Review: 12 Strong
Cinema Clash Podcasters talk Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, Wonder Wheel, and the DC Film Critics Awards
Mini-Reviews: I, Tonya

Review: Black Panther

Yes, it is very good. But you still have to like the genre. Black Panther works as both a standalone action drama sci-fi superhero movie, and as a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m a big fan of Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc.) so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of T’Challa/Black Panther in the near and distant future. He’s one cool dude surrounded and protected by a bunch of kickass cool women.

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Seven years hence the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it’s time to close the book on the movie franchise that the popular and controversial novel helped procreate. If you’ve read the full trilogy – “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” – and/or seen the first two installments of the erotic fairy tale – then it’s still worth seeing the final chapters unfold on the big screen, even if the ‘climax’ is a bit of a letdown.

Mini-reviews: The Oscar Nominated Shorts 2018 (Animation & Live Action)

Another year, another batch of short films. This year, there were none I was absolutely in love with. Last year was full of punch you in the guts social issues and deep storytelling. This bunch felt kind of predictable to me. Nonetheless, there were a couple that I’ll remember and that I hope people get to see in a theater, since that’s how movies ought to be viewed. Here are my synopses and trailers. Mark your ballots accordingly.

Mini-reviews: The Oscar Nominated Shorts 2018 (Documentary)

Last year was all about war and refugees and people in peril a world away. This time it’s all about people here at home though still in peril. The films are slices of life. A mentally ill artist. A pair of star-crossed nonagenarians. A victim of police brutality. A town full of overdosing junkies. A culinary program for people just out of jail. Some are uplifting, but together they paint a pretty bleak picture of the U S of A. Try and see them on a big screen.

Review: 12 Strong

It’s Thor! As a soldier! On a horse! That got my attention. And it helped hold my attention while 12 Strong delivered some fairly standard war drama stuff. It’s a middle of the road war movie with a western vibe that draws its strength from the fact that it’s based on a wild declassified true story revealed in the 2009 book, “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton.

Quickie ‘Guest Chick’ Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Full disclosure: I don’t know a Glader from a Wader. I’ve never read the books and somehow missed the first two installments of the young adult dystopian sci-fi Maze Runner movie franchise. So I wasn’t about to play hookie from my day job to catch a mid-afternoon screening of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, aka Maze Runner 3, the “epic finale” of the Maze Runner saga. I’m told the story has something to do with a group of escaped Gladers breaking into the legendary Last City, a dangerous and deadly labyrinth. Will they find closure – and a way out? Do they have Waze? I dispatched someone other than me (and younger than me) to find out!

Review: Human Flow

The world is awash in people who cannot stay in their homes because of war or famine or climate or any number of other tragedies that might make remaining impossible. Who are they and what happens to them once they strike out to find a safe place? That’s what this sprawling documentary from Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei attempts to tell us. It’s not a pretty picture (though there is some gorgeous cinematography), and there is no solution given to the heartbreaking international crisis. But if anything the film is a call for the world to wake up and deal with a problem that will not go away on its own.

Quickie Reviews: Paddington 2; The Commuter

Paddington 2 “If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” If only it were that simple. In Paddington’s world, it is. That’s why kids and adults could benefit from a return visit. Paddington 2 is a charming follow-up to the 2015 movie based on the popular children’s books by Michael Bond. As the story unfolds, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled into life in London with his adopted family, the Browns. He’s become a popular member of the community – spreading joy, mischief, and marmalade wherever he goes. But a series of mishaps land him in prison, accused of stealing a pop-up book of London that he intended to buy for his dear Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. On the human front, Hugh Grant steals the show as a washed-up actor with a nefarious agenda that involves the pop-up book and a hidden treasure.

Review: The Insult (L’insulte)

Since most of what we’re fed about the Middle East is about war and strife, it’s always good to see a film about regular people set there. And since Lebanon is relatively missing from the news cycle these days, it’s illuminating to see one of their big films. The Insult isn’t lacking the political element though. It’s the story of two proud men, one a Lebanese Christian and a one Palestinian Muslim, who turn a small incident into a personal war that ripples through modern day Beirut. It’s a tense story exploring the rifts in the civil society of Lebanon, with Palestinian refugees being the outsiders and Christians in power, that turns into an edge of your seat courtroom drama and a case that rests on the power of words. And it’s Lebanon’s very worthy Oscar contender this time around.

Review: Phantom Thread

Imagine a special episode of Project Runway co-produced by the BBC and Investigation Discovery, featuring Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis as a meticulous and obsessive designer who takes Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra to a whole new level. Set it in 1950s London. Throw in a bit of dry British humor, a strong-willed muse and some creepy family dynamics. And you’ve got Phantom Thread, the eighth movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson, and his second with Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood). Anderson movies are a bit of an acquired taste that I have yet to… well, acquire. So I’m not all that surprised that Phantom Thread failed to win me over despite its strong performances and killer wardrobe.