REVIEW: Jungle Cruise [2021]

Pause for dramatic effect. The first thing you hear at the start of Jaume Collet-Serra‘s Disney theme park ride film Jungle Cruise is the melody from Metallica‘s “Nothing Else Matters.” We hear it again later during a flashback as if composer James Newton Howard thought the hard rock ballad somehow perfectly encapsulated the age of conquistadors enough to recruit the band himself. That’s obviously not the case. Disney President Sean Bailey apparently always wanted to collaborate with them and thought this property would be the best fit regardless of the…

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REVIEW: Judas and the Black Messiah [2021]

Anywhere there’s people, there’s power. Despite top billing and the majority of media focus, Daniel Kaluuya is not the star of Judas and the Black Messiah. As the title of Shaka King‘s film alludes, his Messiah in the form of Fred Hampton is secondary as the angel on Bill O’Neal’s (LaKeith Stanfield) shoulder. It’s his Judas that holds our attention, caught between preserving his people and preserving himself while participating in the civil rights movement after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Ask him before he…

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REVIEW: I’m Thinking of Ending Things [2020]

You can’t fake a thought. Rather than listen to what Lucy (Jessie Buckley) says when using the word “assertation,” Jake (Jesse Plemons) can’t help but wonder if she got that small detail wrong. He says, “I think it’s assertion” to which she replies, “Both are words. Look it up.” Or did he say “assertation” before she thought “assertion” in order for him to say, “Look it up?” Does it even matter? This is the last night they’ll ever see each other anyway if we’re to believe Lucy’s inner monologue’s wrestling…

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REVIEW: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie [2019]

“Nothing beats cash on-hand” Obviously contains “Breaking Bad” spoilers. I’m neither alone in this thinking nor objectively correct, but “Better Call Saul” is superior to its predecessor “Breaking Bad”. I didn’t even really get into the latter until the season three finale and even then it was tough to stay invested in its cast of monsters doing monstrous things to each other ad nauseam. I say that because they used to be good people—or at least innocent of murder. The intrigue was therefore rooted in how deep they’d fall. Since…

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REVIEW: Vice [2018]

What do we believe? It’s still weird thinking the guy who joked around with Will Ferrell for years is an Oscar winner, but that’s exactly what Adam McKay is. Weirder still is my being firmly in the camp that believes it was deserved. What he did with The Big Short was the equivalent of too-smart people giving the public a “layman’s terms” explanation to their questions. He dumbed-down a complex topic, made it wildly entertaining, and taught us something about ourselves both in how we reacted (or didn’t react) to…

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REVIEW: Game Night [2018]

It worked for Hitler. I never watched a trailer for Game Night because the posters looked lame and it came out at a time when I couldn’t watch it in a theater. So when the almost universal praise landed to hail it a dark comedy must-see of 2018 … I still didn’t watch the trailer. This wasn’t some premeditated act, though. I simply knew I’d eventually catch it and therefore didn’t need to be oversold or conversely given any undue reason to question the acclaim. As a result I was…

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REVIEW: Hostiles [2017]

You’re no angel your own self. The fact that America’s past isn’t without its horrific nightmares of misguided violence and oppression shouldn’t be lost on anyone, especially not with everything that’s going on here today. Our history runs red with the blood of men, women, and children who fought to survive against a force that thought themselves superior because of the color of their skin. White Europeans staked claim upon their arrival, killing the Native Americans with gunfire, alcohol, and disease before chasing them off west. They brought slave ships…

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REVIEW: The Post [2017]

Quality drives profitability. Let’s be real: every Steven Spielberg film is a must-see, hype-driving machine. He’s a cinematic giant who rarely chooses a project to direct without extreme enthusiasm and artistic purpose (whether the result proves timeless or not). But no one could be blamed for letting excitement crescendo higher than usual upon hearing about his latest, The Post. Still in the midst of post-production on Ready Player One, Spielberg chose to drop everything while the visual effects artists did their thing to put Liz Hannah‘s script in front of…

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INTERVIEW: Stephen Frears, director of The Program

It’s proving to be a couple of busy months for legendary director Stephen Frears, fresh off his delightful true-life story Philomena making an Oscar run in 2013. Not only does he have his Lance Armstrong biopic The Program opening US theaters this Friday (March 18th), but his newest Florence Foster Jenkins also hits UK screens May 6th. It appears the filmmaker has embraced telling the tales of real people whether of empathetic note or infamy. This hectic schedule made cementing an interview very difficult, regardless, we were still able to…

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REVIEW: Bridge of Spies [2015]

“So everyone will hate me, but at least I’ll lose” I’m sure it was a foregone conclusion that Steven Spielberg would choose to direct Matt Charman‘s Bridge of Spies himself the instant it crossed his Dreamworks desk. The story possesses all the earmarks the director has gravitated towards for years, namely an unlikely hero finding himself in the position to do something historically extraordinary to save those who aren’t. “Unlikely hero” because who would peg an insurance lawyer—reveling in smooth talk about his firm’s willingness to cover one collision despite…

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TIFF15 REVIEW: The Program [2015]

“I’m flying” When you think about what Lance Armstrong did to the sport of cycling—winning seven straight Tour de France titles before finally being revealed as a cheater—you have to laugh. It’s funny how much stock people around the world put in professional sports and athletes only to see their fallibilities as a betrayal. Celebrities in other vocations screw up all the time; some have found their fame specifically for screwing up. But there is integrity to athletics that must not be tainted in the public consciousness. Somehow sports aren’t…

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