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Spider-Man: Homecoming – Based on the Movie

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Ask anyone who watched Captain America: Civil War about the film’s highlights and they’ll almost always mention the new Spider-Man. Fans have been asking Marvel to take over the Spider-Man franchise for years, and now they’ve finally teamed up with Sony to bring us the web-slinging movie we needed.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming skips the all-too-familiar origin story but still shows us a Peter Parker fairly new to the whole hero thing, still young and struggling to balance school, social life, and saving the city. Peter, played by Tom Holland, has gotten a taste of the world-saving biz courtesy of the Avengers, and now all he wants is for the “Stark Internship” to lead to a full-time position with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (comic fans will remember the many times Spidey almost joined the Avengers, but somehow never quite made the team). Instead, he spends his days waiting for school to let out, stopping bike thieves, and helping little old ladies across the street, all while Tony and bodyguard Happy Hogan blow him off.

But Spidey’s about to get his first real taste of crime-fighting as he discovers petty crooks in possession of high tech weapons. At the head of the weapons racket is Adrian Toomes, played by Michael Keaton, a contractor who was in charge of the cleanup from the first Avengers movie until Tony Stark and the U.S. Department of Damage Control steal the job out from under him. (Yep, once again all the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s problems go right back to Tony Stark.) Now he salvages tech from superhero battles and sells it on the black market. But those weapons are putting innocent people in danger, and Peter isn’t about to let that stand. Even if it means running out on dates or missing a school trip or two.

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There’s so much to love about Homecoming, so let’s start with the hero himself. Peter has his share of challenges; he’s been given great power in the form of his spider abilities and his Stark Industries suit, but he’s still figuring out how to use them responsibly (or at all). He does his best, but he makes mistakes, like any teenager. And the movie seems to go out of its way to give him even more challenges, taking him out of the New York skyscrapers and plopping him down in the suburbs, or the Washington Mall, or on a plane, where his web-swinging skills aren’t as helpful as usual. The environment itself is as much an enemy as the Vulture or his goons.

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But for all his problems, Peter’s character shines through. He genuinely wants to help people, leaving a fight to save innocent bystanders and even putting himself in harm’s way to save others, whether they’re friends or foes. We see him vulnerable in so many ways, and yet he overcomes that with determination and a lovably awkward version of the signature Spider-Man wit.

Toomes, meanwhile, is surprisingly sympathetic yet intimidating. You get where he’s coming from, that he’s doing all this to support and protect his family, that he’s a desperate man driven by his circumstances to do bad things. At the same time, though, you’re not going to want to grab coffee with the guy anytime soon; he has absolutely no problem killing anyone, even a kid like Peter, if his family’s at stake. When Peter and Toomes meet face-to-face for the first time, it’s genuinely scary for more reasons than you might guess.

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Another standout character is Ned, Peter’s best friend. His main function is as comic relief sidekick, but his relationship with Peter is so strong and genuine that it really shines. Maybe I’m just haven’t seen it, but I don’t think movies today have nearly enough of these close male friendships, which made Homecoming even more refreshing.

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The film has been compared to a John Hughes film, and it does have the same charm as those high school films of the 80s, with its humor and its honest look into the life of an American teenager. It even includes an homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But it also works as a comic book movie, with plenty of references to the MCU and to comic lore. I feel like I’ll be catching Easter eggs for many watch-throughs to come (I think I even caught a glimpse of Felicia Hardy/Black Cat in one shot, but that’s yet to be confirmed).

If I had to pick something to gripe about, I would have liked to see more of Aunt May and Michelle. Peter’s relationship with Aunt May has always been one of the most important parts of Peter’s story, and Michelle was such a well-written and interesting character that I wanted more with her. But I also remember movies like Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that tried to do too much in one film, so I’d much rather be left wanting more than feeling overcrowded.

Zendaya in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN™: HOMECOMING.

Overall, Spider-Man Homecoming is a fun time with some great takeaways, and it’s one of the best Spider-Man films out there. If you’re a fan of Spidey, the MCU, or superheroes in general, check it out.

Recommendations

  • Be aware of some foul language and sexual humor going in (although it’s way tamer than in, say, one of those John Hughes movies)
  • Rewatch Avengers and Captain America: Civil War before seeing this one; those are the most relevant films to what you’ll be seeing in Homecoming
  • Stay to see both the mid- and end-credits scene. You won’t want to miss either one.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming is owned by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures.

Overanalysis: Don’t Be Batman

(Mild spoilers ahead for some Batman comics.)

We’ve all heard the saying “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.” And it sounds true, right? Who wouldn’t want to be the personification of awesomeness, running around on rooftops, driving a cool car, and beating up bad guys? Who wouldn’t want to be Batman?

I wouldn’t. And if you knew everything being Batman entailed, you wouldn’t either.

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Even a cool beard can’t make Batman happy again.

Think about it…

Let’s start with the basics. I don’t know if you’ve heard, it’s a very subtle part of Batman’s mythos, hardly ever mentioned, so possible spoiler alert, but … BATMAN’S PARENTS ARE DEAD. Gunned down right in front of his ten-year-old eyes. That’s enough to cause some serious trauma, maybe even PTSD. He probably deals with survivor’s guilt, blaming himself even though there was nothing he could have done to stop his parents’ killer. Sure, it was the spark for a crusade against crime so no child would ever have to experience what he did, but no matter how tough or scary or cool he may seem, some part of Batman will always be that kid in Crime Alley, kneeling beside his dead parents. He’ll never be able to move on from that moment.

