QUICK TAKE: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

PetTitle: Pete’s Dragon | Rated: PG | Runtime: 102 min | Theaters nationwide

Disney is merrily developing remakes of – as well as sequels to – its own films, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Given the tendency to decry the lack of originality in modern Hollywood blockbusters, one could expect a wave of groans and grumbles to greet this news, but if you ask me, audiences (as well as myself) generally seem to be fine with it so long as the movies are good. Pete’s Dragon – a remake of the 1977 film of the same name – is one of these, and it delightfully soars.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Suicide Squad

SUICIDE SQUADTitle: Suicide Squad | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 130 min | Theaters nationwide

WB (Warner Bros.) and DC Films clearly want to put their sins behind them. Their vision for a DC cinematic universe to rival Marvel Studios’ remains a pipe dream (based on the films released so far), and they’re still hurting from the shitstorm that was BvS (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice). So far, it appears that they’re responding well, evidenced by the ascension of Geoff Johns – purportedly the Kevin Feige of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) – to president of DC Entertainment, positive reports from the Justice League set, and next year’s Wonder Woman as well as Justice League itself looking quite promising. Indeed, it seems that the DCEU is back on track after some course corrections, but they come too late for its latest installment, Suicide Squad. Despite a number of fine performances, the film is an absolute disorienting mess that is unable to properly breathe.

Continue reading

QUICK TAKE: Train to Busan

StationTitle: Train to Busan | Rated: Not Rated | Runtime: 118 min | Theaters limited (expanding)

I don’t mean to brag, but I think my native South Korea has produced one of the best zombie films in quite some time. What’s neat is that it’s not a seemingly empty action/horror blockbuster movie that features zombies front and center. While the undead certainly play a key role in the film, they ultimately play second fiddle to where the true drama lies. Taking inspiration from recent domestic incidents, Train to Busan is an emotionally grounded and taut disaster film that delivers entertainment in spades.

Continue reading

QUICK TAKE: Jason Bourne

MotorbikeTitle: Jason Bourne | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 123 min | Theaters nationwide

Some characters, franchises, and stories are better left alone once they reach a satisfying end. It doesn’t matter whether you want to see them again. What matters is whether their arcs come to a close. Think Calvin and Hobbes, Harry Potter, or just about any manga you followed at one point – they’re done, and that should be that. For better or for worse, Hollywood makes a living out of continuing intellectual properties from where they arguably should have ended, and the results can be a mixed bag. For every success such as Creed, Finding Dory, or Mad Max: Fury Road, there are a handful of clunkers like The Hangover Part II, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Terminator Genisys. Jason Bourne now joins the latter group, as this manufactured cash grab is unable to provide a compelling reason for its eponymous hero to return to the big screen.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

STAR TREK BEYONDTitle: Star Trek Beyond | Rated: PG-13 | Runtime: 120 min | Theaters nationwide

It’s prime time to be a Star Trek fan. Gene Roddenberry’s franchise just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it has reason aplenty to live long and prosper. A new Trek TV series, Star Trek: Discovery, is scheduled to premiere next year – nearly 12 years after the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. The latest entry in the reboot feature film saga (dubbed the Kelvin timeline), Star Trek Beyond, opened in theaters this past weekend. Furthermore, there’s already a fair bit of chatter regarding its sequel, in which Chris Hemsworth will star. Indeed, any Trekkie (or Trekker) must be over the moon, especially since the recent film is arguably the best in the Kelvin timeline so far.

Continue reading

QUICK TAKE: Free State of Jones

TeachingTitle: Free State of Jones | Rated: R | Runtime: 139 min | Theaters limited (reducing)

There’s no shortage of incredible true stories, and a great number of them deserve to be told on the big screen. After all, through the magic of filmmaking, a story can come to life and engage the viewer emotionally, intellectually, and visually. The story of Newton Knight and the “Free State of Jones” rebelling against the Confederacy during the Civil War is an utterly fascinating one, and it’s well-suited to be a movie that engages on all fronts. Writer-director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) is up for the task, but Free State of Jones is a cluttered film that simply tries to juggle too much and ultimately doesn’t fulfill any part of its incredible subject matter.

Continue reading