Swallow Review

If one were to compile a list of alienated housewives in film, it would be long enough to clog the kitchen sink. There’s something inherently cinematic about a pretty white woman picking furniture from a catalogue with a cigarette in one hand and a dead look in her eyes. But when a film lingers only at the surface of alienation, it becomes as tiresome as the patriarchal devices that the film is trying to subvert. Influenced no doubt by Todd Haynes’ masterpiece Safe and engaging with Margaret Atwood’s first novel The Edible Woman, Swallow leaves a disappointing aftertaste.

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extreme job remake

When waiting in line to see the second most-viewed film in Korean history, expectations are high. Fortunately, Extreme Job did not disappoint. Well, mostly. Silly and inventive, Lee Byeong-heon’s police comedy keeps the gags coming, until a tiring last half hour.

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Sadako Review

Ringu director Hideo Nakata returns from whence he came with Sadako, another J-Horror offshoot inspired by Kôji Suzuki’s malevolent novels. Audiences more familiar with Gore Verbinski’s The Ring remake should understand this foreign import favors storytelling over paralyzing scares – or, at least attempts to highlight scripted intrigue. That’s not to say previous Ringu-adjacent titles care only about jumps, but Sadako barely musters enough fear to meet Shudder’s Sadako vs. Kayako crossover. Which, if you’ve seen the heavyweight rumble, isn’t a particularly high bar to vault over.

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stuber review

Mismatched odd couples don’t always a great comedy make, but Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani certainly make the case for it in the modest action-comedy vehicle Stuber. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie can’t keep up with their screwy, sweet buddy-comedy chemistry and ends up almost petering out thanks to a lazy script that could have used a little more time at the mechanic.

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crawl review

A congregation of hungry gators are on the hunt in CrawlAlexandre Aja‘s gory B-movie that doesn’t quite want to admit it’s a B-movie. Moving at a brisk pace, and trimmed of almost all fat, Crawl manages to make a big splash, generating plenty of disaster-movie-meets-monster-movie chills. Yet Crawl is a film with an identity crisis. It’s not quite trashy enough to be an amusing B-movie, and one can’t help but think that Aja is taking all of this killer alligator stuff way too seriously. That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had.

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The Lion King Review

Criticism is not consumer reporting, despite what some may tell you. If it was, this review of The Lion King  would be exceptionally short. I’d simply point you to Amazon, where you can purchase a digital copy of the 1994 animated film of the same name for roughly the same amount of money as a movie-theater ticket, a drink and some candy would get you for watching a new version of the same story. But criticism isn’t consumer reporting; it’s an attempt to analyze what does and doesn’t work in any given work of art.  To discuss Jon Favreau’s remake of this blend of naturalism and Shakespearean drama, and to briefly highlight how grossly misunderstood and misguided the film is, is no simple task.

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the farewell review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The Farewell hits theaters on July 12, 2019.)

In 2018, rapper and actress Awkwafina broke out in a big way, delivering memorable turns in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Those two particular performances were indeed enjoyable and fun, but they also bordered on schtick – the actress was very much playing characters; individuals that felt cooked up primarily in the minds of screenwriters. In Lulu Wang‘s lovely, melancholy The Farewell, Awkwafina breaks out in a much bigger way with her first major role, creating a wholly realistic character, and revealing a talent for dramatic acting that you may not have realized she possessed. It’s an incredible performance.

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stranger things 3 spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Stranger Things 3.)

When Netflix provided me with screeners to review Stranger Things 3, they included a laundry list of spoilers that could not, under any circumstance, be mentioned in the review. As a rule, I try to avoid any and all spoilers in a general review, but this list was daunting to say the least. Now, the cat is out of the bag. Stranger Things 3 dropped on July 4, and I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you went ahead and binged the entire season over the holiday weekend. That means its time to head back to Hawkins, and delve into the details that Netflix was so hellbent on keeping a secret.

Spoilers follow – obviously.

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Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary Review

Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary is a very stupid movie, and I don’t mean that as a judgement of its quality. It is stupid in the way that Dumb & Dumber is stupid: it’s about stupid characters doing stupid things, and it generates some stupid fun along the way.

The heroes of Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary are no Ghostbusters. They’re the Ghoulbusters, a knowingly IP-breaching squad of paranormal investigators, known mostly for their YouTube channel of middling repute. Their nominal leader is played by one of Brazil’s top comedians, which should be a lesson not to write off performers English-speaking audiences haven’t heard of. Behind on rent and low on morale, the Ghoulbusters’ days are spent fending off angry commenters and thinking up new ways of faking ghosts. 

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Why Don't You Just Die Review

Earning points for its title before it even started, Russian director Kirill Sokolov’s debut Why Don’t You Just Die? won the audience award at this year’s Cinepocalypse Film Festival in Chicago. For genre fans, it’s easy to see why: the film is a screaming crowd-pleaser, fast-paced and extremely bloody, full of cinematic and narrative tricks. If ever there was a film determined to keep its audience’s attention, it’s this one.

Like the films it clearly takes after, Why Don’t You Just Die? starts small, then spirals outward. Without a hint of buildup, young antihero Matvei shows up at a detective’s apartment, bearing only a hammer and an instruction to kill. His target Andrei, however, senses something’s up, and their tense initial greeting rapidly becomes a no-holds-barred deathmatch, with any object in the apartment up for grabs as a weapon. Matvei is beaten and imprisoned, then escapes, then the conflict continues.

That’s all within the first twenty minutes or so.

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