I’ve written in these pages on several occasions about how I’ve evolved in my opinions of comic-book movies several times over the years. You can track my feelings pretty well with each X-Men movie. When the first X-Men film came out in 2000, I knew hardly anything about the characters. I was not yet into comic books in any real way, nor interested in the movies based upon them. But there was a lot of fanboy excitement about it (and it's interesting to think about how fanboy excitement has changed in the last 17 years - now you get non-stop
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This week brings us a new Wolverine, a great wall, a socially conscious horror film, a weird French boxed set, werewolves, thugs, midwives, and more.
A pretty slow week brings us zombies, mummys, Martians, Ozu and the return of Xander Cage.
When I was a boy, I was what they would nowadays call a gamer. It started with a little Texas Instruments device my father bought when I was maybe six years old. It had a little keyboard and a place to insert cartridges to play some very rudimentary games. A year or two later, we got an Atari 2600 and I was completely hooked. In 1985, the first Nintendo Entertainment System came out and I played it nearly every waking hour. My brother used to taunt me about it calling me a “Nintendo Nerd” or “NN” for short. He was
This week brings us Michael Mann's heist classic, girls in prison, serial killers, mutants and much more.
Though they’ve both delved into self parody over the last decade or two, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro will go down in history as two of the greatest actors to ever be filmed. Surprisingly, they’ve only appeared together on screen once (The Godfather, Part II doesn’t count as they don’t share any screen time) in Michael Mann’s 1995 thriller Heat. It's a great film with great performances all around. De Niro plays the mastermind of a professional heist crew that stick to a strict moral code. Pacino is the cop chasing him down. Though it has some nice action
This week's new releases include a Studio Ghibli-esque animated film, the director's cut of Gene Siskel's favorite movie, a big boxed set of some cult classics and much more.
I’ve been writing this column for almost three years now. That’s roughly 156 picks of the week. Yet, I’m still not entirely sure why I pick some films. Or rather what is it that makes me (or anyone) think I’ll like certain films over others? Some weeks include films that I’ve seen and love. Some weeks have films released in special packages. But I’d say the majority of my picks are films that I’ve not seen but are very much interested in. The question becomes what makes me want to see one film more than another? What makes me pick
This week brings us a new musical, an immortal monster, several Valerian Borowczyk films, a Japanese film about noodles, and more.
Every few years, it seems, Hollywood will make a new musical. It will catch on like gangbusters and a slew of think pieces will come out raving about how audiences are finally, once again, ready to enjoy musicals like they did in the old days. Then just as quickly it all dies down and we go back to watching another reboot, another sequel, another damn Transformers movie. La La Land is the latest musical in this feeble attempt to revive the genre. It stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz pianist. They fall
This week brings us a film about McDonalds, a Studio Ghibli TV movie, James McAvoy playing a bunch of different characters in one film and much more.
It is not exactly controversial for me to say I hate McDonald's. I’d go as far to say I loathe them. Their burgers are small and unappetizing. Their chicken is bland; their fish is gross. Even their fries - supposedly the one thing they do really well - I find rather boring, and too salty. Yet, I still occasionally eat there. When I’m on the Interstate, and hungry, sometimes I’ll stop at a McDonald's if there is nothing else at the exit. Or if one of their restaurants sit next to the hotel I’m staying at, I’ll walk over rather
This week brings us NASA's untold history, a mad king, some nice-looking horror collections, and much more.
If you aren’t utterly amazed by space travel, then you aren’t paying attention - especially in the early days of NASA. They worked out ridiculously complicated math problems using a pencil and a slide rule. My phone has more computing power than their big mainframes did. Some of the people doing those calculations were young African American women. Hidden Figures tell their story. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the mathematicians. It's received some good review and has done well at the box office. I’m a sucker for heart-warming historical stories and this one looks
This week brings us the latest Star Wars, a new Jim Jarmusch film, and a raunchy comedy.
