Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2018

Looking back at my "Most Anticipated of 2017" list, out of 10 movies only 1 landed on my "top ten" of the year list (Okja), 4 I found heartily enjoyable (Coco, Logan, A Cure for WellnessBaby Driver), 2 I found mildly underwhelming (Guardians Vol. 2Alien: Covenant), 2 I outright didn't like despite critical praise (Blade Runner 2049, The Last Jedi), and 1 got bumped to 2018 (Annihilation).  

Basically, most of the big movies set in space ended up disappointing me. So, being burnt out on Treks and Wars, this upcoming year I'm mostly hyped for smaller, dramatic movies. The following are the top ten movies I'm most looking forward to watching in 2018!

10. Stan and Ollie
Director: Jon S. Baird (Filth, Cass)
Cast: John C. Riley, Steve Coogan, Danny Huston, Shirley Henderson

Laurel and Hardy is one of the most iconic comic duos of all time, but unlike Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, there has yet to be a biopic made of their life. Stan and Ollie stars John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy (looking great in prosthetic makeup), and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. I seriously could not imagine more spot-on casting for the legendary comedians. The film will follow the duo in their later days, during a British variety hall tour in the 1950s as the crowds are starting to dwindle. With a screenplay by Jeff Pope, who wrote one of my favorite movies of 2013, Philomena, I can only hope this is as good a comedian biopic as Man on the Moon.

Release Date: TBA

Friday, December 29, 2017

Top Ten Movies of 2017!

HERE IT IS! The bane of every movie blogger: constructing a Top Ten of the Year list. This year I found that many of my favorites gravitated towards the criminally under-seen, so hopefully this post will get the word out on some great movies! Like I say most years, this is a personal top ten list, so I'm really not trying to please everyone or appear "cool" with these picks. I just tried to choose movies that had a big effect on me. Enjoy!

10. Detroit
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

The tenth spot on any Top Ten list is always the hardest, because in effect you're bumping off a handful of other fantastic films. So to break the tie, I went with the movie that I thought most about after I left the theater. Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit shook me up - it details the night of July 23rd, 1967, when rioting took over the city and the Michigan State Police conducted a brutal raid and interrogation at the Algiers Motel.

The performances across the board are incredible; Algee Smith nails it as a young Motown artist whose life changes forever that night, Will Poulter is terrifying as a racist cop, and John Boyega is great as an African-American police officer torn between his identity as a black man and a "blue" man. Unflinchingly documentarian in style, disturbing, and all too reflective of the time we live in, Detroit is a fantastic film that shouldn't be overlooked!

Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Talkies: 2017 Best and Worst Superlatives!

2017... not exactly one of our brightest years. Mass shooting records were broken, North Korea dropped some scary bombs, and many of our favorite entertainment personalities turned out to be disgusting sex fiends! But just because we might be on the brink of a nuclear holocaust doesn't mean there's nothing to celebrate - hence my 2017 movie superlatives! To honor some of the best (and worst) aspects in this year of film, I've compiled this list of 12 categories. Enjoy my 6th annual "Talkies" Awards!

BEST ACTOR - Robert Pattinson, Good Time

Not in a million years did I think Robert Pattinson would deliver my top performance of the year, but 2017 was full of surprises. In Good Time, the Twilight heartthrob is practically unrecognizable as Connie Nikas, a small-time crook, part-time scumbag who is the primary caregiver for his mentally handicapped brother, Nick. Although he loves him, Connie can't help but involve Nick in his crimes, leading to some intense consequences for both of them.

Essentially playing a modernized version of George from Of Mice and Men, Pattinson's character is a hot mess of contradictory impulses. He's both sympathetic and a scoundrel, street-smart yet ignorant, pathetic and brave, likable and deplorable. Yet all of his decisions, however misguided, are always made out of love for his brother. It's truly a complex role. I don't know where this Pattinson has been hiding all this time, but I welcome more of him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

All the Money in the World, Downsizing, I Tonya, Call Me By Your Name Reviews

All the Money in the World
Dir. Ridley Scott
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The sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey should have ruined All the Money in the World. Playing the third lead in the film, the cold-hearted billionaire J. Paul Getty, Spacey had his career killed a mere two months before its release. In a shocking turn of events, however, director Ridley Scott quickly recasted the character with Christopher Plummer, scrambling to re-shoot and re-edit the film up until mere weeks before landing in theaters. While it would at first appear that Spacey's downfall could have resulted in disaster for this movie, it actually ended up being the best thing as Christopher Plummer's performance is one of the most interesting aspects of the film!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Disaster Artist, Three Billboards, Darkest Hour Reviews

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Dir. Rian Johnson
Watch Trailer

I'm scared to write this review. Irrationally scared. Star Wars has become more than a series of fun sci-fi movies, it has become a cult. What started as, let's face it, a kids movie, has been adopted by grown men and women into some kind of sacred religion, and anyone with opinions against it are blasphemers. Online comment threads are battle zones. The mouth-frothing began when Star Wars announced its "comeback" a few years ago, taking the reins away from its original creator, George Lucas, and continuing the story that left off in 1983. That return, The Force Awakens, was met with such blind praise and adoration that as someone with mixed-to-low opinions on it I now live in an underground doomsday bunker just to avoid the fanboy fury. Now, The Last Jedi, the official sequel, is getting even higher praise from critics while I'm looking left and right, wondering if there's something not wrong with me.

