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Review: 'Jigsaw' Continues the 'Saw' Franchise With Little Freshness or Creativity

Jigsaw Movie Review

It doesn't take much knowledge of the horror genre to realize a final chapter hardly means anything. Just as many franchises that have had a "final chapter" have carried on with gleeful bloodletting as if nothing of finality has ever even occurred. So it's no surprise the Saw series has returned. Seven years after the series' apparent conclusion, the games are rigged back up, the unwilling participants are again in imminent peril, and the mysteries surrounding the Jigsaw killer and his legacy are at it once again. While the return of this franchise could have been used to shake things up, though, those traps and the mystery they bring offer little freshness or a sense of the new to the proceedings. Fans of the series will be happy with the franchise's return, but the Spierig Brothers' Jigsaw and its latest game won't be winning over any new contestants.

 Posted October 30 in Horror, Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Benson and Moorhead's Brilliant 'The Endless'

The Endless Review

Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead are a filmmaking duo that have quietly made some of the best genre films the indie world has seen in recent memory. Their first film, Resolution, switched up the game when it came to stories about storytelling, and Spring, for all its interesting & intelligent monster movie elements, is a heartfelt and beautiful tale of love. Their latest, The Endless, goes back to a storytelling well the team dipped into with their first film, but it plays on such an elaborately greater level that it becomes a beast completely unto itself. The Endless is a horror/sci-fi film like nothing the cinematic world has seen thus far and only serves to prove Benson & Moorhead as some of the strongest voices in the world of indie cinema.

 Posted September 29 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: 'Bad Genius' Is a Slick, Remarkable Caper About Exam Cheating

Bad Genius Review

A heist-style drama about genius high school students and their task to pull off the ultimate, cheating scam on behalf of dozens of wealthy peers doesn't quite sound like the nail-biter Bad Genius ends up pulling off, but here we are. The Thai film we do get, which is directed by the very talented Nattawut Poonpiriya, not only brings with it a whip-smart screenplay, it's an incredibly intense caper loaded with crackling dialogue and impressive performances that ranks up there with recent, instant classics like Moneyball and The Social Network. Poonpiriya keeps your attention from beginning to end and ends up delivering one of the tautest thrillers (without really being a thriller) to come along in some time.

 Posted September 26 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Superb Stephen King Adaptation 'Gerald's Game'

Gerald's Game Review

Sometimes when transferring a novel to a film, the best way to go is a straight, no-frills adaptation. The author has said all that needs to be said on the subject, and the job the filmmaker undertakes is simply bringing that source material to life through visual representation. With so many adaptations of the works of Stephen King already made - and many more just on the horizon - it's refreshing to see a film based on his works sticking so closely to the book. Enter Gerald's Game, based on the 1992 novel, directed by Oculus and Hush director Mike Flanagan. A streamlined adaptation, the film hits with surprising intensity and delivers ample amounts of atmosphere and scares. It also boasts a career-best performance from Carla Gugino, who aids in raising Gerald's Game to the levels of some of the very best Stephen King adaptations.

 Posted September 25 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Lanthimos' Uncomfortably Great 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

The Killing of a Sacred Deer Review

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is quickly becoming the master of the subtle, upsetting burn. He first cocked heads with 2009's Dogtooth and brought the same level of weirdness and dry, uncomfortable humor in 2015's The Lobster. His latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is his most accomplished work to date, a tale of the question of morality in a seemingly peaceful, domestic setting and with a rather large dose of that dry humor he gleefully uses against his own audience. Lanthimos' films don't hand deliver answers, instead forcing the viewer to figure it out along the way all the while asking themselves the very same questions playing out on screen. Sacred Deer is no exception and could go down as the filmmaker's masterpiece.

 Posted September 24 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Joachim Trier's Gripping & Unnerving 'Thelma'

Thelma Review

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier is an artist whose works are always delivered with a healthy dose of message. With Oslo, August 31st (2011) and Louder than Bombs (2015), the filmmaker broke onto the scene ready to force the viewers of his films into deep reflection and meticulous thought. It's no surprise that Trier's latest film, Thelma, comes with that same level of analysis but with an increasingly engaging, sci-fi/horror tale to go along with it. Thelma is a slow burn film, but what starts out as a low simmer eventually builds into a rolling boil, all of which is presented to the viewer with outstanding execution. It's the kind of horror story that keeps the viewer's skills of dissection at work long after the film is over.

