Movie Review: LIFE – shameless A L I E N ripoff, with characters acting so stupidly you’d think you were watching Prometheus.

Dumb movies are everywhere, it’s a sad fact.  In many cases, the box office reflects it (the recent flop known as Baywatch, for example), because the trailers are completely crap.  Other terrible movies will make a pile of money theatrically because of gee-whizz CGI, like the punishing Transformers series, but those kinds of movies tap into a different kind of vibe.  Sometimes people just want a burger and fries, and don’t care about the content.  While the Transformers movies are not my thing, I’ve had a burger myself a time or two, so I understand the appeal.  But what if you’re not trying to make $1 billion at the box office?  What if you’re trying to make a horror movie to do business in the $150M – $350M range?

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Movie Review: GHOST IN THE SHELL – completely uninteresting adaptation of the famous manga franchise, that plays like bad 80s sci fi.

Ghost In The Shell, Scarlett Johansson’s most recent action movie, can barely be discussed without mentioning the newish cinematic pejorative “whitewashing” as an integral part of any criticism.  I’m not going to put any kind of sociopolitical slant on this review, but if you haven’t heard the term, it refers to white actors being cast in roles that certain groups believe should go to ethnic actors.  It’s not an entirely unfounded criticism (Matt Damon’s recent monster movie The Great Wall was called out for it), and certain movies kinda invite it openly.  Case in point, is Ghost In The Shell, based on the famous manga franchise.  It’s a particularly egregious example – not only does Scarlett Johannson play a character that pretty much should have been played by an Asian actress, but almost all of the main roles are played by white actors.  And they didn’t even bother to switch the action to the west either!

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Movie Review: KONG: SKULL ISLAND – mostly enjoyable franchise reboot, but lack of strong characters don’t do the fantastic visuals any favours

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I saw the original King Kong, but I couldn’t have been any older than five.  I recall with reasonable vividness sitting in front of our black and white TV in the Springburn neighbourhood of Glasgow, Scotland, absolutely enthralled by the sheer spectacle, the charm, of the 1933 production that heralded a new era of moviemaking.  There is likely nobody in the western world who doesn’t know King Kong – even if they have never seen the original, Kong exists among the pantheon of famous movie monsters, along with Godzilla, Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Frankenstein, and Dracula, to name a few.  Kong has a place in our hearts because he reminds us as ourselves.  Possessed of a humanistic sense of justice and primal strength, Kong represents us – stripped of the daily bullshit and phoniness that we all succumb to, Kong is us laid bare, and mostly shat on by the kind of assholes we have to deal with now and then.  Too high and mighty an opinion for you?  Not a problem – Kong also works as a spectacle monster movie, even when the scripts are no good, the nature of the beast guarantees battles between colossal creatures to feed the eyes.

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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: PASSENGERS – limp romantic drama/sci fi mashup not even Lawrence and Pratt can save.

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Chances are, if you went to see Passengers based on the previews alone, you’d have gone in expecting a sci-fi thriller with a solvable mystery at its core.  The movie, which stars fan favourites Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games trilogy) and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World) certainly looks that way from the minute or so of carefully edited clips that you get.  The giant, somewhat dark looking spaceship in deep space, the two leads running around while things go to hell – and why are they the only two to wake up?!  So, yeah, if that was what you were expecting, I bet like me, you came out of the theater disappointed.

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Movie Review: ARRIVAL – Sci Fi with a strong emotional core, and satisfying payoff at the end.

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This year’s Hopes Thanksgiving Movie was markedly different to last year’s choice – Spectre – and more enjoyable for a variety of reasons, but not entirely successful.  I’ll start by saying that I’m a huge Denis Velleneuve fan – his last four movies (including Arrival) have shown a real sense of diversity both in content and tone, and I consider that to be the mark of a confident director.  I’m eagerly anticipating his Bladerunner sequel – as I said in my reviews of Enemy and Sicario, I can’t think of many directors out there right now that I’d be as excited to see directing it.

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Movie Review: I ORIGINS – nice performance by Michael Pitt, but the movie lacks the courage of its conviction.

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There’s a somewhat interesting story behind I Origins – the movie itself, not necessarily the movie’s story.  Mike Cahill, writer and director, unable to resolve story issues during development phase of his follow up movie to Another Earth, essentially scrapped the draft and turned to writing, instead, an origin story for his original concept.  Hoping it would allow him to address the story issues of the first draft, I Origins was produced as a prequel to the main concept, which was set up at Fox Searchlight sometime in late 2015.

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