Category Archives: Reviews

Netflix Notables

On Netflix before August ends, you can celebrate Alfred Hitchcock’s 120th birthday by watching one of his best films. Easily his most entertaining and accessible movie, “Strangers on a Train” speeds along like a powerful locomotive. If you’ve ever wondered why Hitchcock is so revered as an influential filmmaker, some of the shots and sequences in “Strangers” will answer that for you.

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Tinseltown Time Warp

Aided by a great cast, Quentin Tarantino steps back in time to 1969 with “Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood” and the result is a purposely fractured fairy tale that has all of the director’s trademark fun.

 Blending fact and fiction, Tarantino sets his L.A. story around Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a ‘fictitious’ once-popular TV actor who watches his ‘based on real’ neighbor Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) experience the film success he so desperately seeks. Showcasing Hollywood’s fickleness for celebrity, Tarantino gives us both sides: Rick’s desperation in seeing his own star fall while witnessing Sharon’s joy as her star rises.

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Rubber Soul

The litmus test for whether you’ll like this year’s reimagining of Tom Holland’s 1988 film “Child’s Play” and its murderous doll-star Chucky is a simple one: man or machine. In the original film, a human possessed Chucky; now, Chucky’s a robot.  Personally, I’ll take a soul over sensors any day.

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High School Confidential

Booksmart-SIt’s a rare high school comedy that manages to be both funny and insightful. Rarer still are those dodging easy crude laughs for introspective hard truths. “Booksmart” does both with a genuine feel for the speech and circumstances teens find themselves in on the brink of adulthood. Continue reading

Bolt from the Blue

Shazam-SIn a time when superhero movies have become sweeping sagas, DC Comics’ “Shazam!” is a breath of fresh air- it soars on the energetic current of a teen comedy dressed in caped crusader’s clothing.

The story behind “Shazam!” revolves around 14 year-old Billy Batson (solidly played by Asher Angel), a foster home runaway seeking his real mom. Separated in public, police threw Billy into social services before his mother could claim him. Knowing she’s out there, Billy uses his wits to gain illegal access to a police computer to track her but the plan backfires when police tail his lead and find Billy instead. Continue reading

Double Trouble

us-SIn his follow-up to “Get Out,” Jordan Peele replaces suspense for straight-out horror in “Us” and the results are a mixed bag: while the set-up is scary, the cause for the chaos gets convoluted.

Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, a woman vacationing with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) near Santa Cruz, California. In true horror fashion, Adelaide had a traumatic event occur to her as a child in Santa Cruz and neglected to mention this to Gabe, so just being there fills Adelaide with dread. Continue reading

2018: The Ones

Best of 2018-SWith the Oscars being presented on Sunday, February 24th, 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 2018 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 that I’ll remember- simply put, these are the ones:   Continue reading

A Fish Called Justice

Serenity-SIt’s never too early to be the worst movie of the year, and “Serenity” proves it.

The film takes place on Plymouth Island, a tropical isle where the sugar cane sways and zydeco music plays. Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughy), despite having an awesome porn star name, is an ex-vet fishing boat captain with an Ahab-like obsession for a big tuna roaming the coast who he’s named Justice. So great is Baker’s obsession with the fish that he can’t earn money chartering the boat when Justice is near and blames his bad luck capturing the fish on his right-hand man Duke (Djimon Hounsou), whose wife’s death Baker believes has cursed them into never catching Justice. Continue reading

Netflix Notables (Roma)

roma-SNow on Netflix is Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” an early Oscar favorite for directing and Golden Globe nominee for director, screenplay and foreign film. While most may give pause to watching a black-and-white, subtitled domestic drama with scenes in the style of Italian director Federico Fellini, those who see “Roma” may be as absorbed as I was. Continue reading

Bank On It

Widows-SIf character-driven crime dramas hold your interest, “Widows” rewards you with big dividends.

Set in Chicago, the crime catalyst for “Widows” is a $2 million robbery executed by a four-man team who, in turn, get executed by the SWAT unit called to the scene. The money is never recovered, but that doesn’t mean its power-hungry owner Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) doesn’t want it back. Manning confronts the lead heist man’s widow Veronica (Viola Davis) for retribution and gives her two weeks to return his two million…or else. Continue reading