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Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Reviews for Current Films: 

In Theaters: The Trial of the Chicago 7, The War With Grandpa, Ava, Enola Holmes, Antebellum, The Broken Hearts Gallery, Mulan, Tenet, Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Personal History of David Copperfield, The New Mutants, Unhinged, The Tax Collector, Project Power, An American Pickle

Coming Soon: Something.....Eventually.....

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 Trial of the Chicago 7                            by James Eagan                  ★★★★ out of ★★★★

Image: I think I missed this one in the history books.

If there was a movie this year that I really wish I had been able to see in a packed auditorium, with an amped up audience, which I know damn well would have erupted in a grand applause once we reach the film's closing, very inspiring moment of poignancy. Sure, it could be somewhat cheesy, but it's what the audience wants during these troubled times. To see humanity triumph over injustice, political negligence, and those who would abuse what power they hold, I can't think of anything more necessary throughout 2020. Maybe it's all the discourse, the neverending pandemic, the lack of enjoyment to be had in the world, or the upcoming election, which is either going to end with something mostly generic, though much needingly safe, or something, well, absolutely mindbogglingly insane. Whatever it is, the sentimentality works. I really missed this feeling. 

Based on the true story "The Trial of the Chicago 7", the film follows the "Chicago Seven", made up of "Abbie Hoffman" (Sacha Baron Cohen), "Tom Hayden" (Eddie Redmayne), "Jerry Rubin" (Jeremy Strong), "David Dellinger" (John Carroll Lynch), "Rennie Davis" (Alex Sharp), "John Froines" (Daniel Flaherty), and "Lee Weiner" (Noah Robbins), as they stand trial (Which is basically just a glorified intimidation tactic) for presumed conspiracy and for initiating a riot, based around anti-Vietnam War sentiment, in Chicago, Illinois, which culminated in an incident at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Represented by their lawyers, "William Kunstler" (Mark Rylance) and "Leonard Weinglass" (Ben Shenkman), the seven are also, quite confusingly, joined by the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, "Barry Seale" (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is also on trial for a murder charge, though doesn't have a lawyer to represent him and really has nothing to do with anything actually going on. (He's essentially there because of good ol fashioned racism. Luckily, that kind of racial unfairness just up and went away one day. So some say.) With a crotchety old loon, "Julius Hoffman" (Frank Langella), residing as Judge, and with tough prosecutors, "Richard Schultz" (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and "Tom Foran" (J. C. MacKenzie), the Chicago Seven find themselves in a tough situation, with the chances of walking free seeming unlikely. 

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (Who wrote the screenplays for "Charlie Wilson's War", "The Social Network", "Moneyball", and "Steve Jobs", while also directing "Molly's Game"), "The Trial of the Chicago 7" is another Oscar contender (Though us having an upcoming Oscars ceremony seems very unlikely at the moment) from Netflix, which has come out at the right time when many of us needed something just like this. A film that's armed with words in both a metaphorical and literal sense, the film is carefully and professionally handled by Sorkin's direction and only enhanced by his unparalleled writing (The man's eyes for dialogue is legendary). Even when things get more politically complicated than what the average filmgoer may be used to, you're sucked in pretty quickly by the smart back and forth, which can range from occasionally humorous, intellectually profound, or just plain fascinating to listen to. His direction is also very tightly packed, with the over two hour runtime feeling well earned and never dull. Also give credit to both the cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael ("Nebraska", "Ford V Ferrari") and editor, Alan Baumgarten ("American Hustle", "Molly's Game"), also add to the film's somewhat speedy, yet intuitive, experience. 

The amazing ensemble cast, who all deliver their mile a minute dialogue with scenery chewing glee, is made up of important moments all over whether or not they're a major character or not. Essentially our main characters would be Eddie Redmayne (Doing a startling American accent), a spectacular Sacha Baron Cohen (If there ends up being an Oscar ceremony next year, I can see a possible nomination), and the always very welcome Mark Rylance, who carry most of the film, though don't divert too much attention from others who give standout performances. The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Who it's nice to see in more movies lately), an enjoyably loathsome Frank Langella, a brief (But still fantastic) appearance from Michael Keaton (as "Ramsey Clark", the former attorney general, who becomes an important part of the trial), Alex Sharp, an unrecognizable Jeremy Strong, Ben Shenkman, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (as "Fred Hampton", who joins Bobby Seale in court, and later meets an unnecessary fate at the hands of those who are meant to protect and serve), and an outstanding Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. There are some other semi-recognizable faces (Or new ones), who certainly make the most of their short appearances. Something I really love about the movie is how everyone feels very much alive and human, which plays into a central theme of the film and how we can't forget the lives lost while we waste our time on unimportant crap (Cultural bigotry, silencing unique and controversial voices, attempting to save face by toying with people's lives, downplaying the threat of a widespread virus, etc.). People were dying in a war over the course of the events of this movie, and yet, too many people in power didn't really seem to care as much as they said they did. 

While the moment in time of the movie's setting may have passed, the topical themes of "The Trial of the Chicago 7" are more than just significant, it's straight up the same exact thing we've seen countless times since. It's one thing to say it's relevant to today's times, but it's also something that will always be poignant, especially when people continuously refuse to learn from past mistakes. People will utulize their legal right to protest for what they believe in. Those who have historically been wronged in the past will continue to face further discourse that some would rather just pretend went away a long ago. We will continue to have these repeated conversations for years to come, and trust me, no election is going to fix that. (It might make it a little better....or worse. But we'll have to wait and see.) Regardless of how much of it we as a species end up taking it to heart, there is something quite timeless about the film. Helped by Sorkin's compelling direction, a terrific screenplay balancing comical satire with relevance, unforgettable performances, and images of cultural significance that might even get someone who hasn't thought enough about to at least reconsider some past decisions. I've become more cynical as of late than ever, and yet, a true, unapologetic, maybe a little corny, but much necessary crowdpleaser like this gives me at least the impression that hope and the goodness of humanity will win out in the end. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language, Grouchy Old White Dudes, Hippie Horseplay, And Levels Of Bigotry, Which Until First Acknowledged, Will Only Continue To Exist.   

The War with Grandpa                                   by James Eagan                        ★ ½ out of ★★★★

Image: "I pray Grandpa De Niro doesn't read the reviews."

We had a good run didn't we? At least we got to see those new trailers for "Wonder Woman 1984", "The Batman", "Dune", and anything else that we now are going to have to wait even longer to see. Theaters (At least the ones that are still open) won't be showing much of anything anytime soon, so one must take the time to make the possible last theater viewing experience (For the time being anyway) memorable. I paid $8 to see Robert De Niro expose his junk. 

"The War with Grandpa" follows young, "Peter" (Oakes Fegley), who is distraught to learn that his parents, "Sally" (Uma Thurman) and "Arthur" (Rob Riggle), are allowing for his generationally inept grandpa, "Ed" (Robert De Niro), is moving in with them and taking Peter's room. This means that Peter will have to stay in the attic with the bats (Uh....Were there no other solutions to this dilemma?). So Peter gets the idea from his friends, despite Ed not really doing anything to provoke the situation, declares war on his grandpa (A prank war that is). At first Ed wants nothing to do with it, but when the pranks starts to escalate, Ed starts fighting back. With Ed now backed up by his buddies, "Jerry" (Christopher Walken) and "Danny" (Cheech Marin), the prank war can only get more and more out of hand, and if you ask me, kind of deadly if this were in any way realistic.  

A movie that was filmed about three years ago (Or so it claims. It's a little hard to tell if it wasn't more), "The War with Grandpa" isn't quite as horrendously stupid as you would expect it to be. It's just really perplexing. The entire sitcom-esque plot doesn't remotely make sense, feeling like it wants to be a live-action cartoon, and yet, has no intention of committing to that idea. The direction by Tim Hill ("Alvin and the Chipmunks", "Hop") feels cheap and looks like it would look more at home as an ABC TV show that would get cancelled after four episodes (Which is about the length of this movie). The major conflict has no reason to escalate, with Peter coming across as needlessly sadistic and Ed being a complete moron. Most of their pranks seem more cruel and damn near deadly than funny, and what's even worse that the parents apparently couldn't think of a better solution. (There are literally bats and rats in the attic! Why would you put your tween son in there? Was there really no alternative?) Maybe I wouldn't care so much about the lack of logistics  in what's meant to be a dumb kids comedy if the comedy was actually funny. As usual, when the humor fails, everything else comes crashing down with it.  

Oakes Fegley is someone that I know to be a really good young actor, he's just held back by lazy writing, playing a thoroughly unlikable little brat. Robert De Niro is stuck perpetuating old people stereotypes (Look! He doesn't know how to use a touch screen! And self-checkouts confuse him! Funny!), and while he keeps his dignity in tact, aside from a running joke involving him exposing himself, seeing legendary actors regularly appear in piles of crap always leave a bad taste in your mouth. Uma Thurman (Looking really cute) and Rob Riggle play incredibly incapable parents, while Poppy Gagnon (as "Jennifer", Peter's Christmas obsessed little sister) does get a few moments of amusement. There's a subplot involving Laura Marano (as "Mia", Peter's older sister, who just wants to spend time with her boyfriend, despite her mother's militant stance on "No Boys") that only results in more uneeded chaotic behavior. Other familiar faces include Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour (as "Diane", Ed's love interest, which the movie tacks on at the last second), and Christopher Walken, who thankfully gets the only funny moments in the entire movie (I've said this before, and I'll say it again, we need to protect Christopher Walken from COVID at any cost). 

While not as painfully unfunny as it could have been, "The War with Grandpa" is just plain lame and really generic, where the only real credit I can give the film is that it avoids making any jokes about old men sexual potency (Actually kind of surprised by that one). Still though, there are a lot of moments here where I don't think the film's humor is completely age appropriate. Made worse by how immature they are at the same time. With a reliance on predictable running gags, a false sense of sentimentality, and the fact that it's yet another film with no place being on the big screen, it being possibly the last movie I will be seeing in a theater at the moment, feels like a dark metaphor and a bad omen for the future. We still got two months in 2020 left, and it ain't getting any better. Call it a year already. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Out Of Place Adult Jokes And Multiple Accounts Of Attempted Murder. (It's Really Close!).    

Ava                                                    by James Eagan                                           ★ ½ out of ★★★★

Image: It's the Jessica Chastain "Hot Assassin" movie. Which is better than the Jennifer Garner "Hot Assassin" movie. But not as good as the Charlize Theron "Hot Assassin" movie. And slightly worse than the Jennifer Lawrence, or Zoe Saldana, or Kate Beckinsdale "Hot Assassin" movie.......

When I used to think of Video on Demand, I mostly thought of it as overpriced straight to DVD. The pandemic kind of changed that around somewhat, with some big screen films having nowhere else to go. I also noticed that maybe there can be more to it if you really try hard enough. Some movies just get bad luck. Then there's this!   

