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The Hunt Is On For Those Darn Deplorables (Movie Review)

After a nearly six-month delay, Universal/Blumhouse is releasing Craig Zobel’s lightning rod horror/political satire/action flick, The Hunt. Derided by our current POTUS – based on his shortsighted take on the initial trailer – the story concerns a small group of liberal elites who hunt and kill “deplorables” for sport. Recent shootings in both El Passo and Dayton supposedly made releasing such a potentially polarizing film a deal-breaker, so the film was shelved… until now.

As the citizens of planet Earth fear a real-life viral outbreak more than mass shooters (these truly are the end days folks), the movie is set to hit theaters all over. Was the wait worth it? Will audiences predisposed to either the left or right be offended? As far as this writer is concerned, any kind of movie that ignites a national conversation is a win. Still, one hopes for a film which is as entertaining as it is topical, right? Read on to find out if this Hunt is worth suiting up for…

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The Invisible Man Should Be Seen! (Movie Review)

The genre of stalker/slasher/monster tale gets a much-needed upgrade in writer/director Leigh Wannell’s new take on one of Universal Pictures original boogeymen: the Invisible Man. Elisabeth Moss is back in another terrific Blumhouse-produced pic that is quite smart, timely, and scary AF. As the gothic castles of old have evolved into the gigantic, ultra-modern homes of Northern Cali’s tech geniuses, the use of space is stunning and unnerving. That the film over-performed last weekend ($29 million on a $7 million budget) is excellent news for any horror fan as this is the type of quality film that works like gangbusters in a packed theater. The Invisible Man is here and demands to be seen!

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Emma FINALLY Gets Her Privilege Checked (Movie Review)

Jane Austen’s last completed work gets a 2020 update. Emma is closer in spirit to the original novel than the Gwenyth Paltrow vehicle from 1996. However, most movie fans know the exploits of the charming, rich, and well-intentioned heroine when she was named Cher in Amy Heckerling’s 1995 teen classic, Clueless. First-time feature director Autumn de Wilde brings her keen eye for set design and stunning colors from her music videos days to the big screen. One of the best-looking costume dramas in years, Emma is funny, witty, and way more brutal (in parts) than past iterations. No doubt, there will be fans as well as detractors (those that just wanted a tasty treat instead of this version’s full meal might be turned off). From this writer’s perspective, though, the time to revel and be shocked by a story like this has been a long time coming.

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CATS Gets A Home On Blu-Ray April 7th

Cats are coming! Although Alamo Drafhouse has started hosting Rowdy Cats screenings now you can take home Universal’s musical oddity. Judge for yourself if this is a misunderstood classic. Perhaps it’ll be catnip for ya! I am looking forward to revisiting this much-maligned but can’t look away film. I wish it was getting a 4K Whiskers Edition but I digress. The story of the Jellicle cats can soon take up space on your shelf as your real furry companions do. As I recall, Taylor Swift’s performance outdid her early acting bit from Valentine’s Day. Sir Ian McKellen went method. And newcomer Francesca Hayward was clearly a much better dancer than anyone else. I’m not looking forward to seeing Rebel Wilson eating bugs on-screen again but it’s a Blu-ray, I can skip that!

 

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Sonic the Hedgehog Is An Ok Video Game Movie (Movie Review)

Videogames flicks based on the actual games have, at best, a spotty track record. I personally enjoy a few Resident Evils and at least one Tomb Raider (the Alicia Vikander entry), but I can’t argue that most films which use the language of games and their ideas with original characters and plots are much better. Your Wreck-It Ralphs and Scott Pilgrims are, to paraphrase Marty Scorsese, actually cinematic. Still, as one whose love of videogames is second only to film, I’m hoping a beloved property will crack that digital ceiling someday and be truly great. In my mind, studios have infinite lives to get this right. Will Sonic the Hedgehog runs laps around the previous game-inspired features?

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Last Christmas (Blu-Ray Review)

Rom-coms that stray from time-tested formulas risk alienating audiences. Last Christmas, a movie about a would-be London singer who works at a year-round Christmas-themed shop while trying to navigate a very hectic life is one of those films. Despite a strong cast and a director with a solid track record, the film failed to connect with theatergoers last holiday season. I, too, was one of those viewers that couldn’t quite wrap my head around director Paul Feig and writer Emma Thompson’s high concept Christmas love story with a plot twisty last act, filled with wall-to-wall tunes from the late, great George Michael. Yet, here we are months later, and it’s a Christmas miracle, aka the joyous rewatch. I may have wished this was a 4K release, but I couldn’t have hoped for a better reevaluation. I liked Emilia Clarke even more this time around. Henry Golding had me wanting to dance and jump around the U.K. There was a bit more to this tale than I had originally understood. And man, does this package have amazing stocking stuffers via extras! Last Christmas is here, just in time for… Valentine’s Day.

