X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Review

2 Stars

X-Men: Apocalypse is neither the best nor the worst in the franchise, It’s simply the newest. After eight movies in sixteen years, this series is notable for retaining its creative forces, but everything has become one episodic tale that would be impenetrable for newbies. At this point X-Men is the longest running of the superhero tales invading theaters. Sure, Superman and Batman have been matinĂ©e idols since their reinvention in the 70’s and 80’s, but those roles been recast numerous times, different directors have given their take, and audience reaction has varied drastically from film-to-film. At least the X-Men series gets credit for rebooting whiling also finding ways to still integrate the original stars.
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Finding Dory (2016) – Review

4 Stars

Finding Dory reunites audiences with the absent-minded blue tang fish from the Pixar smash Finding Nemo. This side character made such an impression that she’s been given a spin-off/sequel to further explore the plights of that forgetful fish deep within the aqua blue seas of an disclosed Oceanic reef. Filled with the typical visual splendor of the Disney/Pixar brand, Finding Dory looks to capture the title of timeless classic that only a few titles from the mouse house have ever attained.
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

I’ve seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice twice, and I’m still not clear on every plot development that transpires throughout. Unfortunately, this highly anticipated pairing of the most popular characters within the DC Comic universe is just as ungainly as its wordy title. This is an unwieldy epic that has moments of cinematic exuberance and others that display the current weakness of the over-saturated genre. Still, the visual style and filmmaking verve of director Zack Synder often off-sets the films shortcomings.
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King Kong (2005) – Review

4 Stars

Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong is marvelous and meticulous entertainment. No expense has been spared or shortcuts taken in delivering the ‘wow’ factor multiple times throughout the course of its lighting quick 183 minute running-time. Don’t let the elongated length dissuade you from the film, there is hardly a dull moment as the characters are thrown together on a steamer headed to the mysterious Skull Island. The film has been structured as three major movements from the depression era streets of New York to battling all sorts of prehistoric creatures and then climaxing with a battle atop the Empire State Building.
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Steel (1997) – Review

1/2 Star

Fanboys and websites love to debate about the worst comic book movie ever made. Often times Batman & Robin, Elektra and Fantastic Four are cited as the worst cinematic representation of our illustrated superheroes. But Steel is by far the most inept, poorly produced, and plain boring of all the DC or Marvel properties that have graced the silver screen thus far. Based on a little known character from the pages of the Superman mythos, Steel has been removed from his comic book storyline, given a new origin story, and a fabricated antagonist.
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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) – Review

3 Stars

Before the resurgence and eventual domination of the box-office by superheroes, this 1993 animated theatrical release was considered one of the greatest superhero films of all time, regardless of the fact it ran concurrently with the television show. Among fans of the Caped Crusader there was a debate that raged from 1993 to 2005. Is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm better than the live-action films of the Burton/Schumacher era?
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The Black Cauldron (1985) – Review

2 Stars

Walt Disney Studio’s uneven output during the 1970-1980s was a cause for dis-concern amongst those that had grown up with the seminal classics from the mouse house. I didn’t grow interested in animated Disney pictures until The Little Mermaid, which also happened to be the hit that reignited the studio’s dominance. Going back and revisiting The Black Cauldron, over thirty years later, this in an undeniably weak entry in the venerable history of Disney classics.
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Top Dog (1995) – Review

1 Star

Chuck Norris teams with a canine in the redundant buddy-cop action picture, Top Dog. Taking its cues from Turner & Hooch, K-9, and Beethoven, this wanna-be family friendly action flick just doesn’t work. The cheap looking production resembles an episode of Norris’ long-running television series Walker, Texas Ranger. Directed by his brother, Arron Norris, Top Dog lacks well-staged action sequences, comedic beats, or any chemistry between actors and animals.
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McFarland, USA (2015) – Review

4 Stars

From its opening frame till the final shot McFarland, USA is right on target. Thanks to swift, assured direction from New Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) and another winning performance from Kevin Costner, the film never lags for interest and proves, yet again, that a sports movie can raise themes that stimulate the mind and tug at the heartstrings. McFarland, USA is ideal family viewing for those tired of animated fare.
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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed over $450 million at the domestic box office this summer. Yet, it somehow feels as if it was lost in the shuffle of Jurassic World, Mission Impossible and Mad Max. The sequel doesn’t manage to hit the creative peaks of The Avengers (2012) but, it is a solid popcorn entertainment piece with occasional flashes of brilliance. Murky plotting and a soggy second act nearly torpedo the fun. Luckily, the superior cast (all fully inhabiting these silly characters with surprising humanity) saves the day.
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Fantastic Four (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Filmmakers have successfully aped Christopher Nolan’s blueprint for nihilistic, downtrodden superheroes so many times (and with relative ease), it’s tempting to fall into a repetitive trap. So, FOX must have felt assured when they brought in indie darling Josh Trank to essentially ape Bryan Singer’s style and the first X-MEN movie specifically. If they wanted a Bryan Singer movie, why not get Singer to make it? The result is a well-cast group of actors, all dressed up with nothing to do.
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Iron Man 3 (2013) – Review

2 Stars

In 2008, Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of Tony Stark was a blast of cinematic freshness. It was a major actor taking a chance on playing loony. Much like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, Stark gave a serious thespian an opportunity to become a global movie star. Now, five years removed from that scorching original take on the material, Iron Man 3 feels flat and ponderous. The actor, character and cross-plotting with other MCU properties has become off-putting.
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The Identical (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The Identical opens with a gorgeous shot of a Cadillac driving along a dirt road in the middle of a deserted cotton field. It’s Alabama 1972, in the back of the luxury car sits Drexel ‘The Dream’ Hemsley (Blake Rayne), sipping on the last of a bourbon cocktail. The look and strange behavior of the character is supposed to invoke an obvious Elvis Presley comparison. Hemsley rolls down the window and peers out to the long stretching acres. The ghost of field workers from the past begin to appear. It’s a sequence that works and it’s noteworthy, because very little else works.
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