In Theaters: BlacKkKlansman, Slender Man, The Meg, Dog Days, Death of a Nation, The Darkest Minds, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Christopher Robin, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Eighth Grade, Unfriended: Dark Web, The Equalizer 2, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Hotel Transylvania 3, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Coming Soon: Searching, Alpha, Mile 22, Crazy Rich Asians, The Happytime Murders, A.X.L., Kin, Operation Finale, The Nun, Peppermint, The Predator, A Simple Favor, White Boy Rick, Unbroken 2 (Kinda), The House With A Clock In Its Walls, Life Itself, Hell Fest, Little Women, Night School, Smallfoot
★★★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: "Wow....A testimonial from Donald Trump. How about that!"
After seeing "Death of a Nation" last week, it's appropriate that I see something like this. How else do I counteract the stench of lies, racism, pandering to people who don't realize (Or pretend that they don't) they support Nazism and the KKK, and mean spirited, anger fueled rage at people who happen to not support the political party you've sold out your conscience to willingly? ..........Damn right I needed this.
Based on true events, "BlacKkKlansman" follows "Ron Stallworth" (John David Washington), who has just been hired as the first black officer in the Colorado Springs, Colorado police department in 1972. Slowly rising up, Stallworth is sent undercover, with help from fellow officers, the Jewish "Flip Zimmerman" (Adam Driver) and "Jimmy Creek" (Michael Buscemi), to go to a local rally run by "Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture" (Corey Hawkins), where he meets the pretty activist, "Patrice" (Laura Harrier). This sparks Stallworth's interest and also elevates him up further into the intelligence division, leading to him coming across an advertisement fro the "Klu Klux Klan". Stallworth calls in, pretending to be a white man over the phone, tricking the members into thinking he is just another racist white guy, looking to join their cause.
Despite making the mistake of using his real name, Stallworth's plan to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan (Or the "Organization" as they prefer to be called) is approved by the department, with Stallworth recruiting Flip to pretend to be him and find out what exactly the Klan is up to. Flip, pretending to be Stallworth, meets a collection of members, such as the leader of the town's division, "Walter" (Ryan Eggold), the suspicious (And slightly crazy), "Felix" (Jasper Pääkkönen), and the possibly inbred, mouth breathing dumbass, "Ivanhoe" (Paul Walter Hauser). Eventually, Flip is able to become further integrated into the Klan, working with Stallworth, discovering that they're planning an attack of some sort on a group of Black activists, run by Patrice, who has become Stallworth's girlfriend. When the grand wizard of the KKK, "David Duke" (Topher Grace), who Stallworth has also been talking to over the phone, plans to come to town to recruit more to their hateful cause, the case becomes even more important than ever before.
Directed (And co-written) by the occasionally controversial, critically lauded, and the thoroughly unapologetic Spike Lee ("Malcolm X", "Do the Right Thing", etc) along with Producer Jordan Peele, "BlacKkKlansman" is exactly what I've been told this director is capable of. Aside from that mostly meh 2013 "Oldboy" remake, I've never actually seen a Spike Lee movie (Or a "Spike Lee Joint" as he prefers it to be called).The film is fantastically crafted and put together, with it's two hour and fifteen minute runtime hardly being noticeable, and the ability to create a suspenseful, edge of your seat crime film that also finds ways to get you to laugh despite the disturbing things you witness. There are actually a lot of very funny, damn near laugh out loud moments, whether it be in the dialogue or simply how our characters react to some of the absurdity. Despite this, the film is very thought provoking and deep, with it's meaningful themes being still plenty relevant despite what some people will say. (Such as corrupt and racist cops, the power that KKK supporters or sympathizers have, and their warped version of America) Lee also provides the film a grainy, old fashioned, 70s era based look to the film, which could be seen as an homage to "Blacksploitation" films of that time. (The film's music could also be a reference as well)
John David Washington (Son of Denzel) shines in his first starring role, along with Adam "Kylo Ren" Driver once again showing how fantastic an actor he really is. The both of them on screen together makes for one of the best duos in any movie this year. Laura Harrier is great, with a complex arc with Washington, which does not go the way you expect (And even sheds a bit more light on the whole divide between the police and the black community). Topher Grace is terrific and plays a different kind of evil. One that can be charismatic, almost likable to a degree in the simplistic, friendly manner he speaks, but with hidden layers of sinisterness sprinkled throughout. We have a great ensemble of actors, with the rest of our villains, from the crazed Jasper Pääkkönen and the hilarious Paul Walter Hauser (Previously seen in last year's "I'Tonya") being portrayed not sympathetically, but as human. (In the end, it's not monsters that commit these horrible acts. It's just bad, disgusting people, who could be your neighbor for all you know.) We also have a cameo from Harry Belafonte in a effectively strong scene that should get anyone who's ever tried to condone (Or at least rationalize) racism to at least think about it a little differently. (Or maybe not. Some things never get better.)
Humorous, thrilling, intelligent and brilliantly directed, "BlacKkKlansman" is light on subtlety (Especially once you reach the film's final moments), but with something such as this, you have to shove it in people's faces whether they want it or not. (Some people will just deny it anyway.) It hits you where it hurts and leaves you uncomfortable in a way that you need to experience. It's a cool, exciting movie that will get you to laugh, make you uneasy, and leave you thinking. That is truly how you make a powerful film. It's the one "Joint" I' will definitely recommend. 4 stars. Rated R For Language And Timeless Racism. (It Doesn't Just Reset Itself.)
Image: "This is 2009 calling....Your movie is WAY outdated."
Does anyone actually care about the Slender Man anymore? You know, the guy who looks like Jack Skellington with hentai tentacles? This whole character, which was created as a creepypasta internet meme (Basically just scary images you find from weird people online), lost relevance back when I first heard of what it was in 2012. (It was created in 2009) Then there was that whole stabbing in 2014 with those young girls, and then even just talking about it made people uncomfortable. (There was even a documentary some time ago) I know people really wanted to get this made, but it doesn't seem to be something anyone these days actually cares about. All you can really hope for in this case is that it's scary......or at least ends up as a completed film.
"Slender Man" follows a group of young friends, "Hallie" (Julia Goldani Telles), "Wren" (Joey King), "Chloe" (Jaz Sinclair), and "Katie" (Annalise Basso), hanging out one night. They decide to screw around with dark forces (Just like I assume all teen girls tend to do.) Hearing about the legend of "The Slender Man" (Javier Botet), a well dressed supernatural being without a face, the girls decided to summon him through the internet by watching some kind of psychedelic video full of weird images. Nothing happens and the girls move on with their lives. However, they all start to experience disturbing dreams, see odd images and hallucinations, and of course, get quick glimpses of the Slender Man. Katie mysteriously vanishes, causing Hallie, Wren, and Chloe to try to investigate her disappearance, discovering more videos of Slender Man sightings on her computer. Hoping to maybe rescue her from the Slender Man's evil clutches, the girls try to bargain with him, only to discover that he wants all of them for his own despicable purposes. Now he proceeds to haunt the girls, drive them insane, and eventually take them to wherever the Hell he takes his victims.
Hope you enjoyed a lot of those kooky shots from the trailer to "Slender Man" (Like crazy girl with bloody mouth, people writing weird messages, and girl stabbing herself in the eye), because there are many scenes missing from this movie. It's a complete mess actually, with some bizarrely edited moments and the feeling of missing content, which can be felt throughout the entire movie. Directed with such a gloomy, gray feel, I get the idea of what the filmmakers were going for, trying to add some atmosphere and a little bit of a creep factor to the look of the film. However, the movie itself is so uninteresting and generic, that it all leaves you bored, with absolutely nothing scary in the slightest. (Unless you like that jump scare music blaring every time someone walks by.) The film follows a predictable plotline that you've seen many times before, with the missing sequences making the film confusing as Hell, such as characters just ceasing to exist, subplots getting dropped before they begin, and a lack of information on our actual monster. The movie only briefly gets into the lore behind the Slender Man, barely even referencing the impact he's had on young people and the internet.
Some of the acting is solid enough, with Julia Goldani Telles being the one to carry most of the movie, and doing the best she can possibly do with what's given. Joey King, who is way too good an actress for this, plays the one who loses it the most, and does a great job playing crazy. (She needs to stop being in so many bad horror movies lately) Jaz Sinclair also does a fine enough job until she stops being relevant. (Um, what happened to her? Did they ever actually clarify that?) Javier Botet is stuck with lame looking effects, but has this sort of creep factor that leaves a sinister presence. It does feel like a bit of a waste of potential with how little they do with this villain, especially with how much the character has had an effect over the years online. There are moments when they play up his look, such as him simply appearing in the background and just watching people, but it's rare and becomes almost irrelevant when it all goes into typical PG-13 horror movie territory.
"Slender Man" is the incomplete, awkwardly constructed, undead remains of an already pretty basic collection of clichés, that doesn't even appear to have a proper ending. Instead of leaving you scared and traumatized by the horrors you witnessed, once the movie stops, you're left with the urge to yell "That's it?". It feels like they either ran out of ideas, money in the budget, or just plain ran out of time to shoot, because the film ends in such a strange, almost nonchalant manner, you gotta wonder just how much was cut from the film. (And for what purpose? If anything, it ruined the narrative). You get some flashy imagery and moments pf where this possibly could of been salvaged. The movie doesn't seem to want to do much of that though in favor of taking the lazy route, which after something as scary (And memorable) as "Hereditary", just feels even more insulting. Maybe now we can bury "Slender Man" for good. Died from Incompetence, and other natural causes. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Spooky Images And Sharp Dressed Demons.
Image: "Shut up, Meg."
What do people love? What have people always loved? When it comes to movies, there are a couple types of films that audiences will just never truly get tired of. They love their giant monster movies and they love their crazy shark movies. So why don't we just take both of those types of movies, put it in a blender, and give the audience what they paid for?
"The Meg" opens with rescue diver, "Jonas Taylor" (Jason Statham) being forced to abandon a few people during a disastrous mission, which appeared to of been caused by some kind of giant, monstrous being. Years later, we cut to a underwater research facility, run by "Dr. Minway Zhang" (Winston Chao) and funded by rich dick, "Jack Morris" (Rainn Wilson), who are on a mission to dive deep into the ocean to explore what's down there. Of course, something terrible happens when their mini-sub vanishes, along with Jonas' ex wife, "Lori" (Jessica McNamee). Due to possibly sighting the same sort of creature that matches the description previously provided by Jonas, Zhang and Jonas' old friend, "Mac" (Cliff Curtis) go off to track him down and bring him to the facility. Jonas, with help from Zhang's pretty (And totally single) daughter, "Suyin" (Li Bingbing), techies "Jaxx" (Ruby Rose) and "DJ" (Page Kennedy), and the rest of their gang of edible characters, proceed with the rescue mission. While down below, they discover the monster Jonas had claimed to of seen before, revealed to be a Megaladon, aka "The Meg". When the Meg finds it's way further up into the ocean, setting it's sights on eating everything and everyone in it's path, it's up to our heroes to track it down and send it Hell. (Look, in a situation like that, screw animals rights. That thing could eat my whole apartment!)
