In Theaters: Zombieland: Double Tap, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Jexi, Gemini Man, The Addams Family, Joker, Abominable, Downton Abbey, Rambo: Last Blood, Ad Astra, The Goldfinch, Hustlers, It: Chapter Two, Angel Has Fallen, Ready or Not, Good Boys, The Angry Birds Movie 2
Coming Soon: Black and Blue, Jojo Rabbit, Countdown, Terminator: Dark Fate, Harriet, Arctic Dogs, Harriet, Doctor Sleep, Midway, Last Christmas, Playing with Fire, Charlie's Angels, Ford V Ferrari, Frozen 2, 21 Bridges, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, Queen and Slim, PLAYMOBIL: The Movie, Jumanji 2 (or 3?)
★★★½: Very 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
Image: "Great, now Zombies are falling from the sky."
When your surprise hit comedy takes a while to release it's sequel, and you have no intention of really doing anything all that different this time around, there is one simple thing that can salvage everything. Just remember to be funny. It's apparently not even that hard.
Ten years after the original, "Zombieland: Double Tap" following the continuing adventures of "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson), "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg), "Wichita" (Emma Stone), and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin), as they try to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, dubbed "Zombieland". Living by a set of rules devised by Columbus, the group has taken shelter in the now abandoned White House, having taken notice of the new and inventive forms of zombies that have started to appear. (Some smarter, faster, or even dumber than ever.) However, not everything is perfect in their new home. Wichita is turned off by Columbus' intent to ask for her hand in marriage, and Little Rock yearns to find people her own age to hang out with. The two abandon the group, leaving Tallahassee and Columbus to annoy each other with their basic personalities. While out and about, Columbus meets the living embodiment of a dumb blonde, "Madison" (Zoey Deutch), and she becomes part of the group, much to the chagrin of Tallahassee. But when Wichita returns with news that Little Rock has run off with a hippie, "Berkeley" (Avan Jogia), and now everyone has to go find her. Bringing Madison along for the ride, our heroes must trek through Zombieland in a mini-van to find Little Rock, all while discovering that there are a rising number of super powered, mega-Zombies on the loose.
With returning Director Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland", "Venom"), "Zombieland: Double Tap" could easily be seen by some as just a complete re-hash of the first film.....and it is. It's also smart enough to know that, and to remember what made the first film work so well in the first place. With the return of screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Both "Deadpool" movies), along with Dave Callaham, they continue the first film's clever deconstruction of the zombie genre and know when the let the film be as cartoonish as it wants. But it also gives our fantastic cast, who we already know work really well together, enough to work off each other, while on occasion probably letting them ad-lib every now and then. In addition, the bigger budget gives room for the film to get a little bigger (But thankfully not too overboard) and expand on the over the top, apocalyptic world that's been set up from the original movie.
The comedic chemistry between Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg is as hilarious as ever. Both of them bringing out their real life mannerisms and exaggerating them further, they play off each other perfectly. Emma Stone, who has since the original film found herself a couple Oscar nominations and a win, still feels right at home with everyone and delivers plenty of amusing sarcasm. Abigail Breslin, getting the smallest role of the main four, does at least get remind everyone how she's one of those actresses with enough natural personality to keep up with everyone else. We get some fun new additions to the cast, such as a hilariously idiotic Zooey Deutch (Who has a lot more range as an actress than I think people give her credit for), and the overqualified, but welcome Rosario Dawson (as "Nevada", a gun-toting badass, who might have a romantic connection with Tallahassee). Then there's the quick, but memorably bizarre appearances of Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch (as "Albuquerque" and "Flagstaff", a duo who share a remarkable and creepy amount of similarities to Tallahassee and Columbus), that gets one of the film's biggest laughs. As for Avan Jogia, he's just meh in a very thankless and forgettable role.
"Zombieland: Double Tap" can feel a little sitcom-ish at times, but then again, so did the first one. Some jokes are restated or expanded on simply because the first film did it for sure, yet the same ingredients somehow work. There are plenty of big laughs, a few unexpected surprises, and lots of good old fashioned, crazy zombie killing, that everyone can enjoy. It's nothing special, but it's like the rules say, enjoy the little things. 3 Stars. Rated R For Lots Of Language, Cartoonish And Bloody Violence, And Total Disregard For Presidential Portraits.
Image: I'd stay on her good side.
One of the first modern live-action re-imaginings of an animated Disney classic, the first "Maleficent" wasn't perfect by any means, but it certainly didn't have any problems finding an audience and even a fanbase that followed. It's a darker story for Disney (And Hell, it apparently had a rape allegory. Seriously.) and it was also at least somewhat different from the other many remakes we've had recently (Although it oddly isn't as good as many of them). Due to being a big box office hit, a sequel, no matter how unneeded, was going to come around at some point.
"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" follows the titular dark fairy, "Maleficent" (Angelina Jolie), having redeemed herself and given up her evil ways to watch over all of the magical folk of "The Moors", along with her adopted daughter, "Aurora" (Elle Fanning). Maleficent is distressed when she learns that Aurora's stale piece of white bread sweetheart, "Prince Phillip" (Harris Dickinson, replacing Brenton Thwaites), has asked Aurora to marry him. Despite disapproving of the union, Maleficent only wants to see her step-daughter happy. Maleficent, along with her human/raven sidekick/possible lover, "Diaval" (Sam Riley), accompany Aurora to the nearby kingdom, to meet Phillip's parents, "King John" (Robert Lindsay) and "Queen Ingrith" (Michelle Pfeiffer). However, it turns out Ingrith is a manipulative bigot, who hates all magical creatures and plots to destroy them all.
After an epic sass off between Maleficent and Ingrith, John ends up cursed to a deep sleep, and Maleficent is forced to flee the castle, only to be wounded in the process. Maleficent is rescued and brought to a hidden sanctuary populated by more fairies, led by the noble "Conall" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wants to use Maleficent as a chance to bring peace to both humans and fairy kind. Sadly, with vengeful fairy, "Borra" (Ed Skrein), demanding battle, and Ingrith ready for some mass genocide, a grand and magical race war is about to begin. (You know, from Disney!) It's up to the mother and daughter bond between Maleficent and Aurora to save the day, and prevent heavy casualties from both sides.
Directed by Joachim Rønning ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"), "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" is a lot like the first film in which story is taking a back seat to the visual effects and the production design. It's a very predictable outline that's set up, and the film follows every plot point to the exact letter. It's just the execution and the road getting there is absolutely insane. The visuals and art direction are definitely beautiful to look at. Even with the excessive CGI, it is a credit to Rønning, who despite obviously not intending to focus on plot, knows how to portrays the beauty of this world, along with a love for darker, creepier elements. (Gotta respect Disney for allowing the filmmakers to embrace freakier imagery.) The screenplay by Linda Woollverton (The original "The Lion King", "Alice in Wonderland", and the first "Maleficent"), with collaborators Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, is a bit on the goofy side, yet it makes the film oddly charming. (Especially when it likes our lead character be her endearingly snarky self.) It's when the film gets heavy with its themes of racial tension and the surprisingly high body count, to go with the film's unpredictable images. (I was not expecting to see a scary bear/raven hybrid, or a sadistic woman playing an organ as living creatures die horribly around her in kids a movie.)
One of the best aspects from the first film returns to grace us once again with her mesmerizing presence. Angelina Jolie, with her marvelous cheekbones, brings the character to life and finds her humanity. (Metaphorically of course.) Elle Fanning is still a wonderful casting choice, and both she and Jolie have some excellent mother/daughter chemistry together. They serve as the heart of the film, and even when the storytelling feels sloppy, you at least care for them. The always welcome Sam Riley provides the most humor, and remains the most memorable character, while Harris Dickinson is the human personification of a blank sheet of paper. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville (as "Knotgrass", "Thistlewit", and "Flittle", less competent versions of the fairies from the animated film), portray their characters through offputting motion capture like before, and still make for the most mediocre effects in the film. The great Chiwetel Ejiofor is underutulized, while Ed Skrein is damn near unrecognizable under those horns and makeup. Our villains end up stealing the show, with Michelle Pfeiffer just dripping with delicious villainy and smugness, along with delightfully evil performances from Jenn Murray (as "Gerda", Ingrith's cold staring henchwoman) and Warwick Davis (as "Lickspittle", Ingrith's goblin-esque mad scientist).
The final act is when the film just goes for broke, becoming "Game of Thrones" for kids, complete with loads of gruesome deaths and attempted murders. Not to mention the absolutely bonkers, yet still visually lovely, imagery that accompany them. Visually graceful and not without heart, "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" is a thoroughly entertaining, occasionally crazy, dark children's fantasy, even if its existence is completely unnecessary. To a certain degree, stronger than the first film, it probably doesn't need to be here, but on the big screen (Let alone an IMAX screen), it makes for a flawed, yet shockingly good time. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Scary Images, Casual Racism, Horrific Disintegrations, Maulings, And Horny Flying Creatures.
Image: The new Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max. Vulgar mode optional.
When a movie reveals its existence a little over a month before its release date, you know somethings probably a little off about it.
