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Archive for the 'Editorials' Category

Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ Delivers Out of This World IMAX Spectacle (Movie Review)

Nope, the third film from writer/director Jordan Peele, features the best use of IMAX cameras since Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Yes, Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick ain’t no slouch in terms of aerial wonder on the most enormous screens possible, but Peele’s latest, which stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun, offers something else. Something… out of this world. Are such close encounters merely a new take on an old sci-fi trope? At the very least, the promise of Peele’s brand of sharp humor with a terrific ensemble will intrigue fans and possibly put butts in seats. So don’t look up or do. For what is seen, as they say, cannot be unseen.

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‘Elvis’ Delivers A Little Less Conversation, A Lot More Action (Movie Review)

The King is back. Elvis, the sixth feature from the heavy-on-the-spectacle director Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby), is bursting at the seams with all the pageantry and showmanship expected from the Aussie filmmaker. Starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Presley’s shady manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and Austin Butler (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) in a star-making performance as Mr. Presley himself, Warner Bros.’ big screen stunner might just be the out-of-body experience fans of Elvis have been clamoring for since his tragic death in 1977. For major fans, it’s time to get all shook up and head to your local theater. For those not into Elvis or just not that familiar with one of the pioneers of rock and or roll, suspicious minds may still be interested.

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‘Jurassic World Dominion’ Is A Prehistoric Blockbuster (Movie Review)

Jurassic World Dominion finally hits IMAX and normal-sized screens after production woes that included multiple shutdowns due to COVID. Like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, this Colin Trevorrow-directed flick is marketed as an “epic conclusion” to the iconic series that changed VFX forever in 1993 with Spielberg’s top-notch direction. The hook for the third World pic is twofold: the dinos are finally (no, really, they are this time!) off the island, and a trio of original cast members have returned. True, Jeff Goldblum showed up for a couple odd judiciary scenes in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but now he, along with Laura Dern and Sam Neill, are key players in Dominion. Jurassic World actors Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and a host of others are back too. A trailer that featured a pair of DNA spliced velociraptors chasing motorcycle riding Pratt in Europe was intriguing. Universal hopes the nostalgia factor and audience’s seemingly endless love for dinosaurs will be more than enough to make this movie another smash hit at the box office. But is the film any good – or at the very least fun?

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‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’ Has Bite (Video Game Review)

The first big interactive narrative adventure of 2022 has arrived, and the title: Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, is indeed a mouthful. The height of choice-driven video games is, arguably, Quantic Dream’s 2018 masterwork Detroit: Become Human, which is also an ungainly thing to say aloud. Regardless, that was four long years ago. We’re waiting for the latest from that developer, which will be set in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: Eclipse. I look forward to receiving a trophy for cleaning my lightsaber via a sequence of triangles, squares, and circles. Until then, we have french developer Big Bad Wolf’s resurrection of a vampire series based on a ’90s tabletop game (No, I hadn’t heard of it, either). I took a chance on this tale of rival vampire sects set in modern-day Boston. Filled with deadly serious, seriously silly writing where the undead use words like Embrace (turn a human into a vamp), Vessels (humans used for blood) and Final Death. Terms that take on bigger meaning in genre fiction. Does this narrative adventure have bite, or does it suck?

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Tom Cruise Pulls Off The Impossible For ‘Top Gun’ Sequel (Movie Review)

Tom Cruise is still the “Top Gun” in the sequel to the era-defining 80’s hit. Thirty-six years after the original, Top Gun: Maverick combines a heavy dose of nostalgia with state-of-the-art aerial stunts featuring “The Last Movie Star.” The danger zone is as big as an IMAX screen now. Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) re-teams with Cruise with a script aided by Mission Impossible maestro Christopher McQuarrie. The film also stars Jennifer Connery, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Monica Barabaro, Glen Powell, and the Iceman himself, Val Kilmer. However, did this long-in-the-works sequel take my breath away?

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‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ Is Perfectly Respectable (Movie Review)

Focus Features’ Downton Abbey: A New Era is the second full-length feature of PBS’ beloved series of the same name. Creator Julian Fellowes’ 21st century take about a fictional early 20th-century family, the Crawleys (and the people who serve them) has legions of fans. Each episode featured period-appropriate attire and just the right amount of stiff-upper-lip Anglofied mannerisms. All of it is (mostly) set at the lush estate, Downton Abbey. Plenty of the cast has returned: Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Imelda Staunton, and more. Three years after the last film and seven years since the last episode aired, do we still have time for Lady Mary’s attitude, butler Thom’s shenanigans, and Duchess Violet’s wit? Clearly, we’ll always have time for Dame Maggie Smith’s one-liners. Either way, Old Hollywood (well, “new” back then) has arrived at Downton’s doorsteps…

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A Fred Ward Tribute – Top Five Film Performances

