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Review: McQueen's 'Widows' is a Gripping Heist Thriller with Dynamite Performances

Widows Review

Originally based on the popular UK television series from the 1980s created by Lynda La Plante, Widows is directed, co-written, and produced by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture. McQueen's films, including Hunger, a historical drama about the 1981 Irish hunger strike, and Shame, a drama about a sex addict coming to terms with his traumatic past, are always concerned with pain and suffering. McQueen's latest, the heist-thriller Widows set in Chicago, is an entertaining departure from his signature brand of Criterion Collection-ready misery porn, but still finds time to explore grief and despair with his characters, amidst the explosions and shoot-outs.

 Posted 9 hours ago in Review | Comments

Review: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Doesn't Care About Real Life, Just Fantasy

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

During an interview in 2010, Queen guitarist Brian May announced that a film about the legendary British rock band was in the works. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Brüno) was set to play Freddie Mercury, with Peter Morgan (The Queen and Frost/Nixon), writing the screenplay. In 2013, however, Cohen left the project due to creative differences. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that director Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) would helm the biopic with Ben Wishaw as Mercury. That fell apart, too. Then in 2015, writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, The Darkest Hour) signed on to the seemingly doomed project. The film was soon fast-tracked by 20th Century Fox, with director Bryan Singer and actor Rami Malek set to play Freddie. And now Bohemian Rhapsody, a paint-by-numbers biopic that feels less like a definitive telling of Queen's rise to fame and more like Oscar Bait Mamma Mia!™.

 Posted November 2 in Review | Comments

Review: David Gordon Green's 'Halloween' Deals in Tricks, Treats, and Trauma

Halloween Review

After watching John Carpenter’s 1976 action-thriller Assault on Precinct 13 at the Milan Film Festival, film producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad put up the $300,000 budget for the young up-and-coming filmmaker to write, direct, and score a movie about a psychopath who stalks babysitters. Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a script for The Babysitter Murders, which was later renamed to Halloween after Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night. And the rest is history. The 1978 independent film grossed $70 million at the worldwide box office and became the blueprint for every slasher flick since. Now, 40 years later, David Gordon Green (of George Washington, All the Real Girls) looks to capture some of the macabre magic of Carpenter's classic with his own Halloween — a direct sequel that ignores the seven sequels before it and resurrects the iconic characters of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.

 Posted October 18 in Horror, Review | Comments

Review: Goddard's 'Bad Times at the El Royale' is Nothin' But a Good Time

Bad Times at the El Royale Review

American producer, screenwriter, and filmmaker Drew Goddard began his career as a writer on the hit television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and Lost. He made his foray into film by writing the 2008 found-footage creature feature, Cloverfield. It wasn't until his directorial debut with 2012's The Cabin in the Woods, however, that Goddard's talent for creating strong characters and deconstructing genre conventions fully manifested. Now, after most recently producing Netflix's Daredevil series and writing the screenplay for Ridley Scott's 2015 space film, The Martian, for which he earned Oscar and WGA nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Goddard is back in the director's chair for Bad Times at the El Royale, a spirited, subversive thriller steeped in '60s nostalgia (and paranoia) with an incredible cast and a killer soundtrack.

 Posted October 11 in Review | Comments

Review: Bradley Cooper's 'A Star is Born' is Soulful Artistic Expression

A Star is Born Review

Co-written and directed by actor Bradley Cooper, 2018's A Star is Born is the third remake of William A. Wellman's 1937 film, which earned seven Academy Award nominations at the time. George Cukor's 1954 adaptation, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, was nominated for six. And the 1976 version, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, earned four. Between the three films, only two Oscars were won: Best Writing (Original Story) in 1938 and Best Original Song in 1977. As producer, director, screenwriter, and star, Cooper is following in Streisand’s footsteps and, if history is any indication, his directorial debut will earn several award nominations, and deservedly so. Not only is Cooper's A Star is Born the premiere of a filmmaker with a unique voice but it solidifies Lady Gaga as the preeminent entertainer of the day.

 Posted October 5 in Review | Comments

Review: Shane Black's 'The Predator' Hunts for a Story, Heads Home Empty-Handed

The Predator Review

There's a line in 1987's original Predator movie that sums up the machismo and bravado of '80s action cinema. Blain, played by professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, is a member of an elite military rescue team on a mission to save hostages in guerrilla-held territory. In the aftermath of a jungle-leveling firefight, a fellow soldier informs Blain, "You're hit. You're bleeding, man." With a plug of chewing tobacco in his jaw, the gruff, cocksure commando ripostes, "I ain't got time to bleed." Written by brothers Jim and John Thomas and directed by John McTiernan (of Die Hard), Predator grossed $98 million in its initial release, cementing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s box office bona fides and turning its eponymous antagonist, an extraterrestrial trophy hunter designed by special make-up effects creator Stan Winston, into a sci-fi icon.