I first saw Star Wars…well, I don’t actually remember the first time I saw Star Wars. That’s A New Hope I’m talking about. I was only one when it hit theaters so it wasn’t until it started showing on cable or home video that I first saw it. I do remember watching Return of the Jedi in theaters on several occasions and playing with all the action figures so by 1983, I was certainly a fan. My mother says that A New Hope used to run all the time on HBO way back when and that me and my brother
This week brings us a Martin Scorsese film about faith, some fantastic beasts, our own planet in HD, and much more.
In my very first Five Cool Things article, I was excited about the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Silence. I also noted that I had really enjoyed the book. What I didn’t mention was that my copy of the book had a bunch of pages missing. For the last 20 pages or so, every other pages was blank. It was a horrible way to finish what was really a very good novel right at its conclusion. I learned what happened at the end in my class and always meant to buy another copy, but never did. As I’ve surely mentioned numerous
This week brings us a gangster flick from Ben Affleck, a disgusting one from John Waters, singing animals, and much more.
I’m a sucker for gangster stories. There is something utterly fascinating about people who push aside all of society's rules and take what they want for themselves. Gangsters are often not the smartest, strongest, or the best but rather they are the most willing to use violence for their own means. Most of us avoid trouble whenever we can so when someone comes along willing to openly commit violence the vast majority of people shirk away. Those who don’t get a beating. In real life, I find that sort of thing appealing, but on film it's really interesting. Dennis Lehane
This week brings us Denzel Washington in a critically praised drama, Will Smith in a critically hated one, a sci-fi adventure with Chris Pratt and much more.
During that ridiculous let's-bring-in-a-tour-bus-full-of-common-folk-to-the-Oscars bit a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Kimmel asked one of the tourists who her favorite actor was. She pointed and simply said “him.” I turned to my wife and said, “It's Denzel Washington.” Of course it was. Everybody loves Denzel Washington. He’s one of the greatest living actors we have. He’s won all the awards. He’s beloved by just about everyone - men, women, African Americans, Caucasians, liberals, and conservatives alike. He happily mixes it up by playing in straight-up action flicks and small dramatic films. Last year, he was in both The Magnificent Seven
This week brings us the best Disney music in a decade, a critically praised biopic, a Criterion drama, a creepy flick from Portugal, and Japanese animation.
I’ve always liked Disney movies. but for the most part I’ve waited until they’ve reached home video (and have gained a favorable critical consensus) before watching them. Well, that’s the way things went until I had a daughter. Now, I pretty much see them in the theater, or at the very least as soon as they come out on Blu-ray, no matter the critical or popular opinion. So it was with Moana. It came out this summer while we were visiting the wife’s family in Kentucky so we took the in-laws along for the ride. I was a little worried
This week brings us an Oscar upset,
We cut the cord year ago and our cheap antenna doesn’t really work in our new house. We pick up a few channels but not ABC which carried the Oscars last night. I had all but resigned myself to not watching the ceremony this year and in fact wrote out several paragraphs for this article about how I wasn’t going to get to watch. Then my genius wife moved the antennae upstairs to our bedroom TV and got all the channels. I missed the first twenty minutes or so and then another twenty minutes or so in the middle putting
This week brings us another Amy Adams pick, a couple of Criterions, Mel Gibson's return, a Doctor Who Christmas special, and more.
As I sit down to write out why Nocturnal Animals is my pick of this week, I realize I know next to nothing about the film. I know it stars Amy Adams and that it's gotten some critical buzz. I also really like its title. But other than that - nothing. Yet here I am ready to make it my pick. It's not like one of those weeks where there is nothing else coming out either. There’s a Doctor Who Christmas special, an Oscar-nominated Mel Gibson flick, and a couple of wonderful Criterion releases. Yet here I am, picking something
This week brings us Amy Adams' language skills, a new Cinemax show, an Ang Lee Iraq War movie, a PBS Civil War show, and a gay porn crime drama starring James Franco.
