Tag Archive: coming of age movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

When we think of the big horror franchises, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street come to mind.  But for audiences coming of age in the 1990s, you may need to add Scream to that list.  Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Skeet Ulrich are back again in the unlucky town of Woodsboro, where the serial killers behind the long “ghostface” mask first made their mark on the town 25 years ago.  Another movie delayed by the pandemic, this new Scream delivers goofy slasher horror fun with all the right beats, proving once and for all this franchise is here to stay.  Scream is now in theaters and available on streaming platforms including Paramount+ and Amazon Prime.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s no wonder Netflix got its hooks into Ryan Reynolds (and he into them).  With great films like Free Guy and 6 Underground, not to mention his Deadpool series, he’s becoming reliable–still far to go to become the next Tom Cruise, but well on his way.  In his new movie The Adam Project, which started this weekend on Netflix, you get a lot: an almost family friendly, coming of age, sci-fi movie (with lightsabers).  It feels like director Shawn Levy, known for everything from Stranger Things to The Pink Panther to Night at the Museum to Free Guy and Lassie (and being Eugene’s brother) completely understands what it took to make a great 1980s Steven Spielberg sci-fi movieIt has spectacular special effects like you’d see in Guardians of the Galaxy, but they take a backseat to a story of relationships and second chances.  It belongs alongside E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Explorers, The Last Starfighter, Starman, Flight of the Navigator, D.A.R.Y.L., and J.J. Abrams’ own 1980s tribute, Super 8.

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Next week another of the onslaught of banked Ryan Reynolds movies (see Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Red Notice, Free Guy, and the forthcoming Spirited, Deadpool 3, Dragon’s Lair, and Clue) is coming to Netflix (which, since 6 Underground, feels like the Ryan Reynolds channel).  His new movie is The Adam Project, a family, coming of age, sci-fi movie (with lightsabers) that looks in every way like an update to the Bruce Willis underrated coming of age-meets-midlife crisis classic from 2000, The Kid.

Yes, Ryan Reynolds’ character (Adam) meets a younger version of himself, and you can just hear the whisper from Peter Pan warning us all not to grow up.  Or will it be more like Bruce Willis meeting young Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys or Bruce Willis meeting young Bruce Willis in Looper?  What’s the deal with Bruce Willis meeting himself in movies, anyway?

Check out the trailer below with Ryan Reynolds starring in The Adam Project:

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Love and Monsters a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Initially marketed as Monster Problems, Love and Monsters is a surprise sleeper hit apocalypse movie, also marketed as an adventure comedy, which puts it into the camp of movies like the Jumanji series and Finding ‘Ohana.  It was scheduled for release last April, then delayed to late 2020 because of the pandemic, and you probably missed it.  Which is now a good thing, because it’s a nicely timed story about survival–namely surviving a big event and getting to the other side of that event, being able to breathe freely again, at least at some level.  Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, and Michael Rooker, it’s a monster movie so well done it is nominated for a visual effects Oscar in tonight’s Academy Award ceremony.  It’s now streaming on Vudu, Amazon, and DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg didn’t get paid for the screenplay for the new Netflix kids’ adventure movie Finding ‘Ohana, they should.  Usually an homage borrows bits and pieces from the source material.  Finding ‘Ohana is different–it is a remake (albeit unofficial remake) of the 1985 classic coming of age adventure The Goonies, updated to bring it into the 21st century and change the setting from Oregon to Hawaii.  ‘Ohana, which you’ll know from previous Hawaii-themed series and movies, means family, which reflects the film’s theme of Hawaiian culture and families reunited.  Ultimately the effort is a mixed bag–a movie that could be great fun for younger kids, but will make everyone else crave the movies it pulls its ideas from.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you have been watching closely, you may notice that streaming platforms, pay channels, and cable networks rely on hit movies for the bulk of their replays.  Try to find some of your favorites outside the mainstream on Netflix, for example, and you’re likely to find mostly films made since streaming itself started to be a thing.  Starz has been one monthly pay channel option that is slowly bringing back more obscure films from the past 50 years, films like Outland and Wolfen.  Another you may have missed is Let Me In from a decade ago, another of those rare genre-bending films that–if you’re lucky enough to just stumble across it–is the kind of film to remind you why you love genre films.  It stars twelve-year-old actors Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in powerful breakout performances, the same year Moretz would deliver one of the big screen’s best superheroine performances as the cute but foul-mouthed Hit Girl in the movie Kick-Ass with Nicolas Cage, and just after Smit-McPhee would co-star in the dystopian film The Road with Viggo Mortenson.

