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522 reviews in total 
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Light, Breezy Family Fun with a Deep Understanding of What Makes Those Little Bumpy Blocks So Appealing to Us All, 3 July 2015
8/10

Far more fun than the concept really had any right to be, braving new horizons while still remaining loyal to the beating heart of the product and its passionate generations of fans. Simply enough, this is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of imagination, enthusiasm, adaptation and sheer randomness that runs like lifeblood through the spirit of a happy childhood. It jabs in delightfully unexpected directions. It bends physics without an explanation (nor a need for one). It casually hops from one licensed fantasy to another, mashing Green Lantern with Gandalf, and doesn't even slow down to consider the repercussions. At the best of times, I felt like I was a kid again myself, lost in nostalgia and the infinite potential locked away within every new block. And while the last act overreaches in an effort to really hammer the morals home, otherwise this is pretty much a direct hit. Crafty, funny writing, a dazzling array of vocal talent and a playful, distinct visual style - this is the kind of family film I can always make room for.

The Loft (2014)
A Vanilla Wannabe Thriller That Swings Hard and Misses Harder, 26 June 2015
3/10

A group of five middle-aged guys share the only keys to a private, secret condo expressly for their extramarital affairs. One morning, a bloodied dead woman is found in the bedroom and the arguing and finger-pointing begins. This seemingly has all the ingredients for a great small-scale tension cranker, but ambition gets the best of it, it tries to go large, and the whole thing blows to bits on the launchpad. It's terribly acted, for one, which is something of a surprise given the healthy careers enjoyed by its stars. Karl Urban and James Marsden are well-seasoned, even if they aren't exactly leading men, and Eric Stonestreet - while miscast in a very adult role - should at least know how to carry himself on the screen. Instead it's amateur hour, where limp first-takes abound, and the finished product is something I would expect from a bit of Cinemax softcore, not a polished big-budget production. I don't care about, or even remotely like, a single one of the characters, the writing goes around in circles seeking every possible twist, and the ending really doesn't even make any sense. Points for the concept, and for a few scanty bits of eye candy, but otherwise this is a major whiff.

Digging for the Damaged Soul Behind a Cultural Icon, 25 June 2015
7/10

An uncomfortably close look at the private life of Kurt Cobain, short-term rock superstar and unwilling voice of a disgruntled generation. In the decades since his untimely suicide, Cobain's become an almost mythical figure, which isn't to say he was anything less at the height of his mid-90s popularity. To that end, it can be useful to ground his legacy in this way: intimate home video footage shows him unguarded behind closed doors, but also captures his steady state of mental decay. Where there's a gap in his video history between childhood (and it's heartbreaking to watch this happy little boy, knowing what tragedies his life held in store) and early adulthood, journal entries, artwork and beautiful animated segments keep the narrative moving. Clearly he was hanging on by a thread for longer than most could manage, pushed into a pit of despair by a bleak combination of abandonment, physical frailty, intense media scrutiny and constant, desperate drug abuse. It's not the Cobain many of us might want to see, or to believe in, but it feels so close to the truth that I could almost feel his breath on me. As an extreme close-up on one of my era's biggest names it's significant, with a killer soundtrack of course, and unexpectedly real. It frequently feels invasive, though, especially in the interviews with his parents (his stepmother's continuous, awkward smile is particularly unnerving) and I'm not sure I'm totally okay with the way it made me feel. Powerful in many good, and many bad, ways.

40 out of 68 people found the following review useful:
Big, Dumb and Plodding, Like the Brainless Beasts it Boasts, 25 June 2015
5/10

Possessing neither the industrial significance nor the inherent majesty of the Spielberg original, it was always going to be a tall order for this modern revival to stack up. It's wise to do its own thing for the most part, though nudge-grin-wink references to the first film appear shamelessly (and, often, charmingly) around every corner. And while it's fun to point and smile at the familiar scraps of a 22-year-old film, at some point it feels like the new effort is too frightened of its own merits to cast them aside. At root, it's a simple mindless summer disaster movie with the spice of CGI dinosaurs thrown in where the earthquakes/volcanoes/tidal waves would usually go. Measured against that standard, it's still an awfully dumb bucket of over-familiar plot churn, but it feels more understandable and appropriate. Long gone are the delicate ruminations on nature, humanity and our impending role as technological gods, tossed in favor of more sizzle and fresh dino gimmicks. For all the trailer's promises that the new big bad is meaner, faster and - most importantly - smarter, it really doesn't seem to do all that much beyond stomping around the park and killing anything in sight. The new cast, helmed by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard (who, impressively, manages to dash through jungle and mountain in a pair of stylish heels), doesn't seem much brighter. A fair enough way to kill a couple hours at the cinema, but be prepared for a healthy dose of eyeball-rolls and manufactured drama.

John Wick (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Bloody, Brutal and Beautiful, It's Ninety Minutes' Worth of Style Without Substance, 22 June 2015
7/10

Keanu Reeves plays the Liam Neeson role in this slick, sharp, vicious little bout of revenge fantasy. With support work from a whole mess of "I know that guys" and a blow-away effects budget, it's a real riot to watch, not to mention one hell of a tech demo for the masterminds behind the fight scenes. Like those Neeson kill-em-alls, though, it's as straight as an arrow and shallower than the kiddie pool. In some ways, it's refreshing to just dispense with all the stereotypical origin trappings and get right into the firefights, but at the end of the show it just feels like one long, easy excuse to watch a whole mess of cool stuff without any extra justification. Lust-worthy cars, ferocious weaponry, powerful western-styled physicality, stereo-thumping tunes, magnificent cityscapes, the list just goes on and on. Escapists delight, for John Wick has come to deliver a dream. Cinephiles, well… just sit back and try to let the sheer, celebratory brutality beat your conscience into submission. It won't be too difficult.

