Nothing brings family together like murder or fortune, right? Just in time for the holidays, Knives Out is exactly the type of after dinner affair you want to attend. An all-star cast featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis (just to name a few)? A murder mystery that’s not only clever, but also relevant? I mean, seriously. What’s not appealing about this original movie from writer and director Rian Johnson? From the start, Knives Out is endlessly entertaining, and by movie’s end, you’ll be asking yourself if you’ve had a more fun time at the movies this year.
There seem to be very few tasks more difficult in movie making than trying to make the next chapter in one of the most iconic horror movies (and books) made over 30 years ago, no? Not only is this a difficult task, but you’re also trying to adapt a follow-up to the story of The Shining that not only pleases fans of the movie adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, but also one that its author, Stephen King, approves of. (He publicly has stated that he hates the Kubrick film.) With King’s properties being a hot commodity in Hollywood right now, Doctor Sleep, even if not handled properly, still easily could have been a cash grab. But thankfully, director Mike Flanagan handles Doctor Sleep with confidence and impeccable attention to detail, with the final result being a wholly satisfying next chapter in Danny Torrance’s story.
Right after an all too familiar opening action sequence, it becomes quite clear what audiences are in for. Yes, you’re seeing a Will Smith action thriller, but it feels like an action movie straight out of the nineties (complete with the Jerry Bruckheimer production logo before the movie starts). That can be a good thing, and we’ve seen positive examples of that in recent years. But if you have a ho-hum story and laughable dialogue, then no amount of action sequences can save your mundane movie, Gemini Man. A combination of Will Smith and director Ang Lee not only makes for a decent chance for a winning formula, but also a comeback formula here given that both big Hollywood names are due for redemption given their recent track records. But alas, Gemini Man is not that comeback. Continue reading
Joker is without a doubt the most daring movie to come out with DC Comics associated with a property. While Joker features no superheroes who can talk to fish, or a failed team up of superheroes that will drive a group of rabid fans to demand to see some director’s cut they think exists locked away in a vault hundreds of feet below the Warner Brothers studio lot, there is plenty of risk with associated with this property. It’s a mid-size budgeted comic book movie that features no action sequences, spiffy visual effects, or Bat signal, and is also carries an R rating. It comes from director Todd Phillips, whose biggest titles are The Hangover movies and Old School. And finally, it’s another incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime, whose previous iterations include a couple that are heralded as some of the best ever villain characters on film. But against all odds, Joker defies expectations and is one of the most memorable comic book adaptations in recent memory, thanks to a powerhouse performance from Joaquin Phoenix and confident direction from Phillips.
Forgettable horror sequels are a dime a dozen in Hollywood; they’re almost never anywhere near as good as their predecessors and fail to reach the caliber of the movie that helped lay the foundation (or make a profit for a studio). While It: Chapter 2 is based on Stephen King’s popular novel, the physical copy of which is as heavy as a bag of apples, it still has a lot to live up to thanks to its forerunner that was a smashing hit and a near-perfect horror movie. Based on the box office numbers and reception, Warner Brothers gave returning director Andy Muschietti more than just the keys to the sequel, but the whole garage, its tools, and anything else he wanted in order to make Chapter 2 live up to every bit of the first installment. As a result, It: Chapter 2 is more than just a horror movie. It’s a blockbuster with the mentality of “go big or go home.” Going all out to the very end It: Chapter 2 swings for the fences and hits a home run. At just a hair below its predecessor, it’s not only the year’s best horror movie, but also one of the best horror sequels ever made.