Film Review: Exciting Chinese Actioner “Shock Wave 2”

I watch a lot of international action films. Hollywood might have a visual effects company around every corner, but it turns out that a lot of overseas production groups have their own amazing vf/x companies ready to work on films outside of the USA. Foreign films also have a different sensibility and different approach to the storyline, often along with an interestingly biased cultural skew. No question, seeing how other countries portray Americans holds up…Read More

Film Review: Epic, Moody and Excellent “Dune”

Widely considered one of the very best science fiction books, Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune” was also my favorite book as a teen. It’s set thousands of years in the future and humanity has spread across the galaxy. Great family clans called Houses run various planets in a feudal society and the Padishah Emperor rules over it all, seeking to balance the power of each great house to ensure none become so powerful they can…Read More

How to Be a Friend (My Review of “Ron’s Gone Wrong”)

Just had a chance to preview the new family animated film Ron’s Gone Wrong, which is about – surprise! – friendship, and how our devices are proving an obstacle to making meaningful connections. Instead of just reviewing the film, I thought it would be more interesting to talk about the theme and the ideas within the movie. At the end of this essay, I’ll give you an assessment and a go/no-go recommendation. You don’t have to…Read More

Film Review: Engaging and Provocative “The Last Duel”

When a woman receives unwanted attention from a man, is she playing coy or legitimately saying “no”, to which the man is morally obligated to listen? The consequence of him going further is that it become rape; intimacy without consent. The woman then might opt to tell others, too often just to be told that she’s lying, that she invited it, that she didn’t protest or fight the advances with sufficient vigor, that women ‘secretly’…Read More

Film Review: Weird Horror Mashup “Ouija Japan”

Horror films often revolve around fears and desires, generally with dire consequences for anti-social or blasphemous beliefs. As a genre, they reinforce community standards and behavioral norms, which is one reason that audiences perpetually ask “what did they do to deserve this?” when someone is possessed, haunted, or otherwise experiences evil. With a sort of evil spirit realm paralleling our own, sometimes all it takes is opening the wrong door, unsealing that basement cupboard, even…Read More

Film Review: Mostly Plodding “The Addams Family 2”

New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams created The Addams Family, a delightfully weird and wacky family of macabre cartoon characters, back in the late 1930s. He continued offering up strange and darkly humorous cartoons of his popular clan until his death in the 1980s. The Addams family was a surprise hit, inspiring a live-action TV series in the 1960s, another live-action series in the 70s, two live-action movies in the 90s, an animated series in the…Read More

Film Review: Bond’s Back in “No Time To Die”

Based on a series of thrillers written by former spy Ian Fleming, there’s no more successful film franchise than that of James Bond. The master spy of the British MI6 service with the license to kill denoted by his double-oh identifier – 007 – he’s long been the epitome of Western masculine cultural values. The franchise has also had its ups and downs with Sean Connery, Roger More, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and, for one…Read More

Series Review: “Foundation” on Apple TV+

It’s millions of years in the future and the Galactic Empire spans hundreds of planets and trillions of people. It’s been surprisingly calm and stable for thousands of years, but psychohistorian Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) is convinced that something terrible is about to happen. Seldon, a mathematician, has invented the science of psychohistory, an amalgamation of psychology and statistics that allows him to analyze humankind across eons to predict future events, both large and small….Read More

Film Review: Fun, Mythic “Shang-Chi And The Legend of the Ten Rings”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is enormous, encompassing dozens of superheroes and hundreds of characters, all tied together through vague and mysterious organizations like SHIELD or Hydra. SHIELD was created when boss-man Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) realized how fragile our world was to outside threats, then a subset of them created The Avengers. That covers about twenty movies and a couple of TV series, I think. But Marvel has had other secret organizations throughout its…Read More

Film Review: The Creepy Dreamscape of “Come True”

It might be because Halloween is coming up, but there are a lot of horror films hitting the streams and theaters right now. Some of them I can’t make it through, but others turn out to be sleepers, really good movies that demonstrate a terrific verve and sense of style. The indie horror film Come True is in the latter category and proves a good, creepy watch. It’s the kind of oppressive horror film that’s…Read More

Film Review: “6:45”, Horror Foiled By Its Ending

The idea that we might have already experienced a moment, an event, or an entire day is endlessly fascinating for filmmakers, Most obviously, the wry Groundhog Day (1993) starring the inimitable Bill Murray in one of his most famous roles. The Matrix (1999) dabbles with time loops ingeniously in its explanation of déjà vu. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt offer a high-tension iterating day in the terrific, albeit poorly named sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow (2014)….Read More

