Review: They Remain

This psychological horror flick relies heavily on sound effects and music to take a walk in the woods to a very scare place. Adapted from Laird Barron’s short story “30”, the main plot revolves around two biologists hired by an unnamed corporation to investigate some strange animal behavior on a remote tract of land they bought. The land also just happens to be the site where a Manson-like cult ended up in a bloodbath years earlier. Keith (William Jackson Harper, Paterson and The Good Place) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson, Manhunt: Unabomber) spend their days setting up motion controlled cameras and taking soil samples to try and find out if there is anything particularly supernatural about the place, though you never know exactly what the corporate overlords are looking for. And of course strange things do start happening. And the question becomes, what’s real and can this possibly end well?

Review: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world when she came to Hollywood in the 1930s from her native Austria. She forced Louis B. Mayer to sign her to a high-dollar contract simply by walking through a room. No one could take their eyes off her. And she became a huge star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, but what Hedy Lamarr loved most was inventing. From childhood, she lived to take things apart and figure things out. She had a brilliant mind, but her beauty was all anyone cared about. And as this eye-opening and frustrating documentary shows, her ideas changed the world, even as she got no credit for them. That is, until now.

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Review: Black Panther

Yes, it is very good. It’s even better if you happen to like the genre – at least to some degree. 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.