The latest DC animated film starts off poorly, with a prolonged 10-minute origin story on Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira followed by another nearly 10 minutes of her introduction to the U.S. before we even get to the opening credits. We’ve seen Wonder Woman’s origin so many times in her previous incarnations that the latest rehash is a total waste of viewer time. Thankfully, things pick up once the credits end, and the film does have one major perk that sets it aside from the majority of DC’s typical adaptations of comic book stories: an original plot. Diana is
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Diana tees off against a massive array of all-female baddies in this original story.
It was wonderful to have one more adventure with the Toy Story characters, and this serves as a fitting conclusion to the series, though time will tell if it is.
Even though Toy Story 3 seemed the perfect ending to the film franchise, Toy Story 4 offers a compelling continuation of the beloved Pixar characters, specifically Woody (Tom Hanks) who needs to find his place in the world now that he is Bonnie's toy and no longer Andy's. The story deals with themes that adults will better identify with than children. Bonnie isn't as taken with Woody as Andy was, and whereas Woody was in charge in Andy's room, Dolly (Bonnie Hunt) has that role in Bonnie's. During craft time at her kindergarten orientation, Bonnie creates Forky (Tony Hale) out
A movie so utterly light and unoffensive I can't hate it.
There has been a lot of bemoaning over the last few years about how Avenger-sized films have destroyed the mid-budget movie. The major studios only seem to make blockbuster hopefuls with sequel and spin-off capabilities. Independent studios make more interesting films but their budgets are small which naturally limits their capabilities. Romantic comedies and thoughtful dramas are few and far between. While watching My Boyfriend’s Back, the Bob Balaban-directed romcom with zombies from 1993, I kept thinking about how this sort of film could never get made today. It is goofy, broadly acted, and strangely bloodless for a film produced
This very slow moving British thriller takes its time getting to the action but is quite good if you have the patience.
Two British nurses, Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice), take a cycling holiday in rural France. They’ve planned their route out for each day and Jane pushes Cathy to stick to it, which means not stopping very often or spending much time off their bikes. Cathy wants to stop off and eat at the cafes, take in the local scenery and possibly flirt with the cute guy who seems to be following them. They ride for a while but Cathy’s incessant complaining leads to a stop at a little grove of trees. Cathy lays out a blanket and turns
A strongly acted and skillfully directed examination of a recently-closed case.
It wasn’t that long ago that Tom McCarthy released Spotlight, the Best Picture-winning biopic that showcased a team of Boston Globe reporters investigating and, eventually, exposing the allegations that a Catholic priest in the area had molested more than 80 boys. That was mostly seen from the perspective of the journalists and the struggles they experienced in a pre-9/11 world - as well as what happened when that infamous day struck. With By the Grace of God, François Ozon takes a similar story, also based on true events, that is set a decade after the events of Spotlight and in
Mario Bava infuses the tired Hercules film with his own sense of style, creating something unique and really fun.
For decades the Italian film industry often emulated the successful films of the United States. Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the popularity of such Hollywood films as The Ten Commandments and Spartacus, this often took the form of Biblical epics and stories set in the Greco-Roman period. Critics, with some derision in their voices, called these films peplum (using the Latin word for the Roman style tunics worn in such films) or sword-and-sandal movies. Fans have reconstituted those slags into something more positive. In the early part of this movement, Hercules was by and far the most
Incredibly timely and harrowing. Just don't call it a French "Spotlight."
Given how Spotlight came out four years ago and also covers the topic of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, it’s hard not to think of the Best Picture winner when watching By the Grace of God. Because both films are based on true stories, it only furthers their comparisons. However, By the Grace of God works as a successful companion piece because it focuses on the vantage point of sexual abuse victims as opposed to Spotlight which was about a group of journalists interviewing victims in order to expose the Church and their complicity. Additionally, By the Grace of God
Slasher horror meets spring break comedy in this terrible '80s hybrid from schlock master Umberto Lenzi.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to mix an ‘80s slasher with an ‘80s spring break comedy, then Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare Beach is for you. Well, actually it isn’t for anybody because it is a terrible, terrible movie. It wasn’t even for Umberto Lenzi for he swears he didn’t direct it (at least according to IMDB trivia). He was signed on to direct but at the last minute decided it was too similar to one of his other films (Seven Blood Stained Orchids) and begged off the production. The credits name a “Harry Kilpatrick” as the director
A dynamic and glorious return to form for star Murphy.
