Movie Review: THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE – a sweet, good natured movie about two kindred souls who share the adventure of a lifetime.

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I had a fairly good idea what to expect from The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi’s follow up to the fantastic vampire horror comedy What We Do In The Shadows, but I’d be lying if I said I was right.  I only knew that it was a bonding story; set in rural New Zealand, a troubled kid is sent to live with foster parents.  It’s his last chance before getting cast into the system as a juvenile delinquent, but then he bonds with those people and all is well.  Seen it before, right?  Seems like it’s something that would be on Hallmark or The Family Channel – a feel good, Disneyfied slice of Midwest apple pie.  That’s what it sounded like to me from my ignorant lack of knowledge about it, anyway!

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Movie Review: CAPTAIN FANTASTIC – Viggo Mortenson’s beautifully nuanced performance isn’t the only great thing about this heartwarming family drama

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There’s a scene in Captain Fantastic towards the midpoint of the movie where Ben Cash (Viggo Mortenson) asks his daughter to explain what the book she’s reading is about.  The book is Nabokov’s Lolita, and when she begins, he cuts her off.  “That’s the plot,” he says, which forces her to go into greater depth in her explanation.  Why am I starting out with this?  Because this is a movie that is a great example of plot versus story.  It’s not unfair to look at every blockbuster over the last few decades and say that they’re not actually about anything.  You can daisy-chain their plot points together and they tell a rudimentary “this happened, then this happened” etc, but the stories themselves lack dimension.  Great movie stories are “about” something more than just what’s happening visually.  The best screen stories are those that can be about multiple topics revolving around a central hub.  This is what I felt while watching Matt Ross’s luminous movie.

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Movie Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK – latest animated feature from DC goes as dark as it can, but the end result is mostly dim.

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Animation isn’t my thing.  I mean, other than classic Tom and Jerry, I just never caught the bug.  I have a fondness for some Pixar material, and I really loved The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, but that’s mostly it.  My most recent trip there was Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, but that was purely because I’m a fan of Lovecraft.  The movie itself was pretty poor, as I said in my review here.  So yeah, not a huge fan.  But comic books are in my DNA, and I will usually try to watch animated features with the major characters.  It rarely works out well – head on over to my review of 2016’s truly wretched animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke.  I should know better, right?  Apparently not, because I just finished watch Justice League Dark.

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Graphic Fiction Review: HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE THREE KINGDOMS – unique and mostly enjoyable take on the works of HP Lovecraft

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It’s always interesting comparing an adaptation to source material.  Conventional wisdom favours the original over the adapted work, but of course that isn’t always the case.  When it comes to movies from books, I can say that I prefer Kubrick’s The Shining to King’s, for example, but overall the richer experience is provided by the original.  Cinematic versions can omit or combine characters and situations, sometimes adding new ones for the sake of brevity, and with the right talent, these changes can work for the better – not not always, and not often.  A couple of weeks ago, I watched the animated children’s movie Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, and wrote a fair, but deservedly negative, review.  I won’t recap the failings, but I did promise to seek out the original work.  The movie is an adaptation of the first of three comic book stories, each published in three issues by Canadian publishing company Arcana Studio, and created and written by Bruce Brown, with art by Renzo Podesta (The Frozen Kingdom) and Thomas Boatwright (The Undersea Kingdom, The Kingdom of Madness).

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Movie Review: JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK – lazy, overplotted, and underwritten sequel puts the franchise in a coma.

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It happens to everyone – we get old and our appeal fades.  We see the power we once had exercised by a new generation, and our movies start grossing less and less at the box office.  It’s inevitable … but sometimes the natural decline is pushed harder down the slope by our own choices.  Case in point, Tom Cruise’s newest movie Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

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Movie Review: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – a zombie movie that succeeds in being different, and a stunning debut performance by young actor Sennia Nanua

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I took a pass on watching this a few weeks ago when the word “zombie” jumped out in the materials, because I’m mostly sick of the zombie sub-genre of horror.  Not that there can’t be good movies about zombies, but c’mon – enough already.  Having said that, I remain a faithful watcher of The Walking Dead, and I recently watched the South Korean zombie movie Train To Busan and found it to be okay.  I won’t regurgitate my feelings about zombie media here – if you’re curious, my Train To Busan review contains them.  So yeah, The Girl With All The Gifts just kind of faded away, subsumed into the background noise of zombie movies that annoy the hell out of me.  But then, it was recommended to me by a friend whose opinions I trust.  Suddenly it was back on the list!

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Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – uneven, underwritten movie that will mostly be only appreciated by hardcore Potter fans

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Wow, I had so many issues with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them that it’s hard to pick a starting point, really.  I’ll preface the following with this disclaimer, though:  I am not, and never have been, a fan of Harry Potter.  Sure, I’ve seen all the movies, but despite trying to listen to Stephen Fry reading the first in the series, my exposure to the books has been nil.  The movies were largely a hit and miss affair for me, ranging from pretty good (& The Prisoner of Azkaban) to mediocre (& The Chamber of Secrets).  I’m certainly not a Harry Potter hater – the books came along at a time when childhood reading habits were plummeting, and Rowling was instrumental in the early development of the YA sector.  So while I will never be a fan of the Potter phenomenon, I have a healthy respect for it.  In saying that, my lack of any intricate knowledge of the Potterverse didn’t contribute to what I felt were shortcomings here.

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