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When someone says “superhero movie,” you almost certainly think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe. Of course you do – these are the costume-clad films that have completely dominated the entertainment world for coming up on two decades.

But while they are the most popular, they are far from the only superheroic entertainment content we’ve seen on our screens. Indeed, the massive success of those larger entities has led to a proliferation of smaller, less name-brand super offerings. Some are very good, some are very bad, but most are somewhere in the mushy middle.

“Secret Headquarters,” currently streaming on Paramount+, is one such middling offering. That isn’t to say that the film – co-directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost from a script co-written by Christopher L. Yost, Josh Koenigsberg and Joost – is bad; it’s a perfectly nice piece of entertainment. It’s just very much a product of that mushy middle, an average film that doesn’t aspire to be anything more than that – and that’s OK.

It's a kids’ movie. And yes, if you want to argue that all superhero movies are kids’ movies, fine – I don’t agree, but I take your point – but this one centers kids as the protagonists, moving the superhero stuff to the periphery. It is goofy and unapologetic about the goofiness, with an absence of self-seriousness that many of its big-budget brethren might do well to imitate.

Published in Movies
Monday, 14 February 2022 15:51

Say ‘I do’ to ‘Marry Me’

The past few years have shown us that the streamers in general – and Netflix in particular – have taken the baton with regard to romantic comedies. The major players just aren’t as interested in rom-coms anymore, choosing to focus their energies elsewhere.

However, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up entirely.

And so we get “Marry Me,” the new film directed by Kat Coiro and starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. With a screenplay adapted by John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill from Bobby Crosby’s graphic novel of the same name, the film tells the story of an iconic pop star whose way forward gets thrown into disarray when she crosses paths with a man who is unlike anyone she has ever met before.

Is it predictable? Yes. Corny? For sure. Sappy? Absolutely. It is also a sweet, good-hearted good time, a movie that is unashamed to be what it is. This film isn’t striving for edginess or excitement. It offers up romantic formula with glee, hitting all the standard markers – playing the hits, if you will – but is no lesser for it. “Marry Me” isn’t great cinema, but rom-com fans – of which I am definitely one – will find plenty to enjoy.

Published in Movies

There’s nothing quite like a Wes Anderson movie.

The writer/director has carved out an auteur space all his own, a space unlike that occupied by anyone else in American cinema. His films are exquisitely and meticulously constructed, so finely tuned and detailed that they play almost as kinetic dioramas. Each screen picture is built and presented just so, resulting in films packed with moments and images that linger in the memory.

“The French Dispatch” is Anderson’s latest, a film about a magazine intended to be an analog for The New Yorker. It makes total sense – the magazine shares many of Anderson’s tendencies toward specificity of presentation and an inherent preciousness that appeals to those of a certain mindset while also reading to others as pretention.

At any rate, that structural framework allows Anderson to do something he’s never really done before – an anthology film. And that separated story structure also allows him to pack even more talented and wildly famous performers than usual into this film’s 108 minutes or so, all while unspooling a trio of compelling tales, each of which is rich enough to hold up on its own as well as part of the larger whole.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 February 2021 12:37

Set adrift on memory – ‘Bliss’

What if the life you know isn’t the whole story?

Few science fiction tropes offer the kind of narrative oomph that you get from parallel worlds. It’s an ideal way to introduce that “what if?” vibe that can make for such an interesting story. A more recent evolution of the concept is from the notion that we are living inside a simulation – an idea that seems to be steadily be gaining more real-world traction.

Of course, the fact that it CAN be effective doesn’t mean it always WILL be effective. And that potential for effectiveness means that we see it used a lot; unfortunately, that high volume doesn’t necessarily translate to consistent quality.

“Bliss” – the latest film from indie genre auteur Mike Cahill – attempts to explore some of the potential ramifications that might come from learning that what you believe to be real … isn’t. And while it does find room for some interesting ideas and a couple of sly subversions, it unfortunately becomes rather tangled in its own construction, to no one’s benefit.

Cahill, who wrote and directed the film, has a history of doing a lot with a little, crafting a pair of marvelous genre gems in “Another Earth” and “I Origins.” He’s venturing into familiar territory here, but despite some big ideas and strong performances from his leads, the film never quite clicks, particularly in its chaotic and vaguely unsatisfying third act.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 22 November 2017 13:58

The ‘Wonder’ of it all

YA adaptation inspires laughter, tears

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:25

‘Cars 3’ runs a good race

Pixar sequel offers simple, unchallenging fun.

Published in Movies
Friday, 30 September 2016 14:42

'Masterminds' fun but forgettable

Heist comedy uneven, but reasonably entertaining

It's never a good sign when a film disappears from the schedule. While there are often extenuating circumstances, the truth is that movies that wind up stuck on the shelf should usually stay there.

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, 12 June 2013 14:19

Google mirth The Internship'

Vaughn-Wilson reunion never quite hits stride

When it comes to summer movies, most of the focus tends to be on the big-budget blockbusters. It's all about action sequences and special effects. Studios are looking to build and maintain franchises that's a lot of what the summer season has come to be about. The comedic offerings, on the other hand, tend to be hit-or-miss. 

'The Internship' aims to be a hit. It has two stars with comedic chops and a record of past success and one of the biggest companies in the world as its setting. There's a fair amount of potential here.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:18

'The Big Year' not for the birds

Comedy driven by performance, plumage

Of all the hobbies that one might choose to make a film about, bird-watching would seem to be fairly low on the list. There would appear to be nothing truly dynamic inherent to quiet guys quietly picking their way through the woods and watching birds - quietly.

However, 'The Big Year' would beg to differ.

It's the story of three men who have decided to attempt what is known in birding circles as a 'big year.' The gist is that you try to see and catalog as many different species of birds (in North America) as you can in one calendar year. The person who puts up the biggest number is acknowledged as the world's best birder.

Published in Movies

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