Eric D. Snider

Movie Review: "Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation" A- July 30, 2015

Top-notch Hollywood action filmmaking

One of the many admirable things about the "Mission: Impossible" movies is that they aren't churned out like factory products, all quick and hasty (one might say fast and furious). "M:I -- Rogue Nation" is the fifth entry in 19 years, a reasonable pace that gives fans time to savor each episode while also allowing Paramount to find directors and writers who will make the work a creative priority. Brian DePalma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, and now Christopher McQuarrie -- like them or not, there's no denying these directors are more than just hacks for hire.

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Movie Review: "Vacation" B July 28, 2015

We're bonding, whether you like it or not

The great "National Lampoon's Vacation" inspired a so-so Christmas followup (lots of dead weight in that movie), plus a couple other sequels that all parties have agreed to simply never mention again. The newest sequel, called "Vacation," is the first to focus on the next generation of Griswolds, and the first to really recapture the loose, anarchic, slightly dark spirit of the 1983 original.

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Movie Review: "Unexpected" B July 24, 2015

Without coming across as a "message" movie or appearing to have any agenda at all, "Unexpected" underscores the vastly different experiences that a middle-class white woman and an inner-city black teen might have being pregnant in America. So light is the film's touch, though, that you could miss its observations on class disparity and enjoy it as nothing more than a good-natured, uncluttered comedy about life's happy surprises.

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Movie Review: "The Stanford Prison Experiment" C July 17, 2015

How mean will people be if you let them?

It's almost too fitting that "The Stanford Prison Experiment," just like the 1971 scenario it recreates, starts out well, then gets progressively out of control before dissolving into chaos. The real events offered chilling insight into how people conform to the roles assigned to them; the movie comes across as implausible and hysterical, even though it depicts things that actually happened.

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Movie Review: "Ant-Man" B July 17, 2015

Action on a small scale, in every way

Even though no large cities get destroyed in it, "Ant-Man" is a Marvel movie. (You can tell by the stop-the-movie-dead-in-its-tracks Stan Lee cameo.) The perpetually adorable Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a felon who has a master's degree in electrical engineering and just spent three years in San Quentin, though you will not believe that he spent even five minutes there. He is manipulated by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a righteous old scientist, into donning a special suit that shrinks him down to the size of an insect, all in the service of getting the shrinkifying serum out of the hands of bad guy industrialist Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym's scientist daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), bitter about her mother's sketchy death some years back, works for Cross now, but agrees that he's gotten out of control.

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Movie Review: "Infinitely Polar Bear" C July 16, 2015

Going off your meds is totes endearing!

Surely you'll agree that it is very adorable when a man with bipolar disorder refuses to take his medication or stop drinking, thus jeopardizing his own health and the well-being of his children. If you're not charmed by that scenario, then "Infinitely Polar Bear" is not for you.

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Movie Review: "Trainwreck" B- July 16, 2015

Amy Schumer gets her starring vehicle

Amy Schumer, our current favorite potty-mouthed comedienne, is striking while the iron is hot with "Trainwreck," a rambunctious, hard-R-rated romantic comedy that showcases her sweetly poisonous manner. Schumer wrote the screenplay, which is rambling and overlong, and Judd Apatow directed it, which explains why it didn't get tightened up.

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Movie Review: "Strangerland" C July 10, 2015

A family wilts in the Australian desert

Why can't all bad movies be ugly to look at and pitifully acted? Why must there be movies like the sluggish Australian melodrama "Strangerland" -- overlong, ambiguous, and unsatisfying, yet marked by beautiful cinematography and a few terrific performances? Such duality makes it hard to reduce movies into a simple Fresh or Rotten.

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Movie Review: "The Gallows" D July 9, 2015

From the high school trauma department

"The Gallows" is a "found footage" movie (strike 1) that begins with a title card assuring us that what we're about to see is REAL (strike 2). Then it delivers 81 minutes of screaming nonsense filmed by characters who have no reason to continue filming and whose deaths cannot come fast enough (strikes 3-10).

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Movie Review: "Self/less" C+ July 9, 2015

Who did I used to be before I was me?

You know how sometimes you're an old, cancer-ridden millionaire, and you don't want to die, so you pay a cryptic Englishman a lot of money to transfer your consciousness to a new body? Did I mention that you are Sir Ben Kingsley doing a thick Long Island accent, the kind where "call" is a two-syllable word, and that the new body belongs to Ryan Reynolds? Sure. You know what I'm talking about.

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