When '70s stand-up comic Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) decided to enter the movie business, it was a rough road since the industry didn’t believe audiences would be ready for his crass, idiosyncratic artistry. After getting hit with the word “No” despite giving all he could as an artist by proving his ability as an actor, a comedian, and a singer, he decided to make a blaxploitation film, named after his alter ego called “Dolemite,” and forge his own path to stardom. In addition to expertly telling Moore’s story, the biopic Dolemite is My Name serves as an ode to
Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary confirms his unique talent.
Midsommar is marketed as a horror film, but it’s so different from the typical entries in that genre that it really belongs in a category all its own. While there is a bit of stomach-churning gore and an overbearing sense of dread as writer/director Ari Aster leads us down his twisted rabbit hole, there’s also an intriguing anthropological study of an insular Swedish culture that reveals unexpected layers of beauty in its madness. Where most horror films increase their scares by incorporating night settings, Midsommar frightens viewers in the full light of day during a festival occurring during the season
Starring Marlon Brando and Yul Brenner, Morituri is a great spy thriller beautifully shot aboard a real German frigate.
The cliché is, they don't make them like they used to. But, damn it, movies like Morituri don't get made anymore. It's a suspense thriller with a complex technical background with several moving parts, both in the setting and the character interaction. It was made in a time where special effects were difficult to impossible to achieve, so the amazing things you see aren't done with computers, but with some underpaid idiot risking his life to get a shot. And there was an inkling in the filmmaker's mind that an adult might be in the audience, so the level of
Louie Schwartzberg's "Fantastic Fungi" is a fascinating, story-driven documentary that makes you believe in the power of these mighty organisms.
Fungi aren't something stapled to the front of people’s minds. They aren't something we think about on a daily basis. We don’t even know how to pronounce the word. They're an afterthought, as are mushrooms. For most people, they’re an add-on. They’re good with other things, parts of a whole, not standalone products. Louie Schwartzberg has different ideas, though. Fantastic Fungi, which is narrated by the critically beloved Brie Larson and who I’m sure will bring in an audience by being connected to this film, is a documentary that wastes little time in telling you the importance of fungi and
It’s all fine in a "plain white toast for breakfast" sort of way. Sadly, that’s about as good as it gets.
The first thing I noticed when I received my Multi Screen Edition of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which hit store shelves on September 17, was that “X-Men” was three times larger than “Dark Phoenix” on the cover. Was this a marketing strategy to draw focus away from the poorly reviewed theatrical run? I certainly hope that works for them more than the movie worked for me. As a fan of the X-Men franchise, I was looking forward to this film despite the poor reviews and wanted to like it so much that I watched it twice before sitting down to write.
The score of the cult classic Blade from 1998 is getting its first LP release, and what a beautiful vinyl it is.
Blade is a cult classic for a reason. It features a jacked-up Wesley Snipes, loads of vampires, buckets of blood, and action scenes that purr because of the speed of the swords. It came out in 1998, and it was ahead of its time for comic book heroes and the success they would soon enjoy. Over twenty years later though, we have received the most underrated part of Blade in physical form: an LP of the score by Mark Isham released by Varèse Sarabande It's a score that doesn't immediately jump out at you. It refrains from massive builds and
Richard Dreyfuss is Moses Wine, a former-hippy detective whose latest case takes him back to his radical roots.
