reviews

What the world didn’t need – and quite possibly, didn’t want – was another adaptation of Dr. Seuss 1957 stone-cold, illustrated classic, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” After all, we already had the perfect expansion of Dr. Seuss’ story more than 50 years ago, a 26-minute TV special directed by Chuck Jones and narrated by horror icon Boris Karloff. But as we’ve learned over and over again, where there’s IP (intellectual property), there’s a major studio eager to bring another adaptation (remake, reboot, reimagining) to the big screen and separate nostalgic parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, from their bank and debit cards. And with the Illumination Entertainment, the fine people who brought the Minions to vivid, if annoying, life in the Despicable Me series and their own spin-off, a class act like Dr. Seuss and the Grinch seemed like a no-brain, surefire excuse to print (digital) money. Unfortunately, the aggressively mediocre, ultimately forgettable results match the obvious lack of ambition on the part of Illumination’s executive board. (more…)

Amidst the startling Marvel cancellations on Netflix the past few weeks, fans have become a little uncertain about the future of the Marvel Defenders series. Luke Cage and Iron Fist have been axed, either to disappear into non-existence or to transfer, somehow, onto Disney’s upcoming streaming service. One of the series that lives on, though, is Daredevil. With the third season recently premiering, fans can buzz about that instead of worry about the Netflix Superheroes. And boy is this new dip into Daredevil’s life an interesting reprieve.

Last fans left Daredevil, AKA Matt Murdock, he had a building collapse in on him and his beloved doomed assassin, Elektra. It seemed finally they both got to die as heroes, successfully running from the darkness within them.

Of course, it’s hard for superheroes to stay dead. Against all odds, and never explained, Murdock manages to wash through the sewers and out of the collapse. His suit is destroyed and he’s badly wounded, but he’s alive. Then, he’s found and taken to his childhood home, the church orphanage, and is cared for by the nuns and priest who know him best. (more…)

When it’s not absorbing rival movie companies (20th Century Fox, LucasFilm, Marvel) or expanding its TV empire (ESPN), Disney’s trawling the public domain archives for exploitable intellectual property (IP), like, for example, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a loose adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic 19th-century short story-turned-perennial ballet that probably should have skipped multiplexes and premiered on the Disney Channel on a long holiday weekend. A mid-production switch from one veteran filmmaker, Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, My Life as a Dog), to another veteran director, Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger, Jurassic Park III, The Rocketeer), should have given Disney execs a clue that they should have shelved their Nutcracker adaptation at worst or skipped a theatrical release altogether at best, but apparently common sense went missing on whatever day the decision was made to release The Nutcracker and the Four Realms a few weeks before the long Thanksgiving weekend. (more…)

One-time Spartan king and opera phantom Gerard “Gerry” Butler continues his descent into B-movie mediocrity and – eventually – straight-to-VOD obscurity with Hunter Killer, a lazily scripted, short-on-logic, long-on-absurdity submarine “thriller” (mostly minus the thrills) released during the end of a month known for Halloween-themed horror. Maybe the studio behind Hunter Killer decided to risk a late October release as a bit of counter programming. Or maybe they thought Butler’s name – combined with recent Academy Award winner Gary “Paycheck” Oldman and rapper-turned-actor Common – would be enough to recoup their investment in or even make a modest profit from Hunter Killer before it inevitably sinks into the deepest of ocean depths, never to be seen or heard from again (except on late-night basic cable as a perfect antidote for lifetime members of the insomnia club).

