Movies that dramatize the events of real crimes are always forced to walk a narrow tight-rope. They have to be careful not to gratuitously show too much of the real violence and potentially glorify real murders while also not focusing too much on the wrong aspects and showing too little of the crimes and accidentally make the real murderer too sympathetic/unfrightening. It’s a tight-rope that Netflix’s newest film, Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile, is forced to walk – and it doesn’t do a great job. It’s admirable at how little Ted Bundy’s (Zac Efron) real violence is shown, but it also does a poor job at really showing how terrible he was, instead choosing to ostensibly focus on his relationship with Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). However, it doesn’t do a particularly good job at establishing their relationship and actually developing either of them as characters within the narrative of a film. Instead of feeling like an actual movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile feels more like a Wikipedia article covering Bundy’s crimes and his various relationships. (Spoilers for the film follow!)
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (written by Michael Werwie and directed by Joe Berlinger)
Single mother Liz (Lily Collins) thinks she’s found the man of her dreams in Ted (Zac Efron). But their seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when Ted is arrested on suspected kidnapping charges, then linked to murders in multiple states. Adamant that he’s being framed, the former law student theatrically defends himself in America’s first nationally televised trial while Liz struggles to come to terms with the truth. Adapted from the nonfiction memoir by Elizabeth Kendall, EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE recounts how she was manipulated for years by a seemingly adoring boyfriend, yet future death row inmate, Ted Bundy. Directed and produced by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Joe Berlinger.
I’m actually impressed at how much of a narrative mess this film is. Maybe I’m not the target audience for it. Maybe you have to really, really love the Marvel movies in order for this film to feel even a little bit satisfying on a narrative level. Or, maybe it’s just bad writing. This film is filled with so many out of character moments, lazy writing, and flagrant disregard for the twenty-some films that came before it. It’s convoluted, way too long, and ultimately disappointing, even if there are a few good moments. This review is going live on Saturday because it’s impossible to talk about this film without spoiling elements of it, so I wanted to give people a chance to see it first. With that said: WARNING: THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE FILM AHEAD. – because I’ve got some major problems with all of the movie.
Avengers: Endgame (written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)
The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”
I love the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. Like, really love them. They’re so damn stylish and well made and well-acted. So, with that in mind, it was always gonna be hard for any Hellboy film not made by del Toro (or starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy) to truly succeed for me. That being said, I really didn’t except this remake of Hellboy to be so unenjoyable. It can’t seem to figure out what it is – it’s not really a new take on the character as it’s basically the same tone and look as the del Toro films but it’s not a continuation of those films, either. It’s not an origin story, but it kind of is one at the same time. It’s just a really big mess of a movie – and it’s a shame because there were some really good moments in the film.
Hellboy is back, and he’s on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola’s seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, “Stranger Things”) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil series), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world. (Written by Christopher Golden, Andrew Cosby, Mike Mignola; directed by Neil Marshall)
Stephen King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. For every decent one (the It miniseries from the ’90s or the It movie from 2017), there are at least two bad ones (nearly every other Stephen King miniseries, The Dark Tower, and the Carrie remake from a few years ago). It seems that what often works for King in his prose work doesn’t work very well in visual mediums. And that, unfortunately, is the case for this remake of Pet Sematary. Based on his original novel, and the 1989 film of the same name, Pet Sematary is a perfect example of all the reasons a lot of Stephen King stories don’t work in film. The first half of the movie is dreadfully boring, filled with characters who go undeveloped and are uninteresting, leading to a climax that, while often scary, isn’t particularly dramatically satisfying because the film has never made you care for the characters. King’s novels do a better job at establishing the characters and making them likable as he threads the spookier elements into the story. This film tries to do that but ultimately fails. (Spoilers ahead!)
