Category Archives: Review

Red Sparrow – Film Review

Watching Red Sparrow felt like deja vu. Just six months ago I was in a theater watching mother!, another poorly-received, Jennifer Lawrence-led film. Just six months ago I was watching Lawrence give, perhaps, a little too much of herself to a role. Both films show her character beaten, punished, disrobed, tortured, and gas-lit by men in power. In both instances, I wouldn’t blame viewers who thought it was all a little too much. Yet, in both instances I was also pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved mother!, and Red Sparrow was far from the train wreck I was led to believe.

The film that some had hoped would be the Black Widow film we’ll never get, or another Atomic Blonde, is in-fact, neither. Red Sparrow is a graphic, deliberate, and convoluted spy fiction tale. The Sparrows are Russian secret agents that use their bodies to manipulate men in power. They are trained to find weaknesses and exploit them, all the while ignoring their own sense of shame or pride. Continue reading Red Sparrow – Film Review

Annabelle: Creation – Film Review

Most people would say they go to horror movies and haunted houses for the same fundamental reason: to be scared. That said, I have to hope most people expect a bit more substance from a movie, and while Annabelle: Creation is an effective jump-scare delivery system, it doesn’t have much else to offer.

Set as an origin story for the Annabelle doll from both The Conjuring films and the previous Annabelle, Creation tells a story no one really needed to know, in a setting that couldn’t be more dull.

Set in small town America in-or-around the 1950’s, the film opens with the Mullins family — a father, mother, and daughter — living happily in their large, isolated house outside of town. The father, Samuel, is launching a new line of porcelain dolls, the first of which is completed just before a tragic car accident takes the life of their daughter.

Twelve years after the accident, Samuel and his now bedridden wife Esther take in a nun and several orphaned girls in attempt to bring some life back into their home. Of course, it’s not quite so simple, as the girls start seeing phantoms and the danger quickly escalates.

What follows is a by-the-book haunted house scenario devoid of fresh ideas. The creaky, isolated, 1950s house doesn’t leave much room for the kind of cool scares or creative kills that set one horror movie apart from another. Meanwhile, the plot treads well-worn horror territory while doing very little to surprise us with Annabelle’s origin story. The explanation for Annabelle feels like something writer Gary Dauberman was forced to come up with out of obligation — like some last minute homework thrown together on the school bus before class.

And yet, the jump scares are quite effective. I’ve often said a comedy can be about anything as long as the jokes land, and so I have to at least give some credit to Annabelle for being a horror movie with real scares. As dull as the actual plot was, as little as I cared about the moment-to-moment, as much as I felt like I’d seen it all before, I still left my seat a few times. I think that has to count for something.

That said, I don’t think jump scares count in horror the same way laughs count for comedy. Jump scares are a fleeting thrill, and without dread, psychological horrors, interesting plot, or compelling characters backing them up, I don’t think Annabelle: Creation is worth your time.

Logan Lucky – Film Review

Logan Lucky hit theaters with seemingly little fanfare — but don’t let that fool you — this is a clever heist film with an excellent cast and some crowd-pleasing twists and turns.

I went into the film with no expectations, sold simply on director Steven Soderbergh and a cast that includes Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig. I was surprised to find a spiritual successor to Soderbergh’s previous Ocean’s trilogy. It bears the same all-star-cast-centered-around-a-big-score premise of those films, but transports them into a blue collar setting.

If Ocean’s took its cues from James Bond and The Italian Job, then Logan Lucky shares more DNA with Breaking Bad. The film’s central heist has many moving parts, but they revolve less around fancy suits and casinos and more on homemade bombs and NASCAR. That said, the setting and cast is refreshing, and as implausibly brilliant as everyone seems in hindsight, it’s so much fun in the moment that it hardly matters.

The last time I spent serious time writing on Red Ring Circus I spoke about the importance of sticking the landing. I come back to that here because Logan Lucky’s third act highs put such a huge smile on my face that I’m still smiling thinking about it. The film takes it’s time getting there, but the story builds and builds to a perfect crescendo.

And that’s about as much as I want to say about it. There’s a lot more detail in the character motivations, and the film is about more than just a heist, but I’d prefer that you go into it almost as blindly as I did, because there’s a surprisingly great film to be watched — don’t miss it!

Review: The women are not the problem in the new Ghostbusters

The new Ghostbusters movie feels like a video game rushed to launch in need of a day one patch that will never come. This film wasn’t ready for prime time — it’s clear from the moment a half-assed title card appears on-screen, and only emphasized by several amateur edits and forced cameos. The theme song appears over and over, as if to assure viewers that they are, in fact, watching a Ghostbusters movie. The big irony here is that almost everything wrong with this film happened in the editing room, having little to do with the performances of the main cast.

The four actresses that make up the new all-female Ghostbusters team — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones — play their parts to near perfection. Had they been in a better movie we might have genuine conversations about which Ghostbusters team is our favorite. Their sheer enthusiasm often transported me into their world, inspiring the same imagination I felt as a kid with the original 1984 cast. They’re having a lot of fun being Ghostbusters, and that fun is contagious. When you ask the question, “why have female Ghostbusters?” this cast is about as good of an answer as you can hope for. Continue reading Review: The women are not the problem in the new Ghostbusters

Closing Thoughts – Saints Row IV: Re-Elected

It’s a rare treat when I can make the time to replay a game I’ve already finished. It’s even rarer that I return to a game like Saints Row IV, which at release, I completed 100% and earned all of the Xbox 360 achievements. Somewhere along the line my opinion of SRIV soured a bit — perhaps because of its admitted rough edges — but returning to it on PS4, with barely a graphical upgrade to justify the replay, I found myself having a blast with it. Continue reading Closing Thoughts – Saints Row IV: Re-Elected

Titan Souls – Game Review

Titan Souls fails to understand the games it is inspired by — namely, Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus.

With a focus on high stakes, one-hit kills on both sides of its series of boss fights, Titan Souls offers a steep challenge, but it isn’t the kind of challenge that makes the “Souls” games so beloved. In Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2, and Bloodborne, the challenge is in learning from mistakes and executing on those lessons to achieve success.

It’s rare that you will learn anything while playing Titan Souls. Continue reading Titan Souls – Game Review

Closing Thoughts – Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest sits at the edge of perfection, looking out at a small gathering of “instant classic” games before choosing to stubbornly sit in place, leaving me with the thankless job of criticizing its one pervasive flaw. Continue reading Closing Thoughts – Ori and the Blind Forest