“Ghostbusters” (2016)

Paul Fieg’s inexperience at directing big-budget blockbusters is made apparent here. This film has the feel and pacing of an R-rated studio comedy, but with stale, inoffensive PG-13 jokes. The leads mostly range from okay and decent, in Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig’s case, to downright obnoxious in Kate McKinnon’s case. The only actor in the film who’s consistently humorous is Chris Hemsworth. The visual effects are passable, but not all that creative. There’s not much about this film that’s terrible, but not much that’s really good either. Neither deserving of intense ire, nor deserving of much praise, this is a very average, and middling remake that’s watchable, but will be rightly forgotten in a few years.

Rating: 3/5

“Red Sparrow” (2018)

Starts out strong, with a great first act, but completely fizzles out by the end. This film is way, way too long; twenty minutes to a half hour could’ve been cut easily. Jennifer Lawrence gives a solid performance for most of the film, but her character simply isn’t very believable. Had this been a film that followed a “Sparrow” as it were, and explored her emotional journey over the years, and examined the mental tolls that such a job would take on a person, this could’ve been something special, probably even great. What we get instead is an overly complicated and boring spy film, that thinks it’s a lot more artistic and important than it actually is.

Rating: 2.5/5

“Shazam!” (2019)

An infectiously enjoyable good time, this film, more than any recent superhero film before it, embraces the inherent goofiness that these stories lend itself to, without sacrificing anything; it takes itself just as seriously as it needs to. Zachary Levi perfectly embodies the spirit of a young boy who’s just been granted incredible powers in a role he was born to play. There are so many memorable and hilarious scenes. And this film wisely keeps callbacks in this franchise to the bare minimum, allowing this film to stand as its own product. The climax goes on a touch too long, and some of the tonal shifts are jarring. But those minor issues don’t distract from what is otherwise a fun and often hilarious superhero film.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Venom” (2018)

Everything you’ve heard is true; “Venom” is a bad film. An incredibly bad film. The plot makes no sense, the characters are poorly written, and there are plot holes galore. And yet, I enjoyed myself. A lot. I think some of it has to do with Tom Hardy’s performance, which is so over-the-top and goofy that you can’t help but be entertained by him. And some of the script decisions are so baffling, that the film becomes fascinatingly bad, when it’s not hilarious. Excellent riffing material, enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, and filled with inconsistencies, this is a remarkably fun film, that is an easy pick for my biggest guilty pleasure of 2018.

Rating: 3/5

“Happy Death Day” (2017)

This combination Groundhog Day and a slasher film makes for a surprisingly fun and entertaining film. With its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, this film takes advantage of its creative premise, creating horror moments that could only be accomplished with this concept. The film also wisely chooses not to take itself seriously, so any inconsistencies or head scratching moments don’t hurt the overall experience. The result is that this film manages to illicit some genuine laughs. On top of that, you have Jessica Rothe’s likable and enjoyable performance in the lead role. Sure, this film might not be scary for a horror film, but for a horror comedy, this is a really fun time.

Rating: 4/5

“Interstellar” (2014)

This may have been a highly ambitious project for director Christopher Nolan, but this is a case where high ambitions don’t necessarily make for a better product. The concept is fantastic, the acting is good, and the visuals and sound work are simply remarkable. The main issue is the script. Nolan has a tendency have long winded expository dialogue in his films, but here it’s at its worst. Because Nolan is dealing with extremely complex concepts, he feels the need to have the characters talk ad nauseam about them. The result of the film being too technical is that the film doesn’t have quite the emotional impact it desires. Despite this, the film is still entertaining and visually stunning enough to warrant a recommendation.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Get Out” (2017)

There’s no way that people could’ve predicted that Jordan Peele would become one of the leading voices in the horror genre, and yet he managed achieve huge critical acclaim as a horror filmmaker with only a single film. That is, quite frankly, unheard of. And yes, this is a great film. Peele clearly shows great understanding of what builds tension in horror and how to have a satisfying payoff and even managed to weave together a genuinely brilliantly written story on top of that. Unfortunately, Peele also makes some rookie mistakes, particularly with his baffling usage of false jump scares, and some moments of predictability. But the rest of the film is so great it can easily be forgiven.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Christopher Robin” (2018)

Yes, this film has almost the exact same premise as Hook; but me personally, I prefer this version. This just feels like a natural story to tell with this familiar cast of characters, and they do a really good job of conveying the themes of growing up, loss of innocence, and the dangers of growing up too quickly rather effectively. The visual effects on the stuffed animals are simplistic and quaint, but also immersive. The biggest issue I have is that the film’s message about not being overworked isn’t handled very well. Still, the rest of the film is so charming and so sweet, that it can easily be overlooked. This is currently my favorite of the Disney Live Action remakes.

Rating: 4/5

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

I really enjoyed watching this film, although not quite as much as everyone else seemed to. This film’s portrayal of scummy Wall Street brokers is entertaining in a “I’m curious to see what crazy thing is going to happen next,” kind of way. Leonardo DiCaprio was the perfect casting decision to portray Jordan Belfort, a character that would’ve come across as a lot more unsympathetic if played by a lesser actor. At a gargantuan 3-hour runtime, this film is a touch too long, and the debaucherous party scenes kind of blur together and get repetitive. This is a compelling and entertaining dark comedy, that is worth watching if you can handle the film’s extreme content.

Rating: 4/5

“My Life as a Zucchini” (2016)

There really are no words to describe just how charming and delightful this movie is, surprisingly so considering this film’s sometimes unpleasant and rather dark subject material. I have absolutely zero problems believing that the conversations between the kids in this film are real conversations between real kids; they’re that well written. It manages to capture so much raw emotion in such a short runtime of 66 minutes than so many other films with even double that runtime could only dream of, and it does so by being unafraid of its thematic material. This really and truly is a one-of-a-kind and special film.

Rating: 5/5