In Theaters: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us, Robin Hood, Green Book, Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Widows, Instant Family, Fantastic Beasts; The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Girl in the Spider's Web, Overlord, The Grinch
Coming Soon: Mortal Engines, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Aquaman, Bumblebee, Second Act, Welcome to Marwen, Mary Poppins Returns, Holmes and Watson, Vice, On the Basis of Sex, Escape Room, A Dog's Way Home, Replicas, The Upside
★★★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: "Ill grin and Bear it....But it gives me great paws."
Reviewing movies from Netflix are weird enough as it is. (Typing a review on a computer that I just moments prior finished watching a movie on? That's surreal as Hell!) But I decided to mix it up further by watching this movie on my phone! I saw "Show Dogs" and "The Hurricane Heist" in theaters on a massive silver screen, while I watched this on my phone in the break room at work. Something is thoroughly wrong there.
"Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" opens in the jungle, which is kept in order by the so called "Jungle Law", which is meant to represent a balance between the many different animal life. It is also meant to keep anyone from instigating something with the constantly growing man village. The violent, man hating tiger, "Shere Khan" (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn't give a crap about any of this, slaughtering a family of humans, leaving the child alone and orphaned. The kind panther, "Bagheera" (Christian Bale) stumbles upon the boy, taking him to the wolves to protect him from Shere Khan's clutches. The wolf pack leader, "Akela" (Peter Mullan) sees this as a possible chance of bringing the jungle together, allowing wolf parents, "Nisha" (Naomie Harris) and "Vihaan" (Eddie Marsan) to raise the boy as one of the pack, preventing Shere Khan from also killing him.
later, the man cub, now called "Mowgli" (Rohand Chand) has become one of the wolves, being trained to survive and hunt by both Bagheera and gruff, but lovable bear, "Baloo" (Andy Serkis) into become a full fledged member of the pack. Of course, Mowgli doesn't fit in, with the other wolves treating him differently. Unable to find Mowgli's place in the jungle, Bagheera begins to think that maybe it would be better if Mowgli returned to the man village, while the wolves themselves are at odds with each other. Eventually, Mowgli finds himself in the man village, where wicked hunter, "John Lockwood" (Matthew Rhys), has been brought in by the villagers to hunt down Shere Khan. It becomes apparent that Shere Khan is trying to completely destroy the law of the jungle, by massacring the cattle belonging to the humans, as well as further escalate political tension among the wolves. Mowgli is seen as the only one who could possible put a stop to the evil tiger's plans, save the jungle, and find his own place within it.
A passion project of Director Andy Serkis, who previously directed the 2017 film "Breathe, and his mostly known for being snubbed for his terrific motion capture based performances (Such as Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" and Caesar from the "Planet of the Apes" movies), "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" has been in production for years. Its being pushed around due to the shear ambitiousness of the project and because of the critically praised 2016 Disney remake of "The Jungle Book", resulting in Warner Brothers removing it's theatrical release in favor of a Netflix one. Based more in line with the original book, complete with the darker imagery and brutality (No singing or dancing in this one.), it's hard to separate what we've seen before from this one. The fact that we already have two wonderful Disney films to watch at any point, this movie feels weaker by comparison. However, despite some iffy moments of storytelling, the movie isn't without it's visible potential. Our characters are a bit rougher than what we're used to, setting up the idea of how harsh and dirty the jungle can be. which plays into how the characters interact with each other. Visually, the film doesn't quite match the realism of the 2016 film, but it's still lovely to look at, and Serkis' eye for scope and cinematography is very much impressive.
The darker tone set up for the characters, while it at times can be a bit jarring when it shifts around, still portrays them in a compelling light. Rohan Chand (Who you might remember stealing the show in 2013's "Bad Words") has to give a very movement based performance, that's innocent and childlike, but also brutal and at times, a bit animalistic. The animal characters are all played through motion capture, with the actors' expressions and movements, as well as their voices bringing their characters to life on screen, even when they don't look particularly real. Christian Bale is absolutely wonderful (I had no idea it was him the entire time), getting a handful of heartfelt scenes with Chand. Benedict Cumberbatch is a frightening villain, sneering and growling in the scariest way possible. Cate Blanchett (as "Kaa" the giant python, who is less of a villain in this film) is perfectly cast, with her voice sending chills down your spine. (It's also kind of sexy. Just saying. Sexy snake right there.) The supporting work is also excellent, from the always great Andy Serkis, the sweetly voiced Naomie Harris, and a delightfully scummy Tom Hollander (as "Tabaqui", Shere Khan's flea ridden hyena henchman). Some of the weaker aspects come in later with our human actors, Matthew Rhys (Who still has a few interesting moments) and an underused Frieda Pinto (as "Messua", Mowgli's adoptive mother), which comes in a bit late and feels skimmed over due to cramming a lot into an hour and forty minutes.
Building up to a suspenseful, albeit disjointed climax, and boasting lively effects, "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" doesn't have the charm or heart that we've seen in the still much better Disney adaptations (Hell, the remake alone was enough to make me questioning if they could ever do "The Jungle Book" ever again). However, it makes up for it with a more grounded, grungier setting, some truly spectacular imagery, and the clear amount of passion and hard work that was put into the film. It's got it's narrative and tonal flaws, and it's a bit difficult to find a specific audience to recommend it for. But with that said, there is a sense of accomplishment to the film, as well as the commitment to heavier drama, that doesn't feel as if it's trying to hard to be darker. It feels natural, and for something like Netflix (Whose movies usually range from okay to whatever "Bright" was) to show this much ambition on something, I kind of want to see more like it. And then I can keep it on Netflix and binge some more of " The Office". 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Bloody Violence, And Hunter Trophies That Will Scar Your Children.
Image: "I can see my Charizard from here!"
Let's talk about the upcoming Pokémon live action movie, "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu", which involves a kid teaming up with a talking hard boiled Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. It's one of the strangest trailers for an already bizarre concept I've ever seen. Of course I want to see it, if not just to see how insane it all ends up being. But if this ends up being the first truly great video game movie, I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about that. I guess it might take us completely losing our minds to finally make a good one..