Based on an apparent book that exists, "Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror", and took years to finally see the light of day, "The Meg" does exactly what you would expect, but just happens to have competence behind it. From Director Jon Turteltaub, the movie is full of ridiculousness and knows it. It embraces that aspect, while at least dialing it back just enough due to the filmmakers also trying to make an actual movie out of it. Not to say the many times the film slows down for character work always gels with the already insane tone already set up. However, you gotta give credit to the filmmakers for at least trying to make us care, while providing a funny line or two every now and then. The movie itself looks good (Especially in IMAX), with a very slick style and a few cool action scenes. (The film was also made by a Chinese film company, and panders to that audience hilariously.)
Jason Statham is pretty perfectly cast here, getting to show a little humanity and even a sense of humor. (Did you see "Spy"? He was hilarious in that.) Li Bingbing is stuck with the basic love interest role, even if they give her a bit more to do. Rainn Wilson is having a ton of fun, getting some of the funnier moments, with the underutilized Cliff Curtis mostly just getting to make some quips. The biggest scene stealer comes from Shuya Sophia Cai (as "Meiying", Suyin's precocious daughter), who is a delightfully, adorable little actress that has a few sweet moments with Jason Statham, and just ends up being charming as Hell. As for the Meg itself, it's a cool design, with the scope of the monstrous creature engulfing the screen, making up for the fact that the effects are fine, but mediocre compared to what you've seen in other films like this. It's not quite scary, but it does have a certain intimidating presence to it.
"The Meg" is the goofy monster movie that's been advertised, full of cheesy one liners, dumb science, and some awesomely stupid images that should should draw applause from anyone looking for a big budgeted B-Movie. In terms of other popcorn munching monster flicks this year (Like "Pacific Rim: Uprising" and "Rampage"), it does feel a bit less memorable, though it is certainly better made than say any of the "Sharknado" movies. Came to see Jason Statham growl and take on a giant shark? That's exactly what you get. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sharky Jump Scares And Delicious Beachgoers Getting Chomped Good. (Though As Bloodlessly As Possible. PG-13 After All.)
Image: Hey! That looks just like my Chihuahua! I better give Vanessa Hudgens my number.
This should be one of those quick, over and done with reviews. Not that there isn't anything to recommend or anything like that. It's just when you're not really the demographic for something, but still realize that in the end, it's just too cute to dislike.
"Dog Days" follows a series of people in Las Angeles, whose stories consist of romance, drama, family values, and of course, dogs. We have talk show host, "Elizabeth" (Nina Dobrev) getting cheated on by her boyfriend and moving out with her dog, only to get into a relationship with her new co-host, "Jimmy" (Tone Bell). There's "Tara" (Vanessa Hudgens) volunteering at a doggie adoption group, pining for dreamy vet, "Mike" (Michael Cassidy), despite the dorky head of the group, "Garrett" (Jon Bass) being actually interested in her. Then we got slacker "Dax" (Adam Pally) being forced to take care of the slobbering dog belonging to his sister, "Ruth" (Jessica St. Clair) and her husband, "Greg" (Thomas Lennon). And last but not least, we also got young teen, "Tyler" (Finn Wolfhard) befriending lonely old man, "Walter" (Ron Cephas Jones), while searching for his chubby Pug, who has ended up in the hands of married couple, "Grace" (Eva Longoria) and "Kurt" (Rob Corddry), trying to connect with their newly adopted daughter. Soon all the stories somewhat intertwine, connecting mostly due to their themes, and just to tug at your heartstrings. I mean, everyone with a soul loves dogs right?
Directed by Ken Marino (Who you might recognize from "Children's Hospital"), "Dog Days" is similar to those weird holiday based romantic comedies by the late Garry Marshall ("Valentine's Day", "New Year's Eve", and "Mother's Day"), in which it's just following very sitcom-esque storylines that don't have many real surprises. We get some forced conflict and misunderstandings, along with predictable outcomes you see coming the second you saw the trailer. Luckily, the film makes up for these many tropes in favor of some good laughs, charming actors, and a ton of genuine heart. It's almost an onslaught of heartfelt fluffiness that's damn near too much to handle, with the film shoving cute puppies in your face constantly.
The ensemble cast all do well with a script smart enough to know what it is, and capable enough to know when to dial back the schmaltz and let them just be natural. The storyline with Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell is easily the weakest, with little actual interest aside from solid chemistry and the fact she's thoroughly cute. Vanessa Hudgens is wonderfully sweet, with Jon Bass (Previously seen as the annoying chubby guy in "Baywatch) coming across really likable. We get some pretty funny stuff from Adam Pally, Thomas Lennon, and Jessica Lowe (as "Amy", Elizabeth's friend with a cutesy voice). The best storyline comes from Finn Wolfhard and Ron Cephas Jones, along with a lovable Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry. It's a plotline you've seen before, but it's sweet natured, leading to an obvious outcome that's emotional and well done.
When it comes to emotion, "Dog Days" shockingly works. It's nothing original or exactly something I say you should rush off to the theater to see. The usual romantic comedy trappings are there, though when the film calms down and simply lets the heart (And the dogs) do the talking, it's hard not to find something to like about it. By the end, it's about how these lovable, fluffy animals can bring us together, and how much of an impact they have overall. What can I say? It made me wag my tail a little. Rated PG For Some Suggestive Content. (Honestly, This Got Away With A Bit More Than I Expected.)
Image: "Show Me What You Got!"
"Death of a Nation" is a documentary-ish film, starting with actor portrayals of the suicides of "Adolf Hitler" and "Eva Braun", with Hitler blowing his brains out and Braun taking some pills which make her cough and die. (Although she is still clearly breathing afterwards. Maybe it just made her really sleepy.) After that, esteemed, recently pardoned criminal and filmmaker, Dinesh D'Souza (Best known for his many propaganda films and for making illegal campaign contributions in 2014), sits us down to make a fair, balanced, thoughtful argument about how America as we know it could be on the brink of collapse and the only true savior could be former host of "The Celebrity Apprentice", stereotypical privileged billionaire, and living dried up pumpkin, "Donald Trump" (Also, he's our current president for some reason). You see, D'Souza is going to explain how old Trumpie is actually just like beloved president (And Daniel Day-Lewis lookalike), "Abraham Lincoln". At least, I think that's what the intention was. Really, he just spends the whole movie talking about how Democrats are all actually racist Nazi lovers, how Hitler was a Democrat, and how we should all come together as one America.....except for Democrats.....who are evil.
We'll get into politics a bit later because right now I have a job to do. Film critic first, so I'll have to say what's wrong with this movie as an actual movie. To be honest, it's kind of hard to do. Aside from the fact that I rarely review documentaries, it's hard to truly classify this as a movie. It's more of a strange, rage filled fever dream, that has no idea what it's actually mad about and who's only argument is the hour and forty minute equivalent of "I know you are, but what am I?" D'Souza doesn't reveal any counterarguments against people calling Donald Trump racist or how the Republican party seemingly allow bigotry to run the party, but instead just says that Democrats are the racist ones, without actually showing any proof and just telling you to take his word for it. You can't even really even consider it a documentary either because the movie relies on dramatizations to show its so called facts, which are all filled with horrible actors doing silly voices and accents. (When I review a documentary, I never thought I would have to talk about the acting!)
Then there's the interviews themselves, which just seem off. Usually a film is meant to provide you with a name and description of who these people are and what they have done. However, D'Souza only gives vague descriptions and talks to them in a way that almost sounds rehearsed. (Complete with dramatic pauses, constant quick cuts, and little actual debate.) The closest the film actually gets to an actual conversation is when he interviews Alt-Right, white supremacist, living cartoon man, "Richard Spencer". Even then, the entire talk just consists of D'Souza trying to convince Spencer that he is actually a Democrat, instead of asking him the first question any person actually trying to get to the bottom of something would ask. ("Why do you gravitate towards Donald Trump?") The proof and facts provided are also vague, with D'Souza saying things are happening instead of showing them, such as saying Hitler's writings are similar to that of major Democrats, or that the Democrats in reality loved them some Hitler, but bailed when public opinion turned against him, then instead pretended that they didn't like him. (Conspiracies. Gotta love them.)
Come to think of it, Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln are barely even in the damn movie. They both vanish for long periods of time, with D'Souza only bringing up Trump to say all allegations (Whether it be criminal or sexual assault) are all fake because he says so, or saying they are like each other because Democrats were the racist, slave owners back during the days of the Civil War. (Which they were, granted. But you all already know this. You learned that when you were like 12.) However, when confronting the accusation that the racists switched sides at some point (Such as the Klan supporting Donald Trump, Republicans defending the Confederate flag, or at least, trying to make the Confederacy not look like they were all horribly in the wrong), all he has to say is that it isn't true. No proof given. Just him saying, "No, you're wrong." (This brings up a good question. If people constantly point out to me that the Democrats were the southern slave owners back in the day, why are Republicans always the ones trying to demonize them less or even defend their actions more than Democrats?)
As a movie, it's sloppy, unfocused, poorly crafted, and made with little intention to teach. Instead, it's angry, mean spirited, lazy, and thoroughly stupid. Before anyone starts calling me some biased, Kool-Aid drinking Liberal, allow me to explain something. I wasn't raised politically. Yeah, my dad always yelled at the radio, while my mom blissfully couldn't give a crap. But I wasn't told to follow anyone or told to stick to one specific party. I was allowed to simply get invested into politics whenever I chose to. It was around when Donald Trump first made the claim that Obama was a Kenyan Muslim, and the fact that nobody on the right seemed to care about what he was saying, or in some cases, believed it themselves. The whole time I was thinking to myself "Why is this man getting praised for this?, "Why are the Republicans rallying around him?", and "What in God's name is going on here?". Those are the questions that should of been asked, but D'Souza doesn't care. He's just here to tell you about some evil Democrats, the deep state keeping him down, and that it's okay to support racist (Or at least racist sounding things) that normally we should be angry at, but because it's Trump, its ok. Politically, "Death of a Nation" is full of crap, and intentionally so. As a movie, it's scum. No stars. Rated PG-13 For That Horrifying Poster Art.
Image: Thanos' finger snap claims yet another.
Aw, this movie is adorable. It really is. I mean, they set it all up, borrowing from everything else, playing it all as safe as possible, while hinting at something bigger. They leave it all open for more. For the millions of fans who....never showed up. Yeah, you're not getting a sequel. Sorry. That's the business.
"The Darkest Minds" opens with a strange, worldwide disease has been kill random children, while the survivors are instead given strange new abilities, ranging from increased intelligence to superhuman powers. "Ruby Daly" (Amanda Stenberg) also has a new ability, which causes her to manipulate the minds of anyone she touches, having discovered this after accidentally erasing her from her parents' memories. Now Ruby is stuck inside a military camp, where "President Gray" (Bradley Whitford) has the children sent to, claiming to cure them like he seemingly did his own son, "Clancy" (Patrick Gibson). In reality, the camp separates the kids by colors (Such as blue, green, and orange), indicating who is labeled as most dangerous (And the ones they want to kill). Ruby as it turns out is an "Orange" (One of the dangerous ones), but is able to hide that from the villains.
Sometime later, Ruby is later broken out by a doctor, "Cate Connor" (Mandy Moore), who is actually part of a resistance known as "The League", who intends to fight back against the government. Ruby eventually finds out there might be some issues with The League, running away and bumping into a trio of travelers, such as the hunky love interest, "Liam" (Harris Dickinson), the genius comic relief, "Chubs" (Skylan Brooks), and the little, electrical powered "Zu" (Miya Cech). The group lets Ruby join them in searching for another resistance group, that's instead run by other uniquely powered kids, while avoiding the ones after them, including bounty hunter, "Lady Jane" (Gwendoline Christie).