"Jexi" follows pathetic schmuck, "Phil" (Adam Devine), who like the rest of the world, lives his life through his phone. After breaking his old one, he's able to get a brand new smartphone that has a very advanced (And unstable) AI, named "Jexi" (Voiced by Rose Byrne). Jexi is determined to make Phil's life better by any means necessary. Things start to pick up for Phil when he slowly starts to become braver, makes friends, finally gets somewhere in his job, and even finds a connection with his cute new love interest, "Cate" (Alexandra Shipp). However, it turns out Jexi is jealous of Phil's new relationship and wants him all to herself. With a new mission to force Phil to love only her, Jexi proceeds to ruin his life even more than it already was before.
Despite the obviously rushed distribution, "Jexi" is not as bad as you would think. It's nothing game changingly horrible or offensive. It's just not very good, but in a way that doesn't end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. You're mostly just left with the feeling of "Well, that was a movie.". Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore ("21 & Over", along with both "Bad Moms" movies), the film feels cheap and sitcom like, with direction that would even seem pedestrian by TV standards, complete with strange and distracting camerawork. (Lots of weird shaky cam and offputting close ups.) The film is focused on (And to a certain degree, held together as best it can) by Adam Devine. Sure, he's mugging constantly, and I do question the character's intelligence to the point you could consider labeling him as mentally unstable, but he's certainly giving it everything he can. Alexandra Shipp, once again stuck as the love interest to someone much lesser than her, is charming as usual despite the script's shortcomings. The film becomes more of a romantic comedy as it goes along, and they're thankfully cute enough, albeit unrealistic. We have appearances from a cartoonish Michael Peña (as Phil's over the top boss) and an amusing Wanda Sykes (as the sassy smartphone saleswoman). The selling point is Rose Byrne, and it feels like the movie only exists simply to have her say raunchy things for under an hour and a half. She still gets an occasional laugh or at least a chuckle, though even that gets a little old after a while.
Not without some okay moments of humor and the short runtime works to the film's benefit, "Jexi" is nothing spectacular in its badness. It's just too damn pointless. More of a skit than an actual movie, it ends on a predictably stupid note, but at least doesn't attempt to pad things out any longer than necessary. For a movie that wants to say something about how people waste their lives on their phones, this movie is ironically a waste of time in of itself. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Phone Sex. Literally.
Image: Will Smith looks great for his age.
Ang Lee has got to be one of the strangest directors out there. There are directors that have a specific type of film that they usually make, and plenty that have a slightly more ranged filmography. Ang Lee is kind of all over the place. He makes "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", then gives us "Hulk". Follows that up with "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pie", and tosses in that really off-putting one, "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk". Now we got Will Smith literally beating himself up.
"Gemini Man" follows incredibly skilled, though worn out government assassin, "Henry Brogan" (Will Smith), on his way towards retirement. However, Henry discovers that his superiors weren't entirely truthful about his most recent kill, resulting in the higher ups coming to the conclusion that he needs to retire permanently.....from life. When attempts to kill Henry fail, "Clay Varris" (Clive Owen), the leader of super top secret bad guy organization, "GEMINI", decides to send in the perfect person to get the job done. Henry is then confronted by himself, literally, in the form of "Junior" (Will Smith, de-aged), a younger clone, that has all of Henry's skills in a more Fresh Prince-like body. Allied with a fellow agent, "Danny Zakarweski" (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and old pilot buddy, "Baron" (Benedict Wong), Henry must find a way to avoid Junior and track down Varris to shut down GEMINI for good.
A concept that's over twenty years old, "Gemini Man" is a movie that's been passed around for years, looking for the right person to make it a reality. Director Ang Lee steps in to give us a thoroughly enjoyable and even somewhat engrossing, yet awkward and pretty damn stupid popcorn flick. With screenwriting credits given to Darren Lemke ("Jack the Giant Slayer"), Billy Ray ("Overlord", "The Hunger Games"), and David Benioff ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), yet also apparent credit given to a crap-load of other people, the film is kind of a mess. At first, the film seems clever in how it starts off fairly normally before jumping into science-fiction territory. Although it doesn't quite do a good enough job setting things up (Feels a bit like a TV pilot), you get a vibe for who our lead character is and his backstory. When things start to get crazy, they progressively get more absurd, especially once we reach the explosive (and ridiculous) finale. It's not helped by the cheesy dialogue, which is more than overly serious. It also makes the film kind of fun in the same way one would enjoy a soap opera (Except with more explosions and special effects).
Will Smith shows that he still has an incredible amount of onscreen charisma to carry a film. Using his age to his advantage, he proves to be a likable action hero, with a complexly vague history and very human motivations. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays more of a nuanced role, rather than cute, sort of love interest (That part thankfully gets dropped pretty early on), and Benedict Wong provides needed goofy comic relief. Clive Owen is enjoyably dastardly, sneering every line with glee, and only lacking a mustache to twirl. Now to talk about young Will Smith and the effects work that bring that character to life. It's biggest selling point for the whole film, and for good reason too. The de-aging effect, while not perfect, is still impressively done. What could of been distracting throughout ends up being surprisingly compelling and makes for an actually interesting character that you do start to care about. While it falters quite a bit towards the end (The CGI becomes horrifyingly apparent in the last couple minutes. It's like they ran out of budget or shot it as quickly as possible to wrap it up.), it's still an achievement worth recognition, despite not being on par with what Marvel has done with the technology. (I mean. They're both aging down and aging up their actors now.)
Both the biggest pros and cons of "Gemini Man" come from Ang Lee himself. Lee knows how to shoot a scene, provide some excellent cinematography, and even knows how to craft a creative action scene. (A setpiece involving the use of a motorcycle as a weapon, is a highlight) Whether the effects work well or not, he knows how to shoot around it to make it look as good as possible. However, he also makes a few odd editing choices, whether it being unintentionally hilarious slow motion, awkward close ups, and a sense of self importance for something that really doesn't have anything truly meaningful to say. (Also, I avoided seeing the film in the high frame rate because I think directors need to stop trying to make that a thing. It's offputting.) It's dumb fun, and nothing more than that. Bogged down by a weak screenplay and an over the top story, but benefiting from good action and enough silly excitement to waste a couple hours, it's the perfect mediocre action flick to help us bide our time till the next big (And possibly better) blockbuster. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Action Violence And More Attempts To Use CGI To Replace Our Actors In The Future. Watch Your Backs Guys.
Image: Altogether ooky.
Everyone pretty much knows who the Addams Family are, know the character names, and definitely know the song by heart. Yet odds are many of them never watched (or read, considering they originally started out as a comic strip) anything involving the characters. Maybe they saw the movie from the 90s, but that might be it. It's rather amazing that despite that, the fictional family is memorable just enough that you really don't need to of been a fan to know who they are.
Based on the iconic characters created by Charles Addams, "The Addams Family" serves as an origin story for the titular creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky family. Husband and wife, "Gomez" (Oscar Isaac) and "Morticia" (Charlize Theron) are forced to flee to a new home due to peoples' inability to accept someone different. Having settled down in a haunted house along with their Frankenstein monster-like butler, "Lurch" and disembodied hand named "Thing", Gomez and Morticia raise their equally demented children, "Wednesday" (Chloë Grace Moretz) and "Pugsley" (Finn Wolfhard). Years later, the Addams' discover a nearby town, where obsessive reality TV show host, "Margaux Needler" (Allison Janney) has turned it into an overly similar, closed off housing community called "Assimilation" (Ha! I get it!). The family plans for a celebration that will include a sword fighting right of passage for Pugsley, resulting in the extended family, including "Uncle Fester" (Nick Kroll), "Grandmama" (Bette Midler), and the talking wig creature, "Cousin Itt" (Snoop Dogg, doing beeps and boops), coming over to take part in it. Margaux wants nothing to do with them and is determined to have the Addams' run out of town. While the rest of the family starts to arrive, Pugsley hopes to not let his dad down, Wednesday befriends Margaux's neglected daughter, "Parker" (Elsie Fisher), and Morticia tries to keep everyone together, none the wiser to Margaux's scheme.
Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (Who both served as directors of the hilariously juvenile "Sausage Party"), "The Addams Family" is basically a movie getting by because of the fact that everyone knows who the characters are. It's an amusing enough plan, but when the film you put them in is so unremarkable, there ends up being very little to the actual film. The plot is clearly thin and the screenplay by Pamela Pettler ("Corpse Bride", "Monster House", and "9") and Matt Lieberman doesn't offer near enough laughs to compensate. The animation, while nothing spectacular, is nice looking and offers some good sight gags, which make for the film's funniest moments. However, the direction itself is too pedestrian and offers very little in terms of cinematic quality. After so many spectacular and grand animated films to come out over the recent years, you'd think there would be some more pizzazz to the film to liven it up. Sadly, it just feels bland, which is disappointing considering what could of been done with the movie. (It originally started production as a stop-motion film by Tim Burton. Wouldn't that of been something awesome?)
We do thankfully get an excellent (and admittedly brilliant) voice cast, starting with the equally committed and delightful Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron. (Be honest. Even in a live action adaptation, they would of made a perfect fit.) Finn Wolfhard, an unrecognizable Bette Midler, and the instantly recognizable Allison Janney are all great, while the bizarre casting of Snoop Dogg is too weird not to enjoy. (Though he is barely in the movie.) The scene stealers would be Nick Kroll (Getting the best lines) and the always welcome Chloë Grace Moretz, who you can tell is relishing every line with childlike, macabre glee. Everyone is giving a 100% and they add much needed life to a film that veers dangerously close to becoming generic and boring.
