American Ultra Aug20

American Ultra

Every once in a while a film is released nationally that lives in the margins. It doesn’t conform to the norms of plot, form or function leaving audiences and critics alike flummoxed. These films are often passed over without hesitation and with little fanfare because why would we care about something that lacks the budget or star power for me to care?

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Aug13

The Man From U.N.C.L.E....

Guy Ritchie is like a really good cover band. His movies are passable interpretations of their source material and often nearly reach the level of the original. His early efforts – Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are still his best examples of this – two gangster movies brimming with energy and style.

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Fantastic Four Aug06

Fantastic Four

When a Marvel property isn’t made by the Marvel movie studio does the movie actually exist? I would argue that in the case of Toby Maguire Spidey that yes, they do. The X-Men too have led a myriad of adventures outside the Marvel studio monster, travelling in and out of the human brain and traversing the planes of space time.

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Jul31

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation...

I am an unabashed Tom Cruise apologist (on-screen, let’s avoid off-screen for now…or forever.) In a reality where “movie stars” can rarely carry the weekend box office anymore, Cruise still has that power. Sure, he has starred in some of the most popular films of all time but he does it with a conviction that few show.

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Terminator Genisys Jun30

Terminator Genisys

Why does Terminator Genisys exist? Being the 5th entry in a long running series you better be an existential overhaul (like Fast 5) or reaching a sad conclusion (I’m looking at you Die Hard.) TG wants so badly to be the former that nearly all the dialogue is framed around reminding us why it exists.

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Inside Out Jun18

Inside Out

Pixar has fallen into sequal-ville lately. That hasn’t necessarily produced poor results (Toy Story 3 and Monster’s University are fantastic films…Cars 2 not so much) but the tendency to retread into familiar territory smacks of Disney interference.

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Tomorrowland May21

Tomorrowland

In the 1980’s and 90’s kids in the movies went on adventures. In retrospect many of said adventures were hysterically low stakes, usually avoiding getting in trouble with your parents. Some protected nice, green aliens with an affinity for green M&M’s, other searched for treasure with a cave dweller while another group tried to rescue a baseball from the vicious dog next door.

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Mad Max: Fury Road May14

Mad Max: Fury Road

Ummm…wow. So that is what a summer movie can be. A movie that uses it’s massive, unencumbered budget to elevate a visionary’s imagination to heights rarely reached. It’s so scarcely seen in the modern blockbuster landscape that when one comes along the sheer dodo-like quality can elevate it.

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Pitch Perfect 2 May14

Pitch Perfect 2

The original Pitch Perfect may have been a product of the Glee-revolution but was shockingly much more than that. Gone was the ridiculous melodrama of the Fox-sitcom replaced with gleeful comedic mayhem – led by a diverse cast of women embracing the bizarre world of underground, college a capella groups.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Apr30

Avengers: Age of Ultron...

I’ve written copious times about superhero fatigue. It’s a plague upon our cinemas that the machines at Marvel (and most recently DC) have cultivated with furious vigor. Each templatized cape and tights follows a similar path; achieving domestic and cosmic bliss until a post-credits scene gets us revved up for the next installment.

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The Water Diviner Apr23

The Water Diviner

Russell Crowe still commands the screen. As his waistline has increased so has his ability to carry material of varying degrees of quality. There are few actors working at his level that can do this and Crowe still possesses the unique ability to elevate otherwise shoddy filmmaking.

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Furious 7 Apr03

Furious 7

There is so much to admire about the Furious franchise (or is it the Fast franchise?) When Director Justin Lin injected fresh NAS into the series with Fast 5 the film embraced all of the original’s silliness and doubled down on the absurdly fun action. It was the kind of over-the-top cheesy goodness that Michael Bay could only dream of.

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Chappie Mar05

Chappie

Its official, Neil Blomkamp is the new king of the B-movie in Hollywood. Give this man a bad script (or allow him to write it) and he will direct the shit out of it – filling every nook and cranny of the film with more allegorical nonsense than an 8th grade book report on The Great Gatsby. Does any of it work? Not really, in fact most of it probably won’t. Then why – oh why – did I end up enjoying Chappie so much?

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Kingsman: The Secret Service Feb12

Kingsman: The Secret Service...

No matter how hard Matthew Vaughn’s new movie Kingsman: The Secret Service tries to lampoon James Bond, British high-culture and martinis it never strays far from Austin Powers. In fact the final third of the film takes place in a Dr. Evil underground lair that I’m 90% sure was lifted directly from the old Mike Meyers-sets.

