Thursday, May 29, 2014

'A Million Ways To Die In The West' Movie Review

This summer is full to overflowing with superheroes and sequels, but there is a woeful lack of raunchy, R-rated comedies. “Neighbors” was great, and “22 Jump Street” looks like it should be a good time—even though it, too, is another sequel—but aside from that, the only other option is Seth MacFarlane’s western “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” His follow up to “Ted,” which surprised a lot of people and may have elevated expectations unrealistically, the “Family Guy” creator’s latest is a mixed bag, maybe a return to reality.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SIFF '14 Movie Review: 'Zombeavers'

If you buy a ticket to a movie called Zombeavers, odds are you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. At least you should, if you don’t, and you complain about it later, you only have yourself to blame. There is a good litmus test, however. Read the title out loud, and if you giggle, this is a movie for you; if not, you should probably sit this one out. And if you fall into the first category, I am pleased to report that Zombeavers is as much of a blast as you could hope for.

Monday, May 26, 2014

SIFF '14 Movie Review: 'Standing Aside, Watching'

When Greece is portrayed in the movies it’s usually as either a paradise with gorgeous beaches and crystal clear Mediterranean waters for frolicking in, or as a significant place in the history of the human race. Why else would Bill and Ted venture back there just to kidnap one of their key philosophical figures? Giorgos Servetas’ new film, “Standing Aside, Watching,” however, shows a completely different side of the Southern European nation. This is a grim, bleak picture of a country fraught with corruption and violence, from the top all the way down to the smallest social levels.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

SIFF '14 Review: 'Unforgiven'

When we discuss a remake, we’re usually talking about an American revamp of a foreign movie. Hollywood sure does love to borrow plots and characters from Eastern cinema, from “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo” to “Oldboy” and, most recently, another stab at the “Godzilla” franchise. Well, this East-West cultural exchange is, in reality, a two-way street. Granted, most of the traffic flows in a single direction, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t occasional cars headed the other way from time to time. This is the cast with Sang-il Lee’s (“Villain”) remake of Clint Eastwood’s western “Unforgiven.”

SIFF '14 Review: 'Mirage Men'

From what sounds like an off-the-wall, wing-nut-inspired concept, Mirage Men delivers a documentary that really gives you something to chew on. The basic premise is that UFOs, the perceived conspiracy surrounding the mystery of their existence, and the entire narrative that continues to this day, is in fact built on an expansive, and continuous, campaign of disinformation from the United States government. This is a fascinating look, not only at the subculture of UFO enthusiasts, but also paranoia, distrust, and the lengths the powers that be are willing to go to in order to protect their secrets and muddy the waters.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

'Chef' Movie Review

It’s hard to watch “Chef” and not think of the film as a metaphor for writer/director Jon Favreau’s career trajectory. He began his cinematic life working on indie films like 1996’s “Swingers” before hitting it big with massive hits like “Iron Man”, where he reportedly butted heads with the studio over his creative input. “Chef” is definitely a more personal film, a fact that shines through in every last scene. Even though it can be a little light, you can tell exactly how much he and everyone else enjoyed making the film, and that makes it a great deal of fun to watch.

'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' Movie Review

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a movie steeped in the history of everyone’s favorite squad of mutants. Not only does it tell one of the franchise’s most cherished narrative arcs, written by legendary comic scribe Chris Claremont in the early 1980s—though admittedly with some major changes to the plot—it also reunites the titular superheroes with director Bryan Singer for the first time in more than a decade. Fun, epic, and wide reaching, Days of Future Past is a solid follow up to First Class, but a number flaws keep it from being one of the best of the franchise.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SIFF '14 Review: 'Firestorm'

Not to be confused with the Howie Long firefighter joint of the same name, “Firestorm” marks a directorial effort from noted Hong Kong screenwriter Alan Yuen (“New Police Story”). The film doesn’t reinvent the genre or break any new ground, but if you’re in the mood for an insane, HK-style actioner, this will fit the bill just fine. In fact, Yuen takes all of the tropes and formulas you’ve come to know and cranks every last one of them up to a ludicrous degree, including the story and action. Seriously, the blanks and squib budget on this movie must have been absolutely nuts.