"The Addams Family" isn't without amusement and the message of accepting others, despite the obviousness, is still genuinely sweet. It's brought down by lackluster direction, a weak script, and little imagination. It results in the film giving off more of a straight to video vibe than a necessary theatrical viewing. (I also could of also done without the occasional attempts at "Modern" humor, which gives off "Hotel Transylvania"-esque vibes) It'll be fine for just the kids, but for characters so beloved and well known, you expect it to be something the entire family should be able to enjoy no matter their age. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Slightly Spooky Humor And What I Can Only Describe As Hand On Foot Fetish.
Image: "What, me worry?"
Ladies and gentlemen. What we have here is the most vile, revoltingly cruel, mean spirited, scummy, and truly grotesquely repulsive film of the year. (If not the last five to ten years.) This movie is not good for the world right now. And yes, I am giving it the rating I am, not in spite of that, but because of that. If that makes sense.
Based on the maniacal arch-nemesis of the Caped Crusader from DC comics, "Joker" tells the story of scrawny, depressed wannabe stand-up comedian, "Arthur Fleck" (Joaquin Phoenix), who suffers from a disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably against his will without any actual reason. Arthur lives with his sickly mother, "Penny" (Frances Conroy), in a rat infested (Quite literally), down and dirty Gotham City, which is likely to have a new mayor in the form of billionaire, "Thomas Wayne" (Brett Cullen), father of the future Batman himself, "Bruce" (Dante Pereira-Olson). However, things are soon to take a turn for the worse when after losing his job as a clown, Arthur is ruthlessly attacked on a train by some Wall Street bullies. The confrontation ends with lets just say, bloody results, and Arthur finds himself responsible for a movement of the people wanting to disrupt the system. Arthur also discovers a connection between his mother and Thomas Wayne, and is determined to find the truth. Arthur's journey of self-discovery leads down a road to madness. Thus we are revealed the tragic, horrifying origins of the greatest terror that Gotham City will ever know. (And you know, possibly the greatest comic book villain of all time.)
Whoo boy! This movie already has already caused an uproar before it even came out. There's talk of possible violence or shootings in movie theaters, and that this is a dangerous film that will inspire future serial killers. (Not to mention the fact that the film is reminding people about the 2012 "The Dark Knight Rises" shooting) This movie is causing loads of internet chaos right now. Directed by Todd Phillips ("War Dogs" and the "Hangover" trilogy), "Joker" is a comic book film unlike any comic book film you've ever seen. In reality, it's a psychological thriller that veers close into subtle horror. It's also easily Phillips' best film, with his commitment to the dirty, grimy 1980s inspired aesthetic. It's a gorgeously filthy looking film, with some stunning visuals and Oscar worthy cinematography that instantly grabs you and forces you to live in this literally and metaphorically rotting city. The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir ("Sicario: Day of the Soldado") has a certain calm level of constant unease and dread throughout, and it gets more wild as the film progresses. Not to mention, though the film doesn't directly follow any specific Joker-centric storylines from the comics, there are clear inspirations and references that are sure to please fans.
The character of the Joker has become an icon of possibly dangerous proportions. Having been brought to life by actors such as Jack Nicholson, Mark Hammil, and of course, the Oscar winning (And late, great) Heath Ledger, which has since made the role impossible to top for some fans. Thankfully, Joaquin Phoenix is not trying to copy anyone. He brings a more human side to the character that we've never truly seen before. He's just a guy, with some clear mental instability, that doesn't initially start off with villainous intent. His humanity is what makes him so much more frightening, and even when you find yourself sympathizing with Arthur's plight, you can see the seething anger and wickedness in his eyes and movements. You know it's going to get much worse.You're just waiting for that final straw that will set him off.
It's Phoenix's movie through and through, but there still other actors who appear prominently or sporadically including Brett Cullen (Portraying a more dick-ish Thomas Wayne), Zazie Beetz (as "Sophie", Arthur's out of his league love interest), Frances Conroy, Brian Tyree Henry (as a clerk at "Arkham Asylum"), Shea Whigham and Bill Camp (as a couple of detectives, that are suspicious of Arthur's activities). One of the biggest scene stealers would obviously be Robert De Niro (as "Murray Franklin", a popular talk show host that Arthur is a fan of). The big scene between Phoenix and De Niro is one of those edge of your seat powerhouse cinematic moments that people will be discussing for a long time for many reasons.
Now I feel I will need to address something really important. The violence in the film, while not really in the film too much, is very shocking and is possibly too real for some. It's not the violent acts we see that create the unnerving atmosphere, it's the themes, imagery, and what this character intends to represent. When people say that "Joker" could cause more heinous acts of violence and terrorism due to unstable sympathizers seeing themselves within the character, I honestly can admit, after seeing the movie, that I actually kind of agree with them. The film does glamorize what the Joker does to a certain degree, and the way the film presents itself in an almost cheerful manner. Of course I can see some wacko feeling inspired or that they're being represented in the film positively. (Also, despite being a major DC comics fan myself, I can admit that the more ruthless and militant of DC fans can be literally the worst kinds of people. Just the worst.)
The strange thing about "Joker" is that the film works because it revels in its villainy. We've never had a straight forward supervillain film like this before. There is no Batman or hero of any kind to put a stop to Arthur's descent into insanity. We see everything from his perspective, and when you're getting into the mind of a villain like the Joker, you need to be as nihilistic as possible. What should you ask for with a film that portrays a man become a homicidal monster that kills people because he finds it funny? To him, his evil actions are to be praised and applauded, and are portrayed as such despite them being otherwise. To that degree, I understand the film makers point, and their artistic choices.
"Joker" is the best film this year that I can completely understand someone absolutely hating. It's disgusting in nature and unapologetic in its cruelty. It's also a film that gets deep into the head of the character more than any other adaptation ever has. It's a mesmerizing experience that gives you the feeling of one going completely mad after one bad day. (Well, a couple of bad days But you get what I mean.) Damn near brilliant and so captivatingly brutal that I found myself unable to look away from a single frame. For better or for worse, "Joker" is here, and you will remember this movie no matter how hard you try not to. The Clown Prince of Crime has never been more fascinating. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language, Shocking Acts Of Violence, Bony Body Structures, And That Scene With The Scissors. (Yeah. No Horror Movie Has Made Me Jump The Way That Scene Did.)
Image: Is this fake fur?
The family film formula (More specifically, the "E.T." formula) predates even the traditional Disney one that we know now. It's probably the easiest three act, story structure a movie can do. It's a safe bet for a family film, and it's one of those things where it simply comes down to how well you do it. It also helps when your lead animal protagonist is too freakin adorable to dislike.
"Abominable" follows the teenage "Yi" (Chloe Bennet), who is still feeling the loss of her father. Yi yearns to travel to all the places her father never got to, but finds herself whisked into a surprising adventure when she discovers a magical Yeti. Nicknaming the Yeti, "Everest", Yi vows to return him home to Mount Everest, with some help from the plucky comic relief, "Jin" (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and his cousin, "Peng" (Albert Tsai). However, they will have to avoid capture from crazed explorer, "Mr. Burnish" (Eddie Izzard) and his assistant, "Dr. Zara" (Sarah Paulson), as they journey across Asia to help Everest find his way home. Now that's I'm typing it up, this is one of the most straightforward plot outlines I've had to write in a long time.
From "DreamWorks Animation" and Chinese film production, "Pearl Studio" (Both collaborated before with the third "Kung Fu Panda" film), "Abominable" certainly has a familiar (And you could make the argument, overdone) storyline. Yet the film appears to realize that and despite being aimed at the kids more than the adults, the filmmakers have also wisely decided not to talk down to them. Written and directed by longtime animator Jill Culton ("Open Season"), the film is very well paced and thought out, taking time to ease into the main adventure and has plenty of breathing room for character development and story. (Although the magical element is never truly acknowledged. Everyone is rightfully amazed, but just sort of accepts it easily.) The animation, while lacking in the painstaking amount of detail that the studio can be known for (Such as "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World"), everything is lively and most importantly, beautifully colorful. The art direction alone is worth a ticket price as the film's modernized Chinese setting makes for some stunning setpieces and some much needed originality in terms of location.
The film also succeeds in giving its characters actual arcs that progress throughout the film. Chloe Bennet is a likable lead, while Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai end up having much more important roles other than sidekicks. (They have a real purpose for coming along, and all have great character interactions.) There are some good laughs from Tsai Chin (as Yi's "Nai Nai"). Eddie Izzard is a total delight, while a completely unrecognizable Sarah Paulson becomes one of the film's most interesting characters. (It's one of the few moments where the film is able to toss in a good surprise.) Then we have Everest, with his cute design and irresistibly childlike personality, he's sure to be a hit with kids. (I can see the plush toys now.) For good reason though, since he's where the film's heart comes from, and it's quite effectively done.