A direct sequel to last year's "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!", "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" once again takes place where instead of animals, we have Pokémon, who fight each other for the sick amusement of humanity. (Be honest with yourselves. That's basically what it is.) We once again follow good natured Pokémon trainer, "Ash Ketchum" (Sarah Natochenny) and his beloved/overpowered, electrical mouse Pokémon "Pikachu" on their many adventures, while avoiding the pathetically villainous, "Team Rocket", consisting of "Jessie" (Michele Knotz), "James" (James Carter Cathcart), their English speaking "Meowth" (also James Carter Cathcart), and the simple minded "Wobbuffet". Ash and Pikachu make their way to "Fula City", where the townspeople are hosting a festival to save the city's rescue long ago, thanks to the legendary "Lugia". Our heroes become involved with a variety of colorful characters, each with their own issues.
There's "Risa" (Haven Paschall), who is in search of an "Eevee" for her hospitalized brother, along with a shy, but sweet, scientist, "Toren" (Eddy Lee), a bitter, but lonely old woman, "Harriet" (Who's voice actress I can't find the name of), and con man, "Callahan" (Billy Bob Thompson), who is simply trying to impress his niece, eventually befriending a tree-like Pokémon "Sudowudo". Not to mention the daughter of the Mayor, "Margo" (Erica Schroeder), who is keeping a secret from her father. Problems arise when strange things start to happen in the city, along with a mystical undying flame being stone, which could cause the city to lose all power, and a so called curse that resides in the nearby woods, provided by human hating Pokémon "Zeraora". Then Team Rocket steals a bottle of "Effect Spore" (A Poisonous Pokémon ability in bottle form) from Toren, and due to their ineptitude, end up dropping the bottle, causing the spore to be released. The spore, along with the lack of power and assumed curse could cause the city's destruction, as well as the deaths of the citizens and their Pokémon. It's up to Ash and Pikachu to rally everyone to band together to save the city from destruction.
The 21st Pokémon film (And the second in this rebooted continuity), "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" is once again, simply for the fans, and will mostly confuse anyone else who stumbles upon it. (Granted, why would you watch it in the first place unless you are a fan?) Much like everything related to the franchise that's spanned over twenty years (With video games, toys, an anime, movies based on the anime, and the already mentioned upcoming live action film), it's fully of cheesiness to an almost hilarious degree. Oddly, it's always been part of the charm to Pokémon, and especially for the little ones, you can see why it's lasted so long. (I was actually a major fan, who followed the show for the first couple generations, who still has fond memories of all the silliness.) While the last film, while enjoyable, was mostly just a recap of what we'd seen before, except in a cinematic format, this new one is a completely original story. It seems more focused this time around, even with the many subplots, which all mostly come together by the climax.
The voice work is as fittingly corny as the dialogue, but it matches the film's innocent tone, with Billy Bob Thompson doing the best work, mostly due to getting the most effective character arc. Ash is still an easy to root for hero, while Pikachu remains one of the cutest creations ever put in any form of media. The new characters all have a role to play, though a mini plot involving some Pokémon hunters doesn't amount to much, and thankfully gets dropped quickly. Then there's the hilariously pathetic Team Rocket, making for delightfully incompetent antagonists, that come across just as lovable as our heroes. The animation is beautiful and lively, and the film's overall look is inviting enough even for the parents mostly only watching because their kids are.
Endearingly narmy as ever, "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" offers sweet messages of friendship, working together, and the importance of coexisting with nature. It's aimed at the youngest of the young (And the fans who remained young), but doesn't exactly talk down to them. It's not afraid to get a little dark where necessary, and I have to give credit that a little movie like this is showing more maturity than a lot of films aimed at so-called adults. It's a nice kids movie, with a lot of heart and an overabundance of cuteness, to go with a good helping of honest, childlike goofiness. Maybe that Detective Pikachu movie might actually work. 3 stars. (For the right audience anyways) Not Rated, But It's Safe For All Ages. (Well, Except For That Bit With The Smeargle Ink.....Why Was It That Color?)
Image: Doesn't look very hood to me.
Allow me to ask the questions that are on everyone's mind. Who in their right mind asked for yet another "Robin Hood" adaptation? How in the Hell did this get greenlit by a major studio with over a $100 Million budget? Why is anyone surprised that this bombed so hard? What the Hell were they thinking? And (If you saw it) when will it finally be over so I can move on with my life?
Based on that story you've likely heard of (How have you not?), "Robin Hood" is a Batman-eque origin story, following "Robin of Loxley" (Taron Egerton), a rich young lord, who falls in love with the beautiful "Marion" (Eve Hewson), living a simple, carefree life. That is until the tyrannical "Sherrif of Nottingham" (Ben Mendelsohn), who ruthlessly taxes the people for the Church, drafts Robin into the Crusades. Four years later, Robin witnesses horrific persecution against Muslims, intervening in an execution, resulting in him getting shot with an arrow by his superior, "Sir Grisborne" (Paul Anderson). Robin is sent back home, being followed by the man who would become "Little John" (Jamie Foxx), who witnessed Robin's selfless act. When Robin gets home, he discovers how much has changed while he's been away.
Due to being declared dead, his house in ruins, Marion now poor (But still very beautiful, because Hollywood!) and in a relationship with whiny political leader, "Will Tillman" (Jamie Dornan), and the rest of the people now more oppressed than ever. Robin runs into John, who also wants vengeance on the Sherrif, devising a plan to steal from the rich and give back to the poor. John trains Robin to hone his archery skills, giving him a new hood to use as a disguise. Now Robin, using his lordship persona by day and his new superhero alter ego, known as "The Hood" by night, he begins to launch assaults on the Sherrif's forces, stealing their gold and returning it to the people in need. This attracts the attention of the higher ups and demand that the Sherrif handle this situation as quickly as possible. Eventually, Robin rallies the people together to stand up to the Sherrif, and take back their kingdom.
