Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

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

In Theaters: Goosebumps 2, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man, A Star Is Born, Venom, Hell Fest, Little Women, Night School, Smallfoot, Life Itself, The House With A Clock In It's Walls, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, A Simple Favor, The Predator, Peppermint, The Nun, Kin, Searching, The Happytime Murders

Coming Soon: Halloween, The Hate U Give, Serenity, Hunter Killer, Johnny English 3, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Nobody's Fool, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Grinch, The Girl in the Spider's Web, Overlord, Fantastic Beasts 2, Instant Family, Widows

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

                       Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween                                 by James Eagan                                ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for goosebumps 2 haunted halloweenImage: The actor in the middle is  bit wooden.

 Sorry I'm getting this review out so late. I have a life outside of this you know. I mean, by life, I refer to my job at a movie theater, the fact I had to see "A Star is Born" again (Go see it! Now!), and writing takes a lot of time out of the day. I have to sit down, keep focused and type till my fingers get tired. Besides, if you were going to see "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween", you've likely already seen it. (Not just saying that because it's the same movie as the first one....Though it is.)

 A sequel to the hit 2015 family film (And based on the successful books and television series), "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" follows a new group of kids, "Sonny" (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, "Sam" (Caleel Harris), who has come to stay over with Sonny, his older, college ready sister, "Sarah" (Madison Iseman), and their mother, "Kathy" (Wendi McLendon-Covey) for a couple weeks, during Halloween. Sonny and Sam have a job where they clear out junk, going to a house previously owned by "Goosebumps" author, "R. L. Stine" (Jack Black). While cleaning the house, the two boys come across an old book, which turns out is actually the original first manuscript for one of Stine's Goosebumps books that was never completed. They open the book, which if you've seen the first one, is not a good thing.

 The book released the evil ventriloquist dummy, "Slappy" (Previously voiced by Jack Black, though this time it's by his sound alike, Mick Wingert), who wants to make Sam and Sonny his family. However, Slappy is still a sadistic, homicidal psycho, with evil intentions. After Sarah's cheating boyfriend, "Tyler" (Bryce Cass) gets axed by Slappy (Okay, he just gets horribly injured. But still. He could have killed him), Sarah teams up with Sonny and Sam to attempt to get rid of Slappy. Sadly, Slappy has no intention of going anywhere, unleashing an army of monsters on Halloween night to attack the town and create the ultimate Halloween based nightmare, just like in the unfinished book. It's up to the kids, armed only with the book to contain the monsters, to save the day. Basically, it's the first movie again. 

 Okay, so it's not exactly the same, but by the end, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" really is just what was done before, except with less of a budget this time around. The movie doesn't seem to have the aspirations that the first one did, which had a larger scope and more character despite it's already small by comparison budget. The movie has more of a singular story, somewhat TV special feel (Especially in the special effects department), which could of been intentional, considering the original TV series thrived on that kind of old fashioned cheese. Because of this, there are times where the film can be fun. There are a couple spooky thrills, silly comedy, and a certain likability to the cheapness. A there are a couple delightful sequences, such as the gummy bear attack (Which is quite funny, and kind of horrifying in a way) and Slappy's cartoonish, but still somewhat frightening antics. There just isn't enough of it, and because of that, it just feels unnecessary and not exactly something you need to see in theaters. 

 Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Caleel Harris are all decent enough young actors, who are just stuck with character types rather than actual characters. Granted, it's that kind of movie, so you can only do so much. Actors like Wendi McLendon-Covey (Who I still find very much on the attractive side), Chris Parnell (as "Walter", a pharmacy manager, who ends up becoming Slappy's hunchback minion), and Ken Jeong (as "Mr. Chu", the next door neighbor, who gets waaaay too into Halloween), aren't given much to do, outside of play the typical dumb adults. When Jack Black (Who I guess went uncredited in the cast) finally shows up towards the last act in his prolonged, glorified cameo, gets easily the funniest lines and certainly livens things up. In terms of our villain, Slappy, he's still a pretty menacing and darkly humorous villain, who gets a scary moment once in a while, reminding everyone why he's the most popular villain from both the original books and show. 

 Not without it's moments, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" doesn't have enough of the charm that the original movie had, and will likely only entertain the kids. While that's fine I guess, but as I've said before about other similar movies, they too expect a little more. Nothing bad, but not anything special, with little originality or reason to be on the big screen. And now I feel like a dummy. 2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Puppet Jump Scares, And Attempted Puppet Murder. 

Bad Times at the El Royale                by James Eagan                                                              ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bad times at the el royaleImage: A Priest, a Businessman and a Bear go into a bar...." 

 It's a classic story. A bunch of strangers, who may or may not be hiding secrets from each other, gathering in the middle of nowhere in a secluded location. Of course, there's a bigger mystery at hand, which will result in all kinds of death. Regardless of originality, so long as you got some well written characters, you can have something really different there, especially since we really don't get too many movies quite like this anymore.

"Bad Times at the El Royale" takes place in 1969, in a novelty hotel called the "El Royale", which is located right at the border between Nevada and California. There is something clearly up about the hotel, with the only employee seemingly working at the hotel being the young, awkward concierge, "Miles Miller" (Lewis Pullman). Four strangers arrive to stay the night, including a priest, "Father Daniel Flynn" (Jeff Bridges), a singer going through hard times, "Darlene Sweet" (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum cleaner salesman who won't shut up, "Seymour Sullivan" (John Hamm), and a mysterious woman with a bad attitude, "Emily Summerspring" (Dakota Johnson). It soon becomes apparent that there is something off about this hotel, with dark secrets being revealed, one way mirrors, and a suitcase full of money hidden under the hotel floor. This results in people getting killed, and the involvement of Emily's tied up sister, "Rose" (Cailee Spaeny) and a psychotic, hunky madman, "Billy Lee" (Chris Hemsworth).  

 Both directed and written by Drew Goddard, who previously directed the genre bending "The Cabin in the Woods" and wrote the critically acclaimed "The Martian", "Bad Times at the El Royale" is unoriginal in premise, but unique in it's execution. It's smart in it's dialogue and characterization, with all of them getting enough development in simple monologues or conversations among each other. Though the film is told out of order, the film for the most part finds a way to make a lot of it come together, especially when we finally get in on what's actually going on. It's not a predictable movie to say the least, with there being absolutely no way anyone in the audience had a single clue as to where it's all going. With that said, it's a bit on the clunky side, with the two hour and twenty minute runtime not meshing well in certain parts with the intentionally disjointed story filled with flashbacks and cut backs to other perspectives of scenes we previously saw. 

 The ensemble cast is definitely top notch, with everyone making their characters their own. Jeff Bridges and the terrific Cynthia Erivo have great chemistry together, with their scenes being the most memorable ones. Dakota Johnson is lovely, getting to show off a bit more of her badass side, while we also get great work from John Hamm, Cailee Spaeny (Previously seen in "Pacific Rim: Uprising"), and especially a crazed Chris Hemsworth. The real scene stealer ends up being Lewis Pullman, whose character goes places you would never expect, giving an instant breakout performance. The characters are fascinating, with you becoming engaged in their storylines, even if they all don't quite come together in a truly cohesive manner. 

 "Bad Times at the El Royale" mixes style, humor, and suspense in ways that are at times fairly brilliant, with Goddard's direction and eye for visual flair making for a captivating character driven thriller with hints at connections to real life social issues of the time. It's a bit jumbled in it's execution and needlessly dragged out longer than it likely should of been. However, it's hard to deny the effectiveness behind it's mysteries, and how invested you will end up being by the end. It's a good time, despite what the title implies. 3 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And A Fixation On Thor's Gyration.

First Man                                                                     by James Eagan                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: A Few Great Men.

 Time for a little controversy, and I do mean it when I say "Little". Some people, who are either stupid or are simply pretending to be stupid to get others more riled up, have taken offense to the fact that for everything that this new film, "First Man" shows, it doesn't portray Neil Armstrong psychically planting the American Flag on the surface of the moon, which has led to the film being dubbed by said idiots (Who by the way, haven't even seen the movie) as "Unpatriotic".. Now we still see the flag there, with the camera lingering on that shot, as well as the effect this mission had on the country and the rest of the world. If you as me, it all seemed pretty patriotic. Then again, I actually saw the movie, so what do I know? 

 Based on the true story, "First Man" focusing on astronaut/first man to walk on the moon, "Neil Armstrong" (Ryan Gosling) from 1961-1969. The film details his personal family life with his wife, "Janet" (Claire Foy), being forced to deal with the death of their young daughter "Karen", and Neil's involvement in the space race against Russia. The film also shows us the costs of what this mission to get a man on the moon requires (Many of them tragic), as well as the effect it has on both Neil and his family. This all leads NASA's eventual launch of the "Apollo 11", involving Neil and "Buzz Aldrin" (Corey Stoll), ending with Neil becoming the first man to walk on the moon, saying that famous, goosebumps inducing quote, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". 

 Directed by critically acclaimed Director/Oscar winner, Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash", "La La Land"), "First Man" is a more personal story, with a larger scope and word changing side effects. The film, which beautifully utilizes the grainy, gritty stylized form of direction that best symbolizes the time period. The cinematography in the movie takes full advantage of the scope of an IMAX screen (Especially towards the end), with the use of shaky cam to better enhance the terror, suspense, and the unforgiving nausea that a rocket can provide. But it's not just about the mission itself, though the film takes time to focus on the specifics, details, and the failed attempts (That sometimes resulted in death), which led some in the country to question how worth it this whole escapade actually is. The film follows the human aspect of our real life characters, wonderfully capturing the sadness behind them that they try to keep hidden. With a script by Josh Singer ("Spotlight, "The Post"), the dialogue is quiet and simple, with a few moments of humor to form a better emotional connection to the movie. 

