REVIEW: Love and Monsters [2020]

Man, Todd loved that goldfish. We’re seven years past the apocalypse. Eight years since the world banded together to send every nuclear missile on Earth into the sky to stop an asteroid hell-bent on destroying all life. Things obviously didn’t work out too well if the latter wasn’t able to stop the former. Ends up that that much radioactivity falling back down through the atmosphere was just as cataclysmic—killing off a lot of the population and mutating cold-blooded animals/insects into giant monsters that ultimately killed the rest. Ninety-five percent of…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Shadow in the Cloud [2020]

Be safe. Shape up. Stay on task. Try as they might, Max Landis‘ name is still there on the big screen when the opening titles to Roseanne Liang‘s Shadow in the Cloud begin to roll. They’ve scrubbed it from the press notes save a single mention in the full credit list, IMDB hasn’t added it to their page (yet), and star Chloë Grace Moretz has gone out of her way to ensure everyone knows Liang (who shares that screenwriting credit) rewrote the original draft multiple times. That Landis hasn’t been…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Wolfwalkers [2020]

Half wolf, half witch, half people. The woodsmen are clearing out the forest to expand Kilkenny, Ireland’s farmland circa 1650 under orders of Lord Protector Cromwell (Simon McBurney)—an Englishman. He and the British crown see these Irish folk as a people in need of taming so it’s only fitting that he try his hand at ridding the countryside of wolves first. This is something these peasants can get behind because they fear what those beasts might do if left unchecked. They clamor for the soldiers to protect them. They willingly…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: The Paper Tigers [2020]

Kung Fu without honor is just fighting. Like the warring Japanese dojos depicted throughout the Karate Kid franchise, a growing disconnect exists between those who wish to learn a fighting style as a means of physical and emotional growth and those who simply seek the ability to punish their adversaries without mercy. It’s respect and honor versus strength and superiority—something even the most devout and sacred of Chinese Kung Fu masters like Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan) can’t always instill in their pupils. No matter how much they strive to trust…

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REVIEW: The Tax Collector [2020]

Family is sacred. I often wonder how writer/director David Ayer‘s films will hold up considering so many of them deal with race relations on the streets and dirty cops. I have to believe Fury (my favorite of his) will stand up best, but what about Harsh Times? What about End of Watch? What about the script that vaulted him up the Hollywood depth chart, Training Day? I’m afraid to find out since I loved each one of them upon their release. I therefore hoped The Tax Collector would help me…

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REVIEW: Lake Michigan Monster [2020]

I’m docking your pay. Charm goes a long way for some films—particularly those of the DIY variety where it becomes crucial as a means of deflecting the work’s obvious shortcomings. By leaning into those deficiencies to make them a purposeful part of the aesthetic rather than an unavoidable casualty, you turn them to your advantage. This winking intent also provides a blank canvas with which to free your imagination because “bad” has suddenly transformed into “good.” Whereas a serious film has to consider authenticity, an absurd oddity declares itself allergic…

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REVIEW: My Spy [2020]

It’s a fine line between friendly and desperate. Like Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson before him, former wrestler and MMA fighter Dave Bautista has found himself starring alongside a child in a family-friendly vehicle using the juxtaposition between adolescent innocence and muscle-clad heroics as a comedic right of passage towards potential (Hollywood Hogan left his short-lived cinematic career in the 90s) superstardom. Whereas Mr. Nanny, Last Action Hero, The Pacifier, and Tooth Fairy hit the big screen to varying box office success, however, Bautista’s bid to…

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REVIEW: Becky [2020]

You can’t stay angry forever. Becky (Lulu Wilson) is hurting. It’s been almost a year since her mother passed away from cancer and she’s yet to move on in part because her father (Joel McHale‘s Jeff) already has. So she acts out, drowns him out, and can’t wait to get out. Not only has he put the lake house that holds so many of her memories with Mom on-sale, he’s also become very serious with his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). The worst…

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REVIEW: Get Duked! [2020]

How can you get lost in a place without corners? Teamwork. Orienteering. Foraging. Three tasks that shouldn’t be too difficult to complete when bolstered by your best friends on a hiking trip en route to earning the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It’s going to be a challenge, but most who seek it do so with open eyes because of what the accolade means on their university applications. They want to be their best, will follow the map to the letter, and meet their chaperone at the midway campsite and coastal…

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REVIEW: Blood Machines [2020]

She’s between life and death. When a space vessel goes rogue, fleet commander Galdor (Walter Dickerson) tasks Captain Vascan (Anders Heinrichsen) and his co-pilot/mechanic Lago (Christian Erickson) with retrieving it. Shooting it down from space to crash land on an unknown planet proves this story’s beginning rather than its end as we discover the destination was hardly some random accident. No, it’s exactly where the ship was headed because it is the only place with inhabitants who know its plight. Unlike Vascan’s crude sadist who’s all too happy to destroy…

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REVIEW: Onward [2020]

Be Like Dad. It’s Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) sixteenth birthday and he’s hoping to make it count. He’s not about to go on a rager with friends, though. He’s way too introverted for that. Ian therefore merely seeks to conquer a few baby steps towards mild extroversion by putting on his late father’s college sweatshirt to boost confidence and check off some boxes on a list he wrote to change himself into the man he wishes he might become. That means standing up for himself when others treat him like…

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