 Posted September 13 in Review, Sci-Fi | Comments

Review: Turteltaub's 'The Meg' Movie is Fun, Dumb, and Full of Chum

The Meg Review

After seeing Steven Spielberg's Jaws as a teenager, Steve Alten went straight to his local public library and checked out every book he could find on great white sharks. In those texts, he stumbled upon a black-and-white photo (seen here) of scientists seated in the massive, reconstructed jaw of a megalodon — the prehistoric cousin of the Great White shark, believed to have been extinct for more than two million years. The image of a 75-foot-long shark that could swallow a Volkswagen whole never left Alten's mind, and 22 years later he published his first novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, a science-fiction horror story about a prehistoric megalodon shark that rises from the depths of the Mariana Trench to hunt once again.

 Posted August 10 in Review | Comments

Review: McQuarrie's 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' is a Megaton Blast

Mission: Impossible - Fallout Review

Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible was a critical and commercial success when it opened in May of 1996. Based on the 1960s CBS series of the same name, the action-packed spy thriller grossed $75 million in its first six days, surpassing the record set by Jurassic Park, and became the third highest-grossing film of that year, bested only by Twister and Independence Day. Two decades later, the Mission: Impossible series has grossed more than $2.8 billion worldwide, becoming one of the most successful franchises in movie history. The latest installment, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who helmed the last entry in the series, 2015's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Cruise returns for his sixth assignment in the role of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team leader Ethan Hunt, but does he accomplish anything, or is the follow-up set to self-destruct?

 Posted July 26 in Review | Comments

Review: Thurber's 'Skyscraper' is a Towering Achievement in Absurdity

Skyscraper Review

With box office receipts exceeding $3 billion around the world so far, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has solidified himself as a global box office powerhouse. In recent years, the wrestler-turned-actor has earned a reputation as the hardest working man in Hollywood, starring in hits like Central Intelligence, Moana, The Fate of the Furious, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle from last fall. Even his misses are still massive successes — both San Andreas and Rampage earned over $400 million worldwide, despite underwhelming critical response. Now, only three months after his last theatrical release, Johnson continues his shock-and-awe campaign for box office supremacy with the action-packed, Hong Kong-set skyscraper disaster film Skyscraper; further testament to the movie star's enduring commitment to quantity over quality.

 Posted July 12 in Review | Comments

Review: Marvel's 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' is Big Fun in a Small Package

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Marvel Comics first introduced the character of Ant-Man in 1962 with the publication of Tales to Astonish #27. The insect-controlling, half-inch hero later appeared in Avengers #1 alongside his partner-in-crime, the Wasp, as founding members of the team. It wasn't until 2015, however, that the iconic duo made their big screen debut in director Peyton Reed's heist comedy, Ant-Man. Well, sort of. In the movie, the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), resurrects the hero and handpicks good-natured thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the suit. Pym's daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is set to become the Wasp by the movie's end, but we never actually see her in action. Enter Ant-Man and the Wasp, the twentieth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), once again directed by Peyton Reed.

 Posted July 5 in Marvel, Review | Comments

Review: J.A. Bayona's 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' is Silly, Cruel, and Entirely Unpalatable

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Jurassic Park, opened to critical and commercial success, earning over $914 million worldwide to become the top grossing movie ever at the time. More importantly, it impressed the hell out of an eight-year-old with an intense interest in prehistoric creatures. As a kid, I would spend hours pouring over books from the library, learning all I could about Ankylosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and Triceratops. I watched every dinosaur movie I could find: Caveman, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, The Land Before Time. They were the closest I could get to seeing living, breathing dinosaurs. Until Jurassic Park, that is. Spielberg's exhilarating masterwork of sustained awe and adventure ignited my imagination and made the impossible possible by resurrecting these long-extinct wonders with honest-to-goodness movie magic.

 Posted June 21 in Review, Sci-Fi | Comments

Review: Ari Aster's Horror Film 'Hereditary' is Unsettling & Inescapable

Hereditary Review

One in five Americans experiences some form of mental illness, with one in 25 suffering severe illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, or dissociative identity disorder (DID). For years, the horror genre has exploited these psychiatric disorders for shock value, perpetuating myths and stereotypes along the way. Movies like Psycho, Halloween, and Silence of the Lambs use mental illness as the motivation for the antagonist's violent behavior. More recently, films like The Taking of Deborah Logan and The Visit have used neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's as a conduit for evil deeds. With Hereditary, A24's new horror film, writer/director Ari Aster explores the darkest depths of mental illness and familial tragedy to create a profoundly disquieting moviegoing experience that stays with you long after the closing credits.

 Posted June 6 in Horror, Review | Comments

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