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Especially if we keep seeing it in every single adaptation.

In fact, Batman’s so caught up in his parents’ murder that he’s obsessed with them. He vows to fight crime at their graves, the key to entering the Batcave is the time of their death, and any slur upon their names upends his whole world. Even the moment Bruce decides to become Batman includes him talking to–almost praying to–his dead father. He is Batman, not for himself, but for his parents, and any psychologist can tell you that letting your parents, dead or otherwise, control you is a great way to mess up your mind. Even Batman can’t be himself because he can’t let his parents, or rather his idea of his parents, go.

And speaking of losing people, Batman loses even more people all the time. So far, at least three Robins have died under his tutelage (although they have a tendency to come back), and plenty of his other allies have been killed or tortured or maimed, from Batgirl to Orpheus to Alfred. And forget keeping a girlfriend; if they’re not murdered by villains or being villains themselves, they get out while the getting is good. It’s a dark and lonely world Batman lives in; his trauma makes him nearly incapable of trust, and the few people he does trust, he pushes away to keep safe. I can’t say I blame him, given his friends’ usual fate, but it makes for an isolated and miserable life.

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Well, there goes another one.

That life isn’t exactly a life well lived. Half his time he spends wearing the mask of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, slacking off and running around with models and lavishly spending money and pretending not to care. It sounds fun, but it’s an empty life, especially considering the pain beneath the surface. And when he’s Batman, he only gets three hours of sleep a night, and Alfred would be the first to mention his erratic meal schedule. He’s a workaholic, exposing himself to massive amounts of life-or-death stress and injuries galore. Athletes work themselves out of a career early on in life with injuries not even half as bad; at this rate, Bruce will be old in his thirties. It’s an unhealthy life, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Why does he do it? To make Gotham City a better place, where innocent people don’t die and don’t have to be afraid. And yet, over the years, Gotham has gotten steadily worse, going from a city of crime and corruption to a city of homicidal maniacs. That’s not all Batman’s fault; people like Poison Ivy, the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Freeze probably would have shown up in Gotham anyway, and Arkham Asylum’s questionable policies don’t make things any better. But Bane wanted to test Batman’s strength and will, Riddler wanted to test Batman’s mind, and the al Ghul family would probably leave Gotham alone if Batman weren’t there. And let’s not forget the Joker, Gotham’s deadliest villain, whom Batman created and who has a massive obsession with the Dark Knight. Whether or not it’s Bruce’s fault, Gotham has gone to the asylum inmates since he showed up.

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You can practically see the revolving door from here.

Yes, Batman’s feats are impressive, and he makes a great symbol, inspiring us all to be heroes. But that doesn’t mean we should all be Batman, suffering from trauma, obsession, loneliness, and physical stress, all for little to no return. The man behind the mask has serious issues. So, given the choice, always be yourself.

And if you can be yourself wearing a Batsuit, even better.

 

Batman and all related properties are owned by DC Comics.

Overanalysis – Belle: Stockholm Syndrome or Character Growth?

Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s greatest classics. It’s got everything: romance, magic, big musical numbers, action, a strong female protagonist who loves to read, and a massive hairy monster with dreamy blue eyes … ahem. Yeah. It’s no wonder why so many people love it. But many more people claim its core relationship is unhealthy, accusing Belle of Stockholm Syndrome, falling in love with her kidnapper. And yeah, that’s one possible interpretation, but I think that romance is healthier than they give it credit for.

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No, really. Totally healthy and normal.

One of the key aspects of a healthy relationship is that both parties involved make the other better in some measurable way. And it’s obvious how Belle affects the Beast; because of her influence, he becomes kinder, well-mannered, and generally less beastly. But ask what effect the Beast has on Belle, and … well, that’s when Stockholm Syndrome gets brought up. But what kind of main character doesn’t change by the end of the story? In truth, the Beast has a profound impact on Belle, making her a better person for knowing and loving him.

Think about it…

When we first meet Belle, we know that she’s a social outcast and that she’s dissatisfied with her life and longs for adventure. What you might not pick up on, though, is her real problem: she never faces her problems. People think you’re odd? Don’t challenge their perspectives, just hide in a book. Want adventure? Never leave home, even when your father goes off to the fair. Gaston making unwanted advances? Don’t tell him no, just say you don’t deserve him, shrink away from him, and “accidentally” throw him out of the house. Not once does she ever face a problem head on in the movie’s introduction.

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“I could be explaining consent to Gaston, but instead I’m lying in a field of flowers.”

The first problem she actively tries to solve is her father’s disappearance. She tracks him down and offers to let the Beast keep her instead of Maurice. It’s a nice effort, but it doesn’t truly solve the problem, trading one prisoner for another, and it doesn’t involve much confrontation. After that, she goes back to hiding from her problems, whether by sobbing in her room, passive-aggressively rejecting the Beast’s “invitation” to dinner, or sneaking around his room without his knowledge. All the while she’s exposed to his direct, confrontational (and unhealthily so) approach, until she can’t take anymore and literally runs away from her problems.

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“Dude, you don’t just touch somebody’s rose without permission!”

Then the Beast saves her life, and she’s faced with a decision: does she keep running or stay and face her problem? She chooses the latter, standing up to the Beast and demanding that he control his temper. In doing so, she earns his respect, friendship, and ultimately love.

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“So there, you big bully!”