Monday, December 25, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #12: Rare Exports (2010)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Rare Exports
Dir. Jalmari Helander

Though there have been a great many movies with unique depictions of Santa Claus over the years, I think Rare Exports takes the cake for having the weirdest. Starting out almost like John Carpenter's horror classic The Thing, we find that the real Santa has been encased in the icy mountains of Finland for decades and a rich, eccentric billionaire has hired a construction unit to uncover Santa's tomb. Meanwhile, a clever young boy, Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his down-on-his-luck dad (Jorma Tommila) live in the mountains, hunting deer for the season to make ends meet. But when they find that the deer have been slaughtered by an unknown force, and a mysterious, bearded man shows up, soon it's not just the deer that are in danger...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #11: A Christmas Tale (2008)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

A Christmas Tale
Dir. Arnaud Desplechin

The Christmas season brings families together - even if you can't stand each other. Or, in the case of A Christmas Tale, even if you previously had a restraining order placed against them! This French family "dramedy" unsentimentally explores how the holidays can bring out both the best in people and also their deep-rooted jealousies and bitterness. It's a complex, naturalistic portrait of a household told with a degree of "New Wave" style. Although the story meanders a bit, wandering in and out of the lives of these brothers, sisters, parents, and cousins, the characters are fun to watch and make A Christmas Tale a bittersweet, schizophrenic tapestry of warm and cold feelings.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #10: Love Actually (2003)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Love Actually
Dir. Richard Curtis

Inspiring the likes of Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, the "dozen celebrity couples falling in love on a holiday" genre starts with Love Actucally. It's really the Pulp Fiction of romantic comedies in that there really is no main character - it's more a tableau of different situations in which people find love. Well, at least this movie's definition of love. I personally found many of the relationships unrealistic and troubling, especially considering in some circles this movie is an annual Christmas viewing!

Friday, December 22, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #9: Jack Frost (1998)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Jack Frost
Dir. Troy Miller

In 1979 Jim Henson founded "Jim Henson's Creature Shop," which has since created some of the most timeless practical puppets and animatronics of all time. The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Sesame Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Harry Potter, The Muppets - these people worked on many of the seminal films of my childhood. The puppet from Jack Frost, however, isn't one of their most shining creations. Looking like a possessed Cabbage Patch Kid, this Frosty knockoff is an unintentionally terrifying monster that undermines an otherwise pleasant family film. Roger Ebert called it: "the most repulsive single creature in the history of special effects, and I am not forgetting the Chucky doll or the desert intestine from Star Wars."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #8: Scrooged (1988)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Dir. Richard Donner

I wonder if Charles Dickens had the foresight to realize his immortal classic A Christmas Carol would continuously and shamelessly be ripped off, remade, and re-packaged more than a century after his death. To capitalize on Bill Murray's newfound Ghostbusters cachet in the 80s, one such remake was produced by special effects-driven comedy director Richard Donner (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon). In fact, one of the US taglines of the film was: "Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it's three against one." Despite its cash-grab origins, Scrooged has become a cult classic over the years and remains popular at Christmastime. However, I'd argue that nostalgia may be pulling blinders over many of its fans' eyes, because Scrooged is a loud, obnoxious, and (ironically) mean-spirited Christmas movie!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #7: Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Fanny and Alexander
Dir. Ingmar Bergman

NOTE: There are two versions of this film, a 188-minute theatrical cut and the "definitive" 312-minute cut that originally aired on Swedish TV. The 4-episode TV version is generally considered superior, so of course I hunkered down and watched all 5.5 hours of it. There are no "half measures" on Talking the Talkies!

The master of existential angst, Ingmar Bergman basically defined what an "art film" was in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. With movies like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, and Persona, the Swedish director is pretty much the first thing most people think of in regards to "European art cinema" (black-and-white, religious themes, super-serious, ambiguous, etc). Fanny and Alexander, a massive, lavish coming-of-age epic, was meant to be his final swan song, his last movie to cap off a decades-long career in cinema. It went on to win four Oscars and is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time. As a movie geek, the pressure is on to love this movie!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #6: Christmas Evil (1980)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Christmas Evil
Dir. Lewis Jackson

Although it's a holly-jolly holiday, horror directors have exploited Christmas for decades. But while slasher movies like Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) still have cult followings, Christmas Evil remains a little more obscure. Unlike the aforementioned titles, Christmas Evil is actually more of a character study about a man's descent into madness as his principles are threatened. Unbelievably, this movie featuring a knife-wielding Santa Claus possibly bears more resemblance to Taxi Driver than Friday the 13th!

Monday, December 18, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #5: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny
Dir. R. Winer & Barry Mahon

NOTE: Apparently there are multiple versions of this movie floating around, one of which features a "Jack in the Beanstalk" segment, another with "Thumbelina." I saw the "Beanstalk" version (Amazon Streaming), and that is what I will be reviewing here!

