QUICKIE REVIEW: “Dune” (2021)

For years, Frank Herbert’s Dune has been considered unfilmable. And having seen Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation, maybe the problem with all of the other Dune adaptations really is the source material itself. Dune: Part One, as the movie repeatedly calls itself, adapts roughly the first half of Herbert’s novel. And it shows. For most of its runtime, Dune feels less like a movie and more like a two-and-a-half-hour trailer for a different movie. And instead of reaching any kind of climax, the film just ends. Like it’s an episode of an ongoing serialized TV show, coming to a sudden cliffhanger to entice you to tune in the following week.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Halloween Kills”

Halloween is one of those franchises that just keeps on going and going, reboot after reboot. The 2018 reboot (also called Halloween, to confuse the innocent) was a direct sequel to the original 1978 Halloween and ended up being a solid examination of intergenerational trauma mixed with a more traditional slasher film. But what about its sequel, 2021’s Halloween Kills? Well, it sets out with lofty goals but doesn’t execute them anywhere near as well as Halloween 2018 did. Watching Halloween Kills feels like reading the Wikipedia summary of a fairly compelling movie. All of the pieces are there, but there’s just not enough time to properly explore everything with any real depth.

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REVIEW: Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog

The moment I heard Warner Bros. was releasing a Scooby-Doo/Courage the Cowardly Dog crossover movie, I knew I had to watch it. I’ve loved Scooby-Doo for as long as I can remember. And watching Courage the Cowardly Dog was a foundational part of my early media exposure. So, the idea of combining these two franchises immediately grabbed my attention. And, honestly, it’s ludicrous that a crossover hadn’t been done already. Because Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is an utterly delightful film. Sure, there’s not enough plot to fill out the runtime, and the mystery isn’t the most captivating. But the movie so openly embraces the absurdity of both franchises that it’s very easy to just go along with it and enjoy the ride. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog
(written by Michael Ryan, directed by Cecilia Aranovich)
An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out?

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REVIEW: “Cult of Chucky”

And now, we reach the end of the Chucky franchise—until this fall’s TV continuation, of course. If 2013’s Curse of Chucky was a soft reboot, then 2017’s Cult of Chucky is a celebration of the franchise. Combining elements from all three eras of the Chucky franchise, Cult of Chucky takes the best parts of the series and turns them into something new. Acting as less of a finale and more of a prelude to future stories, Cult of Chucky is a promising look into the future of the Chucky franchise. Once again led by a captivating performance from Fiona Dourif, a bonkers-yet-entertaining storyline, an atmosphere to die for, and many creative kills, Cult of Chucky is a deeply enjoyable watch. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Cult of Chucky
(written and directed by Don Mancini)
Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica, who is confined to an asylum for the criminally insane. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “The Suicide Squad” (2021)

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad delivers exactly what it promises: an enjoyably over-the-top, bloody, and funny adventure. It’s exactly what you’d expect to get when you give a former Troma director a bunch of money and free reign to make whatever he wants. And, in that regard, the film is very successful. Though, if you’re not a fan of films that push the boundaries of what’s tasteful as far as possible, this might not be for you. Like, I’m dead serious. A lot of this movie pushes the boundaries on what’s funny and what’s in good taste. Intentionally, I might add. It feels like Gunn is purposely aiming for that borderline offensive territory. Mostly, however, I think the movie works pretty well. But there are definitely some super questionable moments. Particularly with a fair amount of the film’s humor and some of the plot/character beats.

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REVIEW: “Curse of Chucky”

At this point, I think the Chucky franchise’s greatest strength is its ability to reinvent itself any time its formula gets too stale. The first three films were pretty standard 1980s slashers. But Bride of Chucky successfully reinvented the franchise as more of a horror-comedy—a trend that was continued with more mixed results in Seed of Chucky. And 2013’s Curse of Chucky successfully reinvents the franchise once again, this time as a return to the realm of scarier horror films—now with a bit of a gothic flare. Curse of Chucky is a compulsively watchable film, led by a thrilling performance from Fiona Dourif, a solid story, some super fun kills, and a surprising amount of restraint. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Curse of Chucky
Written and directed by Don Mancini
Out for revenge, Chucky (Brad Dourif) the killer doll infiltrates the family of a woman, her sister and her young niece.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Seed of Chucky”

Look, Seed of Chucky isn’t my least favorite Chucky movie. (That honor is still held by Child’s Play 3.) But it is an absolute mess of a film. Half of it works as a sort of horror/comedy satire of early 2000s Hollywood. But the other half feels like a mixture of misguided ideas and extremely questionable jokes that straddle the line between good and bad taste. For the first time in the franchise, the dolls—Chucky (Brad Dourif), Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), and their child, Glen/Glenda (Billy Boyd)—are my least favorite characters. And that’s a bad sign for a franchise about killer dolls. (2.5 out of 5 wands.)

Seed of Chucky
Written and Directed by Don Mancini
Gentle Glen (Billy Boyd) is a ventriloquist’s dummy, the offspring of evil doll Chucky (Brad Dourif) and his doll bride (Jennifer Tilly), both of whom are now deceased. When the orphaned Glen hears that a film is being made about his parents, he goes to Hollywood and resurrects them in an attempt to get to know them better. He is horrified when Chucky and his lover embark on a new killing spree, and Chucky is equally horrified that his son has no taste for evil.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Bride of Chucky”

I get why horror fans don’t like Bride of Chucky. It’s more of a melodramatic comedy with horror elements than a true, traditional horror film. I can see how that might be divisive. However, I loved this movie. Yes, it’s over the top. And yes, the plot makes no sense. But man, is it fun. Everything about Bride of Frankenstein is deeply enjoyable—from the self-referential humor, to the almost soap opera-esque plot, to the over-the-top kills. This movie just oozes creativity, and it’s exactly the breath of fresh air the Chucky franchise needed.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Child’s Play 3”

Well, as I predicted, the Child’s Play formula overstayed its welcome. Child’s Play 3 is easily my least favorite of the trilogy. Everything about this film feels tired. It’s the same old basic plot. Chucky (Brad Dourif) finds Andy (Justin Whalin)—this time, at a military academy. Chucky tries to either kill him or take someone’s body—this time, Chucky goes after Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), one of the other boys at the academy. Nobody believes Andy when he warns them of Chucky’s danger. People slowly start dying, with Andy looking like the most logical culprit. Eventually, things hit a climax as Chucky reveals himself and tries to transfer his soul to another body. Yawn.

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REVIEW: “In the Heights”

There’s something special about big movie musicals. The way the music, visuals, performances, and spectacle all mesh together—there’s just nothing like it. Even when they’re bad, there’s still some joy to be found in them. In the Heights is one of those musicals that’s been begging for a film adaptation since it first debuted. It’s just so joyous and full of energy, with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton) trademark earwormy music and a lovely, heartfelt story. It’s no wonder fans have been waiting a decade for this movie. And thankfully, after a period of development hell that saw the film pass between producers and studios, In the Heights finally has its film adaptation—directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (the musical’s original writer). And it’s good. Honestly, as a fan of the stage version, I can’t imagine how it could be much better. In the Heights is unabashedly a musical. It’s filled with breathtaking beauty, realistic characters, and so much charm. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel a part of a community. It’s everything I could’ve wanted and more. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

In the Heights
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The creator of “Hamilton” and the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” invite you to the event of the summer, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big… “In the Heights.” Lights up on Washington Heights… The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life. “In the Heights” fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s kinetic music and lyrics with director Jon M. Chu’s lively and authentic eye for storytelling to capture a world very much of its place, but universal in its experience.

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