Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Reviews for Current Films, Classics, Video Games and Lots of Other Cool Stuff For Parents and Children

In Theaters: The Curse of La Llorona, Breakthrough, Penguins, After, Little, Hellboy, Missing Link, The Best of Enemies, Pet Sematary, Shazam!, Unplanned, Dumbo, Us, Wonder Park, Five Feet Apart, Captain Marvel, A Madea Family Funeral, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World

Coming Soon: Avengers: Endgame, The Intruder, Long Shot, Uglydolls, Detective Pikachu, The Hustle, Poms, John Wick 3, The Sun Is Also A Star, A Dog's Journey, Aladdin, Booksmart, Brightburn, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ma, Rocketman

Rating system:

★★★★: Classic  

★★★½: Very Good   

★★★: Good  

★★½ : Eh

★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better  

★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?  

: Hope You Have A Good Date  

½: Little To No Redeeming Value

No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices

The Curse of La Llorona                                  by James Eagan                                          ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

 Related image

Image: "I'm here to talk to you about the Conjuring Initiative." 

 Producer James Wan ("Aquaman", the first two "The Conjuring" films, as well as creator of the series as a whole) probably has a endless list of scary legends and folktales, and is currently just crossing them off one by one to fill up his "Conjuring" cinematic universe. We didn't even know this was part of it until the premiere at "South by Southwest" (SXSW) last month. Still, kind of starting to get the feeling that from now on that they're going mostly end up being more miss than hit.  

 Taking place in the 1970s, "The Curse of La Llorona" follows social worker/single mother, "Anna" (Linda Cardellini). Child Protective Services sends Anna to investigate a mother, "Patricia Alvarez" (Patricia Velásquez), who appears to have lost her mind. Anna goes over to Patricia's place, finding strange symbols drawn all over the walls, along with her children locked in a closet. The children are taken away from Patricia, who claims that a supernatural entity, known as "La Llorona" (Marisol Ramirez), the Weeping Woman, wants her kids. Not too much later, the kids are found drowned in the lake, and Patricia blames Anna, saying that now La Llorona is going to target Anna's own children, "Samantha" (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and "Chris" (Roman Christou).

 Almost immediately, Samantha and Chris start hearing the sobbing of La Llorona, before she marks them as her next target. With the lives of her children in danger, Anna turns to "Father Perez" (Tony Amendola), who you might remember previously had a run in with a certain creepy doll, for help. Perez suggests that Anna seek out "Rafael Olvera" (Raymond Cruz), an expert of sorts on the legend of La Llorona. Now Anna, with assistance from Rafael, must take part in an old ritual to stop La Llorona from taking Chris and Samantha through jump scary means. 

 Seems these Spin-Off films should instead be listed as the "Generic Ones". Directed by first time director, Michael Chaves (Who will be taking over the Director's Chair for the next "Conjuring" movie), "The Curse of La Llorona" is based on an old, and still very much feared, Latin American folktale. It's a very loosely connected spin-off that could end up being skipped over entirely. Mostly because it's just not all that interesting. The direction is bland and basic, going for your typical quiet, drawn out padding that results in a jump scare or two. It's not particularly scary, especially when you consider how well the main entries in this series have been able to provide genuine scares and an unsettled feeling that sticks with you after the movie ends. Not a poorly made film in the slightest, with an atmospheric setting and a solid creep factor. It's the story and execution that doesn't quite stick the landing. 

 It's nice to see Linda Cardellini in a main, starring role, and she does an excellent job with it. Not much for character, but her screen presence and strong performance make up for it. Raymond Cruz is a welcome source of humor, while Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Roman Christou are fairly solid child actors, who know how to portray childlike terror. (Though the characters are forced to make needlessly stupid decisions because the genre demands it.) Patricia Velásquez is just here to act crazy and her character arc ends up being dragged out too long, and Tony Amendola is just here to connect this movie to the other films in the series. As for our titular villain, La Llorona is creepy looking, but the constant use of lazy jump scares do little to differentiate her from other horror villains. (She's essentially just Valak from "The Conjuring 2" and "The Nun", except she's always crying.)

 While there is an occasional decent spooky moment, "The Curse of La Llorona" ends up just being predictable and too formulaic to justify a recommendation. The story behind the actual legend is actually much more unsettling and frightening than anything that actually happens in the movie. A woman losing her mind at her husband's infidelity and murdering her children in a blind rage, only to end up as a curse, weeping spirit because of it? That would of been more interesting if the movie had focused on that instead. What we get is a ghostly home invasion movie, which makes it unnecessary. Here's hoping for more originality in the next "Annabelle" movie. (Again, didn't even know that was coming out till recently.) 2 Stars. Rated R For Terror Towards Children And Ghostly Tears.  

Breakthrough                                                         by James Eagan                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for breakthrough movieImage: "And please let our box office returns be bountiful."

 Faith based, and especially Christian oriented ones have kind of become the critical punching bag. Not to mention a movie like “Unplanned” sure didn’t help. I'm all for a little religious based entertainment, but why do most of them have to range from simply bad to horrifically offensive to everyone else? Considering the track record, this movie actually being a good one could almost be seen as affirmation to the existence of God. Like Marvel films are. See? It’s not that hard.

 Based on true events accounted in the faith based novel “The Impossible”, “Breakthrough” follows Christian mother/author of aforementioned novel, “Joyce Smith” (Chrissy Metz), along with her husband, “Brian” (Josh Lucas) and adopted son, “John” (Marcel Ruiz). John is going through an angsty phase at the moment, becoming more and more distant from Joyce, who just wants to form a connection with how now teenage son. While messing around with his friends over a frozen lake, John ends up falling through the ice into the lake. A first responders rescue team goes to attempt to get John out of the lake, though they at first appear to be too late. Right as they're about to give up, a non-believer, “Tommy Shine” (Mike Colter), having possibly heard the voice of God, finds and rescues John. John is then taken to a hospital where he is put into a medically induced coma by “Dr. Garrett” (Dennis Haysbert). All hope appears lost, with the odds of John’s survival looking slim to none the longer he’s in the coma. With some help from the new local pastor, “Jason Noble” (Topher Grace), and the collected supporting of the rest of the community, Joyce’s faith is tested as everyone comes together to pray for Josh’s survival. Of course, miracles can happen. 

 Directed by Roxann Dawson (Mostly known for TV work), "Breakthrough" has one obvious aspect that so many other religious movies, especially today, seem to lack (You know, aside from being a capably, solidly written film.) It's one that actually presents its spiritually inspiring story in a way that should resonate with a more modernized audience. Don't get me wrong, it's not subtle in the slightest and the typical cheesiness in the dialogue can't help but worm its way into the film (It kind of comes with the territory.) However, in making up for a Hallmark channel like feel, Dawson's slick direction and well defined, likable characters help bring out the needed emotion to make this story work. Even better, it's done in a way that doesn't feel manipulative, mostly due to how realistically human everyone is portrayed. 

 Chrissy Metz (From "This Is Us") is a strong lead, with a compelling and compassionate character arc, that anyone can relate to, especially if you're a mother. Topher Grace provides light moments of humor, and plenty of heart, giving a wonderfully sweet performance. Others like Josh Lucas and Dennis Haysbert are both excellent in the film, giving it their all and even more so in the most dramatic of scenes. Mike Colter's character arc goes about where you would expect, but at least, unlike what you usually see in these kinds of films, he's still portrayed as a good person who just doesn't happen to believe in God. (Yeah yeah. The Athiest of course has to come to believe by the end. But it's progress considering these are usually portrayed as the villains more than half of the time.) But Marcel Ruiz is somewhat of a weak link at first, though does grow over time, showing more range as the film progresses. 

 Despite some sloppy last second subjects thrown in the last act (Though I appreciate the film at least attempting to acknowledge the inexplicability of perceived miracles), "Breakthrough" offers good, still morally elevating entertainment for Christian audiences. Unlike others in this genre, the good morals aren't beaten into your head and the more modern approach makes it more accessibly. The film shows the difference between blindly believing God will just fix everything, and just having honest to goodness faith that miracles can happen. It's about coming together through belief during a time of crisis, and isn't that what God (Whether or not you believe he's real) is meant to represent? It's nice to see a faith based film actually get that for once. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Perilous Content And Godly Intervention.  

PEnguins                                                                      by James Eagan                                     ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for penguins 2019 movieImage: Happy feet too.

 What "Disneynature" does is the essential definition of simply doing something for the art and the experience, rather than for the money. These films, despite the strong educational value and the usual good reception from the people who actually see them, generally fail to make much of a profit at the box office. They have the tendency to fade quickly and never be mentioned again. I for one, respect the hell out of the studio for continuously making these films, providing families with something to educate, as well as entertain. Not to mention, provide a whole lot of animal cuteness.

 Narrated by Ed Helms, "Penguins" focusing on scrappy male Adélie penguin, "Steve" in the harsh, icy climate in the Antarctic. The film follows Steve's journey as he searches for a suitable mate for the spring mating season. Steve eventually meets a female, named "Adeline", leading to the birth of two baby chicks. Now Steve must navigate fatherhood, such as finding food for his young, avoiding the constant weather changes, and the many dangerous predators, such as deadly leopard seals and baby eating skuas, that want nothing more than to devour Steve's new family. 

 "Penguins" is the latest and most lighthearted from Disneynature, and one of their best. A sweet, simple story, focusing on a singular animal and his mis-adventures. One of the funniest entries, the film benefits from a likably goofy narration from Ed Helms, who essentially is the human embodiment of a penguin as it is. Helms' narration matches the occasional silly situation that Steve finds himself in, such as collecting pebbles for a nest, only to have them stolen from other penguins in a hilariously cartoonish fashion. Yet, despite plenty of humor, the film does not shy away from the ruthlessness and unforgiving nature that real life has to offer. The film gets tense at times, and a scene involving some leopard seals attempting to snag some of the young penguins (And a few of them succeeding) could scare the kiddies (Honestly, it kind of freaked me out a little bit too.) It's handled in a respectful, heartfelt manner, showing that even these cute and cuddly birds have to struggle to survive just as much as any other animal.

