Batman Hush review

“Deep down, he’s a good person, and deep down, I’m not,” Batman says as he’s about to fight his brainwashed pal Superman in the latest DC Animated Movie Universe release, Batman: Hush. There might not be a single line that better captures Batman’s simultaneously toxic self-loathing and self-mythologizing quite so succinctly in relation to his most hopeful (and much more socially-adjusted) friend and thematic foil.

It’s also such a casually badass Batman line that I couldn’t imagine a movie adaptation of the classic Batman: Hush comic, which was written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, without it. The new film, directed by Justin Copeland from an adapted screenplay by Ernie Altbacker, is full of savvy pulls like this one and cuts alike, slimming a sprawling 12-part saga into a lean 80-minute feature. They preserve nearly all the key themes of the originally printed murder-mystery while making changes big and small along the way. (Small change: Batman wears a pair of kryptonite brass knuckles instead of a single kryptonite ring to fight Supes). Some of the biggest changes in the film’s ending even recontextualize Batman and Catwoman’s final moments of the story, but the film holds together fabulously nonetheless. Let’s talk about why. Read More »

bunuel in the labyrinth of the turtles review

“How do you change the world?” It’s a question posed to famous surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel by a group of intellectuals debating the merits of art or political action to combat the rising forces of fascism in Europe in the opening scene of Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles. Buñuel, inexplicably wearing a nun habit and a smug smile, doesn’t answer. But he doesn’t need to — his art is what speaks for him. In his lyrical animated film, director Salvador Simó also lets the art speak for itself, painting an earthy, dreamlike portrait of the surrealist filmmaker as he overcomes financial and personal challenges to shoot his 1933 documentary Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan.

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where'd you go bernadette review

Despite its premise, and the jigsaw puzzle of a novel by Maria Semple upon which it’s based, there isn’t much mystery to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Based on the 2012 comedy novel of the same name, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? follows a picture-perfect family left reeling when the titular mother, an agoraphobic architect, suddenly goes missing. Semple’s novel is a character mystery, driven by Bernadette’s daughter Bee as she investigate’s her mother’s disappearance.

But as directed and co-written by Richard LinklaterWhere’d You Go, Bernadette? lays it all on the table immediately, embodied by Cate Blanchett‘s zippy, mile-a-minute performance that rips through the film like a tsunami. Subtlety and enigma aren’t in the vocabulary of this film, which sees Linklater shedding his more naturalistic directing style in favor of the broad comedy that characterized his major studio films like School of Rock. But the absurd comedy stylings of Where’d You Go, Bernadetteend up clashing majorly with the film’s more understated themes about the power of artistic expression, resulting in a film that loses itself in the weeds.

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47 meters down uncaged review

Ever since Steven Spielberg unleashed a great white off the shores of Amity, sharks have been chowing down on swimmers on the big and small screen. Much like sharks themselves, the sharksploitation subgenre has to continue to swim or it will die. Nothing will ever come close to Spielberg’s Jaws, but every now and then we get a nice surprise – like 2016’s The Shallows. The low-rent shark thriller 47 Meters Down swam in the wake of The Shallows, and while it was nowhere near as good or stylized, it had its moments. And it was also a surprise hit. Now here comes 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, a sequel in name only.

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scary stories to tell in the dark spoiler review

In 1981, Harper published Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and decades of nightmares followed. The books were aimed at young readers, but the often disturbing stories accompanied by terrifying illustrations both traumatized – and thrilled – generations. Now, Scary Stories comes to the big screen, thanks to Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal. Does the film adaptation have the power of the books? Or were these Scary Stories not worth telling? Spoilers follow.

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the art of racing in the rain review

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a movie 10 years in the making. Based on the New York Times bestseller by Garth Stein, Universal acquired the rights to the film back in 2009, and over the next decade, studio after studio would go through a rotating roster of stars and directors best suited to bring the story to life. The current incarnation, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, and Kevin Costner as the voice of a very philosophical dog, only came together two years ago. And if you asked me if those 10 years were worth it, I’d have to tell you, no.