 Ryan Gosling's performance is probably destined to be a subject of debate. Some will see his stoic performance as possibly wooden and lacking in much emotion. I saw that as intentional. There are rare moments where he shows his emotions, whether they be happy or sad, but it's clear that while he's appearing emotionless, you can see in his eyes so much inner turmoil that he is desperately trying to keep from getting out. I found it to be a wonderful performance, that shows the character's flawed humanity more than any other previous telling of this story. Claire Foy is awesome here, with her role being the one that other movies would either overlook or not give anywhere near enough focus. Her story is shown to be just as important, showing how the families of those who could possibly die are forced to deal with, and regardless of the tragedies, are pretty much expected to remain helpless and happy in the eyes of those watching from the outside. Others are mostly secondary, but the excellent ensemble still does great work, which includes Jason Clarke (as "Ed White", the first man to walk in space), Kyle Chandler (as "Deke Slayton", NASA's Chief of the Astronaut Office), Ciarán Hinds (as "Robert R. Gilruth", NASA's Director), Shea Wigham (as "Gus Grissom", one of the Mercury Seven astronauts), and a surprisingly, slightly dick-ish Corey Stoll (I guess Buzz just had no filter at all.)

 "First Man" is a terrific, compelling drama that conveys the positives and negative outlooks of people during the time, while also showing why in the end, this was such an important deal. In the film's last twenty to thirty minutes, we get an example of what I would consider to be perfect cinema. The actual launch and moon landing has probably some of the best uses of sound and visual camerawork of any modern movie, resulting in a jaw dropping sequence so strong, you'll feel your ears pop the second our heroes step on the moon's surface. It's unreal how it looks, and I couldn't tell if it was CGI, practical, or an incredible mix of both. It's nothing short of an achievement, and ends on a perfect, somber note that sticks with you once the credits roll. That seems like powerful, patriotic stuff to me right there. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Terrifying Anxiety, Vomit Inducing Shaking, And Reality At It's Harshest. 

A Star IS Born                                                            by James Eagan                                          ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Sing "Poker Face"!

 Allow me to paraphrase if necessary. "Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave. 12 notes in the octave repeats. It's the same story, told over and over. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes." Probably not the first critic (or the last) to quote this line, but it's too perfect to ignore, and pretty much explains how and why this film works so beautifully. Wise words from Sam Elliot right there. Top that, "Life Itself". 

 "A Star Is Born" opens with famous singer/songwriter, "Jackson Maine" (Bradley Cooper), who suffers from a noise-induced hearing loss and a serious alcohol problem. Jackson wanders into a bar, where he comes across a waitress, "Ally" (Lady Gaga), who just so happens to be singing. Jackson immediately falls in love with Ally, hearing her own songs and knowing she has true talent in her. However, Ally doesn't quite have the confidence in herself. Jackson invites Ally to one of his concerts, convincing her to come on stage, while performing one of her songs, which results in her becoming an instant success. Now a couple, Jackson becomes a mentor of sorts to Ally, introducing her further into this world, resulting in her becoming a rising star, while Jackson's own personal demons continue to slowly destroy him. 

 Directed, Co-Produced, and Co-Written by Bradley Cooper, "A Star is Born" is a story that has been told many, many times before. Originally a 1937 film (Then a 1954 one, followed by another remake in 1976), it's not just something we've seen been remade, but also told through various media and stories. It's a classic tale really of one star discovering another, possibly falling in love with the up-and-comer, and one of them has a downward spiral due to an abuse of some kind. We've seen this before, and will continue to see it in the future. Yet, like the previously mentioned quote said, it's all about how it's told, and Bradley Cooper, who clearly saw that it's a story that can be just as relevant now than ever, crafted it into a masterwork, and one of the best films to come out of 2018. 

 Lady Gaga, whose singing voice I've always been absolutely in love with, gets top billing here, and for good reason. She gives an amazing, thoroughly appealing, strong, but simple performance, that's much like her character in which it shows nothing but true star power. Her chemistry with Bradley Cooper is almost unreal, with these two characters feeling naturally connected, whether it be from simple glances or from the very human dialogue. The previously mentioned Sam Elliot (as "Bobby", Jackson's older brother/manager) gets some brilliant scenes throughout while Andrew Dice Clay (as "Lorenzo", Ally's caring father) gets some comical, warm hearted scenes that never feel cloying. There are some great secondary roles from Anthony Ramos (as "Ramon", Ally's friend), Rafi Gavron (as "Rez", Ally's manager), and a memorable Dave Chappelle (as "Noodles, Jackson's old friend/retired musician), but the film's focus is on Gaga and Cooper, with the audience getting an instant attachment and investment in both of these characters and their relationship. 

 With music being such an important theme in "A Star Is Born", you have to expect the actual music in the movie to be good. It's a fantastic soundtrack, with a few songs (Particularly the main one, "Shallow") I see becoming instant favorites, with the film clearing out awards season in that category. The cinematography is stunning, making for a gorgeous looking movie, and the writing is perfect, with moments of humor, which goes well with the occasional profound and insightful, yet very natural dialogue between characters. Even when you get the idea of where this story is going, you still feel the emotional journey, having fallen in love with these characters, begging for nothing less than absolute happiness for them. What makes the film and it's story so relevant, aside from the changing music industry, is how the film shows the pros and cons of someone rising within this industry. It can be dark, lonely, and even a little dangerous with what types of substances will be available, while also showing the importance of embracing your natural talent, allowing your true voice to be heard, and not letting fame change you for the worse. It's a heartbreaking tale of love that's sure to be an instant classic, and it gives me an urge to just call off the search for "2018's Best Movie" a little early. 4 stars. Rated R For Drug Use, Sexuality, And Realistic Tragedy. 

Venom                  by James Eagan             ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: The second best onscreen romance of the week.

 I think I understand it now. I understand the now infamous "Turd in the Wind" line. You see, when speaking to the doomed convenience store robber, Venom remarks that he will eat his arms, legs, and face, leaving him as a limbless thing rolling down the street, like the previously mentioned "Turd in the Wind". What he is saying is that he will be some bizarre mess, that will be stupid to look at, difficult to describe, and so out of the blue surreal that whoever sees it will be repulsed, yet intrigued by it. What I'm trying to say is that it's a metaphor for this movie as a whole. 

 "Venom" follows reckless reporter, "Eddie Brock" (Tom Hardy), living with his pretty lawyer girlfriend, "Anne Weying" (Michelle Williams). Eddie learns that Anne's firm is working for the "Life Foundation", an organization that specializes in the future, which is run by the obviously shady, "Carlton Drake" (Riz Ahmed). When Eddie learns, after eyeing some confidential material that's been sent to Anne, that the experiments that Drake has been performing on poor homeless, sick human subjects have a weird tendency of killing the subject. Eddie confronts Drake during an interview, despite being specifically told not to, which results in him getting fired, along with Anne, who breaks up with Eddie. Cut to several months later, Eddie is a complete loser, living in a crappy apartment, and still struggling to control his accent while Anne has already moved on. Eddie ends up meeting "Dora Skirth" (Jenny Slate), a scientist working for Drake, who only just now has realized how crazy he is. Dora explains that the Life Foundation has discovered alien life, with Drake seeing humanity on the verge of collapse and in need of replacing, in the form of strange, gooey creatures dubbed "Symbiotes".

 With help from Dora, Eddie sneaks into the Life Foundation, getting attacked by one of the human test subjects, whose Symbiote ends up bonding with Eddie. After narrowly escaping, Eddie begins to feel more off than usual, feeling hungry constantly, and hearing a demonic voice in his head. The voice is revealed to be the Symbiote itself, named "Venom" (Also voiced by Tom Hardy), who really likes being a part of Eddie, and has plans of his own. Meanwhile, Drake learns that Eddie has bonded with Venom, and sends his henchmen to go after him and bring back Venom to perfect his experiments. Eddie and Venom are forced to become one, taking on all the villains, chomping heads, and smashing bodies, while a separate Symbiote, with evil intentions, makes it's way to set up the climax. 

 Directed by Ruben Fleischer, "Venom" is not the first time we've seen the beloved Marvel Comics/Spider-Man villain turned anti-hero in action on the big screen. He, sort of, appeared as the main villain (Played by Topher Grace) in the last act of 2007's "Spider-Man 3". I say sort of because the movie did nothing with him and really just had him there just to have him. The movie has been bashed by fans long before it came out, mostly due to people having a hard time comprehending how a Venom movie works without Spider-Man, who was integral to his origin in the comics. The good news for the fans is that even without the famous web-slinger, this movie gets the character right. Sometimes. (As a movie, "Spider-Man 3" is still better.) "Venom" is a movie that's not all there in the sense that, I think, it's criminally insane. The film's tone is more comedic than expected, though some of the laughs come from the shear absurdity of what you see. It's odd how the film follows a generic superhero plotline, yet the film is anything but predictable. The steps the film takes to get from point A to point B are so completely off the wall bonkers that it makes for a beautiful disaster of epic proportions. 

 Tom Hardy, even with his occasionally all over the place accent, is actually quite amazing in this movie. I might even say he's brilliant. He commits to the craziness, embracing every nonsensical second. His relationship with Venom is oddly endearing, with Venom's obsession with violence and occasional vulgarity, mixing with Eddie's stammering. These two characters have more chemistry than the actual romantic subplot, with the film never making Hardy's relationship with Michelle Williams in any way believable. While she does get a little more to do than most love interests, the whole time you're questioning what she sees in him. Riz Ahmed is a great actor and he's creepy, but his character's motivation is too far fetched to get into, with his eventual transformation into the villainous "Riot" (Who is essentially just "Gray Venom") doesn't make a lick of sense. Jenny Slate, looking cute with the glasses, is underutilized in the worst way possible.  In terms of visuals, it doesn't look real, but it looks cool. Venom is a pretty badass looking creature, even when we do get to the big, CGI heavy climax, which is nothing but blobs slapping the crap out of each other. 