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is one of the worst movies I have seen in my entire life. It's right up there with Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Room, and Birdemic. But before I talk about the movie itself, I feel a little history lesson is required:

In the 60s and early 70s, before the ribbon was first cut for Disney World, one of the more popular theme parks in Florida was "Pirates World." It was a bit of a piecemeal operation, taking discarded rides and parts from here and there to make up their park, which had "lands" dedicated to fairy tales, and of course pirates. There came a point where the heads of the park wanted to produce a series of films to promote it - including "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Thumbelina," both directed by Barry Mahon, who was previously best known for directing softcore "nudie" movies.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #4: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Christmas in Connecticut
Dir. Peter Godfrey

In 1944, the government declared actress Barbara Stanwyck as the highest-paid woman in America, earning $400,000 (roughly $5.5 million today). She had a long, diverse career in over 80 films typically playing self-reliant, cool-talking ladies, and she was one of the most magnetic actresses of the classic Hollywood era. Fresh off her Oscar-nominated role as a ruthless femme fatale in Double Indemnity (one of the all-time great film noirs), with the romantic comedy Christmas in Connecticut she pulls a 180 and lightens it up for this festive and fun romp. Even while WWII was at its fiercest, and her husband was fighting in the Air Corps, she was still able to be delightful on screen.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #3: Christmas Holiday (1944)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Christmas Holiday
Dir. Robert Siodmak

With a title like Christmas Holiday and starring Gene Kelly, you'd think this movie would be a colorful, musical romp for the whole family to enjoy. There you'd be wrong. Christmas Holiday is actually a black-and-white gritty noir, complete with jilted lovers, sleazeball reporters, and murderous momma's boys. Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers) and adapted for the screen by Herman J. Mankiewics (Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz), this movie is a far cry from It's a Wonderful Life... more like It's a Miserable Life.

Friday, December 15, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #2: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

The Shop Around the Corner
Dir. Ernst Lubitsch

Fans of early Hollywood will likely recognize the name Ernst Lubitsch, one of the premiere directors of "sophisticated" comedies in the 1920s-40s (pinkies up!).  His films featured what critics touted as the "Lubitsch touch" - a light and intimate style that often included fully fleshed-out characters (not just those in leading roles), snappy dialogue, and more than a pinch of sentimentality. The Shop Around the Corner is a great example of this style. Although it's not an out-and-out Christmas movie per se, it's often listed on "top" holiday film lists, as it's a romantic comedy that takes place during the pre-Christmas shopping rush.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #1: Babes in Toyland (1934)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Babes in Toyland
Dir. Gus Meins & Charley Rogers

I'm probably paging Captain Obvious here, but movies as we know it were completely different 83 years ago. When comedy producer Hal Roach made Babes in Toyland, sound in film had only existed for 7 years. Because most silent actors weren't trained for the transition, Hollywood often mined Broadway and the vaudeville stage for on-screen talent, including Laurel and Hardy. While successful on stage and in silent shorts, the comedy team really came into their own in the sound period. One skinny, one fat. One English, one American. One clumsy and childlike, the other bullish and short-tempered. They're the classic "odd couple" and one of the best comic pairings of all time.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Shape of Water, Wonder Wheel, Last Flag Flying, The Breadwinner Reviews

The Shape of Water
Dir. Guillermo del Toro
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Whether a fairy tale like Beauty and the Beast or a creature feature like King Kong, there has been an ongoing thread of romantic longing between "outsider" humans and non-humans in fantasy movies for decades. But where those films only dipped their toe in the water regarding lady-on-monster love affairs, with The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro dives in headfirst. Telling a love story between a mute woman and an amphibious man, this movie could only work with Guillermo's wonderfully mystical, grotesque, and melodramatic sense of filmmaking. Its main concept may lose a few people, but if, like me, you connect with del Toro's sensibilities, you'll find that this may very well be the most enchanting fish romance ever caught on film.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Coco, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Loving Vincent, Novitiate Reviews

Dir. Lee Unkrich
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"They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." These words helped elect our current wall-obsessed president into office - words that paint a portrait of Mexican immigrants as, to put it in Obi Wan terms, a hive of scum and villainy. Pixar's latest, Coco, is pretty much the cinematic antidote to those hate-filled diatribes spouted by ignorant people. Celebrating Mexican culture, its music, traditions, mythology, and family dynamics, Coco is a beautiful a love letter to our neighbors south of the border.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Justice League, Wonderstruck, Lady Bird, Jane Reviews

Justice League
Dir. Zack Snyder
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During the opening credits of Justice League, there's a moment where we see a homeless man with a cardboard sign reading: "I tried." That pretty much sums up Warner Brothers' whole attempt at creating their DC universe. Struggling to keep up the pace with Marvel Studios, DC dived in head-first, making their "team-up" movies like Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and now Justice League without first testing the waters to see if audiences liked the individual characters first. Plus their whole game plan started on the back of Man of Steel, which was highly divisive (unlike the universally-loved Iron Man with Marvel). The whole thing is on shaky ground, and now that Justice League failed to even crack that $100 million mark opening weekend, the future for this franchise looks questionable. As it should - because Justice League is one of the worst movies I've seen this year.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok, Jigsaw, Suburbicon, The Killing of a Sacred Deer Reviews

