It is the distant future: 1995. In this 21st installation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first female-led Marvel movie, Brie Larson plays Vers, a green blue-blooded member of the Kree, a technologically advanced race of aliens who value emotional control. Vers and her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) lead a Starfleet Starforce secret mission against the Romulans Skrull, a shapeshifting race that has been at war with the Kree ...Read MoreRead more
Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End) established him to audiences as a writer of Big Idea stories, eliciting comparisons to Arthur C. Clarke. The Wandering Earth (original title: Liu Lang Di Qiu) based on his novella of the same name, cements that reputation with a grand-scale, hard SF story that will appeal to fans of ...Read MoreRead more
For anyone dreading another Michael Bay explosion-fest, don’t worry. Other than a brief opening battle sequence, Bumblebee is mercifully free of the military porn that defined the five previous movies in the Transformers film franchise and, with a PG rating, follows a more family-friendly format. Set in 1987, Bumblebee follows the title character (briefly voiced by Dylan O’Brien) as he’s sent by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) on a ...Read MoreRead more
With H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith is one of the major writers associated with the original incarnation of Weird Tales magazine. Of the three, Lovecraft has received the lion’s share of critical attention, from the essays regularly published first in Lovecraft Studies and now the Lovecraft Annual, to such book-length studies as Maurice Levy’s Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic and Robert Waugh’s The Monster ...Read MoreRead more
Teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive spider and then develops superhuman abilities. Struggling to control and understand his powers, he returns to the underground site where he was bitten. He stumbles upon Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and his lackeys hatching a diabolical plan. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Chris Pine) shows up to stop Kingpin and when he runs into Miles he realizes that Miles is “just like ...Read MoreRead more
Josh: When we reviewed A Quiet Place earlier this year, I said that it reminded me of Josh Malerman’s book Bird Box. What do you think? Fair comparison? There are definite similarities: unexplained monsters come to town; humans have to give themselves a handicap in order to survive; there’s a pregnant woman at the forefront; save the children!
Arley: It’s different, but similar. Even though the filmmakers of Bird ...Read MoreRead more
Yes, I will admit, I would have preferred to see fewer brutal fistfights accompanied by the amplified sound of crunching lettuce and more leisurely attention to the imaginative underwater environments that mostly serve as backdrops for the film’s incessant free-for-falls; and yes, the film would have benefited from some judicious editing to reduce its two-and-a-half hour length to two hours. But overall, Aquaman qualifies as a successful superhero film, persuasively ...Read MoreRead more
Since Mary Poppins Returns was one of those rare films falling within my area of expertise that was of interest to my other family members, I watched it in the company of my wife and granddaughter, and I should report that six-year-old Serena Michelle Kong thoroughly enjoyed the film, explaining that she found it just as delightful as its esteemed precursor Mary Poppins (1964). And perhaps, that is the only ...Read MoreRead more
I must first admit that I enjoyed Christian Rivers’s Mortal Engines far more than I thought I would, and the film’s first hour definitely qualifies as a marvelous piece of entertainment. Unfortunately, this story about motorized, traveling cities starts to sputter and run out of gas as it progresses, at the precise time when the filmmakers evidently believed that they were ratcheting up the excitement to an even greater level. ...Read MoreRead more
We usually start these reviews with a summary, trying to give a sense of what the movie is about without spoiling any important moments. Spoiler: the storyline is too boring to be relayed. The plot is haphazard and unnecessarily convoluted. An honest synopsis would go something like, “random events strung together vaguely trying to look serious just so new magical effects can happen, plus a handful of magical creatures, often ...Read MoreRead more
When reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) investigates rumors that tech bro billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is running human experiments with alien symbiotes, Brock is infected by the symbiote named Venom (voiced by Hardy), which [battles him for control of his own body] [gives him a serious case of alien limb syndrome]. Drake’s security chief Treece (Scott Haze) pursues Brock through the streets of San Francisco in an attempt to ...Read MoreRead more
Some people may wonder why a science fiction film reviewer is discussing a completely realistic film about an actual man and his actual accomplishments. But I can offer a simple explanation: I am reviewing, reasonably enough, a remake of the film that won science fiction’s Hugo Award as the “Best Dramatic Presentation” of 1969: namely, “News Coverage of Apollo 11.” (For even though, as I have noted elsewhere, space travel ...Read MoreRead more
Somewhere in the Central American jungle, Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) encounters a crashed Predator escape pod. He loots it and later mails the alien’s high-tech helmet and wrist gauntlet back to the US.
Scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is taken to a secret government facility where the Predator from the crash (Brian Prince) is being held. The Predator breaks free and goes in search of its missing ...Read MoreRead more
Josh: So, about the title of this review. What do you think of, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” or is that too easy?
Arley: How about, “We’re gonna need a bigger shark.”
Josh: I was also thinking, “We’re gonna need a bigger beer.”
The Meg stars Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor, a diver whose rescue operation goes wrong due to an encounter with a mysterious creature, which scares him ...Read MoreRead more
If anyone is glancing at this review for advice on which films to see this weekend, my recommendation would be to avoid The Darkest Minds. For while it is competently executed and offers some superficial novelties, it is a film that most people have already seen several times, and since two similar franchises to be discussed have failed to generate expected sequels, it may be that many filmgoers are growing ...Read MoreRead more
In this sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, convicted felon Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has only days remaining on his house arrest when he’s abducted by Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) because they believe he holds the key to rescuing Hope’s mother Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm where she disappeared 30 years before.