 Posted September 22 in Fantastic Fest 17, Review | Comments

Review: 'Hitman's Bodyguard' is an Entertaining Mess of Buddy Action

The Hitman's Bodyguard Review

There is as much bad as there is good in The Hitman's Bodyguard, the latest in the recent slew of buddy action-comedies that have been barreling down the pike. Thank you for that, Shane Black. While that appreciation is genuine, there is a certain lull this particular sub-genre has quickly slid into, and there are definitely prerequisites an entry into this sub-genre appear to have to meet to satisfy some audiences. The Hitman's Bodyguard has no problem meeting all those prerequisites, but, while the buddies at play here (Samuel L. Jackson as the hitman and Ryan Reynolds as the bodyguard) seem to be having a blast with their back-and-forth verbal spars, the overall cheapness and familiarity of the film leaves plenty of room for improvement. At the very least, rest assured that Jackson drops a plethora of "motherfuckers".

 Posted August 21 in Review | Comments

Review: Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is as Riveting as it is Groundbreaking

Dunkirk Review

When it comes to telling a story about war, the filmmaking game has been hitting many of the same strides for a couple of decades now. Ever since 1998's Saving Private Ryan and the opening scene set on Omaha Beach, war movies, especially those set during World War II, have been satisfied retreading that same water, rolling with similar tides, giving us much of what we've already seen before. It takes a true craftsman in the game to deliver something fresh but still maintain a sense of scope, compassion, and intensity. That craftsman, apparently, is Christopher Nolan, who has been reshaping genres and defying expectations since his 2000 thriller, Memento, floored audiences with its disjointed structure. Nolan is the craftsman, and Dunkirk, a WWII movie unlike any seen or experienced before, is the stunning result of his craft.

 Posted July 22 in Review | Comments

Review: Awesome 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Concludes an Impressive Trilogy

War for the Planet of the Apes Review

The Planet of the Apes series is as inevitable to the world of science fiction film as laws of nature are to the actual world. There will always be a continuation to the franchise that began in 1968 and instantly turned sci-fi on its ear. So, too, is the inevitability of the new trilogy of films that serves as precursor to that original franchise, first in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and again in 2014 with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Completing this trilogy is War for the Planet of the Apes, a film that delivers on all aspects to that title with absolute precision and then some. Under direction by Dawn director Matt Reeves and aided by a stunning, motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis, War is an emotionally charged and impressively executed culmination of this reboot that will likely go down as memorably as that original, sci-fi classic.

 Posted July 14 in Review, Sci-Fi | Comments

Review: Sofia Coppola's 'The Beguiled' is a Powerhouse Adaptation

The Beguiled Review

In less than 20 years, and with five feature films under her belt, filmmaker Sofia Coppola has amassed a rather small but powerful slate of motion pictures. Small though it is, her filmography is a charged batch of feminist expression that tells the world she isn't ready to unleash her next expression until she is good and ready. So it is that we come to her sixth feature, The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971, Don Siegel-directed, Clint Eastwood-starring thriller about the dangers of misogyny in the days of the American Civil War. As with her previous works, it's an immaculately crafted and powerful drama of human interaction and survival in this male-dominated world, and, once again just like her previous efforts, The Beguiled is a phenomenal

 Posted June 23 in Review | Comments

Review: 'The Mummy' is a Messy, Entertaining Start to a Dark Universe

The Mummy Review

The goal for many studios used to be the franchise, a series of films under the umbrella of a recognizable name with which to sell that franchise. Now, thanks in large part to the success Marvel is having, that concept of the franchise has morphed into a "cinematic universe" with any number of "franchises" coming together in a shared series of narratives to create something much larger. Some of these cinematic universes come together naturally over time, but some are forced together in order for the studio at hand to bank on an entire slate of motion picture releases. The latter tends to come off as just that, forced, and this is the area in which Universal and their idea for a "Dark Universe" seems to be residing. Their idea is to bring their classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monsters, Invisible Man, et al.) into the modern age to create an epic series of films beginning with the catalyst for their cinematic universe, The Mummy.

 Posted June 9 in Review | Comments

Review: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Stalls in Stagnant Waters

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

As far as swashbuckling adventures on the high seas go, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – what a mouthful – is running on stagnant tides. It's amazing to think a film series based off of an amusement park ride would get to its fifth entry in the first place, a much wilder notion being that that fifth time out of the gate may actually offer up something new and inventive. That isn't to be the case, though, and this latest outing featuring the eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow, still played by Johnny Depp and all of his crazy mannerisms, offers nothing special beyond the typical excitement to which we've been privy many times before. Dead Men Tell No Tales attempts to reenergize the Pirates franchise with fresh blood and a younger cast, but, without any creativity to back it up, it all ends up treading the same blockbuster waters.

 Posted May 26 in Review | Comments

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