Category Archives: Action/Thriller

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Me You Madness (2021) Movie Review

You could call Me You Madness a “female-driven American Psycho.” In fact, the movie would likely be smugly pleased if you made such a comparison. It would happily do you one better. As the over-bearing, ludicrous voiceover from the film’s central figure, Catherine Black (Louis Linton, who also directs, produces, and co-writes), attests, this is a high concept film which is familiar yet oh so unique. That’s right, the film itself tells you how special and great it is going to be. Right off the bat. (It will later explicitly refer to the screenwriters as geniuses, just because they understand how to implement a comedic callback).

Black is a self-described beautiful genius. She runs a massively successful hedge fund. She is a stock market guru. She literally gets off on watching stock market numbers move in her favor. She lives in the lap of luxury in an isolated Malibu estate. Her IQ is 173. And she is a serial killer.

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When Tyler, a thief and con man (Ed Westwick), answers her call for a “roommate,” the game is afoot. After giving Tyler a grand tour, Black drugs him, sleeps with him, butters him up in the morning, and then Continue reading Me You Madness (2021) Movie Review

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) Movie Review

Adam Robitel’s Escape Room was dumped. It was shoveled off to January, the month where genre movies go to die. The first month of the year has become somewhat notorious for having poor new movie releases. To be fair to the studios, it is an awkward area of the release calendar. There is not as much foot traffic in the theaters as there is during the summer months or the November-December holiday weekends. At the same time, January is a time when prestige movies are starting to do the rounds for awards season consideration. It just isn’t a month for blockbusters.

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So studios dump their genre films there—the genre films they don’t have too much faith in, it appears. Sony released Escape Room on the first weekend of January 2019. And it did a shocking amount of business. 16 weeks later, the film had accumulated over $57 million domestic. Given the film ends on a Continue reading Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) Movie Review

Black Widow (2021) Movie Review

Following over a decade of releasing the most block-busting of franchise blockbusters, Marvel Studios blew up its world. Thanos, the arch-nemesis to Marvel’s foremost team the Avengers, which the studio had been setting up for years, eliminated half of the known universe with a snap. In the next film, the Marvel universe righted itself once again, re-establishing the diegetic status quo, save for a few notable casualties — among them, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

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After the overblown spectacle of this two-part finale — the second of which became the highest grossing film of all time — it seemed an impossible task for the studio to Continue reading Black Widow (2021) Movie Review

No Sudden Move (2021) Movie Review

Somewhere in my preteen years, when I was taking in film so voraciously that I may have grown allergic to the sun, I stumbled upon Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was hooked. It was probably my favorite movie for years, until some other hyper-masculine auteur thing took its spot. And, while it makes me feel like a dorm-room film nerd to admit it, I still love Reservoir Dogs (I can at least say I never had a Pulp Fiction poster hung up in my dorm room).

Reservoir Dogs belongs to a specific type of modern crime film. These films have a sizable ensemble cast, flashy dialogue, a winding narrative chock full of backstabbing and secrets, and the outcome generally goes badly for every character involved. Stakes matter, because the script is not beholden to the safety of the principal cast of characters. Death is treated as superfluous, a mere hazard of the profession. Cynicism reigns as supreme as in the bleakest of film noir, yet the generic elements of the film hew closer to baseline exploitation cinema.

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Nothing in this equation sounds bad to me. On the contrary, I am drawn to it. Which isn’t to say Continue reading No Sudden Move (2021) Movie Review

The Tomorrow War (2021) Movie Review

Chris McKay’s The Tomorrow War feels like a remnant of the ’90s, a stray fragment of sci-fi blockbuster flotsam that somehow landed on post-COVID streaming in 2021. Independence Day. Aliens. All the usual suspects of ’80s-’90s alien warfare action exist in the bones of this money-splattered-on-the-screen popcorn flick. And some Edge of Tomorrow (itself a far more successful throwback) thrown in. And maybe some Starship Troopers if you squint a little, minus the raw, biting satire that makes that film so special.

McKay—who has made a career directing, editing, and doing VFX on animated projects in The LEGO Movie franchise and on Adult Swim shows Robot Chicken and Morel Orel—makes his studio live action debut with The Tomorrow War. Undoubtedly, it is the biggest budget project in his list of jobs. It is also the most programmatic, generically vanilla project in the bunch.

