‘A Quiet Place’ is a menacing masterpiece (Movie review)

Nothing in John Krasinski’s past would indicate that he had a film like “A Quiet Place” in him, and yet here we are. The onetime sitcom heartthrob has delivered a film that is not just frightening, but intimate and character driven. Sitting in the theater I was reminded of films like “The Descent” and “The Mist,” which similarly play on audience sympathies to up the scare factor by giving us characters we care about.

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‘Veronica’ adds grit and grimness (and subtitles) to the slick Ouija board subgenre of horror (Movie review)

A bizarrely specific subgenre of horror has gotten a lot of play in recent years: Ouija-board horror. The two films officially sanctioned by the Warner Brothers board game – the bland “Ouija” (2104) and its much better prequel, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016) – are the most well-known. But stories of terror being summoned via a supernatural-themed game date back to 1986’s “Witchboard,” and a quick IMDb search reveals at least 20 movies with “Ouija” in the title, several of which we have all noticed (but probably not actually watched) while lazily scrolling through our Netflix queue.

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Millennial ‘Groundhog Day’ ‘Happy Death Day’ is no ‘Groundhog Day,’ but it’s not terrible (Movie review)

“Groundhog Day” (1993) is of course the touchstone of the “repeating the same day” genre, so when another film comes along with that premise, it’s intriguing, but it also gives me pause: Will it merely repeat “Groundhog Day” for a younger generation, or will it have something new to say? Available via Redbox and streaming, “Happy Death Day” (2017) is a mixture. It starts off too much in the same vein, but gets more creative as it moves toward a satisfying ending.

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‘Cloverfield Paradox’ pays lip service to science, turns into a familiar space thriller (Movie review)

“The Cloverfield Paradox” (which recently debuted on Netflix), the third installment of the loosely connected Cloververse saga, takes topical physics such as the recently discovered God Particle and the popular multiverse theory and smashes them into a movie that has little to do with science. Let’s just say it’s not going to pass muster with Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. But while the space station crew’s paranoia amid a series of disasters is familiar, there’s still fun to be had here if you’re in the mood (and if you already have Netflix, you saved money on a movie ticket this time around).

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‘It’ taps into ’80s nostalgia, but is short on scares (Movie review)

The 2017 “It” remake – now available from Redbox — is the most Stephen Kingy Stephen King adaptation to hit the screen in a long time, as the interactions between the heroic nerds and villainous bullies are palpable, and a lot of the action with titular clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and other monsters feels like King’s words brought to life with modern special effects – something not possible in the 1990 TV miniseries.

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‘Insidious: The Last Key’ continues franchise tradition of emotionally resonant horror (Movie review)

There has always been a sense in the “Insidious” movies that they are about more than the scares. In each of the films the audience is given the opportunity to really spend time with the characters, to get an understanding of them outside the horror.

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‘Better Watch Out’ a surprise gift of holiday-themed horror (Movie review)

I give a soft recommend to “Better Watch Out” – now available to stream for 99 cents on Amazon Prime – for anyone who hasn’t seen the trailer. The twist is great, and the rest of the film is unusual enough to be compelling. But those who have seen the trailer can skip it, as they already know the whole movie, just in condensed form.

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Taut thriller ’47 Meters Down’ a respectable addition to pantheon of shark terror (Movie review)

1975’s “Jaws” invented the killer-shark subgenre of horror, but it didn’t invent sharks. As such, plenty of movies through the years have been spiritual sequels to “Jaws,” and most of them have been much better than “Jaws 3” and “Jaws: The Revenge.” “47 Meters Down,” which snuck in and out of theaters in June and is now available via streaming and Redbox, is the latest.

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‘Life’ is another ‘Alien’ ripoff – but it’s one of the better ones (Movie review)

It’s hard to review “Life” (March 2017) — which I recently saw via Redbox – without entering into apologia. It is undeniably in the “Alien” ripoff subgenre. But it strikes me as odd that “Gravity” (2013), for example, has a 7.8 on IMDB and “Life” has a 6.6. Both are about accidents on a modern-day space station, featuring all-star casts and a mission statement to be realistic. Maybe the monster in “Life” is the difference-maker in that rating, but to me, the monster is a positive, not a negative.

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You’ll ‘Wish Upon’ a star, or whatever gods you pray to, for a more creative film (Movie review)

In “Wish Upon” — now available via Redbox and streaming — young Clare (Joey King, from Season 1 of “Fargo”) comes upon an ancient Chinese box that grants seven wishes. She makes a wish, it comes true, and there is a consequence. Repeat six more times until the movie ends.

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