 The film is full of stupid, to the point you wonder if the filmmakers even realized it. "Venom" is a lot like it's main character. It's an unhinged piece of work that verges on "So Bad It's Good", but you have to admit there are some legitimately good aspects to the movie (I mean, movies like "Green Lantern", "Catwoman", and all of the "Fantastic Four" movies are much, much worse than this.) A better description is that it's more "So, What The F*ck, It's Fascinating". The story makes absolutely no sense, with character development just happening without explanation, humor coming from either actually funny lines or ones that are so out there confusing, and it leaves you with a feeling that you're no longer in the real world. The movie feels like something that's come out of a Pre-MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) timeline.Not so much in quality, but more along the lines that the movie looks like a time capsule of the early 2000s (Whether it be the story, characterizations, the Eminem theme song, or just the head scratching images this movie allowed to exist). Somehow, I kind of loved it. I had a great time analyzing this trainwreck of awesome stupidity and I advise everyone that they need this movie in their lives to make them feel better than we won't be seeing this beloved character in a proper film anytime soon. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Head Biting Violence, Sexy Venom (Yeah I know What It Means. Just Making A Joke Here), And The Constant Feeling Of Insanity. 

Hell Fest                by James Eagan           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Shhhh....I'm hunting Wabbit....Heh, heh, heh, heh!"

 Guess it's that time of year again to pretend it's Halloween, despite having almost a month before the day actually arrives. Once we reach November, we'll start pretending it's Christmas.

 "Hell Fest" starts with two best friends, "Natalie" (Amy Forsyth) and "Brooke" (Reign Edwards), reuniting after some time apart. Brooke suggests that Natalie go with Brooke's new annoying roommate, "Taylor" (Bex Taylor-Klaus), their boyfriends, "Quinn" (Christian James) and "Asher" (Matt Mercurio), along with "Gavin" (Roby Attal), who has a crush on Natalie, to go to a traveling, horror based theme park, called "Hell Fest". Natalie is at first uneasy about going, mostly due to feeling out of touch with Brooke and the rumors of a girl getting both gutted to death, and her corpse being mistaken for one of the park decorations. While at the park, Natalie notices some creepy guy in a zombie mask seemingly following the group around, with everyone else mistaking him for one of the park employees. But as soon as the bodies start to pile up and the blood starts to spill, Natalie and her friends must escape the park to survive. 

 "Hell Fest" isn't without an interesting idea, with the premise of getting stalked through a horror theme park by someone who may or may not be part of the attractions, making for something that could of been fun time. There are creepy looking costumes and clever set designs, along with the film's explanation for how the park works, which are fairly cool. Really the problems is that it's just kind of generic, especially with how many genre thrills and how much the film shows off it's setting, you can't help but think to yourself, that they could of done a lot more with this than they actually did. (There's a scene with a guillotine, and yet, it doesn't actually result in a decapitation in favor of another simple stabbing.) The kills are gorey, but mostly by the book, with the most elaborate one involving a strongman mallet. The film doesn't utilize what it has, and how crazy it could of been. 

 The characters aren't exactly meant to be anything other than their character tropes (Such as nice girl, nice guy, comic relief, etc.), but they are here to do them as well as you really can. Amy Forsyth is a plenty likable lead, who even gets a few badass moments later on, making for a solid horror heroine. The others are fine, though the quick, but delightfully quirky cameo from Tony Todd (as a performer in one of the "Hell Fest" shows), made me kind of wish he was the killer instead. (It would of been hammier, but it certainly would of been more memorable) As for the killer himself, there are moments where he's fairly creepy, though the mask given is easily one of the blander ones they could of got. In fact, with all the killer clowns, and bag masked zombies, (Along with what I can only assume is a Skeksis from "The Dark Crystal"), there were much creepier ones they could of gone with. 

 There are some good moments of dark comedy and the look of the film is pretty awesome (Kind of makes you wish it was an actual place that existed), "Hell Fest" is your standard slasher flick, with little surprises and little memorability. It's audience will likely have a good time, though these days I feel like there are still better choices out there to choose from. I'd say it's not for me, but I was honestly just hoping for something even more over the top. Guess I might be a sicker person than I realized. 2 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Jumpy Scares, And The Fact That I Would Still Get Less Sick Here Then I Did At Six Flags. 

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

Image result for little women 2018Image: I'm waiting for "Little Men", starring Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Hart, Peter Dinklage, and Danny Devito. 

 Knowing what I know now, that there is going to be yet another "Little Women" adaptation coming out next year, with Greta Gerwig (Who previously gave us one of 2017's masterpieces, "Lady Bird") as the Director, it all makes this one feel just kind of pointless. 

 "Little Women" is a modern re-imaging of the old story by Louisa May Alcott, following the March sisters, "Jo" (Srah Davenport), "Beth" (Allie Jennings), "Meg" (Melanie Stone), and "Amy" (Elise Jones). While Jo is living in New York, trying desperately to become a writer and get her novel published, the story is told through flashbacks about the maturing lives of herself and her sisters. We see them living with their mother, "Marmee" (Lea Thompson), while their "Papa" (Bart Johnson) is enlisted in the army. The film also shows the sisters' relationships with each other and those around them, such as Jo's close friend, "Laurie" (Lucas Grabeel), who obviously has a romantic interest in her. With Jo being told by her professor, "Freddy Bhaer" (Ian Bohen) to challenge herself and further her own writing, Jo is called back home due to tragic circumstances, which forces her to confront some of the issues that occurred when she and her sisters were growing up. Really, most people should already know what the plot for this is, even for those who have never read "Little Women." Just imagine it being he same, except in 2018. 

 Mostly only distributed by the current box office punching bag, "Pure Flix Entertainement" (So there is a bit more quality in filmmaking this time around), "Little Women" really doesn't do all that much to solidify it's existence, even with it's more modern setting. The film's story is still plenty relevant, and there moments where the themes can still resonate with some audiences. However, the setting just makes things a little awkward, with the fact that the movie's timeline spans almost two decades, yet every scene still feels like it's set in 2018. It's choppily put together, with first time Director/Co-Writer Clare Niederpruem keeping things pretty safe, not really doing anything with it's new premise and going for pure cheese when it comes to the script. With that said, the film isn't without it's charm, such as the overall pleasantness of the movie, and the fact that much of the acting is surprisingly excellent, with our main, and for the most part, unknown cast giving it their all.

 Sarah Davenport, who is in the forefront through most of the movie, is quite terrific. While most of her character's dialogue is definitely on the mediocre side, she delivers them with so much conviction, personality, and enough likability to get through her character's immature flaws. The performances from Allie Jennings (Who gets the most emotional scenes later in the film), Melanie Stone, and Elise Jones all show lots of talent and onscreen charisma to carry the film. Lucas Grabeel is funny and lovable, and Lea Thompson, whose role could almost be considered thankless due to how little focus it gets, still gives it her absolute best, generating a genuine motherly warmth and love. All of these actors and actresses are really good, elevating "So-so" material, helping the film's inner good heart shines through, which should definitely make it very effective for the audience it's trying to attract. 

 "Little Women" is hammy in writing, sloppy in editing, and a little on the cheap side, feeling more like something you'd see on the Hallmark channel, rather than in theaters. Where the movie falters, it makes up for in how strong it's performances are (Which is very important for a character driven movie like this) and a good heart. And while the film's modernization doesn't add much, it's themes of female empowerment are still sure to connect with young girls. It's hard to truly dislike anything with that kind of intention. And to be honest, "Little Men" is starting to sound terrible. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Adult Content And Slight Drinking (Actual Beer This Time Too).

Night School                                                             by James Eagan                                            ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: "Get this man a high chair!" 

 Another day, another mostly "Meh" comedy, making for a pretty quick review. Hey, unlike this movie, I don't want to drag things out needlessly more than I need to. An hour and fifty minutes is a bit much for even a good comedy. 

 "Night School" follows "Teddy Walker" (Kevin Hart), a big mouthed troublemaker who dropped out of school, claiming it was because it was beneath him. (The real reason being that he just isn't all that smart.) Years later, he's dating (And planning to marry) his girlfriend, "Lisa" (Megalyn Echikunwoke). However, when his current place of work explodes (Long, contrived story, not worth getting into), Teddy is forced to look for a new job. Teddy's friend, "Marvin" (Ben Schwartz) says he can get him an investment job, which will require Teddy to go back to school to get his GED. Teddy is horrified to discover that his high school nemesis, "Stewart" (Taran Killam), who has become principal and basically rules his school like a tyrant. Teddy enrolls in the night school class, run by "Carrie" (Tiffany Haddish), who doesn't mess around and is well, very Tiffany Haddish about the way she runs her class. Teddy, along with his fellow classmates, including the idiotic, "Mackenzie" (Rob Riggle), the crazy "Jaylen" (Romany Malco), stressed out mother, "Theresa" (Mary Lynn Rajskub), pretty young hipster, "Mila" (Anne Winters), the Mexican one, "Luis" (Al Madrigal), and"Bobby" (Fat Joe), who Skypes into class from prison, now struggle to get through the class, planning to steal the GED answers in typical, goofily comedic fashion. 

 Directed by Malcolm D. Lee ("Barbershop: The Next Cut" and "Girls Trip") and written by six different people (Including Kevin Hart), "Night School" is another one of those live action cartoons that runs like a series of skits, in which the film stops dead to give those skits extra time, while the plot is really, kind of just there. You really just have to hope it's funny enough to make it worth it. Weirdly on occasion, it can be fairly funny. The film's padding is actually where the funniest stuff happens, where the film just proceeds to stop moving and let funny people ramble and quip. It's padding, but it's the best part of the movie. I actually kind of understand why, because everything with it's plot feels made up as it goes along, progressively getting more and more dragged out as it goes along. When you finally realize what's actually going on and how the filmmakers are finding ways around how little they have, it makes you kind of disappointed in yourself for laughing. 

