as you judge the film on its merits.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I’m not entirely sure how to review the new Netflix animated film “America: The Motion Picture.”

The film – directed by Matt Thompson, written by Dave Callaham and produced by, among others, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – is a reimagining of the American revolution by way of wave after wave of anachronisms and alternate history, all steeped in adult-oriented juvenile humor. It’s an effort to parody and mock a certain kind of jingoistic action fare even as it follows much the same blueprint.

Not a successful effort, mind you. But an effort.

This is a ridiculous movie, one that readily crosses the line into abject stupidity throughout. It’s the kind of film that wears its idiocy as a badge of honor, proudly pandering to the lowest common denominator with gross-out gags, sexual innuendo and dopey one-liners. Whatever relatively high-minded ideas the filmmakers may have had are quickly buried in a seemingly unending avalanche of curse word-laden scatological juvenilia.

Here’s the thing, though: I enjoyed it. I don’t feel great about the fact that I enjoyed it. And my enjoyment is separate from the relative quality of the film, which again, has a lot of problems and will likely prove off-putting to many.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 03 October 2018 12:48

‘Smallfoot’ has a big heart

It’s always nice when a movie surprises you.

Most of the time, you can generate a fairly accurate idea about a film simply by paying attention. All it takes is a couple of trailers, maybe a press tour interview or two, and you can form a good picture of what you’re going to get.

Most of the time … but not ALL the time.

“Smallfoot” is an animated offering, the second to be released by Sony through Warner Brothers Animation (2016’s “Storks” was the first). By all appearances, this was going to be a pretty straightforward and goofy bit of kiddie fare, with recognizable voice talent, decent 3D animation and a handful of not-bad songs. And it is that – but it’s also a little bit more.

Just beneath the surface of this story about a young Yeti’s quest to prove the existence of the mythical Smallfoot is a surprisingly sophisticated allegory about the consequences of conformity and the importance of questioning authority. Oh, and the songs are catchy too.

Published in Movies

Stylish action sequel doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 11:36

Of heists and hillbillies - ‘Logan Lucky’

Soderbergh’s cinematic return well worth the wait

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 10:43

National insecurity White House Down'

Tatum, Foxx a dynamic duo

Hollywood loves offering up ideas in pairs. Whether you're talking about asteroids ('Deep Impact' and Armageddon'), volcanoes ('Volcano' and 'Dante's Peak') or even animated insects ('Antz' and 'Bug's Life'), we often see films with similar concepts appear at roughly the same time.

In 2013, one of those paired ideas is 'terrorists take over the White House.' We've already seen 'Olympus Has Fallen' this year, where Gerard Butler has to fight his way through the White House. Now, it's Channing Tatum's turn in 'White House Down.'

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 12:57

Go ahead and Jump'

'21 Jump Street' shockingly good

One of the things that Hollywood has taught us over the past couple of decades is that with rare exceptions, television properties almost never translate well to the big screen. The cinematic recreations of classic TV shows from 'The Brady Bunch' to 'Bewitched' to 'Starsky & Hutch' tend to have one thing in common they're terrible movies.

So expectations were low walking in to '21 Jump Street' (based on the late 1980s FOX show of the same name), Hollywood's latest attempt to translate television success to the cinema. I was expecting it to be more of the same more warmed over clichs and stale jokes dressed up in the guise of nostalgia. I even thought this movie had the chance to be a special kind of terrible.

I was very, very wrong.

Published in Movies

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