Directed by Otto Bathurst (Known mostly for TV related material) and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Wait. What? There is a story behind that isn't there?), "Robin Hood" is as unnecessary as it sounds. It's all been somewhat modernized in the sense that despite taking place in medieval times, there are enough out of place outfits, weaponry, and whatever else that would cause any historian to rip it to absolute shreds like a vulture on roadkill. The movie also seemingly tries to include allegories to the Iraq war and Donald Trump, but it's all incredibly silly and out of place. Maybe it all would of worked with a better screenplay, but the one we get lacks it's own identity, little character, and a violent onslaught of stupidity (Like, how does nobody realize that Robin is the Hood? That mask barely covers anything. Also, how does nobody recognize Jamie Foxx everywhere he goes? He's one of three black guys in the entire kingdom! I'm sure you guys could figure out he's involved too!)
Taron Egerton really isn't a bad choice to portray the beloved hero. The fault lies more in the writing, which keeps things as bland as possible. Jamie Foxx is a little over the top, but he at least livens things up and his character can be fun. (In fact, he's probably more interesting that the titular hero.) Eve Hewson is left with little to do except provide fanservice, even when it's not necessary. (Granted, she's very, very pretty. But is it that hard to give her something to do?) Jamie Dornan's story only gets sillier and sillier as it progresses, Tim Minchin (as "Friar Tuck", a comical ally to Robin) is mostly here for goofy humor, and F. Murray Abraham (as the evil "Cardinal", who is the Sherrif's superior) is always welcome. (Though I'm confused as to what the studio had on him that led to his casting.) Then there's Ben Mendelsohn, who once again plays a sneering villain, but really has perfected that role. He's still menacing, oddly compelling, and just adds a little extra something to a movie without a personality of it's own.
Relying too much on that speedy/slo-mo style of action, "Robin Hood" is a bore, with characters that don't leave impressions, and predictable dialogue. The most interesting aspect ends up being the mind boggling questions that led to this film's existence. It really doesn't make any sense how anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, and it didn't help that the filmmakers to justify it all. You got plenty of other adaptations already to choose from. Like the Disney one, with the talking animals, that oddly feels more realistic. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence Heavy Handed Allegories, And Machine Gun Arrows.
Image: "No, you can't share my 99 cent value meal fries!"
Thanksgiving is said and done, I'm no longer sick, and my seven day work day stretch is finally finished. I no longer have anything to stand in my way of catching up on the movies I missed, anything I need to see for Oscar season, and to pass the time. (I don't just review movies. I watch a crap ton of them for fun too. I'm not a weirdo.)
"Green Book" opens with New York City bouncer, "Tony Vallelonga" (Viggo Mortenson), known by his nickname "Tony Lip" (Because he was known as the best bullsh*tter), looking for a new job after the nightclub he works at is shut down. Trying to support his wife, "Dolores" (Linda Cardellini) and kids, Tony isn't exactly picky when it comes to a job or making money, he ends up in an interview with pianist, "Don Shirley" (Mahershala Ali). Don is planning a tour throughout the deep south with his group called the "Don Shirley Trio", which also includes cellist "Oleg" (Dimeter Marinov) and bass player, "George" (Mike Hatton). Tony gets the job, agreeing to drive Don through the south to all of his gigs for two months, being given the "The Negro Motorist Green Book" (A guide for black travelers in the South, mostly listing where to stay and avoid trouble), as well as a car that he shares specifically with Don. At first, Tony and Don don't exactly get along, with Don being sophisticated and private and Tony being loud and lacking a filter of any kind. However, their time together helps the two start to understand each other and the worlds that they come from, and a true friendship is formed.
Directed by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly brothers ("Dumb and Dumber"), "Green Book" is something of a little more depth. More of a comedy/drama, the film is a bit softer and lighter than probably the best of true stories would be expected to be. It's a bit of a clichéd and predictable story, that works because of the genuine heart put into the film, as well as plenty of good laughs. Written by Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, and Nick Vallelonga (Tony Vallelonga's son), the movie is tame and more on the fluffy side, but never disrespectful. It's heartfelt, insightful, and very funny. It's a really solid balance between the drama (Which is treated as realistically as the PG-13 rating allows) and the comedy, which is also helped by our main characters, the actors playing them, and the wonderful chemistry between them.
Both almost unrecognizable (In either looks or what we're used to seeing them portray), Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali are perfect together, with the two having a fantastic rapport with each other, that's both humorous and thoroughly heartwarming. Mortenson brings humanity and some likability to his character, who does have some bigoted thoughts and occasionally partakes in a few questionable acts. His family life, which shows him to be a good husband and father, add a little extra depth, and the good person that we know is somewhere inside him, shines especially in the scenes with Ali, who is once again outstanding. He's already a terrific actor, winning an Oscar in the award winning "Moonlight", but he also shows off some comedic chops, with a fantastic straight man reaction to Mortenson's goofiness. When it comes to drama, both actors charisma and chemistry make the film's most serious aspects work. Linda Cardellini is charming and sweet, and while Dimeter Marinov and Mike Hatton are mostly secondary, they do have their moments of charm.
"Green Book" could be a bit too fluffy for some, and while I can see that being a turn off, it's hard to deny that it's a story that really anyone can find something to love about. It's honestly too likable to straight up dislike. The movie never forgets to show the kind of injustice people of color were forced to experience during this time, and how it affected even how those who became for successful were still seen as lesser. Maybe some liberties were taken (They did say "Inspired by a True Story" after all.), but there is this sense of fun to our main characters, where you root for them and just plain enjoy spending time with them. I can only hope I can say that about every rode trip Ill ever take. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Racial Injustice, Language, And $1 KFC. (Okay, That's Crazy Right There!)
Image: Yeah, but can he beat Clubber Lang Jr.?
