Tag Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review: Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films (Bonus)

Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

Premise: A 400-foot (122-meter) dinosaur-like beast, awoken from undersea hibernation off the Japanese coast by atomic-bomb testing, attacks Tokyo.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes all the nuance out of Godzilla (1954) and throws in Raymond Burr’s awkward and stilted as all hell Steve Martin character. It’s maybe a little reductive to say this version of the original film is completely unnecessary. But it’s true. King of the Monsters feels so ridiculously hollow and dry  that it makes it very difficult not to view it as an affront to the 1954 original. It relies on Burr’s character narrating the story to us in order to make it at least appear to have some cohesion. But in the end it just feels like a dry voice performance recapping the original movie for US audiences.
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IFF2020: Movie Review – Hum (2020)

HUM (2020)

  • Director: Henry Johnston
  • Screenwriter: Henry Johnston
  • Producer: Caleb Haydock
  • Cast: Tyler Ross, Sonaz Izadi, Andrew Oliveri, Bradley Grant Smith, Sierra Miller, Peter DeFaria
  • Cinematographer: Allen Chodakowski

Premise: Two years ago, a Chest appeared in the woods. It could not be moved. It could not be opened. Its contents were unknown. The Dead began to appear within the week. Today, David Parker, a police trainee, is tasked with guarding the Chest. For the first time since its arrival, the Chest has opened.

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IFF2020: Movie Review – The Last Christmas Party (2020)

The Last Christmas Party (2020)

  • Director: Julian Santos
  • Screenwriters: Kevin Nittolo, Julian Santos
  • Producers: Troy Enoka, Scottie Schwefel
  • Cast: Samantha Brooks, Anna Clare Kerr, Lainey Woo, James Williams, Martin Drop, Gabriel Armentano

Premise: THE LAST CHRISTMAS PARTY is a bittersweet holiday movie about the highs and lows of romance in college. The movie is told in nonlinear order and replays the same party from the perspective of three different couples. With its ensemble of characters, the movie paints a naturalistic depiction of young people in New York City, free from the usual nostalgia and cliches.

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Movie Review: Godzilla Raids Again (1955) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 2

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Premise: Godzilla battles an irradiated Ankylosaur and destroys Osaka in the process.

Released just six months after 1954’s original Godzilla film, Godzilla Raids Again is not nearly as well-executed and nuanced as its predecessor. However, there is a lot of fun to be had in this movie and, in at least one case, it actually eclipses the original.
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Movie Review: Project Power (2020)

Project Power (2020)

Premise: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

Netflix’s Project Power gives summer 2020 movie audiences a much needed infusion of blockbuster entertainment and superpowered action. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, and Dominique Fishback make up a strong triumvirate in a story that’s exciting and filled with varied big-budget set pieces. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman create impressive action sequences and Mattson Tomlin’s script provides an engaging plot with sympathetic yet flawed characters, despite some missteps along the way.

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Movie Review: Sputnik (2020)

Sputnik (2020)

Premise: The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone-hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature.

Sputnik, the new Russian sci-fi horror film from IFC Midnight directed by Egor Abramenko, infuses elements of creature and body horror with the humanity of a compassionate protagonist. At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, psychologist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is brought to a secluded research facility to analyze the bizarre case of a cosmonaut who returned to Earth with a parasitic entity in him. Charged with having to figure out a way to separate the entity from the host, Tatyana finds her conviction not to harm others being tested as the morals of those assisting in the institute are slowly called into question.

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Movie Review: Boys State (2020)

Boys State (2020)

Premise: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

In a sense, Boys State acts as a document of the political climate of today. It shows the passion and fervor of those who seek elected office while also showcasing the lengths to which people will go to win; whether it’s in the name of their political party or if they are seeking office for themselves. The fact that this depiction of our democracy is filtered through the perspective of 17 year old boys creating a mock government over the course of a week gives Boys State a prescient energy. Seeing the potential next generation of politicians navigate an ultra conservative group and play to the whims of the general populace helps peel back the curtain on the democratic process while also exposing the less savory aspects of the political machine.

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Movie Review: An American Pickle (2020)

An American Pickle (2020)

Premise: An immigrant worker at a pickle factory is accidentally preserved for 100 years and wakes up in modern day Brooklyn.