 As usual for Disneynature, "Penguins" has some of the most beautiful, and utterly remarkable footage you'll ever see. There are incredible shots of the stunning landscapes, before and after the shifts in weather, along with some breathtaking underwater footage. (Probably one of the most captivating IMAX experiences I've ever had.) Seeing the penguins go about their daily lives, which can be at times humorous as well as informational, shows how much personality these creatures have. Steve's story writes itself, and while the film might anthropomorphize things a bit more than probably it happened in real life, there is still something heartwarming about how much care a father and mother animal will put into their babies. Short, sweet, and with plenty to offer for the whole family. Why don't you give it the time of day? You have time before "Avengers: Endgame" comes out next week. That will be way heavier. 3 1/2 stars. Rated G, Though The Kids Might Get Traumatized By The Animal On Animal Violence.     

After           by James Eagan            ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for after movieImage: After what?

 So it goes to show that literally anyone can get anything made into a movie. The story behind this movie is actually much more interesting than anything that happens in it. "After" is based off of a 2014 book by Anna Todd, which itself was originally, and I'm not making this up, One Direction fan fiction! It was the same, with the exception of the characters being the guys from the band. (Apparently Harry Styles was the brooding, bad boy.) One thing led to another, people saw the first few chapters and I guess wanted more, leading to a series of novels. A name change here and there, and you get yourself a bestseller, resulting in $14 million produced film released nationwide. I guess fan fiction (Erotic or otherwise) really can lead to success.   

 "After" follows innocent, virgin college student, "Tessa" (Josephine Langford, sister of Katherine Langford). Tessa has an overprotective mother, "Carol" (Selma Blair) and a safe, but lame boyfriend, "Noah" (Dylan Arnold). However while in college, Tessa finds herself attracted to the angsty, pretentious bad boy, "Hardin Scott" (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), who is like so edgy and stuff because he wears black and broods a lot. Despite having no chemistry at all, Tessa can't get Hardin out of her head, and it turns out he can't do the same with her. The two grow closer, with Tessa ignoring the warnings from everyone around her, including Hardin's step-brother, "Landon" (Shane Paul McGhie). As Tessa and Hardin quickly (Very quickly) become intimate, she discovers more about him and his secrets.....Wait. What secrets? There is not secret! You want to know what this movie is about? Boy and girl shouldn't date, are told they shouldn't date, but want to date anyway because hormones. Nothing happens!

 Behold! The most boring movie of 2019! Directed by Jenny Gage, who also co-wrote the screenplay with three other writers (Because a story this deep and involving needs three writers for some reason), "After" is the kind of movie you would expect something completely crazy to happen. What's this big secret? Just how dangerous is this guy? How will it affect the relationship and lead to the destruction of our lead girl's innocence? He's just an edgelord! There ends up being nothing there. It's not even one of those borderline abusive relationships, like what we saw in the "Fifty Shades" and "Twilight" films, which this has been compared to. It's just a romance. An ungodly unbearable, thoroughly unlikable and all around unpleasant one too. It's a formulaic, generically put together story that never goes anywhere you would never expect it to. Right down to the dialogue, which in of itself becomes predictable to the point you know exactly what kind of line is going to come out of each character's mouth before they actually say it. Not to mention a poor pace, which is oddly rushed. The relationship happens very quickly, and Tessa's infatuation with Hardin just sort of happens, with little work actually being put into it. It's hilarious how easily she's seduced. All she needed was a trip to a lake and some bad boy smolder for her to think herself to be in love.    

 Josephine Langford shows promise, and you can tell she has the personality to carry a film. It's just a badly written character, who gets less likable as the film progresses. On a dime, she goes from innocent to uncaring, willing to throw everything away for a guy she just met, and back again. It's all done in a half-assed manner, and gives the impression that the character is suffering from mood swings. It also doesn't help that Hero Fiennes-Tiffin is blandness personified, and you don't really see how these two could have any form of a connection, whether it be romantic or otherwise. He's not exactly dangerous or harmful. He's more whiny, pretentious, and annoyingly dull. Weirdly, Langford has more chemistry with Shane Paul McGhie, who is easily the most endearing character in the movie, and little ends up coming out of what you think at first is going to be a love triangle of sorts.  Dylan Arnold's character arc is dropped out early, while actors like Selma Blair and Peter Gallagher (as "Ken", Hardin's father, who Hardin resents.) are given minuscule roles, but at least show up to be a professional as humanly possible. Also, was that Jennifer Beals (as Ken's new wife/Hardin's step-mother, who only appears for ten seconds.)? 

 "After" suffers from an onslaught of clichés, and even does a crappy job utilizing them. The film doesn't look too bad, and is slickly directed to make up for the lack of actual interest. However, the characters are occasionally too mean spirited and detestable, and the way the film portrays them makes the ordeal hard to watch at times. Lots of the conflicts are forced, and the drama mostly consists of petty, shallow arguments. Not sure how good of an adaptation of the book this is, but if it's anything like this movie, it makes the story behind it even more baffling. Uninspired, lacking in substance, and honestly, too safe for its own good. All this movie offers is a mind-numbingly uninteresting, and realistically doomed relationship that shouldn't be happening at all. Thanks for making me once again feel like a relationship counselor. (You two have nothing in common and shouldn't be together. It's as simple as that!) 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Sexual Content And Angst. So Much Angst. 

Little              by James Eagan               ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for little movie 2019Image:Hey I'm down too...And, uh, woke? 

 Let me explain to you guys just how dedicated I am to what I do. I willingly missed out on the extensive "Star Wars" related news revealed today for this movie. I don't get paid to do this, but I remain devoted to taking two hours out of my day, no matter what I'm doing, to see a movie that really has no impact on me whatsoever. Granted, the second my phone alerted me of the new trailer drop (Amazing by the way!), I stepped out of the theater to watch it twice. I'm only human! Plus I didn't miss anything anyway. We've all seen different versions of this movie before.

 "Little" follows successful business woman, "Jordan Sanders" (Regina Hall), who after being bullied at a young age, dedicates her life to getting whatever she wants and whenever she wants it, usually by bullying other people into doing so. Now Jordan has become a tyrannical boss, belittling and verbally abusing everyone around her, including her assistant, "April" (Issa Rae). After insulting a little girl performing magic tricks, Jordan wakes up the next day trapped in the body of her middle school self (Played by Marsai Martin). When Child Protective Services shows up, April is forced to pose as Jordan's aunt and enroll her in school, while running the company in Jordan's place. Huh? You know, that's just about it. There's a lesson, school drama, and betterment of one's self through humility. There's nothing else really to it.      

 Directed by Tina Gordon (Co-Writer of "What Men Want"), who wrote the screenplay with Tracy Oliver (Writer of "Girls Trip" and "Barbershop: The Next Cut"), "Little" is a competently made, compacted season worth of a occasionally funny, but incredibly slight sitcom. The film surprisingly starts off fairly strong, even with the already played out premise. A solid set up, with good enough main characters and a few well earned laughs. It's when the plot starts to take hold, going down a generic route with little actual stakes. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with it, considering what exactly the movie intends to be in the first place. It's just that even with some good chuckles that consistently find their way into the film, there isn't all that much to latch onto. 

 The always underated Regina Hall isn't in the movie too much, though makes up for her lack of screentime by displaying her natural star power and comedic timing for however long she's given. Marsai Martin (From "Black-ish") is the real star, and is an already talented, charming young actress. Essentially playing Regina Hall in child form, Martin is a riot, taking command of the movie and making even the silliest of plot contrivances enjoyable. (Also, she was the apparent Executive Producer behind the film. That's pretty awesome!) She also has good chemistry with the excellent Issa Rae, who plays the straight one to all the antics. Actors like Justin Hartley (as "Mr. Marshall", Jordan's new teacher, who she has a crush on), Tone Bell (as "Preston", April's love interest), a group of less than stellar child actors, and others don't really have much influence on the film, mostly because they're negated to the background. 

 There is some goofy fun to be had with "Little", and the heart is in the right place. It's just that there is well, little to it. No surprises, hardly any conflict, and by the numbers resolution. You can't fault it for what it is, and despite playing things much safer than most comedies these days do, I do have to commend the film for not going out of its way to be raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy. (You know they easily could of done that.) An amusing diversion, that I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out of your way to see. Little else to it, really. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Crude Humor And Unrealistic Reactions To The Laws Of Nature Being Completely Shattered To Pieces. 

Hellboy              by James Eagan         ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for hellboy 2019 movieImage: You look like Hell....Boy.

 Whether you’re a longtime fan of the beloved Dark Horse comics character created by Mike Mignola, who has been around for over twenty five years, or simply are someone who enjoyed the two well received Guillermo del Toro directed films, I think we asked ourselves the same question after seeing this movie. We traded in “Hellboy 3” for this?

 “Hellboy” follows the titular powerful, snarky demon, “Hellboy” (David Harbour). A muscular, sawed off horned demon with a giant “Right Hand of Doom”, Hellboy works for the government monster hunting organization, “B.P.R.D.” (Standing for “Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense”). Having been raised as a son by the organization’s founder, “Trevor Bruttenholm” (Ian McShane), Hellboy still feels as if he doesn’t belong in the human world, with most of the population fearing him despite the good he does. An overly complicated series of events leads to Hellboy becoming a target due to an ancient dark prophecy where it is revealed that he will have involvement in an upcoming apocalyptic event.

 The event is triggered by a vengeful hog demon, “Gruagach” (Voiced by Stephen Graham) summoning the evil sorceress, “Nimue, the Blood Queen” (Mila Jovovich). Nimue plots to raise an army of demons and magical monsters to wipe out the world of man and bring Hell on Earth, with Hellboy being an important piece of her plan. Allied with a young woman with psychic powers, “Alice Monaghan” (Sasha Lane) and monster hating military man, “Ben Daimio” (Daniel Dae Kim), who has secrets of his own, Hellboy must come to terms with his foreseen future as a destroyer and save the world the coming threat.

