‘Black Panther’ is another Marvel movie

Images courtesy Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.

5/10 It’s finally time for the first black superhero movie.

Yeah, I know, Blade came first, but this is different! This is Marvel Studios! This is the machine! Blade isn’t really a full-blooded superhero, he’s a vampire hunter — back then, a vampire hunter movie was a much easier sell then a costumed vigilante would have been. Wesley Snipes didn’t even want to play Blade.

He wanted to play Black Panther.

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‘Fifty Shades’ series peters out

It’s so visually boring! The only striking images associated with this movie are the posters. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

2/10 So this is where Harry Potter ended up. It’s kind of astonishing to think about it in those terms, but when you take everything else about the past 20 years into account, doesn’t that seem right?

With the series routinely smashing records on opening night, publishers started to focus heavily on a young teenage market that clearly hadn’t been explored to its full extent. The next real landmark in that line was Twilight, which narrowed the audience to teenage girls, and from that came Fifty Shades of Grey.

Almost 21 years after Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone took bookstores by storm, the third movie in its grandchild series, Fifty Shades Freed, hits theaters. Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman) and Ana Steele-Grey (Dakota Johnson) are young newly weds enjoying their vast fortune, but can’t honeymoon for long. Steele-Grey’s old boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), whose career was derailed after he tried to rape her in the previous installment, is back for revenge against each of the Greys individually and with a surprising amount of resources at his disposal. The marriage is also threatened from within by an extremely unwanted pregnancy, which causes them to fall back into communication problems they never really moved past.

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‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is garbage

Images courtesy Netflix.

1/10 Paramount Pictures decided just a few weeks ago that selling The Cloverfield Project to Netflix would be more profitable than releasing it in theaters, and they were almost certainly right. While Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane rode critical acclaim to $170.8 million and $110.2 million grosses worldwide, Paradox would have been booed out of theaters within two weeks.

Aboard the Cloverfield space station, an international team lead by Schmidt (Daniel Brühl) has spent almost two years in orbit trying to solve the world’s energy crisis with some kind of science experiment while geopolitics unravel below them. They team is met with a sudden success, and then disaster — the infinite energy device works, but it invokes some kind of reality-alteration paradox, and the Earth disappears. Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and the rest of the crew must figure out where they are in space and how to get home before the Cloverfield disintegrates or they fall victim to the completely random destruction wrought by this paradox that’s never really explained.

The Cloverfield Paradox is like watching a small child play make-believe — with only slightly better special effects. The horror gimmick is that reality is warping and that there are no rules, so every so often something will go haywire and the characters have to deal with it, but what this creates is a story driven not by by characters’ desires and decisions, but by abject randomness. The only thing you can count on is something vaguely freaky happening every 10 minutes or so to keep viewers invested, but there’s no reason to get invested in the first place.

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‘Winchester’s’ sharp story cut down by dull scares

Image courtesy Lionsgate.

5/10 Winchester is wonderfully written and pretty cleverly directed, but gets major points off for its technical problems.

In 1906 San Francisco, psychologist Eric Price (Jason Clarke) has been driven to despair and drug abuse by his wife’s untimely death. He’s called back to action by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which fears for the sanity of its majority shareholder, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren).

Winchester too is in grief for the loss of her husband and child, but more pressingly, she is literally haunted by the spirits of people killed by her company’s weapons, which represented a major step forward in firearm technology in the 1860s. For the past 23 years, she has spent her monumental inheritance constantly building and rebuilding a mansion in San Jose to house them and bring them peace. The mansion is still considered one of the most haunted locations in the U.S. Price is sent to assess Winchester’s sanity, but soon learns that he was hand-picked for his own personal connection to the mansion.

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‘The Last Key’ decent, dragged down by ‘Insidious’ hallmarks

Are you the keymaster? Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

4/10 You thought I’d forgotten about Insidious, didn’t you? No, we remember. Even if no one else- What?! It opened at almost $30 million?

Guess January isn’t the dead zone it used to be.

Insidious: The Last Key sees franchise star Elise Rainier (Lin Shayne, Ava Kolker and Hana Hayes in flashbacks) return to her childhood home to investigate a paranormal disturbance. The film flashes between to her upbringing and abuse at the hands of her father Gerald (Josh Stewart), who sought to repress her psychic abilities, and the present day plight of Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo) as she discovers an age-old evil in the house’s foundations, one that she herself released.

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