Monday, May 19, 2014

SIFF '14 Review: 'Another'

From the very first frame, writer/director Jason Bagnacki’s neo-giallo “Another” sets a dark mood and an atmosphere fraught with tension. When you start your movie with a bunch of creepy dudes in black robes performing some sort of occult ritual on a baby in a cave, this sort of thing is bound to happen. Spooky imagery, slow motion shots, ominous tones, and many more tools of the trade pile layer upon layer of pressure on top of you as you watch. One scene even slows and well-known pop song ever so slightly just in order to disconcert you in a new and interesting way.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

'The Art Of John Harris: Beyond The Horizon' Book Review

You may not know the name John Harris right off the bat, but, odds are, if you’ve read much science fiction in the latter part of the 20th Century, you’re familiar with his work. A renowned artist in his own right, he is most known for illustrating the covers for countless sci-fi book going back as far as the 1970s. His newest project is something a little different. The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon collects his paintings, both those that decorated the jackets of genre novels, as well as stand alone pieces, and this is definitely something that you should be proud to display on coffee table.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

'Godzilla' Movie Review

When you heard that Godzilla was getting another American remake, you weren’t the only one to release a groan and ask, “really?” Toho’s venerable giant, destructive lizard played a key part in many of our youths, and Roland Emmerich’s 1998 attempt to bring the big guy across the ocean was so bad that the foul taste still lingers in many of our mouths. As good as director Gareth Edward’s reboot has looked, and as excited as we wanted to get, we had to keep our expectations and enthusiasm in check. Lucky for us, Edwards loves this big green bastard as much as we do, and that fact is evident in every frame. Not without flaws, Godzilla is huge, epic, and most importantly, a ridiculous amount of fun.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

'Neighbors' Movie Review

“Neighbors” is the big, raunchy, R-rated comedy you were hoping for this summer. Seth McFarlane’s “How to Die in the West” may challenge for that crown, but it has an uphill battle, because Nicholas Stoller’s latest film is a total, uproarious blast. Delightfully foul—like a dildo fighting, baby chewing on a used condom filthy—this is better written than you expect out of this kind of movie, and really better than it has any right to be. Normally, comparing a movie to a classic is a sure sign that it is nowhere near as good as the benchmark, but you can’t help but imagine that “Neighbors” is going to get called this generation’s “Animal House.” And it very well might be. If nothing else, it will make you laugh your ass off from beginning to end.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

'The Revolutions' Book Review

I almost stopped reading Felix Gilman’s new magical sci-fi drama, The Revolutions, on a number of occasions. Not a terrible book, it can, however, make for a frustrating read, and though it largely makes up for it near the end, the beginning is a slog. Gilman won a fair amount of acclaim and stunning reviews for 2010’s The Half-Made World and 2012’s The Rise of Ransom City, and while his latest novel is an ambitious attempt to try to come up with something new and different, it never lives up to his earlier hype. The book tells a unique story, but it is the manner in which it is told that derails the narrative.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Movie Review

You get the feeling that hiding somewhere in the 140-minute runtime of director Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 there’s a decent 90-minute movie. The problem is that, for every good moment, fantastic performance, and solid action scene, there are underdeveloped character and story elements, questionable CGI, and tepid melodrama. This causes the movie as a whole to come across as flat, dull eye candy, which never does enough to differentiate itself from either its predecessor or Sam Raimi’s earlier stab at the franchise. Trying to do too much, not enough works, there’s no thematic continuity, and you walk away feeling like the filmmakers never decided what movie they wanted to show you.

'Only Lovers Left Alive' Movie Review

Indie auteur Jim Jarmusch is no stranger to existential drama, though his latest, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” marks the first time he’s ventured into supernatural territory, with an in-depth examination of the tormented lives of vampires. In reality, the undead condition of his leads, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), has very little to do with the surface action of the film. Complications arise on occasion, but more than anything, this is a moody, atmospheric slice of vampire life that plays like a dirge or a funeral song. “Only Lovers” explores their lives, it just so happens that their lives go on for centuries and span multiple eras.