 Kevin Hart is his typically sporadic self, jumping all over the place, and being the adult equivalent of a hyperactive kid on a sugar high (He's still undeniably funny at times). Tiffany Haddish (Who is strangely out of the movie for a decent portion), can get plenty of laughs regardless of how mediocre a script is. Really, the rest of the cast, with Romany Malco, Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and especially Taran Killam, get funny parts every now and then. The whole relationship with Megalyn Echikunwoke is silly, with little purpose to the conflict, and a lack of chemistry between her and Kevin Hart. (He has much more chemistry with Tiffany Haddish actually.) This movie needed more Keith David (as "Gerald", Teddy's disapproving father), since he only appears two or three times, but gets easily the funniest lines. (I mean, the world needs more Keith David.)

 "Night School" is predictable beat by beat, with so little story that the movie takes time out of it's day to focus on drawn out ad-libbing. While those make for the funniest moments, you eventually realize you don't need to need to pay to see something like this, especially when it all ends up being longer than it needs to be. It's not the worst, mostly because it's just forgettable by comparison. I'll just forget about it by the end of the week, much like I did with most of what I learned in high school. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Wacky Shenanigans And Pointless Padding. 

Smallfoot                                                                    by James Eagan                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "And he referred to my hands if they're small, then something else must be small....I guarantee there's no problem."

 Just because you're aimed at kids, and mostly little kids at that, you mostly assume you won't really get much more than that. Which is a fine mentality, especially when you do a good job with it. Then before you realize it, you're cute little kids movie about talking Yetis gets a little deep.....Then it gets really deep. Would you be surprised for me to tell you that it's all an allegory for religion? Heavy.

 "Smallfoot" follows "Migo" (Channing Tatum), who lives in a secluded, ignorant Yeti society on a mountain in the clouds, where everyone follows what is written on small stones (Where if it isn't in the stones, it isn't true), carried by their leader, "Stonekeeper" (Common). Migo loves being a part of their world, hoping to become a gong ringer (To bring about the giant snail in the sky, aka the sun) like his father, "Dorgle" (Danny DeVito). Migo's worldview comes crashing down (Literally), when he spots a plane crash, catching a glimpse of the ejected human pilot (Or a "Smallfoot" as they're called) before he floats back beneath the clouds out of sight. Migo returns to the village to tell the others, but Stonekeeper claims that a smallfoot can't possibly exist because the stones say so. Migo is banished, where he bumps into a group of young Yetis, who believe that smallfoots are real, which include Stonekeeper's curious daughter, "Meechee" (Zendaya), "Kolka" (Gina Rodriguez), "Gwangi" (LeBron James), and "Flem" (Ely Henry).

 They arrange for Migo to travel down the mountains, which results in him falling the whole way, where he comes across the human town. Meanwhile, a washed up TV personality, "Percy Patterson" (James Corden), is very much in need of ratings, using the rumors of the Yeti sighting to stage a fake one, which results in his assistant, "Brenda" (Yara Shahidi) abandoning him. Migo comes across Percy, and decides to um, technically kidnap him, and take him back up to the Yeti village. Migo presents Percy to the others, proving that not only do smallfoots exist, but that one of the all important stones was wrong. However, Migo soon learns of the consequences of tearing down one's worldview, as well as the other hidden lies that their society was built on. 

 From Warner Bros.' animation production company, "Warner Animation Group" (Or WAG), who previously gave us the "Lego Movie" franchise and the much underappreciated "Storks", "Smallfoot" has a little more to say than just having a Yeti dance on screen for an hour and a half. (Although it's actually a musical, kind of.) Visually, the film is stunningly animated, with each character's stretchy, lively nature, providing some good old fashioned slapstick comedy. (Very Looney Tunes-eque.) The musical score itself is great, with the musical numbers, while nothing special and certainly not on par with anything from Disney, serving a purpose, and utilizing their colorful animation well. The story mostly falls a generic, but always welcome route, with the typical hero's journey of discovery offering few surprises at first. However, a little more than halfway through, the film's messages and themes get much more complicated. At first, it does all seem to be a simple religious metaphor, but the film later show it can be a little more complex than the simple good guy being right and the bad guy being wrong. 

 The film also provides an excellent cast to voice it's delightful characters, with Channing Tatum, showing off more of his comedic chops, some actually solid singing talent, and his general likability. Zendaya once again shows how much star potential she haas, with the funnier moments coming from a hilarious James Corden, LeBron James, and Ely Henry. Some actors, such as Danny DeVito and Gina Rodriguez, do solid jobs, despite not having quite as big roles as everyone else, with Common getting the most memorable musical number. It's also the one that results in a big twist, that's rather shocking for a fairly predictable kids flick, and adds a few extra layers to what the film is trying to say. No real villains here, just antagonists of sorts, who simply have a different way of thinking, and even if they're wrong, do make a few solid points. (Sometimes it is easier to believe something untrue, and it is going to take a lot of work to help those, who have lived their whole lives believing in something, coping with that truth.)

 "Smallfoot" is something that could of so easily gone the lazy route. With a more kiddy sense of humor, a standard climax, and by comparison to other family fare this year, it still feels lesser. With that said, credit to the filmmakers for making a movie, gearing it to little kids, but never talking down to them, handling it's intent with maturity, which is something most movies aimed at adults struggle to do. If it takes a bunch of dancing Yetis can get kids to question things and think for themselves, I'm all for it. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, And Non-Conformist Beliefs. 

Life ITself              by James Eagan              ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for life itself movie 2018Image: Your child deserves better than this movie.

 Allow me to give you a quick rundown of how this movie starts. Sort of an introduction into complete and utter insanity. We open with narration from Samuel L. Jackson, talking about...things and stuff. Then Annette Bening, after saying hello to Oscar Isaac, gets hit by a bus and dies gruesomely, leading to Samuel L. Jackson to declare "F*ck it" before leaving, never to be seen or heard from again. What does it mean? What does it have to do with anything? Not sure, but looking back, I should of taken Samuel L. Jackson's lead, and jumped ship too. 

 After that bizarre opening, "Life Itself" is actually an anthology of sorts, following specific characters whose lives intertwine (Somewhat). First, we are introduced to "Will" (Oscar Isaac) explaining to his therapist, "Dr. Cait Morris" (Annette Bening) about what led to the collapse of his marriage to the love of his life, "Abby" (Olivia Wilde). (Sort of. It's all leading to a big-ish twist.) Then we cut ahead to Will and Abby's young angsty adult daughter, "Dylan" (Olivia Cooke), living with her grandfather, "Irwin" (Mandy Patinkin). We take time away to move over to....um....Spain for some reason, where we follow the relationship between "Javier" (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his wife, "Isabel" (Laia Costa), along with the interference from Javier's rich, but well intentioned boss, "Saccione" (Antonio Banderas). Our last segment (Sort of. Can't spoil, but it's complicated to put it bluntly.), the story follows the full grown son of Javier and Isabel, "Rodrigo" (Alex Monner), leaving home to go off to college, bringing all the stories together full circle. Well, not really. Yeah the movie says that it does, but it really doesn't. Nothing comes together. Everything falls apart. Everyone loses. 

 Directed (And Written) by "This Is Us" creator, Dan Fogelman, "Life Itself" is a sick, twisted, Frankenstein-esque disaster of a film that does at least prove that people are the ones who are in fact cruel and sadistic, rather than life itself as a whole. Basically because the filmmakers decide to go for fake, forced melodrama, poorly injecting it with awkward and unpleasant humor, along with needlessly sappy, horrific drama that leaves you sad for the wrong reasons. The film's script is full of the most basic of attempted inspirational dialogue clichés, that are more painful to listen to than you would think. Most of it just not meaning as much as the film's seems to think it does. Due to this, the film constantly shoves it in your face in an attempt to look insightful, when in reality it's all mumbo jumbo. (The film's obsession with the idea of the unreliable narrator makes for one of this year's weirdest arguments) The film's segments are all cobbled together poorly, barely having a real connection to each other (And certainly not having any connection at all to reality), with none of it coming together till late in the film. However, when it all does seemingly come together, it mostly happens off screen. (I guess it was all a build up to a relationship? But we don't really see that relationship, but instead get told about it through narration.)

 We have a large ensemble cast that appears to be held hostage by the film's pretentiousness, with a couple of them only giving moments of a good performance. Oscar Isaac , Olivia Cooke (Who gets the least interesting of the stories), and Annette Bening are trying their damnedest with what they have to work with, looking as professional as they possibly can. Others like Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, and Antonio Banderas aren't given much to really do, with the exception of the occasional, poorly written monologue that goes on for much longer than it should. Sergio Peris-Mencheta has no real reason to be here, and doesn't need the focus the film places on his character, especially when it all goes nowhere. There's a weird and uncomfortable scene with Jean Smart (as "Linda", Will's mother who is a little over excitable about Abby's parents being dead due to her selfish need to be an only grandparent.), while Alex Monner is a completely blank slate of blandness. Probably the best performance comes from Laia Costa towards the end of the film, with her character's story, while still forced, feeling more genuine than anything else in the movie, and that's mostly by default. None of these character act or react like real people, so it's left up to the actors to try to make something out of it, but sadly they can only do so much. 

 With a horribly constructed narrative and humor that falls flat with an Earth shattering thud, "Life Itself" is kind of a vile, shockingly mean spirited movie that claims to be optimistic and inspirational, despite wallowing in pain, misery, and death. It's a baffling experience that could almost be considered torture porn if it were any gorier. (How was it that the Eli Roth movie I saw this weekend was more pleasant than this?) You're basically watching a depressed, drunk person spout out nonsense for almost two hours, while constantly getting distracted by outside forces that have nothing to do with what's being said. All it does is take time out of your own life, which is probably the biggest crime a movie like this can possibly make. You'll get way more enjoyment out of reading the hilariously dumbfounded critical reaction to this movie online, which is all this movie is eventually be known for. That is a suitable fate. 1/2 star. Rated R For Strong Language, Nonsensical Rambling About Life, And Bus/Car Crashes That Perfectly Symbolize This Movie As A Whole. 

The House With A Clock In Its Walls                                               by James Eagan                                    ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

 Image result for the house with a clock in its walls

Image: Eli Roth sets up his victims for more torture and gore.

