My son was four in 2002 when Insomniac released the first “Ratchet and Clank” game on the PlayStation 2. He wasn’t truly able to play, but he watched me avidly and was upset if he discovered that I’d played without him. With the release of following games, they became our favorite series. We’d play through the games together, sharing our discoveries, and comparing notes. He’s 17 now (and I’m old). Will the modern reimagining of that first game and the companion feature film hold up to our idealized memories?
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” on IMDB
Action/Adventure, 151 Minutes, 2016
DC Comics has, sadly, doubled down on their loud, dark reimagining of their flagship heroes. While I truly enjoyed 2013’s “Man of Steel” [My Review], it was the soulful examination of a young Clark Kent that sold me. The brash deluge of destruction porn that ended the movie only worked as a counterpoint to that.
Soulful character development or special effects: guess which one they tossed for sequel?
“Deadpool” on IMDB
Adventure/Action, 108 Minutes, 2016
Let’s get right to it: Deadpool is great fun. It’s earned $500 million worldwide (on its $38 million budget) in its first two weeks of release, so chances are good that you’ve already seen it and decided it was great fun. Sure, there are always curmudgeons, contrarians and those who thought that they were taking their eight year-olds to see “Spiderman”, but the world, as a consensus, is in sweaty-monkey-love with Deadpool.
“Philomena” on IMDB
Drama, 98 Minutes, 2013
In the 50’s and 60’s the Irish Catholic Church declared war on unwed mothers; debauched sinners, unfit to raise children. Philomena Lee, pregnant and unwed at 18, was sent by her pious father to a convent where she was forced to sign a contract relinquishing all rights to her child. She, and thousands like her, spent three years caring for their children while working without pay to reimburse the church.
“The Last Witch Hunter” on IMDB
Fantasy/Adventure/Action, 106 Minutes, 2015
I had the strongest sense of deja vu watching this. Not long ago I watched Seventh Son [My Review], another recent big-budget fantasy film. Both feature a resurgent witch queen and her evil plans, ancient curses and a new guy that needs to be taught the ropes. I talked about how Seventh Son was predictable and clichéd, but also charming, silly and fun. It wasn’t great, but it delivered what it promised.
“Ant-Man” on IMDB
Adventure / Sci-Fi / Action, 117 Minutes, 2015
The overwhelming success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has allowed them a certain leeway; a certain freedom to experiment. While this hasn’t yet resulted in something truly insane, like a film led by a woman, it has allowed them to explore some of the quirkier ideas and characters available in the vast Marvel catalog. Two years ago, this led to the explosive success of Guardians of the Galaxy [IMDB] and now it brings the closest we’ve come to a straight Marvel comedy.
“Seventh Son” on IMDB
Fantasy/Adventure, 102 Minutes, 2014
I’ll happily admit that I’ve got a soft spot for dragons (and dungeons) and sorcery (and swords). Whenever a new fantasy film is announced, I turn back into my twelve-year old self and start looking around for my dog-eared Monster Manual. I’m often disappointed. Still, even a bad fantasy movie is usually a pretty good time.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on IMDB
Adventure/Sci-fi, 135 Minutes, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I shared the painful story of how I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on opening night, seventeen years ago. It was a sorry experience for more reasons than you’d think, but it did teach me an important lesson: even Star Wars can disappoint. The obvious question is: does it again?
(There will be no spoilers here.)
“The Martian” on IMDB
Adventure/Sci-fi, 144 Minutes, 2015
I have no way to be impartial about this film. It’s a movie celebrating the drive and utility of science and, more broadly, intelligence in general. When it challenges its characters, it also challenges its audience. How could I begin to dislike a movie that says, without snark or caveat: “Smart is goddamn sexy.”
I had a craving for a little 13th century English history (like you do), but wanted it a little cheap; a little, um, dirty. Like when you could get steak, but you want a greasy hamburger. These movies looked like they might fit the bill: they were set at the right time and had about a dozen people from Game of Thrones in them.
“Ironclad” on IMDB
Action/Adventure, 121 Minutes, 2011
Way back in the 13th century, King John of England (Paul Giamatti [IMDB]) was a tool. A royal tool. Such a tool, in fact, that his barons rebelled and, with the help of the Knights Templar, defeated him. They forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the power of the king. He promptly ignored it and brought in an army of Danes (who dressed like Scots, for some reason) to help him reclaim the country (that he hadn’t actually lost).