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Sporadically Gruesome ‘BRIGHTBURN’ Could Burn More Brightly

Man of Steel meets We Need to Talk About Kevin in Brightburn, the James Gunn-produced “What if Superman bad?” movie that’s had folks buzzing since its mysterious announcement last year. Gunn, who cut his teeth in the Troma movie scene – a disruptive production company infamous for splatter and farce-fueled horror movies like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and The Toxic Avenger – before becoming a big shot with The Guardians of the Galaxy series, has his gore-tastic fingerprints scattered throughout Brightburn, though the superhero script-flipper is decisively missing the signature touch of a seasoned filmmaker with keen editorial prowess, a knack for subjective horror, and dark, cruel wit. Read More

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Disney’s Lifeless ’ALADDIN’ Remake is the Opposite of Art

As far as I’m concerned, Aladdin is the worst movie of the year. There is not one ounce of artistic value in this soiled remake ostensibly from director Guy Ritchie (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), not one element that was not a clunky and borderline offensive down step from the original 1992 animated film, no attempt to refurbish the material and put any semblance of fresh spin on it. This is “filmmaking” as black magic – the result of someone burying the original Aladdin V/H/S in a Pet Sematary, its shambling resurrected corpse showing up on marquees pretending to be a real movie.   Read More

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SIFF ’19: ’BLINDED BY THE LIGHT’ Proudly Belts Out Familiar Hit, Cheesy Heart Firmly on Sleeve

Against the cynical backdrop of Margaret Thatcher’s UK, Blinded By the Light tells a true-and-true tale of a Pakistani writer finding his voice and independence through the discovery of American heartland rocker Bruce Springsteen. It’s a heartfelt fantasy wherein every problem can be solved with a well-placed Springsteen lyric but one that ultimately does little to distinguish its coming-of-age story from the countless working-class renditions that came before it. Javed’s status as an immigrant in an increasingly racist UK and strain on his relationship with his traditional father are explored to a degree but it all feels cliché, despite its unwavering earnestness and nagging personal touch. Almost giddily cheesy, this feel-good crowdpleaser benefits from its patent sincerity and thoughtful cultural angle, even if it is still much too long. (C+) Read More

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‘BOOKSMART’ a Sincere (And Sincerely Funny) Ode to High School Ride or Dies 

In August of 2007, Superbad hit theaters and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I had graduated from high school three months earlier and though I’d never sat in a ride along with infantile po-po, or forced to sing karaoke to a room full of coke heads, the theme of life’s defining crossroads and their inevitable effect on friendship struck a nerve. Underneath the playful sheen of a raunchy teen comedy, Superbad spoke to the challenges of an unknowable future and the tectonic shifts that crackle in the multitudinous friendships you’ve curated over the years. A few days after Superbad, I left for college.  Read More

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SIFF ’19: Awkwafina Gets Serious in A24’s Cross-Cultural Drama ‘THE FAREWELL’

Ignorance is power in A24’s celebrated Sundance hit The Farewell. The film follows Awkwafina’s Chinese family who, scattered across the globe, assemble when news breaks of the family matriarch’s terminal cancer diagnosis. The skinny is no one has told said matriarch, the family cooking up a ruse to keep that treasured info from her in increasingly heartbreaking and comical ways. The film from Lulu Wang is a rare family film that genuinely speaks to the deep, historied, and complicated bonds that tie while remaining thematically viable and content appropriate for practically all ages. Wang’s is a deeply felt and emotionally sincere film that benefits from its serio-comic nature, if not one that left me entirely moved. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’19: Confident ‘BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON’ Is a Big Fat Crowdpleaser 

Jillian Bell is off to the races as an overweight and under-motivated millennial living in the Big Apple who decides to turn her life around through the transformative power of running. The seriocomic account of seizing power from dark instincts is laced with the ripe reality of self-destruction and lifted by the hopefulness of finding self-love. Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo structures the film as Brittany’s rom-com with herself and Bell, who packed on (and lost) quite a bit of weight for the role, is simply fantastic delivering a marathon of darkly-tinged comedy and uplifting pathos. (B) Read More

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 ’JOHN WICK 3 – PARABELLUM’ Is Like Dipping Your Eyes in Pop Rocks

When you buy your ticket for John Wick 3, prepare for war. The third (and evidently not final) installment in Keanu Reeves’ increasingly trendy no-fuss no-frills action franchise is an idyllic distillation of the draw of the series, amped up to the Nth degree, slurping down a snifter of brandy, armed with Schubert on vinyl, locked, stocked, loaded, ready to tango. There’s someone to kill around every corner, alongside a brain cell or two, if you fancy buying into all the bloody mayhem. The weapons are more plentiful, the armor is thicker, the violence is more violent. Hell, even the blood is bloodier. As the criminal underworld puts the titular invincible assassin squarely in its seemingly ubiquitous crosshairs, it’s John Wick versus the world. The odds are less than even.  Read More

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‘DETECTIVE PIKACHU’ Solves Mystery: Video Game Adaptations Still Not Great

Did you know that Pokémon is already the highest grossing media franchise of all time? At 90 billion dollars in total franchise revenue, its total haul triples that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, eclipsing the net worth of Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse & Friends, Mario, and the entire Disney Princess collection. To say it’s an international sensation is to put it mildly. After the recent resurgence of the pocket monsters in the form of the popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go, Pokémon fever has been at a new all-time high and for the first time in nearly 20 years, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu marks the long-awaited return of Pokémon, Pokémon trainers, and their pokéballs of steel to the big screen.   Read More

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Hammy Quaid Almost Makes Trashy Thriller ‘THE INTRUDER’ Worthwhile

Self-taught director Deon Taylor, who directed the embarrassing Mike Epps spoof movie Meet the Blacks, has a familiar way of staging a scene. That is to say, at the Christmas potluck that is Hollywood, he’s brought nothing new to the table. Despite modern trappings, this is a movie that feels trapped in the 90s, both in story and storytelling technique. From the totally awkward over-use of R&B music on the soundtrack to the sleek but rarely suspenseful camerawork, Taylor’s creation feels like a product released after its expiration date, but one that lives and dies by its unintentionally ironic and campy sense of uncool. Fittingly, The Intruder is the dad bod of psychosexual thrillers, past its prime and flailing for relevance, maintaining its rangy charm by sheer force of will. It’s the Dennis Quaid of movies.   Read More

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Politically Tinted ‘LONG SHOT’ a Rogen-Theron Rom-Com Hit

God bless Seth Rogen. The Canadian-born comedian and Freaks and Geeks alum has made a career playing lovably disheveled stoners, his public persona often aligning with the characters he plays, if reliably less successful. In Long Shot, Rogen’s third collaboration with director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before), Rogen steps into familiarly stoney, snarky shoes as a left-leaning journalist named Fred Flarsky who rekindles a relationship with his old babysitter Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is currently running for president. Read More