Friday, December 16, 2016

ROGUE ONE - Very Definitely A STAR WARS Story

If there's ever a STAR WARS film that starts as strong as last year's The Force Awakens and finishes with the punch of Rogue One, we'll finally have a movie that can - at long last - take the title from The Empire Strikes Back as "the best STAR WARS movie ever made."

You want more than that? Buckle up.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

MOANA - Familiar Formula, Fresh Hook

If you're more than passingly familiar with the Disney Renaissance of the 1990's, then the names Ron Clements and John Musker may ring a bell. These two men were veterans of the "Dark Age" when the studio almost closed down Disney Animation for good, and not only did they direct 2 films that arguably kicked off and then firmly cemented the House of Mouse's comeback - with 1989's The Little Mermaid and 1992's Aladdin - but they also helmed the studio's final (to this date) 2D animated Princess Feature in 2009's The Princess and the Frog.

To put it mildly, these are film-makers who know the Disney Princess gig like the back of their drawing hand, and could probably do an animated film about a feisty heroine who goes on a journey of self-discovery with animal sidekicks and magical companions in their sleep.

And you'd be forgiven for assuming this is just what they did with Moana, but you'd be mistaken.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016


There are times when addressing a film-maker's personal ticks textually in their films can be a bad idea. Super 8 tried to be both a semi-autobiographical look at a young director and a tribute to the director's obvious influence of E.T., but J. J. Abrams wasn't quite able to meld his two narratives together. Zack Snyder was so well-suited to lurid superhero deconstruction of Watchmen that putting him in charge of the "playing it straight" icons of the DC Comics fiction has proven an increasingly bad idea.

But for all that Tim Burton's recent doubling down of his own aesthetic (when not necessarily to the benefit of the story) has resulted in a rather sour quality record since 2003's Big Fish, something finally woke him up. And while he's always been a filmmaker who's aesthetic sensibilities and storytelling quirks have seemed a bit unstuck in time, his most recent Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children doesn't just play with that idea, that's the literal plot of the film.

And here, it does work.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - Swaggeringly Proficient

Cowboys were the original superhero. Before caped crusaders and super soldiers, before men of iron and gods and monsters, a costume was a wide-brimmed hat and a set of six-shooters. In fact, given the undeniable influence of Zorro on the creation of Batman, you could argue the cowboy as the a direct predecessor to the larger-than-life icons of our modern blockbuster cinema.

Now that masks and mutants rule the silver screen, it seems more than appropriate that, when tasked with remaking The Magnificent Seven, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) approached it like a superhero movie that just happened to be set in the old west.

And it works.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I wouldn't be surprised if 2016 goes down as an absolute banner year for animation. Not only have films like Zootopia and Finding Dory proven that Disney and Pixar have still very much "got it," and this year saw the stateside release of near-legendary anime films Only Yesterday and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time as well as the new Mamoru Hosada joint The Boy and the Beast, but now. . .

Well, now a studio that has already gotten more than a few kind words from me in the past may well have made their masterpiece.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

STAR TREK BEYOND - To Infinity, Boldly

The guy who made 3 of the 4 best Fast & Furious movies just released probably the best Star Trek film in at least 20 years.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. But I'm not joking.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

GHOSTBUSTERS - Back Off, Men - They're Scientists

I'm not generally a fan of remakes, especially not of singular 80's comedies working off of one-in-a-million premise and cast combinations. I am, however, a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters, and I adored the way director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy's previous genre effort, Spy, was both a cracking action comedy and a commentary on women being muscled out of the work place.

Luckily, Feig and McCarthy as well as Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon (as well as Chris "No One Should be Allowed to be This Talented AND This Handsome" Hemsworth) bring both an easy and affable chemistry, a bevy of winning jokes, and a capital letter Idea upon which to hang this remake. And they wind up with a film that's only a couple missing beats away from greatness.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


1996's Independence Day wasn't the kind of smash hit you could predict or even engineer. Sure, it was designed to be a big movie - there's a reason it was released on the holiday after which it was named - but not one person thought they were making the biggest blockbuster hit this side of Lucas and Spielberg.

If they had, they might have left slightly more room for the sequel. Which is one of the film's many many problems.

Friday, May 27, 2016

THE NICE GUYS - Mean Streets

I have no idea what I did to deserve this movie, but once I figure it out, I'm going to do it again. Every day. Twice on Thursdays.

Friday, May 6, 2016


At some point, it's going to be impossible to even pretend that whatever MARVEL Studio's latest comic book adaptation is somehow qualifies as a gamble. Make no mistake, some genuinely were (Can Iron Man carry a film? Will the Avengers even work at all? Who are the Guardians of the What Now? Is Ant-Man more than a joke?), but at this point, what was once a maverick operation is now the most well-oiled hit-making machine in Hollywood and has reshaped the entire film industry as we know it.

And yet, the fact that Captain America's third film comes as the "prestige" of the first genuine superhero movie hat-trick (the cap, if you will, to a legit back-to-front great superhero trilogy) still makes it seem like this outfit is pulling off miracles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

DEADPOOL - Aim to Misbehave

Sometimes a movie comes along that redefines a genre, that reshapes a movie landscape entirely - a  wake-up call to an industry in the form of a seismic pop-culture event which pulls everything else along in its wake.

. . . And sometimes you just get a movie that's a load of self-aware adolescent humor wrapped around cartoonish violence and bare flesh.

Of course, sometimes you get, as Star Lord would say, a bit of both.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2015 - A Look Back in Film

With the new year's movie season finally underway and the Oscars at the end of this month, I figured I'd reflect on the past year - the highs, the lows, the cream of the crop, and the bottom of the barrel. As well as the surprises and notable fizzles.

Because last year was so damn good, I'm just not ready to be through with it yet.

Friday, January 1, 2016

THE HATEFUL EIGHT - Dead Men Tell no Tales

*Note - this pertains to the "Roadshow Version" of The Hateful Eight, which contains roughly 20 minutes of extra footage compared to the theatrical wide release (as well as an overture and intermission).

Quentin Tarantino is, not to mince words, one of the best filmmakers in the business. Not just because he can take genre hallmarks, aesthetics, and needle drops from various decades and combine them into a personal cinematic whole in a way most directors could only dream, but because he also imbues what could be dismissed as violent indulgence from most others with thematic resonance and surprising hilarity. In some of his most careful balancing acts, it's almost like Tarantino is daring the audience to enjoy what they might normally find reproachful, because he knows he can get away with it.

And with The Hateful Eight, Tarantino spends an entire film seeing exactly how far he can walk this very tightrope, while his film screams angrily at the current state of the country from the setting of a century and a half in our sordid past.