My wife is a language nerd. Technically, she’s a master linguist having received her degree from Indiana University many years ago. As such, she has many language-nerd friends. Which means I have many language-nerd friends. Arrival is a film in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who saves the world from an alien invasion using her language-nerd powers. All of those aforementioned friends were terribly excited by this film. I am not a language nerd. I’m not particularly interested in grammatical intricacies as one can easily tell by constant abuse of the rules in these weekly picks. I do however
This week brings us an Oscar nominee, another release of Dirty Dancing, Trolls, psychedelic horror, and much more.
I first noticed Ruth Negga on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where she played Raina, a villain who was working for the mysterious Centipede Group before becoming a spiky headed Inhuman. She was a striking presence but honestly didn’t make that much of an impression on me. After watching her in Preacher, I realize just how poorly used in S.H.I.E.L.D. as she is magnetic in that show. After watching the first season, I put a mental peg in her name as someone to always watch. It seems I wasn’t the only one as she’s getting all kind of accolades for her performance
This week brings us generic action from Tom Cruise, a queen from England, a Nazi love camp, and more.
Tom Cruise, the human, seems like a pretty awful dude. He’s a high-ranking member of a terrible cult/religion that uses brainwashing, blackmail, and mob-like intimidation techniques. He’s publicly made damaging comments about psychiatry, that if taken seriously, could do untold harm to millions of patients who desperately need the medical practice and their prescribed medication. I also don’t think he’s that great of an actor. He gets the job done, sometimes very well, but there’s never been a moment in which I found his performance in any film to be elevated into the level of greatness. Despite all this, I
This week brings us a new film from Park Chan-wook, Robert Langdun solving more clues, a story from Jaws coming to life and much more.
There is a scene in Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy that just might be the greatest fight ever put in a movie. It immediately made me a fan of the South Korean director. Oldboy is the middle part of the director’s Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are the other two). All three ensconce themselves in perverse violence that will please even the most hardcore action fan, but that violence is never the point. Chan-Wook uses the unrelenting and incredibly crafted brutality to dig deeper into the soul’s of his characters and ponder man’s insatiable need to destroy. He’s
This week brings us a girl on a train, a fox and his friends, plus Aaron Paul, Jon Hamm, and many others.
I was never much of a reader growing up. I would read whatever was assigned to me at school but I much preferred to watch TV or play video games than read. I was about 15 when Silence of the Lambs hit theaters. My brother and his then-girlfriend saw it on a date and raved about it. With their nudging, and promises that it wasn’t too graphic, my mother allowed me to see it. I loved it. I must have talked about it nonstop because that Christmas my mother bought me the book. I loved it too and with it
This week brings us a comedy classic, a classic of the French New Wave, a holistic detective, and much more.
I can’t even remember the first time I saw His Girl Friday. It was high school, probably, or maybe on a trip home from college. I watched it with with my mother I’m pretty sure. Whenever, wherever it was, I immediately loved it. I’ve seen it a good dozen times since then and love it even more now. It gives me great pleasure to show the film off to those who haven’t seen it and watch them discover one of the great comedies of all time. The film stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as two hard-nosed reporters who were
This week brings us a sequel no one was asking for, a trip into outer space, Holocaust deniers getting their day in court, and some girls.
It's difficult now to imagine a time when every movie didn’t have its own social media team. Or when there weren’t dozens of websites dedicated to promoting every single aspect of a film months before it made it to a movie screen. But in 1999, that was very much the case. The World Wide Web had been around for a little while, it was becoming a huge force in our daily lives. It had grown out of its infancy and was now into its adolescence trying to figure out what it was going to be. Movie studios didn’t know what
This week brings us Oliver Stone's take on a whistleblower, Ethan Hawke committing violence, teenagers cruising around the country and more
Turn on the news and you are bound to hear any number of stories about computer hacking of some sort. Whether it's Hillary Clinton’s e-mails (and Russia’s potential involvement) or some celebrity having their private photos released publicly, there is no escaping that we live in a world governed by our technological devices and increasingly made vulnerable by them. It used to be easy to write off those who lived in fear of what technology might bring. Back in the '80s, we used to laugh at my grandfather who would rant about how the government was spying on us through
This week brings us documentary about an influential book, a true life film about a pilot, some horror films, a remake, and more.