Another entry into the "Really Hot Female Assassin" genre", "Ava" follows a really hot female assassin, "Ava Faulkner" (Jessica Chastain), working under fatherly mentor, "Duke" (John Malkovich). A former addict, Ava is instructed to carry out her missions, eliminate her target, and for the love of God, don't talk to any of them. However, she can't seem to help herself, being curious about why they're scheduled to be killed in the first place. After a botched mission, Ava suspects that someone intentionally gave her bad information, though Duke assures her that it isn't possible, telling her to take some time off. Ava then returns home, reuniting with her sick mother, "Bobbi" (Geena Davis) and estranged sister, "Judy" (Jess Weixler), despite being away for some time due to some familial troubles. Meanwhile, Duke talks to his superior, "Simon" (Colin Farrell), knowing that there is most likely something else going on than a simple information flub, with a target being placed on Ava's back. While trying to make amends with her loved ones, Ava also has to confront other assassins trying to kill her, along with her own personal addictions, and the film's crumbling under its own aimlessness.     

Directed by Tate Taylor ("The Help", "Get On Up", "The Girl on the Train"), with a screenplay by Matthew Newton (Who was originally meant to direct before stepping down due to countless accusations of assault and domestic violence. Add that layer of uncomfortable to something that's already falling apart as it is.), "Ava" is as unoriginal as they come, and even with all of the recognizable faces and decent production values, the film still feels almost repulsively cheap. One moment it may look like a mainstream, theatrical release, then the next moment it looks like something that would have been shoved immediately within the $5 bin sometime during the early 2000s. I don't know if there were more production troubles than what we already heard about, reshoots, or uncredited rewrites, the movie for the most part, wanders around without direction, poorly trying to shove in as much story as it possibly can to the point much of it doesn't quite add up. It doesn't help that when you really think about it, none of this movie actually needed to happen. If it weren't for the characters constantly being hilariously antagonistic towards each other, there would have been no actual conflict. 

Her indescribable levels of attractiveness aside, Jessica Chastain does make a pretty solid argument for a chance at becoming an action star. She's already a compelling enough actress as it is, and does a fine job during the action scenes. (Even when they're lackluster, you do buy that she can take on all of these guys on her own) The strongest point in the film is her relationship with John Malkovich, who is rather excellent despite the occasionally cringy dialogue. There is a certain sweetness and warmth to their relationship, which I can only assume works because of how they're just great enough actors to elevate crappy material. Others don't fare as well sadly. Colin Farrell, who looks fairly bored, is an obnoxiously stupid villain, whose entire master plan has little rhyme or reason to it. (He's outright pathetic, and I'm not sure the movie quite realizes it) Geena Davis is wasted, Diana Silvers (as "Camile", Simon's daughter) gets stuck with a part that's both predictable and stupid. And I don't know what they did to poor Common (as "Michael", Ava's former love interest), but he's stripped of any and all personality and spends most of the movie with the same dejected, confused expression. 

With a horrible screenplay (Another one that tosses around the word "F*ck" as if its looking for a way to justify an R rating) and an annoying stock techno soundtrack, "Ava" goes from blandly generic to lazily pedestrian in a blink of an eye. You can see the up to date production values from time to time, but in the film's worst moments, bring everything crashing down, especially when it struggles to explain its own story (Which also makes even less sense the more you think about it). No place in a movie theater, and even on Video on Demand, it barely could fit the criteria, the smallest screen possible is easily the only place a film like this could call home. 1  1/2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Violence, And Jessica Chastain Fanservice (Never A Bad Thing, No Matter How Poor The Movie).       

Enola Holmes                                 by James Eagan                            ★★★ ½ out of ★★★★

Image: Sherlock Holmes' sister? Well, I guess "Stranger Things" have happened

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Theaters are showing nothing once more, due to almost every major release getting delayed to either next year or to an unspecified date. It's like 2020 can't let us have anything fun, can it? What would normally be something completely depressing to me, Netflix provided some slight hope that while we won't be seeing any traditional big theatrical releases anytime soon, it's not completely impossible to find that level of filmmaking quality elsewhere. 

Based on the book series by Nancy Springer, "Enola Holmes" follows the titular "Enola Holmes" (Millie Bobbie Brown), the unknown and never talked about younger sister of renowned detective, "Sherlock Holmes" (Henry Cavill), and his less renowned brother, "Mycroft" (Sam Claflin). Unlike her brothers, Enola (Whose named spelled backwards is "Alone"), has been living with her mother, "Eudoria" (Helena Bonham Carter), showing signs of intellectual brilliance like her brother. Trained in defensive arts, along with her traditional teachings, Eudoria is Enola's closest relationship, and is left devastated when Eudoria mysteriously vanishes without a trace. This prompts Sherlock and Mycroft to return home, never having spoken to Enola since their father's death, knowing (Or caring) little about her. While acting as Enola's legal guardian, Mycroft intends to have her enrolled in a finishing school run by the strict, "Miss Harrison" (Fiona Shaw) to be what is considered a proper lady. Enola then decides to run away and sets out to find her missing mother. 

While off on her adventure, Enola meets a young lord, "Viscount Tewkesburry" (Louis Partridge), who is also on the run from his family. However, it turns out that Tewkesburry is being pursued by a homicidal man in a brown bowler hat (Burn Gorman), diverting Enola's attention away from her search for her mother. Now caught in the middle of the situation, it's up to Enola to solve a case involving Twkesburry, whoever is trying to kill him, her own mother's possible involvement, and an important Reform Bill that could change the way of the country, which is something some people don't want to happen. While doing so, Enola begins to discover her purpose in the world, becoming her own woman in the process and proving her worth to not only her brothers, but also herself. 

Directed Harry Bradbeer ("Killing Eve", "Fleadbag"), with this serving as his first full length film, "Enola Holmes" is an idea that could derail so easily in the wrong hands. Even when telling people about it, it can sound somewhat silly or forced, feeling more like someone's weird fan fiction than an actual movie or book series. Luckily the film not only has its own unique voice, it's also got so much charm to spare, that I can't logically see anybody in their right mind not at least smiling once throughout the film. With a smart screenplay by Jack Thorne, the film feels like it could coexist within the classic "Sherlock Holmes" stories that many of us grew up with or at least have had ingrained in our minds over time (He's too iconic a character not to have), which has a quirky sense of humor to go along with the clear sense of dark subtexts and a sense of relevance that's intentionally never fully explained, though it's easy to figure out what it's meant to symbolize. 

The one who carries the entire film with her irresistible charisma is Millie Bobbie Brown, who once again goes out of her way to prove to the world how she could possibly be the best young actress out there. It's especially prevalent when her character stops the film to address the audience (An gimmick that would be annoying if it wasn't for how likable the character is), whether it be to explain exposition in a humorous fashion or even have it used to provide a sense of pathos to the character (She spends most of the film by herself, with the audience seemingly being the only person to vent her personal thoughts and feeling to). This is her movie through and through, though luckily, other well cast players have their moments as well. Such as a rather inspired Henry Cavill and a perfectly smarmy Sam Claflin. Millie Bobbie Brown also has some excellent chemistry with fairly newcomer, Louis Partridge in a cute relationship that doesn't feel forced. There are good small parts for recognizable faces, such as a snooty Fiona Shaw, Susie Wokoma (as "Edith", a martial arts trainer to Enola, who gets one of the film's most memorable and socially poignant moments), Adeel Akhtar (as "Inspector Lestrade", Sherlock's ally and biggest fan), a creepy Burn Gorman (Who brings a shocking level of violence and danger to what appears to be a family movie), and Frances de la Tour (as Tewkesburry's wealthy grandmother). Helena Bonham Carter only appears sparingly, but leaves quite an impact, making for some of the film's sweetest moments. 

"Enoa Holmes" utulizes its wonderful lead, aesthetically pleasing direction, and a keen eye for the time period to make up for what's a fairly standard and pretty simple mystery, that does the job enough, though really isn't too shocking when you think about it (I pieced it together just moments before the big reveal). Then again, that's not the main point of the film. Empowering to girls of any age, retaining a timeless feel, and gives us some of that old school sleuthing that's been missing from modern movies. It also feels like something that wouldn't have been out of place serving as a last minute summer blockbuster. Big screen fun is alive and well, and for the time being, it's not impossible to get that level of enjoyment at home. 3 1/2  Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And For Moments Of Surprise Violence. 

Antebellum                                          By James Eagan                                     ★★ out of ★★★★

Image: At least she's not forced to wear a mask. Yep, that's just as bad. 

When a film shows a lot of promise, has clear greatness within itself, but seemingly either doesn't quite have the capabilities to follow or even worse, intentionally chooses not to in favor of going for what's easy, makes for an emotionally exhausting experience. However, it ends up being for the exact opposite reasons than intended. 

So to get the point across, but to also be as vague as possible, "Antebellum" follows two stories, set in different moments in time. First, we follow a African American slave, "Eden" (Janelle Monáe), as she's trapped on a especially brutal and inhuman plantation in the Antebellum South. Eden is looked to for guidance by the other slaves for reasons yet to be known, with everyone looking for a path to freedom, despite the impossible odds. Cut to the present day, we then follow an accomplish African American journalist, "Veronica Henley" (Also played by Janelle Monáe), attempting to change the still unfair racial divide, while raising her daughter, "Kennedi" (London Boyce), with her loving husband, "Nick" (Marque Richardson). While out with her friends, "Dawn" (Gabourey Sidibe) and "Sarah" (Lily Cowles), Veronica starts to notice something off about the random people she's coming across and dealing with, before having her own nightmarish experience. 

Written and directed by first timers, Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, "Antebellum" is the kind of movie that shows us moments of captivating brilliance and originality, and yet, completely collapses on itself in a fiery explosion once everything is said and done. It's quite tragic because the concept the film appears based on is something to be admired. Turning the real life unjust horrors of slavery into a literal horror movie is not only fitting, but creates a realistic sense of terror that people in the past experienced, with the side effects still being felt today regardless of how many people attempt to ignore it. Sadly, it's a little difficult to figure out what the Hell the movie really wants, with the first act being completely different in tone from the second act. I get that the setting change is meant to be more than just simple symbolism. However, the meshing of the two time periods don't remotely compliment each other like they should, especially when the first act is much stronger. That's not to say it's great (The movie isn't exactly original when it comes to the typical tropes you'd see in a story based around slavery), but there is a sense of suspense and dread, and not to mention, harsh honesty when displaying the evil that humans are capable of. The next act of the film just sort of meanders around, messing with the paces, and resulting in a lot of moments that really don't make any sense. (What was the point of the little ghost looking girl?)

