Movie Review: “Let Him Go” Delivers a Solid Mix of Drama and Genre Thrills

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The estranged family that brunches together …

Pop culture-wise, the Western genre’s relevance has faded over time, but for Kevin Costner, a throwback movie star and Oscar-winning director, it represents a figurative second home, a genre where he can explore, examine and dissect varying iterations of masculinity, from the playful, Hawksian charms of Silverado thirty-five years ago, the physical, emotional, and mental toll of the Civil War in Dances With Wolves five years later, to a weary, middle-aged gunfighter exhausted with the violence of the American West in Open Range seventeen years, through…


MOVIE REVIEW: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” Delivers the Withering Satire We Need Right Now

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The mask goes over your genitalia, not under it.

America under Trump has a lot to answer for and Sacha Baron Cohen, the British-born comedian and satirist, is back to make us pay. And in the unexpected, semi-anticipated return of Cohen’s singular creation, Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional Kazakhstan reporter who became a real-life pop-culture figure, pay we most definitely do, expiating our sins or the equivalent thereof in a loosely connected sequence of gags, jokes, and various other attempts at humor, always at the expense of the venal, ignorant, narcissistic Americans who either voted for Trump…


MOVIE REVIEW: “The Invisible Man” Deftly Reinvents H.G. Wells’ Titular Character for the #MeToo Era

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Elisabeth Moss’ character takes a breather in the rain from an invisible tech-bro’s gaslighting endeavors.

It might seem like a distant, half-forgotten memory now, but three years ago, Universal Studios introduced their one-and-done “Dark Universe” with The Mummy, a generic, CGI-heavy, spectacle-driven franchise starter that unequivocally tanked with critics and audiences despite a $150-million-dollar budget and action-star Tom Cruise in the lead, non-mummy role. Weeks before The Mummy arrived in multiplexes, Universal touted a slew of name-brand stars, including Javier Bardem as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Monster and Johnny Depp as H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man, to headline future entries in the…


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabalous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) Delivers Ultra-Violent Excess Along With an Anti-Patriarchy Message

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Finally, the gang’s all here. Now let’s prey.

Little positive came out of 2016’s inexplicably popular Suicide Squad, Warner Bros./ DC’s dubious attempt to commercially exploit second-, third-, and fourth-tier no-name comic-book characters with the exception of Margot Robbie’s live-wire portrayal of co-creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s singular peroxide-blonde, pig-tailed creation, Harley Quinn (aka Harleen Quinzel). Robbie made the same conclusion about Quinn, using her newfound clout to push Warner Bros. to both greenlight a spinoff with an extravagantly long subtitle (in parentheses, no less), Birds of…


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Dolittle’ Gives Robert Downey Jr. His First, Post-MCU Mega-Bomb

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Dolittle and his animal buddies, together again (for the last time).

Post-MCU, Robert Downey Jr. could have done anything, up to and including an early retirement from the acting profession. But actors are exhibitionist, sometimes even narcissistic, by nature. To paraphrase Descartes’ famous dictum, if they’re not projected on a giant multiplex screen, a 4K home theater system, or performing in front of a live audience, they don’t exist. Sometimes that means taking the Michael Caine or Samuel L. Jackson approach to their careers, appearing in 3–5 films a year for several decades, but more often than not, it means…


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Underwater’ Delivers B-Movie Thrills and Chills on An A-Level Budget

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Time for some virtual reality video-game fun.

Filmed almost three years ago, but left in distribution limbo partly due to the Disney Industrial Complex’s apparently welcome takeover of 20th Century Fox’s media assets and ultra-toxic co-star T.J. Miller’s public breakdown and humiliation amidst on-set harassment allegations on Silicon Valley, Underwater, a rare, not entirely unwanted, addition to the underserved “aquatic horror” sub-genre arrives in multiplexes during the coldest, cruelest month of the year (i.e., January). …


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Cats’ Delivers One of the Most Misguided, Misconceived Wannabe Blockbusters in Recent Memory

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It only gets weirder and weirder from here.

Calling Cats, Oscar-stealing director Tom Hooper’s (The Danish Girl, Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) big-screen, $100 million adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running Broadway/West End stage musical, an abomination, a blight, a plague against cinema that signals the end times — aside, of course, from the White House squatter’s daily depredations on the American public and the world stage — might sound like hyperbole, but sometimes hyperbole isn’t just warranted, it’s absolutely necessary under the circumstances. Long considered unadaptable for its vignette-heavy structure, emphasis on…


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Gives Fans Exactly What They Wanted, If Not What They (We) Needed

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Staring semi-seriously into the CGI-distance is a talent, not a skill.

If a sub-Reddit crammed with only the most vocal, vituperative, entitled Star Wars fans (hereinafter, the “fandom”), suddenly gained sentience, stepped off a screen, and decided to pen a Star Wars-related screenplay, the result would closely mirror J.J. Abrams’ (Star Trek Beyond, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III) fan service-filled, fan-pandering return to the Disney- owned and -operated franchise, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the “last” entry in the Skywalker Saga that began 42 years ago with Star Wars (“A…


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Knives Out’ Delivers an Overabundance of Visual, Narrative, and Character-Based Pleasures

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What time is it? It’s murder-time, of course.

A palette cleanser after Star Wars: The Last Jedi led to unexpected fissures between the fandom’s reactionary (an unfortunately vociferous minority) and progressive members, Knives Out finds filmmaker Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom, Brick) comfortably back in his element, revisiting, rewriting, and otherwise revising familiar narrative tropes — in this case, the long-dormant ensemble murder-mystery thriller — while simultaneously interweaving modern, contemporary concerns (subtext by another name) into a film overflowing with visual-, story-, and character-based pleasures, beginning with an All-Star thespian cast eagerly devouring Johnson’s…


MOVIE REVIEW: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Delivers Feel-Good Propaganda for Our Trumpian Age

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Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), champion shoe-tosser.

Compassion. Empathy. Forgiveness. Values necessary for a just, egalitarian society, one, sadly, that has escaped us for centuries, if not millennia. As seldom as societies embrace these values, they remain universally aspirational. As a way of living and perhaps being, it might be unassailable, but in thematic and subtextual form in narrative fiction or film, a forceful emphasis on compassion, empathy, and forgiveness can feel dictatorial, militantly imposed by an author or filmmaker as an all-purpose answer to life’s myriad problems or questions, regardless of…

Mel Valentin

Writer/editor for hire. Member: SFFCC, OFCS.

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