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It took forty years, countless sequels, a reboot, and a sequel to that reboot, but fans of John Carpenter’s seasonal horror classic, Halloween, finally have a sequel worthy of the 1978 original that launched the slasher sub-genre. With his dirty mechanic’s overalls, frozen William Shatner death mask, and a toupee to match, Michael Myers and his knife embodied the boogeyman for generations of horror fans, but each sequel – not counting the in-name-only-sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch –tarnished and diminished the legacy of Carpenter’s one-of-a-kind original. But where there’s Jason Blum and his horror factory, Blumhouse Productions, there’s a way and the way pointed to an unlikely collaboration between indie auteur David Gordon Green (Stronger, Our Brand is Crisis, Joe, Prince Avalanche, George Washington), writer-comedian Danny McBride (Vice Principals, Eastbound & Down), and onetime “scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. The result will go down as a horror classic or near classic in its own right, the perfect, 40-years-in-the-making bookend to Carpenter’s film. (more…)

Spoiler alert: Contrary to Stanley Kubrick-obsessed conspiracy theorists, a lunar module (call-sign “Eagle”) carrying two Earth-born astronauts landed on the moon fifty years ago next July. The two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, took “one small step for [a] man and one giant leap for mankind.” They became instant heroes and icons in the process. They were both alone and not alone. The United States, then the wealthiest country in the world, devoted roughly 5% of the federal budget to the Cold War-era space program. We landed on the moon because we could, because we wanted to be first, but mostly to beat the Soviets (and, of course, communism), and Armstrong, the epitome of America’s founding myth (rugged individualism, pioneer spirit, self-made men and woman) would seem like a perfect or near perfect subject for a big-budget, Hollywood biopic. Or at least, that’s what director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) and writer Josh Singer thought when they decided to work together and bring Neil Armstrong to life in First Man. They were, at best, half-right. (more…)

Since the Nintendo Switch release in early 2017, more and more creative, colorful games have been developed to fit the console. While many of these games also have PC releases, they complement perfectly the whimsical and fun aesthetic of the Switch. One of those games in Wandersong, a unique puzzle platformer with one hell of a musical heart. (more…)

The last time we came across Eddie Brock/Venom on the big screen, he was playing third or fourth lead in Sam Raimi’s last go at the Spider-Man franchise (since rebooted twice). Raimi famously didn’t want Brock or Venom (same difference) playing supervillains in an already overcrowded, overstuffed Spider-Man 3. Raimi wanted to tell a different and at least to Raimi, a more personal story pitting Spider-Man against Sandman and the Hobgoblin (i.e., Baby Green Goblin), but Sony executives intervened, forcing Raimi to add Venom to an already overstuffed superhero movie. Both Spider-Man 3 and the Venom were all the worse for Raimi’s deliberately shoddy mishandling of a character who deserved better. But where there’s IP (intellectual property), there’s always a way, even if that way involves an eleven-year wait and the conspicuous absence of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) Spider-Man. They probably should have waited another eleven years. Or maybe jumped into a time machine and released this version of Venom eleven years ago instead to less discerning pre-MCU moviegoers. (more…)

Family-oriented, animated films come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but rarely do they stray from inoffensive, unobjectionable life lessons or surface-level messages of the peace, love, and understanding, but co-writer and co-director Karey Kirkpatrick’s (Imagine That, Over the Hedge) Smallfoot, a decidedly second-tier animation effort from Warner Bros. and Sony Animation Group, goes the extra half-mile, going where few, if any animated films dare to go: Tackling bits and pieces of American history, specifically colonialism and, by extension, world history. Even the word “genocide,” coined in post-WWII Europe at the Nuremberg Trials, makes a surprising appearance, leading to an unusual message: Willful ignorance or blindness for a good (community) cause may not be the worst way to go. (more…)

It’s been a good couple of years for the horror genre. Break out hits like Get Out, A Quite Place, The WitchHereditary and The Girl With All The Gifts have ushered in a creative renaissance and have earned top box office dollars. The trend of  psychological mind-fuckery and deep metaphors has most certainly changed the expectations of what a horror movie can be. Not saying that’s a negative change. Damn well written and well thought out stories will always be a GOOD thing. But there is nothing wrong with making a few classic slasher flicks with old-fashioned scares. That style of horror are few and far between these days, but there are still those interested in them. After all, they would get to make scary movies featuring obnoxious teenagers getting killed in various fucked up ways from a masked killer. Sometimes that’s just absurd, dark fun. Such is the case with new horror film – Hell Fest (more…)