OnScreen Review: 'Shazam!'

OnScreen Review: 'Shazam!'

It’s 2019 and they’re making movies about everything now. First it was The Angry Birds Movie. Then came The Emoji Movie. Now we’re getting Shazam!. Look, not every phone app needs a movie! Ok, so Shazam! is actually not about the music app on your phone. It’s actually another superhero movie, which may cause some people to groan, by DC, which may cause more people to groan. But it’s actually a pretty entertaining movie and comes at the superhero genre from a unique if not quite fresh perspective.

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OnScreen Review: 'Us'

OnScreen Review: 'Us'

Early on in Us, a homeless man is seen holding up a cardboard sign that says Jeremiah 11:11. When I got out of the theater from seeing Us, I quickly looked up this Bible verse, curious as to what it said. “Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.” This ominous verse from the prophet Jeremiah, spoken to the people of Israel, is a warning of judgment for breaking their covenant with God. It’s an interesting find by Jordan Peele, the director of Us, the follow-up to his debut directorial effort, Get Out.

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OnScreen Review: "Captain Marvel"

OnScreen Review: "Captain Marvel"

21 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we have our first one with a female lead. This has been a dividing issue for many, for some it is an empowering moment about representation and for others (idiots, in my opinion) it’s a chance to show their trollishness and insecurity. I think it’s great that Captain Marvel, like Black Panther before it, serves a demographic that hasn’t been served by previous films in the MCU and potentially grows the market for Marvel. But ultimately, what matters is whether the content is good and worth coming back to for more, so let’s delve into that, and maybe a bit into the female empowerment for good measure.

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OnScreen Review: "Artic"

OnScreen Review: "Artic"

I love a good survival movie. I thoroughly enjoyed movies like The Edge and Cast Away when I was a teen. In the past few years there have been a few good ones, too; in particular Gravity and All Is Lost.  Man’s struggle to survive either in extreme conditions or on the edge of existence is enthralling to me. As such, I was very interested when I saw a poster and eventually a trailer for Arctic, starring Mads Mikkelsen.

Arctic places Mikkelsen‘s Overgård in the middle of a snowy nowhere, somewhere in the Arctic Circle, following him through his daily routine. His routine is set to the timer on his watch, and it quickly becomes apparent that he has been there for some time in a downed plane. He has a giant SOS message dug out of the snow and permafrost, fishing lines that he checks, and a daily hike that involves mapping his location and running a hand-cranked distress signal for a few minutes each day.

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OnScreen Review: "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World"

OnScreen Review: "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World"

If you had told me at the beginning of the decade that an animated film would spawn a trilogy that nailed all three movies that came out this decade, I would probably have been very curious to see what Pixar had planned. While Pixar has never worked at that pace on their sequels, DreamWorks Animation has had a few very successful franchises that they have kept going. Arguably, the best in overall quality has been the two How To Train Your Dragon movies, and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a satisfying cap on the trilogy.

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OnScreen Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

OnScreen Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Coming five years after the wildly successful original, Warner Bros has released The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Nearly everyone is back from the first film in some capacity. The prolific duo of Chris Lord and Phil Miller, who wrote and directed the first film, remain as screenwriters but have handed off the directorial reins to Mike Mitchell.

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OnScreen Review: "Mary Poppins Returns"

OnScreen Review: "Mary Poppins Returns"

Pretty much everyone who loves movies as a kid gets exposed to Disney’s catalog, though there usually ends up being gaps here and there. My sister was obsessed with a handful of Disney animated movies, so those were on constantly in our house growing up, but a few slipped through the cracks, as did much of the older Disney live-action movies. Mary Poppins was one of those films I missed growing up, only to cause quite the consternation amongst my friends who adore it when I revealed that when Saving Mr. Banks came out a few years ago. Shortly after seeing that, I remedied the situation and did quite enjoy Mary Poppins, though I suspect not to the same degree I might have if I’d seen it when I was younger. Over 50 years later, Disney has returned to the character with Mary Poppins Returns.

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Top 20 Films of 2018

Top 20 Films of 2018

2018 has been a unique year. Typically, when I get to the end of the year, there are a handful of limited releases that haven’t expanded to where I live, and I don’t get to see them until mid-January. This year, there are only one that I want to see that I haven’t managed to get to yet: If Beale Street Could Talk. Because of that, I feel comfortable crafting my year-end list of the best films of 2018 now rather than waiting. I’m going to list twenty, but I’m only going to devote a sentence each to 11-20. Let’s just get right into it!

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OnScreen Review: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

OnScreen Review: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

We are living in a period where we’ve reached peak superhero. The market is saturated with movies as well as TV series that are based on comic books. As much as I enjoy most of them, even I am starting to feel a sense of superhero fatigue at the movie theater. However, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a nice antidote to that creeping fatigue, bursting with creativity, a rich animation palette, and a willingness to get weird.

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OnScreen Review: "Boy Erased"

OnScreen Review: "Boy Erased"

Hollywood has long had this habit of studios putting out twin movies, films that have a similar theme within the same year or months apart from each other. Armageddon and Deep Impact, Mission To Mars and Red Planet, Girls Trip and Rough Night, This Is the End and The World’s End, the list goes on and on. This year, we’ve gotten twin movies out of adaptations of stories about gay conversion therapy. The Miseducation of Cameron Post was released late this summer, an adaptation of a novel.