Things don't get too deep, just dangerous enough, and it's not like it's something the parents themselves will go out of their way to see on their own (Granted, it's obviously meant more for kids.), "Abominable" is a cute little movie with a sincere heart. It's gorgeous to look at and sure, the plot won't exactly give your anything new, but it's a premise that works for a reason. Everyone can relate and there's enough effort behind the film that shows that the filmmakers cared. Good family entertainment is good family entertainment. No matter how formulaic. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Tame Scary Moments And Whooping Snakes.
Image: Yes, I fancy a cuppa tea. I'm bloody well knackered."
Never watched a single episode of the very British nd very popular television series, "Downton Abbey". It's another one of those shows (Like "Game of Thrones" or "Breaking Bad". I know. I suck.), where for no real reason, I just never got around to it. Now you're probably wandering why I didn't just buckle down and just watch the entire series before the movie came out? After all, I did find time to watch all of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" films, everything in the "Arrowverse", and everything "Star Wars" in chronological order.......You know, that's a good question. Priorities. And I'm guessing the show didn't have an Infinity Stone or Lightsabers.
"Downton Abbey" follows the rousing, sophisticated adventures of the "Crawley Family", who reside in the beautiful English country house. The Earl and Countess of Grantham, "Robert" (Hugh Bonneville) and "Cora" (Elizabeth McGovern), learn that the "King and Queen of England" (Simon Jones and Geraldine James) will be paying a visit, meaning everything will need to be absolutely perfect for their visit. Unfortunately, lots of problems (And subplots) threaten to ruin the special occasion. "Lady Mary" (Michelle Dockery) must keep everything and everyone on schedule, the former butler "Charles Carson" (Jim Carter) is called back to take over from the mostly incompetent "Thomas Barrow" (Robert James-Collier), there's a suspicious stranger (Stephen Campbell Moore) with possible nefarious motives, and some old family feud between the Dowager Duchess "Violet" (Maggie Smith) and the Queen's lady in waiting, "Lady Bagshaw" (Imelda Staunton) involving a will and Bagshaw's close connection to her maid, "Lucy" (Tuppence Middleton). This is all just to name a few of the issues the denizens of Downton must face as the residential staff must compete with the snotty royal staff, along with setting up what I can only assume is a fitting conclusion to the long running series.
"Downton Abbey" is the kind of movie that doesn't waste any time providing any context or establishing anything for newcomers or even casual viewers. It's a movie that's made specifically for the fans of the series, and I can't really say if it's truly a good follow up to the series. (Judging from the applause the audience gave after the movie ended, I'm guessing it's not a bad follow up least.) Just going about it as a casual moviegoer and film critic, what we get is the perfect time waster (And I mean that in a positive way.). It's a very calm, relaxing film that never lets things get too dark or too deep, but also provides enough character, style, and that cheeky British charm that's just too damn hard to resist. Directed by Michael Engler and written by series creator, Julian Fellowes, the film is much better made than it has any right to be. The cinematography is a sight to behold, the score is lovely, and the script at least provides enough insight to the characters and setting.
The large ensemble is possibly a bit too large at time, with many subplots (A couple of them getting resolved without much conflict or purpose) going on at once. Granted, that's kind of the point. It's meant to be somewhat chaotic and even a little Soap Opera-like. (Isn't that kind of what "Downton Abbey" is? Except with higher production values and aspirations?) However, the entire cast is made up of professionals, who are all terrific no matter how little their screentime is. Michelle Dockery is wonderful, as is Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. Humor comes from Kevin Doyle (as "Mr. Moseley", who is a little too ecstatic about meeting the King and Queen) and an adorable Sophie McShera (as "Daisy", one of the cooks, who couldn't care less about the visit). Other strong performances come from Jim Carter, David Haig (as "Mr. Wilson", the antagonistic Royal Butler), Allen Leech (as "Tom", a member of the family who is not a fan of monarchies), Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton (as "Isobel", who is always verbally sparring with the Duchess), and too many others to mention, though deserve recognition. There's also an interesting character arc for Robert James-Collier, which doesn't quite go the way you would expect and even adds a little extra needed depth to the film. Meanwhile, the always great Maggie Smith is well, great as always. Some get less to do than others, but everyone brings their A game.
What essentially could of just ended up as a glorified TV movie, "Downton Abbey" has a certain level of professionalism and competence that helps someone like me realize why it's had such an impact. While I still don't see myself actually getting around to watching the show anytime soon (It's very likely that I'll procrastinate and just forget.), the film is still a couple hours of simple and undemanding, yet intelligent and yes, very British fun. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Slight Adult Content, Along With Lots Of "Oh Dear"s and "Oh Ha Ha"s.
Image: "Wait....Don't shoot....I'm not a Mexican rapist!"
Editors note: The above caption is meant to point out my objection to the fact that, as a half Hispanic male, any male character in "Last Blood" sharing the same skin color and heritage as myself, is portrayed as a psychopathic, blood thirsty rapist.. Which is obviously the film's intent..Just FYI.
Now to the review. Never have I seen such a downgrade in quality in a film series from first film to last. I literally just watched the original "First Blood" the day before (Well Midnight. So technically morning before) for the first time. I loved it, and found it to be a compelling drama with a terrific lead performance from Sylvester Stallone, that adds something poignant to say about the effects of war on our soldiers, that just so happens to be a very good action film at the same time. Having never seen any of the other sequels, I went from the absolute best, and tumbled downhill into what I can only assume is the absolute worst.
"Rambo: Last Blood" follows the continued adventures of PTSD suffering Vietnam War veteran, "John Rambo" (Sylvester Stallone). Rambo has currently settled down on a ranch in Arizona, having become a father figure to the teenaged, "Gabrielle" (Yvette Monreal). Gabrielle learns that her deadbeat father (Marco de la O) has been spotted in Mexico and despite Rambo's protests, decides to head over to Mexico to find him. However, what Gabrielle actually finds are a bunch of crime bringing, drug dealing, rapist Mexicans, who proceed to take Gabirlle hostage and force her into their sex trafficking ring, run by brothers "Hugo" (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and "Victor" (Óscar Jaenada). Now Rambo is bloodthirsty for revenge and proceeds to declare war on the evil Mexicans. It all results in a final showdown on Rambo's farm, where things just get so gorily violent in hilarious fashion.
Can't tell which is worse. The fact that something that was once initially thought provoking and deeper than your average action movie, has been forcibly devolved into something so trashy, or the fact that it's also become so insultingly generic. "Rambo: Last Blood" is part grindhouse, exploitation gorefest, though mostly just plays out exactly like the most basic of revenge flicks. Director Adrian Grunberg's intention is clearly to go for a gritty, dirty look, but also can't prevent the film from feeling cheap (It looks more like something you would see as a Direct to Video release) and only barely resembles the original film it's supposed to be a follow up to. (Without the name Rambo, this really could of been just another common violent thriller.)
Sylvester Stallone (Who also gets a credit as a Co-Writer) is at least not exactly sleep walking through the film, and remains professional throughout. However, considering he's someone I've seen give some truly wonderful performances, what we get here is just another cold, quiet killer, with constant rage face. Other characters do no fare much better however. Yvette Monreal shows some okay acting chop, despite her character being written as nothing more than a plot device to get the film going. (She's just a human McGuffin that needs to be saved) Our villains (Or in this case, nearly every Mexican character in the movie) are portrayed as over the top cartoons, who just live to lie, cheat, rape, torture, and kill, because according to this movie, that's what they do. Paz Vega (as "Carmen", a journalist, who assists Rambo due to suffering a loss at the hands of the villains) shows up to deliver some exposition, then doesn't end up serving much more of a purpose and completely vanishes from the film without any resolution to her own storyline.
I find it funny that all of these people are too busy complaining about "Joker" (Due to the possibility some crazy person might want to reanact the film) or the recently pulled from theaters, "The Hunt" (Due to claims of violence and political reasons), yet a movie as problematic as "Rambo: Last Blood" gets a wide theater release without much of an uproar. Despite a reveling in grotesque violence and dabbling in a little modern day racism, the film is also just too damn stupid on an insulting level to deserve to be a follow up to a surprisingly well made film. (Again, it barely even resembles anything to do with "First Blood" to begin with.) Shockingly boring, at least until the film loses its mind during the final act, complete with a laughable amount of violence. It's honestly not as fun as it sounds. It's mostly just ridiculous. A movie with nothing good to say, and only has the intention of being ugly and offensively misguided. I feel like such an old man when I say, they really don't make them like they used to, literally. 1 Star. Rated R For The Bloodiest And Goriest Of Violence, A Reenactment Of Temple Of Doom, And Drug Bringing, Crime Bringing, Rapists. (Some I Assume Are Good People.)
Image: "More smolder, Brad....We need more Smolder!"
Well this is going to polarize the crap out of its audience. It's that kind of film.