A continuation of the beloved (But kind of all over the place in terms of apparent quality) "Rocky" series, "Creed" was a complete surprise. Directed by Ryan Coogler (Who went on to direct the even more critically lauded "Black Panther"), the movie earned itself some award nominations, including tons of praise for Sylvester Stallone, as well as an instant following, which makes it obvious there was clamoring for a sequel.There were like six "Rocky" movies after all.
"Creed II" follows "Adonis Creed" (Michael B. Jordan), son of world famous boxer, "Apollo Creed". With help from his trainer/former heavyweight champion, "Rocky Balboa" (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis has gone on to become the new heavyweight champion. Adonis plans to take things more simply now, asking his singer/songwriter girlfriend, "Bianca" (Tessa Thompson) to marry him, who also ends up pregnant. Things are looking pretty up until an old figure from the past decides to make another appearence. Smarmy promoter, "Buddy Marcelle" (David Hornsby) hopes to arrange for a fight between Adonis and "Viktor Drago" (Florian Munteanu), the son of "Ivan Drago" (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis' father in the ring decades earlier. Since his defeat at the hands of Rocky, Drago has lost everything, including the respect of his country, having been training his son to become a massive fighting machine.
After being called out on live TV, Adonis plans on taking the fight, despite the fact that Rocky, still full of grief over his friend's death, has no intention of helping him. Adonis and Bianca move to Las Angelas, getting a new trainer, "Tony "Little Duke" Evers" (Wood Harris), getting ready for a bit fight against Viktor. The day of the fight arrives, where it ends in total disaster, with Adonis taking a ruthless beating, destroying his spirit in the process. Realizing that Viktor is a different kind of fighter than what he's used to (The dude is huge! Like even bigger than Michel B. Jordan huge!), Adonis now has to find a way to recover and regain his confidence to face Viktor again.
Directed this time by Steven Caple Jr., "Creed II" does what any boxing, sports drama would be expected to do. Bad guy calls out our hero, hero is unprepared when he faces him, there's some drama and some broken spirits, but it all comes together when hero decides to make a grand comeback and win the day. That's a typical sports story that we've seen dozens of times, and that's the movie the filmmakers set out to make. It's the usual ingredients, but with competent direction, a solid script by Juel Tylor and Sylvester Stallone, and excellent performances, you can make those work to their best effect. Now while the first movie set out to change the genre, this new one really doesn't, but has no intention of doing so. The screenplay, despite the occasional silly or corny line (Yes, Drago does talk about "Breaking" someone), it still does set itself in the real world, with believable enough characters to set it apart from the once in a while moment that quite doesn't feel all that realistic. (Not sure the World Boxing Association would really allow any of this to happen...)
Michael B. Jordan is once again terrific, showing his vulnerability as well as his strength, which makes for a compelling and likable main character. Sylvester Stallone (Who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the last movie) is wonderful, funny, and just plain endearing. His subplot involving wanting to make a connection with his son (A Milo Ventimiglia cameo) is nothing more than a subplot, but it's still heartfelt and serves a character based purpose. One of the aspects that this movie improves over the last movie is Tess Thompson who, while great, was mostly just the love interest before. She gets more of an important role this time around and plays it perfectly. Phylicia Rashad (as "Mary Anne Creed", Adonis' living stepmother) is more on the sidelines, but has this natural warmth to her, Russell Hornsby does a good job playing a grinning corporate type, while Florian Munteanu is intimidating as Hell. Dolph Lundgren is quite great in the movie, becoming more than just our villain, given some actual humanity to balance out his frightening stare. (He actually gets a lot of out that menacing stare.)
A pure crowdpleaser to a fault, "Creed II" is fairly predictable and a little cheesy. The fights are thrilling, the characters are easy to root for, and while there are few surprises, it's easy to see why this story outline has been done so many times. When done well, it works and gets the audience pumped, regardless of the fact they've seen it before. Give the audience what they want. Even I want to start training....And now that moment has past. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Heavyweight Boxing And Heavyweight Drama.
Image: "And Prince Charming's hands? So TINY!"
The sequel to the instantly beloved, Academy Award winning 2012 animated, video game heavy hit, "Wreck-It Ralph" was something that came to everyone's minds the moment the film was released and everyone loved it. (It also made my Top 10 Best List that year.) With so much potential waiting to be exploited, and more games outside of arcade based to be explored, you can see why some people were a little confused and disappointed when it was revealed that the sequel would instead focus on more current trends, such as a very detailed look into the Internet. Mostly people were getting very similar vibes to last year's vile waste of animation "The Emoji Movie", which seemingly attempted (It's a little hard to tell) to do something similar. Now to put everyone at ease. "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is proof that we really should never question the motives and methods of Disney ever again. For our own sakes. They will be controlling the world at some point in the future anyway.
"Ralph Breaks the Internet" picks up a few years after the first film, within an arcade where all the game characters live and converse. Following video game bad guy, who is actually a good guy, "Wreck-It Ralph" (John C. Reilly) and his glitchy best friend, "Vanellope von Schweetz" (Sarah Silverman). Ralph still serves as the villain for his game, "Fix-It Felix Jr.", while Vanellope is the princess/star racer for a candy coated racing game "Sugar Rush", with the two of them being inseparable. The owner of the arcade, "Mr. Litwak" (Ed O'Neill) installs "Wi-Fi" into the arcade, which opens up a new portal to a mysterious, dark, and dangerous place known as "The Internet"! Around this time, due to Ralph's attempts to help Vanellope change up her game, the console's controller ends up breaking, which results in the game being shut down and all of the residents becoming homeless. While husband and wife, the Felix game's protagonist "Fix-It Felix Jr." (Jack McBrayer) and tough, blaster using heroine "Sergeant Calhoun" (Jane Lynch) adopt the game residents as their kids (With hilarious results), Ralph learns that the game's controller is available on "Ebay".
