Movie Review: "99 Homes" B+ September 25, 2015
The very first thing we see in "99 Homes" is the brain-spattered wall of an Orlando bathroom where a man has committed suicide rather than be evicted from his home. The evictor, a Florida-twanged foreclosure vulture named Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), stands with his back to the body, yelling into his phone about how this complicates the process of preparing the house for resale.
Movie Review: "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon (documentary)" B+ September 25, 2015
Some documentaries are important because they educate viewers on areas of life that they would otherwise know little about. For example, here's "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon," which performs the valuable service of informing today's youth that the National Lampoon label used to be a symbol of quality, not a devalued brand name to be slapped on crappy movies.
Movie Review: "Black Mass [AUDIO]" C+ September 21, 2015
You know how there's crime? Especially in Boston? And how the cops and gangsters all grew up together? Sure. You've seen the Martin Scorsese movies -- "The Departed" for Boston specifically, but "Goodfellas" and "Casino" for the general vibe of violent, fact-based mob stories about sociopaths who say the F-word a lot. "Black Mass," directed by Scott Cooper ("Crazy Heart," "Out of the Furnace"), is the Whitey Bulger story, with Johnny Depp as Boston's notorious '70s and '80s crime boss. Depp is intense, and worthier of being taken seriously as an actor than he has been in quite some time. But it's actually John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), the FBI agent who protects Bulger by taking him in as an "informant," who's the protagonist. The film never really gets inside either man's head.
Movie Review: "The Scorch Trials [AUDIO]" B September 20, 2015
"The Scorch Trials," the sequel to last year's surprisingly good young-adult adaptation "The Maze Runner," is again good, so maybe it's not surprising anymore.
Movie Review: "The Visit [AUDIO]" B- September 19, 2015
Discounting "The Last Airbender," which was an adaptation, and "After Earth," which was Will Smith's idea, "The Visit" is the first purely M. Night Shyamalan film since "The Happening," way back in 2008. The new thriller -- in which 15-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and 13-year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) spend a week with their grandparents, whom they've never met before and who are acting strange -- isn't quite a return to form, but it's a step in the right direction. It's suspenseful at times, often funny (on purpose), and both kids have engaging personalities.
Movie Review: "Cooties" C+ September 18, 2015
[In theaters and Video on Demand.]
Movie Review: "Learning to Drive" B September 18, 2015
Learning to drive can be thrilling, risky, and surprising, but "Learning to Drive" is none of those things. It is instead a perfectly pleasant 90-minute diversion with little conflict and no major drama, a sunny entry in the sub-genre of Indie Films Where Two People from Different Walks of Life Are Brought Together to Learn About Themselves (still working on the name).
Movie Review: "Z for Zachariah" B+ September 17, 2015
[In theaters and Video on Demand.]
Movie Review: "Sinister 2" C September 17, 2015
A sequel to a film as unsettling as "Sinister" was almost bound to be disappointing -- either too tame by comparison, or too nasty. "Sinister 2" manages to be both.
Movie Review: "Pawn Sacrifice" C September 16, 2015
The Bobby Fischer biopic "Pawn Sacrifice" seems to have been made not because someone had insight into the chess champion's character, but because someone realized Bobby Fischer was famous but didn't have a biopic yet.