REVIEW: First Reformed [2018]

A life without despair is a life without hope. We live in a time of extremism—where our reaction dial is turned up to eleven regardless of our true interest in a cause or its true importance. Somewhere along the line civil and constructive discourse was replaced by screaming fits of unjustified rage, nuanced topics debated as pissing matches between two sides vying to stay incensed the longest. There are no winners with this line of rhetoric because facts become secondary to passion. Suddenly it’s all about who makes the most…

Read More

REVIEW: Top Five [2014]

“What did the room smell like?” I’m prefacing this review with an admission anyone who reads my thoughts already knows: I think Chris Rock is a pretty terrible actor. Love the guy’s stand-up, find him hilarious in real life and on paper, but stick him in a movie and he almost looks scared. The only comedian more unnatural on screen is Jerry Seinfeld—whose cameo here helps prove it—another funny dude always seeming to be waiting for the “cut” or laugh, whichever comes first. I say this because that attitude on…

Read More

REVIEW: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted [2012]

“I’m like a candy cane in a black and white movie” A round of applause for directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath—and Conrad Vernon who joins them to expand on his responsibilities playing Mason the monkey—because they have kind of accomplished the impossible with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. I was surprised at how much better Escape 2 Africa was in comparison to the original Madagascar, but never expected my level of enjoyment to rise even more with the third. Darnell—also a co-writer with Noah Baumbach—and McGrath have grown alongside…

Read More

REVIEW: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa [2008]

“I find it pretty and slightly hypnotic” It’s amazing what happens when filmmakers craft a plot for their characters. I’m not saying I approve of sequels with lame flashback origin prologues trying to make up for the lack of story in their predecessors, but I won’t complain if such contrivances help ground the jokes into a cohesive three act structure. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa isn’t hampered by the need to remove its leads from their fabricated habitat, instead starting off the reservation and relying on everyone’s intrinsic desire to return…

Read More

REVIEW: Larry Crowne [2011]

“Beaver Fever. Catch It!” I really like the poster. The sky blue with the alternating thick/thin sans serif font and the jarringly bright yellow, drawing your eye to it and down towards the pair of movie stars at bottom right. Julia Roberts looks ecstatic and Tom Hanks suavely cool on his scooter—this could be a gem of a film with some sophisticated style. Alas, though, it is not. After starting with the charming joke of a middle-aged man living and breathing his retail sales job, picking up the trash in…

Read More

REVIEW: Street Kings [2008]

“I’m already packed” What I love about David Ayer’s work is that he is unpredictable and unafraid to tell a story in all its brutality. From his penned script Training Day to his directorial debut in Harsh Times, we are treated with bad men and worse men, doing what they need to survive and not worrying about the consequences. When I saw the trailer for his new film Street Kings, I thought I’d be in for a three-peat, but I should have looked at the writing credits. Don’t get me…

Read More

REVIEW: Talk to Me [2007]

“The call letters, y’all” Here is a biopic that knows what it is. Petey Greene, an ex-con with a voice, gets his chance to speak to a city and use his one true gift, the one thing he enjoys and is good at besides being a miscreant. Kasi Lemmons never tries to tell us about Petey or his manager Dewey Hughes’ past history to get them to where we start the film. Besides what they tell each other, the film being shown encompasses the start of what would be a…

Read More