Superhero Saturday: ‘Mask of Zorro’ (1998) is Peak Banderas, with impeccable stunts but no surprises (Movie review)

Z

orro is a rare superhero who doesn’t come from comic books, and indeed he predates the 1938 invention of Superman. He was created in 1919 by pulp novelist Johnston McCulley. The “Zorro” film series, of which the two Antonio Banderas-starring entries are the 10th and 11th American outings, dates back to 1920. Arguably, Zorro is not a superhero (he has no superpowers and did not originate in comics), but he’s listed as such enough times that I’ll categorize him as a proto-superhero for now and let the debate continue.

Continue reading “Superhero Saturday: ‘Mask of Zorro’ (1998) is Peak Banderas, with impeccable stunts but no surprises (Movie review)”

First episode impressions: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ (TV review)

Z

oey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (NBC) isn’t “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” … or “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” … or “Zoey 101.” Watching the pilot episode of the series (which will return Feb. 16, in its regular Sunday slot), I could never forget that it is trying to cash in on the current popularity of musicals and that it uses a title that evokes things people already like. That said, this series — whose producers include “Freaks and Geeks’ ” Paul Feig and “The Perfection’s” Richard Shepard (who directs the first episode) — is far from terrible.

Continue reading “First episode impressions: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ (TV review)”

‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is more of the same, but it’s still a fun and funny romp (Movie review)

I

 imagine director/co-writer Jake Kasdan and his four lead actors, upon finishing 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” – the surprisingly great sequel to 1995’s dull “Jumanji” – got together and said “That was fun. Let’s do it again.” So two years later we have “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which does give us one fresh angle but mostly coasts by on its proven premise.

Continue reading “‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is more of the same, but it’s still a fun and funny romp (Movie review)”

Superhero Saturday: ‘Kick-Ass 2’ (2013) finds its groove with better jokes and action (Movie review)

W

riter-director Jeff Wadlow, taking the reins from Matthew Vaughn, delivers a funnier and more focused “Kick-Ass 2” (2013). It’s formulaic, but that makes it better than the flailing 2010 original, the primary value of which is to introduce us to purple-haired Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and green-suited Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Continue reading “Superhero Saturday: ‘Kick-Ass 2’ (2013) finds its groove with better jokes and action (Movie review)”

‘Knight Before Christmas’ is more empty calories from the Netflix holiday machine (Movie review)

T

he Knight Before Christmas” (November, Netflix), like most of TV’s recent holiday movie catalog, is so uninspired that I wonder if the sets, locations, casting and costumes come first. Then an exec assigns a writer — Cara J. Russell in this case – to churn out a screenplay with the boardroom-approved punny title and then they go from there.

Continue reading “‘Knight Before Christmas’ is more empty calories from the Netflix holiday machine (Movie review)”

‘Let It Snow’ is a light but watchable Gen Z X-mas gathering (Movie review)

L

et It Snow” (November, Netflix) comes from a 2008 novel co-written by coming-of-age chronicler John Green. It’s adapted by Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”) and two other writers for this who’s-who of Gen Z actors. Although I only recognized Kiernan Shipka (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and Jacob Batalon (the best bud in the MCU’s “Spider-Mans”), the talent level is surprisingly high. Down the road, “Let It Snow” could play as a classic of young actors breaking out, except that the overall movie is too safe and predictable.

Continue reading “‘Let It Snow’ is a light but watchable Gen Z X-mas gathering (Movie review)”

‘Good Boys’ is somehow both the raunchiest and cutest comedy of the year (Movie review)

T

here were many ways “Good Boys” could go wrong, from over-reliance on the shock value of tweens dropping F-bombs, to kids who can’t act, to recycled “American Pie” gags. But this latest entry from writers Gene Stupnitsky (who also directs) and Lee Eisenberg – the writers of the underrated “Bad Teacher” (2011) – turns out to be both the raunchiest and cutest comedy of the year.

Continue reading “‘Good Boys’ is somehow both the raunchiest and cutest comedy of the year (Movie review)”

Superhero Saturday: Despite the awesome Hit-Girl, ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010) is more ass than kickin’ (Movie review)

K

ick-Ass” (2010) has the game pieces in place but loses the game. It’s colorful, for sure, with the green scuba-suited titular teen, the purple-haired 11-year-old Hit-Girl, McLovin coming over from “Superbad” to play Red Mist, and Nicolas Cage chewing scenery as Big Daddy. But director/co-writer Matthew Vaughn, who perhaps learns some lessons here before helming the excellent “X-Men: First Class” one year later, delivers a two-hour film that feels like four hours because it never finds the right pace or tone.

Continue reading “Superhero Saturday: Despite the awesome Hit-Girl, ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010) is more ass than kickin’ (Movie review)”