While the movie eventually fails itself, the most consistent aspect out of everything is Janelle Monáe, who is magnificent in every possible way. The tones might not successfully, but she remains a force to be reckoned with regardless. Compelling, lovely, and graceful, Janelle Monáe proves once again, to those who are yet to realize it, that she's an incredible actress just waiting for the perfect role. Eric Lange (Simply credited as "Him", the man in the plantation whose claimed Eden as his own) and Jack Huston (as "Captain Jasper", a sadistic slaver), make for truly despicable monsters in human flesh, while Jena Malone (Whose appearance alone kind of spoils the big reveal), doesn't get near enough screentime to resonate as the big bad. Kiersey Clemons (as "Julia", a fellow slave with Eden) is underutilized and Gabourey Sidibe makes for unnecessary comic relief, while Tongayi Chirisa (as "Eli", another slave who works with Eden to escape) conveys a lot of emotion with simple expressions. 

While it's gorgeously and hauntingly filmed (If the movie was better I would have recommended an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography), "Antebellum" most falters in the final act, which culminates in a really obvious twist you can see coming a mile away, and just throws in everything it can to reach an ending that feels cobbled together. All of this doesn't remotely gel in a movie that's barely an hour and forty minutes (And that's with the credits), and when something that could have been both inspired and culturally significant decides to take the easy way out, it takes a lot out of you.  One should have been left disturbed and contemplative. Not just left with a headache brought on by torturous fatigue. It's not the worst movie of 2020, but it's easily the most disappointing. 2 Stars Rated R For Excessive Human Suffering And Evil Southerners.  

The Broken Hearts Gallery                     By James Eagan                        ★★★ out of ★★★★

Image: Even Antifa protesters need to relax and unwind.

So much as been so crazy the past few weeks, I haven't taken the time to acknowledge the fact that my site got a complete revamp. It was also against my will, too. Didn't have any say in it, and my web provider told me to upgrade since nothing was working at all for almost a week. Now we're much shinier, and while it will take some getting used to, we can look forward to another ten years of this, though hopefully I finally start getting paid to do this by then. I think I'm ready for the big time. The show. The big leagues.

"The Broken Hearts Gallery" follows aspiring art gallery assistant "Lucy" (Geraldine Viswanathan), who is known for not taking her breakups very well, keeping a collection of mostly useless items from previous relationships for somewhat obsessive sentimental value. Lucy ends up being dumped by her boyfriend, "Max" (Utkarsh Ambudkar). After forcing a stranger that she mistook for her Uber driver, "Nick" (Dacre Montgomery), to drive her home, Lucy finds herself a new friend. Lucy, with help from Nick, who owns an under construction hotel, creates an open gallery of the items from her old relationships, calling it "The Broken Hearts Gallery", encouraging others to bring stuff from failed relationships to be a part of it. The idea becomes quickly popular, with Lucy and Nick working together to get the gallery off the ground, while of course, in true Rom-Com fashion, grow closer along the way.  

Directed by first timer, Natalie Krinsky (Who also wrote the screenplay), "The Broken Hearts Gallery" isn't the kind of movie that you see warranting a major release theatrically at this moment, though on the bright side despite the film's need for genre obligations, there are moments of something fairly special here. The film is unexpectedly well written, with smart humor and even some deeper, insightful things to say as well. It's also directed in a fairly speedy, quirky fashion, which gives the film its own personality to differentiate itself from others like it. The charm of the movie overcomes rather predictable and generic plot elements that the genre can't seem to get away from no matter how good the movie is or how unique it tries to be. If done right, it can be fine and make for a solid crowdpleaser, but regardless, it leaves slight (Very slight) sense of disappointment when you can tell that there was something even greater in there. 

Geraldine Viswanathan ("Blockers"), shows off her comedic range, proving to be an instant star. She and Dacre Montgomery (Who always plays a completely different character in everything I've seen him in), have some wonderful chemistry, with a great mix of both humor and sentimental. The movie makes time for some memorable side characters, such as Arturo Castro (as "Marcus", Nick's quippy friend), along with the funniest material coming from Molly Gordon and Phillipa Soo (as "Amanda" and "Nadine",  Lucy's roommates and best friends, who take bets on Lucy's relationships) . There's also an hilarious running joke involving Nathan Dales (as "Jeff", Amanda's longtime boyfriend who never seems to speak, and yet, somehow participates in many conversations). Utkarsh Ambudkar gets a little more depth than your typical antagonist (By the end, he really isn't one), and Bernadette Peters (as "Eva Woolf", Lucy's boss and idol) just shows up to say weird things. 

"The Broken Hearts Gallery" goes through the Rom-Com playbook, complete with a last act twist to force a little conflict. It's unnecessary, but what you expect. Luckily, the humor is consistent, the characters are endearing, and the sweet message rings true, especially for those who might need a bit of a pick me up for these troubled times. It's just that there was potential to be something grander. The movie has something to say, whether it be about what relationships can mean to people, how we interpret them, and how they will continue to affect us after they've ended, sometimes without us even knowing it at first. Then again, the filmmakers know to give the audience what they want. Can't fault anyone for that. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Language, And Questionable Artistic Interpretation.   

Mulan                                            By James Eagan                                         ★★★ out of ★★★★

Image: "Call it Kung Flu one more time, I dare you!"

Disney has really struck a nerve this time, haven't they? And to a degree, it's hard not to see why. Remaking yet another very recent (And very beloved) animated classic, this time being 1998's "Mulan". However, unlike some of the more recent live-action remakes ("Aladdin", "The Lion King", etc.), this one had the intention of not just making the same movie, but to tell a more mature, completely different story. Sadly, there has been some controversy, such as more than problematic comments made about the recent Hong Kong protests from the main star, even more problematic filming locations, and of course, the fact that instead of a theatrical release, the film is being distributed through "Disney+" for $30 before being made free at the end of the year (Granted, think of the alternative? It's safer than going to a theater and if you have a family, it's essentially the same price). Those aside, I've noticed that the movie is being declared to be the worst remake yet, the worst movie to come out of Disney in years (Um, did we forget "Artemis Fowl" already?), and to be one of the worst things to come out of this year. To add more fuel to the fire......I don't see what the big deal is. In fact, I thought it was, well, pretty solid actually. Aaaand you just clicked off my site, didn't you? 

More of a uniting of various versions of the Chinese legend ("The Ballad of Mulan") this new "Mulan", follows the titular "Hua Mulan" (Yifei Liu), a courageous young woman in rural China, who shows signs of adventurous and heroic potential (Also due to how uniquely powerful her Chi appears to be). However, the times do not allow for such things, as a woman is mostly just there to be made a wife, while the men partake in battle. The "Emperor of China" (Jet Li), is alerted that Rouran warriors, led by the vengeful "Bori Khan" (Jason Scott Lee) and his shapeshifting witch ally, "Xian Lang" (Gong Li), have declared war on China, causing the Emperor to make a decree for one man from each family to participate in the coming war. However, while Mulan's father, "Hua Zhou" (Tzi Ma), wishes to fight (Due to not having any sons), Mulan knows he's too frail to do so. 

Fearing for her father's safety, Mulan takes it upon herself, stealing her father's armor and sword before leaving to join the Imperial army disguised as a man, named "Hua Jun", with the family's guardian (A mystical Phoenix that only she can apparently see) to watch over her. Immediately, Mulan finds herself out of place, training under "Commander Tung" (Donnie Yen) to get down to business and make a man out of her, while knowing that the consequences will mean execution if she is discovered. With Khan's army nearing closer and closer, Mulan must prove her worth to not only her fellow soldiers, but also herself, becoming one of China's greatest legends in the process. 

Directed by Niki Caro ("The Zookeeper's Wife", "McFarland, USA"), "Mulan" is an adaptation of the original animated film in name only, with aside from the occasional similar story beat, along some dialogue and music references, it's very committed to being its own fantasy, war drama. There are no songs, very little comedy, and most noticeably, no "Mushu" (The Phoenix kind of fills in his role, which even then is very limited). Judging the film on its own merits, I found a lot to like about it, though there are a few rather glaring flaws. On the positive side, Caro's direction is gorgeously shot, with incredible cinematography, beautifully crafted fight sequences, and a stunning amount of attention to the littlest of details. The stylistic editing choices, while at times a bit offputting, do lead to a handful of well choreographed moments. (On a side note, the whole Chi aspect, which basically turns people into Jedi, is questionable from a cultural perspective, but still cool to watch) I do also appreciate how much the movie commits to the more mature rating, with the body count being actually onscreen this time, with characters being stabbed left and right. (Seeing a character literally die in front of us is kind of unique for a straightforward Disney movie) The movie is a visual feast for sure, and yet, while it can't reach the heights of the original (Which is one of the top five best Disney movies), there is still an empowering, thoughtful story of courage and heroism against injustice from both evil and even those around you. 

Looking past the admittedly questionable to say the least comments (For a company known for silencing people or keeping a ludicrous amount of restraint on what actors say, surprised they let that one slip by), Yifei Liu is still quite a capable and engrossing lead, who pulls off the character's much cherished arc with grace, beauty, and determination. Donnie Yen is his usual electric self, while Tzi Ma is rather wonderful in a slightly more expanded role. Jason Scott Lee is intimidating, though doesn't have the terror the original villain had, while Gong Li makes for a worthy change in the story, becoming the most fascinating of the two villains having a few well done scenes with Liu. Jimmy Wong, Chen Tang, and Doua Mousa (as "Ling", "Yao", and "Chien-Po", fellow soldiers in the army) provide some humor, while Yoson An (as "Chen Honghui", a solider who Mulan forms a connection with), does a fine enough job, but I'm not sure how much I buy the romantic aspect of the relationship. (To be honest, Yifei Liu has more chemistry with Gong Li than him. Take that any way you wish to internet!) Also, just the presence of Jet Li alone is too awesome to not enjoy. (He, while completely stone faced, catches an arrow with his hand. So silly, yet so freakin badass!) There's also a cameo towards the end that I'll admit, kind of got to me in an emotional way.  

To be honest, I was a bit confused to the outrage surrounding "Mulan", considering our biggest complaints with these remakes have been how unoriginal and almost shot for shot similar they've been to the originals, without adding much to better liven up the experience. Overall, they've been fine, though mostly pointless. This one on the other hand, barely resembles the original. In a way, maybe that's the problem. The original didn't need improvement, and while the film is vastly different, it still lacks a certain charm that the original had. This remake is pleasing to the eye, makes for one of the better ones, and is plenty likable, but in the end, really isn't all that memorable (However, with the pandemic STILL going on, your family could do so much worse). It boasts plenty of great qualities and inspiration (And certainly doesn't deserve the hate), though doesn't really stand out from Disney's best, animated or not. I get the idea that for these to work better, we need to remake something that actually could use a possible revamp (It's why "Cinderella", "The Jungle Book", and "Pete's Dragon" all worked so well). Even though they seemingly have the right idea to no longer just do the same thing, to make these remakes work, since there's likely going to be many more of them, they should instead focus on something that actually needs it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For War Violence, Impalements, And Mulan's Nude Silhouette. Kind Of Surprised Disney Left That In There. 

Tenet                                       By James Eagan                                     ★★★ ½ out of ★★★★

Image: "But Christopher Nolan....I STILL don't understand ANY of this!".