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Birds of Prey Soars High Above the DCEU (Movie Review)

Harley Quinzel breaks free of her former fatally-flawed squadmates, acquiring an all-new team that’s better in every way imaginable. This will not be one of my standard intros, where I hold back on my assessment until the second paragraph. I loved Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) as much as despised 2016’s Suicide Squad. While technically not a direct sequel – Suicide Squad 2 aka The Suicide Squad arrives next year – Birds has the same “this is way better” vibe the sequels to Ouija and Annabelle delivered (all the same studio too, so great job Warner Bros.!). Nearly every problem present in David Ayer’s much-maligned supervillain team-up is addressed: the fight scenes, the plot, the characters, ya know, the DNA of comic book flick. If you’re a fan Margot Robbie (who isn’t?), the DCEU, or you just want to have a heap of fun, this intentionally messy banger is a real hoot.

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Motherless Brooklyn (Blu-Ray Review)

Edward Norton’s second crack at directing makes its way home on Blu-ray sans any Oscar nominations but is nonetheless a solid adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s award-winning novel. There are have been plenty of gumshoe detective tales in cinema. Some like Chinatown are masterworks, while too many are forgettable – like that one that with ‘Mulholland‘ in the title but not David Lynch under ‘directed by.’ A 4K release of a good-looking period tale would have been preferable. Still, this 2K transfer is no slouch for anyone who loved the film or even folks like me who were anxious to play catch up. The strong cast includes Alec Baldwin, Willem Defoe, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Norton himself as the lead. There’s corruption afoot, so let’s venture into a Motherless Brooklyn to see what a junior private investigator uncovers.

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Peter’s Picture Perfect Top Ten Movies of 2019

I’m calling it. 2019 was the best end of the decade year since 1999. If I had the time, I could have easily made a list of 25 or maybe even 50 films. The MCU came to a conclusion (for now) with the fantastic crowd pleaser and box office record-breaker Avengers: Endgame. Studio pics and one particular foreign flick had economic inequality on the brain with Ready or Not, Knives Out, and Oscar hopeful Parasite. We also saw the best teen film in nearly two decades (Ghost World was the last one). This was also another great year for women standing up for themselves, whether on the stage in Her Smell, on a different kind of stage in Hustlers, or on the streets of New York in Brittany Runs a Marathon. In the end, I try to have lists of ten that exemplify a range of what I love about movies. 2019 did not disappoint.

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Underwater, No One Can Hear You Scream (Movie Review)

In Underwater, Kristen Stewart sinks deep into an abyss, discovering something alien in the process, as in Alien circa 1979. For 93 minutes, this genre pic is precisely the kind of movie that opens at the beginning of the year, for better or worse. Still, I’m a fan of the “small group of scientists who bite off more than they can chew and find themselves isolated” trope, so I didn’t mind.

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Joker (4K UHD Blu-Ray Review)

Warner Bros. has delivered a 4K disc that might be the best comic book movie home release of all time in terms of visual and audio clarity. Fans of Todd Phillips’ anti-superhero one-off (well, for now) can rejoice as the $1 billion grosser is finally ready for its 4K close-up. Dolby Vision showcases amazing HDR, from the streets of Gotham to Anytown U.S.A. For newcomers, now is the time to check out Joaquin Phoenix’s Golden Globe-winning performance. As for myself, I was curious to see if this Joker would hold up a second time. I was a fan when it opened last October but haven’t thought about it since. Should Arthur start booking gigs at The Improv and The Comedy Store? Did he finally get the last laugh?

 

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Peter’s Movies of the Decade: 2010s

The triumph of cinema for the 2010s has been varied, to say the least. While streaming became the medium of choice for millions, blockbusters still broke records, and smaller films, whether seen on a phone or big screen, created much by way of discussion. We close out the decade with the old “what is cinema?” question back in the conversation. True cinephiles would simply throw shade, offering their best Billie Eilish “Duh,” but for those who think of movies as merely “entertainment,” Martin Scorsese’s remark about the MCU films not being “real cinema” was a brain-busting WTF moment. Still, the decade began with business as usual (franchises, Oscar-bait). It ended with what felt, for some, like the very survival of more adult fare, which too was an overreaction. Along the way, great strides in diversity arrived by way of #OscarsSoWhite, the success of Black Panther, gender-focused shakeups, and more.