Thor: Ragnarok
Dir. Taika Waititi

Thor was never the most interesting Avengers character. Over two solo movies and two Avengers flicks, Chris Hemsworth had depicted the God of Thunder as more or less a pompous all-powerful god who can't be killed - which doesn't exactly lend itself to audience relatability. However, this third film, helmed by New Zealand comedy director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople - my #8 of 2016), spins the character into completely new territory. Perhaps his time with Tony Stark has rubbed off on him, because now Thor is a snarky wiseass who literally laughs in the face of danger. Straying away from the decidedly staid "Shakespearian" tone of Thor and The Dark World, Ragnarok is a colorful, vibrant, funny comedy in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy that finally embraces the inherent campiness of this world of Norse gods-in-space.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Happy Death Day, Goodbye Christopher Robin, The Florida Project, Lucky Reviews

Happy Death Day
Dir. Christopher B. Landon

When I think "independent cinema," the images that form in my head are typically heavy social dramas, quirky comedies, or documentaries about impoverished farmers shot in black and white that play in two theaters. But strangely enough, one of the few companies that sells independent films to mainstream, big studios is Blumhouse Productions. Run by Jason Blum, the company has become famous for turning low-budget horror flicks into big hits - like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Split, and Get Out. They're pretty much the "Marvel" of horror right now, with a brand name that is starting to represent new and interesting fright flicks. Their latest, released on lucky Friday the 13th, is more or less Groundhog Day-meets-Scream, and again proves that you don't need a big budget to make a fun movie!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blade Runner 2049, American Made, Battle of the Sexes, Victoria & Abdul Reviews

Blade Runner 2049
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
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Entering the tradition of Tron: Legacy, Independence Day: Resurgence, and even Disney's recent Star Wars reboot, Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel that comes a ridiculous amount of time after its predecessor. It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's now-classic sci-fi adaptation bombed at the box office, and it seems as though Blade Runner, unlike those aforementioned properties, has far less mainstream appeal. It's philosophical, somewhat ambiguous, slow-paced, and lacks the "whiz-bang" action modern audiences are used to getting from other futuristic flicks. Although it's no surprise to me that Blade Runner 2049 - a sequel no one was really asking for - is struggling at the box office, I do have to give director Denis Villeneuve a lot of credit for even attempting to recapture the ponderous and dream-like feelings of the original film. However, although the film partially succeeds in that regard, its overlong run-time, dull characters, and unclear stakes make for an experience that probably works better as a post-movie discussion springboard than a piece of entertainment.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It, mother!, Stronger, Tulip Fever Reviews

Note to Readers:
Hello, my movie blog-reading friends! Thank you for your readership and support over the years - it's truly meant a lot to me and I hope to continue this hobby for years to come. However, my life has been getting busier and busier, so the frequency with which I see and review "Talkies" might be fewer and farther between than before. To say I've been occupied with other things lately is the understatement of the century, so it might take me a while to make a new posting. It's probably none of your concern, but I just wanted to let you know - you can rest assured: Talking the Talkies is still alive!

Dir. Andrés Muschietti
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The original IT novel from 1986 is a brick-sized tome that was the result of massive amounts of cocaine. While commonly hailed as one of Stephen King's greatest achievements, I think most people have no idea just how crazy it is: there's a giant floating space turtle-god, children building their own Native American hallucination-inducing "smokehole," a schoolyard bully being pleasured by his friend in an open garbage dump, and - worst of all - an 11-year-old girl participates in a pages-long orgy sequence in the sewers with six younger males. It goes without saying that to expect a straight adaptation of such an insane novel would be asking too much. Besides reading like the fever dream of a coked-out pedophile, one thing that the IT novel could not be labelled as, however, is cliched or boring. Unfortunately, in this Stranger Things-inspired 2017 adaptation, little is done with the property to make it interesting, complex, or particularly worth revisiting.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

RESULTS: Summer 2017 Box Office Predictions

At the beginning of May I participated in the annual Box Office Prediction game, wherein I tried to guess as accurately as possible this summer's top movies, from May through August (you can read my original post here). Well, now that the leaves are changing colors, it's getting to be hoodie weather, and the summer smells of suntan lotion and chlorine are starting to dissipate, it's time to look back at the 2017 season and see which movies reigned supreme at the box office and which movies completely tanked. Following are some of my overall thoughts on the results, along with my final tally. Enjoy!

