Zoolander 2 Feb12

Zoolander 2

Superhero fatigue is known and understood in the Hollywood landscape. The sheer amount of movies leveraging spandex and face-punching filling the cultural cup, dare I say, has runneth over. But there is a different kind of fatigue spreading throughout Hollywood as well only slightly under the radar – nostalgia sequel fatigue.

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Deadpool Feb11

Deadpool

Many comedians have spoken about “going blue.” Many comics are deft at navigating that humor (Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, etc.) and find depth and humanity in the hysterically foul. Others simply don’t go there (Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan) and find just as much success. Some think blue humor is easier, that it requires less forethought to toss in a timely f-bomb. I suppose for an amateur that’s true but when you hit the pinnacle of the profession the lines aren’t so easily drawn.

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Hail, Caesar! Feb04

Hail, Caesar!

On the surface there is something curiously thin about the Coen bros. new venture Hail, Caesar! It’s so fluffy and aloof at times it can feel lazy. But that’s not the Coen’s we know. Beneath the surface they are always searching for deeper themes, even under the guise of the 50’s Hollywood studio system.

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45 Years Jan28

45 Years

Around the midway point of Andrew Haigh’s stunning new film 45 Years, Charlotte Rampling’s Kate makes a stunning revelation. It’s the week before her 45th anniversary and she has been planning the celebration for months. A week earlier her husband Geoff (Tom Courtenay) receives a letter in the mail informing him that his first love Katja’s body has been discovered.

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Jan14

13 Hours: The Secret...

Say the word Benghazi in the wrong company and you may very well have walked into the most awkward 15-minutes of your life. It’s a controversy that has permeated the political system for two years and promises to continue at least through the general election. So how do you approach this story from a Hollywood perspective?

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Top Ten of 2015 Jan13

Top Ten of 2015

What a year 2015 was at the movies. There was such an embarrassment of riches even if you were able to see every major release there is almost no way to shrink your favorite list to 10.

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The Revenant Jan07

The Revenant

Many have called Director Alejandro González Iñárritu a visual sadist – and frankly it’s not difficult to make that argument. His cannon is filled with tough, bruising visions of the world that find his characters struggling for hope in the face of unrelenting cynicism.

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The Hateful Eight Dec25

The Hateful Eight

Quentin has never been a stranger to controversy, in fact he often courts it. His visions force you to reckon with something – always through his very specific worldview and Eight is no different.

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The Big Short Dec22

The Big Short

Imagine if you were sitting at the poker table and you knew your opponents hand. Even better, as the turn and the river hit the table your opponents hand looks increasingly better. But you know what’s coming and take every advantage to bait them into betting against you. That advantage seems too good to be true right? Well of course it is…you’d be pretty rich but poker would be really boring.

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In the Heart of the Sea Dec09

In the Heart of the ...

I’m going to go out on a limb and make an assumption – I don’t think a Moby Dick origin story is high on anyone’s list. Is Melville’s universe one that’s ripe to be expanded? Ron Howard seems to think the answer is an unequivocal yes – so we have In the Heart of the Sea – an aggressively old-fashioned tale of heroism and humanity on the high seas.

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Creed Nov24

Creed

I’m not sure what it says about the state of modern boxing that Rocky Balboa is still the most famous American fighter and he’s not real. The Italian Stallion is of course Sylvester Stallone – a man with 6-movies under his belt, a statue in Philadelphia and a myth as big as his ego. It’s incredible that after all these years there is still something left in the Rocky well in 2015.

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The Night Before Nov18

The Night Before

At this point Seth Rogen is a known commodity. Sure, he’s branching out into Oscar territory (he’s great in Steve Jobs) but almost annually he seems to return to his comedic well. And for me, that well is by no means dry.

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Brooklyn Nov18

Brooklyn

On the surface Brooklyn may look like a bore. A slog through glossy 1950’s New York complete with the costumes that get you noticed come Oscar time but none of the substance that springs eternal. It has elements of awards-bait, prestige filmmaking that we see every year and is dismissed almost as quickly as it’s introduced.

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Spectre Nov06

Spectre

I can’t simply look at the newest iteration in the Bond cannon – Spectre – and pronounce the franchise dead. Too often the man in the impeccably tailored suit has proved that notion wrong, rebooting after a 5-10 year passage of time with a new actor and new possibilities.

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Steve Jobs Oct14

Steve Jobs

At this point in the cultural lexicon Steve Jobs is an ethereal figure. He’s held in high regard by nearly every person that has wielded one of his mighty devices and by the stock holders that have reaped the benefits. His name is synonymous with success.

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Bridge of Spies Oct14

Bridge of Spies

At this point in his career I find it reassuring that Steven Spielberg is still making movies. The man doesn’t have to and surely has nothing left to prove but he continues to take on projects every couple years.

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The Martian Oct01

The Martian

Matt Damon has been stranded in space a lot lately. Maybe it’s his immense likability that keeps getting him stuck up there. It’s clear after his surprise visit in Interstellar and his outrageously charismatic turn in Ridley Scott’s The Martian that Damon is the perfect astronaut to be stranded with.

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Black Mass Sep17

Black Mass

Are gangster movies a tired exercise at this point? We all remember the pinnacles of this genre from the last 25 years (Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, The Departed, Miller’s Crossing to name a few) that have done a wonderful job of blocking out the dearth of bad movies they’ve inspired.

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The Visit Sep10

The Visit

It’s been roughly a decade since M. Night Shyamalan’s name didn’t elicit giggles in an audience. It’s a fall from grace that few Directors ever encounter because of how carefully managed their careers have become. It’s even more disconcerting when you consider the start Shyamalan had and the cultural touchstone his films became.

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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...

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 ...

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 Ult...

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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