 Director Eli Roth, known for his exploitation films (Though they aren't quite labeled as such), such as "Hostel", "The Green Inferno", and for giving us that awful "Death Wish" remake a few months back, appears to have decided he's tired of chopping up people, riddling them with bullets, and letting their squishy innards splattering out in gratuitous fashion. Instead, he appears to have decided to let the inner kid in him break free, in a whimsically goofy fashion. Honestly, he should do that more often.   

 "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" takes place in 1955, with the nerdy young, "Lewis Barnavelt" (Owen Vaccaro), who after the death of his parents, is sent to live with his estranged (And strange) uncle "Jonathan" (Jack Black). Jonathan takes Lewis to his large, creepy house, full of all kinds of weird things, including an onslaught of clocks to go with the mysterious ticking sound coming from within the walls. Lewis also meets Jonathan's neighbor, "Florence" (Cate Blanchett), who despite bickering with Jonathan often, is actually his best friend. Lewis eventually discovers his uncle Jonathan's secret, which is that he is actually a Warlock, which is the technically term for a "Boy Witch". Lewis, hoping to find a way to fit into school and become best buds with the popular jerk, "Tarby" (Sunny Suljic), begs Jonathan to train him to be a Warlock as well, which he agrees to do mostly due to suggestion from Florence, who is also a good witch. While Lewis begins his training, big evil forces start to reveal themselves, with Lewis discovering that the ticking sound is in reality, a clock within the house. The clock was left behind by a now deceased wicked Warlock, "Isaac Izard" (Kyle MacLachlan) and his wife, "Selena" (Renée Elise Goldsberry) in hopes of bringing upon the end of days. Now with Isaac plotting to make a big comeback and his cursed clock ticking away to a possible catastrophic doomsday event, Lewis, Jonathan, and Florence are the only ones left to stand in his way. 

 Based on a beloved book of the same name by John Bellairs, "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" is Eli Roth's first family/non-torture porn film. And while he still somewhat struggles with tone, the film has a sense of wonder and fun, along with some delightful characters to go with a kooky, darkly humorous tale. The film's look is beautifully weird, with some awesome looking art design that ranges from playfully imaginative to even a little creepy and unsettling at times. (There is actually quite a bit of nightmarish images that while nothing too bad for a kids film, does push it a bit more than you would expect.) The movie does sadly suffer from the occasional odd tonal shift, with some out of place fart and pee jokes, that while common in many kids movies, just make the film seem more juvenile than it the rest of the movie actually is. For the most part however, the film's quirky sense of humor generally works, which adds to the film's amusement park mentality. 

 Jack Black is perfectly cast, getting to be his usual funny, lovable self, with the still very sexy Cate Blanchett getting in on the film's eccentric nature with some laughs and heart. They both have terrific chemistry with each other, and look like they are just having a great time. Owen Vaccario is a likable lead, carrying the movie with a few funny reactions and some heartwarming moments Black and Blanchett. Kyle MacLachlan and Renée Elise Goldsberry are suitably creepy villains that don't get much to do, but serve their purpose, as well as Lorenza Izzo (as Lewis' deceased mother, who appears to him in visions.) Visually, the film varies, with most of the effects work looking cheap and fake, though it oddly fits. The film is going for late 80s/early 90s filmmaking vibe, common for the film's production studios, "Universal Pictures" and "Amblin Entertainment", and it succeeds at that.

 "The House With a Clock in its Walls" isn't without it's flaws, whether it be some inconsistency with tone or it's out of place moments of potty humor, but excels in an overabundance of whimsical charm and plenty of creepy, good natured fun for the kids to enjoy. It's also just nice to see Eli Roth putting his violent cravings aside to simply let characters be characters and let your weird, inner kid out for once. Before he eventually kills us all. 3 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor And Some Shockingly Scary Images. (Don't Like Scary Puppets? Don't See This Movie.)

Unbroken: Path to Redemption             by James Eagan                                                ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for unbroken path to redemptionImage: That will be me in 10....Maybe 20 years.

 I have got to hand it to Pure Flix, they're really trying to expand. I'll even give them credit for moving away from their usual somewhat bigoted, mean spirited, questionable material in favor of actually preaching good, honest Christian values. Movies like "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness" and "Samson" do at least show they are trying to improve what they do. Now, "Quality Filmmaking" is a term that still eludes them, but they're not alone I guess. 

 "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" tells the true life story of the captured Olympian runner, "Louis Zamperini" (Samuel Hunt), after his return home when World War II finally came to an end. We follow Zamperini as he tries to get back into his life, with hopes of running again, falling in love with his future wife, "Cynthia" (Merritt Patterson), while still haunted by what he had witnessed while a prisoner in a Japanese prison camp. Zamperini is particularly tormented by visions of the ruthlessly brutal, "Mutsuhiro Watanabe" (David Sakurai), a.k.a. "The Bird", who he wishes to get revenge on, causing him to drink his problems away. Feeling as if his life has no meaning and that God is to blame for it all, Zamperini dives further into despair, threatening to ruin his relationship with Cynthia and the rest of his family. However, through a little pushing from Cynthia and after attending one of the church revivals run by evangelist, "Billy Graham" (Will Graham), Zamperini's renewed faith leads to his eventual forgiving of those who tortured him and himself. 

 Acting as an unofficial sequel to Angelina Jolie's 2013 film "Unbroken", "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" decides to focus more on the religious, faith based aspect of the story of Louis Zamperini, which is something the previous movie sort of skimmed through. It's a heartwarming, wonderful story that deserves some recognition, especially for those in a crisis of faith. It's too bad it's given nothing more than a made for TV movie that somehow found it's way into a nationwide theater release. This movie has no place on a big screen, with everything looking cheap, sloppily made, and the most basic form of direction you can imagine. When the film tries to add a little flair, it looks incredibly cheesy and even a little unintentionally humorous when it's clearly not supposed to be. Directed by Harold Cronk (Responsible for both "God's Not Dead" and "God's Not Dead 2"), the movie is not as mean spirited as his previous movies, with the film's positive message still resonating regardless. However, it's still feels so poorly constructed, as if it was cobbled together as quickly as possible, which is especially noticeable due to how much story is crammed into less than an hour and forty minutes. 

 The original "Unbroken", while not a great film, did have an impressive performance from its lead (Previously played by Jack O'Connell, which this movie doesn't quite have, though nobody is terrible per se. Samuel Hunt is fine, and definitely likable, and his scenes with Merritt Patterson are well done. She is also cute, with a few good emotional scenes. They are giving their all with the simple, clichéd script. Nobody else is given much of a role, or leaves much of an impression, with the exception of David Sakurai, who mostly appears in cartoonish fantasy sequences, and is as over the top evil as you can make him (Though I'm sure he was in real life). There aren't exactly bad performances, but rather just little to quite talk about. It's mostly because the film lacks much focus early on, with the faith based aspect only coming in after the first act. Not to mention because the film needs to play things safe, it never truly gets into the main character's inner demons and troubles. 

 "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" should resonate with a Christian audience, and for good reason, because it's all well intentioned, strong, good messages that are being preached. You just don't have any reason to see this in a theater, especially with today's prices. It's lame and forgettable, but it's not harmful in the slightest, and the story is undeniably powerful stuff, regardless of the fact that it's not very good. It would be far more powerful if it had been genuinely great. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dark Subject Matter, But Not Too Much To Push It's Rating.  

A Simple Favor                                                          by James Eagan                                    ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for a simple favor movieImage: "This is going straight to TMZ."

 Imagine one of those psychotic, outrageously nonsensical, sensual thrillers that you see appearing in marathon form on "Lifetime", except made by competent people, who know how to make a movie, embracing every single moment of insanity it possibly could.....That's this movie, and it's kind of awesome. 

 "A Simple Favor" opens with perky mommy blogger, "Stephanie Smothers" (Anna Kendrick), who is widowed, raising her son, "Miles" (Joshua Satine). Stephanie takes an interest in the beautiful, charismatic, and mysterious, "Emily Nelson" (Blake Lively). Emily's son, "Nicky (Ian Ho) has become friends with Miles, asking for Miles to come over and play, leaving Stephanie to befriend Emily. Stephanie soon sees that Emily is unlike any person she's ever met. She's totally hot and has personality to spare, but also oddly secretive and pessimistic, even with her husband, "Sean" (Henry Golding), despite the fact they are clearly doing it often. One day, Emily calls Stephanie and asks to do her a simple favor of picking up and watching Nicky for her, which Stephanie, eager to please, does without question.

 Things get weird when Emily just up and vanishes for a few days, with nobody able to figure out where she is, including Sean. An investigation into what happened to Emily begins, with Stephanie taking an active role in it. While everything progresses, Stephanie gets more involved into Emily's disappearance, along with her family life, growing closer to Sean in the process. Then that's when everything gets....um.....lets call it, odd. Stephanie begins looking further into Emily and her past, realizing there is more to her supposed "Best Friend" than she at first realizes. Something much darker (And completely bonkers) than she could of possibly imagined.  

 Based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell and from Director Paul Feig, known for his comedic films such as "Bridesmaids", "Spy", and the lady based "Ghostbusters" reboot that pissed off all those nerds, "A Simple Favor" not exactly what you would expect it to be. With a script by Jessica Sharzer ("American Horror Story") that doesn't quite pick a specific tone, but instead seemingly toys with them all. It's not a comedy per se, though there are comedic undertones. It's also not quite taking itself too seriously, but instead embracing it's crazy, soap opera-ish nature to the point where it could almost be considered a parody, except played completely straight. The movie is stylish and is portrayed as if it were truly this dark, mystery thriller, despite how intentionally nonsensical it gets. That's precisely the point, and it's kind of brilliant because the mystery and the many twists and turns, are all still really good. You're still munching down on your popcorn, sitting on the edge of your seat the entire time. (You have no idea where this movie is gonna go, and when it does, you can't believe it.)

