Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Finding Dory
A Movie Worth Finding

Unless they star a toy cowboy and his space ranger pal, sequels to Pixar movies have been somewhat underwhelming. Cars 2 and Monsters University were both moderately entertaining, but neither of them came close to approximating the magic of their respective originals. Now the animation giant is revisiting one of their most beloved movies, Finding Nemo. Although it has been a full thirteen years since that movie first hit theaters in 2003, and Finding Dory may be late to the party, it is well worth the wait.


The Nice Guys
A Black Comedy

Hollywood veteran Shane Black got his start writing the screenplays for the Lethal Weapon movies in the eighties and nineties before finally directing his first feature with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He then joined that movie’s star Robert Downey Jr. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by writing and directing Iron Man 3, one of the franchise’s most contentious entries to date. His new movie, The Nice Guys, is a return to the buddy-cop action comedy genre in which he first made his name.


Captain America: Civil War
Avengers Disassembled

Earlier this summer, movie audiences were treated to a long-awaited superhero matchup with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie which felt a lot like a desperate attempt by Warner Bros. to quickly catch the DC Comics movie universe up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The result was a movie that was almost universally panned by critics and—despite decent box office—audiences. As if that weren’t enough, here comes Marvel’s new movie, also featuring a matchup between two of its main heroes: Iron Man and Captain America. With the two movies having a surprising amount of plot elements in common, Captain America: Civil War feels as if it is Marvel slapping DC right across the face, because everything DC got wrong, Marvel gets oh-so-right.


Keanu
Where’s the Cat?

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have already had a success on the small screen with their sketch comedy show, but now that their television show has ended they have set their sights on the big screen. Their first effort is a pseudo-parody of the Keanu Reeves action movie John Wick that they named after that film’s star. Although the title Keanu is obviously a nod to the actor, in the movie it is the name of the film’s true star: pretty much the cutest kitten you have ever seen in your life.


The Jungle Book
Mowgli’s Live-Action Adventures

Disney’s new live-action version of The Jungle Book says that it is based on the Mowgli stories written by Rudyard Kipling, but let’s be honest: it is really a remake of the company’s own animated version from 1967. For the most part, it has the same characters—no more, no less—and follows a similar path through scenes that will seem very familiar to fans of the animated film. The movie is enjoyable, for sure, but mostly in the way it makes you nostalgic for the movie and characters you grew up with, rather than for being anything special or unique in its own right.


Forces of Nature

If you pay attention to movies, you’re aware that Ben Affleck stars as the Caped Crusader in the record-breaking blockbuster megaflop Batman v Superman. Affleck’s career has had more high-profile disasters and little-seen failures than about any steadily-working actor I know. He’s like a walking, talking thespian version of the plagues in The Ten Commandments. And some of those bombs are truly awful. Some, however, were just the right movie at the wrong time. 1999’s Forces of Nature–with a 45% splat from critics at Rotten Tomatoes and a worse-yet 35% favorable audience rating–is one of those.


Demolition
Bringing Down the House

Director Jean-Marc Vallee has been on a roll when it comes to getting his actors to the Academy Awards. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both took home awards for their performances under his guidance in Dallas Buyers Club and the next year the director’s Wild earned Reese Witherspoon a nomination. For his next film, Demolition, the director cast one of the best actors going at the moment and while the movie may not hit the mark in the same way his previous films did, it does offer up another terrific performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.


Midnight Special
A Spielbergian Sci-Fi Chase

Writer/Director Jeff Nichols has been making some of the most interesting independent films over the past few years. Take Shelter and Mud were both critical favorites, but neither really found a wide audience. While the director’s latest movie, Midnight Special, maintains the unique, personal feel of his previous films, it comes in a more blockbuster-friendly package. As described by the director himself, the movie is a “sci-fi chase film.” Whether the movie finds a wide audience or not will largely depend on how much good word-of-mouth the movie gets, but one thing is for sure, it certainly deserves some.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Dawn of a Cinematic Universe

Perhaps a more appropriate subtitle for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would be “Dawn of a Cinematic Universe.” Although it is technically preceded by 2013’s Man of Steel, this movie is designed to be the launching point for a DC Comics shared universe that Warner Bros. hopes can rival that of Disney’s Marvel franchise. The subtitle, of course, refers to The Justice League, which is DC’s version of The Avengers. The movie is a big risk for Warner Bros. as they try to run before they can walk, as opposed to the Marvel approach which started with 2008’s Iron Man and slowly learned to crawl and then walk before finally running full speed in 2012’s The Avengers. Do they pull it off? Yes and no.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Ugly? Not So Much. Nope.

Leone’s legacy is that of a ground-breakingly visionary genius… even though his oeuvre technically comprises only six theatrical releases, none of which were certifiable hits and one of which was a decided bust. That demonstrates the power of Leone’s films at his peak, however. Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in the West, and GBU are all certifiable masterpieces (though not to everyone’s taste, as tends to be the nature of masterpieces) though the latter (and the first of those three to be released) is the most flawed. And yet, like certain gems, it is the flaws of GBU that lend it a certain brilliance.


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