movie reviews

Unfortunately, the new Hellboy is noise and gore signifying nothing

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There’s a scene about midway through Hellboy in which a giant sword goes through a monster’s head, virtually splitting it in half, unleashing a reservoir of blood, and showing some of the blood and brains underneath the skull. While taking in that moment, I thought to myself, “I think that’s what watching this movie feels like.”

I was rooting for the 2019 reboot of Hellboy. It was going to be too easy to dismiss this movie and say Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman did it better — twice — without even seeing this new version. But the wave of early reviews seemed to confirm what so many feared when this project was announced. Was there really any point to reviving Hellboy if there wasn’t anything new to offer?

Part of the sales pitch for this new Hellboy, directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour, is that the movie would be based more closely on the source comic books by Mike Mignola (although Del Toro’s 2004 film had elements from the comics as well) and that will always make fans’ horns point a bit higher. Mignola himself seemed to endorse that narrative, which implied that Del Toro took his movies in a slightly different direction from the comic books.

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Shazam! stands out by embracing what makes the superhero fun

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With one magic word, Shazam! keeps the fun train rolling for the DC cinematic universe. DC was already on the right track with the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but taking a chance with a B-list (maybe even C-list) character who had a chance to reach a younger audience might have derailed that momentum.

Some fans and critics might feel like DC’s big-screen product won’t be fully established until the big names like Batman and Superman have been restored, and the cinematic universe is on a path to getting the band together in another Justice League film. But Marvel seized the superhero movie pedestal with lesser characters and by creating a slow build that stoked anticipation for a big payoff.

Another reason that Marvel has succeeded while so many other studios and franchises have failed in trying to build a cinematic universe is its realization that many different types of stories and genres could be featured within a superhero universe. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man resonated with audiences because they were comedies as much as blockbuster spectacles. Humor has always been the honeypot for these movies.

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Us will creep you out and is packed with ideas, but lacks satisfying scares

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Whether or not you consider Us a scary movie depends on your personal preferences. If “scary” means making you jump in your seat, shielding yourself with the person sitting next to you, or screaming out loud, you might be disappointed with Jordan Peele’s latest film.

But Us is most certainly creepy, with imagery that might live inside your head for a while and revisit when you close your eyes. The broken mirror doubles that a family suddenly encounters are chilling, a credit to make-up and costuming as well some fantastic acting — both in a physical and psychological sense — from the cast.

Following Get Out, Peele has made another thinking person’s horror film. No, Us probably won’t resonate the way his first effort did. And the story’s resolution doesn’t feel as satisfying. That might compel some fans and critics to use terms like “sophomore slump” in critiquing this movie. But Peele deserves credit for not repeating himself here, something that surely would’ve been easy to do.

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Captain Marvel takes a while to click, but eventually comes together for a payoff

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Carol Danvers has been a C-list character in Marvel Comics for most of her 50-year history. Only within the past seven years has she held the mantle of Captain Marvel that sells her as a pretty big addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Danvers has a convoluted comic book history, one that surely made her difficult to distill into something simpler for a movie. Yet like Tony Stark before her, the lack of a signature storyline made Danvers a blank slate for Marvel Studios and the five writers (including Guardians of the Galaxy's Nicole Perlman and Inside Out's Meg LaFauve) who took a crack at Captain Marvel's story.

A comic book overhaul in 2012 by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (who appropriately has a quick cameo in the movie) made Danvers a tougher, more accessible character fueled by all of the doubts and obstacles encountered throughout her life. That perseverance is what pushed her into becoming an elite fighter pilot and gave her the edge to stand as an equal with Captain America, Iron Man, and the other Avengers.

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Bohemian Rhapsody gets it right with Queen's music, not so much with Freddie Mercury

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If you’re a fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, you will very likely enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie is a celebration of the band and its music. You’ll be reminded of just how much you loved songs like “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Radio Ga Ga,” along with deeper cuts such as “Love of My Life.”

Whether or not the film is a fitting tribute to Mercury will depend on your view. Director Bryan Singer (who was fired from the production yet is still credited) and writer Anthony McCarten take a safe approach to the singer’s personal life, largely settling for allusions to Mercury’s homosexuality, drug use and partying. Much like Mercury did publicly, the movie keeps that away from the audience.

However, Bohemian Rhapsody does a fine job of portraying Freddie Mercury, the rock star. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) has all of the legendary frontman’s stage moves and swagger down. Mercury commanded the stage, punching, gyrating, and thrusting with the beats from bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. The rest of Queen effectively faded into the background because the eye was always drawn to Mercury’s energy and charisma.

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New Halloween movie is rightful sequel to John Carpenter's original 1978 horror classic

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With the abundance of revivals and reboots in movies and TV, another Halloween movie might not seem like something worth our attention. Horror movies, especially, have diluted celebrated brands by making new versions of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

But maybe no horror brand has been more watered down and misguided over the past 40 years than the Halloween franchise. Nine sequels (two of which were reboots) have been made since the original 1978 film, each of them moving further away from John Carpenter’s original vision. (To be fair, however, Carpenters vision in 1978 may not have been more than to make a scary slasher movie.)

The smart move by director David Gordon Green (who co-wrote the film with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) was to act like those previous nine films never happened. (There’s even a line that dismisses one of the sillier developments revealed in 1981’s Halloween II.) This 2018 edition of Halloween is a direct (albeit 40 years later) sequel to the original film, returning to the story and its two primary characters after four decades have passed.

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