Wind River, Good Time, Brigsby Bear, Ingrid Goes West Reviews

Wind River
Dir. Taylor Sheridan
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Crime thrillers are a dime a dozen nowadays, and especially with the current TV renaissance we're living through, bringing us shows like True Detective, Fargo, Hannibal, and Ozark to name a few, it's very difficult to bring the same level of depth and character development to a single 2 hour film. However, Wind River, the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, best known for writing Sicario and Hell or High Water (my #2 of 2016), manages to deliver the same thrills and complexity that we've been spoiled with over the past few years on the small screen. Sheridan's film succeeds in that it not only acts as a nail-biting drama, but also has a lot to say about survival, what life is like on an Indian reservation, and the toll grief takes on us. In all the right ways it's haunting, beautiful, disturbing, extremely well-acted, and in my mind one of 2017's must-see movies!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Logan Lucky, The Hitman's Bodyguard, The Glass Castle, An Inconvenient Sequel Reviews

Logan Lucky
Dir. Steven Soderbergh
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Much to the dismay of movie fans everywhere, in 2013 Steven Soderbergh announced his "retirement" from directing after his fantastic HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (my #6 pick of that year). However, we all kind of knew that phase would be short lived, and what do you know - the director of all three Ocean's Eleven flicks is back in the game with another heist flick. Only instead of the glitzy world of Vegas casinos we're traveling to the backwoods of West Virginia and "NASCAR country." So, after all the false promises of throwing in the directorial towel for good, I was expecting Logan Lucky to be something special enough to at least save Soderbergh the embarrassment of so soon saying: "I'm back!" Though I don't think this film is the earth-shattering comeback for its director that might be expected, it's still a reliably good time from one of my favorite filmmakers working today.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Detroit, The Dark Tower, Annabelle: Creation, A Ghost Story Reviews

Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
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In many ways, Detroit marks the third in a trilogy of films between director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, starting with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Each film examines a period of history using Bigelow's established roots as an action director to make politically charged films with a constant sense of energy, examining the power dynamics in typically scary "combat" situations where traditional rules no longer apply. She also often delves into researched details that aren't typically covered on the evening news. With Detroit, Bigelow is examining the pressure-cooker situation of the Detroit riots, a shameful and often overlooked moment in US history, and marks Bigelow's most hard-hitting (literally) and visceral film to date - made prescient by the fact that its depictions of injustice, prejudice, and police brutality seem like they've been ripped from today's headlines.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, Valerian Reviews

War for the Planet of the Apes
Dir. Matt Reeves
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The original Planet of the Apes from 1968 is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, and one of the reasons its outlandish premise - filled with spaceships and talking apes - rose above the status of b-movie dreck was due to its ingenious and groundbreaking use of special make-up effects. It is, in fact, the reason the make-up category exists at the Oscars. 40+ years later in 2011, the beloved series is rebooted with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, itself spawning two sequels, and reinvents the wheel again, doing for motion capture technology what the original did for practical make-up effects. War for the Planet of the Apes is not only an emotional journey and a satisfying end to a trilogy, but also testament to how technology and CGI effects can simultaneously add summer blockbuster spectacle to a film and add rich layers of emotional resonance and humanity, helping to create actual, real performances. If this third film doesn't finally earn this series an Oscar for visual effects, something must be rigged!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, The Beguiled, The Big Sick Reviews

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Dir. Jon Watts
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In the past ten years alone, we've seen three different Spider-Men sling their webs all over the silver screen. If any character is deserving of "sequel" fatigue, it's everyone's favorite web-head. However, the five previous Spider-Man films have been produced by Sony, whereas Spider-Man: Homecoming is the result of a unique and astonishing deal between Sony (who technically owns Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios. Sony "loaned" the character out to be creatively handled by the masterminds at Marvel, while Sony took marketing duties. This partnership allowed Spidey to enter the world of the Avengers, and it's this concept that elevates Homecoming from being yet another re-hashed origin story to something we've never seen from this character before. There's no Uncle Ben, no J. Jonah Jameson, no Mary Jane Watson - but despite these absences, Homecoming fully understands its characters and sets its story within a unique, John Hughes-inspired high school comedy world, making what could easily have been the most rote movie of the year into a fun blockbuster that somehow doesn't feel as if dozens of worried executives feverishly tinkered with it.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transformers 5, 47 Meters Down, Megan Leavey, The Book of Henry Reviews

Transformers: The Last Knight
Dir. Michael Bay
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NOTE: This review features spoilers! Ye have been warned!

They say "practice makes perfect," so by now, after FIVE movies in the Transformers franchise, you'd think action junkie and explosion enthusiast Michael Bay would be able to craft some kind of coherent story. You'd think. Similar to his other four mega-blockbuster CGI extravaganzas, The Last Knight does not feel like the four credited screenwriters had any real kind of master plan with this movie - yet again it feels like an ADHD-addled 12 year old mashing around his giant, million-dollar robot toys. There are so many ideas, characters, and subplots jammed into this movie that it defies any kind of clear and logical summary. That being said, The Last Knight at least escapes the soul-crushing blandness of Universal's recent The Mummy, featuring wall-to-wall, undiluted Bayhem every step of the way, for better or worse.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wonder Woman, The Mummy, It Comes At Night, My Cousin Rachel Reviews

Wonder Woman
Dir. Patty Jenkins
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A lot was riding on Wonder Woman's shoulders. For Warner Brothers it represented a major investment; it had to recoup its large (but not extravagant) blockbuster production budget of $150 million, it had to introduce a new character that's planned to be prominently featured in sequels and the upcoming Justice League, it had to reignite the flame for the DC Cinematic Universe, struggling to connect with critics and audiences after Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, it had to prove to Hollywood gatekeepers that both a major female-led and female-directed superhero movie could prove profitable (if this failed, I loathe to think the "lessons" big wig producers would've taken away), and last but not least, it had to live up to the expectations for those Wonder Woman fans who've waited their entire lives for this flick. Unbelievably - I think Wonder Woman accomplishes all of these things and then some.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

10th ANNIVERSARY AWARDS - Ten Years of Reviewing!