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Little Women ’94 (4K Dolby Vision Digital Review)

Twenty-five years after it’s release, director Gillian Armstrong’s Oscar-winning box office hit, Little Women, receives the 4K treatment – and even better, one with Dolby Vision. In theaters this holiday season, we have Greta Gerwig’s fantastic reimagining of Louisa May-Alcott’s classic novel while at home, we have the version that starred Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale and Interview With The Vampire-aged Kirsten Dunst. This is the definitive millennial version of the book: broad-humored, over-the-top, not at all subtle. And yet, Armstrong’s wise decision to double down on such a take is what makes the film so memorable.  The tricky thing, as far as transfers go: many late early 90s movies suffered from a weird flat film stock look. Can this new 4K version elevate the visuals? Yes. Mostly, yes.

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Little Women Make A Big Impact (Movie Review)

The best film of the holiday season has arrived. Writer/Director Greta Gerwig follows up her acclaimed debut, Ladybird, with nary a sophomore slump. Time will tell, but Little Women may be better than her 2017 Best Picture nominee. Ladybird made Gerwig the fifth woman ever to receive a Best Director nom by The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Could Little Women lead to winning Oscar gold? Whatever happens, the film closes out the decade with class, wit, and a few tears.  Continue reading ‘Little Women Make A Big Impact (Movie Review)’

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Cats Is Far From Puuurfect (Movie Review)

Tom Hooper’s loud, bombastic adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running loud bombastic 80s  musical should have been much weirder and wilder. The internet had plenty of jeers and OMGs when the trailer dropped in July. Being skeptical and as curious as a well, you know, I assumed Cats would either be a triumph or a so-bad-it’s-good-to-watch trainwreck. Sadly, the movie despite a more than game cast slinks about on a soundstage rendered with a too fuzzy feline CGI filter. Boring is not a word I thought I would use but here we are.  

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The Rise of Skywalker Ends Star Wars On High and Low Notes (Movie Review)

The final installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and (supposedly) the Skywalker Saga comes to an end with fun surprises, spectacular emotional payoffs, and quite a bit of silly retconning in The Rise of Skywalker. Is the latest trip to a galaxy far, far away compromised because of backlash by a small but vocal minority who despised The Last Jedi? Was the full vision of Episode IX cut short the moment Carrie Fisher sadly passed away? Did Disney ever really have a plan? Or maybe it was, as Han says in The Force Awakens, “all of it.” [Note: This review is based on my first viewing. Anyone who knows what a big Star Wars fan I am knows more trips to the theater will inevitably happen. So, as a kind of disclaimer, there was a lot to consider here. Now, let The Rise of Skywalker commence!]

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Black Christmas is DOA (Movie Review)

Those looking for wit, thrilling kills, and bite will be let down by Black Christmas. Pitched as a #MeToo-era slasher flick under the Blumhouse brand, the reality is a movie merely paying lip service to a worthy cause. Imogen Poots (Green Room) manages to come out of this unscathed, but the rest of the cast can’t escape too many flat line readings. Also, the dreaded PG-13 vibe is rampant, as this film was clearly aiming for an R rating before it was gutted. Still, I’m not sure a director’s cut can save an undeveloped premise featuring sorority sisters being terrorized by brain-washed, white frat bros. The first lump of coal of the holidays, Black Christmas isn’t naughty or nice… just bland.

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Richard Jewell Is Bare Bones Reporting (Movie Review)

Clint Eastwood’s latest film to tackle a hero who was unfairly scrutinized in the public eye is, for better or worse, exactly what you think it is. The story of a would-be lawman whose instincts to be overly cautious led to the discovery of a bomb that could have killed hundreds at a music fest during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta is told plainly, almost to a fault. There are many sides to this story, but Eastwood only lets his audience sympathize with one of them. If we lived in a vacuum, this would be fine, but in 2019 we most certainly do not. Strong performances and a steady hand by the 89-year-old filmmaker ensures this flick will be enjoyable to many over the holiday break. Still, a bolder film would have at least attempted to illuminate different POVs. As a result, Richard Jewell is more Sully than Million Dollar Baby.

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