 A reboot of the “Hellboy” series, and obviously combining elements that were originally going to be used for the development Hell destined threequel, this new “Hellboy” was pitched to move away from Guillermo del Toro’s more lighthearted, fantasy based adaptation. Instead it was going for a more horror based, grittier tone like the comic series, complete with more language and gorey violence. Lots and lots of violence. It's just another example of how a film can use the R rating in the worst way possible. Directed by Neil Marshall (“The Descent” and “Doomsday”) and written by Andrew Cosby (“2 Guns”), who writes the film like he just discovered the word “F*ck”, the film shoves it’s R rating in your face in an overly bombastic, obnoxious way. It’s shot and edited in a frenetic manner, with cartoonish acts of violence that happen on screen sometimes just for the sake of having them there. It seems more like a distraction from the lack of actual plot. There are mini arcs sprinkled throughout the film that never come together as a cohesive narrative, becoming confusing and more lost as the film progresses.

 Taking over for the fan applauded Ron Perlman, David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) had some pretty big shoes (and horns) to fill. The make up looks good and he’s a capable actor, embodying the character’s likable mannerisms, and he sure can deliver a silly one liner with a straight face. However, it’s hard not to miss Perlman, who just brought more heart to the character, which is something this movie is missing big time. Mila Jovovich makes for a good, threatening villainess, while Ian McShane plays a much rougher version of the character then what we’ve seen before. Others like Sasha Lana and Daniel Dae Kim really don’t end up serving much purpose, though you can tell they’re trying to work with the poor writing. The movie also completely wastes Thomas Haden Church (as “Lobster Johnson”, a Nazi killing mercenary with a motive for lobsters). The most memorable aspects of the film would be the creature designs and practical effects, which counter the CGI, which varies from mediocre to straight up terrible. (The big, bloody climax looks like absolute crap!) There are some cool puppets and make up effects, such as a disfigured witch, “Baba Yaga” (Voiced by Emma Tate), that add a certain low budget charm to the film that isn’t exactly there when it comes to the characters and story.

 “Hellboy” is too much all at once. It’s loud and all over the place, trying to throw in grindhouse levels of gore, random F-Bombs tossed in for the Hell of it, and tossing in as many story elements from the comics, culminating in a complete mess. The art design is fitting, and maybe there’s a funny line or two, but the film overstays its welcome pretty quickly. The del Toro films, while taking liberties from the source material (I’ve only read a handful of volumes so far.), still had heart, a memorable lead, and a sense of adventure. This new reboot (Which leaves a lot unfinished just to set up a sequel) just has an R rating, and thinks that's all it needs. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For…..Oh Boy. Excess Of Gore, Violence, Language, Everything An R Rating Can Get You.

Missing Link                                                             by James Eagan                                       ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for missing link movieImage: Just your typical family portrait. 

 "Laika", who are known for their critically acclaimed stop motion animated films such as "Coraline" and "Kubo and the Two Strings", have really yet to have its name cemented into the family household like "Disney", "Pixar", and "DreamWorks" has. Not really sure why this studio hasn't quite found a bigger following yet. They have a pretty solid track record (Four, now five, films. All good.), award nominations, and nobody I know dislikes any of their movies. Like all stop motion in general, their art just isn't appreciated the way it should be. Maybe branching out to a broader audience can change that. 

 "Missing Link" follows monster investigator, "Sir Lionel Frost" (Hugh Jackman), who dreams of becoming a member of a club of adventurers, run by the pompous, "Lord Piggot-Dunceby" (Stephen Fry). The club members want nothing to do with Frost, seeing his beliefs in myths and legends as a mockery of their club. When Frost gets a letter from an unknown person, claiming to have discovered the fabled Sasquatch (or "Bigfoot"), he makes a bet with Piggot-Dunceby that if he brings back proof of the discovery, Frost will be allowed to become a member of the club. Frost travels to America, only to learn that the letter was written by the Sasquatch himself, "Mr. Link" (Zach Galifianakis), or "Susan" as he prefers to be called. Susan believes that the also fabled Yetis are his cousins, and wants Frost to help him find them. Seeing this as a chance to make an even bigger discovery, Frost agrees to guide Susan into the snowy mountains to find the Yetis. Along with an old flame of Frost's, "Adelina" (Zoe Saldana), Frost and Susan must avoid a relentless bounty hunter, "Willard Stenk" (Timothy Olyphant), who has been hired by Piggot-Dunceby to prevent Frost from proving to the world that the Bigfoot exists.    

 Written and directed by Chris Butler (who also wrote and directed of one of Laika's best, "Paranorman"), "Missing Link" is the studio's lightest and more innocent entry, which is very fitting if consider the titular character's lovably naive nature. The laughs aren't as big this time, though there are still plenty (Some of which pushing the radar as usual), but where the film isn't lacking is an overabundance of natural charm. It's not just with the memorable characters, quirky sense of humor, or expressive character animation. There is also so much cleverness behind the film's look, art design, and elaborate setpieces (Such as an incredible scene involving a chase on a boat or an over the top saloon brawl). The detailed stop motion animation is incredible, where you can see the effort the animators put behind every frame. It's something that's only improved more over time, which is something considering how groundbreaking and unlike anything else back it was when the studio first started. 

 The inspired voice cast is each allowed to give it each their own personal flare to their parts, and all sound like they're getting to have a lot of fun doing it. The always charismatic Hugh Jackman, showing off more of his comedic chops, proves he can basically do just about any type of role. A wonderfully stammering Zach Galifianakis is instantly lovable, while Zoe Saldana is a delight. Stephen Fry and a hilariously unrecognizable Timothy Olyphant make for deliciously despicable villains. Then Emma Thompson (as a Yeti Elder) shows up to deliver some of the film's funniest lines in the most Emma Thompsony way possible. The humor is more reliant on standard slapstick that while funny, doesn't quite match how intellectual the dialogue in these film's are known for. (Luckily there are still some unexpected little one liners and quips that get some good belly laughs.)

 "Missing Link" offers strong messages of empathy, selflessness, and understanding differences, which are perfect for kids (And adults too honestly). There is a certain good natured heart to the film that makes for a solid family movie night. While it doesn't reach the heights that Laika has become known for, it's too likable not to recommend for young audiences, especially when the parents can still find something to enjoy as well. It's clear that the filmmakers went for something lighter and softer, which isn't a bad move. Hopefully soon audiences will wise up to give these talented people a chance to become a household favorite. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Cartoon Violence And The Occasional Adult Joke. (Don't Worry, It Will Go Over The Little Ones' Heads.)  

The Best of Enemies                                              by James Eagan                                             ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the best of enemies movieImage: "So, maybe t's time you stopped being a racist."

 It's going to be hard to talk about this film without drawing comparisons to the recent Best Picture winner, "Green Book". (By the way, wonderful movie and all. Shouldn't of won.) It's impossible not to considering both deal with true (Or supposedly true) life friendships that formed in the most unlikely of places involving racial differences and prejudice. Both have generated a little controversy, especially now that we're experiences such strong racial divide, that movies like these can give the wrong message. Sort of promoting the idea that racism was defeated by the power of friendship between an African American person and a former racist. It's just that it can more enjoyed by old white people patting themselves on the back for not being racist. I doubt the intentions are anything other than noble and quality is still quality. I do get it though. Not exactly the message needed right now. 

 "The Best of Enemies" follows the true story of "Ann Atwater" (Taraji P. Henson) and "C. P. Ellis" (Sam Rockwell). Atwater is a tough civil rights activist, who is not known for backing down and speaks her mind regardless of what others think. Meanwhile, Ellis is a loving family man....who just so happens to be the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. In Durham, North Carolina in 1971, an all African American school is damaged in a fire, resulting in talks of the kids being integrated into an all white school. That's when attorney "Bill Riddick" (Babou Ceesay) is called in to organize a charrette, with both sides of the argument being run by Atwater and Ellis. The idea was completely insane, especially with how racially divided the town was. Eventually common ground has to be found, people must change with the times, and quite possibly, a few people find unexpected redemption. 

 The story behind "The Best of Enemies" is an incredible, and truly important one. Regardless if now is the time and place to tell it in such a Hollywood-ized fashion, it's pretty impossible not to find something to like about it. First time writer and director, Robin Bissell (Who mostly served as an Executive Producer for several films), the movie makes up for its TV movie feel with a surprising amount of attention to detail when it comes to the time period. The film looks great, and even when the dialogue can't help some occasional chessiness (It kind of comes with the territory), it's still solidly written. It does help that unlike "Green Book" (Which drew controversy with how many liberties ended up being taken), there appears to be more truth to the story. . 

 For films like this, it's become apparent that at least the performances will be strong. Luckily we have some great actors involved,. Taraji P. Henson, once again proving to be one of the most capable and versatile actresses out there, is wonderful. Meanwhile Sam Rockwell somehow finds a way to make his character not only human, but believably redeemable. Humanity is very integral to the story, and while it's not as in depth as you might want it to be,the point comes across in a powerful way. Others like Babou Ceesay, a very sinister Wes Bently (as "Floyd", a clan member, who takes matters into his own hands), and Anne Heche (as "Mary", C. P. Ellis' wife) are all good, though they aren't the focus. The film does smartly portray how inevitably difficult a debate like this can be, resulting in for one to truly change their way, they will have to truly prove it through loss. 

 Lacking the memorable dialogue, sleekness, or even the defining chemistry between characters from "Green Book", "The Best of Enemies" is an easy one to describe. Simple, maybe not necessary at the moment, yet still an endearing story that needs to be told. It's not a film that you need to rush to see at this very moment and it likely won't have the view changing effects the filmmakers are hoping for. It still boasts terrific performances, a lot of heart, and at least shows that hope for change, while difficult, isn't impossible. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Racial Hatred, Uncomfortable Moments, And Language.    

Pet Sematary                                                             by James Eagan                                        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Who's a cute, widdle puddy tat!

 You know, I think they missed out on a big opportunity with all these Stephen King adaptations they’ve been doing as of late. According to his many devoted cultists...er, I mean fans, Stephen King has set up a whole connected universe with his massive library of books. I’m just shocked with all the wannabe film universes studios have been trying to make a thing lately (Remember the “Dark Universe”? The one that lasted only one movie?), they never tried to make this one. Especially when there’s been so much more potential lately, such as with “It”. (One of the best horror movies I’ve seen in theaters.) Cut out “The Dark Tower”, and you could of had easily one of the more successful ones right here.

