Review: Styx

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Review: Five Feet Apart

Haven’t I seen this movie somewhere before? Yes, Five Feet Apart does indeed look a lot like the 2014 ailing-teen romantic drama tearjerker, The Fault in Our Stars. Only this time around, the affliction casting a shadow over budding romance is cystic fibrosis rather than cancer. The bottom line remains the same: chronic and terminal diseases suck. And while love can’t always conquer all, the battle is still worth fighting. Cue the melodramatic score and pass the tissues, please.

Review: Captain Marvel

I’ll tread carefully here, though I don’t think there are many actual spoilers to worry about. That’s because Captain Marvel is an origin story meant to set the stage for future appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – most importantly, perhaps, in the highly-anticipated Avengers: Endgame. Suffice it to say, Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers aka Vers) is poised to become a worthy addition to a franchise that is generally dominated by super-dudes. She’s like a synthesis of Superman (I know, he’s DC Comics, but cut me some slack here) and two of my favorite Marvel Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America. She’s super-fast, super-strong and super-sassy, with an innate ability to absorb and shoot energy from the palms of her hands in a way that is likely to make Spider-Man quite jealous. So where did she come from?

Review: What Men Want

What men should want is not to be dragged to this movie for Valentine’s Day. And what men – and women – deserve is a stronger spin on a plot device that worked quite well in Nancy Meyers’ 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. Gibson (before he went all weird on us) played a chauvinistic executive who learned something about himself – and his treatment of women – after a mishap gave him the ability to hear women’s inner thoughts. This time around, the genders are reversed. Taraji P. Henson plays Ali Davis, a successful sports agent in Atlanta who gains the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts. She hopes to use her newfound power (a blessing and a curse) to score a high-profile client, and land the promotion she is entitled to in the boy’s club that is her workplace.

Review: Cold Pursuit

Cold Pursuit triggered a chilling case of deja vu. Not just because it’s another Liam Neeson revenge thriller. But because I’d seen the exact same movie before, in 2014 – a foreign film out of Norway called In Order of Disappearance (“Kraftidioten”), about a mild-mannered snowplow operator named Nils Dickman who sets out to avenge the mob-related murder of his son. Cold Pursuit is an American remake, made by the same director (Hans Petter Moland), with a few minor alterations. And I mean minor. The main character’s name has been changed to Nels Coxman (Neeson), and he’s a snowplow operator in Colorado. The narratives, the action, the motivations, the gallows humor, and the high body count remain essentially the same, as do the creatively varied ways in which people die.

Quickie Review: Serenity

Chances are you’ve already heard or read: This movie kinda sucks. So I won’t delve too deep into the waters of this fish tale gone awry. Suffice it to say, I expected more (better?) from a stylized thriller with an A-list cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke and Djimon Hounsou. I’m not one to automatically subscribe to the “If it’s released in January, it’s gonna stink” theory. Heck, The Kid Who Would Be King is actually pretty good. And M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is looking better by the day! So what happened here? I have to believe that the cast saw something Inception or Interstellar-like in writer/director Steven Knight’s script that simply did not translate onto the screen. It fails quite spectacularly, mainly due to a plot twist that – tempted as I may be – can’t be revealed without spoiling the whole kit and caboodle. Here’s the general set-up: A fishing boat captain named Baker Dill (McConaughey) is hired by his femme fatale ex-wife Karen (Hathaway) to take her abusive current husband Frank (Clarke) out on a fishing trip and feed him to the sharks. For his troubles, she’ll pay him 10 million dollars. That’s a lot of tuna.

Review: Glass

What exactly is a “comic book thriller”? I’m not exactly sure, but apparently Glass falls into that category. So Comic-Con types rejoice! This one’s primarily for you. It’s also a gift of sorts for fans of Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), two creepy yet engrossing movies written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In Glass, Shyamalan merges the narrative of those two previous efforts to complete what turns out to be a trilogy nearly 20-years in the making, and possibly sets the origin story for a whole new series of comic-horror-thriller-superhero cinematic events.

Quickie Review: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex is a solid, feel-good movie about a real-life superhero and pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It serves as a great companion piece to the recent RBG documentary, i.e. there’s no harm in seeing both. It may even help that both films hit theaters in close proximity, at a time when SCOTUS is top of mind in the political and social arena.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Review: Book Club

If you’ve ever been part of a book club and/or read the kinky romance trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey,” then you’ll totally ‘get’ this movie and enjoy a few good laughs along the way. It’s formulaic and predictable and largely stakes-free, but as the friend who accompanied me to a special Mother’s Day screening of the film declared, “We need that type of movie once in a while!” In other words, don’t over-think it. Just appreciate Book Club for its lighthearted nature and positive themes about embracing change, taking risks, and starting new chapters in the book of life. And, enjoy it for the cast: a powerhouse ensemble of veteran actors led by Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenbergen.

Review: Life of the Party

Life of the Party is a serviceable, but forgettable vehicle for the affable Melissa McCarthy. She plays a middle-aged housewife named Deanna whose husband abruptly announces that he wants a divorce after 20-plus years and is in love with a local realtor. He dumps this news on Deanna just after they drop-off their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at a nearby college where she’s about to start her senior year. The locale gets Mom thinking… perhaps it’s time to go back to school herself and get those last credits she needed to graduate with a degree in archaeology. Cue the archaeology puns (can you dig it?), the makeover, and the conventional college and family-dysfunction comedy antics: Deanna’s decision initially horrifies Maddie while her sorority sisters think Mom is the bomb (in a cool way); she moves into the dorms and attempts to bond with her freakish loner of a roommate; and, she catches the eye – and more – of a hunky young guy on campus.