The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Despite a challenging premise and an overlong runtime, the Hunger Games prequel makes the most of the hand it’s been dealt.
The character of Coriolanus Snow is an odd choice for a Hunger Games hero. In the original books and films, as played by screen giant Donald Sutherland, Snow was a cold-hearted, cruel dictator clearly meant to echo real world fascist leaders. Here, in the prequel story The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (say that five times fast), Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) is just a sensitive, emotional teen dreamboat whose main goal is to provide for his family in the wake of the violent revolution that tore apart Panem, the country formerly known as the United States of America.
It’s difficult to understand why author Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novel Songbirds is based on, made the decision to try to humanize a violent authoritarian when a core theme of the original Hunger Games books and movies was lashing back at systemic oppression. Nonetheless, director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, I Am Legend) and his enthusiastic cast of talented performers make the best of the rather thematically confused story arc they’ve been given, turning in one of the most exciting, emotionally arresting entries in the franchise. Continue Reading →
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter feels like a movie from a different era. To a point, it is—writer Bragi Schut first drafted his adaptation of the 'Log of the "Demeter"' sequence in Bram Stoker's Dracula in the early 2000s. It's a capital letters Hollywood Creature Feature—a grimmer straight horror cousin to 2004's action/horror hybrid Van Helsing. At its best, it's an admirably gnarly monster flick—bolstered by sturdy craft from director André Øvredal and consistently good performances from a game ensemble. At its worst, it loses confidence and resorts to bumbling attempts to guide its audience by the hand—most notably in its prologue and epilogue. Continue Reading →
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Despite their hue, not all TMNT films deserved to be greenlit.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1984. Now almost 40 years later, what started as a comic book has inspired seven movies, five television series, and countless amounts of merchandise. This week the four ninja tortoises return in a new animated incarnation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Considering I’ve been a fan of the Turtles since six years old, this seems like the perfect time to put an official rating on four decades of movies. Some are gnarly, some tubular, and there’s always a whole lot of cowabunga.
Writers Note: This list doesn’t include the recent Netflix installment Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, a TV-movie crossover Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the live recording of the 1990 Coming Out of Their Shells stage show. That one you can catch on YouTube, although I don’t know why you would. Continue Reading →
Talk to Me
Things have been very bad for much of the world for a very long time, and they won’t improve any time soon. I don’t mean to start things off on a bummer note, but to point out that from such dire circumstances comes one benefit: the horror movie renaissance that started in the late 2010s only seems to be getting better. Just this year we’ve gotten the low-fi nightmares Skinamarink and The Outwaters, horror comedy with M3GAN and Cocaine Bear, another mostly solid entry in the Scream franchise, too many indie horror films to list here (Bad Girl Boogey and Brooklyn 45 are but a couple), and the roaring return of the Evil Dead series. Even if there weren’t another release for the rest of the year, it’d still be a great year for horror. Continue Reading →
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
One of Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One's earliest pieces of marketing was a trailer-by-way-of-behind-the-scenes featurette. In that clip, Tom Cruise, strapped to a motorcycle, rockets off the edge of a cliff in the Swiss Alps. He lets the bike drop away before popping his parachute and sailing into the horizon. It's one of the most death-defying sequences ever captured on film and, as we now know, it's one Cruise himself did again and again and again. The sequence, even devoid of context, sums up exactly what director Chris McQuarrie and Cruise (the two are also co-producers) hoped to achieve in Dead Reckoning: grade A movie spectacle. Continue Reading →