 “Pet Sematary” opens with doctor, “Louis Creed” (Jason Clarke), moving to a small town in Maine (It’s Stephen King. Of course it’s set there!) with his wife, “Rachel” (Amy Seimetz), along with their two kids, “Ellie” (Jeté Laurence) and “Gage” (Played by both Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie). Their new house seems pretty perfect, despite the fact that it’s located right next to a road where trucks just speed by without care. There is also a large, woodland area, where a pet cemetary (Spelled “Sematary”) is located. Some weird occurances start to unfold, along with talks of death that begin to make Rachel the most uncomfortable, due to a traumatizing event she experienced as a child.

 Death strikes when Louis and their new neighbor, “Jud” (John Lithgow), discover Ellie’s cat, “Church” dead on the side of the road. Jud, feeling bad for Ellie, takes Louis deeper into the cemetery to bury Church late one night, and the next day, Church shows up back home alive. However, he is not the same. He’s dirty, angry, and reeks of death. Jud reveals that the cemetery has a history of bringing things back, but not as they were before. The two realize their mistake, and hope to put it behind them. But the nightmare isn’t over yet, and when tragedy strikes, Louis decides to use the cemetery once again, leading to horrifying results.

 An adaptation of the novel by Stephen King and a remake of the 1989 film, “Pet Sematary” is a pretty unremarkable horror film considering it’s coming out after movies such as “Hereditary” or “Us” (Which only came out a couple weeks ago, which means you can just see it again right now.). The film lacks many surprises or originality, so it has to make up for that with genuine unsettling atmosphere and some truly haunting, nightmarish imagery that will keep you up in the middle of the night. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, the film has a certain eerie look to it, that gives the feeling of something you would hear someone telling around a campfire to scare the children. The creep factor is amplified by the questionable moral decisions that build up over the film's speedy runtime. There are also some excellent shots, whether it be the shocking amount of gore or the upsetting visual images that accompany them. 

 Jason Clarke is excellent, going from a average guy to so distraught that he's willing to destroy the laws of nature to reclaim a lost one. He has some great development over the film, and even with how stupid the decisions he makes end up being, you can see how he came to them. Amy Seimetz has the look of pure, unfiltered fear down perfectly, while John Lithgow is compelling, giving an emotional performance even when it likely isn't necessary. The real star is Jeté Laurence, who is amazing, getting the role of a lifetime for such a young actress. Her character goes through a few changes, appearing one way before becoming the complete opposite. I can't give too much away, but I can say that she shows an immense amount of range that even few adult actors lack. Also credit to the cat (or cats) portraying "Church". Never seen a cat look so disheveled and pissed before in my life. (Not sure what you guys did to make that happen, but it works.) 

 "Pet Sematary" plays on one of the greatest, and scariest human emotions; Grief. While the film isn't anything special considering how experimental horror has become as of late, it plays off of the unsettling nature of human life and death very well. It doesn't quite stick the landing, with the ending just sort of happening without warning, yet the film's uneasy nature that makes for an effective scary story. 3 stars. Rated R For Scary, Upsetting Images, And Almost As Much Gore As "Unplanned".  

Shazam!        by James Eagan               ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for shazam movieImage: Just a picture of me, in my pajamas.

 It seems that the "DC Extended Universe" has found the most unlikely of heroes to save it's cinematic universe from collapsing on itself. With disappointments like "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad", along with the franchise failing to keep "Superman" (Henry Cavill) and "Batman" (Ben Affleck) around (You know, the two biggest superheroes ever?), the whole thing has been all over the place. Still, there is hope with the wonderful, socially important "Wonder Woman", the completely bonkers and thoroughly entertaining "Aquaman", and now one of it's most endearing entries yet. (On a side note, we won't get into the debate over who the real "Captain Marvel" is. It's a long story.)   

 "Shazam!" follows young, orphaned troublemaker, "Billy Batson" (Asher Angel). Billy has run away from every foster home he's been put into to do, hoping instead to track down his birth mother. He is eventually adopted by "Victor and Rosa Vasquez" (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), becoming part of their foster family, which includes "Mary" (Grace Fulton), "Eugene" (Ian Chen), "Pedro" (Jovan Armand), "Darla" (Faithe Herman), and the superhero obsessed "Freddy" (Jack Dylan Grazer). Freddy, who has to walk on crutches, tries the most to befriend Billy, though Billy really wants nothing to do with his new family. After defending Freddy from some bullies, Billy finds himself transported to a magical place, known as "The Rock of Eternity", where the aging wizard, "Shazam" (Djimon Housou) resides. Shazam has been searching for his new champion, who is pure of heart to give his powers to.

 Shazam chooses Billy and and bestows the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury, resulting in Billy being transformed into a lightning powered adult body (Zachary Levi). With help from Freddy, Billy does exactly what all kids with superpowers would do.....become a YouTube star and simply screw around for money. But all superheroes need a evil villain, and a dangerous one comes in the form of "Dr. Thaddeus Sivana" (Mark Strong). Dr. Sivana is obsessed with acquiring the abilities of Shazam, and has unleashed the monstrous entities, "The Seven Deadly Sins" on the world to get them. Billy must learn how to hone his new abilities to become the next big hero the world deserves, and quite frankly, the one DC needs right now. 

 Directed by David F. Sandberg (Who has ironically only directed horror films like "Lights Out" and "Annabelle: Creation") with a childlike sense of wonder, "Shazam!" is the most joyful, whimsical superhero movie in the history of cinema. It's also exactly what the the doctor ordered to bring much needed variety, and dare I say, charm to this film universe. Thanks to a smart, balanced screenplay by Henry Gayden, the film lightens the tone, filling itself with a sense of humor about itself (And it's genre), looking at it from a younger perspective. The clever aspect about the movie is that it's still a legitimate superhero film on it's own,  yet it's also just as hilarious as just plain a good comedy. There are funny gags involving comic book clichés, as well as a few movie ones, poking fun at superpowers, catchphrases, and a battle between the hero and villain that's equal parts exciting and laugh out loud. 

 Let's talk about how inspired a choice Zachary Levi is to play this character. I mean, he's basically a boy in an adults body in real life as it is. He plays that personality perfectly and sincerely, with a lot of laughs and capability as a hero. Levi and the excellent Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie from "It") have wonderful chemistry, while Asher Angel shows promise as a young actor. Mark Strong knows how to play a menacing villain, and does it well as usual, whose darker storyline is the perfect contrast between the lighter, goofier tone. (He may be sending monsters to bite off people's heads, yet it doesn't feel out of place.) Djimon Hounsou appears briefly, but looks like he's having a great time. There are some lovable side characters, with Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, and the scene stealing Faithe Herman, who all bring heart to the film. (There are also a few unexpected surprises as well that I won't spoil.)  

 "Shazam!" feels like a kids movie you would of grown up with in the 80s or 90s. It's lighter and softer than previous DC films, but knows when the take a moment to let some darker moments sink in. There is an edge to the humor, yet still suitable for a younger audience. In fact, for a younger audience, this might be the most relatable of superhero movies. There is a formula and even when the film plays with it, it's noticeable, and the same goes for some of the special effects at times. (They're very good mostly except for a few parts. Though it somewhat adds to the charm when it isn't.) Beneath the laughs and action, there is a great, heartfelt story, that anyone can enjoy. It's a great standalone story in the DCEU, and continues to show that this film universe still has a chance to make it. That's a heroic achievement right there. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Occasionally Scary Images And Teen Language.    

Unplanned                                                                   by James Eagan                                    No Stars out of ★★★★

Image result for unplanned movie

Image: Uh, maybe I should explain.

 Pure Flix, I feel like we need to have an intervention by this point. You were doing so well lately. By your standards obviously. But you were trying. Films like "The Case for Christ", "Unbroken: Path to Redemption", and your "Little Women" adaptation showed some sign of improvement. Even ones like "Samon" and "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness", while bad, weren't the usual hate filled propaganda you had become known for. You appeared to be moving away from that, and actually seemed to be trying to broaden your base. Sadly, you're an addict, and you just couldn't help yourself could you? Tragic. Faith based matters deserves a better argument. Especially a subject like this. 

 "Unplanned" follows the memoir of former Planned Parenthood clinic director, "Abby Johnson" (Ashley Bratcher). Despite the pleas from her parents (Robert Thompson and Robin DeMarco) and husband, "Doug" (Brooks Ryan), Abby believes in a woman's right to choose, seeing Planned Parenthood as a way of helping pregnant women through unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. The film goes through Abby's life over the years, from a bad relationship that resulted in her having prevented two of her own pregnancies, Abby's rising in the clinic and getting on the good side of the evil director, "Cheryl" (Robia Scott), and her eventual change of opinion after she witnesses an abortion up close. Abby goes on to become an activist for Pro-Life, turning her back on Planned Parenthood and their nefarious schemes. 

 Lets save personal opinions, politics, morals, and whatnot till the end. We're here to critique a film on it's own merits in terms of it's filmmaking quality. On that note alone, Pure Flix appears to have gotten worse. Directed and written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (The writers behind the first/worst "God's Not Dead" movies), the production values feel cheaper than ever. It looks like a bad TV movie, with poor editing choices that make the film's timeline oddly confusing. (It starts, then flashes back eight years, then flashes further back two years, before flashing forward two more times.) Terrible direction and bad writing are typical from this studio, but it's baffling to see how much worse they've gotten over the course of a single film. Characters are thin copies of basic tropes (Pro-Life=Good, Pro-Choice=Bad), painfully cheesy dialogue, and all kinds of questionable content. Not to mention how graphically bloody the film ends up being, matching most horror movies in the amount of gore on display. It's hilarious how shocked the filmmakers were at the R rating. You showed a bloody fetus getting sucked into a tube, along with a woman having a chemical induced abortion in her bathroom. What the Hell did you expect? 

 Ashley Bratcher is trying I think, but she sure doesn't have the amount of dramatic range necessary to carry the film. (The less about her cringey narration, the better.) Brooks Ryan is bland cardboard personified, while others come and go with roles that add little impact. Then there's Robia Scott, who is essentially a female version of Emperor Palpatine, portrayed as manipulative, uncaring, and sinister. The way Planned Parenthood is portrayed is as an evil corporation, who intentionally tries to sell abortions like time shares to make money. Yet the film also tries to toss in half-assed attempts at fairness, such as portraying the pregnant young women feeling guilty about their abortions and showing some of the employees as simply doing their jobs. You can't humanize them if you're constantly screaming that they're intentionally murdering unborn babies! Aren't they just as bad in your eyes by that argument? You could of at least tried to be less lazy about it. 

