John Goodman

Kong delivers without monkeying around.

This guy really needs to hold on tighter.

I’ll admit that I was more than skeptical when Kong: Skull Island was first announced. A new King Kong movie, really? Peter Jackson’s 2005 version still felt fresh in my mind, perhaps because it’s been playing on TV so often. But Kong: Skull Island was supposedly a different type of Kong movie. It was gonna be more modern, more action-oriented, and part of a larger monster movie series (see MonsterVerse). That all sounded nice and dandy but I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. Then, I saw it. I saw it in IMAX 3D. And whaddya know, it’s really good. Kong: Skull Island delivers just about everything you’d expect from its marketing campaign and PR promises. The action is exciting, the special effects are fantastic, the acting is non-distractingly serviceable, and there’s nothing else to it. As pure cinematic escapism, Kong: Skull Island reigns king. 

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Film Review: Patriots Day

by Carrie Kahn on January 13, 2017

Flawed but well executed, third Berg/Wahlberg collaboration is worth seeing

Boston police officer Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg, center) assists FBI Special Agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon, l.) and Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman, r.) with their investigation.

The third time may be the charm for director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, who collaborated on two previous films (Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor) with middling results. Patriots Day, their new film, is definitely the best of the trio, although it’s not without its problems. Another film based on a true story, Patriots Day recounts the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 and the investigation and manhunt that immediately followed. Working from a script based on the 2015 book Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy, Berg and a quartet of screenwriters manage to bring the recent and familiar story alive without glorifying or exploiting the tragedy or the bombers, who are secondary characters here, serving only the plot.
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Perfectly thrilling from beginning to end.

Howard is always watching.

Howard is always watching.

10 Cloverfield Lane is the “sequel” of sorts to the J.J. Abrams produced 2008 found-footage monster movie, Cloverfield. At least that’s what its meant to be — or rather a spin-off/anthology story. In all honesty, I’ve never seen a “sequel” be so distinct in style and substance from its predecessor. And this is for the best, since 10 Cloverfield Lane is a remarkable old-school thriller that aims to build upon the world set up in Cloverfield, rather than be confined by the latter’s story elements. It’s also been a while since I’ve been so nervous watching a film! Once 10 Cloverfield Lane hooks you in, you’re strapped in for an intense, unrelenting ride executed to near perfection via sharp direction and A-game acting.

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A variety show on acid: Imperfect but fun documentary considers Saturday Night Live

The official movie poster for Bao Nguyen’s new documentary.

In 1975, a new variety show premiered on NBC that was unlike anything that had come before it; it was, according to Laraine Newman, one of the show’s original cast members, a cross between 60 Minutes and Monty Python. Despite its ups and downs, after 40 years on the air, Saturday Night Live (or SNL, as it’s more commonly known in the pop culture lexicon), shows no sign of slowing down, and continues to both reflect and influence American culture. Director Bao Nguyen’s new film, Live from New York!, which takes its title from the show’s opening introduction, explores the history and impact of the storied comedy program in a documentary that is both highly entertaining and slightly frustrating.

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‘I am a man of COEN sorrow…’

Oscar Isaac cradling the real star.

Oscar Isaac cradling the real star of Inside Llewyn Davis.

In a dimly lit smoky bar, an unshaven, slightly disheveled, solo male singer leans into a mic and begins gently singing, ‘Hang me / Oh hang me / I’ll be dead and gone.’ For the next three or so minutes, we are up close and personal to this singer, watching his calm disposition as he sings out the entirety of the song, not even once looking up at the quiet audience wrapped up in the beautiful melody, drinks, and cigarettes. This is how Inside Llewyn Davis begins, the extraordinary and immaculately conceived new film by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, or as we know them, the Coen brothers. This singer is, of course, Llewyn Davis, and these opening lyrics are deliberately chosen to open the story — they set the tone and capture the somber outlook of the title character. Based on a pivotal moment in our nation’s cultural history, and using a fictionalized version of folk musician Dave Van Ronk to capture the experience of many lost artists of that time period, Inside Llewyn Davis is a pointedly dark and comical drama that serves as an allegorical tale and a cinematic exposé of the unfortunate “futility” of many talented artists.

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Monsters in Monsters University

Scary monsters are scared in Monsters University

It has been nearly twelve years since Monsters Inc. made its theatrical debut, introducing audiences to one of film history’s most imaginative storylines and a memorable duo of lovable Monster protagonists, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman).  It was Pixar’s fourth feature film and became an instant classic, one that still ranks high up on most people’s “what’s your favorite Pixar film?” list.  Because of the place Monsters, Inc. held in our hearts, we all became cautiously optimistic yet filled with trepidation with the announcement of the prequel, Monsters University.  We wondered why Pixar would even bother returning to a world that was so perfectly captured in a tightly bound film that had no cause for story extensions.  The answer may be shrouded in dollar signs, or, perhaps like Toy Story 2 & 3, the Pixar team just could not abandon these lovable monsters forever.  When all was said and done, Monsters University was greenlit and it has now finally arrived.  The finished product is a playful “origin” story, filled with substantially more satirical humor rather than original humor, but also showcases a larger cast of lovable characters and genuinely touching moments.

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Film Review: “Trouble with the Curve”

September 21, 2012

starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick written by: Randy Brown directed by: Robert Lorenz MPAA: Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking

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Film Review: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

January 20, 2012

starring: Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright adapted by: Eric Roth directed by: Stephen Daldry MPAA: Rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language

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