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Out in Theaters: ‘THE MEG’

Loose lips sink ships in Jon Turteltaub‘s blubbery shark actioner, a ceaselessly talky and endlessly nonsensical ocean-set joyride that should be a hell of a lot more fun than it actually is. Those going in hoping to see an 80-foot shark gnash meddling homo-sapiens to flesh ribbons will find themselves but partially satisfied, destined to wade through the shallows of ungodly writing and forced to endure some of the worst acting in US cineplexes, courtesy of Chinese co-producers and the English-as-a-second-language talent offered up here. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘SUMMER OF 84’ 

Cheaply capitalizing on Stranger Things-like 80s nostalgia, with a teen-driven thriller-mystery that contains almost no thrills and absolutely no mystery and features what is likely the most egregious male-fantasy-bot female character to grace the screen this decade, Summer of 84 is, sadly, a bucket of misdirected lame-sauce. Working from a DOA script from Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith, the acting is just poor, the plot is heavily borrowed (think Rear Window, The Burbs, or Fright Night – except with far less personality) and totally lacking in surprises (telegraphing the answer to its one-dimensional mystery from square one). The characters are nothing but cheap archetypes that we’ve seen frazzle their way through better, smarter versions of this exact same story and watching them onscreen is kind of like your being forced to hang out with uncool kids by your mom.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT’

I have a confession to make. There’s this thing that happens to people who review movies on any kind of quasi-professional circuit. A kind of numbing of the enthusiasm gland by proxy of the inability to overlook a film’s shortcomings. The more movies one takes in, the more unavoidable it is to not diagnose lazy writing, poor story structure, bland acting, choppy VFX… The collection of pratfalls these XXL “turn your brain off” tentpole films tend to suffer. When you see 200 movies a year, the bar to dazzle becomes impossibly high. What works for general audiences who catch a movie every few months often feels flat and stale for the critic – just another coat of crisp digital paint lazily slathered on poorly recycled narrative – because we’ve already seen this exact story twice this year.  Read More

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Talking with Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher of ‘EIGHTH GRADE’

Festival darling Eighth Grade is another critical, and now low-flying commercial, score for studio A24 as well as a massive coming out party for writer-director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fischer. Telling the story of Kayla, a perfectly average 13-year old girl with an unvisited YouTube channel and a quiet streak at school, as she navigates coming out of her shell. Awkward, tender, and, most of all, real, Eighth Grade is a triumphant piece of storytelling that lives and dies by its earnest depiction of the traumas and triumphs of middle school. Seconds of social interchange are filmed as if a horror movie, with Burnham’s film making for a horrifyingly transportative experience, pimples and all, in bringing one back to the woebegone young teenage angst. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB’ 

The internet is dark and full of terrors. From the Nazi memes of 4Chan to Live Leaks, a website where you can literally watch people get murdered, jet-black corners of the web lurk in waiting. To imagine that there lay a second layer of the internet beyond the scum and villainy readily apparent, a sector where one can purchase illegal drugs, elicit prostitution, even hire paid assassins, is an unsettling reality but a reality none the less; and this is where Unfriended: Dark Web strikes. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘DAMSEL’

Absurdist indie western Damsel puts a feminist spin on the genre, smuggling jet black gallow’s humor into this romance-tinged quest for love lost. The Zellner have long cherished strangeness and it comes in no shortage here. Quirky and well-acted, Damsel is a call and response to the Westerns of yesteryear, a full-brunted hard-left on familiar genre tropes that is quite often darkly funny and dramatically tragic.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘SKYSCRAPER’ 

In Downtown Seattle, there’s a domed glass structure that looks like a 1950s Golden Age of Futurism projection of our time. A triptych of balls, the Amazon Spheres provide a delightful looking respite from the high-rise steel jungle, an indoor botanical garden/none-too-subtle genital compensation contest winner for the richest man in the world, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Construction began in 2015 and concluded earlier this year and despite this new beacon of glass and greenery, plopped squarely in the midst of the city, access is strictly restricted for public use. It’s a verdant beacon of exclusivity and class status. We must watch from outside. Often in the cold or rain. I think I might relish seeing it aflame.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE FIRST PURGE’ 

There’s a moment in The First Purge where Isiah (Joivan Wade), a young African American teetering on the brink of breaking bad, wanders down an alleyway. His eyes are illuminated a ghastly blue, irises cloaked in live-stream contact lens there to capture the experimental first night of legalized murder. Any newsworthy POV footage documented for mass distribution is met with “financial compensation”, as is remaining in the kill zone. As Isiah hunts a leaky junkie by the name of Skeletor (a crazed and wildly watchable Rotimi Paul), a multitude of different colored lens peer at him, stalking his moves.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ’ANT-MAN AND THE WASP’

Bigger seems to always be better in the eyes of many studio executives but Ant-Man knows better. Marvel quite literally blew up their world in this summer’s Infinity War, a massive cross-over event starring most of the biggest names in Hollywood and three of its favorite Chrises. If only by contrast, Ant-Man and the Wasp’s shrunken stakes and narrower focus on character gives it that much more super-powered punch. Threats of world domination, universe destruction or the untethering of reality itself only carry so much weight, particularly when they’re doled out as often as an E. Coli outbreak, so making this movie more a rescue mission than another save the world ordeal works to its favor. Shrinking everything down to a nice self-contained chapter allows director Peyton Reed to hone in on what really makes these characters work, and where they come up short.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM’ 

Fallen Kingdom indeed. If you’re considering seeing the latest Jurassic World movie, do yourself a favor and flush that $13 down the toilet instead. There’s maybe 15 minutes of Fallen Kingdom’s 130-minute runtime that is almost, kind of watchable. The rest is some of the most embarrassing tentpole bullshit this side of a Transformers movie. Hackneyed dialogue, a shamelessly uncreative and entirely predictable plot, awful acting, boring characters, and zero memorable set pieces to distract from all the awfulness, Fallen Kingdom sets an incredibly low bar for the once beloved dino series, delivering an abomination of blockbuster filmmaking that makes one wish for a meteorite to strike their local theater and wipe its nasty existence clean from this Earth.  Read More