 "Unplanned" is full of crap as usual for the film studio, and not because of the fact that apparently plenty of people have already poked a lot of holes into the so-called "True Story". It's hypocritical in it's messages, relying on demonization and guilt rather than actual facts. It's also just doesn't seem at all sure about what it wants to be exactly. At times it feels like it still wants to be a family oriented religious film, yet indulges itself in it's graphic nature. It's brutally in your face with it's shock value, unfocused in it's story (It's funny how long it takes for anyone to even mention God in this movie.), and uncomfortable for the wrong reasons. So the woman has to realize the error of her ways like her husband demands, resulting in her becoming Pro-Life? Isn't that the same thing as a man deciding what a woman should do with her body? Did nobody notice how awkward that sounds? How about the part where the husband joked about punching a woman? Abortion is not like fast food!!!

 Okay, now to get to my personal feelings, which I think probably should be conveyed to show impartialness. I believe that more people should take such decisions into as much consideration as possible. Aborting an unborn baby is not something I think anyone should simply come to an easy answer on. While personally I would prefer that the possible life should be given the chance to be, I would never in any way demand that a woman, who has likely gone through way more than I ever would, to have that baby regardless of her own personal beliefs, though I'm no absolutist. And that's yet another failure of this film. The filmmakers behind "Unplanned" don't bother to think about that. Nor do they think about the consequences of what they say or show. Good and evil. That's all it is to them. Maybe they could of made a point or even changed a few minds. It's a complicated subject and they could of contributed to the argument in a mature, understanding fashion. But lets be honest, that's not what they wanted to do. Just wanted to rile up the already agitated base. Not to mention just plain making a sh*tty movie to while they were at. Last time I give you guys credit for anything. No Stars (On a filmmaking standpoint alone.) Rated R For Disturbingly Bloody Images, Fear Mongering, And CGI Fetuses.  

Dumbo             by James Eagan            ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: All elephants can fly....Right?

 Even I can come to admit that "Disney" may be going a little overboard with all these live action remakes of their beloved animated films. Especially so when they're now doing remakes of their fairly recent ones. They have three this year, taking up most of their theatrical release lineup. (With both "Aladdin" and "The Lion King" coming out in just a few months.) Still, quality is quality, even if you get the idea that money might be playing a bigger part in these decisions than you would want it to. Sometimes it's good or even better than the original (Like "The Jungle Book" and "Cinderella"), or a solid enough film on it's own, but just not particularly necessary ("Beauty and the Beast"). 

 A loose, live-action remake of the 1941 animated Disney classic, "Dumbo" follows a traveling circus troupe, run by "Max Medici" (Danny DeVito). The former star of the show, "Holt Farrier" (Colin Farrell), returns home to his two kids, "Milly" (Nico Parker) and "Joe" (Finley Hobbins), after losing an arm in the war. With his wife now deceased and unable to perform the way he used to, Holt is put in charge of Medici's newly bought female elephant, who gives birth to a baby, eventually named "Dumbo". Dumbo has gigantic ears, and is seen as a freak by Medici's audience, who mock him mercilessly.

 An incident with Dumbo's mother protecting him from abuse that results in injuries and death, leads to Dumbo's mother being sent away. Milly and Joe decide to take care of the lonely Dumbo, realizing that his big ears provide him with the ability to fly, so long as he holds a feather with his trunk. Dumbo proceeds to become an instant star, attracting the attention of eccentric businessman, "V. A. Vandevere" (Michael Keaton), who convinces Medici to bring his circus family to be a part of his circus themed amusement park, "Dreamland". Despite Vandevere's clearly nefarious intentions, Milly and Joe vow to help Dumbo find his mother, while Holt is told to assist a famous trapeze artist, "Colette" (Eva Green) perform an impossible act with the flying Dumbo. 

 Directed by off kilter visionary Tim Burton, "Dumbo" deviates further away from it's source material more so than most of the previous the action remakes. The movie has all of the usual brilliance we've come to expect from Burton, as well as his typical flaws. While Burton appears to have toned himself down from his typical, macabre aesthetic, but the film's story isn't all that focused. The plot barely follows the animated film, and eventually becomes it's own thing entirely. There's just a lot of characters, and more focus being placed on distractions from elaborate set pieces. Granted, these aren't exactly bad characters, and the movie looks gorgeous. Tim Burton's signature style is on full display, and it's impossible to look away from. The visual effects are beautiful, along with the incredible art and production design. The wondrous score by Danny Elfman (Because of course it is. It always has to be.) pays homage to the music from the original film in clever and imaginative ways. (There is a wonderful sequence based on the infamous "Pink Elephants on Parade" scene.) The problem lies with the serviceable, but limited script by Ehren Kruger (Mostly known for horror like "The Ring", or a couple of the "Transformers" movies). 

 "Dumbo" isn't much for in-depth characterizations, though the talent involved do improve upon that. Colin Farrell and Eva Green are great, getting the best emotional arcs when it comes to the human characters. Danny DeVito is delightful, stealing every scene he's in. Michael Keaton plays a pretty generic baddie, who is evil for no apparent reason. But damn does he chew up the scenery like a pro. (I'd pretty much recommend this on that alone.) Also, Alan Arkin (as "J. Griffin Remington", an important banker) pops up to do his best Alan Arkin impression for no other reason than the fact that he's Alan Arkin. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins are fine, but they don't have much in terms of acting range and they make for the weakest part of the film. Really at times the movie seems to forget about the titular character, Dumbo, mostly due to all the characters added to the story. With that said, it's only every once in a while he's put in the background. When Dumbo is the focus, that's where the heart of the film truly shines. It's clearly a CGI character, but a good looking one that blends into the live action world seamlessly. Not to mention,  he's utterly adorable, with those big eyes and ears, along with the most endearing smile you'll ever see from an animated character. 

 Less of a by the numbers remake than the previous ones, yet lacking the magic of the original, "Dumbo" is just a little weak in parts. It's Tim Burton's eye for spectacular presentation and a good heart that make it work. The emotional beats, while still nowhere near as compelling as the original, are still there and make it difficult not to get a good reaction out of it. The film's topics of animal cruelty, especially in the circus are relevant and add some extra dimensions that weren't there before. Not to mention Dumbo himself is also too lovable to dislike. (I mean, look at that face. They literally couldn't of picked a cuter design.) It still warms your heart, even if I would list it as the lesser of these Disney remakes. Now I'd like a flying Elephant of my very own. 3 stars. Rated PG For Frightening Images, Animals In Peril, And Danny DeVito In A Bubble Bath. 

Us               by James Eagan                 ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

 

Related imageImage: Maybe she just wants to talk?

 Someone tell me where Jordan Peele ("Key & Peele", and the director of 2017's Oscar nominated "Get Out") has been hiding such directorial talent? Critics and fans have been declaring him as a successor to those such as Alfred Hitchcock, which I think is uncalled for. That would mean that he is trying to emulate Hitchcock's work, which I don't think is the case. What he makes is completely his own, and is unlike anything to come out of any filmmaker currently working today or otherwise. He knows how to create something thoroughly original. Not to mention insane. Completely insane. 

 "Us" opens in 1986 with a young girl, "Adelaide" (Madison Curry), wandering off from her parents at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. She goes into the hall of mirrors, coming face to face with someone who looks exactly like her. The experience haunts her throughout her life, Now as an adult, Adelaide (Now played by Lupita Nyong'o) is on a summer trip to their beach house near Santa Cruz, with her husband, "Gabe" (Winston Duke), and their two kids, "Zora" (Shahadi Wright) and "Jason" (Evan Alex). However, Adelaide is a bit uneasy about the trip, still traumatized by what she saw all those years ago. While settling in for the night, the family notices a group standing outside on their driveway, dressing in red and brandishing very sharp scissors. The intruders then reveal themselves to be doppelgängers of the entire family, though noticeably more frightening and somewhat animalistic. The invaders (Or "The Tethered" as they prefer to be called), led by Adelaide's doppelgänger, "Red", take the family hostage, planning to kill them all and take their place. Now Adelaide, as well as Gabe, Zora, and Jason must work together and face their own doubles, each representing a dark, twisted shadow of themselves. It is called "Us" for a reason.....Well, maybe more than one. Can't spoil it. 

 Directed, produced, and written by Jordan Peele, "Us" is not the most traditional of horror movies. Much like "Get Out", it's not exactly scary in the way we've become accustomed to. Yeah, there are terrifying, nightmarish images and all that. But where the real terror comes from is what the film represents, showing us what we really should be afraid of. The only difference is that it's not as clear this time around. While "Get Out" pointed out another form of racism that rarely gets brought up, the message is more hidden in the dialogue, characterizations, and hidden clues sprinkled all through the unpredictable narrative. (I think it's best I don't say what I believe it's all supposed to mean, and let you see if you can figure it out yourself.)  Peele is a pro at not only that, but also in how he frames a scene, with long, detailed shots that are magnified in scope. No matter how closed quarters the scene, everything feels grand. There are also unique sequences of fear and unease shown through camera angles on certain actors or objects in the room, which may or may not play a pivotal part at some later point. 

  Let's all just take a moment to appreciate just how flawless Lupita Nyong'o is. Her performance (or performances) is already being declared as the first possible contender at the 2019 Academy Awards. Nyong'o is captivating, from her strong, sympathetic motherly character to her startling, mysterious antagonist. Both are alike, yet different at the same time, and she conveys that brilliantly. Her acting range is nothing short of incredible. Winston Duke provides some excellent comic relief as our goofy fatherly character, along with projecting quiet menace as his double. Shahadi Wright and Evan Alex both show promise as charming, talented young actors, each given their moments to shine. (Whether it be as their main characters, or their homicidal doubles.) Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker (as "Kitty" and "Josh", dick-ish rich friends of Adelaide and Gabe) are a ton of fun, while credit needs to be given to Madison Curry for her scene stealing small role. It's also cool just to see characters actually reacting to horrifying situations rationally in a horror movie for once. (Finally! Someone keeps hitting the villain after one hit. Thank you!) .