Talented actor Fred Ward recently passed, and for a massive fan like myself, the news is indeed sad.  Having grown up watching a gaggle of highly memorable flicks featuring Ward right alongside my movie-going father, I can safely say that his work greatly influenced my love and nostalgia for great cinema.  Fortunately for fans, he left behind a plethora of damn fine film performances that can be watched and enjoyed over and over again.  From early turns in iconic flicks like Escape From Alcatraz and The Right Stuff to his later collaborations with Robert Altman (The Player and Short Cuts!), Ward’s choices were much like the actor himself – highly original.  (Plus love that he wasn’t afraid to explore his wacky side with the likes of Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and Joe Dirt!)  But for the sake of this tribute article, I’m looking at what I consider to be THE best of the best in terms of characters that Ward ever brought to the screen.  Turns that stuck in my movie mind and burrowed in like a Tremor worm on a mission. (And narrowing them down to five was a truly difficult – shout out to MIA flick Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swan!)  And so what follows are, for better or worse, my definitive picks of Fred Ward’s….Top Five Film Performances!

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Hulu Delivers More Sally Rooney with a Solid ‘Conversations With Friends’ (TV Review)

Hulu’s twelve-part original series, Conversations with Friends, is based on millennial author Sally Rooney’s debut novel. The story centers around two aimless Dublin college students who begin an unconventional relationship with an older married couple. Although leading cast member Alison Oliver is relatively unknown, Sasha Lane, Jemima Kirke, and Joe Alwyn have been in several high-profile indie films in the past decade. Kirke is probably the best known of the bunch playing Jessa on HBO’s Girls. However, stars aren’t the big draw of Hulu’s latest limited series. Viewers interested in a more grounded take on the ups and downs of Irish twenty-somethings will find much to discuss. With that in mind, speaking of Lena Dunham’s seminal show, Conversations with Friends is a kind of generational shift compared to that New York-centric series. This isn’t Euphoria, but the keyword for Gen Z’s as “aimless” certainly applies.

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Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch Battle In A Multiverse of Madness (Movie Review)

This weekend the summer movie season begins with Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although expectations are high, with some outlets predicting the 28th entry in the MCU to rake in the dough, becoming a cultural juggernaut like 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home is doubtful, even for the Sorcerer Supreme. The top-notch cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, and new to Marvel, Xochitl Gomez. However, the big news is that this film marks director Sam Rami’s return to superhero antics since his Spider-Man trilogy from the aughts. Did the Drag Me To Hell maestro concoct a new kind of experience for the MCU? Can he top his web-slinging masterpiece, Spider-Man 2?

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‘The Northman’ Is Brutal, Basic Mythology (Movie Review)

Robert Eggers’ The Northman is the third major release from the artisanal director. He has been granted his biggest budget yet with a different studio, Focus Features, footing the bill. His previous features, The Witch and The Lighthouse, were A24 productions. The premise: a young prince’s father is killed by his uncle, and he vows revenge. This might seem like a Viking take on The Bard’s Hamlet, but Shakespeare’s play starring the most indecisive hero ever was inspired, in fact, by this Scandinavian legend. Thankfully, in terms of decision making, that leads to much violence, as Amleth (rhymes with Hamlet) isn’t on the fence when it comes to dismemberment. Alexander Skarsgård stars as the broody axe-wielding prince alongside a supporting cast including Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Defoe, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, and everyone’s favorite Icelandic pop star: Björk. How does an authentically shot Norse tale fare in an era where Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding superhero is the closest most audiences get to a Viking? It’s certainly not as funny as a Thor/Hulk team-up, but it’s way bloodier, so that’s something…

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‘Ambulance’ Is Bay’s Best In Years (Movie Review)

Looking past his Netflix venture, 6 Underground, Ambulance marks director Michael Bay’s first true return to the big screen since 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. No longer partnered up with Optimus Prime, this action-thriller is a remake of a Danish film that clocked in around 90 minutes. True to form, Bay’s version is over two hours to make room for some much-needed Bayhem. Set in Los Angeles concerning two bank robbers and an unlikely paramedic, the film features high octane thrills, real-life stunts, and impressive camerawork with Bay’s latest gizmo: drones. Does the native Angeleno’s return to the City of Angels mean more of the same, or does the hands-on blockbuster auteur have new tricks up his explosive, kinetically-edited sleeves? Did I mention he has drones now?

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Halo: Season 1, Episode 3 – “Emergence” (TV Review)

Paramount+’s Halo series has been an uneven yet nevertheless thrilling ride. Whether viewers are lifelong fans of the best-selling Xbox shooter or newbies who’d be fragged in a slayer deathmatch shortly after hitting start, the premiere was the new streaming service’s biggest debut ever (take that 1883), thus proving once and for all: space rangers are cooler than cowpokes. Like the franchise, which has spawned games, toys, comics, and novels, the television series hits that sweet spot for “meat and potatoes” sci-fi. Kinda dumb? Absolutely. But never boring. After all, a twelve-foot Convent Elite with a quadrant of jaws can never really be boring. This weekend’s third episode, “Emergence,” is overstuffed with three galaxy-spanning plot threads, a creepy spaceship hijacking, and finally, for fans, the arrival of everyone’s favorite A.I, the quick-witted Cortana. For real this time…
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‘Morbius,’ The Living Vampire, Sucks (Movie Review)