I can't tell if this is impressive or pathetic, but today marks the tenth straight year since I began reviewing movies! Three cheers for endurance! While I started using this Blogger site in 2011, I'd been reviewing long before then, blindly posting and submitting movie reviews here and there until I finally made the "no duh" decision to make my own blog.

My first-ever review was for the family-friendly romp Hostel: Part II, which I originally posted to my MySpace "blog" page on June 11, 2007 (I gave it a 'B,' and by golly, I stick by it). Although MySpace has come and gone, my love of movies - and writing about them - has not. For some strange reason, I feel it's my duty to continue writing about movies and keep 'Talking the Talkies' up and running, even though I'm not paid to do so in any capacity. In fact it costs me money to see the movies, so this is a true labor of love.

I sincerely thank you all for reading my blog - whether this post is the first one you've ever read or if you've been a long-time reader, it truly means a lot that you care enough to peruse through the work I've done. And thanks to all the random people who've thrown a compliment my way over the years - it can sometimes be tough to get a handle on what people think of this blog, and your supportive words have been encouraging. I hope that even if you don't agree with my opinions or ratings, you've found at least some enjoyment reading my thoughts and maybe learning about some movies you might otherwise not have been exposed to.

10 years is kind of a big milestone, so to celebrate the past decade of film, I've compiled ten movie-related "awards" to shine a light on some of my favorite movies and movie-people through the years. I limited the winners exclusively to the time between when I started writing reviews until now (2007-2017), which was still no easy task. Also, it's interesting to re-visit some of my picks, seeing as some movies have definitely grown on me over the years. So, without further ado, here are the 10th-Straight-Year-of-Reviewing Awards!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Alien: Covenant, The Wall, Your Name, A Quiet Passion Reviews

Alien: Covenant
Dir. Ridley Scott

The thing that irks me the most about Disney's recent Star Wars films are their over-reliance on familiar imagery and plot lines from the original trilogy. With Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott falls into the same trap of making a complete concession to fans with his own franchise. Prometheus, 2012's Alien prequel co-scripted by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof, was in my opinion a fantastic, intense, original take on the "Alien" mythology, but it came under fire from Slurpee-scarfing mouth-breathers online for not having the same exact creatures as the original 1979 movie and attempting to make something new and original. Well, I hope they're happy now, because in Alien: Covenant Scott pretty much gives those whiny basement-dwellers exactly what they asked for: an Alien retread with the same old aliens as before that bends over backwards to retcon most of the interesting, ambitious philosophical concepts introduced in Prometheus. To many, Alien: Covenant will be an "improvement" over its predecessor due to its stripped-down, back-to-basics quality, but to me this was just a disappointingly empty rehash of old ideas.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, King Arthur, Snatched, Free Fire Reviews

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Dir. James Gunn
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Back in 2014, who knew this group of intergalactic a-holes would make Guardians of the Galaxy the #1 movie of the summer? James Gunn's first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced us to a ragtag group of fun, new iconic antiheroes in a world infused with equal parts space battles and pop music, making a refreshingly crowd-pleasing, hilarious, well-written romp out of the typically "stuffy" sci-fi genre. And as with any successful blockbuster, a sequel was fast-tracked immediately. With everybody back on board, the characters are still just as fun to hang around, the banter is just as witty, the music just as danceable, the visuals just as colorful... but we've seen it all before. While both films are enjoyable to watch in their own right, Guardians Vol. 1 felt completely original at the time (keep in mind, it was released before JJ's The Force Awakens), whereas Vol. 2 feels like the familiar groove on a well-played record. The sequel does almost everything that made the original great, but with diminishing returns.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

IFF Boston 2017 Reflections

This was my first year experiencing IFF Boston, a festival celebrating independent film across a number of Boston theaters. The fest premieres all sorts of cool movies from features to shorts to documentaries to even student films, often times with the directors there to promote their work. I officially volunteered at this multi-day event, doing whatever odd jobs I was assigned in my required hot pink t-shirt (a real good look for me).

Although scanning people's tickets and handing out flyers got monotonous after a while, I did get to chat with a handful of cool, fellow movie-loving people. To be completely honest, it was this, more so than even the films, that ended up being the highlight of the festival experience for me. As a generally shy, introverted person in real life who thinks "small talk" belongs in the seventh circle of hell, I was surprised how easily I could snake into conversations with people. Now that it's over, my only problem is that I don't remember any of their names (!), and these mysterious movie folk will likely forever fade into obscurity in my memory.

Anywho... because I was a volunteer, when it wasn't my shift, I could see all the movies I wanted - for FREE! I took advantage of this perk, as you may imagine.