Cinema is officially back, people! Our filmmaking lord and savior, Christopher Nolan (“Inception”, “Dunkirk”, The “Dark Knight” Trilogy), has returned with the first big movie in months, and one meant to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Now sure, we may still be doomed to endure this never ending pandemic, our leaders don’t seem to have a good idea how to stop it (Remember when it was apparently a hoax? So much has happened I feel like people forgot about that!), and if this movie doesn’t turn a profit, we most likely will have to go back to the way things were up until a couple weeks ago. However, so long as you wear your mask (It’s seriously not that hard), keep your distance, and maybe we can finally get back to the joy that only the cinema can truly bring us.   

“Tenet” follows an unnamed CIA agent, simply known only as “The Protagonist” (John David Washington), because he's, well, the Protagonist. Our protagonist ends up captured while on a mission and after being tortured, takes a cyanide pill. He awakens and is greeted by his handler, “Victor” (Martin Donovan), revealing that the pill was fake and was part of a test , which our protagonist passes. He’s then brought into a secret organization, only being given the word “Tenet”, before joining. Now here’s where things start to get a little freaky. After getting an explanation from a scientist, “Laura” (Clémence Poésy), the protagonist learns about “Inversion” (It’s like time travel, but it looks and sounds much cooler), which allows objects or even people to move backwards through time. 

Partnered up with “Neil” (Robert Pattinson), the protagonist tracks down a Mumbai arms dealer, “Priya” (Dimple Kapadia), the one has been supplying inverted bullets to a completely unhinged Russian oligarch, “Andrei Sator” (Kenneth Branagh). Sator, who has been communicating with the future (Just go with it), and plans to use inverted weapons to cause what could be an apocalyptic event and it’s up to our protagonist to stop him. Finding a way to Sator by going through Sator’s estranged and abused wife, “Kat” (Elizabeth Debicki), the protagonist is in a literal race against time itself to locate a mysterious inverted weapon from the future and save the world. And then things get even freakier, but I’ll leave the rest for you to figure out on your own.     

Both written and directed by Christopher Nolan, “Tenet”, is the kind of big budget blockbuster deserving of the big screen treatment, and one that can only come from Nolan's very distinctive, and dangerously labyrinthine mind. It's also a damn good example of the kind of cinematic enthrallment that we've all been craving all summer. Christopher Nolan is the kind of director that you can't really tell if he's some kind of mad genius or not. Regardless if how much sense everything actually makes, it's all explained intellectually and intricately to the point where you find yourself kind of getting it. Maybe you don't fully get it all the time, or even quite comprehend the entire situation as a whole. (I totally get it if you leave confused by everything you witnessed) However, you can't deny that not only does it sound really, really smart, it's also thoroughly entertaining on both a cerebral and popcorn munching level.  

Nolan's eye for mesmerizing cinematography (Done by Oscar nominated cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema with glorious 70mm and IMAX film) is something that not even his biggest critics can seem to find issue with. The way his films leap off of the screen, with gripping action scenes, edited together in seamlessly sporadic and elaborate fashion. I'm also baffled by how the filmmakers were able to accomplish certain feats with as little reliance on modern computer generated special effects as possible. I can't tell anyone in good conscience to risk their health to see any movie in a theater right now, though this is one of the few that kind of needs it, at least on a technical level. It's jaw dropping stuff here, with your mind being almost unable to comprehend what you just saw. (Some of the editing choices come across as a little strange, but I think it adds to the deliberately delirious atmosphere) While Nolan's usual composing collaborator isn't here, Ludwig Göransson ("Creed", "Black Panther") takes over to create a nail biting, tension building score that blares from the speakers and shakes the entire theater.  

John David Washington is really starting to come into his own as a leading man, with very James Bond-esque charisma, and is quick to root for simply because of just how well intentioned a guy he is. He works well with Robert Pattinson, who delivers a nice splash of humor to the film, and can't seem to help himself when stealing scenes. Kenneth Branagh is one detestable villain, with no soul to be found, while Elizabeth Debicki is tremendous, with her storyline being treated seriously and respectfully. (It's uncomfortable and even a little brutal, but in the end, amounts to something more empowering and human than you would expect in movie like this) There are great performances from others who appear sporadically, such as a rather menacing Dimple Kapadia, an at first unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as "Ives", a commander specialized in missions involving inversion), and a long cameo from the always welcome Michael Caine (as "Michael Crosby", a British Intelligence officer who assists the Protagonist). For something so complicated, I found it interesting that there is a low-key, deadpan sense of humor to the film, which adds some personality as well as most likely covering holes in the plot exposition that may or may not exactly add up.

"Tenet" will most likely frustrate and alienate some, and even I can't say I'm 100% sure that everything in the movie is basically just a bunch of bullcrap disguised under pseudotechnical talk. Even when you aren't sure you're following though, you're invested in every single word, unable to look away from every meticulously crafted frame, and most of all, left thinking about it more and more after you leave the theater. It's flawed for sure, and yet, it's what we've been waiting for to liven up 2020's movie schedule. Just don't die to see it. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Pulse Pounding Action, Disturbing Themes, And Weird Science. 

Bill & Ted Face the Music                   By James Eagan                         ★★ ½ out of ★★★★

Image: In "John Wick: Chapter 4", John Wick finally settles into his retirement dream. As a wedding singer, with his little buddy, Bill.

What can you say about the "Bill & Ted" movies? They're uniquely and intentionally stupid on an completely original level, and yet, you can’t help but love the absolute Hell out of them. You know damn well that they might be a danger to themselves (And maybe even those around them), but you like hanging around them, especially since they may be the purest, nicest guys to ever grace our cynical, hate-filled world. Where the Hell have they been! 


 "Bill & Ted Face the Music" follows the continuing adventures of those two lovable dimwits, "William S. Preston, Esq." a.ka. "Bill" (Alex Winter) and "Theodore Logan" a.k.a. "Ted" (Keanu Reeves), of the rock band, "Wyld Stallyns". They were meant to unite the world through all of time and space with a prophesied song. However, Bill and Ted have reached middle age, haven't had much success, and are basically the same exact guys they were when they were teenagers. Their marriages to their respective princess wives, "Joanna" (Jayma Mays) and "Elizabeth" (Erinn Hayes), are struggling, and their daughters, "Billie" (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and "Thea" (Samara Weaving) are essentially Bill and Ted if they were girls. "Kelly" (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their old time traveling buddy, "Rufus" (Previously played by the late George Carlin), takes Bill and Ted to the future, where they are instructed to write their world saving song before 7:17 P.M., or else all time and space will completely collapse on itself. Deciding to take the easy way out (And because they are very stupid), Bill and Ted instead travel through time to steal the song from their future selves. Kelly's mother, "The Great Leader" (Holland Taylor), sends a killer robot (Anthony Carrigan), to hunt down Bill and Ted, and destroy them, while Billie and Thea try to help their fathers by bringing the best musicians throughout time to the present. 


Directed by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”, “Red 2”), “Bill & Ted Face the Music” serves as an epic finale to the excellent adventure and bogus journey from the late 80s and early 90s, that’s just as incredibly imbecilic as ever. However, when the screenplay by returning writers, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, obviously seems to know that, in a bizarre way, it feels halfway smart. I’ll give it this, just like the titular characters, it’s anything but unoriginal. It’s also just plain a ton of ridiculous fun. Complete with oddly charmingly cheap looking visuals, an onslaught of memorably weird setpieces, and a plot that’s somehow intricate and well thought out, while also giving the feeling that someone set the film on random. It’s unpredictable and insane, and at times, maybe too senseless for some. 


Luckily, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are as lovable as ever, with really fantastic chemistry (You just know they're friends in real life), and some great reactionary comedic timing. As well put together the movie is, none of it would actually work without them. It would all fall apart. But it's their almost childlike earnestness that firstly, makes the characters endearing rather than annoying, and also makes them feel real. (They're man-children, but they're not offensive or trying to hurt anyone.)  Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine rather perfectly encompass what female versions of the main leads would look like, and surpringly are given lengthy roles, along with Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes. There's a lot of great comedy from Kristen Schaal, Jillian Bell (as Bill, Ted, and their wives' therapist in a hilariously cringy scene), and Anthony Carrigan (Whose character takes an unexpected turn partway through). Of course, the big scene-stealer ends up once again like in the second movie, being the returning William Sadler (as "Death", the Grim Reaper, who was once part of Bill and Ted's band), who is an absolute riot. I also had no idea Kid Cudi (as himself) was actually pretty funny. 

 "Bill & Ted Face the Music" is all kinds of dumb, and lovingly so.  In fact, it's so stupidly sweet that you're just can't resist having a good time. I'd say it's the best in the trilogy, knowing what works in today's times, and embracing it with a big, thoroughly brainless grin. It's righteously weird, teaches us to be adequate to each other, and is also certainly, most excellent. Woah! 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And For Most Ludicrous Adjectives, Dude.         

The Personal History of David Copperfield             By James Eagan                                   ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

The Personal History Of David Copperfield', 'Fatima' Make Their Debuts –  Deadline  

Image: So this guy does magic tricks, right?

 The first time I ever read (Er, mostly read), “David Copperfield”, I was an admittedly stupid freshmen in high school, who both couldn’t follow and just plain couldn’t get into the novel. Chalk it up to my youth, or my inability to appreciate influential literature, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it, and until now haven’t had any interest in doing so. Maybe it just wasn’t for me, or maybe it just took a different interpretation to make me really understand it. Or, maybe it was just a little bit boring? I can’t be the only one who thinks that.

 A re-imagining of the novel by Charles Dickens, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”, tells the story of “David Copperfield” (Played as a child by Jairaj Varsani, then as an adult by Dev Patel). Detailing his life from his birth to the present, we see David as he progresses from child to young man, being introduced to the many, many characters in his life, forming him into the man he will one day become. From his wicked, abusive stepfather, “Mr. Murdstone” (Darren Boy), the creditor avoiding “Mr. Micawber” (Peter Capaldi), his wealthy, though easily agitated aunt, “Betsey Trotwood” (Tilda Swinton) and her eccentric cousin, “Mr. Dick” (Hugh Laurie), David’s longtime friend, “Agnes Wickfield” (Rosalind Eleazar), his more troubling friend, “James Steerforth” (Aneurin Barnard), among others, all playing a part in David’s journey to become an author and a gentleman, whether it be major or otherwise.

 Directed by Armando Iannucci (“Veep”, “The Death of Stalin”), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Blackwell, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” puts a more modernized (And by that, I mean, diverse), self-aware, and quirkier spin on the well known, classic story, and does so with possibly the most charm I’ve seen in a movie this entire year. Considering how relentlessly brutal and unforgiving 2020 has been, a little old fashioned could probably do us some good. The script quite expertly adapts the 600+ page novel, into something a bit brisker,, similar to a fairy tale-like comedy. Normally condensing something so large would make for a more frenetic, underdeveloped, and disjointed experience. However, the freneticism actually makes the story flow better, with the sense of humor keeping things moving, and the spirit of the original novel remaining perfectly intact, but providing something fresh for the new generation (And those who just didn’t, you know, get it, when they were younger).

