REVIEW: The Secret Life of Pets 2 [2019]

Was the world always this dangerous? Illumination missed the boat on The Secret Life of Pets because the way they’ve told these stories thus far make them a lot more conducive to television than cinema. If that first film’s sprawling character list devolving into wild schemes and pratfalls barely adhering to the flimsy plot beneath wasn’t enough to prove it, composing The Secret Life of Pets 2 into three very disparate subplots forced together at the climax is. Moving to a long-form narrative format would supply breathing room to focus…

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REVIEW: Venom [2018]

“Have a nice life” If you really think about it, Venom was never going to be R-rated. I don’t care what director Ruben Fleischer alluded to in an interview before production began or that star Tom Hardy currently believes the best forty minutes of the film were cut. As soon as Sony decided to move ahead with this long-gestating spin-off title despite Spider-Man himself making his way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and seemingly rendering it impossible to ever put the two onscreen together), the reality was cemented for Eddie…

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REVIEW: Despicable Me 3 [2017]

“I love the combination of Gummy Bears and meat” You have to give Illumination credit because they chose to cultivate an animated niche able to set them apart from Pixar rather than simply seek to copy their blueprint. Their path brings them closer to Dreamworks and yet we can still pick out the difference because Christopher Meledandri‘s style strips things even further down to a level of pure entertainment. So it’s no coincidence that his flagship property Despicable Me has now spawned two sequels to go along with a spinoff,…

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REVIEW: Gifted [2017]

“This could work out” Stories about prodigies are too often mired in tragic mental health issues or careers with boundless accolades and successes. Some can be done very well and others are redundant to the point of avoidance. The sub-genre of child prodigies is oftentimes even worse because it generally targets young audiences and therefore never possesses the nuance to be anything more than an upward trajectory with few pitfalls to traverse along the way. Either the child is stewarded by a selfless adult to greatness or the child is…

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REVIEW: The Secret Life of Pets [2016]

“Liberated forever, domesticated never” Illumination Entertainment’s latest film The Secret Life of Pets has an amazing hook: what do our pets do while we’re gone? We could obviously pay Comcast Xfinity to supply cameras and discover the answer to that question—why use product placement when you can show a commercial before the film that uses its characters as shills—but it’s more fun to imagine the possibilities ourselves. If you’ve seen any of the trailers you’ll know this is precisely what Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch, and Cinco Paul have decided. Their…

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Picking Winners at the 87th Annual Academy Awards

Things look pretty cut and dry where the Academy is concerned in 2015. The Oscars are always a somewhat watered-down look at what really mattered in the past year of cinema and this installment is no exception. In fact, it may be all water at this point. That doesn’t mean there can’t be some intriguing surprises in the second-tier categories like Best Animated Feature (I really hope How to Train Your Dragon 2 loses to one of the other much more aesthetically and conceptually unique nominees) or Short Film Animated…

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REVIEW: Obvious Child [2014]

“Let’s do it on Valentine’s Day” It seems like a slight on the film since it’s a comedy, but I sincerely applaud Obvious Child for taking the subject of abortion seriously. Or maybe I should say naturally because while I never felt preached at from either side of the issue, I did laugh hard and often. There’s no flippant joke showing a protestor outside the clinic a la Juno or any espousing of a political agenda like the end of The Visitor turning immigration compassion into system vilification—it simply lets…

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REVIEW: The Lorax [2012]

“I’m Frankenstein’s head on a spider’s body” I loved The Land Before Time when I was a kid. It was a cute story with memorable characters in a world full of dinosaurs that utterly fascinated me. I remember seeing it in the theatre, getting the plastic hand puppets from Pizza Hut, and eventually acquiring a VHS of the film through some other restaurant’s promotion. There was something about it that allowed for its message of friendship, love, and whatever else to come across without a shred of overt manipulation or…

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