 The film isn't only playful in it's writing and direction, but also in it's performances. Anna Kendrick gets to be her usually quirky adorable self, while also toying with some darker territory. Blake Lively is here to remind us how great an actress she can actually be, getting the role of a lifetime, with a character that's instantly engaging, fascinating, and so unlike anything you imagine she would be. The two of them together have perfect chemistry and some truly spectacular scenes. Henry Golding continues to impress with how much onscreen charisma he has, while we get a few strange moments of comedy from Andrew Rannells (as "Darren", one of the gossipy "mothers", who constantly judge Stephanie) and a bizarre small part from Rupert Friend (as "Dennis Nylon", Emily's boss) that oddly don't feel out of place in the slightest. It's hard to describe what the actual tone of this movie is, yet it finds a way to make it all come together. 

 "A Simple Favor" is unapologetic in it's outrageousness, which might leave more people confused as to what they're actually watching. However, what you have to understand is that it's all meant to be. It's not a parody, yet feels like one. It's not a serious thriller, though it's more thrilling than most I've seen this year. It's not an outright comedy, but you'll find yourself laughing hysterically at points. It's made like an actual movie, with a sinister, darkly humorous tone lurking throughout that all comes to a head by the film's jaw dropping (And just plain deranged) final act that shows you can go even crazier than just crazy. It's all just so much fun. Rated R For Language, Sexual Content, And Um, Brotherly Love..... 

The Predator                                                            by James Eagan                                             ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Bring me the head of Schwarzenegger!"

  After "Mission: Impossible", I decided to go through actual franchises I've neglected. (We got a new "Halloween" coming out next month, so I'll get to that soon.) One of them being the "Predator" series. You remember right? GET TO THA CHOPPAH! and whatnot? Now granted, I did realize that this series really never followed each other all that much, so I guess it wasn't necessary. But regardless, I did thoroughly enjoy the ultra macho, occasionally really clever first film. Then the second one ("Predator 2"), while having it's moments, was mostly just the same thing, with the third film ("Predators") feeling more like a proper sequel, with some more memorability. Each one has had it's genre, with the first being a war film (With an alien), followed by a cop movie (With an alien), and finally, a survival horror (....With aliens). This one is.....a family movie? ....With aliens? 

 "The Predator" opens with a rogue alien ship crash landing on Earth, right into the sights of trained sniper, "Quinn McKenna" (Boyd Holbrook). McKenna witnesses the driver of the ship, a terrifying, armed, masked creature, dubbed a "Predator", slaughter his entire team. McKenna escapes, taking the Predator's mask and some of his tech while the Predator himself is captured by government agents, run by the somewhat villainous "Will Traeger" (Sterling K. Brown). Before getting captured himself, McKenna sends the Predator technology back home to his ex-wife, "Emily" (Yvonne Strahovski) and his gifted son, "Rory" (Jacob Tremblay), who already decides to start messing with the stuff. While McKenna is sent to be silenced along with a busload of loonies, pretty biologist, "Casey Bracket" (Olivia Munn) is brought in by Traeger to study the Predator, who ends up waking up, causing chaos and escaping.

 Casey, who knows too much about what Traeger is up to, ends up in the company of McKenna, along with his gang of kooky military characters, including "Nebraska" (Trevante Rhodes), "Coyle" (Keegan-Michael Key), "Nettles" (Augusto Aguilera), "Lynch" (Alfie Allen), and "Baxley" (Thomas Jane). They realize the Predator is going after Rory, who is thoroughly enjoying the alien technology he's been playing around with. This team of unlikely heroes band together to save the boy from the killer alien, only to discover there is something more going on here involving another bigger, more monstrous Super Predator, who has come to kill the other Predator, and complete his own dark goal. 

 Directed (And Co-Written) by Shane Black (Known for "Iron Man 3" and "The Nice Guys, as well for being the first guy to die in the original "Predator"), "The Predator" is more of an reinvention of the franchise, going for something different from the rest of the series. Oddly, it's more of a strange hybrid of comedy, horror action, and an 80s family movie. (You know, with tons of swears of course.) In terms of it's plot, it's a convoluted mess of nonsense and silliness, but thankfully, the film is clearly not taking itself too seriously at all. You get onslaughts of goofy one liners and jokes, with even the gratuitously over the top violence feeling a bit comical. Because of the film's dark sense of humor, and nonchalant attitude to it's own stupidity, there's actually a decent amount of fun to be had with it. Still it's almost baffling the decisions the film takes, with the plotline involving the rival Predators not quite making much sense. (So one was a good guy? Somewhat? Then why is he going around killing everyone? Also, you have this whole conspiracy for alien domination that you're doing a poor job keeping a secret!)

 Boyd Holbrook is a solid action hero, playing a likably sarcastic straight man, with Olivia Munn actually getting take part in just as much fun as the guys do. Sterling K. Brown is a delightfully slimy dirtbag, and is clearly having the time of his life being one. Jacob Tremblay is one of those reliable young actors, who still delivers a good performance, even if his abilities are a bit questionable. (Movies will never know how autism works, will they?) Most of our soldier characters fade into the background, but are weirdly endearing in a way, with the standouts being Trevante Rhodes (Previously seen in "Moonlight"), Thomas Jane, and Keegan-Michael Key. The Predator itself (Or at least the original one) is still a cool creature, with it's excellent makeup and costume design. Our new, Mega Predator (And his Predator Doggies) look awesome, even though they're mostly CGI (And not really the best CGI) and don't quite have that same scare factor that the original ones do. 

 "The Predator" is narratively all over the place, with some questionable story decisions, and an ending that I guess sets up a sequel, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. Still, you get the glorious amount of gore you want from the franchise, along with snarky, pitch black humor, and a sense of sense awareness that should make for a good, fast paced time for anyone looking for the cinematic equivalent of junk food.  2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gruesome, Gorey Violence, Strong Language, And Predator Abs. (Still Got Those Predator Abs.) 

Peppermint                                                                by James Eagan                                                   ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: This Alias movie sucks. 

 Remember that horrible "Death Wish" remake that came out earlier this year? The one with Bruce Willis? Yeah, imagine the same movie, just with Jennifer Garner. It's the same damn movie, complete with questionable morality, an onslaught of gratuitous violence, constant stupidity, and this nonsensical belief that it's just the coolest thing ever. Yeah, I did not need to get out of this movie at 12:30 a.m......

 "Peppermint" follows loving wife and mother, "Riley North" (Jennifer Garner), living a nice, peaceful, non-death filled life with her husband, "Chris" (Jeff Hephner) and young daughter, "Carly" (Cailey Fleming). Chris as it turns out is in need of a little money, but declines a friend's offer to steal from vicious kingpin, "Diego Garcia" (Juan Pablo Raba). Sadly, Garcia is crazy (And stupid), so he doesn't like people even considering stealing from him. While out for Carly's birthday at a carnival, Riley watches in horror as Garcia's henchmen gun down Chris and Carly, while getting wounded in the process. After waking up from a coma, Riley's case is taken up by a pair of detectives, the newbie "Stan Carmichael" (John Gallagher Jr.) and his cynical superior, "Moises Beltran" (John Ortiz), with Riley being able to identify who the killers are.

 But Garcia apparently owns everyone, resulting in a hilariously inept court session that doesn't even remotely try to not look corrupt. Riley doesn't take her family's killers walking free, and vanishes off the grid. Five years later, the deceased bodies of the killers turn up, with FBI agent, "Lisa Inman" (Annie Ilonzeh) concluding that Riley has returned and has become a vigilante, taking the law into her own hands by killing all the violent Mexicans. Carmichael and Beltran work with Inman to track down Riley, all while Garcia, realizing his life is in danger, sends out his army of goons to kill her. 

 Directed by Pierre Morel ("Taken" and that horrifying Sean Penn movie, "The Gunman"), "Peppermint" first seemingly starts off with some possible potential. It's an idea we've seen done before in many revenge action movies. But you know, you got Jennifer Garner, who is a great dramatic actress, as well as someone who can handle herself in an action scene. It's fairly early on when you realize there's something off about the movie. Sequences are cobbled together with shoddy editing and needlessly added flashy, seizure inducing images for no reason. The actual killers are offed in the first few minutes (Mostly off camera), with the film just meandering around, with Jennifer Garner just killing minorities till we get to the dragged out finale. 

 Garner only has moments where she shines, such as in the surprisingly few dramatic moments, but she's oddly not given much of a character once the plot gets going. It's damn near kind of insulting how little of a role she actually has despite being the main character. Juan Pablo Raba, along with the rest of the villainous brown people in the movie, are all so over the top and are simply walking stereotypes that would border on offensive if the film actually knew what the Hell it was doing. John Gallagher Jr., at first, was probably the one character I kind of liked. His part with John Ortiz, while incredibly cheesy and full of every cop cliché out there, but unlike "Death Wish", the cops this time around at least seemed competent and were attempting to do good. However, where this whole arc ends up going is brutally stupid, completely comes out of nowhere, and just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. (In a way, it kind of makes cops look even worse than just simply being dumb and ineffective.)

 "Peppermint" (Which was titled that because the daughter ate peppermint ice cream before she died? I think?) is just a really ugly and unpleasant movie, not just in how it looks, with the sloppy editing, ridiculous amounts of violence, and poor attempts at stylish flair.  But also, in how the film portrays itself, with you questioning if the film just lacks enough basic common sense to realize how dangerous it's vigilante way of thinking really is in today's society. Worst of all, it's just so freakin stupid, while thinking it's actually trying to make a relevant statement. (Such has how people on Twitter would react to someone like this, or the dissonance between the people and the police). It's a gung-ho, rah rah, wannabe vigilante's wet dream, and not even a very good one at that. With vengeance in my heart, I cannot forgive anyone involved. Except Jennifer Garner. 1 star. Rated R For Gruesome Violence And Drug Dealing, Crime Bringing Mexicans. (But Not Rapists, So Some I Assume Are Good People.)

The Nun                   by James Eagan             ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the nun movieImage: "Holy sh*t!"

 You know, a demonic nun, with sharp yellow dentures, blue skin, and an obsessive need to kill and torture, while grinning maliciously, is honestly not the scariest thing to come out of the Vatican as of late.....

