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Wednesday, 09 March 2016 09:40

The origin of species Zootopia'

Animated film offers plenty of laughs, surprising depth

It used to be that animated family films were almost solely aimed at younger audiences. For decades, the most beloved films (pretty much exclusively from Disney) were simple stories whose clear targets resulted in movies that were at best tolerable to older moviegoers.

However, recent years have seen animated films become far more layered and sophisticated still plenty enjoyable for the kiddie set, but also offering more complex references and storytelling for the adults in the crowd. Disney's early '90s renaissance started the ball rolling, while the geniuses at Pixar have taken things to the next level over the past decade-plus.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 07:47

Eddie the Eagle' takes flight

Inspirational sports movie a true underdog story

Everyone loves an underdog.

That's why some of the most entertaining sports movies out there films like 'Rocky' and 'Hoosiers' and 'Rudy' and 'The Bad News Bears' focus on the efforts of a scrappy, downtrodden athlete or team to rise above circumstances and achieve greatness.

Published in Movies

Action film marred by bad story and even worse special effects

The first two months of the year tend to offer pretty slim pickings in terms of quality films. The simple truth is that January and February serve largely as dumping grounds for films that, for whatever reason, simply didn't live up to studio expectations.

Yes, there's the occasional outlier 'Deadpool' is Exhibit A from 2016 but for the most part, this is where films are simply abandoned so that they might hopefully just go away. And usually, that's just what happens.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 15:41

A fairly well-run Race'

Jesse Owens biopic a decent effort

I'm a sucker for inspirational movies. I'm also a sucker for sports movies. So an inspirational sports movie is definitely in my wheelhouse particularly if it is also a period piece that tells a true story.

All the pieces are there for 'Race,' a film based on the story of the many obstacles faced by track star Jesse Owens during his rise to fame that culminated in an historic performance for reasons athletic and otherwise at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While it is a bit uneven in spots, the overall effect is an engaging, compelling story that certainly warrants telling to a new generation.

Published in Movies
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
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