Is it horror, an early 1980s coming-of-age tale, a love story, crime-suspense, a story of an abusive father, or something more (as Starlord might say, “a bit of both”?).  If you enjoy not knowing what genre of film you’re jumping into, this is for you.  Like Midnight Special, Skeleton Key, 12 Monkeys, and The Others, much of the film will creep by before you even have any certainty as to what is “really” going on.  Writer-director Matt Reeves, who brought audiences the Cloverfield series and the latest Planet of the Apes movies and is working on The Batman for 2021, mixes some truly dramatic moments into Let Me In, while also adding the next must-watch for coming of age movies, suspense-thrillers, horror, and romance.  Just as James Mangold delivered a father-daughter love story in Logan, Reeves puts his own stamp on a compelling tale of a boy and the girl next door.

The clues Reeves delivers along the way will be more obvious to some than others.  Donnie Darko, Fargo, Logan, The Outsiders–Don’t be surprised if Reeves’ deftly drawn scenes evoke feelings from all sorts of big films.  Disturbing, poignant, triumphant, chilling.  You might even get twisted into feeling a certain sympathy for one of the film’s creepier characters.  A police detective played by Elias Koteas (Shooter, Zodiac, Gattaca) will have you think you’re following Mark Ruffalo’s character in another Zodiac movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the new Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Tom Holland′s Peter Parker is trying to recover from the death of mentor Tony Stark in the final scenes of Avengers: Endgame.  He’s trying to take a break from literally saving the planet by going on a summer trip with his classmates to Paris.  And he’s trying to let Zendaya′s MJ know that he cares about her.  So it’s too bad Samuel L. Jackson′s Nick Fury is trying to get his help as the only Avenger available to take out a new inter-dimensional threat–a threat from world-destroying giants called The Elementals.  Spider-Man: Far From Home, which opened in theaters nationwide this weekend, is Holland’s fifth outing as Peter Parker, after Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, and Spidey fans will be happy.  Holland continues to give the best performances of any actor to don a Spidey suit (he wears a few new great versions in this film thanks to designer Anna B.  Sheppard).  He’s also as established in the MCU as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine–Holland is Spider-Man.

But the supporting characters and actors are equally superb.  At the top, Zendaya has carved out her own fantastic MJ/Mary Jane for the MCU, much more integral to who Spidey is than the character from the past two trilogies.  Holland continues to convey that teen uncertainty and lack of confidence, while slipping in the word “awesome” every few minutes to acknowledge he’s seeing all the cool things going on around him that the audience sees.  New to the MCU, Jake Gyllenhaal creates another memorable character after excellent work in films like Donnie Darko and Source Code with the new power-wielding Mysterio.  Gyllenhall brings equal gravitas and charm to Michael Keaton’s Vulture as seen in the last Spider-Man solo outing.  And Angourie Rice really has a stand-out performance compared to when we last saw her, playing high schooler Betty, a new close friend to Ned (Jacob Batalon)–together they make a fun duo and solid coming of age movie sidebar to the film.

How does this compare to Spider-Man: Homecoming?  It’s hard to believe that incredible reboot film was in theaters only two years ago.  Screenwriter Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have inked both Spider-Man films plus the script for Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Homecoming still nudges out the others as the tightest story of the group.  But Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great follow-up, easily combining with the 2017 film to create the best two side-by-side solo films in the entire decade-plus run of the MCU.  No two back-to-back Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Guardians, Ant-Man or Avengers movies surpass what director Jon Watts has done with these two films.  Spider-Man has always been Marvel Comics’ #1 superhero, so it’s about time the movies at last reflect that popularity.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Make no mistake, Billy Batson aka Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel (aka Shazam since 2012) has always been the most difficult to fold into the DC pantheon of superheroes.  With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman–the trinity at the top of DC Comics for so long–audiences always know much of what those characters are going to bring to a story even before they walk into the theater.  To be fair, Billy wasn’t a DC original, shuffled much later into the DC universe because of some decades-long legal tedium.  Billy Batson is a kid who suddenly becomes a superhero, so the trailers have been compared to Penny Marshall’s Big, another story about a kid suddenly dealing with being grown-up.  And that is, indeed, part of Shazam!  The movie is also part origin story, because although Shazam! adheres to Billy’s origin story going back to the 1940s (just as Captain America: The First Avenger adhered to its source material), much of the audience that saw the character in his heyday–when he was even more popular and well-known than Superman–aren’t around to make up the target moviegoing audience.  But Big and an origin story is just the beginning.

