REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets [2017]

“We can forgive, but we will never forget” Sci-fi fantasy Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the most expensive European and independent (anywhere) production ever at approximately $200 million dollars—high enough that writer/director/producer Luc Besson pretty much leveraged his distribution shingle EuropaCorp before bringing STX on as a partner to defer costs and get it into theaters. Now questions are floated about whether it can ever turn a profit after “bomb” proved too weak a word to describe its reception by the American box office. The odds…

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REVIEW: Atomic Blonde [2017]

“This is the game” It’s hard to believe that I was thinking the stylish, punishing action of John Wick was being dismantled upon as its stuntmen-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch deciding to go solo two years ago. Stahelski would helm John Wick 2, the result proving a worthy follow-up both in aesthetic and mythology (with more coming). Rather than join him, Leitch shuffled over to Kurt Johnstad‘s adaptation of Antony Johnston and Sam Hart‘s graphic novel “The Coldest City”—a project he and Stahelski were supposed to migrate towards after…

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REVIEW: Transformers: Age of Extinction [2014]

“I know you have a conscience because you’re an inventor like me” There’s a problem when the first, expository-heavy hour of a three-hour Transformers action extravaganza shines above the rest. Michael Bay has looked upon this franchise from the start as an excuse to put explosions and destruction onscreen alongside cheesy and sometimes offensive comedy to satisfy the young children of parents (uninterested in shielding their ears from the oft swear word) that grew up in the 80s. He excelled at this mix with the first installment, casting the sarcastically…

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REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island [2017]

“Eating’s for the living” It’s amazing how a film’s success can create a tidal wave, but that’s exactly what Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla did in 2014. We’re talking critical acclaim, half a billion dollars at the box office, and a rejuvenated plea for monster flicks. Well the first two are fact, the third merely hope on behalf of Legendary Pictures. Because their investment isn’t just sequels, it’s about a “MonsterVerse” so important to them that they got Universal Pictures to give Kong: Skull Island‘s rights to Warner Bros. so a single…

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REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane [2016]

“You need to eat. You need to sleep. And you need to start showing a little appreciation.” Let’s address the elephant in the room first: 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel to Cloverfield no matter what the title and media suggest. The filmmakers simply thought the script (developed by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken; rewritten/polished by Damien Chazelle before embarking on Whiplash) felt a lot like Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard’s handheld alien invasion thriller. J.J. Abrams agreed, added a Slusho sign, recruited his “Alias” buddy Bradley Cooper for…

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REVIEW: Trumbo [2015]

“The rich guy wins with the cunning of Satan” I will admit that my interest in the Dalton Trumbo biopic Trumbo was held in check for one reason: director Jay Roach. The guy behind the horrible Meet the Parents saga and uneven Austin Powers series was hired to helm a historical drama with huge political ramifications and a slice of Hollywood’s past many would like to forget? It’s my fault for forgetting that he also helped steward the HBO dramas Recount and Game Change—two other biographies with casts and aesthetics…

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REVIEW: The Gambler [2014]

“I think you’re the kind of guy who likes to lose” I was very surprised to see James Toback‘s name as Executive Producer on The Gambler remake after reading a 2011 editorial explaining how he found out about the project secondhand after it was already announced that William Monahan was adapting his original script for Martin Scorsese. While this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise in a Hollywood where studios give EP credits to anyone they feel a need to appease and have no remorse retooling properties without caring…

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Posterized Propaganda June 2014: ‘Snowpiercer,’ ‘The Rover,’ ‘Venus in Fur’ & More

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably. It’s no surprise a month like June doesn’t possess the best posters for blockbuster releases. No one readying to visit a theater for summer popcorn carnage cares if the advertisement…

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REVIEW: Party Central [2014]

“Operation Party Central is a go” Turning to frat house humor for Monsters University was to me the largest misstep in Pixar Animation’s history. It took one of the studio’s most original worlds and made it into a gag to be blindly consumed by fans of Monsters Inc.‘s heart only to scratch their heads wondering how anyone could think this would be a viable avenue for children’s fare. Even so, I’m hardly surprised they decided to continue this line of thinking for their newest short film Party Central despite its…

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Picking Winners at the 86th Annual Academy Awards

The Oscars are generally quite boring, since we often know well in advance what is going to win Best Picture, Director, etc. But this year? Not so much. Sure, there are heavy favorites — see below. But it is entirely possible there will be some real surprises. Of course, I could be completely wrong. But if I am, hopefully Bill Altreuter and Jared Mobarak will be right. And away we go … —Chris Best ActorBruce Dern: NebraskaChiwetel Ejiofor: 12 Years a SlaveMatthew McConaughey: Dallas Buyers ClubLeonardo DiCaprio: The Wolf of Wall StreetChristian Bale: American Hustle…

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REVIEW: The Monuments Men [2014]

“Present company expected” There was real potential for George Clooney‘s The Monuments Men to turn into a broad comedy about a hapless band of seven working their way through Europe in search of the stolen masterpieces Adolf Hitler hid away for his own personal collection of greed. It had the hokey score sounding like a vintage WWII newsreel, threatening to show each actor mugging for the camera while looking just beyond the lens with a huge, infectious smile; over-the-top performances straight out of the 50s complete with dated cadence; jokey…

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