Despite being such a sunny city, Los Angeles is the home of noir. All those sun bleached streets are hiding the deepest shadows. Many of the best literary mystery writers set their stories. Ray Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer hit the mean streets of Los Angeles, as does Harry Bosch and the various morally-conflicted cops of James Ellroy's various pitch black noirs. Unique among this varied crowd of detectives is Moses Wine. Philip Marlowe was a white knight of the streets. Lew Archer was WWII vet and amateur psychologist who found social ills at the foundation of
Arrow Video does an excellent job presenting this should-have-been forgotten slasher in a very nice package.
The 1980s were a great time for horror movies in general and slasher flicks in particular. With the advent of home video and the booming popularity of video rental stores, there was suddenly a need for more and more videos to stock those shelves. Lots of studios specializing in cheaply made, straight-to-video movies sprung up overnight. Horror fans are a motley lot and easily amused. They are not known for snobbish attitudes, willing to take a chance (and often enjoy) films of lower budget and artistic caliber. As long as the film has plenty of violence, at least some blood-soaked
Robert Altman puts his twist on an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
Robert Altman's Gosford Park is his take on an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Set in 1932 during a shooting party held at the estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), the film is a wonderful immersion into the worlds of those who live upstairs and those who work downstairs in an English manor. It's made all the more believable by Altman's trademark stylized naturalism. Mary MacEachran (Kelly Macdonald) is newly hired as a maid to one of the guests, Constance, Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith) and cousin of Sir William. Mary serves as the audience's conduit, conveying the inner workings
Even a committed Joaquin Phoenix can't save this grim Scorsese clone.
Going into Joker, which serves as an origin story for Batman’s archnemesis, one shouldn’t expect it to be any laughing matter. It’s meant to be a bleak look at how the Clown Prince of Crime began his reign of terror. As it turns out, bleak is all the movie is. It lacks depth even as it tries to make it seem like it possesses insightful commentary. Particularly about incel culture, mental illness, and how our inhumane world shuns mental illness victims. Yet, it never goes beneath the surface of the conversations it wants to engage in. Also, with its portrait
This four-disk set from Kino Lorber demonstrates what a huge talent Ida Lupino was.
Several weeks ago, I randomly decided to watch On Dangerous Ground, the pretty good film noir by Nicolas Ray from 1951. It was one of those nights where I was flipping through my various streaming services and eventually got so tired of not making a decision, I wound up punching "play" on whatever sounded remotely interesting. I’ve enjoyed several of Nicolas Ray’s film and I’m always up for a noir so away I went. Like I said, it was pretty good. It is about a cop whose violent tendencies get him sent to the countryside to cool off. There, he
Arrow Video does a nice job spiffing up this movie that is so bad even the director disowned it.
Wes Craven is often placed near the top of lists concerning the greatest horror filmmakers of all time, and rightly so. He was at the forefront of the gritty, ultra-violent new wave of horror films in the 1970s making such low budget classics as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. In the 1980s, he rejuvenated the slasher genre by creating the iconic Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street, then reinvented it with the very meta and very ‘90s Scream films. But while he deserves all the accolades, let us not forget he was
Ocelot's distinctive voice shines through in his latest animated feature film.
In his latest feature film, veteran animation auteur Michel Ocelot immediately toys with audience perceptions by opening on what appears to be a tribal African village before zooming out to reveal the scene taking place in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, a virtuoso sequence that draws viewers into guessing about the film’s direction. After three previous feature films set in Africa starring the character Kirikou, not to mention the timing of this film’s U.S. release coinciding with the usual seven-year gap between each of the Kirikou films, it’s easy to imagine that we’ll explore more of the tribal village
John Rambo is really mad this time.
It was my second weekend of having my Regal Unlimited Movie Subscription Pass, and it feels like I’m seeing movies for free. I’ve already saved $13.65 so one more movie and I’m in the black for the month. Though a bad movie does have a cost associated with it and it was a high cost for Rambo: Last Blood. It’s hard to tell if the bad guys in Last Blood suffer more than the audience. I’ll admit that I went into the film with low expectations. Accepting the fact that whatever we got, it would not be a new idea.