 A tremendous and award worthy Dev Patel wonderfully carries the film, with so much wit, likability, and delightfully sincerity  with his own flaws. It is a great character for sure, but Patel really conveys that with his genuine smile alone. The altogether terrific ensemble isn’t without notable standouts, such as Tilda Swinton (Who we all know has a talent for scenery-chewing), an endearing Hugh Laurie, a hilariously inept Peter Capaldi, an excellent Aneurin Barnard, and a perfectly slimy Ben Whishaw (as “Uriah Heep”, an antagonist to David, who is basically the human personification of a vulture). Other fantastic players include a very appealing Rosalind Eleazar, Morfydd Clark (as two characters, “Dora Spenlow”, David’s ditzy crush, as well as a brief appearance as David’s mother, “Clara”), Benedict Wong (as “Mr. Wickfield”, Agnes’ always drinking father), Gwendoline Christie (as “Jane Murdstone”, David’s even crueler step-aunt), and Daisy May Cooper (as “Mrs. Peggotty”, David’s very motherly housekeeper). What’s so great about the movie is that while there are loads and loads of characters (Not all of them I mentioned),is that everyone is memorable, and that’s both a credit to the screenplay, the direction, and also, the source material itself.

 While being the first movie in months that I would say deserves a bigger audience (Though the unending pandemic makes that a little difficult), “The Person History of David Copperfield” is one of this year’s best, and in way, most necessary movies. It’s just so pleasant and fun, with a lot of that great British humor (Priding itself on how it catches you off guard), very human drama, and doing what an adaptation of a source material so ingrained in people’s minds should do. Sure it reinvents itself for today’s audience, but it does so while not forgetting what made the story so iconic in the first place. Even a complete moron like me who couldn’t get into it before, understands what it represents to people. It’s a little like last year’s “Little Women” in how sometimes, a good, classic tale is just too good not to translate for future generations to come. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Some Occasional Mature Content, Though Is Still Perfect For a Family Audience.

The New Mutants                                                by James Eagan                                           ★★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★

The New Mutants Review - Variety Image: Teenage Mutant Ninja Humans.

 The ?X-Men? franchise just continues to get a ruthless beating long after death. After suffering a case of a franchise cut short when Disney bought out 20th Century Fox (And also allowing Marvel to get back all of their characters from the studio), the once relevant, acclaimed, and game changing X-Men series ended on the lowest of notes with last year?s ?Dark Phoenix?. Now we have their actual final movie, that was filmed in 2017, got a surprise removal in 2018, sitting on the shelf till the beginning of 2020, with a planned real release earlier this April. Then Sh*t went down.

 Set in the X-Men Universe, ?The New Mutants? takes place in a mysterious, almost completely abandoned hospital, run only by one doctor, ?Dr. Cecilia Reyes? (Alice Braga). A young Native American girl, ?Danielle ?Dani? Moonstar? (Blu Hunt), awakens in the hospital, being the sole survivor after her reservation is destroyed by a tornado, though she suspects that something more monstrous is responsible. Dr. Reyes tells Dani that she is a new mutant and has been brought to the hospital to get treatment among other new mutants. However, Dani doesn?t know what her powers are yet. Dani meets the rest of the Mutant Breakfast Club, including an invulnerable mutant that can physically rocket himself, ?Sam Guthrie? (Charlie Heaton), a friendly wolf girl, ?Rahne Sinclair? (Maisie Williams), a cocky one that refuses to talk about his powers, ?Roberto da Costa? (Henry Zaga), and a Russian mutant sorceress, ?Illyana Rasputin? (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is immediately antagonistic towards Dani. The hospital is surrounded by a powerful force field, with Dr. Reyes always keeping an eye on the teens, monitoring them for unseen superiors with possible nefarious intent. The teens all start to experience terrible nightmares, among other strange occurrences, prompting them to retaliate, fighting to survive their worst fears as they come to life around them.

 Directed and co-written by Josh Boone (?The Fault in Our Stars?) and based on the characters created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod (Who's the film?s end credits hilariously misspell) , ?The New Mutants? has been a source of mockery and disdain due to all the delays and for Disney refusing to allow press screenings with proper social distancing measures in place (Kind of a dick move). I find it unfair and think that a lot of critics have been far too harsh on the movie. It has some cool ideas, and some really good performances, but the final product appears to be missing something. It might come down to the thoroughly unoriginal execution, which makes the film very predictable, with easy to decipher mysteries (I?m sure longtime comic fans were able to deduce what was going on in the first ten minutes). The characters, while likable, feel underdeveloped, along with much of the overcooked story, which does little to explain itself thanks in part to the surprisingly short runtime under an hour and forty minutes.

 Blu Hunt makes for a compelling lead, along with an excellent Maisie Williams, with their relationship (Which takes a romantic turn), being a highlight. This is actually the biggest onscreen LGBTQ representation between main characters in a major movie franchise I can think of. (Not even the ?Marvel Cinematic Universe? has had the balls to commit to this) Anya Taylor-Joy is the scene-stealer, getting the most humorous lines, and being one of the most capable characters. Charlie Heaton, though his story arc feels incomplete, is solid, along with Henry Zaga, who is by far the least interesting of the lead characters (One a side note, the character has a much darker skin color in the comics, sparking a little controversy). Alice Braga ends up being a bit of a nothing character, who feels like her storyline is cut short, turning completely villainous almost completely out of nowhere. The special effects range from aesthetically pleasing (Such as the appearance of mask wearing Slenderman monsters, called the ?Smiley Men), or seemingly unfinished (The monstrous Demon Bear, which is a story aspect that should be more interesting than it actually is).

 There is some occasional suspense, and clever concepts in ?The New Mutants?, and you can tell that there is something unique in there. It makes the film feel more like a disappointment than anything, coming to a rather inconclusive conclusion, that doesn't remotely feel like that?s where it was all originally meant to end. (Don?t stick around. There?s no post credits scene.) It?s not a bad movie at all, and there are so many moments where I can see one having a good time with it. It just doesn't seem to know where its place in the bigger picture is, and could just be seen as a throwaway movie. Fitting, because in the end, Disney did kind of just throw it away. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Mutant Teen Angst. It?s Like Regular Teen Angst, But With More Explosions.

Unhinged                                                                      by James Eagan                                            ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Russell Crowe leads the charge at movie theaters with 'Unhinged'

Image:"It's OK, Russell....Next year will be way better than 2020....Right?"

  I have officially had my first theater experience post-pandemic. The seats were mostly empty and it's still obvious things aren't quite back to normal, with everyone (Customer and employee alike) wearing masks. Is it a good thing that we decided it was a good idea to open things back up despite there still being COVID-19 cases and the threat of a resurgence continues to linger? Well, no. The answer is no. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Still, there was something kind of comforting to me about it. For better or for worse, "Eagan at the Movies" is back. Hold for applause. 

  "Unhinged" follows a struggling mother, "Rachel" (Caren Pistorius), who is going through a messy divorce while raising her teenage son, "Kyle" (Gavriel Bateman). While driving Kyle to school, Rachel gets fired and gets stuck in rush hour traffic. After getting detained by the freakin largest Ford pickup truck to ever be made, owned by a creepy looking weirdo (Russel Crowe), who may or may not be named "Tom" (We never actually find out), Rachel honks her horn at him for refusing to move at a green light. The man follows her and demands an apology. When Rachel refuses, he decides to make her life a living Hell. The man stalks Rachel in his truck throughout the city, before revealing how out of his mind he truly is, targeting her loved ones, killing any innocent bystander that just so happens to be in the way, and leaving a trail of mindless destruction in his wake. When Andy is threatened, Rachel goes full mama bear, determined to bring an end her road rage fueled attacker.  

 Directed by Derrick Borte (Who hasn't done anything I've ever seen or heard of) with a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth ("Red Eye", "Disturbia"), "Unhinged" is basically a slasher thriller, where the psycho murderer uses a car instead of a knife or gun. It's actually surprisingly brutal and even a little suspenseful at times. It's not even poorly directed either, looking better than something you would see being straight to DVD. So why does the film still feel out of place in a theater? I think it might be because once you get past the premise, there's nothing about it that stands out or feels special at all. The movie comes across as generic in its writing, execution, and as it goes on, progressively difficult to believe. The levels of destruction and death can be over the top at times, and the overall threat of the villain becomes diluted once you realize that literally everyone in the whole city is looking for him, and yet, can't seem to find him. He stands out in more ways than one, especially after he brutally kills a guy in a diner on camera. 

 Despite how needlessly over the top it can get on occasion, Russel Crowe is a very intimidating presence. Having gained quite a bit of weight, looking more disheveled than usual, and retaining a surprising amount of physical strength, he can be scary. It also helps that his character is thoroughly unlikable, playing the kind of villain that you immediately should hate (Logically should anyway). I do also like that we don't by the end know too much about him, though there are plenty of hints giving us a clue as to the kind of person he is, with his violent, frequently misogynistic comments, and the belief that he is for some reason owed something from the world. (He also looks like the kind of guy who goes on reddit to complain about Brie Larson) Caren Pistorius, though I'm little confused by the ages given to the character (So? Did she have her son when she was like fourteen?), is also good and actually very realistic going up against a larger, crazier enemy and becoming more capable along the way, while Gabriel Bateman plays the most logical character in the entire movie (He is the first person to question that something is clearly off about the guy, and even contributes to attempting to stop him).    

 "Unhinged" loses steam towards the end, and while the film isn't without suspense and a tight, quick pace, I don't see a rational reason as to why this was the first movie I've seen in a theater in about five months. Is "Unhinged" really the one that we need to risk our own health to see on the big screen? No movie is actually worth that, and that's especially true of something that would be right at home if you were streaming it. It's a great feeling to have the movies back and all (And yet while I'm sure it's exactly the right time to do so), but I suggest you wait until something a bit befitting the grand auditorium comes out to spend your money. 2 Stars. Rated R For Violence And For The Worst Drivers Imaginable. (Maybe We Should All Go Back Into Quarantine And Stay Off The Roads.) 

The Tax Collector                                                  by James Eagan                                              ★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★

The Tax Collector' Review: Street Gangs and Family Values - The ...Image: Shia LaBeouf as Mexican...Or maybe Bulgarian....No No....Lithuanian?

 Movies are back apparently. Theaters are opening back up, with this movie being one of the ones to get more theatrical showings as well as Video on Demand. I have to ask, of all the movies to come out when the country needs the art of cinema, why in God's name is it this? Out of everything that could be playing up on the grand silver screen that has brought us so much joy and entertainment, we pick the most questionable film of 2020? When Shia LaBeouf is the least weird thing in your movie, something is very, very wrong!!!  