 With an amazing use of sound and music (Whether it be the score or the soundtrack, it's combined in an ingenious way) and a darkly wicked sense of humor, "Us" will leave you freaked out and asking so many questions that you'll probably just turn back around to see it again. Jordan Peele surpasses his already brilliant directorial debut with an even freakier nightmare that will keep you guessing and questioning everything even after it ends. Things are left up to your own interpretation, and it's the ambiguity that makes it scarier. You'll likely be keeping a good eye on your reflection for the next few weeks. Maybe it's just best to avoid mirrors all together. 4 stars. Rated R For Violence, Terror, And Bunny Banquets.     

Captive State                                                            by James Eagan                                      ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for captive state movieImage: "I ate his liver with some fava beans, and a nice chianti."

 Oh, how I hate movies like this. It's easy to find the right words to describe how good a film is, and it's even easier to rant about how terrible one can be. The hardest job for any critic, let alone an unpaid one such as myself, is describing a film that lands right in the middle. It doesn't even feel quite right to use the word mediocre. It's more that it's a challenge to convey what exactly the film is. Why couldn't it have just plain sucked?

  "Captive State" takes place sometime in the not so distant future, where Earth has been visited by powerful, frightening extraterrestrial beings, dubbed "The Legislators". Humanity has essentially relinquished their freedom for a proposed unity. However, some things haven't changed, such as the poor remaining poor and desperate, and those with power only getting more. This has led to a conflict between the government and a small, but vocal resistance group called "Phoenix". Previously thought to be gone, Phoenix appears to be making a comeback, planning to "Ignite a War" that will change everything, which the Legislators have no intention of allowing. We follows different people from both sides of the conflict, with the closest thing to main characters being "Gabriel Drummond" (Ashton Sanders), the brother of the presumed to be deceased rebel, "Rafe" (Jonathan Majors), and "Officer William Mulligan" (John Goodman), who is tasked with tracking down those involved with Phoenix before they carry out their world changing plan.

 Directed and co-written by Rupert Wyatt ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes"), "Captive State" is not an easy film to label. It's not staged with a three act structure, nor does it even truly explain to you what exactly is going on, and what the purpose of it is. It's a form of world-building that is presented through a series of complicated sequences that show how both sides of this conflict work. However, it could also be seen as unfocused and lacking in excitement. It's not that there isn't clearly high ambitions behind it. The film is subtlety political in what it's meant to represent, and few of the characters are easy to label. Some in part due to how seemingly intentionally disconnected they feel, but also in how morally ambiguous some are. Nobody's motivations are quite clear at first, with their intentions being revealed as the movie progresses. I think where the biggest issue lies is in the screenplay, which is very exposition heavy. Granted, it has to be since there is so many details to how the current situation is. It's interesting, but oddly, an emotional connection to anything is in short supply. 

  Ashton Sanders ("Moonlight", "The Equalizer 2") has been showing a lot of promise with every role he's been in, and proves to be an engaging lead. John Goodman is a great actor, and he brings his usual gravitas. He's a very interesting character, and you really get behind his character. Others like Jonathan Majors and Kevin Dunn (as "Commissioner Eugene Igoe", Mulligan's superior) are all good in their roles, along with a collection of recognizable actors, though all in small parts. The biggest waste ends up being Vera Farmiga (as a prostitute Mulligan meets with), whose role ends up leading to an obvious twist with little payoff. 

 The cinematography is stunning and Rupert Wyatt's gritty, found footage-like style makes up for the small budget with some impressive special effects. "Captive State" looks great, and feels based in reality, There is a sense of suspense, especially when the unsettling look of the aliens are shown. There just isn't much to truly latch onto on a dramatic level. The strange thing is that this all feels deliberate, and it feels that the filmmakers wanted to go for something more uniquely told. It's fascinating, yet hard to recommend due to how off-putting the film's narrative and characters are knowingly portrayed. It ends on a high note when it all comes together, but I can see audiences not resonating with it. It's a very flawed experiment that while it has moments of inspiration, it feels like there could of been more impact if there was more character and less vagueness. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Needle Aliens And Political Injustice.  

Wonder Park                                                              by James Eagan                                           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for wonder park movieImage: We are all so high right now!  

 I don't believe I've ever seen a situation like this before. This is a movie that's missing a director. Well to be more precise, the former director of the movie, Dylan Brown, was fired for sexual harassment sometime during production. But unlike movies such as the somehow Oscar nominated "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Look, I liked the movie. But it did not deserve a Best Picture nomination.), which still found a way to credit Bryan Singer, this movie straight up removed the director's name entirely. There's nobody credited, and when the end credits roll, it just skips to the producers and screenwriters,. That is bizarre, especially for what's nothing more than a harmless, albeit bland kids movie. 

 "Wonder Park" follows young girl, "June" (Brianna Denski), who has a wild imagination. June and her mother (Jennifer Garner) have a close relationship, with her mother having helped her imagine a magical amusement park, called "Wonderland". (Huh? Then why is the movie called "Wonder Park"? How didn't anyone think to change that?) The park is run by a collection of colorful animals, consisting of a tough boar, "Greta" (Mila Kunis), a scholarly porcupine, "Steve" (John Oliver), twin beavers, "Cooper" (Ken Jeong) and "Gus" (Kenan Thompson), goofy bear, "Boomer" (Ken Hudson Campbell), and the ride creator chimp, "Peanut" (Norbert Leo Butz). June also tries to create her own version of Wonderland, bringing in her friends along to join in the fun, though her imagination does tend to get a little bit much at times. (I mean, she does practically destroy her neighborhood with her mini-constructions.) However, when June's mom is diagnosed with an illness, leading to her leaving for treatment.

 Fearing for the future, June starts to lose hope, abandoning Wonderland and allowing herself to become disillusioned. While on a trip to camp, June wanders off alone into the woods, finding herself in Wonderland, which as it turns out is a real place. But now the park is in shambles, having been taken over by a mysterious force, called "The Darkness", which controls an army of creepy chimp dolls to destroy what remains of the park. June meets up with all of the other animals, revealing herself to be the one who created their world and is the only one who can possibly save it. The group must work together to bring light back to the park and stomp the darkness from engulfing everything.    

 From Nickelodeon Movies (Who is planning to use this film to start a future TV series, much like "Barnyard" and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius"), "Wonder Park" is a movie that's exactly what's advertised. Innocent fluff, even when the film's out of nowhere darker subjects. It's a hard tone to balance and it can be awkward at times, though I do like that the film tries to have some kind of depth to its story. It's just a shame that there isn't much creativity to the plot and script, especially compared to the spectacular visuals on screen. The animation, while not on par with other more successful studios, is still very beautiful and makes up the lack of detail with lively colors and action sequences. It's actually pretty clever how the film stages many of these set pieces like theme park rides, making for good eye candy. 

 The film doesn't really give much in the character development department, keeping everyone fairly basic. Brianna Denski is a charming lead, but some supporting players aren't given much to do. Those such as Mila Kunis and Matthew Broderick (as June's father) are underutilized with roles that could of been played by anyone. Some of the more enjoyable voice work comes from a delightful John Oliver and Oev Michael Urbas (as "Banky", June's nerdy best friend). Meanwhile, Jennifer Garner, whose role is small by comparison, still is able to remain thoroughly absorbing and touching. It's the film's most important dynamic between June and her mother, and though the film doesn't quite provide it with the needed profundity it deserves, there is still something heartwarming about it.  

 "Wonder Park" doesn't have the laughs or the well defined characters that would be enough for the whole family to enjoy. It's more satisfied with being well intentioned fun for the kids, making for a quick and safe sit. (It's only an hour and twenty minutes, and it breezes by.) But with better movies like "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" and "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World", which appeals to adults as well as children, you kind of wonder what's the point of it. If anything, it just makes how bland this film is even more apparent with better option still playing in theaters. I guess if you just want to keep the kids quiet for a while with something that won't in any way offend, this is a fine enough choice. Wouldn't say that's much of an endorsement though. Unless your kids need a quick distraction and you're out of other options 2 stars. Rated PG For Bad Puns And Pervy Directors. 

Five Feet Apart                                                         by James Eagan                                       ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

 Related imageImage: Not another sick teen movie.
 
 Still not used to this whole "Sick Teen Romance" subgenre. (If it doesn't already have a name, I would like to patent that as one.) Generally being released relatively early in the year, with quality varying from "The Fault in Our Stars" (Basically the top level) to either mediocre or horrifically, but unintentionally offensive. It's an easy tearjerker, and you can only hope the filmmakers know what they're talking about.  
 
 "Five Feet Apart" follows "Stella Grant" (Haley Lu Richardson), a young girl, suffering from cystic fibrosis (Debilitating lung disorder.). Held up in a hospital waiting for a possible new lung transplant, Stella spends her time making YouTube videos detailing her experiences. Stella ends up meeting "Will" (Cole Sprouse), who also suffers from the same disease, though he's more cynical and reckless about it than she is. Seeing that Will is neglecting his own medication, Stella agrees to serve as an inspiration for Will's drawings so long as he continues with his treatments. Eventually, the two start to grow closer despite Stella's nurse, "Barb" (Kimberly Herbert Gregory), demanding that they stay at least six feet apart from each other, considering that the simplest touch could prove deadly. Stella and Will, cheating a little bit by making it five feet instead of six, begin to fall in love, finding some ray of hope in each other's lives, overcoming their current circumstances. 
 
 Directed by Justin Baldoni (Mostly known as an actor in TV roles), "Five Feet Apart" benefits from knowledge and care about it's subject matter. Not that the film avoids the quintessential and obligatory clichés. (They're all here for the most part.) It's just that it's better done this time, with a bit of a sense of realism, such as the actors looking like they're actually sick. The movie doesn't go out of it's way to pretty them up in a needlessly Hollywoodized fashion, but instead present them with scars and signs of genuine sickness. The movie also thankfully portrays them as still capable, strong human beings. It's mostly in the dialogue and plotting where the film falters. It's very predictable and at times, too cheesy for it's own good. There's light moments of humor and the good intentions behind the film are apparent, you just have to power through with by this point, what you expect to come with the territory. 
 