But The Art of Racing in the Rain isn’t a waste of time, per se. As it is — a weepy tearjerker that tugs at heartstrings and provides a healthy dose of Ventimiglia holding a puppy in his buff arms — The Art of Racing in the Rain is more a way to while away the time in a world where every bend, every curve in the narrative is a little too smooth, and every treacly sentiment is doled out like dog treats. Predictable and rote, The Art of Racing in the Rain nevertheless has its heart in the right place, even if there is not much art to it and precious little racing.

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brian banks trailer

Some true stories can be both entirely remarkable, and still not appropriate dramatically for the current moment. Take, for instance, the story of Brian Banks. When he was 16, Brian was a high-school football star accused of rape by a female classmate. Even with shaky evidence, Brian was sentenced to six years in prison despite maintaining his innocence. Years later, Brian managed to convince enough people within the California legal system that he didn’t commit this crime that his entire conviction and sex-offender status were overturned. This makes up the core story of Brian Banks, a fictionalized version of his journey. As a true story, it’s remarkable. But the translation from truth to cinema leaves something wanting.

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Yellow Rose Review

More than 15 years in the making, Yellow Rose is more than a love letter to country music and the Lone Star State of Texas. It paints a loving portrait of a young undocumented Filipino American Texan living her right to settle in her homeland of Texas and make her own music. Crafted by writer-director Diane Paragas, a Filipino American with lived experiences in Texas, Yellow Rose can be unsettling due to its imperative responsiveness to the current events where xenophobia exacerbated into institutional human rights abuses – seizures of families, separations of parents and children, and other countess abuses that will reverberate through the incoming decades of America. Without denying drudgery, rest assured that Yellow Rose perseveres with a melodic spirit anchored by the soulful ruggedness of star Eva Noblezada. 

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Incredible Shrinking Wknd Review

We’ve all had moments we wish we could redo, so that we could say something better or not say it at all. If only we could get a redo, another take…

The Incredible Shrinking Wknd, written and directed by Jon Mikel Caballero, is the story of Alba (Iria del Rio), a young woman freshly turned 30 who still lives with her parents. She’s the life of the party whom everyone loves until the music stops. Her and five friends trek out to a cottage for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and get drunk in the woods. Right off the bat, we findt that Alba is a bit of a clutz, having forgotten to mention that the cottage has no running water. Luckily, they have plenty of beer, which they drink en masse along with a big dinner. It all seems to be going well, until mere hours after arriving, Pablo (Adam Quintero), Alba’s boyfriend of three years, breaks up with her. More precisely, he says he needs time. Instead, he freezes in time and Alba is afforded just that. A few moments later Alba is transported back to the passenger seat of the car, on her way to the cottage. Unaware at first that the day is repeating itself, Alba thinks that they are staying an extra day. When Pablo breaks up with her again, she suspects that something is off. Like maybe the linearity of time. 

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scary stories to tell in the dark review

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a title a simple as it is effective — it warns of the unknown lurking in the dark while crooking a finger to invite you in. “Listen, at your own risk,” Alvin Schwartz‘s collection of scary stories for children seems to say, welcoming only the most daring of thrill-seekers. But more than just a mere compilation of scary campfire stories, Schwartz’s three-book collection of urban myths and legends has transcended the oral histories of its stories to become a cultural giant in its own right. Stephen Gammell’s drawings grotesque and ghostly illustrations helped cement the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, published between 1981 and 1991, as staples of many a horror lover’s childhood.

André Øvredal‘s feature film adaptation of Schwartz’s beloved children’s books is heavily inspired by the Gammell’s macabre drawings, so unnervingly so that one could mistake this as a horror film for a much older audience. But Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is very much geared toward a younger audience, one that will surely embrace the film as a classic for a new generation of horror lovers. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark effectively captures the primal horror of campfire stories while doing justice by Schwartz’s creepy designs in a marriage of old-fashioned practical thrills and sleek modern effects.

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