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Out in Theaters: ‘THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS’ 

Kids meet Eli Roth. Eli Roth, kids. The horror auteur, infamous for torture porn cornerstone Hostel and – to a lesser degree – gooey meta-slasher Cabin Fever, takes to Amblin-produced PG material with surprising poise. Roth, who up to this point has strictly directed hard-R films, adapts the first of John Bellairs’ twelve-part children’s novels from the 1970s, The House With a Clock in its Walls, proffering a mostly family-friendly vision of dark witchcraft, haunted houses, and misfittery. The tale of woebegone wizardry may never fully clicks into place like the magical clock in its title but this Halloween-tinged creeper should fulfill paperback preteens looking for an age-appropriate spook. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LIZZIE’

A killer isn’t born, a killer is made. Or so goes the phrase. If my hours spent to tuning in to “The Last Podcast on the Left” has taught me anything, it’s that the vast majority of serial killers come from deeply troubled homes. This is surely the case for Lizzie Borden. One of the most notorious female killers in history, the well-to-do Borden came from a respectable lineage, one of both prestige and prosperity. In Lizzie, the crumbs for a double homicide are laid inside a household that stewed dark impulses and nasty internal affairs.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘WHITE BOY RICK’

Detroit. 1984. Industry has dried up. Police and government corruption is a widespread cancer. The city is eating itself alive. Matthew McCoughanhey’s mulleted Rick Sr. laments the rapid decline into gang activity, violence, and drugs. When his son, the eponymous White Boy Rick, asks why they don’t just pick up and haul off, McCoughanhey waxes through a redneck stache, “The lion doesn’t leave the Serengeti.” But not even Toto would bless this foul land.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE PREDATOR’ 

Shane Black proves a semi-charmed remedy for the wavering outer space slasher franchise in The Predator, ushering in a new era of the horror-tinged sci-fi action with gutsy enthusiasm and immature brio. A neck-break pace and trademark jet Black humor define this goofy, giddy motion picture about blood-thirsty invaders from outer space come to an American small town right out of a John Mellencamp song. The fourth (or sixth if you count the dreadful Alien cross-over events) installment in the Rastafarian space slayer series manages no shortage of missteps – waddling into the three-pronged crosshair of some hot topic controversy along the way – but comes out the other side as a buoyant, bloody joyride of cinematic ridiculousness that revels in its throwback homaging of the excesses of the 1980s. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MANDY’

If you’ve ever asked yourself “What the fuck did I just watch?” just wait until you get a load of Mandy. The avant-garde metal midnighter from Italian director Panos Cosmatos yields a phantasmagoric descent into hell itself, where none other than Nicholas Cage (in all his unhinged glory) plays a logger named Red Miller who hunts down an LSD-fueled Christian cult and a literal biker gang from hell to avenge the love of his life (Andrea Riseborough, rocking a heavy metal Shelley Duvall look) . Turns out, hell hath no fury like a Nicolas Cage scorned. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE NUN’ 

‘The Nun’ (a.k.a. ‘Bad Habit’)  is a handsome twinkle of a horror movie that’s never developed into a full-bodied anything. It’s a movie that dangles on the precipice of actually being half-decent for quite some time without ever making the effort to, you know, actually be good. Its mid-century Romanian setting is certainly atmospheric, a nod to the far-flung haunts of golden-age horror; it contains some decent acting, both Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir are solid enough to headline, if only they were privy to some superior written material; and some of the visual flourishes and cinematography suggest a horror movie well above the average pay-grade. And yet, it’s all pretty much for nothing as The Nun  never gels into something of any discernible substance.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MILE 22’ 

Director Peter Berg has never felt the need to hide his right-leaning political posturing in his movies, smuggling an “America First” agenda into the rampant machismo that characterizes films like Lone Survivor and Patriot’s Day. In that capacity, it makes perfect sense why Mark Wahlberg, former underwear model and total A-list douchenozzle, has become his muse and spirit animal – the man is a walking, talking knucklehead who in the public sphere embodies the ideals of shoot first and ask questions later, often making blustery claims about love of country and God above all else, spinning himself into this or that controversy for not being able to keep his trap shut.  Read More

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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