 None of this would work at all if our romantic leads weren't good actors. Haley Lu Richardson ("The Edge of Seventeen", "Split") gets her time to shine. She's the star and she carries the film wonderfully, with an endearing smile and loads of charm. I also never realized how good of an actor Cole Sprouse (You know? From "Zack & Cody"?) has become. He's likable and shows off some very competent dramatic acting chops. Together, they save even the film's hokiest of moments, and you root for their relationship. I appreciate the film not making Kimberly Herbert Gregory into an antagonist of sorts, showing that she does have a point to her actions. Moises Arias (as "Poe", a friend of Stella, who also suffers from cystic fibrosis) serves as a source of much needed humor, and does well at it. However, his character arc makes for one of the more frustratingly predictable moments. 
 
 The engaging onscreen chemistry between Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse are just enough to save "Five Feet Apart" from it's obligations to its genre. The film heads to an obvious climax, but ends on a suitably emotional and effective note. It does its job as well as it can, thanks to the talent that's been brought in. It's a story that while it likely could better told elsewhere, is something that should resonate with its younger audience, and that isn't a bad thing at all. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Tear Manipulation. 

Captain Marvel                                                         by James Eagan                                         ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for captain marvel movie

Image: Captain Marvel, wondering why she didnt follow google maps. 

 This is a momentous occasion. I have officially been reviewing movies for nine years. Having started back in March of 2010, the site has gone through many changes and has evolved over time. It's similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe if you think about it. A whole universe of films, all connected through various characters and locations, which is now reaching it's eleventh year. This film universe is much like my reviewing. It has no intention of stopping anytime soon and can only continue to expand, though I suspect everyone involved with Marvel brings in a lot more dough than I do. 

 Set sometime during the 90s (You know, before Thanos snapped half of the universe out of existence.), "Captain Marvel" follows "Vers" (Brie Larson), a superpowered member of an elite team for the "Kree Empire", called "Starforce". The Kree (Blue aliens) are currently at war with the shapeshifting "Skrulls" (Green aliens), which are led by "Talos" (Ben Mendelsohn). Vers is plagued by a recurring nightmare of her on Earth, along with a woman she's never met before (Annette Bening), being attacked by a Skrull. After a mission goes bad, Vers finds herself captured by Talos, who reveals that there is more to her than she realizes. Vers eventually ends up stranded on Earth, attracting the attention of a familiar law enforcement organization, "S.H.I.E.L.D", along with a certain soon to be director, "Nick Fury" (Samuel L Jackson).

 Ignoring the orders of her mentor, "Yon-Rogg" (Jude Law), Vers decides to investigate why the Skrulls are on Earth. Meanwhile, Talos takes the form of Fury's superior, "Keller", leading to Fury being forced to go along with Vers to stop the Skull invasion. While on their search, Vers begins to discover that she did in fact have a life on Earth years prior (as "Carol Danvers"), leading to a deeper conspiracy that could not only turn the tide between the warring alien races, but also could change the future of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. (I mean, they have been saying that she is a big deal for some time. Now we get to see why.) 

 Directed (And Co-Written) by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck ("Mississippi Grind"), "Captain Marvel" is not here to become some sort of game changer to the Marvel formula that we've come accustomed to. However, it's a formula that works for a reason. One that already changed the game for both the superhero genre as well as filmmaking in general. Not to mention the movie decides to play with it a little, and even has a few unexpected and exciting surprises. The script is full of charm and plenty of laughs, knowing when it's best to not take things too seriously. Yet you still care about the characters and like them as people, which has been something that Marvel has been able to perfect over the years. The look of the film and the visual effects are stunningly colorful and aesthetically pleasing. (The 90s never looked so good) Not to mention how uncanny they were able to de-age some of the actors. (Although in Samuel L. Jackson's case, maybe he's just aged really well.) 

 Brie Larson is as tough as they come, with her cocky, but likable personality providing some charisma to her character. She's an instantly intriguing character that you become invested in, and she is clearly one of the most powerful characters ever to appear in the Marvel Universe. (Thanos better watch out.) Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in several of these films, though usually in small doses. This is his biggest role yet, and he's wonderful, getting to really let loose and show us a side of the character we've yet to see. Ben Mendelsohn is brilliant as usual, this time getting to add a little more to his character, who is more than a simple baddie. Jude Law is a compelling presence, while Lashana Lynch (as "Maria Rameau", a pilot/former friend of Carol) is strong in a supporting part. Annette Benning looks like she's having a ton of fun, also portraying who Carol sees as the Kree "Supreme Intelligence" (The AI ruler of the Kree). It's also awesome to see some returning faces, such as Clark Gregg (as "Phil Coulson", agent of S.H.I.E.L.D./fan favorite recurring character), Lee Pace (as "Ronan, the Accuser", the future big bad of "Guardians of the Galaxy"), and Djimon Hounsou (as "Korath", Ronan's future henchmen), though on the downside, they're mostly given small parts aren't in the film near enough. The true scene-stealer ends up being an adorable kitty, "Goose", who is also revealed to be something much more. (The funniest moments involve how much Nick Fury loves petting him, leading to a hilarious payoff.) 

 "Captain Marvel" is essentially what one could consider as middle of the road when it comes to Marvel movies. But middle of the road Marvel is still legitimately excellent. There is some real heart to the film, and inspiring messages that should resonate with everyone, let alone young girls. Yeah, so you've all likely heard by now about all the angry dudes bashing this movie before it even came out, and even those actively trying to ruin it. (Bunch of trolls down voting on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, etc.) That's all nothing more than typical dude rage, and really, it's jut as much stupidity as anything. We have ourselves a badass heroine right here, who could serve as a sign of even more of what's to come. We should all embrace it. It's what true believers would do. (Yes, there is a funny cameo of the late, great Stan Lee, as well as a touching tribute when the movie starts.) 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Action And Old Lady Punching. 

Greta                 by James Eagan               ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for greta movieImage: How can you not trust someone named Greta? 

 Acclaimed French actress, Isabelle Huppert has one of the longest filmographies of any actor (Male or female) that I've ever seen. She's been acting for over fifty years, and yet, I've actually hardly seen her in anything. Granted, she's mostly been in foreign films, but after "Roma" (Should of won the Oscar by the way), I've learned that I shouldn't forget to give those a look. Especially since I'm attempting to be a legitimate critic. It's cool to see someone with such talent and class making one of her few American film appearances in something so delightfully psychotic. 

 "Greta" opens with young waitress, "Frances McCullen" (Chloë Grace Moretz), finding an abandoned handbag on a New York subway. She then returns the bag to it's owner, "Greta Hideg" (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely woman, who at first appears to simply be looking for friendship. Frances, having still not recovered from the loss of her mother, begins to see Greta as somewhat of a surrogate, and the two become fast friends. However, things take a turn for the creepy as Frances notices that Greta has a whole collection of identical handbags, each having the names of different names and addresses. On advice from her snark roommate, "Erica" (Maika Monroe), Frances decides to cut ties with Greta. But it turns out Greta isn't one to simply let someone go as she begins to stalk Frances, trying to force herself into her life. Frances soon discovers that there is something much more dangerous (And crazy) to Greta than it would appear. 

 Directed (And Co-Written) by Neil Jordan ("Byzatium"), "Greta" is made for an audience looking for something quick, with enough crazy thrills to keep them on the edge of their seats. Even when you know what's going to happen, we kind of want movies like this. Luckily there appears some hints of elegance and a sense of knowing what it is. The movie is clearly having fun with it's B-Movie premise, and while it remains fairly predictable in where it's all leading up to, it's still thoroughly entertaining. The film's presentation is great, from the lovely cinematography by Seamus McGarvey ("Bad Times at the El Royale", "The Greatest Showman", "Atonement") to score by Javier Navarrete (Who has previously collaborated with Neil Jordan on a few projects), which is played up like a ticking time bomb. (Quiet at first, before exploding in a fury of lunacy)

 The reliably charismatic and lovable Chloë Grace Moretz is excellent. Sure her character makes a few too many dumb decisions, which is a hallmark of films like this. (I know she's on the ground, but hit her again! She's just going to get up!) Isabelle Huppert is the kind of crazy that lulls you into a false sense of security. She's sweet and funny at first, calmly showing bit and pieces of insanity under the guise of frailness. But as the film progresses (And gets crazier), she shows how wildly bonkers she truly is. Maika Monroe serves as the comic relief and gets a few awesome moments of her own, being one of the smarter characters. Colm Feore (as "Chris", Frances' father) has a small part, but still gives a much more honest performance than what was likely expected. 

 Though not much for surprises (You know what's going to happen to a last second character who shows up at the wrong time) and packing a couple awkward attempts at having jumpscares, "Greta" is still the right kind of crazy. It's completely nuts, and stylishly so. It's also elevated by the compelling performances of both Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert, as well as capable direction. It's standard, but exciting insanity, with a slight sense of sophistication. For those of us who prefer our horror show with a touch of class. 3 Stars. Rated R For Disturbing Content And Finger Chopping. 

A Madea FAmily Funeral                                    by James Eagan                                              ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for a madea family funeralImage: May Madea rest in peace. She....She is dead, right?

 I'll admit, there was a sick side of me that smirked the second I heard the title "A Madea Family Funeral". Is it so wrong to want such a mean spirited, obnoxious character to simply just you know, die? Well Director/Writer/Producer Tyler Perry  assured us that this was the final entry in the overlong, continuity error riddled series, so I say it's still a good excuse for a celebration. 

 "A Madea Family Funeral" opens with our collection of characters gathering for a family reunion to celebrate the anniversary of "Anthony" (Derek Morgan) and "Vianne" (Jen Harper). The human doormat, "Brian" (Tyler Perry), is the one taking the four horrible people he for some reason still lets live in his house, "Madea" (Also Tyler Perry), "Aunt Bam" (Cassi Davis), "Hattie" (Patrice Lovely), and "Uncle Joe" (Tyler Perry Again!) to the reunion. (Although Brian's evil daughter is nowhere to be seen this time.) While at the hotel, the group stumbles into a room where they find Anthony dead, while having an affair that resulted in him choking on a ball gag. Turns out that isn't the only family drama going on, with Anthony's son, "AJ" (Courtney Burrell) is also having an affair with "Gia" (Aeriél Miranda), the soon to be wife of his brother, "Jesse" (Rome Flynn). (Not to mention the fact that AJ also happens to know what happened to Anthony and that he was cheating on his mother) So a funeral is planned, with all kinds of family secrets coming out, while Madea and her minions sit around and riff to pad out the hundred minute runtime. (Why is this so long?) 