Pet Sematary (written by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg; directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer)
Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
After what feels like ages of anticipation, the title of Star Wars: Episode IX has been revealed as The Rise of Skywalker. Today was the first day of panels at this year’s Star Wars: Celebration and, naturally, the whole shindig kicked off with a panel for Episode IX, complete with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, and Naomi Ackie, where Stephen Colbert asked the cast and crew a bunch of questions about the film that none of them could really answer. The closest thing to any real information we got is that 1) some time passes between the ending of The Last Jedi and the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, 2) Naomi Ackie plays a character named Jannah, and 3) The whole gang would be going on an adventure together. The really good reveals didn’t come until the last few minutes of the panel when the teaser trailer was finally shown, revealing the title of the film at the end of the trailer.
Who would have thought that Shazam, of all movies, would end up being not only one of the best DCEU movies in years but one of the best superhero origin films in quite some time? Perhaps it’s down to my lack of familiarity with the character and, subsequently, my lack of any real expectations for the film, but I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam. It’s not particularly unique, or anything, but it is the most fun I’ve had with a superhero movie since Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s worth celebrating. Combining lots of humor, great visuals, solid acting, and genuine pathos, Shazam is a superhero movie that will bring out your inner kid as you watch it. It’s a whole lot of fun. (Mild spoilers for the film follow.)
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word–SHAZAM!–this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart–inside a ripped, godlike body–Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong). (Written by Henry Gayden, directed by David F. Sandberg)
I have had a lot of mixed feelings about the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. None of them are bad or anything, but I don’t feel like most of them are particularly great. With a few exceptions, most Marvel movies seem to live in this realm of utter mediocrity. They follow the same formula each and every time, with frequently underdeveloped villains, weak third-acts, and humor that tends to undercut the more serious moments. Recent Marvel films have continued to find themselves unable to buck this trend – even some films, like Black Panther, that have managed to have well-developed villains, still can’t quite get the other elements right. So, my expectations for Captain Marvel were pretty low. After all, it’s a film that takes place prior to all of the events in the MCU, existing only to introduce a hero who will, presumably, be important in Avengers: Endgame, but with a plot that takes place so far in the past that it can’t possibly connect to the overarching MCU storyline in any meaningful way. To be honest, the part of the film I was most looking forward to was the opportunity to see Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in a role that was larger than a glorified cameo. I wasn’t particularly interested in or excited by anything else about the movie. So, with all of that baggage, how is Captain Marvel? Well, it’s another bog-standard Marvel film that has some really nice moments, but ultimately falls victim to many of the problems most Marvel movies exhibit. (There will be spoilers for Captain Marvel in this review.)
Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel (Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (with additional writing by Geneva Robertson-Dworet) is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.
Choose-Your-Own-Adventures books are always a lot of fun. You’re able to explore multiple different endings to a story, some ridiculous, some serious, and you’re able to replay that story countless times to explore each different branch of the story. It’s a method of storytelling that’s never really been tried in film or TV before. Before Bandersnatch, that is. Bandersnatch is the first film in the Black Mirror series. Written by Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade, Bandersnatch is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure film that allows audiences to choose how the story of Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) plays out. It’s a whole lot of fun and genuinely impressive to watch (and participate in). (NOTE: There will be spoilers for Bandersnatch. I will try to keep them minor, but it’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling some things.)
In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he adapts a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game and soon faces a mind-mangling challenge.
Mary Poppins is one of Disney’s best live-action musicals. It jump-started the film career of Julie Andrews and provided audiences with some of the best known Disney songs. With that in mind, how does one make a sequel to such a classic, beloved film? According to Rob Marshall (director of Mary Poppins Returns) and David Magee (writer of Mary Poppins Returns), the best way to make a sequel is to essentially remake the original film, using a similar (but less interesting) plot and far less memorable songs.
In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
I’m not afraid to admit that Aquaman was one of my least anticipated films of 2018. It’s a movie about a character I’ve never been interested who was also deeply uninteresting in his previous big-screen appearance in last year’s Justice League. None of the trailers released for the film ever looked particularly good. The visuals were incredible, but the acting from Jason Mamoa (Aquaman) and Amber Heard (Mera) was wooden and boring to watch. So, to say I wasn’t excited about the film would be an understatement, but I love DC and I want the DC movies to succeed and to be good, so, I still saw the movie. And, to be honest, my initial impression was correct. For as innovative as the visuals were, the storytelling and acting were not. (Mild spoilers may follow)
From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime–one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.