From that moment on, she starts confronting all her problems. She finally gives Gaston a firm no (not that hard when he’s basically holding her father hostage), she stands up to the townspeople who think her father is crazy, and she runs to the Beast’s aid when Gaston tries to kill him. All very direct and confrontational actions that the woman at the beginning of the movie probably wouldn’t have taken. And it’s all because, just like she helped the Beast become kind and gentle, the Beast showed Belle how to stand up for herself and tackle her problems head-on. Both are better for having the other in their life.

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And there’s the strong female character we all remember.

I still don’t claim that their romance is ideal or a model to follow. But it certainly isn’t as unhealthy as Stockholm Syndrome has made it out to be.

 

Beauty and the Beast is owned by Walt Disney Pictures.

Based on the Trailer – The Space Between Us

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We take so many parts of this world for granted, but what if we could see it all for the first time? Blue skies? Picnic blankets? K-Pop?

The Space Between Us tells the story of the first human born on Mars and his experiences seeing Earth for the first time. Is it a wonder to behold or a boring void? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.

So who stars in this movie? Asa Butterfield of Ender’s Game is our hero Gardner Elliot, Britt Robertson of Tomorrowland is his Earth-born friend Tulsa, and Gary Oldman of The Dark Knight trilogy plays scientist and mentor Nathaniel Shepherd. Other cast members include Carla Gugino of Spy Kids and BD Wong of Jurassic World.

The director is Peter Chelsom, whose other films include Hear My Song, Hector and the Search for Happiness, and Hannah Montana: The Movie. I’m not at all familiar with his work, but a quick look at Rotten Tomatoes tells me he started out well and then fell off in quality, at least in terms of critical reception. It remains to be seen whether this movie follows the pattern or returns to form.

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The trailer begins with Tulsa using her study lab to study Gardner. They’re online chatting, and that leads to plenty of misunderstandings, including the meaning of people being real. Gardner says his best friend isn’t even real, to which his best friend–a robot–says, “That hurts my feelings.” See, this kind of attitude is why we’re going to have a robot uprising, Gardner. Tulsa also doesn’t believe he was born on Mars, although she admits to feeling like she’s from another planet herself. We see her sitting tentatively at a piano and then running away as people peer through the window at her. Yes, how alien to consider making music. What a weird person!

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“Say I’m not real one more time. I dare you.”

Gardner wants to go to Earth, and his caretaker says he needs to get out and meet new people. But Shepherd points out, “His heart can’t handle Earth’s gravity.” Yeah, there’s a few other things about Earth his heart won’t be able to handle right now too. But Gardner says it’s worth the risk and blasts off for our world. He gets a rocking pair of sunglasses, discovers a world of colors other than red and white, and meets probably the world’s rudest girl before walking into Tulsa’s class. “Are you a transfer student?” the teacher asks. “Okay,” says Gardner. Then he accidentally douses himself in the eye wash station. His response? “Okay!” Gardner, we’ve heard you talk. We know you say other words. Maybe use some of them?

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“It’s okay.”

Gardner tells Tulsa his mother died in childbirth on Mars, but he wants to find his father, who’s still on Earth. But Tulsa doesn’t trust him; she’s grown up in foster care, and she’s apparently gotten all the bad families considering how much she’s been lied to. Gardner points out that things that sound crazy can still be true. Then he sees a horse for the first time and freaks out. People who seem crazy can still be true as well.

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“Danger Zone” plays in the background.

The road trip montage begins, and Gardner experiences hot air balloons, inchworms, and motorcycles. But gravity’s doing its work, and he collapses in Las Vegas. To be fair, he’s not the only one falling down there. Shepherd chases after him, trying to get him back to Mars and safety, but Gardner escapes in a biplane, shouting, “This is my life!” Well, it won’t be if you stay on this planet much longer. Sure enough, he passes out in the backseat of Tulsa’s truck and gets put in sci-fi intensive care. “He wasn’t lying,” Tulsa whispers. You know, this doesn’t prove he’s from Mars. It only means he has a heart condition of some kind. But whatever.

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“I didn’t know you could fly a plane!” “Fly, yes. Land, no.”

The two close in on Gardner’s missing dad, and Tulsa spots a green car lot tube man and asks Gardner, “Friend of yours?” So because he’s from Mars, he must know little green men? That’s vicious stereotyping right there! They go into outer space and hang out (literally) in zero gravity, Gardner stands in the rain, and he tells Tulsa, “You make me human.” Well, technically your parents’ DNA had more to do with that than she did, but I get what you’re saying. “No matter what happens, it was worth it,” he adds as they sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon and as he vandalizes a bathroom mirror with the words “I WUZ HERE.” So no English tutors on Mars, then?

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“I should have spent less time on rocket science and more time learning to spell.”

So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do. It doesn’t look like anything groundbreaking, but the story seems sweet, it’s got some talented actors leading the cast, and the concept of someone experiencing Earth for the first time is more than a little intriguing. If it’s executed well, it ought to be a fun time for the whole family.

Just don’t bring your robots. They won’t respond well to being told they’re not real.

 

The Space Between Us is owned by STX Entertainment.

Crown Jewels: Most Anticipated 2017

Every year about this time I take some time to share the films I’m most looking forward to in the coming year. And this year, there are so many potentially good movies that I’ve upped my usual ten Crown Jewels to fifteen (and there are still more I’m at least interested in, if not looking forward to). So let’s dive right in and take a look at my most anticipated movies of 2017!