Ralph and Vanellope venture out into the wide world of the Internet, discovering that they will need money to purchase the new controller. Setting out further into the Internet, the duo come across a video trending side, "BuzzTube", run by it's head algorithm, "Yesss" (Taraji P. Henson), who tells Ralph that making trendy viral videos are a way to make quick money on the Internet. While Ralph becomes an Internet sensation, Vanellope goes on her own adventures, meeting Disney's wide variety of animated princesses (Along with the many, many, many other properties they own) and also finding an interest in a crazy cool and crazy violent, online racing game called "Slaughter Race", where she befriends the main racer, "Shank" (Gal Gadot). While seeing more of the Internet's darker side, Ralph becomes concerned that Vanellope might like this new game and is considering not coming back with him to the arcade, meaning he could possibly lose his best friend in the process.
So to give clarification as to why a movie like this works, but one like "The Emoji Movie" to be put simply would be.....One is good, one is well, "The Emoji Movie". Yeah, there's a more complicated, detailed answer, but I just wanted to state the obvious. Directed by returning director Phil Johnston (The first "Wreck-It Ralph") and Rich Moore ("Zootopia"), "Ralph Breaks the Internet" actually has something to say, and uses it's very reference heavy, modernized setting to it's advantage. The film does it in a way that's wonderful, funny, and sweet, with the competence of quality filmmakers that we've come to expect from Disney. Of course the animation is better than just simple top notch, with loads of little jokes packed in the background and the foreground, as well as lively worlds and environments. It's flawlessly beautiful to gawk at, but would we ever expect anything less? The script by Johnston and Pamela Ribon ("Moana") is smart with it's dialogue, that's both hilarious and a story with more depth than expected.
John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman are the ones who get the spotlight, and deservedly so. They are both perfectly cast and absolutely wonderful. They embody these characters, and not just because the characters look like exaggerated versions of them. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch have less screentime than before, but get some funny moments. There are some great new additions, such as Gal Gadot, a terrific Taraji P. Henson, Alfred Molina (as "Double Dan", a slug like seller of illegal properties on the "Dark Web"), an uncredited Bill Hader (as "JP Spamley", who represents all of the Internet's constant spams and popups) and Disney's newest good luck charm, Alan Tudyk (as "KnowsMore", a search engine).Then of course, there are the endless cameos, some expected and some totally unexpected. There are less video game based ones, though they still appear. (Sonic!!!) The big ones being the onslaughts of Disney characters, including the Disney Princesses, which includes (And yes, I'm gonna list them all), "Cinderella" (Jennifer Hale), "Aurora" (Kate Higgins), "Ariel" (Jodi Benson), "Belle" (Paige O'Hara), "Jasmine" (Linda Larkin), "Pocahontas" (Irene Bedard), "Mulan" (Ming-Na Wen), "Tiana" (Anika Noni Rose), "Rapunzel" (Mandy Moore), "Merida" (Kelly Macdonald), "Snow White" (Pamela Ribbon), "Moana" (Auli'i Cravalho), "Anna" (Kristen Bell), and "Elsa" (Idina Menzel). It's competing with "Avengers: Infinity War" for biggest crossover of all time right here.
While it's still odd to see real life companies and logos in animated form and it's really not quite as good as the original (Big shoes to fill after all), "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is one of those great family movies with plenty to offer for everyone. The laughs are constant, it's big hearted, and delivers a message in a mature and profound way that will definitely hit you right in the feels. Clever, heartwarming, and a ton of fun for all ages, while also being topical and relevant. See? There was nothing to worry about. Our Disney overlords have us covered. Also stick around during the credits. You won't regret it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, Action, And The Terror That Is "The Comments Section".
Image: "We don't need Liam Neeson for this one."
So I'll take this time to apologize once again. Two weeks in a row and I'm getting reviews done of major releases late and well into the week. Still pretty sick and trying my best to get better before Thanksgiving starts. Not to mention I'm going to have to see a movie pretty much every day in the coming month, due to excessive new releases, last second Oscar hopefuls, and whatever else I missed throughout the year, which I need to see before December ends. I'll catch up on sleep in January.
"Widows" opens with the deaths of a group of thieves, along with their bank robbing leader, "Henry Rawlings" (Liam Neeson), after robbing $2 million from crime boss turned politician, "Jamal Manning" (Brian Tyree Henry). Henry's widow, 'Veronica" (Viola Davis), is threatened by Jamal, who demands his money back at the end of the month to finance his electoral campaign against big time politician, "Jack Mulligan" (Colin Farrell). With little options left, Veronica decides to turn to the other widows, who also happened to lose their husbands on the botched heist. Despite not getting one of the widows, "Amanda" (Carrie Coon), to become involved, Veronica is able to convince the other two, "Linda" (Michelle Rodriguez) and "Alice" (Elizabeth Debicki), who are desperate for money now, to work with her to make the money they need.
Acquiring a notebook with a detailed outline for Henry's previously planned next heist, Veronia, Linda, and Alice plot out how they are going to pull off the heist themselves. While they know little about what they're doing, it's clear that they are capable and desperate enough to actually do it. They later include babysitter, "Belle" (Cynthia Erivo), who is brought in due to the need for a getaway driver, the widows plot means of escape, a way to quickly grab the money and transport it, and acquire guns to be used if necessary. Eventually discovering who exactly is being robbed and why, the widows also discover more into the political intrigue and more into the previous heist than what was first expected, while Manning has his ruthless brother and enforcer, "Jatemme" (Daniel Kaluuya) keep track of what they're up to.
Let me list off what this movie has. The quality people behind and in front of the camera. Aside from the big, recognizable, and acclaimed cast, you've got Director Steve McQueen, who gave us the Best Picture winning (And probably one of the best movies I've ever seen) "12 Years a Slave". McQueen also co-writes a script from Gillian Flynn, who wrote "Gone Girl" (Both the book and the movie), all coming together with a score from Hans Zimmer (Most Christopher Nolan movies). Based on a 1983 British television series of the same name, its an incredible combination of people that turns something unique sounding to say the least, into something dark, powerful, and quite important. The dialogue is smart, humorous when necessary (And trust me, for such a dark story, you need it.), character driven, and providing some social subtext (Both racial and sexual). It all shockingly comes together in what would be thrown off as a simple popcorn thriller, though Director Steve McQueen knows how to build up suspense. Even though the story can seem a little on the crazy side, the movie keeps it grounded.