Taking place in the near future, "Ad Astra" (A Latin phrase meaning "To the Stars") follows astronaut, "Roy McBride" (Brad Pitt). McBride survives an accident while working on a space antennae, which was caused by a mysterious power surge. Known as "The Surge", it has begun to cause some havoc across the planet and could end up threatening all life. Roy learns that the Surge appears to have originated from a space station near Neptune, where it just so happens Roy's thought to be dead father, "Clifford McBride" (Tommy Lee Jones) was stationed, as part of an experiment called "The Lima Project". Having been sent to search for life beyond the stars, Earth lost contact with the Lima Project years ago, and Roy is instructed to journey to Neptune to attempt to contact his missing father, who Space Command fears has gone full mad scientist. Along with an old friend of Clifford, "Colonel Pruitt" (Donald Sutherland), Roy heads into a long, cold, and unforgiving quest into the far reaches of space in hopes of finding out what's become of his father, and put a stop to the surges that continue to threaten humanity.
Directed by James Gray ("The Lost City of Z"), "Ad Astra" is one of the most unique, thoroughly original films to come out in 2019. That makes for an unpredictable, and in a way, hard to truly decipher. It's science fiction that feels structured in reality, and the film never stops to explain how exactly the future has changed. It's mostly left in the background or just isn't drawn attention to. Space travel is treated as an casual plane ride and the moon space port includes everyday fast food restaurants. It's all just presented to us and left open for the audience to figure out. It's an interesting form of world building that you don't see much of. And It's a fascinating tactic from James Gray, whose artful direction style may not be for everyone.
"Ad Astra" is actually a very slow and quiet journey, focusing more as a study on the lead character than anything else. The actual destination, while important and not without impact, is secondary to the internal struggle going on in Roy's head. Brad Pitt conveys this characters emotional and psychological turmoil beautifully. Pitt nails his character's somber expressions and detached way of speaking, and yet, you can tell that every moment he's on the verge of completely breaking down. It's a similar performance to Ryan Gosling in last year's "First Man", though this film gets into the mental issues that would come with a job requiring one to be alone in the endless nothingness of space. Other actors generally just appear sporadically, such as an excellent (And suitably mysterious) Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga (as "Helen", a Mars born woman with a personal connection to the Lima Project), and an underutulized, though still important Liv Tyler (as "Eve", Roy's ex wife). The characters are interesting, though we don't get much time with them (Which may or may not be a metaphor in a way. Not sure.). The focus is strictly on Brad Pitt's performance, which is captivating enough to carry the film.
I can already see future Oscar nominations for both cinematography and visual effects. "Ad Astra" is a movie made for IMAX screen. It's majestic in scope, and damn near frightening in how space itself can entirely envelop the screen. (Being someone who has a fear of heights myself, my anxiety continuously spiked throughout this entire movie.) In terms of effects, you are sucked into the mesmerizing beauty and occasional horror that comes with survival in space. Despite all of this, this is not the kind of film that can be a challenge to some people, and I can clearly see why. The film itself is in a way just as disconnected as its lead character, and even when there is some action, everything is muted and slowed down to the point some might just end up bored by it all.
"Ad Astra" is a film about obsession, the bond between father and son, and our want to better understand what's out there in the universe, despite the fact that we really have no business away from Earth. The intentionally closed off characterizations, measured pacing, and very quiet approach to its story, make for a challenging experience. I was actually leaning towards a lower rating because I honestly started to feel a bit put off by how little of an attachment we were given to everything that was happening. However, I find myself thinking about it more and more, with the themes, messages, and of course, my immense appreciation for the brilliant filmmaking that came with it, I feel I appreciate it more than I actually enjoyed it. Like I said, it's that kind of film. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 Despite A Shocking Amount Of Violence And Bloody Images. (Space Is Not Our Friend, And It Doesn't Need Aliens To Show That.)
Image: What is the most boring film of them all?
It's striking when there is something so obviously missing from certain films. A sense of heart, depth, or any kind of way of becoming emotionally invested in their characters and stories. That's not exactly the case with "The Goldfinch". When I say there's something missing, I mean there are literally pieces of it missing. It's the only explanation I can get for all of these puzzle pieces that just wont go together. No matter how much the filmmakers appear to be forcing them to.
Based on the best selling novel by Donna Tartt, "The Goldfinch" follows the life of "Theo Decker" (Oakes Fegley as a child, then Ansel Elgort as an adult), after he witnesses his mother die in an art museum. But in the chaos, Theo ends up taking a beloved painting known as "The Goldfinch", which everyone then believes was destroyed in the bombing. We follow Theo throughout his complicated and depressing life. First he is sent to live with a wealthy couple, "Samantha" (Nicole Kidman) and "Chance Barbour" (Boyd Gaines), and their family, along with befriending an antique shop owner, "James Hobart" (Jeffrey Wright) and the niece of his deceased partner (Who also died in the bombing), "Pippa" (Aimee Laurence as a child, then Ashleigh Cummings as an adult). Then Theo is taken back by his scummy, deadbeat father, "Larry" (Luke Wilson) and his new girlfriend, "Xandra" (Sarah Paulson), being whisked away from his new, more caring family, and being forced to live in a crappy home outside Las Vegas. Though he does make friends with a cynical Russian immigrant, "Boris" (Finn Wolfhard as a teen, then Aneurin Barnard as an adult), Theo 's life is still haunted by his mother's death and the painting that he stole. We then cut to Theo's adult life as he reunites with people from his past, works as Hobart's new protege, deals with substance abuse, and has to confront the consequences of his actions.
What in the world went wrong here? Directed by John Crowley ("Brooklyn"), "The Goldfinch" has all of the Oscar baity tropes wrapped up in a nice, neat bow. It's certainly a nice looking film, with solid cinematography and it's not without an excellent, star-studded cast. However, the whole film is a complete jumbled mess of various minor plot points and conveniences that get more and more preposterous the longer the film goes on. Not sure if it's an issue with the original novel, but the film's non-linear format (Which feels unnecessary and momentarily stops the movie dead) ruins the film's pacing, and for a nearly two and a half hour long movie, you're constantly fighting the urge to check out and take a nap in a nice, cool movie theater. (Those new luxury lounges are this movie's greatest enemy.)
Any faults with the performances I see more as faults with the screenplay by Peter Straughan (Who may of wrote "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", but also had a credit for "The Snowman".), which is made up of nothing but pretentious monologues. Ansel Elgort, previously seen as someone full of natural charisma in movies like "Baby Driver", is oddly given so little to work with and ends up coming across as boringly bland. Especially compared to Oakes Fegley ("Pete's Dragon"), who carries the film quite well, and shows a lot of signs of potential as an actor. Nicole Kidman ends up sidelined to the background as the film progresses, but she at least remains her usual lovely, charming self. There are some solid enough performances from Jeffrey Wright, Ryan Foust (as "Andy", the younger Barbour son, who Theo befriends), along with Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulson, who overcome characters that teeter on the edge of cartoonish. A subplot involving Denis O'Hare (as an antagonistic art collector), doesn't actually go anywhere like many of the poorly developed secondary plotlines. Luckily Finn Wolfhard, showing how incredibly versatile he is an actor, provides some much needed humor and memorability within all of the forced drama.
"The Goldfinch" gives the feeling that the movie was edited together with a chainsaw and crazy glue. There are hints of an interesting concept there, though even then, what the film is presenting is nowhere near as interesting as it thinks. Worst of all, it's just so damn slow. The point becomes obvious very quickly and the film takes its sweet time getting to it. It doesn't amount to much, and ends with a whimper. A frustrating slog of a misfire that feels like the cut up remains of a complete story. They've ruined the book for me, and I haven't even read it! 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Poor Parenting, Drug Use, And Other Illegal Activities Such As Murder.
Image: Uh...I'm sorry....What were we talking about?
Is it wrong not to feel too bad for people who make a living going out of their way to screw over or get a higher advantage over other less fortunate people for profit? Especially when they immediately afterward go to spend their living on drugs, alcohol, and strippers? In a way, it's fitting karma that all this ended up happening.
Inspired by true events (The fact that any of this is remotely true shouldn't surprise you at all), "Hustlers" follows single mother and former New York City stripper, "Dorothy/Destiny" (Constance Wu), as she tells her story to a journalist, "Elizabeth" (Julia Styles). Dorothy talks about her friendship with her mentor, "Ramona Vega" (Jennifer Lopez) during the financial crash in the late 2000s. (Remember? It's that thing "The Big Short" was about.) After being out of a job for some time, Dorothy would later reunite with Ramona, who along with other fellow dancers, "Mercedes" (Keke Palmer) and "Annabelle" (Lili Reinhart), decide to work a side hustle. The hustle mostly revolves around them picking up Wall Street CEOs, stcok traders, and scumbags at bars, drugging them, and getting them to spend all of their money at the strip club. As you would expect, things will eventually (and inevitably) go very, very wrong.
Both directed and written by Lorene Scafaria ("Seeking a Friend for the End of the World") and based on the 2015 New York Magazine article, "The Hustlers at Scores", "Hustlers" may or may not get all of the facts right (Again. They did only say "Inspired"), though it's more about the point the film is trying to get across. In fact, it may not at first appear this way, but the film is smartly satirical, sweet and thoughtful, and deceptively complex. Stylish and slick, Scafaria avoids relying on typical Hollywoodized clichés by injecting some humor into the situation and by developing the film's characters. The film works as an interesting study into how someone, if the circumstances were bad enough, would stoop to desperate means to make money in an already somewhat scummy and overtly dirty business. The film doesn't condone the actions of our main characters (I mean, people did still get hurt during all of this. Maybe one or two didn't deserve it.), it just presents their story in a relatable way that helps understand why and how everything went the way it did.