 "The Tax Collector" follows "David Cuevas" (Bobby Soto), who works alongside his longtime friend of unknown race and skintone, known only as "Creeper" (Shia LaBeouf), as tax collectors for an imprisoned crime lord, going by the name "Wizard". Despite being a ruthless, murderous, and all around violent scumbag of a human being, David is at least a loving family man to his wife, "Alexis" (Cinthya Carmona) and his two kids. Trouble arises when a rival crime lord with a big ambitions, named "Conejo" (Credited as being played by "Conejo"), shows up and declares himself top dog in the city. Conejo, who is a complete raving lunatic that likes to do ritualistic sacrifices and kill people for fun, wants David and Creeper to join up with him. However, since this is all kinds of insane, they want nothing to do with him. Conejo doesn't like that, and prepares to hunt for blood, with David desperately trying to protect his loved ones from a world that really, everyone involved should of saw coming a mile away.    

 Written and directed by David Ayer ("End of Watch", "Suicide Squad", "Sabotage", "Bright", other Gang related dude movies), "The Tax Collector" is an uncomfortable, twisted experience, whose only real level of enjoyment comes from how batsh*t crazy is. Sadly, when it isn't completely loco man, it's boring and unfocused. For a brisk ninety-five minute movie, the plot doesn't actually happen till a good chunk of a way into the story, which spends nearly the entire first act just by showing us how the main characters are going about their day, threatening people and bantering gang talk. Then when the plot does get going, there's just a lot of sitting around, chatting about stuff, before someone suddenly gets their head cut off or stomped in. For something that seems to think it has a point or purpose (And seems to think it's really clever. I mean, come on. Who didn't figure out who "Wizard" was actually meant to be?), it takes most of the runtime to actually get there, and does so in the most nihilistic and needlessly bleak way possible. Ayer's bombastic direction style feels oddly toned down for the first two thirds, though despite this, the only thing keeping you interested is how perplexing the movie is. 

 Bobby Soto, while he shows some charisma mostly in scenes he's sharing with LaBeouf, is not the most interesting of leads. He's also too despicable a character to root for, which would be fitting if only the movie seemed to realize it. (The screenplay has the bizarre idea that he's sympathetic and heroic in spite of the numerous dead bodies and ruined lives he leaves in his wake). Shia LeBeouf on the other hand, feels like an alien, disguised as a tan white guy, pretending to be a stereotypical Mexican guy, that also happens to be high off of his ass. (David Ayer claims that it's not brownface. Honestly, I believe him....which makes this character even more confusing) Cinthya Carmona is here to play the role of wife (And even she's kind of scummy too), and the appearance of an unrecognizable until he isn't George Lopez (as "Uncle Louis", a high ranking member in Wizard's group) is completely laugh free, thoroughly confusing, and oddly depressing. As for Conejo, he's just so generic as a villain, coming across as unrealistically demonic (Who would follow this guy?).

 When the violence goes down in "The Tax Collector", it's gratuitous  and exploitative, and yet, maybe it's because I've become so desensitized to it (Not saying that's a good thing), but instead of shocking, I just found it kind of funny. It's someone trying way too hard to grab you and shake you to the core. Sadly, the terrible dialogue and over the top execution appear childish. I can't really get into how baffling the film gets (There's this out of nowhere inclusion of "The Bloods" towards the climax that doesn't make any real sense), but at least when the movie gets a little weird, it's halfway fascinating to watch. Not in a good way of course. However, most of the time it's a total slog, and it makes a good argument for most movies (If they're like this) to remain specifically on streaming. It's not worth risking your health for this. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Hardcore Violence, And Pavement Induced Facial Makeovers. 

Project Power                                                       by James Eagan                                        ★★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Project Power': What Time Is It On Netflix & Everything We Know So ...Image: This Hydroxychloroquine works almost as well as disinfectant!

 I'm all for new visions and fresh voices, providing a new perspective on mainstream genres, such as the superhero genre. However, I really think that "Black Widow" and "Wonder Woman 1984" are really what we need right now. You're just....not the same.  

 "Project Power" takes place in New Orleans some time in the near future, with a new, experimental pill, called "Power", becomes a hit on the streets. Power as it turns out has the ability to grant one temporary, unpredictable superpowers, though some people have been known to combust from within as well. A street-smart, aspiring rapper named "Robin" (Dominique Fishback), also works as a dealer of Power, to make money to support his sick mother, "Irene" (Andrene Ward-Hammond), Robin also has a cop friend, "Frank Shaver" (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who on occasion uses power while also looking out for Robin. After the death of her cousin, "Newt" (Colson Baker a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly), who used Power to give himself the ability to light himself on fire, winds up dead after a confrontation with a mystery man, named "Art Reilly" (Jamie Foxx), going under the alias "The Major", Robin finds herself kidnapped by him. Art, who is on a very personal mission to hunt down the ones responsible for creating Power, brings Robin along as he attempts to put a stop to any further distribution of the drug, uncovering a big bad supervillain-esque conspiracy in the process. 

 Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Who both did two of the "Paranormal Activity" movies and 2016's "Nerve"), "Project Power" is yet another small scale, lower budget Netflix distributed superhero movie, and even while the bigger ones continue to be delayed as of now, movies like this really don't give us that special summer blockbuster feeling that we've all been craving. I do like the premise quite a bit and the political subtext is very much appreciated, but in a way, I'm not sure what the movie actually wants to be. Maybe it's the budget constraints keeping the film from going all out with the comic book-like elements, or it could just be obligating to the genre. It all feels out of place when it actually happens (Guys exploding at random or turning into giant CGI monsters), especially since the film keeps itself relatively grounded in reality. The world building is solid enough, and I do find myself liking a lot of the characters (And especially the actors involved). 

 Jamie Foxx is well, Jamie Foxx, kind of playing up the same persona that he's become known for, though at least has a solid rapport with Dominique Fishback. Speaking of her, she is rather phenomenal here. Fishback (Who is listed as being almost thirty), surprisingly still looks the part of a teenager, and is arguably the main character. (She is also one Hell of a rapper) It's also just great to see the typically reliable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has oddly been in little as of late, despite generally everybody liking him as actor. (He also provides some much needed humor) Rodrigo Santoro (as "Biggie", the distributor of Power) can play a charismatic baddie, though Amy Landecker (as "Dr. Gardner", Biggies superior) just sort of fades into the background despite being the actual main antagonist. Also, what is with movies lately doing absolutely nothing with Courtney B. Vance (as "Captain Craine", Frank's boss)?  

 "Project Power" has a nice, very unique sense of style, and when focused (Not to mention, whenever it isn't trying too hard to be like every other superhero movie), there's potential for a good action/crime movie that just so happens to have some Science Fiction elements. It's fairly cool and not without a few well done action scenes (There's a sequence during a drug deal gone wrong, which is shown through a very cleverly placed camera angle). However, when the movie takes things to a discount version of a Marvel movie (In a way, it's just a lesser "Iron Man 3"), it's a bit all over the place and doesn't all come together that well. Just going off of ideas, even good ones, don't necessarily a good movie make, especially when those ideas are constantly clashing. Maybe there;s a pill for that. 2 ½ Stars. Rated R For Occasional Harsh Violence And Explosive Pill Popping.  

An American Pickle                                                by James Eagan                                        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Movie Review: An American Pickle

Image: "And then he turned himself into a pickle! Funniest sh*t I've ever seen!"  

 With "Netflix", "Hulu", "Disney+", "HBO Max", that upcoming "Peacock" thing, (Not "DC Universe" though), it seems that streaming services appear to be benefiting from the lack of movie theaters most during this pandemic. 

 Released through HBO Max, "An American Pickle" opens in the 1920s, where an Ashkenazi Jewish man, "Herschel Greenbaum" (Seth Rogen) and his wife, "Sarah" (Sarah Snook), leaving their home for America, in hopes of finding a better, more fulfilling life. While working at a pickle factory, Herschel falls into a vat of pickles, which proceeds to brine him for a century. Having been perfectly preserved within the brine, Herschel wakes up in the present day Brooklyn. While everyone Herschel knows and loves is long gone by this point, he finds one remaining relative, a great-grandson named "Ben" (Also Seth Rogen", a computer programmer. Herschel goes to live with Ben, realizing how much the world has changed, with much of what he knew having vanished over time, while Ben himself being much further away from his old fashioned values. After an incident at a cemetery where Herschel gets into a fight with workers trying to set up a billboard over the graves of his deceased family (Which also ruins Ben's chances of developing his long delayed ethics app), the two of them go separate ways, with Herschel going off into the city to build himself a pickle empire from the ground up. When Herschel finds surprise success with his pickle business, Ben becomes even more at odds with his great-grandfather than ever before, thus commencing a clash between two completely different generations. 

 Directed by Brandon Trost (Known for collaborating with a few of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's films) and written by Simon Rich ("Miracle Workers"), "An American Pickle" is all kinds of quirky and weird, but also the right kind that provide us with some good laughs that we desperately need right now. As far as plots go, a lot of it feels like it's on shuffle, randomly twisting and turning around to whatever feels funny at the time. Still, the film's oddly whimsical tone, which intentionally contradicts the broad sense of humor, finds that right balance, while also incorporating some relevant insight and a sweet center. It's a well directed movie, giving off the feel of a strange fairy tale in the opening before conflicting with the modernized world. There are a lot of jokes at the expense of the divide, such as how some have probably forgotten their familial beginnings, while also mocking how many, many (And I do mean, many) old fashioned beliefs do not have a place in today's society (Though some will obviously find a way to praise it). There's a part where Ben tricks Herschel, knowing exactly the kind of things he would say, should join "Twitter" and post whatever little idea comes to mind, resulting in all kinds of offensive content that somehow only gets him praise for "speaking his own mind". (An amusing sight gag includes a news article stating that Kanye West is defending his right to offend. Boy, that's certainly relevant right now!) 

  There are sporadic appearances of side characters throughout, though none of them really leave an impact or actually move anything forward. The focus is specifically on Seth Rogen's performance, or should I say, performances, and he's excellent in both roles. As Ben, he retains his usual likability, playing the straight man in the situation perfectly. As Herschel, along with his shockingly authentic sounding accent that never actually wavers, he's a delight, and even when he says and does questionable things, you do sympathize with his current situation. It's suitably strange to watch an actor have terrific onscreen chemistry with himself. 

 While the plot can feel jumbled and at times, made up on the fly, "An American Pickle" benefits from an understated sense of humor (Which is very toned down from Rogen's usual work) and the sweet, sincere intentions behind it. The movie ends up being kind of adorable, finding a heartwarming (And oddly poignant) resolution in spite of all the wackiness. The off-kilter nature of the film may not be for everyone exactly, but if you're searching for something quick, consistently funny, and to be honest, thoroughly original, it's the kind of light-hearted diversion that comes out at the right time. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor And Herschel's Many Threats To Do Violence.   

Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy: Siege            by James Eagan                                    ★★★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy': Plot, Cast, Trailer and ...