Three years after filming began, two years after the first trailer, Sony’s latest “In Association with Marvel” feature, Morbius, finally opens this weekend. Based on one of Spidey’s legendary Sinister Six, Dr. Michael Morbius is a “living vampire” (much like star Jared Leto), which might make you think of the Blade trilogy. Is this how the MCU gets the Day Walker? No, since this is exclusively Sony’s property, but as it’s been nearly two decades since the last Wesley Snipes outing, there’s an inherent curiosity for how our current era will handle the balance between bloodsuckers and superheroes. The cast also includes Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson, and another Jared… Harris. Was Morbius worth the wait? Grab a pack of blue-colored artificial blood and drink up! Continue reading ‘‘Morbius,’ The Living Vampire, Sucks (Movie Review)’

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Elle Fanning Reveals There’s More To ‘The Girl From Plainville’ (TV Review)

This week, Hulu releases the first three episodes of the limited series The Girl From Plainville, based on the real-life “suicide texting case.” At the center was high schooler Michelle Carter who was found guilty of manslaughter in 2017. Elle Fanning stars as the troubled teen who may or may not have convinced 18-year-old Conrad “Coco” Roy (Colton Ryan) to take his own life in 2014 via texts. Looking back, it’s easy to see why social media blew up with tweets, podcasts, and even an HBO documentary, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter. It was inevitable a limited dramatic series would happen, and one assumes the new Hulu series delivers more than the made-for-TV movie, starring Bella Thorne, did in 2018. The Girl From Plainville aims to shed light on a young woman who appeared so opaque in public. Continue reading ‘Elle Fanning Reveals There’s More To ‘The Girl From Plainville’ (TV Review)’

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Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ Offers Promise & Problems (TV Review)

Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, Moon Knight is a six-episode season, opening up a new side of the MCU. Critics were given access to the first four episodes before the first episode premieres on March 30 on Disney+. Going in, I knew zero about the split-personality superhero. However, I was intrigued by the London to Egyptian settings and the strong dual leads (Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke). I’ve (mostly) enjoyed all the MCU television outings, both on D+ and Netflix, and was ready to look myself in the mirror and say, “let’s go, cool grey-outfitted hero dude!” Having seen two-thirds of the season, did it reach the highs of Loki or the unevenness of Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Time to find out! Continue reading ‘Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ Offers Promise & Problems (TV Review)’

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A Trip to ‘The Lost City’ is Overlong but Still Fun (Movie Review)

Paramount Pictures’ The Lost City hopes to be the kind of adventure/rom-com that would easily score at the box office during the 2000s. Times may have changed (even without a pandemic), but movie stars should still be able to open a Romancing the Stone-type film for the modern era, right? The Sandra Bullock vehicle was even originally pitched with her co-star from The Proposal, Ryan Reynolds, in mind. Mr. Deadpool certainly would have had a different kind of character than the hunky but not exactly witty one Channing Tatum plays, but the truth is it wouldn’t matter either way. Bullock has always had great chemistry with pretty much anyone: Clooney in Gravity, Kidman in Practical Magic, and the cat from The Heat, to name a few. Plus, a scene-stealing Brad Pitt and a heel turn from Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe are fun bonuses. The action might be less than what Disney showcased in last year’s Jungle Cruise, but the laughs are certainly better. The Lost City hopes to discover an audience more interested in jokes than explosions anyways, although there are plenty of big booms too.

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‘Deep Water’ Offers Shallow Thrills (Movie Review)

During the 80s and 90s, erotic thrillers were a sound investment for any major studio. Films like 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and Indecent Proposal were events. All but one of those films was directed by Adrian Lyne. Hard-R, adult-skewing movies were an active part of the cultural conversation. In the past two decades, Lyne has only directed one other film, 2002’s Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane. Lyne’s particular brand of highly charged sensual kicks could be considered a relic of a bygone era if they weren’t so well made and, frankly, memorable. Still, in an age overwhelmed by audience-friendly superhero flicks, could a simple story about a jealous husband and his promiscuous spouse top the box office like the movies that made household names out of Glenn Close, Sharon Stone, and Demi Moore? We’ll never know… okay, so actually we do, and the answer is no. Lyne’s latest will be debuting this weekend exclusively on Hulu. Deep Water pairs Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas: two stars ready to raise their body heat.

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‘Halo’ Is Combat Evolved, Story Still Convoluted (TV Review)

Since development as a series was announced way back in 2013, Halo has miraculously kept Steven Spielberg on board as executive producer. There was never a chance The Beard would direct but keeping the live-action version of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time at Amblin Entertainment was enough to keep yours truly hopeful. Now that the 26th-century sci-fi tale has arrived on Paramount+, home of Star Trek, is there enough streaming space in the universe for another hero who (mostly) keeps his helmet on? Time will tell, but who needs Grogu when an assault by the Covenant boasts one of the most brutal openings in television. Suit up, Master Chief, you’re gonna need a weapon. Continue reading ‘‘Halo’ Is Combat Evolved, Story Still Convoluted (TV Review)’

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