Constance Wu, who is quickly proving to be an instant star, is nothing short of amazing in the film. She shows a remarkable amount of range (From being funny and naive to commanding and emotionally hurt), and I hope after people see her in this movie, she'll be a front runner come Oscar season. Jennifer Lopez gives possibly the best performance I've ever seen from her. She makes for such an interesting character, whose motivations are never quite completely clear and you immediately understand why someone would gravitate towards her. (You know, aside from the fact that Jennifer Lopez is quite on attractive side.) Julia Styles (Someone who rarely gets a chance to show off her acting potential) is excellent, along with strong supporting work from Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart (Who provides most of the humor in the movie.) One of the more distracting elements would be Cardi B (as a fellow stripper, in a role that's mostly just stunt casting due to the um, truth to the story.), who does a fine enough job, though doesn't feel all that natural. (Granted, she's barely in the movie despite what all of the advertising implies.)
"Hustlers" occasionally skims over a few plot points, though it's very tightly edited and well paced enough to get through those minor inconsistencies. The characters are well written, the film isn't without some uncomfortable laughs, and hard to describe sense of fun. It's about excess, bad decisions, and desperation, while also giving a very in depth and respectful representation of the stripper lifestyle. (It takes work and intelligence to do this job, especially considering the people these women have to deal with.) It's a very different sort of true crime drama that's nonetheless engrossing and maybe even a little empowering. Don't drug people for money though. I'm not endorsing that. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Drug Use, Slight Nudity, And The Camera's Inability To Not Direct Attention To Jennifer Lopez's Derriere. (This Movie Is Directed By A Woman, And Yet It Still Can't Avoid That.)
Image: "Krusty the Clown" finally snaps, as we all knew he would eventually.
The idea to adapt Stephen King's thousand page, fan favorite horror novel, "It", into two separate films was the best move the filmmakers could possibly make. First off, it avoids becoming the cluttered the mess that the original 1990 miniseries (Thank God for Tim Curry with that one.), and it separates both past and present storylines into their own individual films. Both are given time to develop a better connection and develop enough scares to traumatize anyone with a phobia of clowns (Who also just so happen to have sharp teeth and an appetite for feasting on the fear of the young and innocent.) Not to mention the money. That was probably a big part of the decision.
Set Twenty-seven years after the events of the first chapter, "It: Chapter Two" opens with the return of vicious, fear loving entity, referred to as "It", which prefers to take the form of the playful, yet terrifying "Pennywise the Dancing Clown" (Bill Skarsgård). It was seemingly defeated by "The Losers' Club", who have all since gone their separate ways from the horrible town of Derry, Maine. The stuttering leader of the group, "Bill Denbrough" (James McAvoy. Formerly Jaeden Martell), is a novelist who has issues coming up with good endings. The lone female, "Beverly Marsh" (Jessica Chastain. Formerly Sophia Lillis), finds herself in an abusive relationship. "Ben Hanscom" (Jay Ryan. Formerly Jeremy Ray Taylor), is no longer chubby, and is now super rich. The sh*ttalking, "Richie Tozier" (Bill Hader. Formerly Finn Wolfhard), is now a stand-up comedian. The hypochondriac "Eddie Kasbrak" (James Ransone. Formerly Jack Dylan Grazer), still suffers from mommy issues. "Stanley Uris" (Andy Bean. Formerly Wyatt Oleff) has settled down happily, while "Mike Hanlon" (Isaiah Mustafa. Formerly Chosen Jacobs), has remained in Derry.
Nobody seems to have memories of what transpired all of those years ago, but get an instant reminder when Mike learns that "It" has returned, and has begun to feast on the denizens of the town. So he calls in the rest of the Losers' Club to return home and face the evil creature once more. After tragedy strikes, the Losers set out to perform a mystical ritual that should put an end to It's reign of terror once and for all. The group must face their old fears, repressed memories, the return of town bully turned homicidal maniac, "Henry Bowers" (Teach Grant. Formerly Nicholas Hamilton), and their hidden secrets, as they battle against the evil, sharp toothed demon clown once last time.
Director Andy Muschietti ("Mama", and the first "It") returns with "It: Chapter Two", which has a lot of ground to cover despite the already nearly three hour runtime. Stating the obvious, the second chapter doesn't get close to reaching the surprising greatness of the first film, with many plot points going on all at once, some minor clutter, and oddly, fewer scares than before. Not that the film isn't without fright (Most of them, more of the jump scare variety.), but it seems the film is more focused on character development and supernatural/psychological drama that comes with it. On the bright side, it's excellently done and while I didn't find myself near as frightened this time around, the emotional impact that the film offers, is still strong. Both Muschietti and returning screenwriter Gary Dauberman (The "Annabelle" series) have to juggle quite a few plot points. The film occasionally has to make up for the repetitive nature of the somewhat messy story (A chunk of the movie involves a character searching for something, getting terrorized by Pennywise, then escaping. Rinse. Repeat.), with beautiful cinematography and some stunning visual work. For such a small setting, the scope of the film feels grand and epic, giving the film a dark fantasy look, rather than a traditional horror movie. (Apparently it cost less than a $100 million, and it still looks better than most of our big budget blockbusters.)
The film is also elevated by the fantastic ensemble cast, and the filmmakers do deserve some recognition for the fact that all of the adults are so perfectly picked. Each one is a dead ringer for their younger counterpart, particularly the wonderful Jessica Chastain and a brilliant James Ransone (Who even flawlessly matches Jack Dylan Grazer's facial expressions). James McAvoy continues to be an underappreciated talent, along with some great performances from Jay Ryan and Isaiah "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" Mustafa. Andy Bean gets a heartfelt scene, while Teach Grant is all kinds of bonkers, though it's one of the aspects you do sort of wonder if it would of been better off being cut out of the film. Bill Hader has been getting a lot of praise, and I think they've been underselling it. He's phenomenal in the film, adding some great comedy obviously, and even gets the most heartbreaking character arc. It's a very subtle performance that's hidden under a loud mouthed character, and it's deserving of praise. The cast from the original appears sporadically in flashbacks, and they're once again terrific young performers (Especially Sophia Lillis and Finn Wolfhard). Meanwhile, Bill Skarsgård once again creates a mesmerizing villain, making him a horrifying presence, a source of demented humor, and even injects a little depth to the character.
"It: Chapter Two" is not without its flaws, and some of them might of been unavoidable. (For such a long movie based on an even longer book, it feels like the filmmakers couldn't tell what to leave out) It can be seen as a bit too ambitious for its own good, and due to film not really focusing on being as scary this time, I can see someone seeing it as false advertising. I can also admit that, aside from plenty of nightmarish imagery, I didn't find myself jumping like I did the first film. There are some glaring issues that bring the film down despite its aspirations, but I would say that its the last act where the film truly shines. It truly is a spectacular finale, not because of the crazy visuals or the creepy images. It works in the same way the first film did, and that's because of the genuine heart at the center of the story. In the end, its the emotional connection to our main characters that brings everything together, and even with the film's flaws, it ends on a strong enough note to make up for it. The film doesn't quite reach the heights it longs for, yet it makes up for it with a great payoff. Maybe not exactly what you would expect (And the more I think about it, the talk of how difficult it would be to adapt the original book does start to show a bit more), but still a worthy conclusion to a good scary story. Still not afraid of clowns, though. Even though we all should be. A low 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For The Bloodiest Of Images, Scary Clown Faces, And Upsetting Situations.
Image: Gerard Butler is stalked by a wild Nick Nolte in his natural habitat.
I may be a committed, professional, unpaid film critic, who has been writing on the same site for over nine years, but even I let things slip past me from time to time. Even if I do, I make it my duty to take some time to go back and check out certain films, especially if they have a sequel coming out. With that said, "Olympus Has Fallen" and "London Has Fallen"? Completely forgot about them. Come on, none of you even thought about those two movies until you saw the TV spot for this movie a couple weeks ago.
You've probably hear a story like this before. "Angel Has Fallen" opens with United States Secret Service Agent/Scottish-American John McClane, "Mike Banning" (Gerard Butler), considering retirement despite the possibility of him being given the job of Secret Service Director. While on a fishing trip with the President of the United States, "Allan Trumbull" (Morgan Freeman), Banning and the rest of the secret service is violently attacked by remotely controlled drones, which kill everyone with the exception of Banning and the now comatose Trumbull. FBI agent, "Helen Thompson" (Jada Pinkett Smith), sees this as suspicious, and it becomes apparent that Banning is being framed for the attack. After eluding capture from the FBI, as well as the paid contractors who set him up in the first place, Banning must set out to clear his name. Along the way, Banning discovers a connection to an old army friend, "Wade Jennings" (Danny Huston), a high profile conspiracy, and eventually, finds time for a reunion with his off the grid, grizzly Nick Nolte-like father, "Clay" (Nick Nolte. Obviously.)
