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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

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

One could make the argument that we’re currently in the midst of a horror movie renaissance. While the genre still offers up its share of misfires, horror has provided fertile ground for filmmakers looking to explore ideas big and small in sophisticated ways. It’s an arena where chances can still be taken. And when those risks pay off, you get some pretty great movies.

Movies like “A Quiet Place.”

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:29

The absent truths of ‘Chappaquiddick’

Truth is a funny thing.

Some people view it as an absolute. Others regard it as a concept with some flexibility. And once you’re a deviation or two away from the center, things get even murkier. There’s what happened and then there’s the story about what happened. Sometimes, the two are close to the same. More often, they’re not.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 12:49

Game on! – ‘Ready Player One’

The potency of nostalgia is well-documented at this point. It seems as though much of the pop culture we consume these days is inspired by (or straight-up copied from) source material that we already know and love. Revisiting what we loved in the past has become a cottage industry across all entertainment platforms.

And so it’s no surprise that Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel “Ready Player One” would be adapted to the big screen. It’s a story ready-made for the wistful remembrances of the current cultural climate, packed with wave after wave of period-specific nerd references aimed at striking the winsome sweet spot of one particular generation. We do so love to love what we already love.

But when you hand the reigns over to a pop cultural icon like Steven Spielberg, well … that’s when you take things to a whole new level. A level, I might add, that is actually a bit higher than might have been expected for a film like this one. It’s precisely the sort of sci-fi-steeped young-person adventure story at which Spielberg excels. It’s throwbacks within throwbacks within throwbacks – a meta-nostalgic moviegoing experience that in many ways outshines the perfunctory nature of its inspiration.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 27 March 2018 15:42

‘Unsane’ in the brain

Remember when Steven Soderbergh said he wasn’t going to make movies anymore?

Published in Movies

There are some movies that are clearly designed for sequels. They are structured specifically to allow for a continuation of the story going forward – sometimes to the detriment of the tale being told in the moment. They’re built to be built again.

And then you have a film like 2013’s “Pacific Rim.” Guillermo del Toro’s big-budget love letter to the giant monster movies of the past felt for all the world like a one-off; a stylish two-hour whirlwind of enormous robots fighting enormous monsters. It seemed to have told the story it meant to tell.

Enter “Pacific Rim Uprising,” a decent-enough sequel that nevertheless feels unnecessary and almost cursory. Without del Toro as the driving creative force – though he is credited as a producer – this new film simply fails to reach the heights of the first, lacking spirit to match the spectacle of the too-familiar action beats.

Published in Movies

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age story. I love narratives that allow me to follow young people as they stumble through the assorted obstacles that growing up can scatter in our paths. And when you add in a little first love action, well … I’m all in.

But there’s a certain kind of coming-of-age story – and a certain kind of first love – that’s never really been explored in a mainstream studio film.

“Love, Simon” – based on the novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli and directed by Greg Berlanti - is the story of a high school student who is navigating the waters of adolescence and trying to become the person he wants to be – all while hiding his true self. See, Simon is gay and in the closet. He’s struggling to find the courage to follow his heart, but despite having seemingly every advantage – a loving family, close friends, a relatively progressive school – it’s still not easy.

Published in Movies
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