Tomb Raider

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Video games don’t have a great history of translating to the big screen. Conceived, historically, as a single-person active experience, it loses something by trying to make it a passive experience for a mass audience. The original two Tomb Raiders eschewed story for action and treated the titular and iconic Lara Croft character as an homage rather than a transfer of the same character to a different medium. This Tomb Raider, while still maintaining the action scenes of the first movie, finds inspiration from the more grounded video game reboot of 2013.

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Love, Simon

lovesimonRomantic teen comedies deal with similar tropes – the awkward crush, the grand declarations of love, the out-of-place dance sequence. Love, Simon hits all those notes, with the only difference being that the central character is gay. While there are ways that the film pushes the confines of the adolescent angst usually found in these films, it still bears the same mediocrities that limits its heterosexual counterparts as well.

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Thoroughbreds

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In the same vein as Heathers before it, Thoroughbreds is pitch-black drama with enough charm and humor to make it entertaining. It’s a slow and thoughtful film that takes a fairly simple premise and plot and deepens it with rich characters and fine performances. I was disappointed in the ending, but it didn’t lessen the impact of the movie and my general impression of it.

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Just a Blip

I’ve always prided myself on being a good observer. It’s the lot of any writer or storyteller. You pay more attention to the world around than the average person. It’s also connected to the low-grade paranoia I’ve been afflicted with my whole life. It’s probably an ego thing, but my mistrust of random people stems from the fact I think that they are all plotting against me. As I look around at the people in my immediate vicinity I’m putting together the witness report for when I have to explain to the police about the guy that tried to kill me. All of this to say that I’m not usually surprised by people in my vicinity so when I was walking home last night and I heard a woman screaming, I was fairly stunned.

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A Wrinkle in Time

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I’m not remotely familiar with the source material, but I am a fan of Ava DuVernay so I thought I’d give A Wrinkle in Time a shot. I can cut it some slack given that it’s a movie targeted to a different demographic than mine, but given my penchant for superheroes and cartoons, I really can’t forgive that much. This movie is weak, across all levels. The story doesn’t flow or make any sense, the acting is forced with each of the actors seemingly in different movies, the dialogue stilted, and the visuals might be interesting, but untethered from reality and thus feel like a cartoon backdrop.

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Red Sparrow

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I’m curious what is going on with Jennifer Lawrence and her choices lately. Though I loathed Mother!, I can see why she was drawn to it, especially as it was written and directed by her at-the-time boyfriend. But I really have no idea what drew her to this mess of a movie. Getting to do a terrible Russian accent? To put herself in a position of getting exploited by the movie (both as a character and a performer)? Who’s to say? But honestly, while I wasn’t expecting much from Red Sparrow, I did secretly wish it would be successful so that it could act as sort of harbinger of an as-yet-not-greenlit Black Widow movie. Russian spy action heroine solo flick – there are parallels. Alas, this could only damage that prospect.

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Annihilation

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I read somewhere that before he adapted Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, writer-director Alex Garland (writer-director of Ex Machina, writer of 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, and the novel The Beach) opted not to re-read the original novel but instead did the script from memory to give it a dream-like quality. This is evident on screen as the entirety of the thoughtful, interesting, slow-moving but creepy and confounding Annihilation has an ethereal quality that flows between each scene.

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Game Night

Game-NightDespite its well-worn premise, with solid actors, acerbic dialogue, and a quick pace, Game Night is a far funnier experience than it deserves to be. Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are an ultra-competitive couple that host a regular game night with a disparate group of friends. When Max’s older brother (Kyle Chandler), drops into town and tries to one up their game, a grand case of mistaken identity follows involving multiple deaths, a bloody dog, and an airplane chase cribbed from one of the Fast and Furious movies. It doesn’t matter which.

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Black Panther

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Ever since Guardians of the Galaxy blew into theaters and made a kajillion dollars Marvel has relaxed their policy on the uniformity of their movies. Sure, there’s still a bit of a formula, but like the Guardians before it, and Ant-Man as well, Black Panther is a Marvel movie that has been allowed to have its own identity, and that’s not entirely because the cast is predominantly black. With a story that feels more akin to Game of Thrones than Iron Man, a more vibrant color palette than the reds and blues that dominates most Marvel flicks, a cast of characters that are more fully-drawn than many of their four-color counterparts, and real-world themes that have resonance after the obligatory post-credits sequence, Black Panther easily finds its way into the upper echelon of superhero flicks, Marvel or otherwise.

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The Last Laugh of the Laughter

It was just announced that Hollywood institution IOwest is closing. It was the west coast arm of the Chicago improv club that has been around for nearly twenty-five years. I was never an actual member of the IO community but it was a huge part of my time in Los Angeles and it feels weird that in just over ten days it will be no more.

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