Film Review: Kinetic and Wildly Imaginative “Free Guy”

I’ve spent countless hours playing video and computer games and watching my kids master the hugely popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game Fortnite. But Fortnite isn’t just a game where players wander around shooting each other. It’s built upon an internal economy of clothes, costumes, accessories, and signature dance moves: players pay real money to acquire digital outfits and wacky weapons that let them complete their mission in style. Killed someone? Bust a move with…Read More

Film Review: Fun Family Adventure “Jungle Cruise”

I grew up visiting Disneyland throughout my adolescence. A definite perk of living in Southern California, and I definitely grew to have my favorite rides at the park. Given my sense of humor, it’s no surprise that The Jungle Cruise was on that list with the wry and pun-filled patter of the guides, coupled with calm, peaceful faux jungle terrain. A jungle in the heart of Anaheim? It requires no more a suspension of disbelief…Read More

Film Review: Creepy, Flawed Horror “Old”

There are few directors in Hollywood that have a spottier track record than M. Night Shyamalan. Bursting on the scene with the original and disconcerting 1999 film The Sixth Sense, the director has spent the last two decades trying to recapture that mix of mundane, eerie, and unexpected. Muchly relying on a startling twist in the last scene and mostly without success. From Signs, to The Village, The Happening to Lady in the Water, we’ve learned that Shyamalan…Read More

Film Review: Ultra-Cool, Stylish Actioner “Hydra”

The open scene of the new Japanese martial arts action film Hydra tells you everything you need to know about the movie; stylized florescent lighting, spontaneous and shockingly violent action, an 80’s electronica soundtrack and almost no dialog. Director Kensuke Sonomura and cinematographer Yasuyuki Suzuki have created a beautiful homage to 80’s action films, even with the typeface chosen for the opening credits. Like waking up to a slap on the face, the opening scene…Read More

Film Review: Amusing, Forgettable “The Boss Baby: Family Business”

Like a story out of a late-night drinking session with long-suffering preschool staff, the 2017 animated feature The Boss Baby was silly fun, with lots of laughs due to the improbable juxtaposition of babies and corporate business. The film featured the voice talents of Alec Baldwin as the baby and Tobey Maguire as older brother Tim. Rounding out the family were Jimmy Kimmel as Dad and Lisa Kudrow as Mom. The film was a surprise…Read More

Film Review: The Surprisingly Unengaging “Black Widow”

Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff has always seemed like a minor character in the pantheon of Marvel Cinematic Universe characters and no wonder; she’s competing with gods and other mythic characters. A left-over Cold War cliché of a character, she was trained by the Soviets to be a beautiful killer, ready to dispatch anyone at a moment’s notice. You’ve seen her type time and again in Le Carré novels, the TV series The Americans, and more….Read More

Film Review: Daft, Fast, but Not So Furious “F9”

As long as we’ve had cars, we’ve had people pushing the limits, going as fast as they possibly can, even at the risk of life and limb. Car racing movies are almost as old as cinema itself, with 1913’s The Speed Kings one of the first. Street racing is another level of thrill and excitement, mythically a chance for downtrodden members of society to pull one over on The Man and simultaneously prove their machismo…Read More

Film Review: The Cute & Innocuous “Luca”

The journey through adolescence is one of the most popular themes in cinema. From Harry Potter to The Iron Giant, Harold and Maude to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it sometimes seems like everyone in the movies is just trying to grow up. Even Pixar’s Toy Story franchise is about Andy’s gradual coming-of-age journey across the four films of the phenomenally successful series. The theme’s no stranger to Pixar’s other films either, from Finding Nemo…Read More

Film Review: Fun, Indie Action Film “The Misfits”

From the classic film Topkapi (1964) to Ocean’s 11 (the original 1960 version or the terrific 2001 remake) to Mission Impossible and the Fast & Furious mega-franchise, a motley crew of criminals teaming up to take down an even bigger criminal has long been a staple of action cinema. It’s no surprise, though; between them, the Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible films alone have generated billions in box office and ancillary revenue. The formula’s…Read More

Film Review: Scary, Intense “A Quiet Place Part II”

One of the great changes to the horror genre over the last few years is the increased speed of the monsters. Gone are shambling zombies that you could outwalk while enjoying an ice cream cone and a blob that oozes down the street at an amusingly glacial pace. Because of improvements in visual effects, monsters are bigger, faster, and much more intense. Jumpscare, meet terrifying visage! And yet, the buildup is part of what makes…Read More