REVIEWS

Review: McKay's 'The Tomorrow War' is a Decent Sci-Fi Summer Flick

The Tomorrow War Review

Dystopian science fiction movies encourage ambivalent feelings in me; they both terrify and enthrall me, especially when the plot revolves around time loops, the future, and the end of the world. For example, imagine you're watching a soccer game when suddenly a purple, cloud-like mass appears right on the field, revealing a group of soldiers dressed in black who claim to be from the future. That is essentially how Chris McKay's The Tomorrow War begins - and it's frightening. The film, directed by the man behind The Lego Batman Movie, delivers a fun time and the entertainment you probably need after a long day. At the same time, it appears to be more of a one-time watch and nothing more than just a decent summer sci-fi flick.

 Posted July 2 in Review, Sci-Fi | 8 Comments

Review: Marvel's 'Black Widow' Spins a Web of Espionage & Intrigue

Black Widow Review

Co-created by Stan Lee, Don Rico & Don Heck, Black Widow made her first appearance in 1964's Tales of Suspense #52, published by Marvel Comics. Introduced as an antagonist for Iron Man, Natasha Romanova was a Russian spy who later defected to the United States, becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a member of the Avengers. In 2010, the character (renamed Natasha Romanoff) made her film debut in John Favreau's Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johansson. She has since appeared in six Marvel movies, including 2019's Avengers: Endgame, in which she sacrificed herself so Hawkeye could retrieve the Soul Stone, saving her best friend — and all humankind — from the genocidal warlord Thanos. Now, Natasha is getting her own standalone adventure, a prequel exploring the fan-favorite character's origins in surprising & exciting ways.

 Posted July 1 in Marvel, Review | Comments

Review: Justin Lin's 'F9' is a Preposterous But Entertaining Self-Parody

Fast 9 Review

Taiwanese-born American filmmaker Justin Lin (director of the films Better Luck Tomorrow, Annapolis, Tokyo Drift, and Star Trek Beyond previously) has directed five of the nine films in The Fast Saga already, including its lowest of lows (2009's Fast & Furious) and its highest of highs (2011's Fast Five). With Fast 9, known as just F9 or Fast & Furious 9, the auteur of automotive action returns to the franchise for the first time since 2013's Fast & Furious 6 for what is, arguably, the most ridiculous entry in a series that routinely pushes the limits of logic, physics, and heavy-handed family melodrama.

 Posted June 25 in Review | 2 Comments

Review: Michael Chaves' 'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It'

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Review

I was just a student when I first learned about Ed and Lorraine Warren. My friend and I decided to give a presentation about them and their work fighting against demonic forces. After seeing the first installment of The Conjuring, I was blown away by James Wan's intricate storytelling and the film's elevated uniqueness within the horror genre. The third installment in this horror franchise, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, directed by Michael Chaves (of The Curse of La Llorona previously), possesses a divergent feeling. It falls rather short of its predecessors; however, its fascinating story based on true events, along with actors Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson returning as Lorraine & Ed Warren, still charm and spook.

 Posted June 4 in Horror, Review | 1 Comment

Review: Craig Gillespie's 'Cruella' Offers Sympathy for the de Vil

Cruella Review

Dodie Smith's 1956 children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians originally introduced the world to Cruella de Vil, a fashion-obsessed heiress who kidnaps a litter of Dalmatian puppies to create a spotted fur coat. When Walt Disney read the book back in 1957, he immediately obtained the rights and assigned Bill Peet (Cinderella, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty) to write the animated adaptation. 1961's 101 Dalmatians was a worldwide box office success, so much so that it was re-issued to cinemas four times: in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991. In 1996, Disney released a live-action version, starring Glenn Close as the iconic fashion criminal. Both the animated film and the live-action movie have spawned sequels, but now the franchise's villain is getting her own origin story with Cruella, starring the Academy Award winner Emma Stone.

 Posted May 26 in Review | Comments

Review: Bousman's 'Spiral' is a Refreshing Update on Saw's 'Live or Die'

Spiral Review

I must admit, I was terrified after watching Saw for the first time. I was thinking about Jigsaw coming after me and telling myself that I needed to set a good example – I was in middle school at the time, after all. When I re-watched the entire series a few years later, I saw the franchise in a completely new light. Instead, I concentrated on what John Kramer was attempting to convey to us – a torturous lesson about morality and the consequences of his victims' actions. In Spiral, the new and refreshed thriller "From the Book of Saw", Darren Lynn Bousman (also the director of Saw II, III, and IV) doesn't exactly reinvent the killer genre. Still, he certainly takes the unusual atmosphere of the cult franchise and blends it with contemporary components, creating a thrilling, bloody spectacle that feels like a captivating ode to its predecessors.