The third and possible final installment in a trilogy that I never took the time to realize was a trilogy at all, "Angel Has Fallen" is exactly what I described when detailing the plot. A generic, safe (But violent), bullet riddled action movie. Director Ric Roman Waugh ("Snitch") might be adding a little flair and even some attempted nuance to the film, but it can't exactly hide what it is. It's all up to if it's your cup of tea or not. The film is well shot, and the action, while overly reliant on shaky cam, is serviceable enough to compensate for a bland script and an incredibly predictable storyline. There are no surprises that you don't see coming, and the film doesn't even really try to cover it up. It instead just hopes an undemanding audience will forgive the film's lack of originality in favor of slightly over the top, though pretty basic by this point, action and violence.
Gerard Butler does still thankfully have enough onscreen charisma to carry the film, and actually even does a pretty solid job when it comes to the film's dramatic scenes. Danny Huston snarls and growls throughout, and does a reliably professional job at the same time. He showed up to do his job, no matter how lacklusterly written.. Morgan Freeman gets quite possibly his easiest paycheck ever, spending most of his screentime in a coma (For all we know he was just sleeping the entire time.), while others like Jada Pinkett Smith, Piper Perabo (as "Leah", Mike's wife), and Tim Blake Nelson (as "Martin Kirby", the Vice President, who takes command while Trumbull is hospitalized) are all underutulized. The biggest scene stealer would be Nick Nolte, who at least livens up the film with humor, empathy, and a memorably insane action setpiece involving an onslaught of landmines.
You can tell the filmmakers were trying to give "Angel Has Fallen" a little extra something to set it apart from the average, run of the mill action sequel. However, while not bad by any means, it doesn't elevate itself anywhere past a certain level of mediocrity that's better viewed as a rental, rather than in theaters. The next sequel will probably head straight to Pay-Per-View. 2 Stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence, Strong Language, And The Lack Of Subtitles To Fully Understand The Native Tongue Of The Nick Nolte.
Image: Meet the family
It's funny how something completely original, not being based on any kind of property, and thoroughly unpredictable from start to finish, came from the most random of places and minds. And that mind is obviously pretty f*cked up.
"Ready or Not" follows the newlywed, "Grace" (Samara Weaving), who is celebrating her marriage to "Alex Le Domas" (Mark O'Brien). Alex is part of a grand, extremely wealthy gaming family, which Alex is wary of introducing Grace to. After the wedding at his family's estate, Alex tells Grace that she will have to take part in a traditional game of sorts that the family plays every time someone gets married. The players include Alex's father, "Tony" (Henry Czerny) and "Becky" (Andie MacDowell), the snarky brother, "Daniel" (Adam Brody) and his wife, "Charity" (Elyse Levesque), the creepy aunt, "Helene" (Nicky Guadagni), along with the coked up niece "Emilie" (Melanie Scrofano) and her buffoonish husband, "Fitch" (Kristian Bruun). Turns out Alex's family acquired their wealth through "Interesting" means, and they believe that if they play a certain game with every new family member, it will prevent something horrible from happening. Turns out the game this time is "Hide and Seek", which Grace plays along with at first, but soon discovers that the game usually ends with the whole family coming together to hunt down and kill the one hiding in a satanic ritual. Now Grace must survive her new in-laws and find a way of escape, all while the family relentlessly hunts her down, bickering to each other the entire like families do during big get togethers.
Leave it to the little movie, that nobody was thinking or talking about, to spice up the end of the summer movie season. Directed by frequent collaborators Matt Bettinelli-Olphin and Tyler Gillett, "Ready or Not" ends up being one of the more original films to come out this year. A tense, brutally violent thriller, that could also almost be classified as a slapstick comedy of sorts. The film takes time to set up some mood and a chilling atmosphere to go with the closed off, claustrophobic setting. Once the actual game starts, it's constantly moving, and boy, it doesn't hold back in how gruesomely (And hilariously) people can die. It's not all about the gore though, with the film offering some funny satire as it pokes fun at the institution of marriage, family traditions, and the all around dick-ish nature of the rich elite.
Samara Weaving (Who I had no idea was Australian) is a mesmerizing and badass heroine, with oodles of charm to spare. Henry Czerny is a delight as the tired patriarch, and Andie MacDowell brings her usual A game. Adam Brody has some great deadpan delivery, while Kristian Bruun and Melanie Scrofano get some of the funniest moments. Others like Mark O'Brien, Elyse Levesque, and John Ralston (as the creepy butler) are all excellent, along with the biggest scene stealer Nicky Guadagni, who is awesomely wicked. Lots of the humor comes from how casual the killers are about the horrible acts they end up committing, some of which by accident due to their own incompetence.
While the film's somewhat nasty nature might not be for everyone (Especially once we reach the big payoff), "Ready or Not" is an outrageously gorey, yet smart pitch black comedy. It's original, clever in its execution, and just plain an immense amount of fun. Another one of those unexpected, twisted little surprises that bring the summer movie season to a solid close. Then again, I do have "Angel Has Fallen" tomorrow......3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Violence, Poor Use Of A Crossbow, And Child Punching. (Kid Had It Coming Though.)
Image: "Smile you son of a-OH MY GOD!!!!"
Another day, another shark attack movie. What do you want me to say? Some insightful discussion into why we associate enough fear with giant carnivorous fish that really don't set out to eat people? No! People are just scared of sharks and like seeing people get eaten by them. We're a sick species, and I have nothing new to say. Let's just dive right in.
A sequel-ish to 2017's "47 Meters Down" (Did that really do all that well?), "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" follows a shy protagonist, "Mia" (Sophie Nélisse). Mia is bullied at school, and doesn't quite have a good relationship with her step-sister, "Sasha" (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx). Mia's architect dad, "Grant" (John Corbett) and step-mother, "Jennifer" (Nia Long), arrange for Mia and Sasha to spend some quality time together on a Shark Viewing boat trip, but Sasha instead has plans to hang out with her friends, "Alexa" (Brianne Tju) and "Nicole" (Sistine Stallone, daughter of Sylvester Stallone). Taking Mia along for the ride, the girls decide to go swimming at a secret location, which leads into an ancient underwater city. The girls scuba dive into the city, where an accident ends up causing the caves to collapse, trapping them. To make things worse, some hungry sharks are roaming the area, and delicious teenage girls are on their menu. Insert obligatory "Jaws" reference here.
Directed (And Co-Written) once again by Johannes Roberts ("The Strangers: Prey at Night" and the original "47 Meters Down"), "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" is a shark monster movie through and through, with little deviation from the formula. Granted, it's hard to fault someone for not messing with something that, whether it always ends up good or not, apparently works. (I mean, someone is going to see these movies.) It does help that Roberts is a bit more ambitious a director than his cheap budget would imply. (Not to mention some meh looking CGI, which for a movie like this, is better than it has an reason to be.) He goes for a few inventive shots, some creepy atmosphere, and some creative kills, which despite the PG-13 rating, are still plenty horrifying to witness.
Not exactly a film where you would find yourself examining insightful dialogue and complex characterizations, but the acting is fine enough for what it is. Sophie Nélisse in particular is a standout, and is a likable lead to give you someone to care about throughout the underwater carnage. Nia Long is a glorified cameo, and John Corbett shows up to do his job as professionally as possible. Others end up being shark fodder or just spend most of the film screaming in terror. With that said, that's kind of the point and nobody does a bad job of it. It's just nothing to write home about (Or even take time to mention in detail in this review.)
"47 Meters Down: Uncaged" is just like the first film, in which it's nothing more than a by the numbers shark attack movie, but has capable enough people making sure it turns out as safely, if not solidly, mediocre as possible. Things pick up a bit during the final act, and I'll admit the finale is pretty exciting in an undemanding sort of way. A quick sit for anyone just looking for an age old battle between scary sharks and stupid teenagers. The cinematic definition of "Okay". 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Bloody Enough Images And Fishy Jump Scares.
Image: So how many time-outs is drug dealing worth?
Cringe, that's what this movie represents. An hour and a half of profane, cartoonishly silly, unfiltered cringe. It's the kind of movie that, if you're not ready or willing to accept that, then it's best to pretend it doesn't exist. I for one, love me some good old fashioned cringe. So I'm right at home.
Produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, "Good Boys" follows a trio of foul mouthed, but overall pretty good kids, "Max" (Jacob Tremblay), "Thor" (Brady Noon), and "Lucas" (Keith L. Williams), or as they liked to be referred to as, "The Bean Bag Boys". Max is madly in love with a girl he's never even talked to, "Brixlee" (Millie Davis), Thor wants so desperately to be seen as cool that he would rather hide his talent for singing, and Lucas, who is unable to lie properly, discovers that his parents (Lil Rel Howery and Retta) are getting divorced. The boys are invited to a so called "Kissing Party", but have little to no clue what kissing actually is. So they "borrow" a drone from Max's dad (Will Forte), and use it to attempt to spy on their neighbors, "Hannah" (Molly Gordon) and "Lily" (Midori Francis), but end up losing it to them in the process. Through a series of ridiculous events, the boys wind up with drugs, having to avoid the pursuing girls, and set out to get a new drone before Max's dad gets home. The boys risk serious grounding as they skip school, steal beer, run through incoming traffic, and engaging in violent spats with college guys, all in hopes of securing the drone and going to the party.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (Who has co-written several episodes of "The Office", such as the now infamous "Scott's Tots". That explains a lot actually.), "Good Boys" doesn't give a f*ck about what offends you and what shouldn't be poked fun of, despite the heavy presence of children. The screenplay, also written be Stupnitsky and his frequent collaborator, Lee Eisenberg, doesn't hold back on the crudeness in the slightest. While it at times can feel a bit too much, it's made up for with an uncontainable amount of laughs, which just keep coming without rest. Despite the profane nature, the film is played out like a light hearted, kiddie comedy, with the best moments of comedy coming from the boys' inability to truly understand what exactly is going on around them and at times, what they're even saying. (They swear, talk about sex, and arm themselves with dildos, yet don't have a clue as to what any of it actually is.) As for a plot, it's more of a random assortment of misadventures that end up culminating on a single theme, but that works to the film's advantage. It's funny because of how all over the place it is, and the situation, while over the top, is shown through a seemingly innocent and childlike point of view.