 "The Nun" takes place over twenty years before the original "Conjuring" films. The film starts in a Catholic monastery in Romania, with some nuns being haunted by am evil satanic presence named "Valak", which takes the form of a corpse like, demon nun with sharp teeth (Bonnie Aarons). This results in a nun hanging herself and her corpse being discovered by "Frenchie" (Jonas Bloquet), a dummy from a nearby village. Word gets out to the Vatican, who decide to send in "Father Burke" (Demián Bichir), a priest with a troubled past, along with the open minded, young nun in training, "Irene" (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate and see if the monastery is still holy despite what's occurred.

 With some aid from Frenchie, Burke and Irene head to the monastery, where they are instructed to stay for weird plot reasons that don't quite add up. (Well, the movie has to happen somehow, right?) Bottom line is, they end up stuck inside, and all start to see and hear weird things in the night, along with various attempts on their lives by jump scares. Burke starts to investigate into what exactly is going on, discovering Valak's origins and goals of escaping into the world. Meanwhile Irene has her faith tested as the demon nun starts to haunt her in hopes of taking her soul. Now our heroes must work together to put a stop to Valak's plot, and restore their own faith in the process. 

 Both "Conjuring" films, which were directed by James Wan (Serving as only a producer this time), are essentially the movies that proved to me that horror films can be great again. They can offer spine chilling scares, memorable characters, and true horror that will stick with you, showing that something scary can come out of the least conventional of places. Directed by Corin Hardy, "The Nun" is certainly well shot, with plenty of dark atmosphere. It's competently made, with a few spooky sequences and nightmarish imagery. Sadly, the film itself, especially the more I think about it, just doesn't give much reason to exist, which makes it shockingly kind of a bore. It doesn't help that the plot is a little hard to follow, with the characters' reason to even be stuck there seeming forced, and following a predictable structure to an obvious twist you see coming a mile away. 

 The film isn't without some good characters, who are easy to root for, despite not leaving much of an impression. Demián Bichir, always an underutilized actor, does solid work, along with Taissaa Farmiga (Sister to Vera Farmiga, who starred in the "Conjuring" movies), who is lovably cute and has a solid character arc. Jonas Bloquet is essentially our out of place comic relief, who does actually start to grow on you the more the film goes on, with his charming personality and a few funny quips. Then we get to our villainous nun, Valak, with Bonnie Aarons not getting as much screen time as she should. It seems they wanted to go for a less is more sort of vibe (Like "Jaws" in a Habit), which ends up kind of hurting the film when this character is who everyone paid to see more of. With that said, when Valak does make an appearance, it's suitably creepy, especially towards the end when we see more of the character's almost gleefully sinister nature. 

 "The Nun" doesn't offer enough scares, but isn't without some admittedly cool (And towards the climax, some pretty badass) moments, thanks in part to some likable characters, and our titular villain. However, the movie only briefly delves into some backstory, which is pretty simple and could of been summed up elsewhere, making the movie not particularly necessary to watch. It's much better (and less lazy) than the first "Annabelle", but its a prequel that doesn't offer anything all that new to the "Conjuring Universe". 2 stars. Rated R For Nightmare Faces And Religious Impurity. 

Kin                  by James Eagan                   ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for kin movieImage: Those Nerf guns keep getting more elaborate.

 What is it with movies lately and sequel baiting? I'm not talking about franchises, big budget blockbusters, or films with a large amount of source material. Movies like "A-X-L", "Mile 22", and now, "Kin" all seemed to get the idea that their stories and characters were so strong, and we so sure, that they had the balls to add in a little something to make way for a sequel. Next time don't come in 11th at the box office!

 "Kin" opens in Detroit, with young teen, "Elijah" (Myles Truitt), who goes by the nickname "Eli", living with his strict, but loving, widowed stepfather, "Hal" (Dennis Quaid). On his way home from school, Eli comes across a bunch of dead bodies and a strange, high tech, and totally marketable space gun, which he accidentally activates. Eli returns home to find that his stepbrother, "Jimmy" (Jack Reynor) has gotten out of prison and is already looking for more trouble. Jimmy as it turns out owes a crapton of money to evil gangster, "Taylor" (James Franco), who intends to collect.....despite the fact that Jimmy literally just got out of prison and is flat broke. (Seriously, what the Hell do you expect him to do?) So anyways, while Eli goes back to get that gun (Because you gotta pack some heat today), Jimmy decides to allow Taylor to sneak into his dad's office and steal some money from his safe.(Crappy thing Jimmy does #1) Bad luck for Hal, when he decides to walk in right into the office while this is going on, resulting in Taylor shooting him dead and Jimmy, after taking the money and killing Taylor's brother, making a run for it, back to Eli. (Crappy thing Jimmy does #2)

Jimmy decides to continue his horrible streak by lying to Eli about Hal's death and convincing him to go on a trip out of the city. (Crappy things Jimmy does #3 and #4.) Taking the space gun with him, Eli and Jimmy make a pit stop at a strip club (Crappy thing Jimmy....Ah forget it!), where an incident involving a stripper, "Milly" (Zoë Kravitz) and her jackass bosses, causes Eli to fire the gun, blowing a massive hole in the building. So our heroes neglect using the gun for good, in favor of holding up rich guys and abusing the absolute sh*t out of it. Meanwhile, Taylor is out for vengeance, sending his goons to track down Jimmy and Eli, all while a pair of masked, possible alien people are tracking down the gun and intend to get it back.  

 From Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, and based on a short they also directed, "Kin" seems to be more of an idea movie that might of sounded fun on paper, but when executed, is just all over the place, awkwardly put together, and just plain wacky when it's clearly not supposed to be. Part family drama, part Sci-Fi adventure, and part road trip sex comedy, the movie doesn't seem to figure out what tone it's going for exactly. You can see glimpses of something that could of worked on occasion, with better than average effects, some solid camera work which give a late 80s/early 90s movie vibe, and even a couple decent enough performances. Where it all collapses is because of the lame, somewhat lazy script, lack of actually likable characters, and few story decisions that are just kind of questionable. (If there ever was a movie revealed to of been made on drugs, this is the one.) 

 Myles Truitt does a fine enough job with what's given, along with Jack Reynor (Who has at least improved as an actor since "Transformers: Age of Extinction"), despite the fact he could possibly be one of the more despicable characters in any movie this year. Their chemistry is off because their relationship is so dysfunctional to the point of unpleasantness. Zoë Kravitz really doesn't have much of a role here (She doesn't even become a love interest. She's just there), while Dennis Quaid only appears briefly, but does a shockingly solid job when he could of just phoned it in. James Franco plays slimeball very well, and appears to be having fun, although the longer the movie goes on, you question why he's even there. Also, Carrie Coon (as an FBI agent who appears in the last 20 minutes) is in it. Don't know why, but she's there. 

 "Kin" completely loses it's mind in the last 10 minutes, with a big reveal that's incredibly stupid and had me questioning reality in general. It's baffling where this movie decides to go and where it deems it necessary to end. The ending itself feels like one you would see in a YA novel adaptation, except this movie isn't a novel. (Although bombing big time is a tradition with those kinds of films. So this movie has that in common.) The movie is a hybrid of conflicting storylines, that do have moments of intrigue, but it all just collapses on itself once it's over. You know insanity when you see it. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Violence, And Poor Brotherly Role Models. 

Searching                                                                    by James Eagan                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "7 to 10 business days? I knew I should have signed up with Amazon Prime!"

 I'm assuming that Producer Timur Bekmambetov really, really wants the whole filmed on a laptop style of storytelling in film? He did after all produce both "Unfriended" films, which utulized the gimmick, If you would call it that. I honestly think it's a cool idea in need of further exploring. I think this movie right here proves that you can definitely do it well, in a way that tells a powerful, cohesive story with depth, twists and turns, and an unexpected amount of emotional strength. 

 "Searching" takes place entirely through the point of view of computer and phone screens, following "David Kim" (John Cho), father to young teen, "Margot" (Michelle La). Having lost her mother, "Pam" (Sara Sohn) a few years prior, David has become more protective, but in some ways more distant from his daughter. One night, Margot leaves to hang out with her study group for a late night session, which David doesn't think twice about, not noticing the many calls he gets from her in the middle of the night. The next morning, Margot is no longer answering her phone, didn't go to school, and has completely vanished. When David discovers that not only Margot has not been attending the piano lessons that David has been paying for, but that Margot has been transferring the funds to a now deactivated Venmo account.

 This sparks David to involve the police, with him working closely with the officer assigned to the case, "Detective Rosemary Vick" (Debra Messing). David is allowed by Vick to help with the case, such as looking into Margot's apparent friends (Who all weirdly know so little about her), where and what she looks up online, and eventually learning that he might not really know as much about his daughter as he at first thought. While the investigation intensifies, David is forced to confront the secrets Margot has hidden from him, while also discovering a few other unexpected surprises.  

 "Searching", which was directed by first time Director Aneesh Chaganty, is one of those films where I'm sure somebody said that it wasn't going to work, claiming there would be nothing more to it than a simple gimmick with little substance. What's amazing about all that is not only is the film extremely effective in utilizing it's style and premise to deliver on nail biting suspense, but it's also able to bring about some compelling and heartfelt drama from it's characters. The film brilliantly takes this idea, and uses it to immerse the audience into the mystery, which unfolds through various videos, phone calls, and articles that appear throughout. The film does this in a way that doesn't feel the need to spoon-feed information to it's audience, and simply letting them figure out for themselves. The limited space makes everything feel tighter, well paced, and more frightening. There is also a bit of a message hidden through the film about how people can use the internet to do whatever they want with little consequences, and how some are not who they appear in real life compared to how they act online, along with a few stating their unnecessary and mean spirited opinions despite having no involvement in what's going on. There is a little humor in that, but not in the "Ha Ha" sense. (Satirical would probably be the best way to describe it.) 