Below I've listed all the movies I saw, along with my personal favorites of the festival highlighted!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Summer 2017 Box Office Predictions

Summer is almost here, so you know what that means: sequels, superheroes, and CGI spectacles. And my annual box office prediction game! Since 2013 I've tried to predict the top ten summer blockbusters to varying degrees of success. This year doesn't seem any easier, as it's always difficult to gauge how fatigued audiences are with certain franchises and what little gems could rise to the surface and become surprise hits. This fun prediction game rewards the accuracy with which you can guess where each summer movie will land on the box office charts. If you'd like to play along, read the points system below and leave your predictions in the comments section:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fast 8, Colossal, Gifted, The Lost City of Z Reviews

The Fate of the Furious
Dir. F. Gary Gray
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This eighth entry into the Fast and Furious franchise begins in Havana, with everyone's favorite bald-headed lead-foot, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), in a street race using a battered, broken-down crap box car. He still wins, of course ("It's not the car, it's the driver"), but it's hard not to read into this first scene as a metaphor for the series as a whole - really how much longer will the motor run on this franchise before it catches fire and blows up? The first Fast flick after the tragic death of Paul Walker, the unwieldy-titled The Fate of the Furious does its best to one-up itself with some increasingly fun action scenes and car stunts, but with an incredibly generic story and meat-headed characters that are alternately annoying and uninteresting, you need to have some serious patience between the big set pieces to enjoy this gloriously stupid movie.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ghost in the Shell, Life, The Zookeeper's Wife, Wilson Reviews

Ghost in the Shell
Dir. Rupert Sanders
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Even if you've never seen the classic Ghost in the Shell anime from 1995, chances are you're still familiar with the imagery it's inspired. The Wachowskis' Matrix trilogy, James Cameron's Avatar, and Alex Garland's Ex Machina all borrowed from its philosophical sci-fi ideas and dystopic view of technology. Ghost in the Shell is one of those properties held sacred by its fans, and I'm sure many of them were hoping this new film wouldn't repeat the embarrassment of other Hollywood attempts at adapting anime (let's forget Dragonball Evolution ever happened). While I consider myself more of an admirer of the original film than an enjoyer of it, I'm glad to say this live-action remake solidly captures the spirit of its animated counterpart. It's visually spectacular, the lead performances are strong, and even if this story is one that still left me a little cold, I actually found the remake much more approachable and enjoyable than the original film.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Beauty and the Beast, The Belko Experiment, Raw, Kedi Reviews

Beauty and the Beast
Dir. Bill Condon
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Continuing Disney's redundant live action-ing of their back catalogue of animated classics, Beauty and the Beast is yet another remake meant to nostalgically prod audiences into theaters like livestock into a corral. Directed by Bill Condon (Mr. Holmes, Dreamgirls) and starring a post-Potter Emma Watson as everyone's favorite book-reading, yak-loving princess, Belle, this movie sticks extremely close to its beloved source material, slavishly reproducing exact songs, lines of dialogue, and even camera movements and edits as the original Disney film. Because of this, Beauty and the Beast may be the most outright pointless movie of the year, seeming to exist for the sole factor of making easy money for the House of Mouse. But still, Mrs. Potts knows what's up when she sings "Tale as old as Time": despite its unoriginality, I still found myself getting swept up in many of the musical numbers and dazzling set pieces. Despite my best efforts to hate on this movie, Beauty and the Beast is a competent, beautifully-crafted production that delivers the magic, even if it's repackaged magic.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Logan, Kong: Skull Island, The Red Turtle, Land of Mine Reviews

Dir. James Mangold
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After 17 years and 8 movies in the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman's (apparently) final outing as Wolverine pulls no punches - other than literal ones of course. Thanks to the smash success of Fox's R-Rated superhero gamble last year with Deadpool, James Mangold was for once able to make the Wolverine movie fans have waited for; no longer subjugated to PG-13 bloodless battle sequences, we finally get to see the realistically gory consequences of a furious man with 8-inch metal blades sticking out of his fists. Luckily, though, Logan isn't just an excuse for mindless violence - it's also a well-conceived family drama, a dark sci-fi western, a tragic elegy on mortality, and an overall great send-off for an iconic character.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Get Out, A Cure for Wellness, Toni Erdmann, The Salesman Reviews

Get Out
Dir. Jordan Peele
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Meeting the in-laws is always a situation filled with anxiety. In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele (the comedic mastermind behind Comedy Central's sketch show Key & Peele), uses those same relatable discomforts to make a socially-conscious horror film with a lot more on its mind than cheap thrills. In a story that feels like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner meets Rosemary's Baby, Get Out follows a young interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), who are on a weekend getaway to her parents' house. At first, Chris reads her family's overly accommodating behavior to be nervous, "white liberal" attempts to deal with their daughter's relationship, but as the weekend continues, it starts to become clear that something disturbing is going on under the surface of this seemingly "woke" family. This movie not only works as a fun horror flick, but it's filled with layers of social commentary and subtext that makes Get Out one of the most thoughtful and well-written entries into the horror genre I've seen in a very long time. Despite being a "comedy guy" and first-time filmmaker, Jordan Peele has undoubtedly wrote and directed a modern cult classic.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Predicting the 89th Academy Awards [Updated]

If you thought last year's Oscars were politically-charged after the "Oscars So White" controversy... fasten your seatbelts folks, it's going to be a bumpy night. While I hope the ceremony and speeches focus more on celebrating the artistry of film rather than pulling a "Meryl Streep" every five minutes, I'm still excited about this year's Academy Awards - the Super Bowl of the movie business. As per tradition, I'm predicting the winners for not just the popular categories, but all 24 of them! I take no half measures here on Talking the Talkies. While I've given this a lot of thought (maybe too much), the Oscars are always full of surprises and upsets, so we'll see how it turns out Sunday, February 26th!

