Category Archives: Reviews

Apt Pupil

Director Scott Derrickson and actor Ethan Hawke reteam after reaching the heights of horror in 2012’s “Sinister” for “The Black Phone,” another twisted tale with a decidedly supernatural spin. Based on a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son), one may feel too much of a paternal pull when it comes to “Phone’s” plot.

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Return of the Fly

As sequels go, “Top Gun: Maverick” does exactly what I detest: in an effort to not offend fans of the original, it directly copies scenes from the original. Add stealing subplots from other aviation movies and “Maverick” makes lazy screenwriting seem like an art form.

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Creep

For fans of A24 horror movies (like Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” or Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” where cerebral replaces slashing) comes Alex Garland’s “Men,” a movie where images flesh out the exposition. If you like your scares spoon-fed, don’t waste your time. If visuals and mood make your blood curdle, Garland’s got you covered.

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The Spanish Prisoner

To its credit, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” would have been an enjoyable breezy buddy comedy had it not starred Nicholas Cage. With Cage, the movie benefits from his manic energy, movie history and unpredictability to make it lots of fun.

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2021: The Ones

With the Oscars being presented tonight, I like to focus on the films and performances that I found most memorable. In keeping with the tradition of the late Siskel & Ebert’s “If We Picked the Winners,” here are my standouts for 2021 using the nominees in the main Academy Award categories. While others try to second-guess Oscar politics with who ‘should win’ or ‘will win,’ I like to keep it simple. In case you missed any of them, these are the films and performances I’ll remember- simply put, these are the ones:  

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The Darker Knight

After reinvigorating the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, director Matt Reeves puts the Goth in Gotham City with “The Batman.” Since DC started as Detective Comics, it only makes sense for Reeves to create a dark and dirty detective drama where Batman is a sleuth saving his city.

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Love and Death

Kenneth Branagh returns as Agatha Christie’s super sleuth Hercule Poirot in “Death on the Nile” and it’s a far smoother ride than he provided with the Orient Express.

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Out of the Past

With the myriad of reboots and sequels we’ve been subjected to over the last few months, it only makes sense that 2022’s “Scream” keeps the original film’s tradition of spelling out the rules while creating terms for what it is: a ‘requel’ with returning cast members serving as ‘legacies’ to endorse the endeavor. However, by adhering to the rules without making the characters more interesting, it just traps this “Scream” into standard slasher fare.

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Alley Oops

Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” is a beautifully dark, atmospheric take on the 1947 original film noir starring Tyrone Power. Unfortunately, the new version’s tone is so dark that it makes its characters stiff and wooden in the process. As remakes go, “Nightmare Alley” pales in comparison to the first one’s fun in revealing the story’s twists and turns.

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Gucci Goo

More saga than soap opera, “House of Gucci” makes its true crime story its star. At a staggered  2 ½ hour run time, the film’s saved from sinking by an A-list array of actors providing interest in the intrigue and director Ridley Scott’s knack for creating a cinematic world in which to escape.

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