Category Archives: Action/Thriller

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

In Lake Tahoe, 1969, four guests arrive at the El Royale, a motel that sits at the borderline between Nevada and California. A painted line divides the parking lot and the motel interior in half. “You can choose to stay in the great state of California,” desk clerk Miles (Lewis Pullman) explains, with a practiced sweep of his arm. “Or you can choose to stay in the great state of Nevada.”

Miles seems to be the sole employee in the establishment. He does the housekeeping. He tends the bar. He doles out the keys. And he watches who management tells him to watch.

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The El Royale hasn’t seen much business since the place lost its gambling license the year prior, according to the all-talk vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) waiting for service at the counter. But on this particular night Continue reading Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Review

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Venom (2018) Movie Review

Venom is a notable part of Marvel’s Spider-Man universe, acting as both a part of the web-swinger’s rogue’s gallery and an occasional anti-hero. Comprised of an alien “symbiote” that needs a host to achieve a full physical form, Venom initially bonded with Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) before finding Parker’s enemy Eddie Brock.

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Ruben Fleischer’s 2018 Venom has plenty of alien symbiotes bonding with hosts. It has an Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), the rueful journalist hungry to bring down the corrupt Life Foundation. But beyond that, it is Continue reading Venom (2018) Movie Review

Assassination Nation (2018) Movie Review

Fear of shattered privacy. Aggression and bigotry stemming from deep-seated insecurities. The fetishization of the female figure, leading to the suppression of the artistic expression of the naked female form. The potential outcome of arming oneself, literally, against the patriarchy. The depiction of the inability for modern punitive powers from preventing internet trolls. And, more or less, a The Purge scenario.

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This is only a handful of the disparate ideas tackled in Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation, a film about four teenage girls (Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, and Abra) stuck in Continue reading Assassination Nation (2018) Movie Review

Lizzie (2018) Movie Review

Lizzie Borden was a notorious figure. She was a news sensation long before the 24-hour news cycle was a germ in Ted Turner’s head. In 1892, Borden’s parents were murdered with an ax, and she was the prime suspect. It was a big deal. I mean, you know you’ve struck a cultural nerve when children skip rope to rhymes of your homicidal exploits.

Congratulations, Lizzie. You made it. They even made a movie dramatizing your life. Again.

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Craig William Macneill’s version of events in Lizzie is intended as a pot-boiler, tension simmering amid a terse domestic drama that boils over rapidly in the climax. On both accounts—simmering and boiling—things feel Continue reading Lizzie (2018) Movie Review

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Movie Review

In The House with a Clock in Its Walls, poor man’s Jacob Tremblay, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) moves into his Uncle Jonathan’s (Jack Black) house in Michigan following the untimely death of his parents. The house, decorated at the gate with year-round pumpkins, is filled with clocks. One of these clocks resides within the walls.

Get it?

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Jonathan is a bearded man who wears kimonos and top hats, aka a warlock. He eats enough cookies (and nothing else) that he is, optimistically, pre-diabetic. His platonic roommate Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is defined by her love of purple. And his nephew, Young Sheldon, is precocious beyond what is healthy for a child. He quotes dictionary entries for fun. That’s what we’re working with here.

Just as Lewis gets settled into his new living environment, he realizes everything inside his house is Continue reading The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Movie Review

A Simple Favor (2018) Movie Review

A Simple Favor is a mystery film with a sleek aesthetic and a windy plot saturated with plot twists that charge forward to a cat-on-mouse-on-mouse game of a final act. With Paul Feig behind the wheel, it cannot help but also be a riotously overt dark comedy with full on laugh lines punctuating most moments of purported tension. It is a film that aims to be both thrilling and funny, which turns out to not be entirely either.

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And I kinda like it…

A Simple Favor is a film that revels in its sheer messiness, like a child who spills his milk with a smile on his face just to get attention. The plot begins fairly simply. Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is Continue reading A Simple Favor (2018) Movie Review

The Predator (2018) Movie Review

The Predator is proof that 1980s action movies cannot be made today. Cult favorite Shane Black and his writing partner Fred Dekker have concocted a sequel-reboot stuffed to the ears with the worst of ’80s action tropes. But at least there’s an alien in it, right?

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The Predator makes abundantly clear the premise of its franchise. Characters repeatedly Continue reading The Predator (2018) Movie Review