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OnScreen Review: "Creed 2"

OnScreen Review: "Creed 2"

2015’s Creed was a highly enjoyable and highly successful expansion of the Rocky franchise from director Ryan Coogler. It featured Michael B. Jordan in the role of Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed, and Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Rocky sliding into the Mickey for Adonis. Sticking with a familiar formula but also finding ways to be newer and fresh, Creed II is a welcome next chapter.

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OnScreen Review: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

OnScreen Review: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

I’m not a complete Potterhead, but I am a fan and owner of all the Harry Potter books and movies. I read the entire Deathly Hallows when it came out in one sitting, staying up all night to finish it because I’m a slow reader. I proffer my bona fides as a fan because after two installments of a planned five (FIVE!?!?!?) prequels, I am decidedly not a fan of this Fantastic Beasts franchise and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald may have convinced me that I am ok walking away from this franchise.

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OnScreen Review: "Widows"

OnScreen Review: "Widows"

Widows is a film that joins the ranks of State of Play and Edge of Darkness as recent films that have been adapted from a British miniseries. Actually, it jumps to the front of the class of these adaptations. Like Edge of Darkness, Widows originated from the mid-80s and has been ported over to a modern-day American setting. However, whereas those other films were political thrillers, this film is more of a crime thriller with political tones. It is also director Steve McQueen’s first film since the 2013 Oscar-winning Best Picture 12 Years a Slave.

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OnScreen Review: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

OnScreen Review: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

I’m trying something a little different with this review. Instead of doing the traditional, straight forward review of the film, I’m changing it up and going with an “Up/Down” format for this one. Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic about the life of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, directed by Bryan Singer and starring Rami Malek. Let’s get into it.

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OnScreen Review: "First Man"

OnScreen Review: "First Man"

Biopics are frequently hagiographies, making saints out of their subjects often despite their flaws. Damien Chazelle’s First Man is not in the hagiography business. It’s a straightforward narrative about how mankind got to the moon. That journey culminated on July 20, 1969, but it began nearly a decade earlier, when President John F. Kennedy announced his desire to see a US astronaut on the moon by the end of the decade. That journey is told through the life of Neil Armstrong, the first man who landed on the moon. The film tracks the highs and lows of both Armstrong and NASA on this journey to the moon.

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OnScreen Review: "Venom"

OnScreen Review: "Venom"

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero of all time. Venom is a character that many consider to be the greatest villain in Spidey’s rogues gallery, but I think he is one of the most overrated (and Carnage is right up there with him; go ahead and @ me, I don’t care). He has occasionally been fun to have in Spider-Man video games (in Ultimate Spider-Man for the PS2 you could actually play as Venom). But most importantly, I blame the character for ruining Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, a character he swore he didn’t want to do and then the studio essentially strong-armed him. Everything about this Venom spinoff seemed ill-advised and, clearly, I carried a lot of baggage into it. In fact, I had my knives out and I was ready to carve this film up and throw it on the trash heap along with some of my least favorite films that I’ve reviewed, like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. And then I watched it and those plans had to go out the window.

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OnScreen Review: "A Star is Born"

OnScreen Review: "A Star is Born"

Toward the end of A Star Is Born, one character says to another, “Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave - 12 notes and the octave repeat. It's the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer this world is how they see those 12 notes. That's it.” It’s a line of dialogue from the third remake of the film (fourth if you count 1932’s What Price Hollywood?). This particular remake has been in the works for a few years now, initially with Clint Eastwood attached to direct and with Beyoncé to star at various points. Every couple of decades, this film seems to get taken down off the shelf and repackaged for a new generation and an artist offers the world how they see that same story told over and over.

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OnScreen Review: "Mandy"

OnScreen Review: "Mandy"

Mandy exists in a world that doesn’t make any sense, and yet it totally works. It’s the kind of film that midnight showings were made for. It’s firmly grounded in the grindhouse exploitation tradition of movie-making. I’ve never done drugs, but I imagine movies like this give a pretty fair approximation of what a bad experience is like. Nicholas Cage, so often a target of criticism and ridicule as a celebrity, has found a movie that matches his craziness and puts it to good use and, frankly, he’s rarely been better. It’s not A Quiet Place or Hereditary in terms of the kind of horror film it is, it has its own unique blend of horror and entertainment going for it. This is an instant cult classic.

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OnScreen Review: "The Predator"

OnScreen Review: "The Predator"

I had hoped that Shane Black would bring an interesting reinvention or sharp new angle to the Predator series of movies. Instead, what we’re treated to is a muddled mess. It’s hard to tell if there was too much studio meddling or if Black is just trying to put too much into this one movie. Either way, The Predator is just the latest example of how not everything should be a franchise.

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OnScreen Review: "Crazy Rich Asians"

OnScreen Review: "Crazy Rich Asians"

Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel or tell us a new story. Romance, drama, comedy, horror, these stories have a universal language that transcend language and geographical barriers. What Crazy Rich Asians does is freshen up the formula with new faces at the center and expose us to a culture and way of life that is not typically seen in mainstream Hollywood films except in fish out of water stories.

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