 John Cho, who the film relies on more than anything, has always shown himself to be a reliable actor, but never truly getting his time to shine. He's amazing in this movie, going through many stages of grief and paranoia, and showing his character's humanity and flaws through actions, words, and expressions. Debra Messing is excellent, with her character's complexity playing a large part in the film's narrative, giving a better understanding of who she is and her investment in the case. Michelle La, who does spend much of the film offscreen, gets a lot of range just from the emotional looks on her face, giving you all you need to know about her character without saying much. The rest of the cast of unknown actors, such as Sara Sohn, Joseph Lee (as "Peter", David's brother, who may have a secret of his own), and a few others, all play a role of some sort in the story, further escalating the mystery, keeping you guessing what's going to happen next, and most importantly, if a happy ending is even possible. 

 "Searching" tells it's seemingly straight forward story in an unexpected and relevant way, leaving more of an impact. This movie is a perfect example of understated, yet thoughtful and original filmmaking. You become immersed in it's premise, become enamored with the characters, and feel the sense of dread and heartbreak that they feel, all leading up to a reveal that you'll never see coming. (But looking back, there were clues littered throughout the entire film.) It's smart, unique, and we just plain need more movies like it these days. And, I learned that if I ever have children, i'm implanting tracking devices. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Parental Fear. 

Operation Finale                                                  by James Eagan                                        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Hey, there were good and bad people on both sides!"

 The summer movie season is official over! We'll be taking time off from the big budget, mostly superhero based blockbusters and franchises that critics will constantly say they're tired of, but will usually be shut up the second they see the films and realize how good they are. (With "Avengers: Infinity War", "Incredibles 2", "Deadpool 2", "Ant-Man and the Wasp", "Mission Impossible: Fallout", etc,) It's been a great year with great movies big and small. Sadly, now you all got school, work, or other previous engagements you can't wiggle out of. Less time to see anything due to so little time. Luckily, that's what movies such as "Operation Finale" are made for.  

 Based on true events, "Operation Finale" follows a plan to track down and capture high ranking Nazi Officer, "Adolf Eichmann" (Ben Kingsley), the only remaining top lieutenants to Adolf Hitler and one of the architects to the so called "Final Solution". Security service director, "Isser Harel" (Lior Raz) arranges a team of Israeli spies, led by "Peter Malkin" (Oscar Isaac), to go into Argentina where Eichmann is in hiding with his family under an alias and sneak him out, bringing Eichmann to Israel to stand trial for his atrocities. The team of spies, which also includes intelligence officer, "Rafi Eitan" (Nick Kroll) and Peter's former love interest, "Hanna" (Mélanie Laurent), go undercover into the country, spying on Eichmann on his daily life before striking, taking him to their safe house.

 However, things don't go so smoothly when Eichmann's son, "Klaus" (Joe Alwyn), who has previously been manipulated into allowing this whole situation to go down by his girlfriend/Jewish refugee, "Sylvia" (Haley Lu Richardson), is able to piece together that his father is missing. Klaus quickly deduces his father has been kidnapped, gathering his Nazi sympathizer allies to find out where he has been taken. Now Peter's team is forced remain hidden with Eichmann, due to the police now searching for them, which would mean if they're caught, they could end up causing an international incident. Things go from bad to worse as they are now also forced to get Eichmann to give his written consent to be taken to Israel to stand trial, which he obviously refuses to do. Now everyone must keep their cool to make it out of this situation alive, with Peter getting the most one on one with Eichmann, who is quite the manipulator. 

 Directed by Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass"), "Operation Finale" is a tame, simple historical drama, that certainly plays it safe, but not without plenty of suspense and compelling intrigue. It's a movie that never truly gets too into the dark center of it's story (Mostly due to the PG-13 rating), leaving things implied or in the background. Despite this, you still get the idea of what this man did and allowed to happen. You still understand the dread and conflict that our heroes are feeling, with you forgetting the fact that this is a true story and wondering what's going to happen next. (Or in some cases, wondering if anyone is just going to snap and blow the whole mission.) There are some excellent scenes involving our characters discussing the importance of this mission as well as what it means for their people, along with some great parts involving some more complexity with our villains (I mean, Nazis are still evil. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.) But it's interesting to see how people can say that what they did was justified, and to a certain degree might even genuinely believe it. 

 The ever reliable Oscar Isaac is once again excellent here, along with an equally terrific Ben Kingsley. Their scenes together are some of the most effective, with Isaac conveying his character's inner conflict and Kingsley providing some human elements to his detestable villain. The conversations between them can range from somewhat humorous, to sympathetically heartfelt and suspenseful, as the actors provide their characters with enough to help us understand who they are, and why they became this way, while never truly giving any sympathy to our Nazi villain. (He's still pure evil, but a human sort of evil, proving that people like this do exist.) Mélanie Laurent is fine with what she is given, and Nick Kroll gets to show off some more of his dramatic chops. The whole plotline with Haley Lu Richardson and the bland Joe Alwyn doesn't amount to much, and by the end, serves little purpose. 

 "Operation Finale" has a couple plotlines that don't amount to much, and overall, it isn't exactly one of those films I could tell anyone to drop what they're doing and rush out to see. With that said, it's a well made, terrifically acted, thoroughly fascinating drama that isn't without tension and heartfelt importance. If you find yourself with little choice but to see it, there's nothing to complain about, and considering we're in the after Summer dumping ground, this isn't a bad one in the slightest. A history lesson, even one not incredibly complex, seems right this time of year. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dark Subjects And Nazi Behavior.  

The Happytime Murders                                    by James Eagan                                                ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: " So Statler finally snapped and killed Waldorf.."

 Nearly 10 years this movie has been in development. It was an idea thought up by the Jim Henson Company, and had been mostly just an idea for the longest time, despite casting rumors, and concept art circling around online for years. It's easy to see why people were so adamant about getting this movie made. It's a hilarious idea that just sounds fantastic on paper, and when you think about it, should make for something pretty awesome. This should work......Why doesn't it work? 

 "The Happytime Murders" takes place in a world where humans and puppets coexist, although the puppets are mostly second-class citizens and are seen as lesser than humans. The story follows a puppet, "Phil Phillips" (Voiced by Bill Barretta), a former cop turned private investigator, working at his own office, with his secretary, "Bubbles" (Maya Rudolph). Phil is cynical towards the world around him, especially since his failure to act under pressure resulted in him being removed from the police force and has prevented any other puppets from signing up. Phil is met by a sex addicted new client, "Sandra" (Voiced by Dorien Davies), who hired him to look into someone demanding money from her. During Phil's investigation, his actor brother "Larry" (Voiced by Victor Yerrid), ends up murdered (Or in this case, ripped to shreds by dogs), along with another former star, a porn addict named "Mr. Bumblypants" (Voiced by Kevin Clash). These murders reunite Phil with his old human partner, "Detective Connie Edwards" (Melissa McCarthy), who Phil previously had a falling out with. 

 The death of Phil's brother and Mr. Bumblypants, who were stars in the beloved 1980s television series, "The Happytime Gang", lead Phil to believe someone is specifically targeting the cast for the show. This prompts "Lieutenant Banning" (Leslie David Baker) to force Edwards and Phil to work together to solve the case, with the rest of the cast now in danger of becoming this serial killer's next victim, including Phil's former lover, "Jenny" (Elizabeth Banks), the only human cast member turned burlesque dancer. The bickering duo investigate further into the case, only for conveniently placed clues making it seem like Phil is the one committing the murders. Now Edwards and Phil must put aside their differences and work together once again to prove Phil's innocence and solve the murders before more cotton filled, sock-like bodies start to pile up. 

 Directed by the son of Jim Henson himself, Brian Henson (Who previously directed "Muppet Treasure Island" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol"), "The Happytime Murders" is one of those ideas that you immediately would assume to be comedy gold. At times, the film realizes that and relishes in it, with raunchy, gross out, adult centered gags, all involving puppets. It's hard not to get a laugh. Sadly, there just isn't all that much of it, which leads to a shockingly minimum amount of laughs, and makes the movie's poorly constructed nature even more noticeable. The plot is all over the place, taking the most predictable route, and mostly just getting by on the novelty of puppets swearing and having sex. And while that's funny as Hell at times, you realize that there isn't much else to it. Compare it to 2016's "Sausage Party", which ended up being much smarter than advertised, with a bit more to say and good characters to go along with the dirty sense of humor. This movie just doesn't have much that's memorable about it. 

 Melissa McCarthy does get a chance to remind people that she can be funny, without just falling over or getting knocked into things. She does a good job, having surprising chemistry with our puppet lead. Bill Barretta is great, playing his character completely straight as if he was in an actual cop movie, despite being you know, a purple, goofy looking puppet. Maya Rudolph is cute and gets a couple fun moments, along with Joel McHale playing Joel McHale. Elizabeth Banks is wasted completely in a storyline that doesn't really need to be there. Our highlights end up being the puppets themselves, with the voices and puppeteering all done by professionals, who know exactly what they're doing, and know exactly how to get some laughs out of it. The most memorable one being Drew Massey (as the voice of "Goofer", a former star turned sugary drug addict). 

 "The Happytime Murders" falters in not truly going all out in what it's been advertising. It's not without funny or even hilarious parts (The puppet sex scene freakin cracked me up), but it feels oddly tame, which is disappointing when you've been advertised as the filthiest, most outrageously shocking comedy of the year. (I've seen "Meet the Feebles". This is nothing by comparison.)  Just having kid friendly looking puppets say "F*ck" over and over isn't enough to compensate for a garbage story, that granted isn't exactly the point, but makes the movie kind of boring. It's been called the worst movie of the year by many critics, and I find that ridiculous, seeing as there isn't much truly offensive or harmful about it. It's nothing that bad, and it's not even the worst Melissa McCarthy movie I've seen this year. ("Life of the Party" was just plain insulting). You just have an idea, one that is rather brilliant and could of been amazing, that doesn't get followed through anywhere near enough. Maybe a filthy "Bert and Ernie" movie will be better. 2 stars. Rated R For Puppet Violence, Puppet Sex, And Puppet Drug Use.