An American Pickle‘s concept should be a delightful fish out of water story around which to build a movie. For the first 20 minutes or so, it achieves this well enough. However, it soon abandons that concept in favor of a satirical look at capitalism and the pursuit of the American dream in the age of social media mob rule. Unfortunately, it isn’t as interesting or as funny as the premise that it leaves behind in its first act, which itself was only skating by on the charisma of Seth Rogen’s performance.

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Movie Review: Godzilla (1954) – Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 1

Godzilla (1954)

Premise: American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

1954’s Godzilla is the beginning of film’s most massively iconic movie monster. It’s an introduction like no other as it focuses on the human reaction to Godzilla’s presence and destruction. With a slow build toward the rampage, the film explores real pathos in its characters. Godzilla creates the monster as an antagonist in a way that brings the fear of nuclear arms, humanity’s race toward self-destruction, and the horror of creating that which you can’t control to the forefront of its story. Continue reading

Movie Review: She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

Premise: After waking up convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, Amy’s carefully mended life begins to unravel. As her delusions of certain death become contagious to those around her, Amy and her friends’ lives spiral out of control in a tantalizing descent into madness.

She Dies Tomorrow, the latest from filmmaker Amy Seimetz, offers a unique exploration of existential anxiety by personifying depression as a contagion that’s easily spread. It’s a film that takes its subject matter seriously and eschews any subtlety or subtext with it. Instead, the specter of impending death and anxiety takes the forefront and drives what very little plot is in the movie. In a strange way, this approach actually works to the film’s benefit some of the time. Unfortunately, at other points, She Dies Tomorrow feels too meandering for its own good.

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Ben’s Column: Yes, God Yes (2020) Review

Premise: After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation.

Think back to your early high school days and how sex and sexuality felt ever-present in daily life. Then, if you weren’t already, imagine those same feelings in the setting of a Catholic school, where you’re taught to mostly repress or ignore those feelings. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. So is masturbation. What do you do when your body and society are telling you one thing and the church is telling you another? Oh, and if you go against what they’re teaching, you’ll spend the afterlife in eternal damnation. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Greyhound (2020) Review

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Greyhound (2020)

Premise: Early in World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.

Throughout the running time of Greyhound, we learn more about Captain Ernie Krause’s (Tom Hanks) leadership skills, but shockingly little about his life outside the titular naval destroyer. The mission is simple: guide a fleet of Allied supply ships across the vast Atlantic Ocean, and sink as many Nazi U-boats as possible. The fleet remains unprotected from air cover for over 50 hours over the ocean, and this provides the ticking clock conceit to the film. Greyhound bears a striking similarity to last year’s 1917, in that there’s a clear endpoint objective at stake, and the characters we spend the most time with are frustratingly opaque. But whereas 1917 took time to reflect and add at least a little characterization between its video game-like checkpoints, Greyhound only stops and pauses for a scant few moments. Continue reading

Movie Review: Relic (2020)

Relic (2020)

Premise: A daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home.

Relic, the feature debut from writer/director Natalie Erika James, takes the fragility and fear of caring for a mentally ailing loved one and packages it into an overall enticing thriller with the effectiveness and confidence of a seasoned filmmaker. By focusing on the struggles of caring for a relative, Relic allows its audience to grow attached to its characters before suddenly ratcheting up the tension and suspense in more conventional ways. And although James deftly guides the audience through the family drama at Relic‘s center, the conventional feel of the climax does leave a bit to be desired before successfully ending the film on a disturbing and thought-provoking note.

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Movie Review: Irresistible (2020)

Irresistible (2020)

Premise: A Democratic strategist helps a retired veteran run for mayor in a small, conservative Midwest town.

By transposing a high stakes political arena onto a small town rural America setting, Jon Stewart’s Irresistible takes a relatively low key approach to its ribbing of the world of campaign finance. It is not simply a “fish out of water” story. Nor does it attempt to romanticize the quaint small town it occupies. Instead, Stewart uses this juxtaposition to call attention to the absurdity of campaign fundraising in a fairly unique manner. And although the approach is surprisingly refreshing in this era of fourth wall breaking Adam McKay political and socio-economic commentary films, Irresistible falters a bit on the road to its message.

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Ben’s Column: Da 5 Bloods (2020) Movie Review

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Premise: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. Continue reading