Jacob Tremblay (Still think he deserved an Oscar nomination for "Room"), Brady Noon, and Keith L. Williams have wonderfully chemistry and pitch perfect comedic timing. They're game for whatever silly situation, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the audience feel. Molly Gordon and Midori Francis are a lot of fun, while a lot of laughs come from the supporting cast in their small roles, like Will Forte, Lil Rel Howery, Sam Richardson (as an officer, who is too exhausted to deal with the boys' nonsense), and Stephen Merchant (as a creepy card collector). People mostly appear sporadically, keeping the focus on our leads, who remain likable, despite their actions.
Basically the same premise as the slightly more superior, "Booksmart" (And you know, a million other movies about young people going on raunchy misadventures), "Good Boys" offers just as much heart as it does laughs. It ends up going down a much deeper, somewhat bittersweet route, with a conclusion that might actually find you getting more emotional than expected. (It actually got to me!) Maybe a little too indulgent when it comes to the novelty of tweens swearing, the movie is laugh out loud hilarious, thoroughly uncomfortable, and by the end, oddly adorable. It's the kind of fun we all wish we could of had when we were kids......Minus the drugs and sex toys. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For........Do You Even Need Me To Say Why By This Point?
Image: Every reaction to the "Cats" trailer in one image.
So what it took was "Detective Pikachu" and both "Angry Birds" movies to find a way to overcome the dreaded video game movie curse. To have just one is a miracle, but to have two solid ones in the same year, my mind is having trouble processing it. Maybe if "Sonic the Hedgehog" hadn't been delayed, it too could of joined in the fun and avoid the curse.......But probably not.
Based on the delightfully time wasting mobile game, "The Angry Birds Movie 2" picks up where the first movie left off, with the citizens of "Bird Island" still in an endless prank war with the destructive pigs of "Piggy Island". Local hero/former loner, "Red" (Jason Sudeikis), along with his friends, the speedy "Chuck" (Josh Gad) and the explosively simple minded, "Bomb" (Danny McBride), are tasked with defending the island from the pig leader, "Leonard" (Bill Hader). However, Leonard discovers a third island known as "Eagle Island", where the insane ruler, "Zeta" (Leslie Jones), is threatening to destroy both islands with giant ice cannonballs, resulting in Leonard asking for a truce. Red, fearing that he may lose all of the admiration he's made, doesn't want to believe it, but sees that saving his friends from Zeta should keep his status as the hero of the island. Creating a team of goofballs, which includes Chuck, Bomb, Chuck's smart sister, "Silver" (Rachel Bloom), Leonard's texting assistant, "Courtney" (Awkwafina), Leonard's tech guy, "Garry" (Sterling K. Brown), and the not so mighty, "Mighty Eagle" (Peter Dinklage), Red and Leonard must put aside their differences for the greater good to save their homes from Zeta's madness.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Animation (Who just won an Oscar with last year's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"), "The Angry Birds Movie 2" continues the first film's blend of wacky freneticism and mile a minute humor, and does so with enthusiastic and wondrous glee. Directed by Thurop Van Orman (Creator of "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack"), the animation is the ultimate selling point. It's crazy and occasionally too much, but also insanely creative and generates plenty of laughs for both the kids and their parents. (Actually, there are quite a few jokes that seem specifically aimed directly at the parents.) The laughs are unrelenting at times and the expressiveness of the animation makes for a thoroughly entertaining, if not physically exhausting experience.
Where the lovely animation is delightful enough as it is, the hodge podge of voices is actually pretty incredible, especially when you end up spending most of the credits finding out who's who. Jason Sudeikis is perfectly cast once again, while Josh Gad and Danny McBride make for lovable supporting characters. Rachel Bloom is a great addition, while Leslie Jones and Bill Hader are both total riots. There's also a lot of fun with Awkwafina, an unrecognizable Sterling K. Brown, Tiffany Haddish (as "Debbie", Zeta's second in command), Eugenio Derbez (as "Glenn", Zeta's abused head scientist), and the scene stealing Peter Dinklage. There are also a decent amount of surprises throughout, with some actors and celebrities just popping up just so they can say they were in the movie. There ends up being a mini-subplot involving a trio of baby birds going on their own adventure to save some endangered eggs, which doesn't actually have much to do with the main story, but still gets a few laughs to justify its existence. (It's unnecessary, yet too amusing to cut out.)
The plot may be nonsensical and at times the film can rely a little too much on crudeness (Though there is a scene involving a poorly tailored disguise and a urinal that ends up becoming one of the most uncomfortably hilarious moments in any movie this year), "The Angry Birds Movie 2" is a good video game movie that also ends up being just a good comedy for the family. Compared to most animated films this year, it doesn't get too deep or emotional, but to be honest, it doesn't have to. Nothing wrong with a movie just going for laughs and weirdness, while at least being visually pleasing at the same time. Not bad for something based on a game that was just about throwing agitated fowl at overweight swine. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Plenty Of Jokes That The Kids Won't (Or At Least Shouldn't) Understand.
Image: If only he had a heart.
You may not of read the book series, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark", written by Alvin Schwartz, but you sure as Hell remember the infamously nightmarish illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Those images are pure terror presented in page form. This series may of been aimed at kids, but it certainly didn't hold back. Kids like to be scared just as much as the rest of us. If anything, maybe we should let the kids join in the fun early. Let them enjoy a little terror every once in a while.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro (Who also gets a story credit as well.), "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" takes place in a small town during 1968. "Stella Nicholls" (Zoe Colleti) is a teenage, aspiring writer living with her father, "Roy" (Dean Norris). On Halloween night, Stella, along with her buddies "Chuck" (Austin Zajur) and "Auggie" (Gabriel Rush), prank local bully, "Tommy" (Austin Abrams), who takes the joke poorly and chases after them. After meeting a drifter, "Ramón" (Michael Garza), the group hides in an old, supposedly haunted house, where Stella discovers a book of scary stories belonging to a deceased woman named "Sarah Bellows" (Kathleen Pollard). Stella decides to take the book with her, unknowingly unleashing a deadly curse where the book begins to write itself. The stories that appear in the book each focus on Stella and one of her friends, releasing a horrifying monstrosity with every intention to kill them. Now Stella must find a way to end the curse before everyone she knows becomes a victim in their own scary story.
Think "Goosebumps", except with more casualties and genuinely unnerving monsters, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is the definition of good old fashioned terror that just so happens to be aimed at a young audience. Directed by André Øvredal ("Trollhunter"), the film embraces classic horror elements and themes, complete with the occasional use of practical effects, subtle attention to little details and foreshadowing, and a creepy atmosphere which makes the terrifying payoffs even better. While the story goes for the more simplistic approach, it ends up mostly working to the film's benefit, especially with the setting. (Øvredal actually beautifully captures the look and feel of the time period.) The fact that it is also aimed at older kids makes it the perfect way to get them into riskier horror films. It's a rare occasion where the PG-13 rating is most fitting. However, it's not exactly tame, with the film having quite a few moments that should unsettle and disturb.
Zoe Colleti is a wonderfully nerdy lead, handling herself well carrying the film. Michael Garza, Austin Zajur, and Gabriel Rush are likable enough to make up for the fact that they are basically just playing certain character types (Love interest, funny guy, geeky guy). Dean Norris is just a side character, but is allowed to have some good emotional moments, while Austin Abrams plays the stereotypical bully that also gets to take part in one of the film's most horrifying moments. (That scarecrow sequence pushes the PG-13 rating quite a bit.) The monsters and stories themselves, while used sparingly and loosely, do still leave an impact. We get a grotesque zombified monster searching for its lost toe (Played by horror icon, Javier Botet in amazing makeup), a contorting, mishmash of limbs known as the "Jangly Man", and then a pale, blob like woman that really unsettled me more than I'd like to admit.
While not exactly bringing anything new to the horror genre (And probably didn't need to take an extra couple minutes to set up a sequel), "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" instead just does a skillful job giving classic era-esque scares to a younger audience, and even possibly terrifying the older crowd while it's at it. It's a quick, creepy tale that is sure both send a chill down the spines of both fans of the books and newcomers alike. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Toe Gobbling, Straw Vomiting, And Something That Will Keep Anyone With Arachnophobia Up At Night.