To be fair, compared to many of the Sci-Fi YA novel turned into films, "The Darkest Minds" doesn't have the same annoyance factor that something such as "Divergent", "The 5th Wave" or "The Host" had. It just does everything you would expect it to do, with ideas that you've seen both better and worse in other franchises, from "The Hunger Games", The Maze Runner", and the most obvious one being "X-Men" (I thought it was one of those straight to DVD ripoffs the first time I saw the trailer). Based on some book your pre-teen daughter has possibly heard of and directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Who did "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Kung Fu Panda 3"), who does add a moment of flair every once in a while. But the film itself is so basic and cheap looking, with most of the budget going to certain powers. The story follows predictable beats, such as our apocalyptic romance, evil organizations, needlessly complicated details, with obvious reveals and absolutely no originality whatsoever.
Amanda Stenberg (Who I instinctively keep wanting to simply call "Rue", from "The Hunger Games"), is continuing her trend of being a much, much better actress than the material she's given. She's trying her absolute best here, as is Harris Dickinson and Skylan Brooks, who all seem like they could turn into solid actors. Everyone is just stuck with a cruddy script, lame characters, and an obligation to go through the typical character moments that are expected of this genre. Meanwhile, Mandy Moore (Only in it briefly at the start and at the end), Gwendoline Christie (Who just stops existing in the movie at some point), and especially poor Bradly Whitford (Who's entire storyline happens offscreen aside from a cameo) have nothing to do aside from attempting to add a bit more recognizability to the cast.
"The Darkest Minds" is not as bad as many other movies like it, mostly thanks to actors showing more talent than the movie itself deserves and the fact that you just don't care enough about what's going on. Once we get to the mandatory cliffhanger ending, it comes across as more laughable, because you just don't give a crap about anything that was set up. Not to mention, you know you're never going to see the continuing adventures of these characters on the big screen ever again. (You want your sequel? Read a book) It's just trying to reignite something that to be honest, died out a while ago. R.I.P. "End of the World" YA Novel genre.1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dystopian Violence, Rapey Villains, And Terrible Contact Lenses.
Image: "Don't shoot! I'll change my review!"
Bad comedies can leave different kinds of impacts on you. You will either be left unfazed, without much recollection of what you just watched. There's the major ones that leave horrific impacts on you, that will leave you pissed, annoyed, and in just a bad mood. And then there's this movie, that just leaves you really, really sad.
"The Spy Who Dumped Me" follows the wacky antics of best friends, "Aubrey" (Mila Kunis) and "Morgan" (Kate McKinnon). Aubrey has recently been dumped by her boyfriend, "Drew" (Justin Theroux), with Morgan being the one to comfort her. Next thing Aubrey realizes, she's abducted by a couple of spies, such as the future love interest, "Sebastian" (Sam Heughan) and the dickish "Duffer" (Hasan Minhaj), who reveal to Aubrey that Drew is a spy and is being hunted down by a terrorist organization, with evil plans for the world. Aubrey and Morgan bump back into Drew, who gives Aubrey a flash drive with important plot device information before he's killed by the bad guys. Now Aubrey and Morgan are on the run to Europe, avoiding villains and assassins such as the killer ballerina "Nadedja" (Ivanna Sakhno), as well as CIA, MI6, and all those big name agencies who want the flash drive, while retaining their BFF status.
Directed and Co-Written by Susanna Fogel, "The Spy Who Dumped Me" is essentially the wrong way to go of what made that hilarious, Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy collaboration, "Spy" from a few years ago. The movie has the same style of humor, with a shockingly dark, violent edge that can be a very dangerous route to tread with comedies, and when it doesn't work, it ends up just being kind of uncomfortable. The laughs are few, with some of them mostly just hitting their mark because the actors are good. And with how grisly the film is, the tone ends up just being all over the place. It doesn't help that the movie is nearly two hours long, paced poorly, and not funny enough to compensate. It sucks because the whole time you can see where this could of gone right, whether it be with the people involved or the idea itself that, while it's been done before, surely should be able to get a few good laughs out of you.
Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon are still giving it their all, even with the weak script. McKinnon in particular is better than the material given, getting a couple weird laughs every now and then. The two of them somehow still are better than what's provided, yet even they can't make it truly work. Justin Theroux tries his absolute best, but doesn't have anything to work with in his rather brief appearance. The romantic subplot with Sam Heughan is pointless, Ivanna Sakhno is odd and creepy and not much else, while Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser (as Morgan's parents) pop up for a second to do nothing funny. The funniest moments come from Hasan Minhaj, who gets a few funny reactions and enjoyably dickish lines, and Gillian Anderson (as "Wendy", Sebastian and Duffer's stern superior), who doesn't get much to do, but at least looks really lovely and has one of those really attractive proper British accents (It's my weakness.)
"The Spy Who Dumped Me" doesn't do it's pacing problems any favors with how predictable it's plotting is, with every twist and turn being obvious, including a major one towards the end that makes absolutely no sense. If it were funny enough, nobody would care about the predictable plotting. But when your laughs come so rarely and when you can feel how unnecessary much padding there is, it all ends up just becoming a bore, with the audience left wondering when they can just go home. A comedy is supposed to make you laugh till you cry, not just make you cry for it all to just stop. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Violence, And Secret Female Hiding Places.
Image: Pooh Bear and his friends bask in the glow of stardom before experiencing the dark side of fame.
How can you not love Winnie the Pooh? I mean, look at that fuzzy belly, that innocent smile, and his almost alcoholic levels of addiction to honey. You just want one of your very one or at the very least someone that looks like him....which would be a chubby, hairy guy, who never wears pants........Nevermind.
"Christopher Robin" opens with imaginative young "Christopher", hanging out in the Hundred Acre Wood, with his stuffed pals (Though a couple are actual animals), the lovable "Winnie the Pooh" (Voiced by Jim Cummings), the bouncy "Tigger" (Also voiced by Jim Cummings), the timid "Piglet" (Voiced by Nick Mohammed), the always depressed "Eeyore" (Voiced by Brad Garrett), the questionably wise "Owl" (Voiced by Toby Jones), the overly neat and tidy "Rabbit" (Voiced by Peter Capaldi), mother kangaroo "Kanga" (Voiced by Sophie Okonedo) and her son, "Roo" (Voiced by Sara Sheen) before leaving for boarding school. Years later, a now adult workaholic "Christopher Robin" (Ewan McGregor), who works at a luggage company, barely able to make time for his wife, "Evelyn" (Hayley Atwell) and daughter, "Madeline" (Bronte Carmichael).
Christopher works at a luggage company, where his snooty boss, "Giles Winslow Jr." (Mark Gatiss), tells Christopher that he will have to work through an onslaught of paperwork and figure out which employees to fire, which gets in the way of Christopher's plans to go away with his family for the weekend. Evelyn and Madeline leave unhappy, with Christopher home by himself. Around this time, Pooh wakes up one morning, unable to find all of his friends. Pooh decides to wander off, eventually coming out of the wood and into the real world, reuniting with Christopher. Christopher is forced to put work aside to help Pooh get back home and find all his friends, while also finding a way to make time for his family, and remembering his childhood, along with the importance of doing nothing.
In times where nostalgia runs the world (In both good and bad ways), it's nice that "Christopher Robin" opts not to go for anything cynical, in favor of just being innocent and whimsical, while at least addressing some darker moments in terms of both it's story and the way the film looks. The film, directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland" and um, "World War Z" apparently), is a bit more gloomy than you would expect, with some heavier themes and a lot less light than you are used to from a "Winnie the Pooh" story. However, it fits the film's narrative perfectly, with the message of growing up, while never forgetting your childhood wonder serving as the reward for the more melancholic scenes. Shot beautifully, with some surprisingly perfect looking visuals, such as the characters themselves who blend in seamlessly and remain full of life when interacting with the real life backgrounds and characters. For a movie aimed at a young audience, much like most "Winnie the Pooh" movies, the film is also very funny, with some of the back and forth between the characters delivering on the charm these beloved characters are known for. Where the film lacks is in it's story, which is predictable and not really all that focused.
Ewan McGregor, who I've always thought was always an underatted actor, is well cast, fitting into and reacting to the silliness perfectly. Hayley Atwell makes the best out of a relatively simple role with her natural charm and loveliness, while Bronte Carmichael is a solid child actor. (She actually does an excellent job acting against animated characters who aren't even there.) Jim Cummings, who has been voicing Pooh and Tigger for almost thirty years, is as wonderful as ever. Pooh is endearing and thoroughly cute, and Tigger is as excitable and hilarious as you remember him. Brad Garrett is also a perfect fit Eeyore, who gets some of the best lines. The rest of the voice cast, including Nick Mohammed, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi, and the rest all doing good work, mostly get put in the background. On a side note, I also find it kind of funny that the film never truly explains what these characters are. They're clearly real, but what are they? Imaginary friends? Adorable little demons? Never explained, but that adds to the whimsy.
Much like that silly old bear, "Christopher Robin" is a little slight and somewhat all over the place, but is thoroughly sweet, charming, and utterly adorable, with a little extra mature edge. There are good morals and plenty of laughs for the whole family. It's not as good as the other talking bear movie this year, nor is it as memorable as 2011's 2D animated "Winnie the Pooh" (Which still has moments that crack me up). It's just a small scale, likable, heartwarming little movie that doesn't disrespect it's young audience. Even when it's not great, you just leave with a big happy smile on your face. That's what Pooh does to people and it's infectious. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some Gloomy Moments, But It's Still Suitably For All Audiences.
Image: Everybody say "Bat nipples!"
People are just so unwilling to admit that this movie is good aren't they? Most of it has to do with the still going show it's based on. There are some complaints that can be given to Cartoon Network's hit parody series, "Teen Titans Go!", such it being on constantly, with the network shoving it into your face as much as they can, along with some occasional flat jokes, and probably most importantly, the fact that we lost the original classic 2003 series (Remembered as dark and mature, despite the occasional and intentional goofy moment) in favor of something much sillier. However, once I figured out what it actually was, I've found the show to be pretty funny, made by people who do their homework when it comes to references and don't take themselves too seriously. Plus, I gotta commend the show for how out of nowhere weird it can be. (Such as Cyborg summoning the ghosts of the "Golden Girls", an episode where everyone becomes puppets for no reason, and Weird "Al" Yankovic voicing famous DC Comics big bad, "Darkseid", because it just sounds funny) Take all the things that make the show work and stretch it to an hour and a half, you get something not just better than most DC movies. You get something that's actually better by a long shot.
"Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" follows the "Teen Titans", consisting of the baby handed boy wonder "Robin" (Scott Menville), the half man, half machine "Cyborg" (Khary Payton), the awkward alien princess "Starfire" (Hyden Walch), the shape shifting "Beast Boy" (Greg Cipes), and the sometimes demonic, mostly emo "Raven" (Tara Strong), a team of young, immature superheroes who never do anything. The teens are always being looked down upon by supervillains and superheroes, such as "Superman" (Nicolas Cage), who in the meantime are gathering for the premiere of the newest "Batman" movie. The Titans sneak in, because nobody wanted them there, with Robin becoming upset at the fact that everyone is getting a movie before he is (Including Alfred).