Josh: Hi! What were your initial impressions ...Read MoreRead more
Before we can talk about Incredibles 2 we have to talk about Bao. This is the first Pixar short film directed by a woman, Chinese Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi. It centers on a Chinese mother with a case of empty nest syndrome. She gets a second chance at motherhood when one of the dumplings she makes comes to life as a baby boy.
Josh: Is that the official description? ...Read MoreRead more
No one goes to a Jurassic Park movie to experience brilliant acting performances or profound explorations of complex human relationships; they want to see dinosaurs, lots of dinosaurs, and in its two hours and eight minutes Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom provides more than enough of them. Further, after a slow-paced and meandering first hour that emphasizes the menace of an erupting volcano more than the menace of ravenous dinosaurs, the ...Read MoreRead more
Deadpool 2 continues the zany adventures of a smart-ass, smart-mouth mutant mercenary (Ryan Reynolds) whose powers are superhuman regeneration, looking melted, and being meta. When a time-traveling soldier from the future (Josh Brolin) attempts to murder the young mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison), Deadpool is set on a path to redemption. Bonus points: he gathers a team of other heroes, including Domino (Zazie Beetz), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and Colossus ...Read MoreRead more
Despite all the negative publicity surrounding the film, I think I actually enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story more than Disney’s other recent additions to this venerable franchise. For one thing, in contrast to other Star Wars films, the fate of the entire universe does not hinge upon whether this film’s heroes escape from their latest predicament, so there are no portentous auras to dampen the film’s sense of humor; ...Read MoreRead more
Avengers: Infinity War is the first half of the third movie of a subseries (following 2012’s Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron) in the (currently) 19-movie Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, and that’s a lot to take in. Thanos, the big purple CGI baddie played by Josh Brolin, sows death and destruction across the galaxy in his quest to acquire all six Infinity Stones, objects of power ...Read MoreRead more
In this post-apocalyptic film, a couple raises their family while being stalked by blind monsters that hunt entirely by sound. Silence is the only defense, and any noise is fatal.
Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) hide out in a farmhouse with their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe), surviving by building soundproofed shelters, fishing in a nearby river, and scavenging in ...Read MoreRead more
Wakanda! A land of secrets. This is the homeland of the Black Panther. It sits on the world’s largest deposit of the exotic element vibranium, which enables Wakandans to achieve fantastic technological heights beyond the rest of the world (Flying cars! Healing damaged spinal columns! Fingerprint-sized communication devices with global range! Maglev trains! Oh, and collapsible armor-piercing spears—which fire energy waves!). This technology also allows them to disguise the entire ...Read MoreRead more
Audiences will probably enjoy watching Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, but they won’t necessarily feel proud of themselves for doing so. Rather, they will recognize that they have paid some money to participate in a thrilling, fast-paced, but essentially empty adventure – much like the arcade video games that, in the film, have eventually engendered the immense virtual universe of OASIS.
The film has been faithful to the basic ...Read MoreRead more
If you are delayed by inclement weather while traveling to see Pacific Rim: Uprising, do not be overly dismayed, because the film might actually be more enjoyable if you walk into the theater an hour after it has started. True, you will struggle to understand some aspects of the plot, but when you are watching enormous, human-controlled robots (jaegers) battling against loathsome reptilian monsters (kaiju) in brilliantly choreographed sequences ...Read MoreRead more
When reviewing a film, I’ve always strived to avoid reading anything about it, so I can evaluate the film while untainted by others’ opinions. Today, however, that is no longer possible. In a world where people are starving in Venezuela, and innocent civilians are being slaughtered in Syria, the breaking news each week is the anticipated fortunes of the major films about to be released. So, simply by glancing at ...Read MoreRead more
Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel Annihilation is a magical and mysterious book, and the simplest way to criticize Alex Garland’s film of the novel is to say that it is not a magical and mysterious film. To be sure, director and screenwriter Garland might protest that he did the best he could to convey the essence of VanderMeer’s novel while working within the confines of contemporary Hollywood filmmaking, but the bottom ...Read MoreRead more
Although I haven’t read any reviews of the film, I suspect that Wes Ball’s Maze Runner: The Death Cure (simply entitled The Death Cure in the opening credits) will be praised, or condemned, as a routine action film, with a series of exciting, well-executed sequences pitting likable protagonists against impossible odds, stitched together by quieter scenes to advance its plot and develop the characters. In sum, if you like the ...Read MoreRead more
An introductory disclosure: when I was in graduate school, I became the friend, and occasional roommate, of Jim Taylor’s older brother Doug Taylor, and I met and talked with Jim a few times when he was a student at Pomona College. I particularly remember a final conversation when Jim reported that, after graduating, he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue, so far unsuccessfully, a career as a Hollywood screenwriter. ...Read MoreRead more
Since Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi contains almost all of the elements that have made the franchise so popular – likable heroes, implacable villains, superb special effects, colorful aliens and robots, the requisite number of space battles and lightsaber duels, and a rousing John Williams score – it will undoubtedly prove enormously successful and thoroughly satisfying to diehard fans. However, as time passes, I suspect that those fans ...Read MoreRead more
As has happened before, I face the dilemma of reviewing a film that I have been clearly instructed to like, yet did not actually like. But, one might ask, what is there is dislike about The Shape of Water? It is the work of an author-director, Guillermo del Toro, who has repeatedly demonstrated his knowledge of, and fondness for, science fiction films, as well demonstrated by the excellent Pacific ...Read MoreRead more
Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed watching Justice League, which can be appreciated as unpretentious fun, featuring likable characters and some moments of genuine humor. To be sure, it is not an ideal film, but the concept of bringing together popular superheroes to battle against common foes is appealing enough to overcome the recurring infelicities that have marred almost all of the recent films in the DC Extended ...Read MoreRead more