Category: Reviews

A Bad Moms Christmas Misses Its Comedic Potential

Overview: Three best friend moms, Amy, Kiki, and Carla, are intent on giving their kids the best Christmas ever – until their own moms show up and ruin everything. STX Entertainment; 2017; Rated R; 104 minutes. The Moms Are Back For More: A Bad Moms Christmas follows the mild success of Bad Moms, released only last year. The Christmas version reunites the characters played by Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn as three moms with wildly different personalities and parenting strategies who all have one trait in common: the desire to be bad. From getting food court drunk...

Read More

Suburbicon Is A Mixed Bag

Overview: A tight-knit American family is caught in the center of a cycle of prejudice, racism, and violence in the 1950s. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 105 minutes. Anywhere, USA: Based on an original script penned by the Coen Brothers in 1986 shortly after the theatrical release of their debut film Blood Simple, Suburbicon was shelved for just shy of 20 years before George Clooney was approached to star in and direct the movie in 2005. Eventually, more Coen regulars joined the cast of the feature length production—namely lead actors Matt Damon and Julianne Moore—while Clooney turned his full...

Read More

Geostorm is a Brain Dead but Efficient Disaster

Overview: Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess fight satellites that control the weather. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 109 minutes. Geostorms? In this economy?: I am a man of simple tastes. I like my Gerard Butler-starring action movies to be dumb and efficient, even if others think they’re a waste of time. I’ll go watch Gerard Butler starring in problematic action movies as long as he stabs a dude in the head at some point. The manner of making it doesn’t influence my reaction as much as what is in front of me. All things considered, there is no logical...

Read More

Stranger Things 2 Finds Middling Success in an Old Formula

Overview: One year after the events of the first season, the residents of Hawkins struggle with lingering trauma and new terrors from the Upside Down. Netflix; TV-MA; 9 episodes. The Three Pillars: I never expected to like Stranger Things as much as I did. I’m generally allergic to ‘80s nostalgia, with its desperate worship of disposable aesthetic values and misunderstanding of what makes the decade’s best art so good. But the first season of the Netflix original put me on my heels. Rather than simply imitating the imagery of its creators’ pop culture childhoods, it remixed and reconstructed them....

Read More

Jigsaw Falls Prey to Familiar Traps

Overview: The legacy of the Jigsaw killer continues. Again. Lionsgate Films; 2017; Rated R; 91 minutes. Playing the Same Game: Jigsaw doesn’t present anything noteworthy for a return of the tortuous franchise, lacking the staying power of the better sequels. However, it may prove to be enjoyable enough for fans of the series looking for nothing other than cheap kills with cheap thrills. When a singular series of films is boxed in with specific low budget gimmicks, there are only so many directions the film can take. It’s been an issue with the series since the first sequel. Innocent victims are...

Read More

Mansfield 66/67 Is An Odd Bio With Glitter In Its Veins

Overview: A lurid, candy-coated look into the tumultuous life, death, and legacy of Hollywood starlet, sex symbol, and rumored Satanist Jayne Mansfield. Gunpowder & Sky; 2017; Not Yet Rated; 84 minutes. A Photo is Worth a Thousand Side-eyes: It’s one of the most famous photos in Hollywood history. At a 1957 Paramount dinner party honoring Italian film star Sophia Loren, Hollywood bombshell Jayne Mansfield sits down next to the guest of honor, gazes over at the camera, and flashes her million-watt smile, all the while oblivious to two things. First, that her right nipple had fallen out of her...

Read More

1922 is Slow Creeping Horror

Overview: A farmer decides to murder his wife to gain her inheritance. Netflix; 2017; rated TV-MA; 101 mins Intimate King: It’s been a great year for King adaptations. It, Gerald’s Game, and, now, 1922 are a great showcase for how King’s horror can be transported to the screen. Moreso than any of those previously listed films, 1922 is not a big, grand horror movie. It is made up of small, slow moments that show the cost upon a person’s conscience and well-being of doing a terrible deed. The movie begins with Wilfred James, played by Thomas Jane, sitting in...

Read More

Only The Brave and the Hope of a Detoxified Masculinity

Overview: Based on the tragic deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots during the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, Only the Brave follows several elite Arizona firefighters in their last year of service before dying in the line of duty. Columbia Pictures; 2017; PG-13; 133 minutes. Playing With the Boys: Joseph Kosinski’s Only the Brave drapes itself in the trappings of Hawksian male camaraderie and machismo. The members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots—a group of twenty elite Arizona firefighters who serve on the front-line of forest fires—all posture and preen like the meatheads we’ve come to expect...

Read More

The Snowman Falls in A Hole and Never Recovers

Overview: Detective Harry Hole tracks a serial killer with only the help of a handwritten note and his young partner. Universal Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 119 minutes. Missed Opportunities: There is nothing easy about making movies. There is no formula to the making of a good movie, or of any other piece of art, for that matter. You cannot simply plug in the right pieces and expect greatness to be the output. A truly great film is usually more than the sum of its parts, it provides something wonderful and unexpected. The Snowman is neither a great a movie...

Read More

Now Available on HBO GO: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a High Art Action Film of Mythic Proportion

Originally published on February 8, 2017. John Wick 2 is now available on HBO GO’s streaming service. Overview: When a former ally forces John Wick to make good on an old debt, he finds himself caught in a whirlwind of repercussions with a bounty on his head. Summit Entertainment; 2017; Rated R; 122 minutes. Working Again: Before we even get to the opening credits and title card for John Wick: Chapter 2, the film quickly dispenses with the plot that any standard action sequel would go for by wrapping up the threads from John Wick. Reclaiming the car that...

Read More

Now Available on Amazon Prime: Free Fire Sees Fear & Masculine Insecurity Beget Violence

Originally published on April 24, 2017. Free Fire is now available on Amazon Prime’s streaming service. Overview:  In 1978, a weapons deal in a warehouse quickly goes wrong, and a shootout ensues when everyone present tries to defend themselves. A24; 2016; Rated R; 90 minutes. “It’s too late, I’ve been insulted”: In 1978, a weapons deal goes wrong. There is no on screen information to give a date, time, or location. We can glean as much as it necessary from visual cues and exposition. Free Fire’s premise could be handled in many ways, and Ben Wheatley chooses an impressively...

Read More

New on Hulu: Phoenix Forgotten Almost Makes for a Memorable Experience

Originally published on April 24, 2017. Phoenix Forgotten is available on Hulu’s streaming service. Overview: Twenty years after strange lights appeared over Phoenix, Arizona, a young filmmaker seeks the truth behind the disappearance of her brother who went missing while investigating the sightings. Cinelou Films; 2017; PG-13; 87 minutes. Worth Remembering: I frequently see people using the terms “found footage” and “mockumentary” interchangeably, which is an error I’m never in a hurry to correct, given that anyone who hasn’t learned the difference by now likely has little interest in the horror/sci-fi genres where the two different forms are most...

Read More

Marshall Sets a Precedent with a Powerhouse Performance

Overview: In this biopic, NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall takes on a complicated case in Connecticut: Strubing vs. Spell. Open Road Films; 2017; PG-13; 118 minutes. SVU:​ ​Connecticut: Marshall is a biopic but not the kind of biopic that the trailer might lead you to believe it is. Instead of covering the entire life of Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman), or even the most widely-known aspects of his career, it focuses on a portion of Thurgood Marshall’s time as an NAACP lawyer sent to Connecticut to defend black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) in 1940. The headlines surrounding socialite Eleanor...

Read More