 

15. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)

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I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a huge Spider-Man fan, and his last few solo movies didn’t help much. But this newest film has so much going for it. Tom Holland did a spectacular job in Civil War, so it’s great to see him back for this. Sony and Marvel have finally agreed to a crossover between companies, which means they can pull in MCU references and Tony Stark himself. And while I’m not crazy about the villain’s character design, I’m looking forward to what Michael Keaton does with the Vulture. Maybe this is the film that gets the Spidey franchise back on track.

14. Logan (March 3)

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I don’t normally get excited for R-rated movies, and Wolverine’s standalone films have historically been a bit … disappointing, to say the least. But the trailer promises a darker, more post-apocalyptic tone and some strong relationship bonding, and I think that more serious direction might be just what the franchise needs. If it can deliver on those promises with a good story, it might just be a good watch.

13. The Circle (April 28)

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This movie has a lot of big names in it, including Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, and John Boyega, which instantly makes me interested. The plot feels a little familiar, with a Google-turned-Big-Brother internet corporation invading everyone’s privacy while keeping some secrets of its own, but it’s still intriguing enough to catch my attention and make me want to know more.

12. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)

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I know nothing about this film except for what I’ve seen in the trailer, and it instantly had my attention. It’s so visually rich, from the environments to the aliens to the colors, and even the music choice gives it a distinct flavor. It’s apparently based on a graphic novel series about a time-traveling secret agent, and it stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne. And yeah, that’s all I know, but it’s enough to make me interested. If nothing else, it’ll be quite the visual spectacle.

11. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)

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Another film with a lot of big name actors, including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Toby Kebell, and John C. Reilly. But there’s really only one name you need to know, and that’s Kong. As in King Kong. As in the giant ape who I think now exists in the same universe as Godzilla, which means we’re probably setting up for a versus movie, which will be awesome. But this film looks gorgeous and full of talent, so it’s definitely more than a pit stop on the way to the big fight.

10. Dunkirk (July 21)

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Christopher Nolan’s movies are always surrounded by hype, and there’s usually a good reason. Even his lesser films look spectacular and make you think. Now that he’s tackling World War II at one of its most hopeless points, I’m excited to see what he’ll do with it. The trailer is already delivering on the visual spectacle; hopefully there’s a good story to go along with it.

9. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)

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Thor is one of my favorite heroes, but his last outing disappointed me for many different reasons. I’m hoping this movie has something better to offer, and with Cate Blanchett as Hela, as well as the Hulk and Dr. Strange making appearances, it’s got plenty of potential. All I ask is that it learn from the mistakes of the last film and deliver on its promises.

8. Justice League (November 17)

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DC has been promoting this one for a while, ever since we knew they were building their own movie universe. And this brings them all together: Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Cyborg (and maybe Superman?). We’ve got a good cast of characters, so hopefully we have a good movie for them to be in. While I personally enjoyed Suicide Squad, I’ll admit DC has yet to put out a technically good movie in this universe, but I have hopes that they’ll change that by the time this film comes out (more on that later).

7. Murder on the Orient Express (November 22)

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This is one of Agatha Christie’s greatest mysteries, and it’s got an all-star cast worthy of its reputation: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfieffer, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michael Pena, and Leslie Odom Jr. Branagh directs and stars as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, which, to be honest, I’m having trouble visualizing, but that’s probably because David Suchet will forever be my Poirot. In any case, I’m excited to see what Branagh and the rest of this cast bring to this timeless tale of murder most foul.

6. The Space Between Us (February 3)

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Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson are two actors I’ve had my eye on for a while. I like their work, so seeing them together raises my hopes for this film significantly, as does Gary Oldman’s inclusion. The concept of a boy born on Mars experiencing Earth for the first time intrigues me, and the trailer seems to be showing Asa doing a great job portraying that sense of mind-blown wonder. The only thing that worries me is the fact that its release date keeps getting pushed back, but hopefully that only means they’re putting extra effort into making it as good as possible.

5. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (December 15)

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This may seem a little lower than deserved, but that’s only because there’s been hardly any promotional material. We only just found out the name, and that barely tells us anything. But as soon as I see a poster or a trailer, this’ll be shooting up the list. Seeing The Force Awakens in theaters was my Star Wars experience, and I can’t wait to see Rey, Finn, and Poe back in action. Who knows? Maybe Luke Skywalker will actually get some dialogue this time.

4. War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a near-perfect movie for me; the CG and motion capture were incredible, the acting was compelling, and the story was unpredictable, emotional, and fair to both sides of the human-ape conflict. Now we’ve got the true war coming, when the apes take over once and for all, and it looks like all those traits carry over to this movie. And we’ve got great leads–Woody Harrelson over the humans, and Andy Serkis as Caesar over the apes. This is one war I’m not missing out on.

3. Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

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There are very few remakes I’m actually glad exist, but this is one of them. In fact, I’m thrilled for it: Emma Watson, one of my favorite actresses, as my favorite Disney princess in one of my favorite Disney movies, with an incredible cast backing her up: Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad. The trailer shows off the film’s beautiful cinematography and CG, and many moments feel ripped directly from the original film. All of it comes together to create the one remake I actually want.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

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The first film was easily Marvel’s quirkiest hit, and it remains one of its most popular. The sequel has plenty to love of its own: new characters like Mantis, Ego the Living Planet, and Simon Williams (look him up); actors like Kurt Russell, Nathan Fillion, and even Sylvester Stallone; Star-Lord desperately trying to be cool; Drax being hilarious and awesome; Rocket still as sarcastic as ever; and of course, the ever adorable Baby Groot. Just look at his cute little face! How is this not the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen? I can’t wait for the return of these lovable misfits who really shouldn’t be guarding our galaxy but are anyway.

