Babadook review

(Note: this review originally ran in January during the Sundance Film Festival; we’ve republished it now as the film opens in theaters and on VOD this weekend.)

The Babadook is one of the best horror movies in years, a vigorous and hellishly intense story about a family on the edge of sanity. This isn’t a gore showcase, but a wild emotional roller coaster. (If you need a tonal touchstone, look to Polanski films such as Repulsion and The Tenant.) There is a monster of sorts, but the movie would almost be just fine without him — the actors put each other through fire and pain, and writer/director Jennifer Kent drops us right in there with them. Read More »

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Hunger Games MockingJay part 1 review

Note: This review was original published on November 10. We’ve bumped it up now that the film is in theaters. 

It’s a shame The Hunger Games series gets filed into the “young adult” category. Sure, there’s some dystopian young romance in there, but with each subsequent film, the series proves it is about much more than unattainable love with sporadic action. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 takes the series to its furthest point from YA stereotypes yet.

However, what’s most interesting about this latest installment — the first part of a two-part finale — is just how different it is from the rest of the franchise. Is that a good thing? Below, read why The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 feels like a different franchise. Read More »

Inherent Vice movie review

Paul Thomas Anderson never ceases to amaze. He makes a rain of frogs look plausible, turns Adam Sandler into an actor, and makes an iconic image out of drinking milkshakes. He’s always doing something surprising and wonderful. Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, is two hours of those moments loosely strung together with a detective narrative.

Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice stars Joaquin Phoenix as Doc, a ratty detective whose mysterious ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) asks for help with a supposed plot against her new squeeze. Doc obliges, as Doc does with many people in the film, but the movie never really cares about solving this mystery. It’s more interested in Doc’s pot-infused, Choose Your Own Adventure lifestyle where he says “yes” to everything and takes the ride that follows.

That ride introduces some absolutely insane, memorable characters played by the likes of Josh Brolin, Martin Short, Reese Withersooon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph and Jena Malone, all of whom pop in and out of Doc’s life on a whim. Some play significant roles, others do not, but Inherent Vice isn’t a movie about connecting these points. It’s pretty much just about the trip.

Inherent Vice had its Los Angeles Premiere at the AFI Fest presented by Audi and you can continue reading our Inherent Vice movie review below.

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American Sniper poster header

Director Clint Eastwood has great aspirations for American Sniper. First and foremost, he hopes to make a movie paying tribute to the most deadly sniper in the history of the United States. That’s the late Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper. He also hopes to show Kyle not as only a heroic solider, but a complex man confident in his actions and concerned about of their results. The film paints a grim picture of post-traumatic stress disorder and what it does to our veterans, especially in regards to their families. Finally, there’s also a drive to keep things exciting, so there are many gun battles in the deserts of Iraq.

Yes, American Sniper is an incredibly ambitious film with many moving parts. All of those parts work in certain instances, but only on rare occasions do they all come together at once. The disconnection makes the film fall just short of those great aspirations.

American Sniper had its World Premiere on Veterans Day at AFI Fest presented by Audi and you can read the rest of our review below. Read More »

final interstellar trailer

There’s no denying the visceral power and prowess of Christopher Nolan‘s Intersellar. The ninth film from the popular director is his most ambitious, and it looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The sets, miniatures, and images of space travel and planets all combine to make a film the scope of which rivals any other space movie.

Emotionally, the film comes close to achieving a similarly momentous effect. Interstellar follows Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a father forced to leave his family in a possibly mad attempt to preserve the future of humanity by finding another habitable planet. The tale is filled with drama, humor, intense action and surprising plot twists. There’s rarely a dull moment in the movie because the story is so compelling and poignant.

But maybe it’s all a bit too much. The script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, packs ideas and theories in every single scene. Concepts about love, survival, physics, and time burst from the film more prominently than the emotion and visuals. Even with a nearly three-hour runtime, so many ideas are presented that the film rarely has time to focus on one over another. The result is a technical marvel with a powerful narrative that ends up feeling a tad empty because we aren’t sure exactly which point it’s trying to make. Read More »

Interstellar daughter

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is one of the most ambitious, visually spectacular films I’ve sen this year. But it’s also a film with some really deep problems. In many ways, it highlights Nolan’s best and worst tendencies: his penchant for intricate, convoluted stories, his tendency to elide character work to move the plot along, and his knack for breathtaking visuals.

Hit the jump for my full video review of Interstellar. I discuss basic plot details about the film, but nothing I would consider spoilers. That being said, consider yourself warned.
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John Wick review

Ninety percent of action movies are derivative. Carbon copies of better movies that came before them. They can be enjoyable, but are often forgettable. Then there’s the other ten percent. Those movies are something special. They originate and innovate, and rise about the rest by being different and surprising. However, by definition, even the best of the best employ many of the same beats. Punching, kicking, shooting, and explosions are the building blocks of an action movie. The ninety percent use them in ways we’ve seen before. The rest mix them up in ways we don’t expect. John Wick is among the ten percent.

In the first film by accomplished stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, Keanu Reeves stars as an unstoppable assassin hell-bent on revenge after thugs steal his car and kill his dog. We’ve seen the assassin revenge story a hundred times, but John Wick feels different because it’s set in a unique, dirty, and lived-in world. Everyone has a reputation. Connections. They know each other. This is a place with a rich history simmering below the surface action of guns, choke holds and car crashes. What makes John Wick a standout action film is that it makes us curious. Read More »

birdman81

I saw Birdman Wednesday night at an advanced screening in downtown Seattle. I don’t think my audience knew what to make of it. It definitely suffers from many of the issues that Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s films typically fall prey to: overwrought dialogue; characters who serve as symbols or ideas nothing more; and a bit too much fixation on misery and regret.

Still, I loved Birdman and can’t stop thinking about it. Hit the jump for my video review, and share your thoughts on the film in the comments below.
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