The amazing cast perfectly portray intricate characters who aren't simple good guys or bad guys, each given human moments that give a hint of backstory without a need for awkward exposition. The shear badassitude of Viola Davis knows no bounds. She can do anything she wants without question, playing a memorable, tough heroine. Michelle Rodriguez plays vulnerable, but tough very well and realistically, while Elizabeth Debicki (Aside from having really, really pretty eyes), shows off some more acting potential than what I expected from her. She's always been a good actress, but here, she gets to show off a variety of emotions, sometimes in the same scene, as a character with one of the harsher stories. Cynthia Erivo (Last seen in "Bad Times in the El Royale") shines once again, and obviously has star potential. The ensemble comes together perfectly, including Colin Farrell playing pure politician, Brian Tyree Henry, Robert Duvall (as "Tom Mulligan", Jack's bigoted father), Jacki Weaver (as "Agnieska", Alice's mother, who thinks prostitution is better than nothing.), Carrie Coon, and Molly Kunz (as "Siobhan", Jack's campaign manager/lover?), who all get a moment or two to give you some insight into their characters. The big scene stealer ends up being Daniel Kaluuya (This guy is really on a role after "Get Out" and "Black Panther"), who has a cold, calm sense of sadism, that's more frightening than any horror movie villain. Liam Neeson doesn't have much screentime, but makes the most of it, and leaves an impressive impression.
Brilliantly edited (And unexpectedly so) and thrilling to the point of exhaustion, "Widows" is an excellent example of how to combine more artistic integrity with the explosive action movies everyone clamors for. Now some twists and turns might not work for everybody (I noticed some really don't find it all that plausible) and the film's ending leaves some character fates a bit more ambiguous than some would want. It's a bit of an odd film where everything is so expertly done and yet clearly goes for the big crowdpleasing moments, while still being a rather moody, pretty depressing film in some parts. It all comes down to if that kind of mix of film genres works for you or not. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Violence, Sexual Content, Language, And That Liam Neeson/Viola Davis Make Out Session Everyone Is Talking About.
Image: "Don't make Mommy put you back up for adoption!"
It takes a strong man to admit that he may of judged something too quickly. Granted, I see trailers for goofy looking little movies like this all the time, and have generally been given little reason not to simply shrug them off early. I'm going to take this to heart and in the future will refrain from assuming something is nothing more than bland fluff ever again. While the movie itself really isn't too different from what's advertised, it's just a bit funnier and much more thoughtful and respectful about it's subject manner. You can be corny as Hell, but do it in such a sincere and lovable way, where you can't be mad at it.
Inspired by a true story according to the film's opening, "Instant Family" follows married couple, "Peter" (Mark Wahlberg) and "Ellie" (Rose Byrne), who are house renovators that realize there's something missing in their life. The two decide to adopt, going to a foster-care adoption agency, run by two social workers, "Karen" (Octavia Spencer) and "Sharon" (Tig Notaro). They end up meeting a rebellious young teen, "Lizzy" (Isabela Moner), deciding to adopt her, along with her two younger siblings, "Juan" (Gustavo Quiroz) and "Lita" (Julianna Gamiz). At first, things appear easy, but of course take a turn for the chaotic. Peter and Ellie struggle to connect with the kids, and are forced to mature themselves if they are truly hoping to make for good parents.
Directed by Sean Anders (Both "Daddy's Home" movies. Huh? Guess you can make that formula work.), "Instant Family" is as predictable and soft as you can get. Toned down from the usual raunchy comedies in favor of a more family oriented dynamic. You've seen that story before, and there are few curveballs thrown in. It's odd how the movie ends up working both in spite and to a certain degree, because of it. The script by Anders and John Morris doesn't quite go for too many cheap jokes, but instead sprinkles itself with an occasional insightfully funny line or two, while remaining smart enough to remember that there is still a fairly serious story in here (Though it remembers not to let the tone overtake itself). It's an undeniably sweet story, made more heartfelt by competence and respect.
I've always found it a little hard to buy Mark Wahlberg (Who has become known for more action based roles lately) in family man roles like this. With that said, I know he can do comedy (And honestly, should really do more of it.). He's got some great timing and reaction shots, working well with Rose Byrne, who is charmingly adorable as ever, but also much funnier than anyone gives her credit for. We get plenty of funny snarky remarks from Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer, who is at her most Octavia Spencery. (That needs to be in the dictionary.). There are some enjoyable wackiness from Margo Martindale (as "Sandy", Pete's in your face mother) and Julie Hagerty (as "Jan", Ellie's air-headed mother). The kids themselves are pretty solid, with Isabela Moner (Previously appearing in "Transformers: The Last Knight" and "Sicario: Day of the Soldado") once again shows how good of a young actress she is, getting some effective emotional moments.
This is a fairly simple recommendation, since "Instant Family" doesn't so much avoid many of the traps that lighthearted family comedies such as this fall into. It's predictable, a little cheesy, and maybe even a bit unrealistic. It's still quite funny and it knows when it's time to stop and let a little family drama sink in. The movie is heartwarming fluff, with just enough of an edge for the adults. I guess I was in the mood for sweet. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Family Squabbling.
Image: Keeping up with the Wizards.
