REVIEWS

Review: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' is the Best Superhero Movie of 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

Based on characters created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, the new Sony Pictures Animation movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, offers an entirely different take on Marvel's beloved web-slinging superhero, which was first introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962. Produced by the filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 21/22 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie series), the story centers on African-American/Puerto Rican teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and Netflix's "The Get Down") as he tries to fit in at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Miles' father, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry of Widows and If Beale Street Could Talk), is a straight-laced police officer and his mother (Luna Lauren Velez) is a hard-working nurse — both loving parents who are proud of their son's achievements, and really want to see him succeed studying at the school for gifted students.

 Posted December 10 in Marvel, Review | Comments

IDFA 2018: Chilean Film 'Los Reyes' is a One-of-a-Kind Doggie Doc

Los Reyes Review

As a life-long dog lover, I am always on the lookout for any new films about dogs. Los Reyes is one of the best dog films I've ever seen, and that's not even hyperbole. This magnificent documentary is about a skate park in the capital city of Santiago, Chile where two dogs reign as kings (hence the title Los Reyes, or The Kings in Spanish). Their names are Chola and Fútbol (or Football), and they've been living there since, well, forever. The film focuses entirely on these two dogs, and it's amazing. It's pretty much perfect (save for one or two shots). These dogs are the coolest, and this is one of the most vividly alive & extraordinarily engaging proofs that dogs do have personalities, friendships, things they love to do, and big thoughts in their minds.

 Posted November 25 in IDFA, Review | Comments

Review: Steven Caple Jr's 'Creed II' Packs an Emotional One-Two Punch

Creed II Review

When Creed was released in 2015, co-writer and director Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station and Black Panther) pulled off a seemingly impossible task: staying true to the spirit of the film’s iconic predecessors while forging its own path — not unlike the odyssey of its protagonist, Adonis "Donnie" Creed (Michael B. Jordan), searching for an identity and fighting for an opportunity to prove his own self-worth. The film reinvigorated and expanded the Rocky series by returning to its underdog roots and became a fable for a new generation; the rebirth of the American Dream. Now, director Steven Caple Jr. steps in to tell the next chapter in Creed II, an inspiring and affecting sequel that isn't another bum from the neighborhood.

 Posted November 21 in Review | Comments

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 November 15 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: Sandi Tan's Documentary 'Shirkers' is a Refreshing Revelation

Shirkers Review

"How could it have disappeared?" Holy moley this film is amazing!! I'm stunned. Sandi Tan's documentary Shirkers is one of the best documentaries of the year. Hands down, no question. All of the ingenuity. The honesty. The cats. The ghost story. The footage. The creativity. Just phenomenal. I seriously got the chills and was tearing up by the end. It's such a beautiful, breathtaking, refreshing film. It's so uniquely creative in the way it's structured, and is also complex in handling all the aspects of past and present. But Sandi has it all in her mind and she spent years putting it together and it's pretty much perfect. It's a total film nerd film in so many ways (they aspired to be the "Coen Sisters", to premiere at Cannes, and they despised cheesy Hollywood movies). It's invigorating, infuriating, fascinating, and inspiring. I loved every last second of it.

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

Sitges Review: Julius Avery's WWII Movie 'Overlord' is Loud & Intense

Overlord Review

Play this movie as loud as you can. Turn the volume all the way up, strap in, and prepare for an extremely intense cinematic experience. I am a sucker for World War II movies, pretty much any/all of them, so I will happily admit I probably enjoyed this a bit more than most will, unless you're also a fan of WWII movies. With that said, it's an awesome movie anyway. Overlord is a WWII horror movie from Australian director Julius Avery, making his first big studio movie after Son of a Gun in 2014. This time he collaborated with Bad Robot and producer J.J. Abrams to deliver an intense, extra loud, uber violent, enrapturing WWII action movie spiced up with some gnarly horror. It hits real hard, right from the start, but never drags. You have to go see this movie in theaters - the big screen, big sound experience really, really makes a difference.

 Posted October 18 in Review, Sitges | Comments

Sitges Review: Krzykowski's 'The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then Bigfoot'

The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot Review

Not all heroes live a heroic life. Not all heroes get a big parade and go on talk shows and end up in history books. The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot is one of most undefinable films of this year, no question. It's part drama, it's part action film, it's part horror, but at it's core it's really a character study about a lonely man at the end of his life looking back on everything. Sam Elliott plays Calvin Barr, indeed the very man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. He spends his days drinking at a bar and relaxing with his adorable yellow lab dog, because no one knows that he killed Hitler. It was covered up by Germany and America, because there was more at stake. As he states in the film, he just killed a man that day, that's all. And he has had to spend his life dealing with the substantial feelings, as they slowly chip away at his psyche.

 Posted October 15 in Review, Sitges | Comments

Fantastic Fest Review: Ali Abbasi's Strange & Beautiful Fantasy 'Border'

Border Review

The concept of strange love and finding the one person in the world meant for only you is a strong one when it comes to cinematic storytelling. These films are often tough to recommend outright, the weirder nature of some of the entries in this category being a little too outside the box for most mainstream moviegoers. For the cinephile, however, the results of these films are often magical. So, too, is the case with the Swedish film, Border (aka Gräns), a film that tells a story that is, you guessed it, full of strange, creative wonder and eye-opening reveals about our world. Co-written and directed by Ali Abbasi, Border is a film that not everyone will be able to wrap their expectations around, but one that comes with undeniable results for those who do.

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

Sitges Review: 'The Spy Gone North' is a Gripping Korean Spy Thriller

The Spy Gone North Review

Not all spy movies are like every other spy movie. And not all spies are the same. The Spy Gone North is an impressive, riveting spy thriller from Korea, made by filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin (of The Unforgiven, Beastie Boys, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Kundo: Age of the Rampant). This first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in their Midnight category earlier this summer, but I just caught up with the film at the Sitges Film Festival. The more I think about, the more I love this film. It's such a slick, superb spy film that draws you into the story and keeps you intrigued with anticipation, on the edge of your seat the entire time. And there isn't much action, which works well for this fascinating story, yet it's thoroughly compelling from start to finish. This film really stands out above so many others - in the way of spy films and thrillers.

 Posted October 10 in Review, Sitges | Comments

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