The Titans get the idea that they need to be taken more seriously and should definitely get their own movie. Thinking that getting an arch-nemesis will prove that, the Titans run into evil, sword and gun carrying/Deadpool lookalike, "Slade" (Will Arnett). Slade also wants nothing to do with the Titans, more annoyed by them than anything, focusing on his own plans for world domination. The Titans continue with their plan to get a movie made about them, no matter the costs, such as messing with some superhero origins, trying to convince the famous filmmaker responsible for the many superhero movies being made, "Jade Wilson" (Kristen Bell), and a few extra run-ins with Slade, which will require the Titans to actually doing some super-heroic things for once.
At first seemingly just filled with nonsense and immature jokes, "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" is in reality an intelligent satire of superhero movies (And to a certain degree, Hollywood in general). The movie is kind of ruthless in how much it mocks everything around it, not caring who gets caught in the crossfire, while even bashing itself whenever it sees fit. (Think "South Park", except for kids) It's not cynical so much as it's just having fun, while also making pretty good points when parodying DC movies, Marvel movies, and superhero movies in general, along with other basic tropes that you see in film overall and the fact that people are more interested by the onslaught of films, rather than actually having our beloved heroes be well, heroic. There are so many in-jokes and background gags that you want to see it again just to catch them all. (Yes, they do work in a Henry Cavill mustache joke in there) The kids will enjoy the bouncy characters, wacky antics, and the occasional lowbrow joke (Which the movie also makes fun of itself for having in the first place), while the parents (Especially the ones with comic book knowledge) will enjoy the references and will find themselves maybe even having more of a good time than their children. (It may be aimed at young audiences, but there is plenty here for the adults.)
Our excellent voice cast, which carried over from the original series to the new one, are all professionals, getting plenty of laughs and even having a surprising amount of chemistry with each other. The characters are actually insanely lovable, even when they're being complete jerks. Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes, Hyden Walch, and Tara "The love of every geek boy's life" Strong are all perfect. Will Arnett sounds like he's having the time of his life, and especially after "Show Dogs", he really needed it. There are a few fun cameos, with the sound of Nicholas Cage's voice coming out of Superman making the film worth the ticket price.
"Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" may seem nonsensical, silly, and full of bathroom humor.....and it is. However, it's also laugh out loud hilarious, with moments for both kids and adults to get a kick out of, some lovely 2D animation (Which will always look great on the big screen. We need more of it), and some darn good satire, showing that it's much smarter than we give it credit for. Toss in a little heart, a bizarre reference to "The Lion King", and even a little black comedy involving the tragic origins of some beloved superheroes (The Thomas and Martha scene is so funny, it almost made me cry), it serves as a reminder that the DCEU (Or "The Worlds of DC" as it's now called I guess), still has a lot to live up to. It probably won't win over the angry nerds, but don't worry. You guys got that new dark, gritty "Titans" show coming up. You know, the one with all the blood, "Mature" content, and Robin dropping an "F-Bomb"? Happy Now? 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Some Violence, And The Funniest Hit And Run Ever Put To Film.
Image: I'm starting to think this mission is actually possible.
We can all enjoy movies like "Rampage", "Skyscraper", "The Equalizer 2", or any of the "Fast and Furious" movies. However, sometimes we can forget, that it's possible not just for an action movie to make for a straight up great movie, but it's just as gripping and effectively memorable as any drama, indie movie, or whatever else the academy acknowledges instead. This right here is how it's done.
"Mission Impossible: Fallout" opens with yet another mission being given to IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent, "Ethan Hunt" (Tom Cruise), which requires him to acquire some stolen plutonium cores that are in the hands of a new terrorist group called "The Apostles". The Apostles, formerly part of "The Syndicate", which was run by the last film's slimy villain, "Solomon Lane" (Sean Harris), plan to use the cores to start a new world order, even if it means uniting the world through fear and death. Ethan, along with his friends, "Luther Stickell" (Ving Rhames) and "Benji Dunn" (Simon Pegg), meet up to finish the mission and get the plutonium back, only for the mission to fail and the plutonium to end up stolen, because of Ethan's refusal to let one of his own die.
Against the wishes of IMF secretary, "Alan Hunley" (Alec Baldwin), CIA Director, "Erica Sloane" (Angela Bassett) takes command of the operation, seeing the IMF as ineffective, sending her top assassin, "August Walker" (Henry Cavill) to work with Ethan. The two are sent to find out where the plutonium is, tracking down the unknown leader of the Apostles, "John Lark", which leads them to black marker arms dealer/daughter of Vanessa Redgrave from the first movie, known as "The White Widow" (Vanessa Kirby). The mission becomes more and more complicated, with the two being forced to work with the White Widow, requiring them to bust the now more deranged Lane out of custody, putting Ethan at odds with his old friend/possible love interest, "Ilsa Faust" (Rebecca Ferguson), who has been tasked to assassinate Lane no matter the cost.
Once again Directed by Christopher McQuarrie ("Jack Reacher" and "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation") and Produced by J. J. Abrams, "Mission Impossible: Fallout" is brilliant in it's action, strong in it's story, and a great ensemble of characters that you care about. This movie shows that you are getting more than just big setpieces, though the ones we get are possibly some of the greatest moments of pure adrenaline fueled, stunt crazy action that will leave you constantly on the edge of your seat, craving more, and once it's all finished, damn near exhausted because of all the gasping and jaw dropping you were just doing. Speaking of which, the various exhilarating sequences are nothing short of fantastic, but the finale is a completely separate entity. These last 40 minutes are as perfect as you can possibly get, with one of the greatest climaxes I've ever seen, making me realize that I should be allowed to expect more from your average action flick.
Tom Cruise is very...Tom Cruisey in real life (You know, aside from a little kooky to say the least), but I should really stop being surprised at how committed he is as an actor. He is once again terrific here, with Ethan Hunt making for an action hero who is also just plain likable. He's just such a cool guy when everything's said and done, which plays into a theme of the movie, with the character being forced into situations that would make the hero question if it's even possible to save everyone. Henry Cavill (And his amazing facial hair) is the walking personification of intimidation, Rebecca Ferguson is once again lovely and totally badass beyond comprehension, and both Ving Rhames and the lovable Simon Pegg get some great comic relief, while also playing important parts themselves. There are fun small parts with Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, and it's great seeing Michelle Monaghan (as "Julia", Ethan's former wife) once again, along with Vanessa Kirby stealing some scenes. Sean Harris also returns to ooze sinister villainy, with an extra creep factor that just sends chills down your spine every time he speaks.
With some stunning cinematography, the great score (How can you not get pumped up when you hear the theme song burst into the theater?), and a few much needed moments of depth and character work, "Mission Impossible: Fallout" is everything you want for a summer movie. Endearing heroes, evil villains, some laughs, some drama, Tom Cruise running (Probably the most he's ever ran in any movie), and a spectacular ending that will set a new standard for movies. In general, the.best Mission yet. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Nail Biting Action, Dark Subjects, And The Power Of Scientology. (It's What Gives Tom Cruise His Immortal Strength.)
Image: She could have gotten one of those flip track phones for a lot cheaper. Just sayin'.
One thing I've learned reviewing movies for over eight years, without any payment or appreciation from any serious publications at all (Still looking guys. Come on, you'd love me!), I've noticed that a great film experience can come from anywhere. We got our big summer blockbusters, feel good family adventure, biographical dramas, and maybe something based on a true story or two. Then there's something simple. Just a story about a little girl, living in the modern age, going through the basic things we all do. Or at least any young girl might. It's the smaller stories that are the most surprising, and possibly the one that will leave the most lasting impact.
"Eighth Grade" follows little "Kayla Day" (Elsie Fisher) on her last few days of Eighth Grade. Living with her goofy, well intentioned father, "Mark" (Josh Hamilton), Kayla does motivational videos on Youtube, dealing with achieving self-confidence. Her videos mostly do "Meh" in terms of how many views she gets, with Kayla in real life generally remaining in the background at school, with all the more talkative ones remaining in the spotlight, including her jerky crush, "Aiden" (Luke Prael) and the popular girl, "Kennedy" (Catherine Oliviere). We follow Kayla in these last days, with her being invited to a pool party by Kennedy (Mostly because her mom forces her to invite her), her relationships with the people around her, including her father, and her meeting with some high school students. We also see how big a part social media and her electronic devices play in her life. (And the life of everyone else, if you really think about.) While she prepares for the next stage in her life, Kayla learns more about the awkwardness of growing up, and eventually has to learn more about herself, further expressing herself as a person and who she will grow up to be.
Directed (And Written) by comedian/YouTuber (It's a thing!), Bo Burnham in his first full length, feature film, "Eighth Grade" is not what you would at first expect it to be. You might think it's just going to be another coming of age story, which we get all the time. (Granted, they're usually pretty great, such as "The Edge of Seventeen" or "Lady Bird") However, thanks to some skillful direction, and a intelligent, funny script to make it feels different from the others, and stand out on it's own. It's an oddly unpredictable movie, with it's story told in a way that's probably more realistic, with flawed characters, who do remain very lovable, even when they make mistakes. (Such as Kayla, acting like a bit of a twerp and Mark really just letting her walk all over him) It helps that they're very well written, with a lot of humor, sweetness, drama, and a lot of awkwardness (And uncomfortableness), which is basically what I assume a teenage girl's life would be like. (I wouldn't know. I was never a teenage girl.)
Elsie Fisher (Who voiced one of the little girls in the first two "Despicable Me" movies) is an instant star in the making. Perfectly balancing out the shy, quiet type when she's with the other kids, and then the little ball of pure personality, charm, and energy that she is when doing her videos. You can still see that this is the same person, who is one way with other people and acts a different way when alone. It makes her story of opening up stronger, when the audience knows how expressive a person she actually is, and are just waiting for the other characters to realize it. Josh Hamilton is also wonderful, with the character's sweet, if not imperfect, relationship with his daughter making for some of the funniest moments, and by the end, one of the most heartwarming. There's also a hilariously adorable subplot involving Jake Ryan (as "Gabe", a weird boy, who seems to like Kayla) that's bound to charm the living Hell off of you.
"Eighth Grade" deals with some cringey topics, seems to have something to say about the importance of social media and online devices, that can be seen in both negative and positive lights. Bo Burnham details a simple, straight forward story that hits you right in the emotional core, while remaining unpredictable and most importantly, respecting the intelligence of the audience. It's a different kind of crowd pleaser full of likability and will surely become an instant favorite. Much like it's star, it's impossible not to love. 4 stars. Rated R For Awkward, Uncomfortable Subjects.
Image: "No, you're holding it wrong....Just push the button on the screen! No, With your thumb You're THUMB!!!!"
The internet is an evil place. We all know this, but we've oddly just accepted it. Jokes aside, I know the importance of what the internet has given us. I mean, I use it all the time to talk to friends, do my reviews, videos, order things, look up things, meet interesting girls you'll never have a shot with, and well, everything. But like every good things, there's a dark side. A...ahem, Dark Web if you will. I mean, where do you think YouTube commenters come from?
