Friday, October 24, 2014


This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

When I was a kid, I had a Ouija board, and I was an eager "player," because it is, as the box says, merely a game, right? I was also incredibly gullible, and friends and family took advantage of that gullibility more than once, and for a hot minute, I DID believe in ghosts.

Hasbro continues to sell Ouija boards to those who want to believe, though it's marketed, still, as a game. Which is why it's a little weird that Ouija is, essentially, a game tie-in, partially produced by Hasbro. It's kind of like doing a movie version of the board game Life, where everyone in that little car dies a horrible, violent death.

Ouija is a flat out dumb, predictable, and pointless horror movie. All the scares are telegraphed a mile ahead. The plot, about the ghosts of a dead medium, and a little girl with a sewn-shut mouth, doesn't make a lick of sense if you stop to think about it for even a second. It's rated PG-13, so perhaps younger audiences will flock to it, but all I know is by the time I was 13, I was over my gullible years, and watching much better, and scarier, movies than Ouija.

Friday, October 17, 2014


This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Brad Pitt is back fighting Nazis in another World War II movie that is just as preposterous as Inglourious Basterds, but not nearly as fun. Not that war is fun, of course. War is hell! And Fury spends two-plus hours illustrating just that, again and again and again.

Pitt plays a U.S. Army sergeant commanding a sherman tank nicknamed Fury. The four men in his crew include three who've been through plenty of battles with him, and one fresh-faced Army typist (Logan Lerman) assigned to be the assistant driver after their original driver loses his life (and half his face). It's nearing the end of the war, and Hitler has gone full throttle into battle, and the war-weary American troops are forging ahead, town by town, across Germany.

Of course the wet-behind-the-ears recruit has to learn to suck it up, shoot them Nazis, and BECOME A MAN through the course of the film, and there's no shortage of opportunity for him to do just that. He goes from pacifist to trigger happy pretty quickly, and even gets to spend an afternoon with a lovely, smalltown Fraulein. (Who, incidentally, is seen in a preposterously short and anachronistic dress; it's almost as anachronistic as Brad Pitt's naked pecs, also on view during the same scene).

But is there a purpose to this movie, aside from showing us the hell of war, again, some more? Not really. It's intensely graphic, often thrilling, and filled with impressive explosions and headshots. It's designed to make you cheer at the fury of battle. It's a World War II movie for the gamer generation.