Secret Life of Pets 2 Review

It took the Walt Disney Company only five years after its first fully animated feature film to release what they dubbed a “package” film: a series of shorts strung together to feature length. In Disney’s case, package films were a necessity to ensure that they could make money during the war-torn 1940s. For Illumination Entertainment, the animation unit based in France that’s responsible for such feature-length mediocrities as Despicable Me and Sing, it took them nearly a decade to make their first package film.

And here, too, necessity no doubt drove Illumination to make its first package effort, because if they couldn’t make a franchise outside of the Minion-verse, then they’d have no film this year. Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a sequel to the 2016 hit, but this new picture is three mostly separate stories that could just as easily function as episodes of a TV show as they do as pieces of an aggressively inconsequential feature film.

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dark phoenix review

In Dark Phoenix, the weight of the film is placed on legacy. It is, after all, the capper for a nearly two decade-old franchise that helped catapult the superhero genre to the world-dominating standing it enjoys today. But ultimately, the only legacy of this corner of the X-Men franchise may be its wasted cast.

Longtime X-Men writer Simon Kinberg takes the directing reins for the final installment of the superhero series which started with the seminal X-Men. Back when X-Men debuted back in 2000, the superhero genre was still relatively untested, with successes like Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman film written off as exceptions rather than the norm. With a budget of only $75 million, X-Men was forced to tone down the superheroics and lean on intimate character moments — setting the standard somewhat for comic book films as character dramas with action sequences wedged in-between. Kinberg, who wrote the third film in the original X-Men trilogy, The Last Stand, brings Dark Phoenix back to those character drama roots, scaling back the stakes and giving prominence to emotional beats and tense dialogue exchanges filmed in extreme close-up.

This might’ve worked if not for the embarrassingly bad script and the apathetic performances of its talented cast who have long checked out of this franchise.

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rocketman featurette

In a perverse way, it makes sense that there are two films fighting for dominance in the middle of the musical biopic Rocketman. This story of the life and times of Elton John, sanctioned by the man himself, is unable to figure out whether it’s either a straightforward biopic in the vein of films like Walk the Line and Ray, or if it’s going to be a fantastical take on the English rocker’s songs, the same way that Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe re-contextualized the music of The Beatles. When Rocketman works — and it does work well enough that it deserves a mild recommendation — it’s because it leans far away from standard-issue storytelling. Like the performer, Rocketman is best when it lets its freak flag fly.

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godzilla prehistoric movie

Revealed at Comic-Con last July, the first trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters was glorious. The prospect of an elemental assault on the senses, wall-to-wall fights with 17 monsters — maybe even some poignant family drama — seemed to rise up before one’s ensorcelled eyeballs with every subsequent trailer.

If Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was the ultimate mechs-versus-monsters movie, then King of the Monsters promised to be the ultimate kaiju-versus-kaiju movie, a gift to Godzilla fans everywhere. Based on some of the early reactions as the movie drew nearer this May, I was expecting to be bludgeoned into submission by a repeating sledgehammer of kaiju action.

There’s some of that in the movie, though not as much as you might think. To talk about what works and what doesn’t in King of the Monsters, we’ll need to open a barrel of radioactive spoilers. Grab your hazmat suit, then, and let’s get to it before the earth unleashes a fever to fight “the human infection” and we all perish.

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The Wild Goose Lake Review

There’s something satisfyingly convoluted about Diao Yinan’s delightfully dense film The Wild Goose Lake, Cannes Film Festivalwhich recently played at the . Named after a vacation spot where the film is set, it’s a land of motorcycle thieves and bathing beauties, a criminal element living in a kind of mild truce with the local police. Read More »

Vivarium Review

I always figured there was no better case for birth control than being on a long flight with someone else’s screaming child. Vivarium ups the ante, finding domestic bliss even more harrowing in this clever yet frustrating Cannes Film Festival selection by Irish director Lorcan Finnegan. Read More »

A Portrait of a Lady on Fire Review

A Portrait of a Lady on Fire is, as the title evokes, an artistically rich and provocative film out of Cannes, one where the passions and obsessions of two women ignite in ways rarely seen on screen. A tour-de-force film by director Céline Sciamma, the film is both evocative and enervating, casting a spell on the audience that feels as dreamlike as the Britany seaside location. Read More »

Atlantics Review

Mati Diop’s Atlantics is notable for a number of reasons. First, it’s the first film from a black woman to ever play in competition in the Cannes film festival, a notable achievement in and of itself. Second, it’s tied to a number of other films at this festival that twist genres, incorporating elements from horror and thriller film into what’s ostensibly a story of lost love, where the ghosts of the past continue to haunt those left behind.

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Ma Trailer

It’s rare to see a movie that is so ballsy as to literally introduce a gun in the first act, only to potentially refuse to have that gun go off, defying the law of Chekhov’s Gun in fiction. Such may be the case, though, with Ma, a strange new thriller that eventually tips into straight-up horror. Much of the film, directed haphazardly by Tate Taylor, is all about hinting at what might be going on inside the mind of a seemingly friendly lady played by Octavia Spencer. As is often the case, the setup is better than the payoff.

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godzilla king of the monsters review

Mass extinction has never looked so gorgeous. Over a period of 132 mind-numbing minutes, Michael Dougherty‘s Godzilla: King of the Monsters lays waste to humanity with stunning tableaus colored in ghostly blues and faded golds, resulting in visual landscapes worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush. It’s a pity the world built around all that jaw-dropping monster mayhem is so damn dull. Cities are leveled, Lovecraftian monsters reign supreme, and the only thing I felt was a bad case of ennui. The ultimate kaiju smack-down shouldn’t be this boring.

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