A sequel that really doesn't have anything to do with the first film, aside from the same filmmaking style, "Unfriended: Dark Web" opens with "Matias O'Brien" (Colin Woodell) finding (Or stealing) a new laptop, using it to attempt to video chat with his deaf girlfriend, "Amaya" (Stephanie Nogueras). Their relationship is strained because of a lack of communication and a lack of being able to communicate, with Matias fearing a possible break up. Luckily, a bad break up is going to be the least of his problems. When Matias, while doing a video chat game night with his friends, "Nari" (Betty Gabriel), "Serena" (Rebecca Rittenhouse), "Damon" (Andrew Lees), "Lexx" (Savira Windyani), and conspiracy theorist, "Aj" (Connor Del Rio), discovers that the laptop has access to the "Dark Web". (The vile, evil part of the internet, full of all kinds of bad stuff such as, black market dealings, illegal porn, etc.) Things get even more terrifying when he discovers the previous owner's involvement with a mysterious organization, who have cameras in the homes of everyday people, have dealings with kidnapping young girls, and making horrific, grotesque, snuff films, for the sick enjoyment of the members. When the previous owner starts to communicate with Matias, threatening to kill him, his friends, and even Amaya unless he gets the laptop back, Matias and his buddies are pulled further into a sick, twisted game that can only get worse from here.
It's kind of awesome when a movie is made in secret, then just released as a surprise, much like with "Unfriended: Dark Web" getting it's premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year. More of a continuation of the premise provided in 2014's "Unfriended" (Which wasn't for everyone, but I thought it was pretty solid), this new film gets rid of the supernatural element, instead relying on utilizing it's idea to it's fullest potential. The film is shown entirely through the point of view of a computer screen, with videos, chats, and messages showing the story (Taking place over the course of a single night), which puts you in the position of the characters, making for a more thrilling experience. On the downside, with the more supernatural element out of the film, it doesn't make anything any more or less plausible. (There's probably no chance of things happening this way realistically).
As far as our characters go, they're a lot less horrible this time around, while doing the occasional typical horror movie mistakes, they're not bad people. They are fairly likable actually, with better intentions than most, which does help you care a bit more about what happens. While most of the acting just requires them to scream, cry, and yell, they do a solid job of it, with the standouts being Colin Woodell being our main character and the one with the most depth, along with Betty Grabriel (Who you might remember from "Get Out" and "Upgrade"). As for our villains, while some of their capabilities are hard to believe, they are certainly diabolical and much more frightening than any ghost or demon, mostly because there is a likely chance these people exist in some shape or form. Imagine, a group of people, using a part of the internet off the grid, participating in horrible acts, and either controlling, surveying, or at least, influencing the lives of every day people without their knowledge. Now that's terrifying.
While far fetched and even a little on the trashy side due to the film veering dangerously close to almost being considered torture porn (It never really gets that violent, but the focus on death and acts of sadism make it uncomfortable at times), "Unfriended: Dark Web" embraces the atmosphere provided by it's premise, with some clever twists, and some truly traumatizing ideas that should keep any conspiracy theorist awake at night. On a side note, there are apparently two endings that were released during screenings of the film, with the audience not knowing which one they will get. After reading up on it, I think I got the weaker of the two. With the one I got seeming appropriate, it not a little predictable and maybe too unnecessarily cruel, while the other seemed longer, more drawn out, and somewhat scarier sounding. (Implications are always more frightening than actually showing) It's not for everyone, but I found it plenty effective. And for anyone watching me through a computer screen in some dark, secluded place, that's your fault you don't like what you end up seeing. I'm not your toy! 3 stars. Rated R For Violent Images, Horrible Implications, And The Most Evil Of All Entities Of The Internet, Facebook.
Image: "Oh, you think you want a piece of Denzel..." Nah, I cant do a Denzel impersination.
By this point, if the film is good, bad, just okay, or really just leave any impact in a positive or negative way, Denzel Washington is going to be terrific in it no matter what. It's honestly the easiest, most predictable thing to write about, because he's always great. Whether the film is big, small, a drama, an action movie, or even something kind of schlocky, Denzel is going to give it his all, turn out a good performance, and just plain make everything better. It's what he does. He's an equalizer, if you will.
"The Equalizer 2" once again follows retired CIA Black Ops agent, "Robert McCall" (Denzel Washington), who has been working as a Lyft driver (Uber doesn't pay enough), mostly so he can go to town on helping people and beating the living sh*t out of the bad guys. (Usually while setting a timer on his watch to see how long it takes) Living in an old apartment, while also serving as a mentor of sorts to troubled teen, "Miles" (Ashton Sanders), McCall has remained off the grid, thanks to help from his friends, "Susan" (Melissa Leo) and her husband, "Brian" (Bill Pullman). However, someone is going around and killing some important figures, with Susan going to investigate, only to end up brutally murdered herself. Now coming out of hiding, McCall learns from an old teammate, "Dave York" (Pedro Pascal) about Susan's death, prompting McCall to look into it himself. While dealing with his personal issues and dark past, McCall sets out to find Susan's killer (or killers) and return the favor by slaughtering them all as viciously as humanly possible.
Once again by the reliably competent Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day", "The Magnificent Seven", "Southpaw", and the first "Equalizer"), "The Equalizer 2" is a mostly typical, slightly too subplot heavy, action packed sequel, full of violence, but a fair amount of clever ideas, a charming lead, and a few extra moments where the film slows down to add a little depth. It's an action movie that is at least trying to have some actual drama, with it mostly working because of the cast. However, the film loses sight of it's main plot when it takes detours to give time to ongoing small plotlines, mostly involving McCall's relationships with the people around him, who are in need of help in some way. I get the idea they're going for, showing how he is just a man, seeking redemption for his still unexplained (But hinted at) past, and how much good he does for the people he meets without them even realizing it. It's just that it feels like filler, and for a film that's over two hours, it just drags it down. Granted, the main plot itself is as basic as you can get, with obvious plot reveals and predictable outcomes.
Denzel Washington brings his usual charisma, powerful screen presence, and his off the charts, extreme levels of badassitude to every movie he's in, and does so once again here. He takes control of every scene, showing how capable he is in the action scenes and how strong he is in the more dramatic scenes. Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman have small roles, but are both still excellent enough actors to leave an impression, with Pedro Pascal also doing a solid job, despite also not getting much of a role. Ashton Sanders (Who you might remember from 2016's masterpiece, "Moonlight"), does some good work, in particular when he has some emotional scenes with Denzel Washington, making for some of the best scenes in the film. Our villains are typical, but menacing and diabolical enough, with their gruesome deaths being warranted and should generate a crowd-pleasing reaction from the audience.
"The Equalizer 2" is a generic action movie sequel, that is made by professionals, who at least know how to make the film worth some entertainment value, with some much needed serious moments to help you care about what's going to happen. Even though you know where it's all going, you like the hero and like the people he spends his time with, while detesting the villains he dispatches. You have reliable actors, working with a reliable director, making the most of a mostly "Eh" script and story, and throwing in enough stylized action to compensate. As far as all that killing, at least when Denzel does it, you have to admit, it would be kind of an honor to be offed by him. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Violence, Language, And Brooding.
Image: This movie is going to make money, money, money.
Ten years? Good lord, it's been that long since the first "Mamma Mia!"? You know, the movie based on the musical dedicated to the work of ABBA? Gave it plenty of time to gather a big, committed fanbase that loves the Hell out of it. It also had time to gather a group who hates everything about it. It's a movie that I can definitely see someone loving. Although I never understood the hate though. I get not liking it, but hate is a little much. I mean, it came out the same year as the first "Twilight", "Disaster Movie", and "The Happening"......"Mamma Mia!" is a masterpiece of cinema and basic entertainment compared to those. (Also, "Speed Racer" came out that year....Oh, and "10.000 B.C."......Man, 2008 had a lot of bad movies....)
Another one of those prequel/sequels, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" takes place a few years after the first, following "Sophie" (Amanda Seyfried), taking over the villa previously belonging to her now deceased mother, "Donna" (Meryl Streep), on an island in Greece and re-opening it as a hotel under the name "Bella Donna" in her owner. Her relationship with her love interest, "Sky" (Dominic Cooper) is strained due to him being gone all the time, leaving Sophie to doubt she is capable of any of this without the guidance of her mother, despite getting some minor assistance from her mother's friends, "Tanya" (Christine Baranski) and "Rosie" (Julie Walters), her stepfather "Sam" (Pierce Brosnan), and the hotel manager, whose name is technically a spoiler (Andy Garcia).
Sophie has to make sure everything goes according to plan, with important people coming to the re-opening, apparently aside from Sophie's other dads, "Harry" (Colin Firth) and "Bill" (Stellan Skarsgård). Throughout the film, we are shown flashbacks involving a younger Donna (Lily James) and her adventures with the younger versions of her friends (Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies). Which also includes Donna's first meetings with Sam, Harry, and Bill (With their younger selves played by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan). Through this series of events, we see just how exactly she became the person she was, eventually becoming pregnant with Sophie and not knowing (Or caring) who the father is. Cher (as Donna's estranged mother) is in it too by the way.
Whether or not you like the first "Mamma Mia!" (I think it's alright. Nothing to complain about really), it made a lot of money (It is a rich man's world after all). This time written and directed by Ol Parker (Who wrote the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" movies), the film takes what people love about the first film and just goes all out with it, but on the bright side, it also appears to of listened to the criticisms of the first film. The plot is less goofy and seems much more focused this time around. It's all still silly stuff, but the movie relies on less cartoonish antics in favor of focusing on it's likable cast and characters, endearing musical numbers, and a surprising amount of laughs. The movie is actually very funny (Intentionally so), with some snappy dialogue and well timed visual moments that work very well, which also help elevate the movie's heartfelt story which is much more bittersweet and emotional than expected.
Amanda Seyfried is as adorably wide-eyed as ever, along with pros such as Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth, who all still can't sing, but bring their usual charisma to carry the movie's cheesy-ness. (Hey, they're still better singers than I am.) Christine Baranski and Julie Walters get some funny moments throughout, Andy Garcia once again reminds us that he is freakin' charming as Hell (And whoever in Hollywood took the time to remember that deserves praise), Dominic Cooper looks a little bored, but at least doesn't sleepwalk through the movie, and Cher is well, Cher. (It's essentially a glorified cameo, but the audience seemed happy, so why complain?) With Meryl Streep mostly only appearing briefly (But she's a multi-Oscar nominee, so she's still good regardless), the movie instead gives more of the spotlight to the perfectly cast Lily James. She's excellent here, full of personality, can sing the Hell out of the musical numbers, and has the ability to simply charm everyone and everything thing around her simply with her smile and incredible cuteness. The rest of the younger actors are also well cast, and the musical numbers, while probably running out of ideas (The movie repeats a few from the last movie. ABBA only has so much to offer.), are delightfully kooky and lively, and will certainly give the fans exactly what they came to see.
Aside from the fact that the last act was pretty much shown in the trailer and the film starts to get just a bit distracted during this last portion of the film, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" is as ridiculously cheesy as ever, and while it probably wont bring in anyone new, the fans will definitely leave madly in love with it. Luckily, the film has plenty of laughs, and a more grounded story that leaves time for the emotional core to shine through. (I'll admit, there is one scene involving Meryl Streep at the end, that's much more emotionally effective than a movie like this generally provides.) It's sweet, good natured, and perfectly harmless, giving those ABBA fanatics, girls of all ages, and over the top homosexual guys (My entire audience in a nutshell) something to sing and dance to. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, White People Shenanigans, And Manly Gyrations In Tight Outfits.