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In The Tomorrow War, a December soccer match is interrupted by military personnel, beamed into midfield, who inform the television audience of a war. A war which has not yet started. Within a year of this announcement, leaders around the world agree to Continue reading The Tomorrow War (2021) Movie Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) Movie Review

I have no relationship to the Mortal Kombat IP. If I’ve ever played the video games, I don’t remember (I was more of a Tekken 3 and Soul Caliber II kid, and even after putting about 100 hours into those I was never very good at fighting games). I haven’t seen Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 film, either. Really, my knowledge begins and ends with the techno song which opens that film and “Fatality!”

Understandably, then, I found myself fairly lost within five minutes of this film beginning. A prologue set in 17th century Japan launches us into a fight sequence between Continue reading Mortal Kombat (2021) Movie Review

Unhinged (2020) Movie Review

Unhinged was one of the first films to release theatrically in the United States following the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. And it seemed like it was generally well-liked by those who saw it at the time. This is not all that surprising within the context. It is a highly-visual, modestly-budgeted spectacle film. Those missing the theaters enough to brave the virus to see something (anything) on a big screen would understandably enjoy the pulse-pounding wild ride that is Unhinged; and, at the same time, they may be willing to overlook the cartoonish nature of its plot.

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By cartoonish, I don’t mean to say childish. No, the bad-faith mayhem of Derrick Borte’s film is Continue reading Unhinged (2020) Movie Review

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Movie Review

One of the first lines of dialogue in Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong foreshadows the titular inevitable showdown: “There can’t be two alpha Titans.” Naturally, the collision of Kong and Godzilla will entail absolute destruction. Two unstoppable forces aimed at one another. Kong is trapped under a biodome in the heart of Skull Island, an artificial habitat nested inside his natural habitat where he is monitored by Monarch. And he wants out. Godzilla, meanwhile, walks out of the ocean in Florida to attack the headquarters of Apex Cybernetics.

The Bond Villain-adjacent CEO of Apex (Demian Bichir) and the company’s head of engineering (Shun Oguri) approach disgraced professor Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) about a plan to stop Godzilla which involves Lind’s theory that these mythic Titans hail from the center of our (hollow) Earth. This plan leads them to a researcher in Monarch’s Kong habitat (Rebecca Hall). Lind proposes that they use Kong to lead them inside the hollow Earth through an entrance in Antarctica, where they can harness a power source worthy of taking down the giant lizard.

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If this all sounds too convoluted for the first act setup to a movie with the name Godzilla vs. Kong—setup which is crammed into 20 minutes of screentime—then Continue reading Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Movie Review

Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

There is so much baggage, backstory, self-mythologizing, and overly amplified discourse surrounding the fated “Snyder Cut” of DC’s Justice League that I don’t care to touch with a 10-foot pole. So let’s just suffice it to say that I never believed the hype of the Snyder cut, and that if you are amped for the four-hour-long version of the DC team-up movie, then you are probably going to get everything you want from this HBO Max release.

2017’s Justice League is credited to Zach Snyder, who had to step away from the project early in post-production due to a family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the project, which led to Continue reading Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Movie Review

Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review

The cold open to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter involves a not-quite-good-looking CGI desert landscape which is sculpted by a pirate ship (that rides on the seas of sand) and a semi-visually-defined monster roughly the same size as that ship. Following this scene (not so much an establishment of this fantasy world as a shotgun blast propelling us backwards into it), we find ourselves in a recognizable setting. A military squadron saddles up their humvee and sets course, speaking in generalized hoo-rah jargon in a scene which establishes basic character types. One of them is a jokester. One of them is the hard-as-nails commanding officer. One of them looks longingly at a picture of his family back home.

The movie is called Monster Hunter. No one ever said it was going to be subtle.

Suddenly (inexplicably, one might say), the squadron is caught up in a storm which lands them in a barren desert landscape (like the one from the previous scene. Hm…). It does not take long before they are chased by a large horned beast (a monster, if you will). They put up a good fight, but the creature quickly Continue reading Monster Hunter (2020) Movie Review