Eric D. Snider

Movie Review: "Ouija: Origin of Evil" B+ October 25, 2016

Better than a horror prequel should be

I "missed" (if that is the right word) the 2014 film "Ouija," based on the pretend-satanic board game beloved by imaginative adolescents since time immemorial. It got almost nothing but bad reviews, and I'll take my colleagues at their collective word. So the prequel, "Ouija: Origin of Evil" -- from "Oculus" and "Hush" director Mike Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard -- is a pleasant, creepy surprise, a stylish funhouse that, like Flanagan's other films, finds new life in old scenarios.

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Movie Review: "American Honey" B+ October 24, 2016

Wayward teen girl on a personal odyssey

"American Honey" won't make you feel very hopeful about The Kids These Days, but it may fill you with compassion for a generation of unwanted young Americans left to fend for themselves in a cratered economy and a collapsed middle class.

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Eric's Blog October 21, 2016

Friday movie roundup - Oct. 21

A few good options out there (and on VOD), along with many mediocre ones.

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Movie Review: "In a Valley of Violence" B- October 21, 2016

One bad hombre and his dog seek justice

[In theaters and Video on Demand.] ••• "I promised my dog I wasn't going to kill anybody on this trip." That's a great thing for a gunman in a Western to growl at somebody who's trying his patience, and Ethan Hawke growls it with aplomb in Ti West's "In a Valley of Violence." You won't be disappointed to learn that he's soon forced to break that pledge; you might, however, feel let down when you realize how basic the film's plot is, and what a missed opportunity it is for a filmmaker with proven talent.

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Movie Review: "The Handmaiden (Korean/Japanese)" B+ October 21, 2016

Falling for the one you're conning

One of South Korea's chief cinematic exports is vengeance, and one of its top manufacturers is Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy," "Stoker"), whose 10th film, "The Handmaiden," is a deliciously black-humored erotic thriller about thieves using a long con to bilk an heiress out of her fortune.

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Movie Review: "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" C October 20, 2016

Here's that dismal sequel you ordered

When "Jack Reacher" came out, in 2012, its box-office performance was only so-so, leading fans to worry that the snappy, raucous action flick wouldn't get a sequel. What a happy day when those fears proved false! And what a sad day when the follow-up, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," turns out to be a bland disappointment that bleaches nearly every colorful thing about the character. Instead of Jack Reacher, he's any garden-variety prime-time TV detective, goin' around, solvin' crimes, and this is a run-of-the-mill episode. The credits even use the "Law & Order" font.

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Movie Review: "Keeping Up with the Joneses" C+ October 20, 2016

Suburban spy comedy hindered by idiocy

In "Keeping Up with the Joneses," a mild, superfluous action comedy, Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play Jeff and Karen Gaffney, parochial suburbanites who are enchanted by their exciting new cul-de-sac neighbors, Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot), sophisticated jet-setters who might be spies.

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Movie Review: "The Greasy Strangler" B October 20, 2016

For the most adventurous cinephiles only

The makers of "The Greasy Strangler" won't be offended when I say that it's not a film so much as an endurance test, an intentionally off-putting anti-comedy meant to try the patience even of people who like this sort of thing. It's about Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels), a vulgar old man, and his oily loser son, Brayden (Sky Elobar), who finally gets a girlfriend (Elizabeth De Razzo) but has to compete with his dad for her affections. At night, Big Ronnie slathers himself up in Crisco and murders people.

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Movie Review: "Kevin Hart: What Now?" B- October 19, 2016

Small comedy tornado has more to say

"Kevin Hart: What Now?" is the comedian's fifth stand-up film since 2009 (the third to be released theatrically), comprising a total of around 6 1/2 hours of stage time. That's an extraordinary amount of new material for one comedian (there's no overlap), especially considering he's been in 21 other movies during that time, too.

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Movie Review: "Max Steel" C October 15, 2016

Boy and alien become superhero, kind of

This may come as a shock, but "Max Steel," a film based on a line of toys and dumped into 2,000 theaters without promotion by a small distributor, isn't very good. A retread of every superhero origin story with a dash of "Transformers" thrown in, this is the pitiful tale of one Max McGrath (Ben Winchell), a high school student who discovers he has poorly defined supernatural abilities -- his hands produce "liquid energy," which basically means electrical interference -- possibly as the result of the work that his scientist father (Mike Doyle) did before dying in a lab accident. When these powers start to emerge, Max is contacted by Steel (voice of Josh Brener), a wise-cracking alien that looks like a drone and is tasked with helping Max use his abilities to save the Earth from whatever.

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