Image: C'mon little guy! You can do it!
Another day, another "Die Hard" clone, another Dwayne Johnson action movie. It's the combination that we've been expecting to come into reality for years. You know the drill! Let's do this!
"Skyscraper" follows former FBI agent, "Will Sawyer" (Dwayne "Is he still the Rock?" Johnson), who retired from that line of work after a hostage situation went horribly wrong, resulting in him losing his leg and getting a prosthetic leg. Will has settled down with his wife, "Sarah" (Neve Campbell), who he met after the accident, along with his kids, "Georgia" (McKenna Roberts) and "Henry" (Noah Cottrell). The family has currently been staying in the residential area of a massive, thousand foot story, super building in Hong Kong, known as "The Pearl", where Will works as a security supervisor. The developer of the building, "Zhao Long Ji" (Chin Han), who assures Will that nothing bad could possibly ever happen in the history of ever. (Have you ever seen an action movie? This was never going to end well.) With aid from Will's traitorous friend, "Ben" (Pablo Schreiber), a group of terrorists attack, led by the violent "Kores Botha" (Roland Møller).
The villains set a floor on the building on fire, arranging for Botha's pretty henchwoman, "Xia" (Hannah Quinlivan) to steal a tablet from Will, which gives her complete control over the security to the Pearl. Zhao and his assistants are all trapped inside the building, including the obviously, totally not evil, "Mr. Pierce" (Noah Taylor), along with Will's family. Now believed by the cops to be part of the terrorist group, Will has to avoid the police and make his way up into the Pearl, in spectacularly ridiculous fashion, dodging evil villains, explosions, and all kinds of video game-esque obstacles, in an attempt to save his family. Eventually, Will discovers what the bad guys are after, along with their plans for Zhao, resulting in him becoming that badass superhero we would all wish we could be in a situation like this. (To be honest, I'd fall to my death 10 minutes in. Very anti-climatic.)
From the director of "We're the Millers" and "Central Intelligence", Rawson Marshall Thurber (I'll admit, not a bad first action movie outing), "Skyscraper" is the silly, big budgeted action movie you would expect it to be. (And honestly, want it to be) So really, there isn't much to complain about. It's a movie that's exactly what's advertised to you, without too many surprises, but also nothing so outlandish that it completely ruins the ridiculous amount of fun the movie has to offer. Solid visuals and despite it's rehashed plot, the film's action scenes are certainly original. Preying off the audience's fear of heights (Realistically, everyone should be afraid on heights. Falling from thousands of stories? How is that not terrifying?), the movie is surprisingly suspenseful, with a few moments that will likely have you on the edge of your seat. Even when the film goes down the predictable route, you feel oddly invested, mostly because our heroes are very likable, very relatable, and even in the most preposterous of situations, come across fairly realistic. (Well, as realistic as you could possibly be in a movie like this.)
Dwayne Johnson can carry a movie like this without even trying, but one thing I've learned about him as of late, is that he will give it his all regardless of what the movie is. Neve Campbell also gives capable performance, getting way more to do than your average damsel in distress. (In fact, she handles herself very well and rarely needs to actually get saved.) Chin Han pretty much just has the same, stoned face expression the entire film. Our villains are as over the top as they can possibly be in the best way possible, with Roland Møller being a capable threat, Hannah Quinlivan being cutely evil and shooting people for no reason (That's absolutely a thing), and the still obviously, totally not evil Noah Taylor smarming the crap out of his role. On the downside, our police characters (As usual) are as stupid as ever. (At what point did Will look like he was one of the bad guys? I get the whole "He's returning to the scene of the crime" mentality, but he's literally jumping head first into it. He's obviously not one of them!)
"Skyscraper" is cartoonish as Hell, Then again, what did you expect? It's supposed to be. It's also a ton of fun, with some original action set pieces that are the right amount of dumb and the right amount of exhilarating. It's not as good (Or as intelligent) as action movies can aspire to be, but it's got a hero that's easy to root for (Who also keeps his humanity in tact, even when performing crazy, unrealistic stunts) and enough thrills to make for a quick, competently made, undemanding sit. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Blood, And Death From Fall/Exploding At The Same Time. (Come On, You Know That Was Awesome.)
Image: "I promise I'll stop sucking this time!"
Everyone should know I've never been much of a fan of the "Hotel Transylvania" franchise, with it seeming like another vehicle for Adam Sandler and his buddies to just hang out and phone it in, with an overly in your face, obnoxious nature (Both figuratively and literally). The first one, while not the absolute worst, was just annoying, with limited plot and the second one was just, well, the worst. Yet, they had a fanbase and a big one at that, with the series making piles upon piles of money. It's funny though, while the fans seem to be considering this latest entry to be the weakest out of all of them, with too much frenetic humor and little story. Did you guys....Did you guys see the others? That's right! I still don't get it, but I oddly somewhat, awkwardly recommend it!
"Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" sees the return of all those monsters voiced by comedians with little shame. Hotel owner, "Count Dracula" (Adam Sandler) is lonely, not having been on a date since the death of his wife. To get him out of his rut, Dracula's daughter, "Mavis" (Selena Gomez) decides he needs a vacation. Arranging for a cruise, Mavis brings Dracula, along with all their friends, including her still dangerously stupid husband, "Johnny" (Andy Samberg), "Frank the Frankenstein" (Kevin James), and his loud wife "Eunice" (Fran Drescher), "Wayne the Werewolf" (Steve Buscemi) and his wife, "Wanda" (Molly Shannon), "Murray the Mummy" (Keegan-Michael Key), "Griffin, the Invisible Man" (David Spade), Dracula's dad, "Vlad" (Mel Brooks), and uh, well, the rest. (There are way too many characters in this series)
While on the cruise, Dracula meets the captain, "Ericka" (Kathryn Hahn) and immediately falls in love with her, or "Zinged" as the characters say. (Stop trying to make that a catchphrase. It's never gonna be one! Never!) Little do Dracula and his buddies know however, Ericka is the great, granddaughter of famed monster hunter, "Abraham Van Helsing" (Jim Gaffigan), who is so old, he is basically just a head and arms connected to robotic parts. Van Helsing has a plan to kill all the monsters and finally get his revenge on Dracula, with Ericka being part of his grand scheme. Ericka sets out to finish the job herself, with the love-struck Dracula desperately trying to woo her.
Once again directed by critically acclaimed animator (And a guy way too talented for this), Genndy Tartakovsky (Creator of "Samurai Jack", "Dexter's Laboratory", and that "Clone Wars" cartoon that's no longer canon), "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" seems somewhat different from the other movies in the series. Everything feels much calmer, less sporadic, and most importantly, there's an actual plot this time! Yeah, it's a simple, fairly predictable one. However, the movie seems much more focused than before and while there is still some filler here and there, the movie never loses sight of what actually works and leaves behind (Or at least limits) what doesn't. It probably helps that Tartakovsky also wrote the script this time, which doesn't have many big laughs, but at least offers plenty of chuckles and clever moments. (Such as an Airline run completely by Gremlins, or a giant monster puppy named "Tinkles", who is the one of the cutest animated characters I've ever seen.)
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, and all their pals are all basically just here to play exaggerated, animated monster versions of themselves once more. Hands down, the most enjoyable one of the group being Steve Buscemi (And Molly Shannon, actually getting something to do for once). We get a few funny lines from the still underutilized, but always welcome, Mel Brooks and Chris Parnell (as "Stan", a fishman, whose only human part is his giant feet). The new additions are easily some of the best, with Kathryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan perfectly cast as our villains, who are both a delight. The real star here is the animation, with the lively world and characters, which was always impressive regardless of the quality of the actual films themselves. It's very bouncy, wiggly, and constantly moving like a Looney Tunes cartoon, but for the first time in this entire series, the film realizes that it needs to take a chill pill and just let a slow moment happen. (The kids will remain focused. Don't worry.)
I'm not going to say I like this franchise now, because it's obviously still not too much different from the others. It's still occasionally loud, too many characters with little to do for all of them, and a big dance party finale (Why was the "Macarena" a thing?). With that said, "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" tones down those annoyances, showing off some genuine charm and cleverness, along with positive messages about prejudice that were only hinted upon in previous movies. It's just a nice little kids movie that doesn't treat them like idiots, but instead just plays itself in a safe, though sweet way. See? I've just been incredibly fair to what is yet another obvious Sandler cash grab. That....That wasn't easy for me. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Goofy Humor And Shapely, Animated Derrieres. (Seriously, What Is With Animated Movies And Booty Lately?)
Image: "I'm just going to put you on hold for 12 minutes....Or so."
Another movie I had no intention of originally writing a full review for. I only have so much time on my hands. I work, I provide (For my cat), I am constantly seeing movies, and sometimes, some smaller films have to be left out mostly because I don't have the time for it. (Also, typing so much hurts my fingers.) Then like "First Reformed", you get a movie that leaves you so awestruck by insanity, that you just gotta talk about it. Sure, I gotta be vague, but I have to say something.
Set in some surreal, alternate version of preset day Oakland, "Sorry to Bother You" follows "Cassius "Cash" Green" (Lakeith Stanfield) who, despite having a pretty, artistic girlfriend, "Detroit" (Tess Thompson), lives a poor, difficult life. Living in a garage belonging to his uncle, "Sergio" (Terry Crews), Cash can't seem to find a job, until he finds a position as a telemarketer for a company known as "RegalView". Having some difficulty getting people to listen to him over the phone, Cash is suggested to by a co-worker, "Langston" (Danny Glover) to instead use his "White Voice", while on the phone with people. Soon, Cash's white voice (Which is dubbed over with David Cross) begins to help him shoot up the telemarketing hierarchy, all the way to the fabled superior position known as "Power Caller", while his friends/co-workers, "Salvador" (Jermaine Fowler) and "Squeeze" (Steven Yeun) fight for better working conditions.
When Cash starts to getting buddy buddy with the um, interestingly named boss, "Mr. _______" (Played in person by Omari Hardwick, with his white voice dubbed by Patton Oswalt), eventually leading to Cash meeting the eccentric CEO of a exploitative, nearly world dominating corporation, "Steve Lift" (Armie Hammer). I'm gonna stop right here in terms of detailing an actual synopsis. So here's the quick rundown. Cash becomes more successful at the expense of those around him, slowly losing himself and then things get freakin crazy in unimaginable ways. That's all you need to know.
From Writer, Director, Rapper, Producer (He does it all), Boots Riley, "Sorry to Bother You" is a bizarre piece of satirical filmmaking unlike any film you'll ever come across in your life. When it starts, you think you're in the real world, then next thing you know, our main character is being hoisted into the same room as the person he is on the phone with. You get out of nowhere cutaway gags, strange imagery and apparel, and all kinds of things I can't talk about without spoiling where it all goes. It's a sporadically directed film, that actually benefits from it. You're supposed to feel off throughout the movie, while laughing hysterically in an uncomfortable manner, and getting a few concepts and ideas explained in a complex, but crazy way that you would never think you'd see in the same film.
