those who wish me dead review

There’s something refreshing about the simplicity of Those Who Wish Me Dead. This is not a franchise-starting vehicle. It’s not a remake, nor is it based on a comic book, or an old TV show (it is adapted from a novel, though). It’s just a simple damn story that goes from point A to point B. That doesn’t mean it’s very good, mind you. But in this age when everything feels prepackaged and focus-grouped out the wazoo, something as plain as this is like a breath of fresh air. The heroes are good, the villains are bad, and the script is lean. Almost too lean.

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spiral from the book of saw review

Serial killer Jigsaw is long dead but his lust for Rube Goldberg-like torture devices lives on in Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the ninth installment in the seemingly never-ending Saw series. But in many respects, Spiral feels like a sequel in name only. Hell, take that Book of Saw subtitle away and you have less of a Saw movie and more of a serial killer thriller that seems to be cribbing, badly, from Seven and its many knock-offs. Spiral has the unique distinction of featuring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, two of the biggest stars to ever grace this film series. But those hoping their star power will lend Spiral weight are in for a rude awakening.

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army of the dead review

Las Vegas is a war zone in Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder‘s gore-tastic shoot ’em up about a team of good-looking mercenaries trying to steal $200 million from a casino safe. That would be hard enough on its own, but to complicate matters, a zombie outbreak has turned Vegas into a place of non-stop death and carnage. And just to further complicate matters, the government has decided to drop a nuclear bomb on the Gambling Capital of the World. So our heroes have to dodge the living dead, break into a safe, and get the hell out of town before they get nuked. Sounds like a piece of cake, right?

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cliff walkers review

Zhang Yimou‘s name instantly calls to mind the bright, opulent colors of the renowned Chinese filmmaker’s wuxia films and historical epics — Hero and House of Flying Daggers are two of the most sumptuous films to grace our screens. So it’s no wonder that Cliff Walkers (formerly titled Impasse), Zhang’s first foray into the spy thriller, is a handsome and stylish thriller whose wintry setting establishes a chilly mood befitting the genre.

But it’s with a cold hand that Zhang approaches Cliff Walkers. It’s more of a chance for the visual master to flex his muscles in staging taut suspense sequences that flirt with the balletic action he’s known for (this time with more Bourne-style shaky cam!) and less of anything else. But it’s hard to complain too much about the stilted, somewhat confusing, story when Cliff Walkers looks this good.

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Tom Clancy's Without Remorse Featurette

The vast bibliography of the late Tom Clancy has inspired countless film and TV adaptations, but it’s also led to massively successful video-game series like Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon. Those games, and many other military-driven shooter games, feel like the true inspiration for the new straight-to-streaming film Without Remorse. Ostensibly, this actioner starring Michael B. Jordan is meant to inspire a potential long-running franchise with the tough-as-nails John Kelly taking down bad guys worldwide without any…well, just read the title. But Without Remorse has an incredibly functional, bland storytelling approach, making it as soulless as a cutscene from one of the many Clancy-inspired video games.

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mortal kombat review

Despite all its blood and guts and fatalities, the Mortal Kombat video game series has a certain silliness to it. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you – the silliness is part of the fun, part of the charm of it all. After all, Mortal Kombat is ultimately the story of characters punching and kicking each other for the fate of the world. Some of these characters are humans; some are robots; some are giant monsters with four arms; some are immortal ninjas; some are full-blown gods; it’s a rich, goofy tapestry. To adapt that into a movie requires the right sort of balance, and perhaps even a certain degree of camp. Which makes the new Mortal Kombat movie all the more frustrating. Here is a film taking itself so dreadfully serious that it forgets to let us have any fun. Worse than that, it’s kind of boring.

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The Mitchells vs the Machines Review

One of the great modern animated comedies is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, a loopy adaptation of the famous children’s story. The 2009 adaptation took the picture book’s basic concept of food falling from the sky instead of rain and snow, and warped it in delightful fashion as a disaster-movie parody with a surprisingly effective emotional undercurrent. That film’s directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, have shown themselves to be adept animation filmmakers, also serving as major guiding forces on The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so their presence behind the scenes of the new Netflix release The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a sign of hopefully high quality. And mercifully, that’s very much the case with this enormously funny, big-hearted comedy that manages to take what could be an exhausting but timely technological argument and twist it into gleeful pretzels.

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Thunder Force Review

Imagine a world much like our own, but with one key difference: nearly 40 years ago, after an interplanetary blast of cosmic rays, some people were gifted with superpowers. There’s just one nefarious twist: the only people who gained these powers were likely to be sociopaths. So, in essence, what if, 40 years ago, supervillains were created but without an opposing force of good to stop them? How would these cruel villains run rampant over the societies of the world? What nasty plans would they have for the rest of us, who would be hopeless to fight back? What dystopic horrors would be enacted upon us all?

These are among the very reasonable questions raised and promptly, bafflingly ignored by the new Netflix action comedy Thunder Force, whose very basic premise is a lot more interesting than its filmmakers are willing to explore. Aside from that setup, the real premise is “What if Melissa McCarthy got superpowers?” That must have been the elevator pitch for McCarthy and her husband/frequent collaborator, Ben Falcone (who wrote and directed Thunder Force). That setup is all well and good, but this whole film feels like an elevator pitch: tossed off without any detailed thought. It’s true that this is, compared to Falcone’s other directorial efforts, pretty much the cream of the crop. But that doesn’t make Thunder Force any good.

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the unholy review

In the 1990s, folks beginning to discover the internet also came across “internet screamers.” These were jump-scare-laden pranks that took the shape of videos or sometimes games. The set-up was almost always the same: you’d be instructed to turn your computer volume up before watching a video, and the video would start off utterly benign and innocuous – something resembling a car commercial, for example.

And just when you were beginning to wonder what the point of the video was, BAM!!, something (usually some type of ghoulish face) would suddenly pop onto the screen with a loud, blaring noise and make you fall out of your chair. These videos were cheap, deceptive, and ultimately effective – they weren’t scary, but they were startling. They also seem to have inspired an entire subgenre of studio horror film – the type of movie where there are no real scares save for the occasional ghoul face slamming into the camera. The latest entry in this internet screamers subgenre is The Unholy, a subpar religious horror flick that has the makings of something better.

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godzilla vs kong review

What do we want from the MonsterVerse, Warner Bros. and Legendary’s attempt to Marvel-ize the world of Godzilla, King Kong, and several other big beasties? The answer seems to be: big, loud, entertaining mayhem, and here comes Godzilla vs. Kong to hopefully deliver on that. Time and time again, when one of these movies comes out, they’re pilloried for their lackluster human characters. These criticisms are inevitably met with a defensive “Who cares?! I watch these movies for the monsters, not the people!”

This is a weak defense because ultimately, these movies are more about humans than they are monsters. It’s clear that the folks making these movies want the audience to care about the human characters. When 2014’s Godzilla arrived, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was cited as an inspiration by several people close to the production. But no one ever says, “I only watch Jaws for the shark!” It’s the human moments – Brody, Hooper, and Quint sharing drunken scar stories; etc. – that makes Jaws so special. If your monster movie is going to be primarily focused on humans with occasional bursts of monster action, you better make sure those humans are at least slightly interesting and relatable.

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