1. Wonder Woman (June 2)

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This is it. This is where all my hopes for DC movies lie. Wonder Woman was probably my favorite part of Batman v Superman, so I’m really counting on her origin story to do her justice. The trailers have shown us incredible action, beautiful colors and cinematography, and a sense of humor. And listening to the cast and director speak, they seem to really get the character, that her strength comes not just from her skill in battle but from her compassion and her heart. And this is the first big female-led superhero film, something people have been wanting for years. I NEED this movie to be good, but DC doesn’t have a good track record and I’ve been fooled by their trailers before, so just please, PLEASE don’t mess this up. Please be as awesome as you look.

So those are my most anticipated movies of 2017, and if even half of them deliver on their potential, it’ll be a good year for movies. Which films are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments, and have a Happy 2017!

Based on the Trailer – Split

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I’ve always had problems with indecision. I can’t decide which restaurant to eat at, whether to run the yellow light or wait, or which fictional character to have a crush on. But at least I don’t have to make every decision with twenty-two other people.

Split tells the story of three girls and the man who kidnaps them–a man with 23 different personalities living in his head. Is it the work of a beautiful mind or does it need serious help? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.

So who stars in this movie? James McAvoy of the X-Men franchise plays Kevin Wendell and all his other personalities. Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch, Haley Lu Richardson of The Edge of Seventeen, and Jessica Sula of Honeytrap play his victims Casey, Claire, and Marcia respectively.

The director is M. Night Shyamalan, who has made a name for himself with movies like The Sixth Sense and Signs … and a less desirable name with The Last Airbender and After Earth. Lately, though, his movies have been getting back to their smaller-budget, less grandiose roots, so hopefully this will be a return to form for Shyamalan.

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The trailer begins with a dad and the three girls getting into a car in the parking lot. But Casey makes a horrible discovery: her dad is a litterbug! Oh, and also a stranger has gotten into their car to kidnap them. You’d think they could have escaped while he was putting on that mask or something. They’re taken to an underground bunker, where we keep seeing lots of wires and pipes and a hamster for some reason, and Kevin tells them he was sent to get them for a reason. Oh really? I just thought you kidnapped random people for kicks and giggles.

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“Now if I only knew how to drive stick.”

Kevin screws the door shut on the girls, while Casey notices flowers on the pillows and in the bathroom. “Like we’re important,” she says, revealing deep-seated insecurity and self esteem issues. “The only chance we have is if all three of us go crazy on this guy,” Claire says, which isn’t a bad plan, except he’s already gone crazy on them. They realize this fully when they call to a woman for help and realize it’s Kevin in drag. “He’s not allowed to touch you,” Female Kevin says. “He knows what you’re here for. He listens to me.” You’re sure he doesn’t just nod and say “mm-hm” at appropriate intervals, Female Kevin?

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“Does this turtleneck make me look fat?”

Casey runs into another of Kevin’s personalities, a nine-year old named Hedwig, and clearly the child of someone who grew up on Harry Potter. Kevin’s psychiatrist tells us she’s never seen a case like his before, with 23 different personalities in one body. She asks him who he is, and he answers with a random jump cut. Yeah, if he’s exhibiting jump cut powers, he may have something more serious than dissociative identity disorder.

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“He’s right behind me, isn’t he?”

“Help me get out of here, Hedwig,” Casey asks Kevin, only to have another personality pick her up and carry her away. In her defense, they do all look alike. “If you try to trick me, I’ll tell on you,” says Hedwig Kevin, which is odd when you realize he’ll be telling himself. Casey tries to escape through the vents, because if 10 Cloverfield Lane has taught me anything, it’s that when a crazy person traps you in a bunker, you escape through the vents.

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Suddenly, being trapped with doomsday-prepper John Goodman is looking pretty good.

We see Kevin’s body going through weird changes, and his psychiatrist tell us that he can change his body chemistry just by thinking it. I’ll be honest, the science of that sounds about as dubious as the time everything on Earth evolved specifically to kill humans (looking at you, After Earth and your killer okapi). “Someone’s coming for you,” says Hedwig Kevin, and we all hope it’s someone coming to rescue them. But no, a Kevin who looks like a priest says it’s The Beast, most likely the creature in black crayon from Hedwig Kevin’s drawings.

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On the plus side, his nine-year-old artistry skills show promise.

One of the Kevins finds Claire in a locker, Casey punches another of the Kevins, and she uses a walkie talkie to call for help. “There’s a man here, he abducted us, and he’s going to kill me,” she says. What do you want to bet it’s Count Olaf on the other end? “We’re meant for something horrible,” she adds as a Kevin walks her down the corridor as though they’re in some bizarre ritual, and Beast Kevin runs around like the monster he is, sprinting faster than normal and leaping around subway trains. Looks like he traded in his psychic powers for very different mutant abilities.

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“He wasn’t this scary in the wheelchair!”

We see another picture of The Beast, one of the girls is dragged offscreen, and police bring out dogs to search for the girls. “The world will understand now,” says Kevin as we get a picture of a dead deer for no apparent reason. “The Beast is real.” And we’re not talking about the Disney version, which is a shame because those eyes … ahem. The girls push on a door trying to keep the Kevins out, Casey fires a gun, and then she slowly turns around to see … the film’s title, I guess. And the trailer ends with Hedwig Kevin saying, “He’s done awful things to people and he’ll do awful things to you.” Which is an awful thing to say, but I love how excited he is to say it.

