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Universal

Blockbuster Beat by Lawrence Garcia Film

Unfriended: Dark Web | Stephen Susco

July 20, 2018
unf2

It could be that Stephen Susco, the first-time director of improbable horror-sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, is just a previously-undistinguished virtuoso, here aided by a team of tech wizards. More likely, it’s that the film’s text (i.e., the “dark web” of the Internet) is so generative — and the corresponding tools so under-explored in cinema — that the result is just riveting. The hacking at the outset here is its own self-contained joke, serving not just as sleek exposition, but as…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Skyscraper | Rawson Marshall Thurber

July 12, 2018
skyscraper

Nearly 30 years on, to the day, from the release of Die Hard — the movie about a guy fighting terrorists in a really tall building that spawned dozens of knockoffs that people continue to refer to using the construction: “Die Hard on a…boat/spaceship/rollercoaster, whatever — finally, we have Skyscraper, which is, you guessed it, Die Hard in a really tall building.…

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Blockbuster Beat by Daniel Gorman Film

The First Purge | Gerard McMurray

July 9, 2018
The First Purge

Just in time for an ironic Independence Day release, The First Purge is another meaningless prequel that answers questions no one asked or needed answered. While it seems undeniably important that the film’s action/survival narrative revolves around an oppressed African-American population rising up against a government that is systematically and unapologetically eradicating them — and that it bothers to show how the ‘scientific’ basis of The Purge is immediately skewed by lack of a control group and confirmation bias…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom | J.A. Bayona

June 21, 2018

The first and certainly most beloved of the Jurassic Park films sums up the entire franchise with a single line, when Sam Neill’s Grant first sees a dinosaur and exclaims, “It’s a dinosaur!” Even when directed by a genuine master like Steven Spielberg (and especially when they’re not), these films always have a pretty low bar to clear. One can pine all they want for the sense of awe and wonder in the face of nature that was maybe evoked by…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Pacific Rim: Uprising | Steven S. DeKnight

March 22, 2018
pacrim

Picking up 10 years after the events of Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim: Uprising follows Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost from the first film, as he does that thing where he finally confronts and accepts his destiny and his father’s legacy by doing the same thing the old man did, which in this case means saving the world from gigantic invading alien monsters by punching them with a giant robot. And that’s pretty much it. Uprising rockets through the bare minimum…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Hail, Caesar! | Joel & Ethan Coen

February 5, 2016
Hail Caesar (2016)

Sticking to a reliable and remarkably elastic formula, the Coen brothers’ 1950s Hollywood farce Hail, Caesar! is, like Burn After Reading or Raising Arizona, another deceptively fluffy screwball comedy belying a search for deeper meaning. Josh Brolin stars as Harry Mannix, head of production and fixer for Capitol Studios (certainly not coincidentally the same studio that tormented Barton Fink), who spends his days sweeping minor scandals under the rug and keeping the studio machine well-oiled, a business he often finds unseemly. He bounces between many hilarious,…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Crimson Peak | Guillermo del Toro

October 14, 2015
Crimson Peak (2015)

Guillermo del Toro’s sympathies have always been with his orphan, discarded monsters: the aging vampire in Cronos, the beautiful, malevolent creatures of Pan’s Labyrinth, or the dying fairy kingdom of Hellboy II. They may be cruel and violent but they are also irreparably misunderstood, tragically separate from us, forever unloved, forced to exist in these exquisitely rendered worlds of perfect designs straight out of del Toro’s prolific imagination.…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Steve Jobs | Danny Boyle

October 14, 2015
Steve-Jobs-2015

It’s hard to tell if Steve Jobs is better or worse for its general avoidance of “how we live now” handwringing. Even The Social Network, to which this is certainly meant as some sort of foll0w-up given its Aaron Sorkin fact-based tech-biography screenplay, concerned itself with our market-driven culture, the allure and pitfalls of becoming a capitalist hero, and the ways in which technology has disrupted human relationships. Steve Jobs is barely even about legendary iconoclast Steve Jobs.…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

The Visit | M. Night Shyamalan

September 10, 2015
The Visit (2015)

M. Night Shyamalan might be on the ropes both in terms of his critical perception and industry clout. His last four films were widely (it could be argued, unfairly) disliked by both critics and audiences, and his name was even conspicuously absent from promotional materials for his most recent movie, Will Smith star-vehicle After Earth. Perhaps the low budget of a cheap found footage movie offered him a measure of control the major studios no longer can, or perhaps it was the…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Jurassic World | Colin Trevorrow

July 12, 2015
Jurassic World (2015)

Slick, loud, violent, merchandized to death, politically retrograde, largely scrubbed of idiosyncrasy, and also pretty exciting, Jurassic World is, like the original 1993 Jurassic Park, simultaneously we-tampered-in-God’s-domain overreacher sci-fi and an amusement park ride about being an amusement park ride. The characters constantly point out that their corporate overlords demanded moral, technological, and ethical compromises and bigger, sexier products…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Furious 7 | James Wan

April 2, 2015
Furious 7 (2015)

You can claim to be invested in the Fast and/or Furious series for fancy cars, or for the characters and the laid-back diversity of the cast, or the occasional welcome nod to feminism, but really it’s all about the action. When Fast Five and, to a much greater extent, Fast & Furious 6 began to increasingly abandon the needs of both narrative coherence and economy, along with the boorish dudebro machismo of the earlier installments, this left room for more and more cartoonish spectacle…

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Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Film

Blackhat | Michael Mann

January 25, 2015
blackhat

Blackhat opens with a CG-animated representation of a block of data infiltrating a computer network. A tiny glowing grid sliding along a superconducting surface with what seems very much to be purposeful intent. But in and of itself it has no autonomy. It is being directed, controlled by someone else. The film closes with an action sequence taking place in Jakarta, during a Hindu religious festival called Nyepi, a New Year’s celebration symbolizing a…

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