Image: "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the Hell else you talkin' to?"

 Since there really isn't much of anything to review this week (And I'm sure as Hell not subjecting myself to "The Kissing Booth 2" if I don't have to), Netflix, along with "Hasbro" (In association with "Rooster Teeth" and "Polygon Pictures"), has given my other geeky obsession something we have long been asking for. 
 The first chapter in the "Transformers: War for Cyberton Trilogy" (And based on the long running, and much loved toyline turned cartoon series/movie franchise abomination), "Siege" details the final days of the war between robots turned vehicles/vehicles turned robots, focusing on the heroic (Though this time, somewhat more flawed) "Autobots", led by "Optimus Prime" (Jake Foushee) and the villainous (Though this time, somewhat more complicated) "Decepticons", led by "Megatron" (Jason Marnocha). The six episode series follows characters on both sides, with the leader of Megatron's "Seekrs", "Jetfire" (Keith Silverstein), having to contend with the always scheming "Starscream" (Frank Todaro), Optimus' close friend, "Ultra Magnus" (Edward Bosco) searching for any means of ending the war, and the angsty neutral Cybertronian, "Bumblebee" (Joe Zieja), who is eventually forced to pick a side and embrace his destiny. The search begins for the mythical "Allspark", while the Autobots attempt to gain control of a "Spacebridge" to leave the planet, and the Decepticons face constant backstabbing in their ranks. When Megatron enacts a plan to force the Autobots into servitude against their will and finally gain complete control over the planet, Optimus must speed up his escape plans if he's to save his kind. 
 While it's short in length and could be a little jarring for some newcomers (Though it's truly amazing how much lore and backstory is packed into just a handful of episodes, along with how surprisingly easy it is to follow), "Siege" is the right amount of fanservice, but has its own identity and place among the many beloved incarnations of the decades spanning franchise. It's also one that's aimed more at the longtime, older fans, feeling much closer to the toyline than ever before. Each detailed character, who are all instantly recognizable and covered in battle worn damage (Such as cracked bodies, scratches, and blaster holes), giving off the sense of how long these characters have been fighting. It really does feel like a war now, with casualties being felt on both sides, and the writing, while simple, does attempt to a little depth and pathos to what we're used to seeing as a standard good vs. evil story. 
 These short episodes give the Transformers more development than any of the five Michael Bay movies combined. The series shows that the Autobots aren't perfect, playing a part in the destruction of Cybertron despite their good intentions, while the Decepticons in theory make some good points, though have progressively gotten more and more violent as the war continued. Some of the voices can be a bit jarring, especially with Jake Foushee as Optimus (Peter Cullen is so iconic after all), who at times doesn't quite convey the deep voiced, inspiring leader that we all remember. I'm also not quite sure how I feel about Todd Haberkorn (as "Shockwave", the one-eyed Decepticon mad scientist). There are others who fare better, like Jason Marnocha making for a menacing Megatron (Despite Megatron's weirdly luscious lips) and Frank Todaro being pitch perfect as Starscream (Always a personal favorite of mine). Some highlights would be Keith Silvertein, Edward Bosco, and Linsay Rosseau (as "Elita-One", a female Cybertronian who finds herself at odds with some of Optimus' choices). I love the inclusion of more female characters, and the idea that neautral parties actually exist during the conflict. 
 "Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy: Siege"gives off a tone closer to the terrific IDW comics, though probably much darker. It's something that might turn off a lot of longtime fans. Due to the darker situations and heavier, somewhat dour atmosphere, the series is not something that will gel with fans looking for something more fun (Like the original series or "Beast Wars"), a mix of light and dark (Like "Transformers: Prime"), or something that just jumps right into the action (Like the film series). It's got some noticeable growing pains (And an abrupt ending), yet I do feel that the potential, especially for something that has always been overlooked by the franchise, is met. The anime inspiration leads to breaktaking imagery and compelling storytelling, as well as great action as expected. I also appreciate how the source material is handled. It's easily the most toy-centric series yet, with the character models being very accurate to the current toyline, and loads of little Easter Eggs for the longtime fans to look for. It's an ambitious project to say the least, and one that can really pay off in the long run if they stick the landing. It's something that any true fan of those shape changing robots needs to give a look to, and while all of the angst won't be what everyone is looking for, you can at least still see why the franchise has lasted for so long, and will continue to evolve (Or transform if you will). 3 ½ Stars. Rated TV-Y7 Despite Some Language And Gruesome Robotic Deaths. (Just Because You Don't Show Blood, Doesn't Make It Any Less Gruesome) 
Relic                                                                                 by James Eagan                                       ★★★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Relic' Trailer: Sundance Horror Hit Puts Twist on Haunted House ...Image: The happy family.

 So, I thought horror movies were supposed to scare me? I didn't know they were also meant to make me incredibly depressed and upset?

 "Relic" follows "Kay" (Emily Mortimer), who returns with her daughter, "Sam" (Bella Heathcote), to their family home after Kay's elderly an solitary mother, "Edna" (Robyn Nevin), has randomly vanished. While the search for Edna begins, Kay and Sam feel a sinister, mold filled presence is inhabiting the house. After Edna returns home as if nothing happened, not remembering much of anything, more strange things start to happen around them. Contemplating what to do with her, the mother and daughter come realize that whatever is going on has to do with Edna, as well as her deteriorating mind. (If you haven't realized by this point, the film is a grim metaphor for dementia)   

 I wouldn't consider "Relic" to really be a horror film in the traditional sense. I would rather consider it to be a slow paced, melancholic drama, that also just so happens to contain horrifying imagery, nightmarish themes, and a constant sense of existential dread. Directed by first timer, Natalie Erika James, the film is gorgeously filmed, taking its time to allow the atmosphere to take shape. Now that may not be everyone's preference for a scary movie (Or to some, any movie at all actually), and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the movie certainly not something I would normally recommend. However, the eerie nature of the film, as well as the more serious, heavy, and admirably realistic approach to the subject matter, the movie hits you where it hurts in a subtle fashion. 

 Emily Mortimer is terrific, playing someone who knows that a loved one is slowly slipping away and the desperation that follows. It's a heartbreaking, underplayed performance that I hope people don't overlook. Bella Heathcote, who I never really ever took the time to notice as an actress, is also very impressive here. Robyn Nevin, in a role that could go wrong so quickly, plays it in a respectful, harshly lifelike manner, that might feel a little too real for some. Anyone who has ever had a family member go through a similar situation will connect, such as the memory loss, the random mood swings, and the feeling that while things seem right in a moment, they can just as easily change seconds later. There is also a theme of how we tend to treat and forget our elderly in their time of need which I think we're all a little guilty of in some way.  

 "Relic" will either leave hardcore horror fans confused and wondering where all the jump scares are at, while others will be left with feeling the need to call their grandparents. With this whole pandemic further separating us from our loved ones, it just might be a good idea anyway. It's a sinister movie in places, frightening in a hushed way, and thoroughly upsetting. It's another one of those movies that you more appreciate the intelligence and attempts at something deeper, rather not straight up enjoy in the customary sense. Then again, new voices and original, smart filmmaking deserves to shine while the blockbusters are all put on hold at the moment. Give it a chance.  Odds are regardless if you connect with it or not, you'll walk away with something to say. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Grotesque Mold, Body Horror, And The Revelation That One Day We Might All Find Ourselves In A Similar Situation. 

First Cow                                                                      by James Eagan                                       ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

First Cow' Movie Review: Kelly Reichardt's Frontier DramaImage: "Milk...I wonder if it really does do a body good."

 The current pandemic is the best thing to "A24". This is the perfect time to give recognition to the much critically acclaimed independent studio, who have given us instant favorites such as "Room", "The Witch", "Green Room", "Moonlight", "20th Century Women", "It Comes at Night", "The Florida Project", "Lady Bird", "The Disaster Artist", "First Reformed", "Hereditary", "Eighth Grade" (I could stop now, yet I feel the need to keep going), "Mid90s", "Midsommar", "The Farewell", "The Lighthouse", "Uncut Gems", and many, many more movies your hipster friend has begged you to watch instead of a "Marvel" movie. (Can't we have both?) Whether or not the movie ends up great, you're going to get something very much unlike anything else to come out of current mainstream cinema.    

 Taking place sometime during the 19th century, "First Cow" follows a quiet, sensitive cook, named "Cookie Figowitz" (John Magaro), who is currently traveling with a group of fur trappers, coming across a Chinese immigrant, "King-Lu" (Orion Lee), with the two quickly becoming friends. Cookie and King-Lu, having settled together in a cabin outside a trappers settlement, they find use for a Jersey Cow (The first cow brought into the territory) that just so happens to belong to a wealthy landowner, "Chief Factor" (Toby Jones), and steal the milk to make some cakes, which become instantly popular with the settlers. Their business flourishes, also attracting the attention of Factor, who hasn't the slightest idea that they're stealing from right under his nose. The plot is basically just a subtle character driven escalation of events. 

 Directed by Kelly Reichardt (Known for smaller budget, personal films), "First Cow" is as A24 as you can possibly get, and if that's what you want, you're sure as Hell going to get it. Based off of the book "The Half Life" (By Jonathan Raymond, who also co-wrote the script), the film is presented with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is an A24 favorite. It's refreshingly old fashioned (Though that can be an occasional detractor), telling the story through visual presentation and with little dialogue. There is something quite engrossing abut simply watching everything unfold before us, though the intentionally slow pace might leave a viewer checking their watch after a while. It's not really a flaw, though it makes the film not necessarily one I would see myself giving repeat viewing. 

  The film ever really gets into what exactly the relationship is between both John Magaro and Orion Lee's characters, with most of it being left to interpretation. However, there is something so gentle and sincere about it, that you find yourself caring for what becomes of them. It's also very fascinating to see two more sensitive male characters, trapped in an overly in your face masculine world. (Lots of penis measuring contests in this movie) Toby Jones is also enjoyably buffoonish, while some familiar faces that I'd rather not spoil, pop up for small parts.   

 "First Cow" is a moving and muted drama, filled with delicate character development, and culminates in a bittersweet climax. You do sort of question if the creative decisions are just as much distractions, and if lesser filmmakers utilized similar tactics (Intentionally or otherwise), it would be seen as well, bad. I can't say it's something to recommend to everyone, though I can't see how anyone interested in the art of film wouldn't be able to appreciate what it's trying to accomplish. While not exactly great art, it's still good art, and it deserves an audience to analyze it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Hardcore Onscreen Milking.  

The Old Guard                                                           by James Eagan                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

The Old Guard review: A superhero movie with a difference ...Image: Charlize Theron decides to finally take out her revenge on Tom Hardy...Look it up.

 With nothing to offer from the major comic book turned film franchise moguls like "Marvel" or "DC Comics", it seems like it's the perfect time for someone less well known to get their moment in the spotlight.  