"Harry Potter" truly is a cultural phenomenon for lots of us. (Well, at least those who are in their late teens to early twenties) Whether we grew up with J.K. Rowling's acclaimed books or, like me, grew up with the commercial and critically successful film series, you know it by heart. You know (And in a way) grew up with the characters, know the world, and um, know the memes obviously. (Ah, the internet. Isn't it wonderful?) Now a big shared film universe (Dubbed the "Wizarding World"), the series continues in the latest, and soon to be most divisive entry yet.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" opens with villainous dark wizard, "Gellert Grindelwald" (Johnny Depp) escaping from Wizard's prison to gather his followers and take over the world, putting only pure-blood wizards on top. Awkward, but sweet magizooligist, "Newt Scamander" (Eddie Redmayne) is brought before the "Ministry of Magic", due to his actions from the first film (And because he helped capture Grindelwald in the first place). The ministry hopes to convince Newt to give up his adventuring days and work directly with the ministry like his brother, "Theseus" (Callum Turner), to hunt down the immensely powerful "Creedance" (Ezra Miller), who is gifted with an Obscurus (A parasitic entity that turns him into something monstrous) . Newt has no intention of doing so, and doesn't quite get along with his brother, mostly because Theseus is engaged to Newt's old crush, "Leta Lestrange" (Zoë Kravitz). Refusing the ministry's offer, Newt is banned from travel, having to care for his magical suitcase full of whimsical creatures and monsters in secret. However, Newt is approached by the beloved, great wizard, "Albus Dumbledore" (Jude Law), who wants Newt to find Creedance before Grindelwald does, out of fear of what he will do with such power. Since Dumbledore can't act against Grindelwald (Long homo-erotic story), he trusts Newt to do job, while doing against the ministry's orders to help without all of their bureaucratic crap.
Newt is then reunited with the pretty, but naive, "Queenie" (Alison Sudol), who is dating his old No-Maj (Non magic) buddy, "Jacon Kowalski" (Dan Fogler), despite supposedly having his memory wiped after the last film. Although Queenie is not on speaking terms with her sister/possible love interest to Newt, "Tina" (Katherine Waterston) because of this relationship, which faces more trouble due to Jacob fearing what would happen to Queenie if the other magic users found out about it. This results in Queenie leaving for France, where Tina just so happens to be. While Newt and Jacob end up following her, Creedance, having befriended a woman who can shape shift into a snake (And Lord Voldemort's future pet), "Nagini" (Claudia Kim), is on a search to find out who he is, unknowingly being lured into Grindelwald's evil clutches. Eventually everyone is forced to take a side in the coming war that could disrupt the balance between the magic and non magic worlds,with Grindelwald's cult like followers gaining more momentum, leading to devastating consequences.
Now keep in mind, overall, I like "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald". But as you can tell by my plot description, it's all a little bit much, even for the "Harry Potter" series. The problem with the film lies in the screenplay by actual "Harry Potter" author, J. K. Rowling, who piles on the references, characters, and subplots, in hopes of going for something bigger and epic. There ares loads of backstory and moments of awkward exposition. It's interesting enough exposition, but it's still a bit odd for a character to take a few minutes to explain something that stops the movie dead. There are way too many things going on at once, with most of it just being set up for future films. With that said, I'm excited for the next one. Once again directed by David Yates (Who did the last few "Harry Potter" films), he knows how to provide a great action scene and spectacular visual effects. The score is beautiful, the cinematography is stunning, and the production design is as impressive as ever. The creatures and beasts themselves are awesome, though only a few feel important to the story.
Eddie Redmayne once again does an excellent job playing the reluctant hero, who you know despite not wanting involvement, will eventually do the right thing due to a kind heart. Katherine Waterston is always good, even when her role seems more designated to love interest this time. Dan Fogler is lovably hilarious, while the adorable Alison Sudol's role expands into dark territory. Some roles, while well acted, such as the ones performed by Zoë Kravitz, Ezra Miller, and Claudia Kim, don't really seem to have as much to do as you would think, except to set up more backstory or just simply explain it. William Nadylam (as "Yusuf Kama", a wizard, who is also tracking Creedance for personal reasons) and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (as "Grimmson", a hunter who is obviously a little too sadistic to be a good guy) both end up being pretty useless, and take up too much time for nothing. Johnny Depp (With some obvious controversial problems in real life), gets the chance to give one of his better performances in a while. His titular villain is frightening, not just because he looks scary and is clearly a powerful threat, but because he's so charismatic and capable of swaying others to his side (Even making a few solid points while he's at it), while never forgetting the fact that he is still a monster. (It gets a little political, and more culturally relevant the more I think about it.) Jude Law, who isn't in the film near enough, is wonderful and perfectly cast. While the film only briefly references (And mostly just implies) his connection to Grindelwald, it's still powerful, adding a little extra depth to such a beloved character like Dumbledore.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" sets out to be like "The Empire Strikes Back", but ends up more like "Attack of the Clones". Which means that while it's still well made, thoroughly enjoyable, and even a little darker than expected, it's still the weakest of the series and mostly feels like filler. (Good filler, but still filler.) There are unexpected twists, some of which will confuse and divide fans, and some truly messed up evil deeds (And even morally questionable ones from less villainous characters), that build up to a debatably overblown, but still exciting climax that's hard not to find yourself invested in. Maybe they still do need to rethink the whole five film story structure. Either way, you know I'm totally going to be there opening night for each one. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 Scary Images, Action, And A Bit More Child Murder Than I'm Used To. (Seriously, This Movie Is Messed Up In Some Parts!)
Image: "Shhh! James needs peace and quiet when he writes film reviews."
Sorry I'm so late on this one. I'm a little sick at the moment. I know you've all been begging....No. You've been DEMANDING for my review of "The Girl in the Spider's Web". That's obviously why hardly anyone actually saw it this last weekend. You've just been waiting to hear my thoughts. Thank you for your patience.
"The Girl in the Spider's Web" follows the continuing adventures of hacker heroine, "Lisbeth Salander" (Claire Foy), who has become known as the woman who hunts down and enacts revenge on men who have abused women. Lisbeth is hired by former NSA employee, "Frans Balder" (Stephen Merchant), who is responsible for the creation of a program called "Firefall", that has the ability to access the world's nuclear launch codes. Feeling repentant, Balder wants Lisbeth to steal it and destroy it. Lisbeth hacks into the NSA, stealing Firefall, and uploading it onto a computer, resulting in an NSA agent, "Edwin Needham" (Lakeith Stanfield) heading to Sweden to track her down. Needhan isn't the only one who's after Firefall, with a crime syndicate known as the "Spiders" stealing the program from Lisbeth, framing her for attempting to turn on Balder and use the program for her own ends.
