Slender Man is exceedingly thin in plot, character, craft, expansion of its viral internet roots, and is most lightweight where it matters most. There’s no fun in this dour exercise and scares are non-existent as the film haphazardly assembles various tropes and repetitive nightmare imagery into 90 minutes of weariness.
BlacKkKlansman is Spike Lee’s best film since 2002’s 25th Hour and his most vital and challenging since well before that.
Based on the memoir by Ron Stallworth, or as Lee tells us “some fo’ real s*it” that took place in the ‘70s, the period piece highlights appalling social standards and practices that are sadly just as relevant as they are reprehensible 40 years later. This isn’t just the opening of a time capsule; in 2018, BlacKkKlansman is essential. Lee’s bold final flourish pulls recent news clips to provide a stirring, rage-inducing shot of adrenaline that hammers home the theme of lingering, metastasizing hate.
The third Marvel movie of 2018, and by far the least consequential, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a minor chapter in the MCU. It’s occasionally entertaining, thanks to two great leads, and boasts creative set pieces, but the smallness of the film extends way beyond the diminutive stature of its two central superheroes.
If recent history were a guide in this never-ending series, shrinking the stakes would be welcomed, allowing for deeper character exploration and the ability to tell an engaging story that feels more Avengers adjacent instead of reliant. Black Panther is one of the best films of the year so far; Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming are a lot of fun; and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is bursting with that crew’s unique oddball charm. Ant-Man and the Wasp does not continue that Phase-Three tradition, combining its one-off innocuous adventure with the kind of unnecessary convolution that has bogged down the worst of Marvel’s output.
Stuck somewhere between a gothic Hammer-horror throwback and trashy revenge-sploitation, The Russian Bride has trouble fully committing to a style or a story. Things finally get batty and bloody, and Oksana Orlan is fantastic in the crazy final act. Unfortunately, the meandering road to get to her showcase is littered with lapses in logic, questionable choices in other performances and dubious production issues, regardless of the budget constraints.
Our world is in desperate need of more empathy, but the commoditized version presented in the thought-provoking Empathy, Inc. probably isn’t the way go, even if it were possible.
The film’s concept is genius, both in the grand ideas and the simple execution of them. The black-and-white cinematography is beautiful, and the solid performances earn our compassion or derision, based on their part in the empathy-generating scheme. Some grasp on the contained drama is lost by making suspension of disbelief more difficult in a bumpy final act, but this is quality, lo-fi science fiction where the thematic whole transcends plot resolution.
The Ranger has a ton of fun with ’80s slasher traditions but never turns them into a joke, marrying a punk-rock exuberance with some nasty bloodshed. Even at a short 77 minutes, however, some languid pacing – especially in a protracted second act – dulls the experience. Despite its issues, the film’s odes to convention and then wild tweaking of the standard formula make me excited for whatever first-time feature director Jenn Wexler does next.