Tag Archives: movie review

In the Heights (2021) Movie Review

In the Heights is the first big post-pandemic movie to feel like a theatrical event. That was my experience, anyway. And this is coming from someone who’s never seen the stage play from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Algeria Hudes. Someone who has only a passing knowledge of film musicals in general.

Tenet was pushed early in the pandemic as the theatrical savior (I recall the whole world chanting in chorus, “if Chris Nolan can’t do it, then who can”). That proved to be too early and, frankly, not nearly splashy enough for a blockbuster. Just last weekend, A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella sparked life into an American box office which had been more or less comatose for over a year. The former is a popcorn-munching thriller with its pluses and minuses (I can’t speak to the latter). But it’s not In the Heights.

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Jon M. Chu’s follow-up to the lavish and vibrant Crazy Rich Asians doubles down on the extravagance, painting the blocks of Washington Heights, NYC with lively choreography and the occasional cinematic flourish. The film feels Continue reading In the Heights (2021) Movie Review

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Movie Review

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was a massive success in 2018, when it was met with a large box office cume and critical appreciation. In part, this critical fascination was due to the sheer silence the film conjured in its theatrical audience. With the sound design so deliberate (and so dedicated to being quiet), idle chatter and candy wrapper rustling in the theater was tacitly discouraged.

A Quiet Place has its moments, showcasing Krasinski’s ability to plant overt seeds in suspenseful sequences which (at their best) conjure delightful tension. Perhaps not the most groundbreaking horror-thriller, but it is not hard to see why it was such a crowd-pleaser.

A Quiet Place Part II—which is now being discussed as one of the first resuscitative heartbeats at the domestic box office since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—has the Continue reading A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Movie Review

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Movie Review

I hadn’t stepped foot in a movie theater in 425 days. It is perhaps the longest consecutive stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing a movie in a theater since I’ve been able to walk. And, all things considered, I made good use of those 425 days. I researched, drafted, and completed a master’s thesis (on horror movies that are nothing like Spiral: From The Book of Saw, but the Saw franchise certainly has an important place in the history I was looking at). I am on the verge of earning my master’s degree; and the time commitment probably would have kept my theater-going to a minimum even if the world was not facing a crisis.

None of this is particularly relevant to my review of Spiral: From The Book of Saw, save for the fact that this was the film that broke my 425-day streak. And I thought it fitting to return to theaters with the type of movie that really keeps me invested in film art: pure horror genre schlock.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw may be the oddest horror sequel title ever thought up (who wrote the book of Saw? Is it available at my local library? Is it like an Anarchist Cookbook type deal, where it teaches you how to concoct sadistic death traps just like John Kramer used to? So many questions that have no answer). It is entirely possible that Continue reading Spiral: From the Book of Saw (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

Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Movie Review

The premise of Willy’s Wonderland resembles the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. Everyone knows it. They probably knew it when they made the movie. Call it a ripoff if you’d like. I can’t really say, myself, as I’ve never played the games (from what I understand, the enjoyment derives mostly from jump scares, which just ain’t my bag). But there is something to the idea that Willy’s Wonderland is a video game movie of sorts. For one thing, the unnamed protagonist played by Nicolas Cage doesn’t speak—a feature of many a video game.

Cage’s character, a silent stranger who rolls into the rural town of Hayesville, Nevada (the town is so untouched by the modern world that it does not have an iota of internet access), finds himself with his tires blown out on the side of the highway. Towed back to town, he doesn’t have the money to afford repairs. Luckily, Continue reading Willy’s Wonderland (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

Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Director Tim Hunter is perhaps best known for the crime drama River’s Edge starring Keanu Reeves. He has since directed the occasional feature, but most of his work is done on television programs. Fittingly, his Smiley Face Killers has the appearance of a teen drama show (like Riverdale or Scream: The TV Series, two shows Hunter has worked on).

I don’t say this disparagingly; it is simply an apparent feature. The young actors are lit and shot like they are models in an advertisement. Soft focus accentuates them in the frame. Soft, high key lighting highlights their features. At one point, a major character strips down and takes a shower, and the camera lingers on Continue reading Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Movie Review

One of the first lines of dialogue in Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. KongĀ 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

Bad Trip (2021) Movie Review

Eric Andre and Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip, a loosely-narrativized prank film, was a casualty of theaters closing in 2020. Now, what was originally planned for theatrical release has landed on the front page of Netflix. It is a common fate for films nowadays. But, perhaps unexpectedly, this mid-budget comedy is one of those lost 2020 films which would probably have played best in a crowded theater environment. So…you could call it the Tenet of comedy.

The film strings together a thin plot involving Chris (Andre) who, after being starstruck by the re-entry of his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin) into his life, brings his friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery) on a roadtrip to New York City to win her heart. Meanwhile, Bud’s sister (Tiffany Haddish), who recently escaped from prison, hunts Bud and Chris down for stealing her car. However, the real selling points of the movie are Continue reading Bad Trip (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