“Justice League” Develops Banality into a Harrowing and Tiresome Art Form

If a committee of Warner Brothers executives got together to work their way through a 300 million dollar paint-by-numbers, it would look like Justice League.

With the odds stacked against it, no expectations, and the fate of exactly nothing of importance hanging in the balance, Justice League is still an utter disappointment.  The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) was recently buoyed by the impressive Wonder Woman film from Patty Jenkins earlier this year, but the franchise is back aground.  Justice League features a hodgepodge of messy scenes, poor storytelling, terrible CGI, lackluster characters, and no real stakes.  These failures are becoming hallmarks of Warner Brothers ill-advised attempts at a grittier version of Marvel, and the embarrassments are becoming too numerous to count.  I guess we’ll do our best.

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Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” is a Rote Dumbing-Down of the Classic Whodunit

Based on the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express disappoints by relegating the key elements of the mystery genre to mere mundane repetition.  All of the hard-boiled fun of Christie’s source material ends up feeling like a bland paint-by-numbers.   The movie contains a star-studded cast, with practically every character involved in the whodunit represented through an admirable performance.  But for a film that is ostensibly subtle, intriguing, and mysterious, too little respect is paid to the details.  The result is a lukewarm mystery where each blasé piece of detection by the legendary Hercule Poirot only makes the ultimate reveal more tired and disappointing.

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Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” Again Shows Marvel is Best with an Artist at the Helm

The Thor franchise may be the most unbalanced in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), home to what is perhaps the worst film in the whole MCU (Thor: The Dark World) as well as one of the stronger and more distinctive origin stories. Counting those two films and the Avengers movies, Thor: Ragnarok would be the fifth appearance of the God of Lightning, at it was entirely possible that the character and the particular comedic tone surrounding him would start to feel a little stale. Fortunately, we have Taika Waititi – a visionary comedic filmmaker perfectly at home playing in the MCU’s ever-expanding sandbox.

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“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” Is the Worst Kind of Sequel – One that Knows it Doesn’t Have to Try

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the result of “getting the band back together” when the band broke up six months ago and everyone still hates each other so they just re-mix a few songs and release a “Greatest Hits” album. Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service was a sleeper hit when it was released in February of 2015. The film struck the perfect tone, balancing irreverence and absurdity with the clichés of the action spy genre, all the while telling a legitimately interesting story. As a critical darling, once the film broke even financially it was all but assured that a sequel would be made. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the result – a film as derivative and unimaginative as its predecessor was refreshing.

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“A Ghost Story” Ponders Time, Legacy, and the Meaning of Loss

Writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a contemplative tone poem on the vast expanses of time, captured in a single relationship between two people.  As the two main characters reach a turning point about where they are going to live, a car accident removes one of them from the equation – except that it doesn’t. After the body is identified and the sheet pulled back, the body erects itself, walks out of the morgue, and starts observing.

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Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is an Insane Religious Allegory

Director Darren Aronofsky is not known for subtlety or crowd-pleasing. Afterall, his indie debut featured a mathematician obsessed with pi and orthodox Jews who thought his work was discovering the true name of God. He delved deep into every facet of drug abuse, focused a character study around a wrestler, used high-end ballet as a backdrop for a psychological thriller, and put Rock Giants in the story of Noah’s Ark. “Iconoclast” probably doesn’t do him justice.

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