You know it when you watch a movie unfold and realize something great is happening.  DC Entertainment–the movie guys–finally paid attention to DC Comics–the actual writers and artists who built the character from the ground up–and at last delivered what this comic book reader has always wanted.  Shazam!, the story, Zachary Levi‘s superhero, and a new young actor named Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s friend Freddy–are fantastic.  The magic, wonder, and heart of DC Comics is finally back in the theaters.  It’s a gamechanger for the DC universe, because it finally steps away from Zack Snyder’s dark and brooding Justice League and returns it to the roots of DC Comics and DC At the Movies that we first got a taste of with Christopher Reeve’s first Superman and Michael Keaton’s first Batman.  So if the executives at DC are paying attention, and audiences agree once the film hits general release April 5, this could be an opportunity for a switch-up–an excuse to build a new Marvel-level superhero film universe around the new, amazingly fun and appealing superhero characters in this film.

At its core, the story by new screenwriter Henry Gayden updating a script by Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer, Goosebumps) is about a foster family and the importance of family, so don’t think this is another frivolous superhero movie to be easily dismissed.  As with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s loaded with emotional beats, and it’s all heart.  What do kids care about, and what are they afraid of?  The film takes some time to look seriously at these things.  It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny in spots, expect some snorts, too.  But look for some emotional pangs along the way, on par with an oft-forgotten superhero movie that may have more heart than any other, the 1980 John Ritter sleeper (and one of my favorites) Hero At Large.  Which makes Shazam! also a movie for fans who count Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles among their most favorite superhero movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Amazing?  Definitely.  Spectacular?  Absolutely.  Tom Holland, who stole the show in the key battle of last year’s Captain America: Civil War, has provided the definitive, and yes, the ultimate Spider-man performance in this weekend’s latest Marvel masterwork, Spider-man: Homecoming.  And Holland is equally good, if not better, without the suit as angst-ridden, overburdened teenager and Spider-man alter ego, Peter Parker.  Kids of all ages who ever envisioned the ultimate battle between Spider-man and Batman get their satisfaction here, too: Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances in decades, creates out of an obscure character one of the best supervillain performances to hit the big screen, complete with high-tech bat wings and the classic Keaton we all love to watch.

Moviegoers have seen good efforts from Marvel creating the comic book empire’s flagship, web-slinging superhero before, with Tobey Maguire in three Spider-man solo films and Andrew Garfield in two follow-up Amazing Spider-man films, but this latest story supplies what was missing from the other five: an authentic, likeable, smart, voice-breaking do-gooder and a classic coming of age story with heart.  But it doesn’t skimp on the action, and thanks to some well-filmed 3D and magical IMAX cinematography, one key scene that takes place high atop the Washington Monument made this viewer practically step backward out of his seat into the back row.  Just breathtaking filmmaking.

If you keep a list of superhero movie requirements in the back of your mind, you’ll find that Spider-man: Homecoming fulfills or surpasses them all.  A story with a solid character arc for its lead and antagonist.  A big relief for filmgoers who go to every new superhero movie: writer/director Jon Watts and five other writers (a fact that alone would normally spell certain doom for a film, but not here) knew enough to steer clear of another superhero origin story and instead delved right in.  They flesh out Parker’s relationship with his like-minded, knowledge bowl peers at school and provide more than one jawdropper along the way.  In Keaton’s villain they provide an exceptional, compelling villain, something lacking in the past several years of superhero movies.  Holland sports an update to the Spidey supersuit, and Louise Frogley’s latest costume design is superb, complete with believable, readily available tech supplied in-story by mentor Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in his latest perfect adaptation of the role from the comics.  And Michael Giacchino’s powerful and emotional score is among his best, complete with plenty of clever and unexpected themes that amplify the story at the right time.  If you think Peter Parker is a throwaway character, prepare for some emotional work by Holland, especially at his character’s lowest point in the story.

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my-pet-dinosaur

The first trailer released for the new Australian production My Pet Dinosaur at first has the look of a low-budget knockoff of E.T., the Extra Terrestrial.  Since E.T. many films have tried to capture what Steven Spielberg and John Williams brought to the screen.  Most have failed and resulted in decades of direct-to-VHS features.  But we also have had successes like Super 8.

My Pet Dinosaur comes from writer/director and visual effects supervisor Matt Drummond, who also worked on Dinosaur Island.  It stars newcomers Jordan Dulieu, Anabelle Wolfe, Harrison Saunders, Chris Gabardi, Scott Irwin, Rowley Holmes, Beth Champion, with Joanne Samuel (Mad Max), David Roberts (The Matrix), and Tiriel Mora (The Castle).

pet-dino

In one sense My Pet Dinosaur may seem doomed from the start.  In light of the success of all things retro, and in particular the Netflix series Stranger Things, My Pet Dinosaur may still have a chance.  Yet, maybe the preview doesn’t do the film justice, and perhaps the special effects work wasn’t in final form.  The dinosaur looks pretty good in some of the scenes.

Check out this trailer for My Pet Dinosaur:

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