 Let me assure everyone that the reason I'm even giving this movie a star at all is not because it's the last one. (One star is still very, very bad) No, the main reason is because it's just not quite as bad as the last couple. (Such as both "Madea Halloween" movies.) There's actually a resemblance of a plot in this one.....for the most part. There is still padding, sitting around, and lots of characters rambling nonsense. However, something is actually driving the movie forward. It's not much, but it's something. There is a reason for the plot to be happening and why the characters are there in the first place. Granted, it's still silly and tonally inconsistent, giving the feeling that a handful of characters from a screwball comedy wandered onto the set of the worst soap opera you can possibly imagine.  

 Our cast of characters aren't really characters. There are a lot of them, yet they're hardly given much development other than what's presented to us in their introductory scenes. Such as Courtney Burrell being a mean jerk with issues, Rome Flynn being the boring guy, KJ Smith (as "Carol", AJ's wife who he treats poorly) is just here to react, among other bit players with few defining traits of their own. Then there are of course, the core five who have appeared as the focus in the last couple Madea films. Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely are as useless as ever, contributing less now than ever before. Tyler Perry once more fails to realize that he is a much more capable actor than he is in these movies, though the antics of Madea seem toned down (She's shockingly less cruel and unreasonable this time) and Brian is mostly just left in the background. Meanwhile, Uncle Joe continues to be a questionable character. (Perry also plays another character, "Heathrow", who is just another excuse for him to dress in old man makeup.) The best performance comes from Jen Harper, who at least feels like an actual person and even has the only dramatic moment that somewhat works. (At least, as well as it could in a Madea movie)

 Aside from a bit more focus and maybe a couple almost funny moments (There's a cartoonish bit with a cop pulling Brian over, that's more of a funny idea than anything), "A Madea Family Funeral" is more of the same. It's full of filler, odd tonal shifts, and unfunny humor that all too often goes for the easy joke, which generally consists of lame slapstick and yelling. It's also odd, for what's meant to be the final film, that it's surprisingly bland and by the book, ending on a rushed note, without much of a conclusion. I honestly expected something worse. It's faint, damning praise, but I guess I'll take it. Still expect it to make my next worst of the year list though. They always find a way on there. This is the last one, right? (Madea 2005-2019). 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Fairly Strong Adult Content And Forced Comedic Rambling.    

Fighting with My Family                                  by James Eagan                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for fighting with my family

Image: "Wait, you're saying wrestling isn't real?"

 I have never gotten the appeal of Professional Wrestling. Nothing personal against it, I just never got into it and couldn't no matter how much of it I saw. It's just not really my thing. So knowing that, it's a credit to the filmmakers to not only making me care, but also somewhat understand what it can represent to people, while doing so with humor and charm. But maybe not a whole lot of reality.

 Inspired by a true story, "Fighting with My Family" follows future female WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment Inc....In case you didn't know.) superstar, "Saraya "Paige" Bevis" (Florence Pugh). Paige aspires to be a wrestler, like the rest of her family including her parents, "Patrick" (Nick Frost) and "Julia" (Lena Headey), as well as her older brother, "Zak" (Jack Lowden). When Paige and Zak are called in to participate in WWE tryouts, the gruff trainer, "Hutch Morgan" (Vince Vaughn) only ends up selecting Paige. Having to leave her family behind (As well as now having a strained relationship with Zak), Paige leaves for America, with Hutch serving as a coach to all the wrestling hopefuls. Paige soon discovers that achieving her dream is going to take a lot more work than she first thought, and she also must come to realize why exactly she wants to become a wrestler in the first place. 

 Both directed and written by Stephen Merchant (Who also appears in the film briefly), "Fighting with My Family" is a good natured, insanely likable surprise. The movie could of so easily gone for something much simpler and generic, like most films similar to this one would. It's safe, and even when it's generic, there are chances it can still work. However, while the film does play it safe, it doesn't cheap out in the emotion, while retaining a humorous family friendly tone (Though there is plenty of language and adult content, but it's tame.) From WWE studios of all things, that's very unexpected. Lets be honest, they don't exactly produce the best of films. (Remember "The Condemned"? Ew.) 

 Florence Pugh, much like the real life person she's portraying, is a star in the making. Full of personality and a flawless reactionary face (Whether it be to something humorous or even dramatic), she is front and center for most of the film, which relies on her to carry it, which she does brilliantly. Jack Lowden is excellent, having a few heartfelt moments with Pugh, while Nick Frost and Lena Headey are a delightful presence, hijacking any scene they're in. The movie also finds a great way to use Vince Vaughn, who is funnier here than he's been in any movie I've seen in some time. There is depth given to some supporting roles (Such as the other female competitors, who are shown to be genuine people instead of typical "Rivals"), and Dwayne "Forever The Rock" Johnson (Who also serves as an Executive Producer) popping up for a couple scenes simply because he can.  

 "Fighting with My Family" doesn't try to avoid biographical sports clichés, but instead plays with them. The movie is smartly written enough to remember to provide plenty of good comedy to go with a terrifically affable amount of character, with the main focus being on the family themselves. The message of family is worked well into the story, adding in a very modern, relevant look into the importance of it. There's also a very strong, female empowered message. And it shows that regardless of your thoughts on professional wresting, this was a game changer for the better, leading to more women being accepted into the sport, as well as giving them more respect. Still not exactly a big wrestling fan, but I feel more of an understanding of what it can represent. It's funny, sweet, and effectively inspiring, which is what the best crowdpleasing sports films should be. Well, sport may be a broad term....3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Loads Of British Swears. 

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World                   by James Eagan                            ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for how to train your dragon the hidden worldImage: Stop Dragon my heart around.

 The original "How to Train Your Dragon" was one of the first movies I ever reviewed. So with the third and final film being released, and because it's the ninth anniversary of when I made this site and dedicated my life to reviewing movies ( I'll pretend to be surprised at the party being thrown for me), well, it's fittingly bittersweet. 

 "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" following the now young adult, "Hiccup" (Jay Baruchel) and his best friend, the lovable Night Fury dragon, "Toothless".After the death of his father, "Stoick" (Gerard Butler) in the last film, Hiccup has had to step of as chief of the viking/dragon utopia of "Berk", which has become a bit overcrowded due to all the rescued dragons that have been brought there. The heroic efforts of Hiccup along with his girlfriend, "Astrid" (America Ferrera), as well as the rest of their collection of colorful characters, including the cocky "Snotlout" (Jonah Hill), the nerdy "Fishlegs" (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and the constantly bickering twins, "Ruffnut" (Kristen Wiig) and "Tuffnut" (Justin Ripple), have spread, attracting the attention of the infamous dragon hunter, "Grimmel the Grisly" (F. Murray Abraham), who is known for having hunted down the Night Furies to near extinction.

 Noticing the overpopulation problem, Hiccup sets out to search for the fabled "Hidden World", which is a supposed place of refuge for all dragons, while Toothless happens across a female, white dragon, dubbed a "Light Fury", and instantly becomes smitten. When Grimmel arrives, with the intent of capturing Toothless, Hiccup must take charge and lead his people and their dragons away from Berk, on a search for the Hidden World, as well as a new home of their own. While on their journey, Hiccup and Toothless' relationship is tested like never before, with Toothless feeling compelled to move on with his new love and Hiccup being forced to accept his own responsibilities as chief, meaning at some point (Much like the franchise) everything has to come to an end....Damn it.

 Having always been an underappreciated (Yet still beloved) series, "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" concludes the trilogy on an epic, sweet, and heartwarming note that will leave fans satisfied, yet possibly with a couple tears in their eyes. Directed once more by Dean DeBlois (Who also directed the first two films, and Co-Directed "Lilo and Stitch"), the film's eye for beautiful visuals, detailed animation, and massive scope are still apparent. But much like the characters, they've grown and changed over time. You can see every facial hair on each character, who look stylishly cartoonish, but with an extra hint of maturity (Such s Hiccup's slight facial stubble, or the visible scars and individual scales on the dragons). The details put into the locations, with one of the most memorable (And funniest) sequences involving Toothless attempting to woo the Light Fury, with awkward dances and drawings in the sand. (You can see every grain! Now the animators are just showing off!) Not to mention the return of the Academy Award nominated John Powell, providing the sweeping score that will instantly get stuck in your head.

 This series is also a testament to how voice acting really deserves more praise than it gets. Jay Baruchel is terrific once again, with his relatable character getting some of the best development of any protagonist over the course of three films. He's matured over time, but still retains the likably dorky sense of humor, which also comes from Baruchel's voice automatically. America Ferrera has great chemistry with Baruchel, F. Murray Abraham is as slimy and hateable a villain as you can possibly get. The returning cast includes Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a hilarious Craig Ferguson (as "Gobber", a mentor to Hiccup), Cate Blanchett (as "Valka", Hiccup's mother), and Kit Harrington (as "Eret", the former dragon hunter, who likely gets all the fangirl fan art). There's also some added moments with Kristen Wiig (Who sounds like she's having a blast) and Justin Rupple (Replacing T.J. Miller since he went crazy). Also credit to bringing back Gerard Butler (Even if it is only in a couple short, but emotional flashbacks), who is excellent in these quick scenes, and shows off the big heart this series has been known for. Then of course, the scene stealers are the dragons themselves, especially Toothless. They are all full of personality and each have a unique look, while Toothless remains possibly one of the most adorable creatures ever created for film.

 The DreamWorks Animation equivalent to Pixar's "Toy Story" trilogy, "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" is laugh out loud when it calls for it, and quietly sweet and subtle when necessary. It ends on a high note, with the final ten minutes being as perfect as it could possibly be. The overall theme of loss (Not just in life and death, but also in what is forced to give up for one to grow) comes at a good time for those who have been following the series since the beginning, having matured along with it. Who would of thought a movie series called "How to Train Your Dragon" would not only last this long, but have this amount of depth? And who would have thought that a film review site....4 stars. Rated PG For Scary Situations And Mating Dances.