In 1961, François Truffaut sat down in a Hollywood hotel room with Alfred Hitchcock for a week-long chat about Hitchcock’s films. That series of interviews became the landmark book Hitchcock/Truffaut. It came out at a time when American critics dismissed Hitchcock as a genre director, nothing more. He could make a very good suspense picture, but those type of things were beneath people who took cinema seriously as an art form. The French New Wave, led by Truffaut, saw Hitchcock for what he was - a true auteur. That book went a long way to convincing everybody else of that
This week features Tim Burton's latest, Ridley Scott's son, zombies, never-before-seen Star Trek, and more.
My wife and I bought a house a few months back. We are first-time home buyers. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but we got a good deal on it. I’ve enjoyed making improvements on it. There really is something special about owning your own home. Even mowing the yard isn’t so bad because it's my yard I’m mowing. We live in what I’d call a lower middle-class neighborhood. It's filled with renters, those who have moved up a notch from renting, and first time buyers like us. The neighbors are nice if a little more redneck than I’m used
This week bring us a new Bourne movie, a couple of Criterions, Mad Max in black and white and more.
My wife and I lived in Strasbourg, France for about ten months back in 2004. We sublet a tiny studio apartment from a university student who was spending a year living in England. There was hardly any furniture - a small desk, a coffee table, and a couple of half-broken chairs. She’d taken the bed out as it was only a single. A friend of ours let us borrow a blow-up mattress, but it had a tiny hole in it so as the night crept on we got lower and lower to the floor. After about a week of that,
This week brings us some thrilling horrors, some weird anime, and at least two friendly monsters.
It's strange this writing things that get published on the internet. You never really know who is reading what your wrote, if anyone actually is at all. This afternoon I went to see a Fathom screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's. When I got to the theater, I tweeted about it and shared my location on Facebook. Then later this afternoon, in real life, no fewer than three people asked me how the movie was. That always throws me. It took me a minute to realize how they knew I’d gone to the movies. It makes perfect sense that people I
This week brings us a modern western, and old horror flick, a couple of Criterions, Marlon Brando directing and much more.
I’m much too young to have grown up during the heyday of westerns. As a kid I didn’t like them. They were too old, too old-fashioned for me to take any interest in. When I’d complain about my uncle watching them, he’d laugh and say I really did like westerns I just didn’t know it. Star Wars, he’d explain, was really just a western in outer space, so maybe I should give John Wayne a try. I’d make a face and go play with my Han Solo figure. It was Young Guns that turned me around. That 1988 film about
This week's new releases include a forgetful fish, a killer king (or two), several Criterions, and lots of Buster Keaton.
I have lamented numerous times in these pages about how my young daughter has kept me from seeing a great many movies. For years it was inappropriate to take her to the theatre and babysitters were hard to come by. Many movies that I want to watch at home should surely not be viewed with toddlers by my side. Thing is she’s five and a half now. She loves going to the movies. She has a greater attention span so she can watch longer and more complicated plot lines with at least some comprehension. I'm also pretty liberal in what
This week brings us a blind crime fighter, a killer taxi driver, raunchy sausages, and more.
If The Avengers are all about saving the world from alien annihilation, then the Defenders have far less loftier goals - they protect the dirty neighborhood streets of New York City from thugs and gangsters (and the occasional ninja). Four seasons in (two of Daredevil and one each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and I am totally on board with Marvel’s street level superheroes. With these Netflix series, Marvel is proving yet again that their aim is to take over every possible entertainment venue we have as puny humans. They’ve ruled the comics market for decades and every few
This week brings us an animated Caped Crusader, a sea of trees, bad moms and more.
As a teenager living in the '80s I developed a great fondness for old '50s, '60s, and '70s television shows. A lot of fledgling cable channels found it valuable (and no doubt cheap) to rerun old shows rather than create original programming. I’d sit every afternoon watching that old stuff. I loved just about all of it from the cheesy shows of the '50s like Donna Reed and Father Knows Best to more urban and socially conscious '70s series such as Good Times and The Jeffersons. It was during these classic TV afternoons that I discovered two of my all-time