 Based on the comic of the same name (From "Image Comics") by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, "The Old Guard" follows a group of secretive mercenaries, consisting of "Andy" (Charlize Theron), "Booker" (Matthias Schoenaerts), "Joe" (Marwan Kenzari), and "Nicky" (Luca Marinelli), who all just so happen to be centuries-old immortal beings who can heal themselves after any injury. After being hired by a former CIA operative, "Copley" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the team discovers that they have been set up. Copley, having recorded footage of the team recovering from being riddled with bullets, is actually working for a scumbag businessman, "Merrick" (Harry Melling), who wants to capture them and use their abilities for profit (Mostly by extracting their blood out of them by force). Now on the run, Andy learns of a newly discovered fellow immortal, a soldier named "Nile Freeman" (KiKi Layne), who was recently thought to be dead. Andy and the rest of the team find Nile, and bring her along as they attempt to escape Merrick's forces, hoping to keep their gift of never ending life out of the wrong hands. 

 Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood ("The Secret Life of Bees", "Beyond the Lights") and released through "Netflix", "The Old Guard" has to work a little harder to set itself apart from both the mainstream superhero movies and the lesser, more generic ones attempting to imitate the more successful ones. While the start appears slow, once the film finds its footing and more importantly, discovers its identity, we end up getting a pretty solid, well directed, and often compelling action thriller, that at least tries to take a little time to have a little extra depth. Written by Greg Rucka (His "Wonder Woman" run was one of my introductions to mainstream comics), the film's slow paced prologue is mostly due to the film wanting to avoid a reliance on exposition (Since there is clearly some intricate backstory to the film, a lesser movie would get caught up in it), but thankfully the film eventually finds a way of explaining itself without losing focus. It's also a very fascinating story that even finds a way to shine despite the clear limitations by the film's budget. The filmmakers provide some well choreographed, and well, very violent, action sequences, which unlike a lot of action films seem to do, don't rely on a shaky camera to elevate itself. Everything is so clear and detailed, and most importantly, very unique. The film has a lot of fun with the concept of the main characters taking an excessive amount of damage, and even though the movie addresses that they can't die, the action is still intense and clever enough to make it work. (Though there is a reveal involving how long their immortality lasts, which is a little confusing and could possibly be seen as contrived in a hope for adding more suspense later on)

  Charlize Theron (Also receiving a producing credit), who we have already seen plenty of times before play a total basass without any sort of theatrical manipulation. (See "Atomic Blonde" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" for examples) She makes the character her own, while also having a nice mentoring relationship with KiKi Layne (Wonderful in "If Beale Street Could Talk"), whose talent and range as an actress needs more recognition. Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli all do good work, playing slightly more developed characters than you would expect (It's nothing too deep, but it's just enough to make you give a crap). Meanwhile, Chiwetel Eijofor is almost needlessly terrific as usual (His brings his A game and delivers strong emotionally dramatic moments that a movie like this doesn't even really need, yet feels very welcome nonetheless) and Harry Melling plays the ninny douchebag role rather perfectly. (He's "Dudley Dursley" from the "Harry Potter" movies, so he's easy to hate.)

 "The Old Guard" builds to a thrilling finale, and while I'm not sure about the literally last second set up for a sequel, the film does offer some absorbing concepts and I can see people becoming invested enough to see what else could be done with it. It's nothing all too new considering how many comic book movies Hollywood pops out these days, but it sets itself apart just enough to make things interesting. For something that could of just winged it, it's nice to see a movie go a bit more out of its way to distinguish itself from the usual by the book genre conventions. 3 Stars. Rated R For Strong, Intense Violence, And Video Game-Like Respawning.  

Hamilton            by James Eagan         ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Hamilton part of Broadway in Portland 2020-2021 musical lineup ...

Image: Just like I read in the history books.

 Well if we're being honest, this was probably the closest I was ever going to get to ever seeing "Hamilton" on Broadway, with or without the current pandemic. Also, "Disney+" needs to make up for "Artemis Fowl". 

 A recording of the immensely popular, very revered Broadway musical production, "Hamilton" follows the life and career (All in a musical format) of immigrant turned one of Founding Fathers of America, "Alexander Hamilton" (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Following two acts, we see Hamilton's marriage to his wife, "Eliza Schuyler" (Phillpa Soo), his relationship with his sister, "Angelica" (Renée Elise Goldsberry), working with "George Washington" (Christopher Jackson) during the American Revolution, the at odds relationship with "Thomas Jefferson" (Daveed Diggs), and of course, the fateful duel with longtime frenemy, "Aaron Burr" (Leslie Odom Jr.). 

 It feels weird reviewing a Broadway play as if I were reviewing a movie, but we're still in weird times, and since this Fourth of July came around during the worst year in recent memory (I've done the math. It's the worst year ever!), I can't think of anything else to possibly put me in a more joyful spirit. Also, it's probably one of the best movies I've seen this year, by technicality. I'm being completely serious about that. This version of "Hamilton", which you've either seen and praised to everyone about or have just heard other people constantly praising it, could of been just something of simple enjoyment, but nothing really more. However, it's either because of how well made and tremendously acted it already is, or a credit to the skillful direction by Thomas Kail (Who also brought us the original show), It's definitely the epic experience that's been advertised.   

 The songs, which have become so iconic that they've been engraved into the memories of both those who have or haven't seen the actual play, are presented in a suitably spectacular and showstopping fashion. The don't so much get stuck into your head, but instead plant themselves like a flag onto your brain. From "My Shot", "Helpless", "Satisfied", and many more (Including "You'll Be Back", which gives us the precious gift of a delightfully hammy Jonathan Groff as "King George III", up close and personal as he chews the scenery), there's a reason these songs have become so iconic. Not to mention, the vast variety of musical styles is something I think more musicals need to look into. (Also, if all political debates were rap battles, the world would be a much less depressing place.) It's the intelligent and clever writing, mixed with the inedible music surrounding them, and of course, the diverse, undeniably talented cast.    

 Due to the inclusions of more close up camerawork, you will get to experience a much more in depth look into the performances of the cast members. The cast includes the terrific Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Anthony Ramos (as both "John Laurens", and Hamilton's son, "Phillip"), Okieriete Onaodowan (as both "Hercules Mulligan" and "James Madison"), and Jonathan Groff's handful of hilarious moments. (The entire ensemble really deserves commendation for the commitment to the artistry on display.) For me, the standouts would be Renée Elise Goldsberry and her mesmerizing singing voice, along with Daveed Diggs (Who also plays "Marquis de Lafayette"), who plays Thomas Jefferson the way I from this point on choose to view him as. 

 You can probably pick apart historical inaccuracies (Though I've heard how there is surprising amount of detail and truth to a lot of it) and some possible historical manipulation that may or may not be what's exactly needed at the moment (We still have political and social divide at the moment, or have you forgotten?). While I can see where some people would be coming from, I believe "Hamilton" might be doing more good than harm. I see it more as a representation of what we want America to aspire to be, with people of color in historically white roles (An obvious reference to both how they've been negated to the side in both history and media), topics of social change that will always be relevant, and the overall concept of the perceived "American Dream" (Something that I believe to be more of an idea to always want to adhere to, rather than something one can ever truly achieve). It may not be a true movie in the traditional sense, but with 2020's constant need to punish us, its existence feels most needed. It's still inspiring stuff, and while I may never get to experience it the way it was originally intended, this is still the next best thing. It's a brilliant concept, brought to life by incredibly gifted people, and followed through beautifully. So yeah, I'd consider it one of the best movies to come out of 2020. It at least put me more in a patriotic mood than anything else to happen this year. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Historical Content, And The "Lost Art" Of Dueling.  

My Spy                    by James Eagan             ★★ ½ OUT OF ★★★★ 

Dave Bautista's 'My Spy' Heading to Amazon Prime for Streaming ...Image: "Now pinkie swear you won;t ear me after you finish your ice cream."

 With every movie I've been looking forward to this year ("Black Widow", "Tenet", "Wonder Woman 1984", etc.), at least "Amazon Prime" found the time to finally release a movie that I had been getting advertisements for over a year ago. Thanks guys. 

 After many, many, MANY delays, "My Spy" follows former Special Forces soldier, turned CIA operative, "JJ" (Dave Bautista), who as it turns out really isn't cut out for the job, due to his tendency to attempt to play the hero, resulting in explosions, bad guys getting killed, and nobody taking him seriously as a spy. (He's also mastered the ability of standing so incredibly still that he's become invisible to the eye. Had to thrown in a "Guardians" reference somewhere.) So CIA Director, "Kim" (Ken Jeong) decides to give JJ a less exciting mission. Teamed up with his biggest fan, "Bobbi" (Kristen Schaal), JJ is tasked to watch over widowed mother, "Kate" (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her precious daughter, "Sophie" (Chloe Coleman), who are the in-law family to a ruthless illegal arms dealer, "Victor Marquez" (Greg Bryk). When JJ and Bobbi are discovered by Sophie, she takes an instant liking to JJ, blackmailing him into keep her company, later convincing him to give her some spy training. Eventually JJ and Sophie bond, become besties, and take down some bad guys together. You know the drill, kids.   

 Directed Peter Segal ("Get Smart" "50 First Dates"), "My Spy" has been pushed back from several release dates (The current pandemic not helping) before settling on being released as an Amazon Prime exclusive, and what for what we get, it's not exactly a bad time. The film is perfectly enjoyable, thoroughly silly, and only really works at all thanks to the stars. It's not a very original, or even all that well thought out, of a story, and due to the surprising edge the film has (Language, violence, and even a little death), it's a little hard to figure out who the movie is actually made for. The comedy can be a little too goofy, giving off some standard family movie vibes, but then someone will get randomly stabbed or blown up. Not to mention the level of gunplay, while admittedly (And even amusingly) absurd, doesn't really feel right in what seems to aimed at a young audience. 

 Dave Bautista has already shown to have some great comedic timing in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, and once again pulls it off here, while injecting his own natural charm to liven up the script. He also has a pretty delightful relationship with Chloe Coleman, who is quite the young scene-stealer. Kristen Schaal also gets some hilarious moments just by being Kristen Schaal and Ken Jeong shows he actually excels at toning himself down. Meanwhile, Parisa Fitz-Henley gets stuck with a generic love interest role and Greg Bryk leaves no impact as our villain. There are also some maybe somewhat questionable, though also admittedly fairly funny supporting roles for Devere Rogers (as "Carlos", the typical, nosy gay neighbor) and Noah Danby (as "Todd", Carlos' partner, who for some reason only speaks in grunts.) 

  "My Spy" is nothing special, memorable, or even that well made. It does offer some solid distraction for the seemingly never ending pandemic, thanks almost entirely to the likability of Bautista and Coleman. The uneven sense of identity doesn't exactly make this something I'd recommend to the family, though we could all do so much worse. Some decent laughs make up for all those spy turned babysitter clichés we've seen before, especially when you at least enjoy the company of the people involved. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Not So Family Friendly Language And Not So Family Friendly Violence.