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“After he does awful things to you, can we go out for ice cream?”

So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? I guess so. Shyamalan’s work can be a bit of a hit or miss, but this does have the feel of some of his older work. McAvoy is a good actor, and the chance to see his range in this movie isn’t something to pass up lightly. Plus I’m always a sucker for characters with multiple personalities. If you’re into suspense, horror, or thrillers, this looks like a fairly solid choice.

Though maybe slightly less solid since it’s … split. *ducks to avoid rotten produce*

Split is owned by Universal Studios.

Based on the Trailer – Moana

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Why did the chicken cross the ocean? To be comic relief to the latest Disney princess.

Moana follows the adventures of the titular character and the demigod Maui as they face a threat to all of Hawaii, if not the world. Does it sail past the competition, or will it sink into the ocean of oblivion? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.

So who stars in this movie? Auli’i Cravalho debuts as the titular heroine, Dwayne Johnson of Hercules plays Maui, Alan Tudyk of Firefly voices the rooster Hei Hei, and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords plays Tamatoa.

The writers and directors are Ron Clements and John Musker. These two bring experience from such films as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog, so I feel like this movie is in good hands. It’s also worth noting that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of the hit musical Hamilton, is part of the musical team creating the songs for Moana.

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Hayao Miyazaki

The trailer begins with glimpses of a peaceful Hawaiian tribe living happily together. Then it throws a giant lava monster into the mix, because that’s always fun. To keep her people from getting burned alive, Moana goes looking for the demigod Maui, tracking ancient glyphs and crossing raging seas in search of the legendary figure. Then she finds him and scares him so badly he screams like a child. Our brave warrior, everyone.

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The only way she can get him to help is by holding him at oarpoint.

Still, there’s a good bit of hype built up around the guy. Moana lists off his credentials: “Shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea.” “Hero of man,” Maui adds. But not your hero, since you’re a woman. “I’m not going on a journey with some little girl,” he says, and promptly throws her out of her own canoe. So make that Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, hero of man, boat thief. But the ocean drops her back on the boat and gives her a high five, since they’re friends. So is that like the whole ocean or just the Pacific? Does she get on well with the Arctic Ocean or the Baltic Sea? Because having 70% of the world for a friend is pretty impressive.

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The world’s largest body of water approves.

So Maui, Moana, and a rooster named Hei Hei go off to fight the lava monster, but first, as Maui says, “we’ve gotta go through a whole ocean of bad.” That means facing off against the Kakamora (I hope I’m spelling that correctly), a bunch of coconut pirates who look cute until they whip out a bunch of pointy objects and turn evil. So basically like kittens. No wonder Hei Hei freaks out and jumps ship.

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“I still think they’re kinda cute.”

We get a montage of Moana and Maui sailing through dangerous waters and avoiding fireballs, and Maui attacks the big bad lava monster with a giant glowing fish hook. Because who hasn’t wanted to see The Rock fight a lava monster? A fleet of canoes takes to the sea, we get more sailing (honestly, from the trailer, this could be Sailing: The Movie) and facing off against the lava monster, and a tender moment between Moana and her mother. The coconut pirates break out blow darts, and one of them hits Maui. “Blow dart in my butt cheek,” he announces. Because we can’t get that PG rating that says we’re not a little kids’ movie if we don’t mention someone’s posterior.

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To forget that awkward moment, let’s go back to fighting lava monsters.

And the trailer ends as Maui and Moana open the gate to the Realm of Monsters, which is a shaft going straight down into the Earth. “Don’t worry,” says Maui, “it’s a lot further down than it looks.” Which is a little like saying, “Don’t worry, wasp stings hurt like crazy and you’re deathly allergic.” He cannonballs down and, after a ridiculously long drop, calls up and says, “I am still falling!” Which means he’s either found Steve Buscemi’s lair in Spy Kids 2 or the shaft to the Earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth.

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Don’t worry; they don’t get the references either.

So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do. It’s got great talent behind it, from the direction to the actors to the animation to the music. And while I still don’t know exactly what the plot of the movie is, I know it’s got something to do with a giant lava monster, and that’s hard to beat. The point is it’s Disney, and their animated movies are in sort of a second Renaissance right now, so it’s a safe bet that this one will be good and fun for the whole family.

Because lava monsters should always be enjoyed on a screen, where they can’t destroy your home.

 

Moana is owned by Walt Disney Pictures.

Based on the Trailer – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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You’ve probably lost something while traveling, whether it’s a sock or your phone. But be glad you’re not Newt Scamander. He lost a whole zoo.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tells of the early days of legendary wizard Newt Scamander and his adventures in America. Is it a rare specimen or should it go extinct? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.

So who stars in this movie? Eddie Redmayne of The Theory of Everything plays Newt Scamander, Katherine Waterston of Steve Jobs is Porpentina Goldstein, Alison Sudol of Transparent portrays her sister Queenie, and Dan Fogler of Fanboys plays Jacob Kowalski. Other actors include Carmen Ejogo of Selma, Colin Farrell of Saving Mr. Banks, Jon Voight of National Treasure, and Ron Perlman of Hellboy.

