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Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Delivers Music in the Saddest Key (Movie Review)

Universal’s big-screen adaption of the Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen opened at this year’s Toronto International Film Fest earlier this month. The reception was mixed, to say the least. Then again, the studio’s last foray into song and dance was 2019’s disappointing Cats, so “mixed” is definitely a step up, right? The story concerns a teen who struggles with depression and anxiety (Ya know, THAT kind of musical). However, Ben Platt, who originated the role when it debuted off-Broadway in 2016, is now twenty-seven. Social media has tossed a fair amount of shade at the actor for being too old for the role in 2021. Sometimes advance buzz is exciting, other times less so. As someone who still watches CW teen shows starring actors in their twenties (and thirties!) Platt’s age is hardly a reason to toss out such an affecting albeit flawed production. As the performers take their places, let’s dive in…

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‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Seeks Out Redemption (Movie Review)

This weekend, Searchlight Pictures’ dramatic adaptation of the similarly titled documentary from 2000, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, opens exclusively in theaters. The doc was narrated by RuPaul, while this film, at the very least, features a single lip sync for your life moment. It also sports a strong cast that includes Jessica Chastain as Tammy, Andrew Garfield as her husband Jim Bakker, and Vincent D’Onofrio in a smaller role as the larger-than-life Jerry Falwell. In their heyday, these three individuals were massively successful televangelists. Will that be enough to satisfy Tammy’s fans, especially in the LGBTQ community? Like 2017’s I, Tonya, director Michael Showalter is aiming for an empathetic look at Tammy Faye Bakker, a woman who might very well have been the lone advocate for the gay community during the AIDS crisis among the ultra right-winged Christians.

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James Wan’s ‘Malignant’ is Delightfully Bonkers (Movie Review)

What’s weirder: a studio horror film that’s not screened for critics or one that’s screened mere hours before release? James Wan’s Malignant is a little of both as some members of the press didn’t get invites while others did, but the screening was, as already mentioned, only hours before the film opened at your local theater and via your TV on HBO Max. Coming off its first weekend, the film has a healthy 74% at RottenTomatoes. Audiences weren’t as kind, though, with Cinemascore being a paltry C. As yours truly hit play at midnight last Friday on HBO Max, I didn’t know what I was going to experience. Would it be a trainwreck from arguably the past decade’s biggest name in horror? Or a masterpiece that would change the scare-fest landscape? At the very least, I’d get to see Anabelle’s own Annabelle Wallis donning a ridiculous raven wig, so that’s something to behold. 111 minutes later…

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The Return of ‘Candyman’ Is Sweet… and Sour (Movie Review)

Ever since the trailer for Candyman dropped last year with the slowed-down version of Destiny’s Child’s 90s hit “Say My Name” used to underscore his return, I’ve been eager to see this new take. Jordan Peele was producing (and co-wrote the script!,) and hot new director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) had just been announced to be helming Marvel’s The Marvels. If Kevin Feige and Peele had faith in this new talent, how could I not be excited to return to my hometown of Chicago’s Cabrini Green for an update to the iconic 90s slasher flick? Alas, COVID happened, so Universal had to shelve the pic until 2021. It was definitely a smart move on the studio’s part to wait to release the film in theaters. Seeing dumb teens and adults with questionable judgment say his name fives times in the mirror is better with an audience. But, is the essence of his hookedness return worthy of buzz like his loyal bees? You have gotta say his name to find out…

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‘Shang-Chi’ Delivers Amazing Action and Heart to the MCU (Movie Review)

As summer movie season comes to a close this Labor Day weekend, the MCU is releasing their first “only in theaters” experience (not experiment) since the pandemic, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s also another first of sorts for Marvel, starring a predominantly Asian cast. Disney screening the film for critics nearly three weeks before its release in North America would seem to be good sign. This reviewer actually had to change flights to my hometown of Chicago to see if Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu would do me proud as an Asian American. The pressure was on for the film to justify this writer’s nerdy need to screen it before leaving La La Land. Thankfully, my expectations were met. Exceeded, actually. But just how high could the 25th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe soar? Read on!

