Posts in 2 STARS
MOVIE REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody lives and dies through the vitality of its lead performer. Emmy winner Rami Malek gives a smashing performance that should skyrocket him into the Oscar conversation. He and the film thrive when the volume is turned up and the microphones are on. It withers when it stifles that provocative heat. What should and, frankly, deserved to be a line-blurring and envelope-pushing affair of affairs is, to borrow a pair of friends’ terms, “straight-washed” into something “puritanical” instead of free, open, and, most of all, potent. Allowing something this hot to go lukewarm is a cinematic crime.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Venom

For the purpose to sell tickets, this proper villain is touted to be an response to the world having enough superheroes. The resulting film debunks its marketing by reducing Venom into a do-gooder and carnival attraction opposite of that claim. Never once does your heart pump a little quicker from tension. Never once do any hairs stand up in fright in the presence of what should be a complete badass. Those deficiencies shouldn’t happen with Venom.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Simple Favor

Putting the women in charge instead of the men in this modern landscape, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor had the dreamy cast and pulpy source material locked in to invigorate the subgenre. Instead, the Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters comedy specialist and Nerve screenwriter Jessica Sharzar couldn’t help themselves. Satire is their aphrodisiac and they brought it to the wrong bedroom. Kinky and quirky can be fun, but that mix is tenuous at best. Watching A Simple Favor devolve from intrigue into incompetence is like pouring chocolate sauce over a sizzling steak.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Predator

As riotously entertaining as this ensemble bounds and gurgles with glorious and exasperated profanity, they feel lifted from a different movie. On paper, this infusion of infectious comedy counts as a something devilishly new squeezed onto the Predator franchise from the joyless failures of its past. In execution, the actors are having a blast, right down to the F-bomb dropping Tremblay, but the absurdity takes away from nearly all possible mystery and suspense.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Damsel

Kicking up scratchy dust in the western genre, the Zellner Brothers rousingly debunk and demystify that stereotype to create a dark comedy of their own pitch and prickliness. With humor as dry as the topography, Damsel is the kind of film that sneaks up on you like a snake in the weeds. The brothers and fellow stars Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska dance all over this landscape, but the steps keep dawdling when the music runs out.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World to matched all of the definitions of “spectacle,” from the positive connotations of “unusual, notable, or entertaining especially an eye-catching or dramatic public display” on down to the more questionable “an object of curiosity or contempt.” The jungle playground reboot lacked most of the awe and wonder of the Spielberg classic in favor of blockbuster-sized theme park thrills. Its sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, continues the feral frolic only to go a little too far and throw smarts out the window next.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Guardians

There is a different and commendable bravery found in the young and old to carry on the community dream of hearth and home. For the “War to End All Wars” at the beginning of the 20th century, those civilians predominantly included women who were mothers, wives, fiances, and sisters.  Xavier Beauvois’s often lovely foreign film The Guardians from Music Box Films follows the hardscrabble trials and tribulations of one French homestead of ladies during the lean years of World War I

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MOVIE REVIEW: Island Zero

The bloody swirls of cold ocean water where a cute little terrier wearing a fou-fou life vest for his yachtsman owner used to be represents the first pre-credits victim of Island Zero.  That pooch is the first of a cavalcade of casualties to come.  This indie flick of cheesy gore pierced by a stab at serious science works hard to make the most of is resources to craft an involved little creature feature and paranoid thriller.  The shrewdly cleaver Island Zero arrives nationwide on VOD on May 15th from Freestyle Releasing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rampage

The dignified art form of cinema may not need a dumb and dazzling film like Rampage, but what escapist audiences do seek out and need are larger-than-life stars.  There will always be an ass-kicking place for brawny men like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the silver screen.  The former WWE superstar has become the center square of any year’s blockbuster Bingo card. The fully-formed persona that is Dwayne Johnson is always a welcome treat

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MOVIE REVIEW: Flower

Though measured as a small independent film, Flower is an undoubted showcase platform for the soaring talent of Zooey Deutch.  Clad in her plain tank-tops and empowering a character with all kinds of obscene confidence, not even the worst behaviors on display can take away the magnetism of her frank and jarring performance.  For most of the film, she shines repulsiveness with unmatched charisma.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time

Taking the full theological route possible from A Wrinkle in Time would be too strong mentally and too trippy visually for most of today’s audiences.  By contrast, skimping on those expressions in favor of softer and attractive commercial cuteness sanitizes what makes the novel a subversive and revered classic.  What you’re getting today in 2018 is a noble attempt at the core of the former with many caveats and concessions made for the latter.

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MOVIE REVIEW: November

Some films that cross our eyes are an exercise of the art form.  They trade tidy entertainment for a celebration of craft.  There are clear pluses and minuses to such an undertaking.  Stripping away conventions left and right to make something wholly unique and downright peculiar, November was Estonia’s 2017 entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  The experimental foreign film brims with allegory and is strikingly shot.  However, the film’s compelling qualities never seem to match its obscene effort towards the art

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MOVIE REVIEW: The 15:17 to Paris

That crucial third act would make a heck of a short film on its own.  If we could fast-forward to there, we would be in business.  Instead, we get the Eastwood hero worship vanity project parade.  Invisible yet incredibly overt, The 15:17 to Paris freely flies its flags of god-fearing conservative morals, manly superiority, unwavering courage, dreams of glory, and military brotherhood.  The content isn't lowered for Eastwood’s credibility, but the execution is, even if there is an audience for this sort of thing. 

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VINTAGE REVIEW: The Astrologer

In a reversal of this practical parable’s usual cadence, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.  This is where the tastes, descriptions, and comparisons begin for 1975’s The Astrologer.   A young man named Craig Denney set out to direct and star is his own feature film to break into stardom.  It was a passion project of sorts derailed by a backstory of avoidable failure.  Along the same lines as trash versus treasure, one filmmaker’s passion project is another man’s vanity film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Some causes and plights are universal to the heroism within the human condition no matter the era or culture.  Comporting itself with admirable respect for the ennobling experience of its chosen history, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero portrays such heroism for film audiences.  This animated feature film presents common themes and intrepid messages within a folklore not often given a Western stage.  Named the “Best Inspiring Film” on Animation Day at last year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero earns a great deal of that praise.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Suburbicon

Suburbicon lazily delivers a caper that lacks cleverness, smarts, and anything edgy other than the spurts of hemoglobin that stain a few starched shirts.  Even if it is pitch black by design, the final ingredient of fake sentimentality glazed over the proceedings is ineffective to add any varnish to the acidic angle of white-collar crime.  Nonsensical twist follows nonsensical twist for an aimless purpose.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Brad's Status

For better or worse, Brad’s Status, speaks from a very insulated and ostentatious point of view, that of the taboo term of “white privilege.”  Even dramatized for soft realistic fiction, Mike White’s feature directorial debut tries to be a wakeup call of sorts.  The dramedy carries a message, a fair and good one mind you, but one that will, unfortunately, fall on multiple deaf ears.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Viceroy's House

The most superlative aspect of Viceroy’s House and its chronicle of national history for the countries of India and Pakistan is the personal passion behind the project.  Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice director Gurinder Chadha is the granddaughter of family displaced by the largest migration of people in recorded human history that occurred during the Partition of India of seventy years ago.  There is an undeniable core of importance and respect present in the film that shows the great care of Chadha and all involved.

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