The director is David Yates, returning to the Harry Potter franchise after helming The Legend of Tarzan. He was over every Potter film since The Order of the Phoenix, so expect that tone from those movies to carry over into this one.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

The trailer begins by telling us that a wizard has set all kinds of magical creatures loose in early twentieth century New York, and we hear all kinds of nasty growls and see glowing shapes moving beneath the ice of a frozen pond. As long as he didn’t release any killer okapi, we’re good. The wizard himself, Newt Scamander, arrives for his wizard court date in a leather case that’s bigger on the inside. So maybe not so much a wizard as a Time Lord. “So you’re the guy with the case full of monsters?” says a goblin at a speakeasy. Well, not now. Right now, the case is empty and the monsters are roaming New York.

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Wibbly-wobbly casey-wasey.

Queenie asks Newt if he knows anything about America’s wizards. Only what he’s read on Pottermore. We see a big wizard clock, get a glimpse of Colin Farrell’s character, and catch a mole-like kleptomaniac in the act of stealing jewelry. I can’t help but love the “Seriously? We’ve talked about this” look Newt gives the little guy. Queenie finishes her question by saying, “We don’t let things loose.” We’re very buttoned up emotionally.

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“What would your mother say if she saw you now?”

As if losing a bunch of fantastic creatures weren’t enough, a No-Maj (normal human non-wizard) named Jacob finds a hatching monster egg, and Newt drags him along using magic, well and truly blowing the wizards’ cover. Jacob pops down into the Tardis-case and finds himself in a magical creature habitat full of things like horses, things like statues, and things like plants. “I don’t think I’m dreaming,” he says. “I ain’t got the brains to make this up.” At least he’s firmly aware of his limitations.

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“I know it’s not in my head, and yet I still feel like I’m going insane.”

But as if THAT weren’t enough to expose the wizards to the world, something powerful and invisible attacks a campaign rally and the streets of New York, leaving huge gouges in the earth. “Witches live among us!” a soapbox preacher lady yells to the passersby. And they mostly use their powers to dress up nice.

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Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s Macy’s.

But some wizards, like Colin Farrell, like the prospect of coming out.”We’ve lived in the shadows too long,” he says. Someone really needs to change that lightbulb. “Who does this protect?” he goes on as dark forces gather in the sky and a confrontation between cops and wizards shapes up. “Us or them?” Hashtag wizard lives matter. An eagle-like creature swoops in to warn Newt of danger. Really, eagle-like creature? I never would have guessed from the massive smoke clouds snatching everyone up.

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“I try to make it clear by my personal style choices that I’m the villain.”

We hear of another wizard’s attacks in Europe and that this could turn into a war. Nice going, Newt; you let a few animals roam free and all of a sudden it’s a Wizarding World War. Newt and friends go out to save the animals because priorities, and they put a long bird-snake into a tiny tea pot. How many Tardises does this guy have? “Was that everything that came out of the case?” Porpentina asks. Nope, you missed the giant rhinoceros beetle with the golden horn.

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“Here’s the plan: you go in first, and then we catch it while it eats you.”

Colin Farrell uses his powers to take New York apart (someone call Doctor Strange!), the klepto mole floats through the air, and Jacob punches a goblin because that’s now No-Majs handle their problems. “I won’t let another one die,” says Newt, totally spoiling part of the plot for the audience. And judging by the wand against Porpentina’s neck, she might well be another one to die. Colin refuses to bow down anymore, Jacob and Queenie share a romantic moment, and wizards and police battle. And the trailer ends with Newt getting attacked by the subway. See? It never pays to ride that thing.

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“I saved up my tokens for this moment, Mr. Scamander!”

So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do. It’s got good actors, great visuals, and a host of creative fantasy creatures, which I love. My only worry is that there seems to be an awful lot going on in one movie, but if they can keep it all balanced, we should be looking at an entertaining flick.

As long as no fantastic beasts were harmed in the making of this movie.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is owned by Warner Bros.

Based on the Trailer – Doctor Strange

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Marvel fans have long claimed Marvel Studios has had a special kind of magic. Turns out it was more literal than they thought.

Doctor Strange introduces Marvel fans to the Sorcerer Supreme and the mind-blowing magic of the MCU. Is it magical or simply strange? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.

So who stars in this movie? Benedict Cumberbatch of Star Trek Into Darkness is Stephen Strange himself, and Tilda Swinton of The Chronicles of Narnia is his mentor The Ancient One. Rachel McAdams of Mean Girls is his love interest Christine Palmer, Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal is the villainous Kaecilius, and Chwetel Ejiofor of Serenity is Baron Karl Mordo.

The director is Scott Derrickson, a director best known for his horror films like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The man clearly has a grasp of the unusual, and I’m interested to see if any of his horror sensibilities affect this film, but for the most part, this film is new territory for him, so I’m curious to see him go in a new direction.

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The trailer opens with Doctor Strange using his hands for surgery and music. But that life is quickly ruined by a car crash that damages his hands beyond repair, making it the most oddly specific car crash in history. “You think you know how the world works?” the Ancient One asks. “What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?” As long as there’s not a reality in which Doctor Doom is a blogger, I’m good.

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“I’m going to train with Ra’s al Ghul so I can get vengeance for my hands.”

Strange and Ancient walk through a shattered mirror of reality, and Strange says it doesn’t make any sense. “Not everything has to,” Ancient replies. I hope they didn’t apply that philosophy to the script. Ancient shows off her reality-warping mystic arts by turning a New York street into a fun house mirror and walking through a portal that carries her thousands of miles away while also changing her outfit and conjuring Strange out of nowhere. Which I know is just editing, but if you’re going to put those two side by side, expect us to draw the logical connection.

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Beats taking the subway any day.