Filled with blood and betrayal, Harpoon is sometimes tough to swallow, but easy to love.
The first 15 minutes of Rob Grant’s Harpoon are slow. Grant is methodical in the way he introduces each character, using archival footage and flashbacks to give all the exposition one needs for a good story. We understand each of our three protagonists, or antagonists by the end of the film, and can plainly see where they fit within the interlocking friendships. The roles are set. The pecking order is established. And with that, Harpoon doesn’t just walk or run to the next conflicts, it sprints at breakneck speed, shattering everything in its path. The film centers around three friends,
Follow up to Hellraiser has the same aesthetic, same cast, much the same crew, but not enough story or ideas.
It's strange that so many horror movies spawn enormous franchises when the surprise and the unknown are central to the effectiveness of a good horror story. Shock and dread are two of the desired outcomes of horror: to be surprised by something you didn't want to see, and to be slowly drawn toward something you don't want to see, but just have to look. Hellraiser as it stands doesn't make a great candidate for a sequel in any case. It's primarily a twisted love story - the main characters are the undead Frank and his lover Julia who supplied him
An erotic and grotesque twist on a haunted house story, with an unsettling horrific vision that supersedes some film-making fumbles.
Roger Ebert hated Hellraiser when it came out, giving it half a star. He starts with the money quote Stephen King gave the director/writer on his literary debut: "I have seen the future of horror, and it is Clive Barker." Ebert quips: "Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker." Cute, but it ignores the strengths that Barker was bringing to the horror game, which in the mid-'80s literary world was becoming big business. First, Clive wrote with style. There are decent stylists in the horror world at the time (Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell) but there was a
In a culture that seems more homogenized every day, it's wonderful to see something completely different, which makes this well worth the watching.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. For years now, our popular culture has been swimming in comic book stories. We are positively drowning in the stuff. Marvel releases two or three films a year that not only dominate the box office but consume our cultural conversations. While DC hasn’t been nearly as successful, their films still make money and have developed large fandoms. Beyond the movies, there are lots of television series and actual comic books. You cannot escape the power of
The Gang returns to the setting of their best film with less exciting results.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. For almost 30 years, Scooby-Doo! TV shows and movies didn't have what you would call continuity. There was a backstory to the characters that was changed slightly to fit the needs of the plot. There was always a hint that the gang had encountered ghosts and villains before but not a continuing story from episode to episode. The changing landscape of animated television series and movies has added to the evolution of the franchise. Now, we've
How Crohn's disease became a chestburster.
I've seen many making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes for movies before, especially ones with elaborate special effects. I've seen documentaries about the visionaries behind creature design. What's rare is a film that has such a breadth and wealth of inspiration that merely looking at everything it drew from and had injected into it to become an iconic, genre-defining powerhouse warrants an hour and a half discussion with experts just to get a handle on all of it. Insert Memory: The Origins of Alien, directed and written by Alexandre O. Philippe, which dives deep into all of the decades of influence that
An art-house Japanese animated film gets a terrible American treatment.
In The Path to Aftermath, an extra included in Arrow Video’s new release of In The Aftermath, producer Tom Dugan explains that in the mid-1980s it was easy to sell low budget, straight-to-video movies because video stores had lots of shelf space and not enough VHS tapes. He goes on to say that he spent part of his career filming show trailers and creating eye-catching cover art for films that didn’t even exist. He’d sell the movies based upon those things then get someone else to make the movie on the lowest possible budget. He’d also keep an eye out
Incredibly by the numbers with an emotive and committed Renee Zellweger performance.
With Judy, Renee Zellweger has found a perfect fusion of actor and character. The story of Judy Garland trying to get back in the spotlight after Hollywood started turning her away isn’t too far from Zellweger’s own. As Zellweger moved past her prime, she took a six-year acting hiatus before making a slow comeback by starring in films like Bridget Jones’ Baby and now this. Even if Judy is quite muddled in terms of its execution, hopefully, it’ll give Zellweger the career boost she deserves. Based on the play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, Judy follows the life