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American Sniper Jan15

American Sniper

In many (some completely obvious ways) Clint Eastwood and sniper Chris Kyle are kindred spirits. They have both fancied massive “lone gunmen cowboy” personas – two men who play by their own rules. In a world of good and evil, Eastwood and Kyle dish out their unique form of vigilante “Dirty Harry-esque” justice. In American Sniper Eastwood has an opportunity to tell Kyle’s story (adapted from his memoir of the same name,) contradictions and all. What comes of it is a worthy tribute to Kyle’s hefty legacy that is also maddening white-washed and simple.

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Inherent Vice Jan08

Inherent Vice

On Monday Paul Thomas Anderson joined Marc Maron on his wondrous podcast WTF. In the nearly two-hour interview Marc grills PTA on literally every film in his catalog – often asking him point blank – “what the fuck is THIS movie about?” It’s hilarious and completely sophomoric but it’s clear that PTA doesn’t get a question that pointed very often. It throws him, makes him wonder aloud what each film in his cannon has to say. The surprising thing is most of the answers are just as simple as the question.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Dec17

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies...

It’s tough to conjure up many more words for Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth. At the start of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the audience has spent a collective 15+ hours in the world of Hobbits, Wizards, Elves and Orcs. That is frankly astounding. What Jackson has done in sheer volume is impressive, the fact that his vision is a compelling, often intoxicating one feels like icing on the cake.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings Dec11

Exodus: Gods and Kings...

If you’ve ever wanted your Old Testament served up in 3D, well guess what weirdos – Exodus: Gods and Kings is the movie for you.

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Interstellar Nov05

Interstellar

Interstellar is all at once bold, audacious, thrilling…and a little dim (kind of like its lead actor, heyo!) It’s Christopher Nolan flexing big budget muscle at a time in his career when he can take huge chances.

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Gone Girl Oct02

Gone Girl

Director David Fincher has a knack for many things cinematically. His obsessive attention to detail give his film’s a flawless look and feel. The intense musical scores of each project compliments this obsession, lending each its own sense of dread or even whimsy…but mostly dread.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Jul29

Guardians of the Galaxy...

The Guardians of the Galaxy are basically the Marvel universe’s weird cousins. They are mostly castaways from a much more obscure comic book series playing second-fiddle to the likes of the X-Men, Captain America and Iron Man. But anyone with weird cousins knows that at the family reunion they are usually the ones you have the most fun hanging out with.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Jul10

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes...

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my #1 movie of 2011. I was stunned by its mix of B-movie gusto, special effects and general whimsy. It was even enough to overcome a clunky script and sleepwalking James Franco. Problems aside, the film was a stark reminder of the power of the Hollywood blockbuster (one that we see less and less of these days.)

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Tammy Jul01

Tammy

Count me as a Melissa McCarthy fan. I have a soft spot for her particular brand of loud, brash comedy. Considering the cast she has assembled for Tammy I would say she has a few fans in Hollywood as well.

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Edge of Tomorrow Jun04

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow is going to yield a ton of Groundhog Day comparisons and I suppose that’s fair. The film’s main conceit involves repeating the same day over and over as the protagonist gains more knowledge of his ultimate purpose

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X-Men: Days of Future Past May21

X-Men: Days of Future Past...

I guess everyone has their superhero. And while I’ve written endlessly for two-years about my superhero fatigue I’m allowed to enjoy this crap every once in a while. Maybe it’s dumb luck to have such an inconsistent series like X-Men find its stride again.

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Godzilla May14

Godzilla

1998 Godzilla is an abomination. It was directed by world-class hack Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 10,000 B.C.) and starred Ferris Bueller and some other people. Emmerich was rolling in ID4 money and Jurassic Park momentum which helped him bankroll that nightmare behemoth.

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Transcendence Apr16

Transcendence

Transcendence is a seriously frustrating sci-fi enterprise. On the one hand the film is chalk of full of interesting (albeit well tread) ideas – technology vs. humanity, free will vs. destiny etc. etc. On the other hand the film is stupendously dumb and has very little to say about any of said ideas. Its true camp of the highest order with a serious bit of Hollywood gloss smeared on the lens to distract us from the true lack of substance.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Apr02

Captain America: The Winter Soldier...

Captain America is a depressing and tragic character when you really break it down. He was a diminutive man with a huge heart, dedicated to serving his country even when his body wouldn’t allow it. His voluntary inclusion in a super soldier program made him a monster of a man and a marketing ploy to sell war bonds in the 1940’s.

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Noah Mar30

Noah

In the book of Genesis, Noah’s motivations are never abundantly clear. We are given clear reasons for God’s intentions – man’s wickedness has scorched the earth and it’s time to push the reset button.

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Enemy Mar21

Enemy

No one will accuse Enemy of lacking ideas. The new film from Director Denis Villeneuve is chalk full of them. His tendency to indulge in these ideas is also on display. For better or worse Villeneuve uses Enemy as a playground for the human condition – leaping between reality and pseudo dreamscapes to ratchet up the tension.

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