After the broadcast I will update this blog post with the winners highlighted, my reactions, and my final tally. If you want to play along - leave your predictions in the comments below!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lego Batman, John Wick 2, The Comedian, xXx: Return of Xander Cage Reviews

The Lego Batman Movie
Dir. Chris McKay
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When The Lego Movie opened in 2014, it seemed as though we'd reached the bottom of the barrel in terms of crass movie-marketing commercialism. It's one thing to make a movie about Battleship or a ride at Disney World, but a film literally about interlocking colored bricks!? What's next, the Lincoln Logs movie? Tiddledy Winks? In spite of the cynicism, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street) managed to take a concept that at first glance seems anything but artistic, and crafted a surprisingly poignant film about conformity and childhood creativity, all while establishing a kinetic and joyously colorful sandbox world of practically unlimited visual possibility. Continuing the anarchic comic energy of its predecessor, The Lego Batman Movie further develops the "Lego Cinematic Universe" as an irreverent, ADHD-fueled micro-verse that charmingly emulates the feeling of playtime that we all experience as kids, but with the addition of being a genuinely well-conceived iteration of the Batman myth, lovingly spoofing the character with practically hundreds of rapid-fire jokes that, as a huge Bat-fan, made me want to re-watch it immediately.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Split, The Founder, Gold, 20th Century Women Reviews

Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
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We may be witnessing a comeback for M. Night Shyamalan, or what I like to call it: the "Shyamaissance." Having gone from being touted as the 'Next Spielberg' to ruining a beloved franchise and becoming a literal laughing stock (I distinctly remember his producer credit for Devil alone eliciting laughter in theaters), M. Night has found a new lucrative partnership with Blumhouse Pictures - the studio known for making profit-turning low budget horror flicks like the Purge and Sinister films. Starting with last year's surprisingly good The Visit, Shyamalan is slowly working his way back up the ladder, with Split being an encouraging mega-success, making $105 million at the box office on a $9 million budget. However, just because he's no longer in artistic jail doesn't mean he's working at the same level as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable. Split is a solid b-movie and I'm glad to see a fallen-from-grace director pick themselves back up, but it does have its share of issues - not the least of which is its questionable depiction of a real mental illness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2017

There are only so many spots in each category on the Oscar ballot: 10 possibilities for Best Picture, 3 for Makeup and Hair, and 5 for the rest. Oscars are voted on by an Academy of about ~6000 showbiz professionals, and typically celebrate the "best" in movies each year voted on by the people that actually make them - but every year certain movies or performances get swept under the rug. Here, I present what I consider the top ten "rug swept" Oscar snubs of 2017!

10. Supporting Actor Snub: John Goodman for 10 Cloverfield Lane

Dev Patel is nominated for Supporting Actor for Lion, which is ridiculous because he plays the lead character in the film. If that fifth slot opened up, I'd like to believe that John Goodman would've had a shot at being nominated for his fantastic and terrifying performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane. He's never been nominated for an Oscar, and I was crossing my fingers he'd slip in there. Unfortunately the Academy only makes rare exceptions for genre flicks like this!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Patriots Day, Silence, A Monster Calls, Hidden Figures Reviews

Patriots Day
Dir. Peter Berg
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Peter Berg has carved a niche for himself in the movie world dramatizing our tragedies. Earlier this year, Berg's Deepwater Horizon gave us an action-drama celebrating the working man heroes on board the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Patriots Day, also starring Mark Wahlberg, similarly takes a tragedy and puts it within the confines of a manhunt thriller. Although I found the results in Deepwater Horizon to be mixed, perhaps straying too far into the land of exploitation, Patriots Day doesn't feel that way at all. It feels completely authentic to the intensity, chaos, confusion, heroism, psychology, and controversy on display during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and its following investigation, employing an almost documentary-level of realism to an event most of us remember so vividly, glued to the Internet or TV to check for updates. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and Berg perfectly walks the ethical line with a subject matter that will still feel very raw to many viewers.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Assassin's Creed, Passengers, Fences, Lion Reviews

Assassin's Creed
Dir. Justin Kurzel
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If there was finally going to be a movie that proved a good video game adaptation is possible, it was going to be Assassin's Creed. Although it's not the first with a giant budget or big names behind it, it was the first that seemed to be recruiting Oscar-caliber talent - with a cast including Academy Award-winning/nominated actors like Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons and a director whose adaptation of Macbeth last year, while not a great film, looked absolutely spectacular. After watching the film, however, why all that talent was attracted to this project in the first place is totally baffling. Assassin's Creed is largely nonsensical, dizzyingly complicated, and mostly uninteresting for its 2.5 hour run time, and proves yet again that playing video games are more fun than watching them.

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