Review: Charm keeps “Fate of the Furious” from stalling

The final 45 minutes of "The Fate of the Furious" are some of the most gleefully ridiculous in the 16-year franchise. There are cars on ice, a Russian submarine and The Rock redirecting a torpedo with his bare hands. Miles above, another character gets in a blistering fight on plane, a gun in one hand and a baby in the other. Director F. Gary Gray delivers pure insanity, which is what the Fast and Furious movies do best.It's a welcome boost of adrenaline. Because in its earliest going, this i … [Read more...]

Review: Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor return for another hit in “T2 Trainspotting”

The 1996 cult classic "Trainspotting" was released 12 years prior to director Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" and three years before star Ewan McGregor became a Jedi. Based on Irvine Welsh's acclaimed novel, its scuzzy, rough-around-the-edges aesthetic fit its energetic, seat-of-your-pants vibe. It holds up as a surreal, vibrant, sometimes horrifying look at youth, friendship and drug culture in 1990s Edinburgh.Trading raucous energy for a creak in the bones and reckless opt … [Read more...]

Review: “Beauty and the Beast” charms, never fully enchants

Disney's recent trend of remaking its animated classics has been successful because of the studio's ability to find new angles on beloved tales. "Cinderella" added a dose of compassion and was anchored by a fantastic performance by Lily James. "Jungle Book" found new notes of menace and adventure. "Pete's Dragon" brought soul to a silly, slapdash story. This approach has allowed these live-action remakes to stand proudly alongside, and sometimes above, their animated predecessors.But what do … [Read more...]

Review – John Wick: Chapter Two

I've seen several movies begin with a car chase. "John Wick: Chapter Two" is the only movie I've seen begin with a car fight.John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is the former contract killer who sought revenge on the criminals who killed his puppy and stole his car in 2014's sleeper hit. He ended that film with a new dog; as the sequel opens, he's returning for the car.As a mob boss (Peter Stormare) panics about Wick's impending return, the title character stalks through a warehouse like a slasher, … [Read more...]

Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

See, Zach Snyder? Batman can be fun.Since  Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" plunged the Caped Crusader into morally dubious territory in the 1980s, Batman has been defined by a grim aesthetic. Tim Burton made him a tortured weirdo; Chris Nolan a grounded-but-haunted vigilante. "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" depicted him as an angry dudebro, branding his symbol into thugs' flesh and trying to kill Superman. He's become pretty one-note.Sure, Batman's always been a character t … [Read more...]

Movies We Need: All the President’s Men

In light of the unprecedented times we're living in and the national turmoil surrounding us, I'm embarking on a semi-regular project called Movies We Need. As a believer that cinema can encourage action, restore hope and generate empathy, these are films that I believe speak to our times. Movie: All the President's Men (1976) Director: Alan J. Pakula Availability: Streaming on HBO Now/Go, available for rental on Google/ITunes, and on DVD/Blu-Ray You guys are about to write a story that say … [Read more...]

Review: “Moana”

In a year of uncertainty, one thing has held true: Don't bet against Disney.Sure, the Mouse House stumbled this summer with the box office disappointment of Steven Spielberg's "The BFG" (although I've heard that it's quite good), but they've been successful almost everywhere else. Not only have Disney's live action and animated offerings raked in the money, but they've also been critically acclaimed. "Zootopia" turned another anthropomorphized animal comedy into a timely story about … [Read more...]

“Hell House” and shock-and-awe evangelism

 George Ratliff’s  “Hell House,” (2002) resonates with me in a way few documentaries have. Its depiction of evangelicalism is strikingly familiar. When its church members speak about sin, salvation, and Hell, I hear phrases that could have come from my own lips 20 years ago. As I’ve returned to the film over 10 years, my relationship to it has changed. At first, I was sympathetic to the members of Trinity Church, located in Cedar Hill, Texas. Years later, I was frustrated. Now, I find th … [Read more...]

Review: “Pete’s Dragon”

"Pete's Dragon" returns wonder to family movies.Director David Lowery's remake of the 1977 Disney musical ditches the songs and slapstick and spins a gentle tale of friendship, family, healing and faith.  Told with beauty and charm, it's one of the best family films in a year filled with great ones, and a reminder that Disney knows the key to effective remakes — hiring directors who can find a story's soul.Lowery relocates the tale from a Maine fishing seaport to a lumber town in the Pac … [Read more...]

Review: “Ghostbusters”

"Ghostbusters" is what happens when originality clashes with lucrative intellectual property.Truthfully, Paul Feig's remake of Ivan Reitman's beloved 1984 comedy is about as good as you could hope for. In its best moments, the cast makes you forget about the original and accept this new version as its own funny, weird thing. But those moments are too often undercut by awkward references to the first film, as if it's haunted by the specter of Peter Venkman.Feig veers from the trend of … [Read more...]