Juno (2007)
Sweet, Quick-Witted and Timeless, This is One Comedy Worth Keeping, 22 June 2015
9/10

Ellen Page's smart, quirky coming-out party is equal parts sharp, witty, honest and real. At times it can fall into the trap of playing mouthpiece for the screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin style, but it's rescued by a grand tapestry of vivid, relatable supporting characters and a brilliant performance from Page in the title role. Somehow, she manages to come across as both wiser than her years and wonderfully naive, and her struggle to come to grips echoes the kind of profound identity crisis many of us experience during adolescence. Hell, I'd imagine that kind of uncertainty still resides in a deep, dark corner of most adults. JK Simmons is noteworthy as a wary, caring father - the kind of guy we all deserve in our corner - and Michael Cera is at his painfully-awkward best/worst as the shell-shocked teenage father-to-be. Still funny after all this time, with a great partner in its charmingly appropriate, folksy original soundtrack.

Thoughtful But One-Sided, American Radical Still Provides Good Mental Floss, 22 June 2015
6/10

A quick bio of Finkelstein, an outspoken Jew with bones to pick in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an overview of the troubles spawned by his controversial stances. He's a rare voice in the sense that his opinions place him at-odds with his religious homeland, decrying the lack of a Palestinian state and brow-beating the Israeli government for their part in allegedly whitewashing the conflict. It should come as no surprise that such a vocal, incendiary stance has made him all manner of powerful enemies, and his sharp, confrontational personal nature does him no further favors in that respect. Finkelstein at his best is intriguing, an engaging speaker with a fiery streak and the credentials, both personal and scholastic, to back him up against any opponent. Sadly, he also seems doomed to a fate of self-contradiction. He often employs the very same methods in his own tricky public speaking engagements that he vehemently decries in the opposition, even if this documentary does try its very best to clip and trim around such moments. It's just one side of a very complicated debate, and while he does make some convincing points that refute the official story from the United States and Israel, it can be difficult to accept his story and make a judgment without an equally eloquent counterpoint in play.

Moonraker (1979)
Dated, Phoned-in and Forced, This is Bond at His Worst, 22 June 2015
3/10

Bond goes galactic in this crappy, slappy attempt to capture the 2001 vibe without upsetting his usual audience. Those genres make for an exceptionally awkward match under the very best circumstances, of course, and this attempt is far from graceful. Poor special effects and an absurdly loose grasp on physics and technology kneecap the orbital scenes, while a redundant gauntlet of traps and action sets, plus a dry, repetitive bit of recon work, spoils the Earthbound action. It's a bad spy movie, but a terrible sci-fi movie. Bond has never before felt so formulaic and played-out. It seems like the series has blazed through a dozen boat chases by this point, and they all feel like the same scene set upon a slightly different waterway. The random addition of GI Joe-grade laser weaponry, plus a continuing descent into forced, groan-worthy one liners, makes this installment feel like a particularly pedestrian dose of self satire. It doesn't help that the screen is so thoroughly drenched with blunt, obvious product placement, either. A real sellout moment for the series, ditching its soul in favor of an expired, gimmicky flavor-of-the-month that can't even justify its own existence. Worst of the entire franchise? It's certainly in the running.

The Blob (1958)
Campy Sci-Fi Classic with an Unfortunate Love of Lingering, 22 June 2015
5/10

A small bubble of jelly tumbles dramatically from the sky, landing in the woods just outside Main Street USA, and swiftly begins absorbing and digesting the town's population. Naturally, the only ones to understand this predicament are a small tribe of no-good teenagers, and the crusty old grown-ups don't listen to a word until it's almost too late. It's a classic sci-fi trope, from the heart of Hollywood's cheap, silly, sci-fi boom, and that's always fun to watch… to a certain extent. After jumping right in with a first-scene asteroid crash, though, The Blob loses its way fairly quickly, dragging its feet through all manner of slow, dry, window-gazing scenes while the monster gets busy somewhere decidedly off-screen. The attraction is a blob of man-eating goo, but the film seems more concerned with the history of kid-cop-parent relations in this sleepy little borough. It drags on forever, until it's suddenly time to wrap things up and then we rush through all the good stuff in a quick, delirious blur. It's in that quick, vibrant sprint that we enjoy all the best shots - a stampede to escape the theater, a fully-engulfed diner - but they're mere glances, and none seem blessed with the right amount of gravitas. The history books tell us that this was never intended to be a hallmark of the genre, and that much is clear. The studio didn't think much of it because, apart from a brilliant title and a far-leftfield concept, there really isn't all that much to think about. It's an empty, abrupt, stupid, yet inexplicably magnetic, time capsule. A short, simple novelty at the best of times.

War Horse (2011)
Easy, Sentimental and Dull Through-and-Through, 22 June 2015
4/10

Essentially a Benji movie, starring a horse, set in the trenches of World War I. Horse is raised by a loving master, horse overcomes the odds to save the family farm, horse is sold into service, horse endures a magical journey through the pages of history. Deep down, there's clearly an emotional, colorful, ageless story just begging to be told, but not like this. Time and time again, director Steven Spielberg takes the easy route, opting to embrace the storybook-courageous, squishy human aspects of the animal itself, at the expense of his dry, boring, two-legged supporting cast. The spotlight shines for so long, so brightly upon the beast, that I half expected him to throw on a British uniform and bark out a dazzling rally cry to his fellow troops as the war draws to a close. Sentimental to a fault, tame and regurgitated and downright boring, it's a real strikeout for the normally-reliable Spielberg. Better versions of the same story have been told in half the time, with a fraction of the budget.


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