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‘Don’t Breathe 2’ Delivers Tension But Not Much Else (Movie Review)

Greenlighting sequels to surprise hits, especially ones of the suspense variety, are no-brainers for studios. Yet Fede Alvarez’s 2016 home invasion thriller Don’t Breathe didn’t seem to have many stories left to tell once the credits rolled. Don’t Breathe 2’s big swing is to shift the story’s focus to the villain, Norman Nordstrom, played with absolute grit by Stephen Lang (Avatar). In that film, it turned out a blind ex-navy seal was more than a match for Jane Levy (Evil Dead) and her fellow thieves. But Norman was also a pretty terrible person, to say the least. Really terrible. Whatever thoughts on the execution of Sony’s late summer sequel, this could not have been an easy sell, much less an easy film to enjoy if one saw the original. This might be the first sequel where audiences may be better off with no prior knowledge of the events that transpired in a dark, secluded Detroit home. Of course, I DID see the original, so…

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The Suicide Squad is BOLD and FUNNY, BUT… (Movie Review)

I had no idea what The Suicide Squad was going into this.  I mean I know what the Suicide Squad is, but I’m talking about whether this was a sequel, prequel, stand-alone, reboot or something completely else.  I’ve been totally living in a vacuum the last year as it relates to this film (still very much riding the high from last year’s Birds of Prey).  Needless to say I come to understand it as it’s officially being billed as the tenth film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), but very much a stand-alone film/sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad.  Although there’s several returning characters like Boomerang, Captain Rick Flag and Harley Quinn this is very much a stand-alone “sequel” that from now on we will just dub it as “James Gunn’s Suicide Squad.”  And that’s that! Continue reading ‘The Suicide Squad is BOLD and FUNNY, BUT… (Movie Review)’

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The Suicide Squad’s Worst of the Worst Are The Best of DCEU (Movie Review)

Forget about believing a man can fly; the true miracle of DC’s extended universe is how James Gunn’s sequel/soft reboot of 2016’s dismal Suicide Squad could be the best superhero film since Christopher’s Nolan’s The Dark Knight. A safer bet is that it’s easily the best of the DC films since Heath Ledger’s iconic role as the Clown Prince of Gotham in 2008. So I should probably stick with that, right? After all, the MCU has certainly had incredible highs like Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, as someone who appreciates when a film can feel like a singular vision, Gunn’s latest is hard to top among the many caped adventures from the past decade. The Suicide Squad will be in theaters and HBO Max starting this weekend. If it’s not already clear, I loved this film.

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Disney’s Jungle Cruise Is An Enjoyable, Familiar Ride (Movie Review)

Disney’s latest theme park ride-turned-potential blockbuster, Jungle Cruise, stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt as two people who board a man-made contraption and mostly bicker as astounding sights and sounds are just out of reach. As a cinematic version of what it’s like to go through “It’s A Small World After,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and, yes, “Jungle Cruise,” this is as a close as we’re probably gonna get to a plot that mirrors what guests of the Happiest Place on Earth actually do while experiencing said attractions. Plus, having terrific chemistry between these co-stars beats whomever you had to sit next to when you were on those rides, right? All aboard, then!

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‘Stillwater’ Flows As A Procedural, Human Drama (Movie Review)

Stillwater Movie ReviewBefore I begin with introducing Stillwater I have something to admit.  I have not written a review of anything since last November.  If memory serves me correct, the third season of Westworld was my last.  I had a lot of big changes, losses and even happy gains happen in my life since then.  I needed time away from being overly critical about things like movies.  I feel it was therapeutic, but also coming back slowly into the fold here may bode very well for me.  That’s what I am hoping for at least.  Plus I got to bring my fiancé to her first press screening ever.  Win!  Now about that Stillwater movie.  It may have not been showing for us press at the most desirable of places here in Austin, but when I watched the trailer something about it spoke loudly to me.  Here’s this man going into a foreign country and he’s risking everything to prove his daughter’s innocence.  I don’t have those kind of problems in life, but I can definitely relate to the fact that I have spent a lot of my time recently traveling outside my comfort zone, having many first experiences and really risking it all for something I believe in (also known as not taking the safe path in life). Continue reading ‘‘Stillwater’ Flows As A Procedural, Human Drama (Movie Review)’

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Shyamalan’s ‘Old’ Is Best As A B-Movie Thriller (Movie Review)

Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is back with Old, an adaptation of a 2010 Swiss graphic novel, Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. The last time the auteur adapted another’s produced work was eleven years ago. That film was the critical and commercial flop, The Last Airbender, based on Nickelodeon’s iconic animated series. Still, the film’s premise: a group of tourists get stuck on a remote section of an island and begin aging rapidly, definitely intrigued me. Old might be sourced a graphic novel, but the 108 minutes I experienced are very much in the Shyamalan wheelhouse. The question is whether this is good like The Sixth Sense or, well, Glass

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‘Snakes Eyes’ Delivers Derivative Action (Movie Review)

Eight years after the last G.I. Joe adventure hit the big screen Paramount and MGM suit up for a reboot with Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. A few months ago, an impressive trailer highlighted cool ninja moves, outlandish stand-offs on motorcycles, and a black helmet that’s wicked cool but surely not great to actually see out of. As the titular character, Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) seemed more than capable of pulling off silent assassin simmering with bouts of humor. Add in Ready or Not‘s Samara Weaving, who ditches her wedding dress for gear that’s more practical, and I was totally onboard. Pandemic notwithstanding, this was primed to be silly fun for summer 2021. Did Hasbro’s other big toy franchise finally get its due? Read on, Joes!