Lakeith Stanfield, known for his memorable part in "Get Out" and was probably the best part of the live action version of "Death Note", gets to completely take over the spotlight. He carries the film with charm, personality, and tons of star power, with some hilarious reactions to the insanity and plenty of likability. Tessa Thompson is all kinds of awesome, with some funny moments from Jermaine Fowler, Kate Berlant (as "Diana DeBauchery", the middle manager who is way too horny), and Omari Hardwick. There are some fun small parts from Danny Glover and Steven Yuen, along with David Cross' voice being both awkwardly off putting and funny. (Not to mention a few unexpected surprises that you need to stick around during the credits to see). Then there's an absolutely riotous Armie Hammer, whose honestly pretty brilliant here. It's a flawlessly deranged caricature of the worst kind of rich white dude you can possibly imagine. (Then again, these days you swear those kinds of people exist.)
"Sorry to Bother You" is what I assume it's like to be on drugs. (Only going on assumption here.) It's full of wacky visual symbolism (And sometimes things that are just weird for the sake of being weird.), some great characters, and some laugh out loud dialogue. It's a bit sloppy at times (Some characters just sort of fade into the background or straight up vanish), but the film's main focus remains on the point. We get discussion about police brutality, corporate greed, worker conditions, artistic integrity, our current politic environment, and minority representation. It's crazy good satire at it's best. And straight up trippy. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Horse Penis.
Image: The insects are huge in this building.
We all needed this. After getting our hearts brutally ripped out of our bodies by Thanos earlier this year with "Avengers: Infinity War", witnessing beloved heroes just fading from existence, with little to no hope remaining in the power of good being able to triumph over the ultimate evil......We needed to see a human sized ant play some drums.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" starts with former criminal, "Scott Lang/Ant-Man" (Paul Rudd), forced to remain under house arrest for two years following the events of "Captain America: Civil War" (Where everyone beat each other up). He is unable to have contact with the original Ant-Man, "Dr. Hank Pym" (Michael Douglas) and his daughter/Scott's love interest, "Hope/The Wasp" (Evangeline Lily), who are currently in hiding and pissed off about it. While Pym and Hope work on finding a way into the microscopic quantum realm, where Pym's missing wife/the original Wasp, "Janet" (Michelle Pfeiffer) may still be alive within, Scott spends his time hanging out with his daughter, "Cassie" (Abby Ryder Forston). Scott has a dream where he sees Janet within the quantum realm (Which is where he went to during the first film), calling Pym, who sneaks Scott out of his house to get his help in finding a way inside.
The trio work within a portal lab (Which can be shrunken down into a suitcase), but end up losing the lab after getting double crossed by southern black market dealer, "Sonny Burch" (Walton Goggins). The lab ends up in the hands of the mysterious "Ghost" (Hannah John-Kamen), who has the ability to faze in and out of reality. Ghost has a personal grudge against Pym and plans to use the lab for her own goals, with Scott, Hope, and Pym, with some help from Scott's talkative friend, "Luis" (Michael Peña) are on a mission to track Ghost down and get the lab back. This all leads to a series of chases, narrow escapes, lots of shrinking and growing, all while Scott pretends to still be home, avoiding FBI agent "Jimmy Woo" (Randall Park).
The 20th entry into the still expanding, still strong Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" is a light hearted romp that's definitely necessary after the dark, powerful ending to "Infinity War" (Still having trouble recovering here.). Once again directed by Peyton Reed, the movie is full of laughs and charm, with enough cleverness to overcome the simplistic, but still very effective plot. It's one of the more straight up comedies to come out of the MCU, which works in part to it's cast, but also to the smart script (Which Paul Rudd is credited as one of the Co-Writers). Even with all the humor, it's still a superhero flick, so you get plenty of action, which plays with the constant size changing, making it all the more exciting than you would expect. (The big car chase at the climax is one of the most original action scenes to come out of the entire film universe, and is a highlight.)
Paul Rudd is essentially the perfect choice for this character, remaining lovable, funny, and serving as probably one of the most normal superheroes in film. (He's really just some guy who got caught up in everything.) Evangeline Lily is totally badass, getting her time to shine, even when sharing the limelight with Rudd. Michael Douglas brings his A game, getting to have fun and deliver some of the more serious moments, along with Laurence Fishburne (as "Bill Foster", an old friend of Pym before a falling out), who seems to have left DC for the winning team. (Seriously though. DC, step up your game!) Some of the funniest moments come from out supporting characters, like Tip "T.I." Harris and David Dastmalchian (as "Dave" and "Kurt", Luis and Scott's bumbling partners), Randall Park, and the once again, absolutely hilarious Michael Peña. Michelle Pfieffer (Though she appears briefly) is great, Abby Ryder Fortson is a little ball of personality, and Walton Goggins, who may or may not even need to be here, but is always welcome and is a delight as always. Our villain (If you would even completely consider her one), Hannah John-Kamen gets a bit more complexity than most antagonists in superhero movies, with a motivation and backstory that make you understand her character's situation and sympathize with her.
For something that could of just simply been a throwaway sequel, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" delivers on plenty of comedy, insanely clever action, and even a few heartwarming moments, which make for a tamer, but still plenty fun Marvel outing. (And yes, there is a tie in to "Infinity War" during the post credits scene, and yes, it may serve as an explanation for what is to come.) It goes to show that Marvel just has this whole thing down, and even when they're not going for anything grand, I just can't see anyone logically disliking it. It's smaller in scale (See what I did there?), but big on what we already love about Marvel. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor, Ant Warfare, And Size Comparisons.
Image: Not real life....Not real life.
I'm gonna admit to everyone, I get a little disappointment when we go a year without a "Purge" movie. Yeah, it's silly, overly violent, and lacking in any subtlety whatsoever. But there is something to them that just fills me with a bizarre sense of joy. You get craziness, some solid creep factors, and even with in your face politics, there are points to be made. Trump just said Putin was fine! Just great! The real world doesn't make sense anyway anymore!!!
Taking place years before the first "Purge" movie, "The First Purge" (The fourth in the series, that comes before the other three, but is labeled as the first due to continuity. The Fourth, But First Purge.) opens with America getting a new leadership in the form of the "NFFA" (New Founding Fathers of America). Naive (To put it in nice terms) psychologist, "Dr. May Updale" (Marisa Tomei) suggests a strange social experiment, which will require people to let out all their hate, rage, and aggression for one full 12 hour night, which would be later referred to as "The Purge". Containing the event to Staten Island, the night is closing in with many of the civilians either preparing to go nuts or simply preparing for the worst. Beloved community, uh, drug dealer, "Dimitri" (Y'Lan Noel) is more concerned about keeping the people he cares about safe, along with his ex, "Nya" (Lex Scott Davis), who is worried for her brother, "Isaiah" (Jovian Wade), and heavily protests the Purge.
Isaiah meanwhile, gets cut by psychopathic addict, "Skeletor" (Rotimi Paul), who is hungry to purge, kill, and just plain do whatever he wants, prompting Isaiah to remain on the island when the Purge commences for a little revenge. Soon the night gets underway, with people looting, having wild parties, and all kinds of crazy debauchery. Of course, the slimy Chief of Staff, "Arlo Sabian" (Patch Darragh) is completely with the NFFA's true intentions, which is to take care of the supposed overpopulation problem. (Which means, send in Nazis, rednecks, KKK members, and mercenaries to kill poor minorities.) Chaos reigns, the bodies begin to pile up, and eventually, the people start to fight back.
"The First Purge" continues the series' streak of hypocritical celebration of guns and violence, while also telling everyone how bad this all is. It's full of blood and gore, with people dying in over the top, exploitative fashion. The premise is as silly and possibly unrealistic as ever, but there's some solid world building, expanding and elaborating on what led up to how the series began. There are a few extra bits of information that may not be entirely necessary. However, they feel very much welcome, such as the fact when the actual "Purge" starts, people are instead partying in the streets, having orgies, an stealing stuff, while the killing itself escalates until later in the night. (Which feels a bit more realistic. Never understood why killing was the go to activity for this thing.)
While the script relies more on the trashy side, which constant swears and goofy dialogue, the cast itself is more solid than probably needed. Y'Lan Noel (Whose character of drug dealer looking for redemption....through vigilantism is a bit odd.), Lex Scott Davis, and Jovian Wade all do some good work here, actually taking the ridiculousness seriously and selling it. We get some random moments of sass from Mugga (as "Dolores", the big, sassy wisecracking lady), and Rotimi Paul just lets it all out in glorious, cartoon villain fashion, with eyes bulging, teeth rotting, and mad cackles. (Gotta love "Purge" villains) On the down side, Marisa Tomei (Who is still doing a fine enough job for what she has to do), makes for possibly the dumbest character I've seen in a long time. Seriously, how did you not see any of this evil crap coming? You suggested a night of free crime! How are you shocked by the outcome?
"The First Purge" is a glorified exploitation film, which is what the series always has been. The violence is constant, with how extreme it all goes leading to some questionable material that probably shouldn't be as successful as it is. With that said, there is some suspense, some creepy masks and costumes, fine performances, and political commentary that might seem heavy handed, but with the current state of politics (And what people in politics feel content saying), it's all fair game. (Although that mid-credits scene, which was just a TV spot for the upcoming TV series was stupid and kind of pathetic really) It's a series that remains enjoyable in spite of it's in your face attitude, and actually even seems to have evolved a little from where it began. Can't we all just evolve? 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence Involving Knives, Guns, Explosives, And Political Subtext.
Image: The Dream Team?
I'm a complete nerd in a lot of things. "Star Wars", DC Comics (And a few Marvel ones), pointless facts to geeky related stuff. But sports, everything involved with them, completely goes over my head. Football, Baseball, Basketball, all the balls. Don't get any of it. Never played them. Never had any interest in them. Never really thought much about them. Unless it's in a movie. I'm a dork okay. You guys should know this by now. Enjoy your Hockey, or Soccer, or whatever. To each his own. But, of course I'm rooting for the U.S.A. in soccer's World Cup....Wait, really?
"Uncle Drew" opens with down on his luck hero, "Dax" (Lil Rel Howery) losing his life savings trying to get a team together for the big Rucker Class street ball tournament, with his star player, "Casper" (Aaron Gordon) and his selfish girlfriend, "Jess" (Tiffany Haddish) to his longtime, somewhat crazy rival, "Mookie" (Nick Kroll). Looking for a replacement team for the tournament, he comes across an old, legendary Basketball player, "Uncle Drew" (Kyrie Irving, in old man makeup). Seeing that the old fart still has skill, Dax gets Uncle Drew to be a part of his new team, so long as Drew gets to get his old crew back together. The duo sets out to gather the old squad, consisting actual players in old people makeup, including "Big Fella" (Shaquille O'Neal), who isn't on speaking terms with Uncle Drew anymore, "Lights" (Reggie Miller), who is legally blind, "Preacher" (Chris Webber), who is forced to flee from his crazy wife, "Betty Lou" (Lisa Leslie), and the handicapped "Boots" (Nate Robinson), who also brings along his granddaughter/Dax's new love interest, "Maya" (Erica Ash). This new squad has a goal of proving that they can still play the game, prove those naysayers wrong, and mostly just confuse a guy like me with all those Basketball terms. I don't understand any of it!