“How do I get from here to there?” Strange asks. Dude, did you miss the magic portal lesson she just gave you? But Ancient tells him it’s the same study/practice method he used to become a doctor, only with more yoga and ancient tomes and producing glass rainbows out of the air. “There’s a strength to him,” Baron Mordo says. But it ain’t in his hands, cause those babies got crushed.

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“He’ll never play ping pong again.”

Strange stares at his cloak, washes up to give us the obligatory superhero chest shot, and finds three doors to different climate zones. One of the Ancient One’s students warns him that “stronger men than you have lost their way.” Specifically Kaecilius over there. He walked into a Victoria’s Secret by mistake, and now his eyes are all burned. “I am death and pain,” Kaecilius says. Well, Benedict Cumberbatch is fire and death, so there. The lights in the operating room explode, and Kaecilius tells Strange he’ll die protecting the world before turning New York into some dream architecture from Inception.

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“I have seen things that can never be unseen.”

“I can’t do this,” says Strange, but Mordo tells him there isn’t any other way. Unless we called in the Avengers. I hear Scarlet Witch has some aptitude for magic. Strange pulls out a light whip and struggles to put back together a burning New York. Kaecilius and his goons use Dreamscape New York as their giant bouncy castle. Strange flings on his cloak and runs out to do business as Ancient says, “I’ve spent so many years peering through time, looking for you.” You’ve been looking through time and space for Benedict Cumberbatch? Wrong British TV show, dude.

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“The game, Ancient One, is on.”

 

So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do. It’s a Marvel origin story, and those are starting to wear thin, but it’s visually stunning and it’s got great talent on and off camera. It remains to be seen whether that and the story are enough to push Doctor Strange beyond serviceable to truly great, but either way, it’s worth at least one watch.

Who knows? It might be Strange-ly appealing.

 

Doctor Strange is owned by Marvel Studios.

Crown Jewels: Halloween Flicks

Halloween is just around the corner, so it’s time to pull out the scariest films full of ghosts and ghouls, witches and werewolves, monsters and mummies. Everyone has their favorites, and I’m no exception. Some are classics, some are unusual, but all are my Crown Jewels of Halloween flicks.

10. Arsenic and Old Lace

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A true classic with more laughs than scares, this film pits Cary Grant against two sweet old murderesses, Teddy Roosevelt, and a psychopathic Boris Karloff-lookalike. Nothing drives a man insane like having a whole family of lunatics–or a dead body in the window seat! It may be an older movie, but it’s spooky fun for the whole family.

9. Poltergeist

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“They’re here!” The ghost story to end all ghost stories, this story by Steven Spielberg rips a young girl from her family, playing on childhood fears and pulling from paranormal phenomena. And for the record, there was no Indian burial ground involved, just a plain old-fashioned graveyard. Can we please stop confusing Poltergeist with Pet Sematary? Thank you.

8. Sweeney Todd

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Attend the tale of a revenge-crazed barber with a wicked razor and his partner with a penchant for pie baking. Sondheim’s spookiest musical comes in many forms, from local plays to Tim Burton’s blood-soaked retelling. My favorite, however, has to be the filmed stage play, in which Angela Lansbury sings with charming depravity about popping people into pies.

7. Sleepy Hollow

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One of Tim Burton’s more overlooked films, Sleepy Hollow retells the classic story of the Headless Horseman as a paranormal murder mystery and a love letter to the gothic and gory Hammer horror films. The atmosphere is as creepy and Halloween-y as it gets, and the special effects are especially well done for the most part. It may not be the strongest story, but it’s plenty of seasonal fun for mature audiences.

6. Hush

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It’s rare to find a horror movie that’s scary and smart, but this film fits the bill. It takes the classic home invasion formula and adds in a deaf protagonist, using her disability to heighten the tension. How can she see the killer coming when she can’t hear him? If you want a slasher flick with smart characters and good storytelling, this is the one.

5. Ghostbusters

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“Who ya gonna call?” Another film that’ll make you laugh more than you scream, this classic features a paranormal extermination service as they take on a host of ghosts and a demigod in the form of a giant marshmallow sailor. Fire up your proton packs, don’t look at the trap, and don’t cross the streams in this unique, hilarious, and quotable sci-fi comedy.

4. The Mummy

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This movie turns the classic monster film into a rollicking adventure full of cheesy Egyptian horror, swashbuckling action, and tongue-in-cheek laughs. These characters and the mummy they accidentally bring to life hold a special place in my heart, as does the Raiders-esque fun that ensues.

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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This movie traps our heroine in a bunker during what she’s told is an apocalyptic event, and the tension only ramps up from there. Is her bunker-mate holding her captive or saving her life? Is the real monster outside or inside? You’ll be holding your breath through this tight, claustrophobic film where no one is safe.

2. Oculus

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From the creator of Hush, this movie features a supernatural mirror as the antagonist, and like the smoke and mirrors of a magician, it specializes in illusion. You’re never sure whether what you’re seeing is real or imaginary, and the longer you watch, the more the movie plays with your mind, the way the mirror may or may not be playing with the minds of our heroes. Another smart and well-told horror film, and definitely one of my favorites.

1. The Babadook

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With themes of grief and loss and special effects that hearken back to the earliest days of horror films, this movie is by turns thoughtful, disturbing, nostalgic, and terrifying. It pits a recently widowed mother against a character from a horrific children’s book and pictures a spiral of madness that’s both relatable and bizarre. For mature viewers, this is required viewing for Halloween.

 

Which Halloween-themed films do you watch every year? Let me know in the comments below, and have a safe and spooky Halloween!