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‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Is Mostly Harmless Fun For Kids (Movie Review)

25 years after NBA great Michael Jordan assembled an All-Star team that included Bugs Bunny and Bill Murray, the Tune Squad is back in Space Jam: A New Legacy. A bigger budget, much better animation, and more characters from the Warner Bros. universe will be in theaters this weekend and on HBO Max (for 30 days). Does current basketball star LeBron James have the right stuff for big-screen antics? Will Harry Potter show up for a game of horse? Is this tale of father and son actually emotionally affecting? There are only seconds left on the clock, so time for a three-pointer!

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‘Escape Room’ Sequel Delivers More Thrilling Danger Rooms (Movie Review)

As Sony’s follow-up to 2019’s surprise hit, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is more of the same, but I’m certainly not complaining. Returning players, along with some new faces, will need to be lightning-fast problem solvers, or else they might get zapped, buried alive, or worse. The stakes are higher, and the rooms are way bigger. Post-pandemic, most of the best movies I’ve returned to theaters for have been of the horror/thriller variety and with good reason. We might be sitting a few seats away from each other, but all those shrieks and chuckles make for a collective good time at the local multiplex. So let’s find the next clue and jump in.

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‘Black Widow’ Leaps Over Most MCU Solo Flicks (Movie Review)

One of the original members of the Avengers Initiative finally gets her close-up. Black Widow, the 24th entry in the ginormous Marvel phenomenon, releases on July 9th in theaters and as Premiere-Access on Disney Plus for $29.99. This is the first film in the MCU’s Phase 4, even though Spider-Man: Far From Home was way back in July 2019. COVID clearly played a factor, but regardless I wasn’t too excited to see what looked to be, via the trailers, a big flashback episode so quickly in the aftermath of wrapping up the arcs of Steve, Tony, and definitely Natasha. And yet, since it had been a minute thanks to that pandemic (even with those D+ shows like WandaVision to keep me occupied), I couldn’t wait to see the Marvel Studios logo once again light up the big screen. Will the second female-led MCU film be vaulted into the heights of the best solo adventures like Captain America: The Winter Soldier or be quickly be forgotten like The Incredible Hulk?

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‘F9’ Is More Pace Car Than Photofinisher (Movie Review)

Has summer movie season finally begun in the U.S.? Universal’s ninth entry in their blockbuster series, the aptly named F9: The Fast Saga, hits theaters in the states this weekend (although it’s been playing across the globe for a month now). The box office has been surprisingly good for the theater-only release of A Quiet Place: Part II but sadly not good for In the Heights (which rules, btw). As Dom and his family rev up for the latest installment, there were never any plans to go the streaming route. Originally slated for April of 2020, was the wait to witness high octane thrills at your local IMAX worth it? Has #Justice4Han been served? Does John Cena fill the void left by Dwayne Johnson? Did Cars in Space really happen? Finally, where does this rank before we get to the eventual tenth entry?

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The Third ‘Conjuring’ Has New Unholy Tricks Up Its Sleeve (Movie Review)

 

Another week, another horror sequel. Say what you will about the quality of The Conjuring Universe’s eight entries (if you count The Curse of La Llorona), at the very least, they originated from a strong debut that completely worked as a stand-alone film. Now, the ever-expanding series returns with our favorite ghost hunter duo in the non-numbered third entry, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This time the Warren’s will need to use sleuthing skills too, as what exactly is happening is not entirely clear. Thankfully, right when you think the formula might get stale, this third iteration is something else. Still, with James Wan out of the director’s chair, is The Curse of La Llorona‘s Michael Chaves ready to invoke that which lingers in the dark?

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‘A Quiet Place’ Sequel Still Knows When To Get Loud (Movie Review)

Over a year since A Quiet Place Part II was originally scheduled to release, Paramount hopes enough of us are vaccinated and ready to return to the multiplex to embrace a story concerning a global disaster that keeps its survivors afraid to venture outside. Still, scary movies are the kind of entertainment that can definitely fare better with a crowd (even if the venue is only at 25% capacity). Returning writer/director John Krasinski has delivered the kind of bare-knuckled sequel any fan of the 2018 original starring Emily Blunt would want, mostly. With other returning members of the cast and new addition Cillian Murphy, is this the movie to christen one’s return to a darkened theater, albeit with masks and other safety protocols? Overall, I think so. Besides, if someone breaks the rules, just grab a cochlear implant and turn up your portable speaker to ward them off, amirite?

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