Apparently based on some "Pepsi Max" advertisements that were a thing at one point (I had no idea what that was till I looked it up.), "Uncle Drew" is the ultimate case of getting exactly what you pay for. It's a goofy, predictable, fairly cheap cheesefest that does deliver on some silly laughs and a sense of endearment, that doesn't have a mean spirited, cynical bone in it's body. Directed by Charles Stone III (A name so awesome, you gotta have it three times), the film is nothing spectacular by any means, and the direction is basic, by the book, along with the plot itself, which goes through every point you would expect it to go. However, that's basically the point of it all. The film is meant to be a weird little throwback to 90s era crowdpleasers that shouldn't have any trouble finding an audience.
Lil Rel Howery (Previously seen stealing the show in last year's "Get Out") once again shows how funny and likable an actor he can be, easily holding the film together with his personality and charm alone. The true life Basketball players, consisting of Kyrie Irving, former NBA stars Chris Webber, Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and former WNBA legend Lisa Leslie aren't necessarily the best actors, but have plenty of star power and screen presence to make what's given work for what it is. (Not to mention the makeup is actually not bad at all. It's not award worthy or anything, but we've all seen worse.) Erica Ash does nothing other but play the typical love interest, Tiffany Haddish plays her usual wacky self and gets plenty of laughs doing it, and Nick Kroll is at his most bonkers, clearly having the absolute time of his life here.
"Uncle Drew" is pure formula, and it will probably leave your mind not too long after seeing it. It just so happens to have a few funny moments sprinkled throughout and a good heart, with the best of intentions. It's certainly better than any movie apparently produced by freakin' Pepsi has any right to be. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Shaq Ass.
Image: I think he is displeased with you.
Sometimes we just didn't realize how much we wanted a sequel. The first "Sicario", directed by acclaimed Director Denis Villeneuve (Who also did "Arrival", "Prisoners", and "Blade Runner 2049") gave us a tense, morally complex, thought provoking, and thoroughly uncompromising thriller that didn't quite get the recognition it deserved. (No Oscar nomination for Benicio del Toro? Come on!) It's ending was enough to satisfy and could see it as a standalone film. However, aside from, you know, money, people saw that you could have something here. Something dark, dramatic, and just plain brutal.
"Sicario: Day of Soldado" opens with a few suicide bombers, who appear to have been snuggled across the United States Border, causing the deaths of some innocent civilians. The Secretary of Defense, "James Riley" (Matthew Modine) and CIA Deputy Director, "Cynthia Foards" (Catherine Keener) send in "Matt Graver" (Josh Brolin) to go down to Mexico and take control of the situation, which might lead to getting the Mexican cartels added to the Terrorist Watch List. Matt brings in his mysterious, undercover operative, "Alejandro Gillick" (Benicio del Toro) once again to handle the mission. After killing a high profile lawyer for the cartel, they set out to kidnap "Isabela Reyes" (Isabela Moner), the daughter of the one of the drug lords who arranged previously for the death of Alejandro's family, and blame it on a rival cartel in hopes of starting a war between the various cartels.
Next, the plan is to arrange for Isabela to be sent back, only for the whole thing to go south. Alejandro and Isabela are stranded, with Matt being ordered to "Fix the problem", which means Isabela needs to be gone. Alejandro, despite his ruthlessness, has no intention of following that order, intending to get Isabela and himself to safety, with everyone now after them. Meanwhile, we also follow a young kid, "Miguel" (Elijah Rodriguez), who has his own subplot, becoming involved with the drug running and people smuggling from Mexico, which will eventually play a part in the overall story.
Much like the first film, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is full of haunting imagery, nightmarish sequences of violence and death, that the film basically forces the images into the minds of audience, making sure that they remember them once the film ends. Directed this time by Stefano Sollima (Mostly known for Italian films that I've never heard of.), the film is a slow burn, with stunning cinematography, always keeping the suspense amped up. It all usually escalating into a fiery action set piece that's savagely, but realistically violent. It's also helped by the calm, but effectively frightening score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, replacing the Oscar nominated/sadly deceased composer from the previously film, Jóhann Jóhannsson. (It's not quite same person as the last film, but we still do get that one epic music cue from the first every now and then.)
Benicio del Toro (This time serving as our main character), is once again brilliant. He's a scary, compelling, complicated character that shows himself to be very human, even though he is basically a monster who kills without remorse. Previously robbed of an Oscar nomination before, lets see if he gets one this time around. Josh Brolin (Who continues to have one Hell of a year with this, along with "Deadpool 2" and "Avengers: Infinity War") continues to shine, with a charismatic performance. Isabela Moner (Last seen in the unspeakable horror that was "Transformers: The Last Knight") is terrific, with even her character coming across as morally intricate. (This little girl knows damn well what her dad does and uses that to her advantage!) We get excellent small parts from Catherine Keener, a really slimy Matthew Modine, Jeffrey Donovan (as "Steve", one of Matt's men) getting a few quips occasionally, among others. (It seems even quick parts have a role in where the film all goes.)
Written once again by the great Taylor Sheridan ("Wind River", "Hell or High Water"), "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" mixes in complicated characterizations, with hard, unrelenting drama, and moments of humor (Or moments of the characters injecting it to lighten the mood), to tell a bleak story. One could make the argument that a sequel wasn't asked for and the film somewhat falters towards the end when it seemingly sets itself up for another one. (And there is also something that happens towards the end that may or may not be realistic. Not sure if bullets and headshots work that way.) There also seems to be a bit of a narrative that the film will give people the wrong idea that all Mexicans are all violent drug dealers. (Look, if you think that after watching this movie, you're either already racist or incredibly stupid.) However, one can't possibly deny the powerful impact of the film's dark messages, that will either leave you depressed and wanting to get away from it as fast as possible, or will have you captivated and compelled to see where it all goes next. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Realistic Violence, Strong Language, And Horrifying Acts By Both Terrorists And The Supposed "Good Guys".
Image: "Cute little pooch....Maybe I've got a milk bone!"
Franchises change over the years. Sometimes for the better (Such as "The Fast and the Furious", "Mission Impossible", and arguable to some, the "Star Wars" series). Sometimes for the worse (Such as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, or even the "Transformers" series. Granted, those were never good anyway). Then sometimes they just sort of....change, and your enjoyment is mostly based on if you're okay with that or not. That's where "Jurassic Park" falls into. (See how I didn't use the word "Evolve" once? Trust me, it was hard not using that pun.)
"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" follows the events with the last film, where it's revealed that "Isla Nublar" (The island where this whole cloned Dino ordeal began/current site of the now closed "Jurassic World" theme park) is in danger of being destroyed by a volcano, which will also wipe out all the poor Dinosaurs still living there.This sparks a debate on whether humanity should rescue the trapped animals, or do what "Dr. Ian Malcolm" (Jeff Goldblum) says and "Let them, uh, die.". A former manager at Jurassic World, "Claire Dearing" (Bryce Dallas Howard), feeling guilty about her role in the previous incident, has become a rights activist for Dinosaurs, is contacted by "Benjamin Lockwood" (James Cromwell), former partner to the deceased "John Hammond" (Previously played by Richard Attenborough). Lockwood and his "Obviously not evil" aide, "Eli Mills" (Rafe Spall) arrange for Claire to be a part of an expedition back to the island to rescue as many of the trapped Dinosaurs as possible, most importantly the super intelligent Velociraptor, "Blue". This means Claire has to get the help of her ex, "Owen Grady" (Chris Pratt) who after some convincing, joins the expedition.
The team arrives on the island, led mean mercenary, "Ken Wheatley" (Ted Levine), eventually tracking down Blue.....only for Wheatley's team to betray Owen and Claire because Mills is evil! (Well he is played by Rafe Spall. Who what did you expect?) The island explodes, with it being revealed that Mills, who is going behind Lockwood's back, wants the captured Dinosaurs to be sold off in an auction, run by "Gunnar Eversol" (Toby Jones). Meanwhile Blue, along with a tooth from that monster Dinosaur from the last movie, is used to lead to the creation of more Franken-Dinos by the traitorous, "Dr. Henry Wu" (B. D. Wong), which results in the creation of the monstrous (And surprisingly sadistic) "Indoraptor". Following the villains back to Lockwood's estate, Owen, Claire, along with their comic relief buddies, "Franklin" (Justice Smith) and "Zia" (Daniella Pineda), go to shut down the auction, and hopefully prevent the creation of more monster Dinosaurs, which also includes a little mystery involving Lockwood's granddaughter, "Maisie" (Isabella Sermon).
It's funny to mention the "Fast and Furious" franchise, because that's essentially what "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is like. It's become so ridiculous, and unapologetically dumb that you're either going to be on board for the wild ride or you're just going to wish you had gotten off long ago. (Really though, the franchise stopped being the same one four movies ago.) The Science Fiction elements have become more absurd, with silly plot points and a few sloppy moments. However, the film is never dull, is always filled with visual wonder and spectacle, and is certainly unpredictable, which is mostly thanks to Director J. A. Bayona ("A Monster Calls", "The Impossible").. He constructs an exciting, action packed blockbuster, with excellent special effects (Despite a few weak points. Still can't beat the original there either.), and even when the film gets dumb, it's competently made popcorn munching entertainment.
Chris Pratt has become reliable in these kinds of roles, and is generally good enough to carry a film like this, along with the impossible cuteness of Bryce Dallas Howard. Rafe Spall shows up to do what he does best, which is be an evil weasel, while Justice Smith (Who has probably the most realistic reactions to everything that happens here) and Daniella Pineda are just here for comedic effect, but serve their purpose well. We get some small parts from James Cromwell, the always delightful Toby Jones, and the always great (And always underutilized) B. D. Wong, along with Ted Levine getting probably the most memorable sequence in the film. Not to mention our Jeff Goldblum cameo, which is a nice addition regardless of how important it actually was. There are some plot elements and reveals involving Isabella Sermon that are, lets just say, questionable and a little weird, but is mostly saved by the fact that she's a solid young actress and sells the various emotions of terror well. (Honestly, they should of just committed to it all.)
The real scene stealers here are the Dinosaurs themselves. I give credit to the film actually addressing the fact tht these are animals, that have personalities, which makes the debate of saving them at least plausible. (They're not too different from anything we have now. They're just bigger, stronger, and smarter. And we all need to eat you know). While the CGI varies at times, it still makes for some awesome set pieces, giving audiences that sick thrill of Dinosaurs munching down on people in crazy fashion. Blue is oddly adorable for a creature that can rip you in half with her clawed foot, while I will never get tired of seeing old Rexy (The returning T-Rex from the original film) roar triumphantly. The new Indoraptor makes for a nonsensical story due to typical Science Fiction mumbo jumbo. However, the creature is undeniably terrifying, menacing as Hell, and because of the odd evil grins it makes throughout, is just pretty cool looking. (It's essentially a serial killer in Dinosaur form.)
It's all silly stuff, leading to an ending that will either have you tilting your head in confusion or having you cheering at the sheer sight of the film's last shots. (Or both actually. You can do both.) "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" will test your endurance for ludicrousness, and I doubt we will ever see anything that matches the original majesty of the original 1993 Spielberg film. There is still some heart and humor, with some fun horror elements mixed in and enough excitement that will make for a fun (And of course, profitable) big, summer blockbuster. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Dino Violence, And Moral Repercussions That Could Destroy The Normality Of All Life On This Planet....Seriously....