 Posted May 13 in Horror, Review | Comments

Review: Ben Sharrock's 'Limbo' is One of the Best Refugee Films Yet

Limbo

"I cannot be myself back home." I need to write about this film because it's the best film I've seen in 2021 so far, and I've been thinking about it all the time since watching. Limbo is a dark comedy about the refugee experience in the UK written & directed by British filmmaker Ben Sharrock, and it was initially supposed to premiere at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival last year (before it was cancelled). Instead, it premiered at the Toronto, San Sebastian, Zurich, and London Film Festivals in the fall, and it has already been earning rave reviews. I'm so glad I finally caught up with it. Limbo would be my top pick for the Palme d'Or if Cannes had happened, really truly. I honestly want to drop the m word and call this a masterpiece. I loved it so much. It's perfect, there's not a thing to change about it. It even sticks the landing - in a seriously exhilarating way.

 Posted April 30 in Indies, Review | Comments

Review: Out of This World 'Stowaway' Puts Humanity at the Center

Stowaway Review

Imagine suddenly waking up disoriented in an unfamiliar place. As you walk through the narrow, round tunnel hallway, you reach the window and look out to see space – vast, uncharted blackness with millions of stars. Suddenly, you spot the Earth, your home. That's where you're supposed to be and where your family is. Soon you learn that you're now on a two-year mission to Mars, and you're not coming back any earlier than that. That's the situation that Michael (played by Shamier Anderson) finds himself in at the start of this film. In the Netflix Original Stowaway, directed by filmmaker Joe Penna (of Arctic previously), the characters must fight to survive their voyage in space while struggling with existential questions throughout.

 Posted April 22 in Review, Sci-Fi | 2 Comments

Review: 'Godzilla vs. Kong' Unleashes More Epic Monster Mayhem

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

"There can't be two alpha titans." Everyone's favorite big cuddlelizard is back with another smash & tumble adventure around the world. Godzilla vs. Kong is finally here! You're Next and The Guest director Adam Wingard picks up where Mike Dougherty left off with Godzilla: King of the Monsters just a few years ago. And Wingard also picks up where Jordan Vogt-Roberts left off with his Kong: Skull Island movie. This is a very American franchise now, focusing more on the epic destruction and CGI-filled fights than any humans, because that's what we want! Let them fight! And ohhh, do they fight. And tons of humans get squished, but that's what happens when these two titans battle. This is nature vs nature and we just need to get far enough back so we can watch without getting caught up in all the destruction. Does it pack a punch? YES IT DOES.

 Posted March 30 in Review, Sci-Fi | 2 Comments

SXSW 2021: Mesmerizing Rotoscoped Parable 'The Spine of Night'

The Spine of Night Review

Holy gore hell. It's only March, and we already have at least two incredibly unique, extremely strange mind-fuck animated films that are definitely not for kids. Dash Shaw's Cryptozoo premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in January, and The Spine of Night just premiered at the SXSW Film Festival this month. (And let's not forget about that wacky puppet horror Frank & Zed from the Nightstream Film Festival last year.) These films are yet another reminder that animation is a medium, not just a genre, and can be used to tell any kind of story - including extremely violent, gory, not-for-kids stories that could only be realized with animation. Fresh from SXSW, The Spine of Night is an instant cult classic, find-it-on-VHS-anywhere-you-can-at-whichever-video-store-stocks-it, extra gnarly, mind-melting sensation. Just don't watch this sober.

 Posted March 23 in Animation, Review, SXSW | Comments

'Zack Snyder's Justice League' is a Victorious Triumph for Perseverance

Zack Snyder's Justice League

The fans were victorious. Zack Snyder's Justice League is finally upon us. After a four year journey that originated with director Zack Snyder departing the project due to a family tragedy, the four-hour superhero epic defied all odds and expectations and arrived streaming on HBO Max this past weekend (watch the final trailer again). No longer besmirched by Joss Whedon's neutered version of Justice League from 2017, Zack Snyder's Justice League (formerly known as "The Snyder Cut") restores his epic vision for the superhero film, and it is a victorious triumph for perseverance and for the vision of an auteur who never gave up.

SXSW 2021: Justine Bateman's 'Violet' Confronts That Inner Voice

Violet Review

You know that inner voice that always prevents you from doing the right thing? That always stops you from being your true self? What if you could learn to reject it and listen to yourself instead, staying true to who you really are. That is the concept behind Violet, a seemingly autobiographical film that marks the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Justine Bateman. This indie dramatic feature just premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and it's one of the most creative films I caught during the virtual festival this year. It's set in Hollywood, following a development executive struggling with her life as this voice, literally voiced by Justin Theroux, keeps telling her how much she sucks and how she should just keep quiet and do her job just like she's told. Eventually, she learns to stop letting that voice control her and starts listening to herself.

 Posted March 21 in Review, SXSW | 2 Comments

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