Another problem arises in the form of the Secret Service agent, "Gabriella Grane" (Synnøve Macody Lund), who has been tasked with taking Lisbeth down. With help from her old journalist friend/lover, "Mikael Blomkvist' (Sverrir Gudnason) to track down Balder before the Spiders can use Firefall for their own ends. Eventually, Lisbeth is forced to protect Balder's son, "August" (Christopher Convery), who ends up being revealed to be more important to activating the program than at first though, while the leader of the Spiders, "Camilla" (Sylvia Hoeks), who has a secret history with Lisbeth, makes herself known.
Directed by Fede Álvarez ("Don't Breathe" and that "Evil Dead" remake) and a sort of sequel/reboot to David Fincher's 2011 adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl in the Spider's Web" is based on the novel of the same name by David Lagercrantz (Who continued the series created by the late Stieg Larsson). It's solid enough source material, which should make for an exciting, suspenseful action-thriller. Occasionally, there are hints of that in the film, with some solid action and a little suspense. In terms of originality and plausibility, the film just seems off. It's a very predictable film, with each mystery and plot reveals being rather obvious, and a surprisingly lacking amount of intrigue. It doesn't help by how over the top the film can get, whether it be in your face explosions, inexplicable survivals, and almost superhuman levels of hacking.
The biggest saving grace to the movie would be Claire Foy herself. She's thoroughly compelling, and completely awesome. While the character somehow manages to survive things that no normal human could possibly even come close to surviving, she's vulnerable just enough to make you care. There are some solid performances from Lakeith Stanfield and especially Stephen Merchant, who gets so show off some of his more dramatic acting chops (I honestly really wish he was in the movie a lot more). Sverrir Gudnason is a complete bore, and while Sylvia Hoeks' villainess has an emotional backstory (One that could be very important in today's times with the #MeToo movement), it's not given the amount of depth it deserves. In fact, most aspects concerning our villains doesn't quite work. They're unrealistically capable, acting more like supervillains than real people (Even supervillains are more human than these guys), and the reasoning behind their motivations just feels underdeveloped. (Maybe some scenes were cut out. I did notice a few parts from the trailers missing from the finished film.)
"The Girl in the Spider's Web" has the great Claire Foy being a badass, but not much else. The story is weak and easy to plot out in your head. Every twist and turn is obvious, and most of the important dramatic cues are diluted by little time being given to them. It's frustrating because there is a really good thriller, and even just plain a really good film here. It could of been important, but mostly ends up being forgettable. It's not even worth 1 spider web pun. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Violence, Unsettling Images, And Lots And Lots Of Sony Products. (What Hacker Only Uses Sony Products?)
Image:"It's never going to heal if you don't stop picking at it!"
Funny how Halloween was just a couple weeks ago, and yet, only now we're just getting something that would of been perfect to see around that time. I mean, what could be scarier than Nazi scientists and undead, bloodthirsty corpses? When you think of evil, you obviously think of Nazis (Or at least, you should...), throwing in a little mad science and body horror is just the bloody icing on the cake.
"Overlord" takes place near the end of World War II, following a young, kindhearted American paratrooper, "Ed Boyce" (Jovan Adepo). On a plane for France, under the command of "Sgt. Eldson" (Bokeem Woodbine), the plan is to destroy a German radio tower, which is located within an old church. The plane gets shot down, resulted in many of the soldiers being killed or lost in the heat of battle. Ed meets the hotheaded "Corporal Ford" (Wyatt Russell), who now leads a small group of survivors consisting of the smartass "Tibbet" (John Magaro) and the dorky "Chase" (Iain De Caestecker) to complete the mission. The group comes across a young French woman, "Chloe" (Mathilde Ollivier), who takes them to hide in her village with her little brother, "Paul" (Gianny Taufer) and unseen, deformed aunt.
Ruled over by the vile Nazi "Captain Wafner"(Pilou Asbæk), the villagers are taken away from their homes to the Nazi base, where they are either never seen again or come back horrifically disfigured. After Wafner attempts to rape Chloe, ignoring Ford's orders to stay out of it, the group ends up capturing Wafner, hoping to find a way to complete the mission, while still remaining in secret. Boyce eventually finds himself within the base, discovering a lab run by mad scientist, "Dr. Schmidt" (Erich Redman). Turns out the Nazis are experimenting on the villagers and their own dead men, using them to create an unstoppable, unkillable army of undead, monster soldiers (Zombies basically) to conquer the world. ("The Thousand Year Reich needs Thousand Year soldiers" as Wafner puts it.) Now tasked with a new mission to put a stop to the insane experiments, the Americans set out to destroy the lab, while experiencing a kind of terror unlike anything they've ever witnessed before.
Produced by J. J. Abrams through his company, "Bad Robot Productions", "Overlord" is an exploitation, Nazi horror that just so happens to be taking place during a genuine war film. The movie actually takes it's time getting to the horror aspect, developing it's characters, and presenting the whole "War is Hell" mentality (I always did love when movies like this portray our heroes in a real life situation before they stumble into something more outrageous). This leads to some legitimate reactions and true terror. In terms of action, it's all very original and pretty clever, with some exciting shots (The plane getting shot down at the beginning is one of the highlights), right down to the climax, which is a little preposterous, but completely awesome. The screenplay, written by Billy Ray ("Captain Phillips", "The Hunger Games") and Mark L. Smith ("The Revenant"), remembers not to take itself too seriously, despite the terrifying images and heavy drama that is still prevalent throughout, there is a clear sense of humor about itself and love for pure ridiculousness. Directed by Julius Avery, the movie rather brilliantly finds a way to blend these genres together, making it so you can actually take it seriously enough when necessary, but also injecting an extra sense of fun, popcorn escapism.
The film is also elevated by some good characters, with committed actors that find stability in the genre and tone mixing. Jovan Adepo (Who received critical acclaim in 2016's "Fences") is terrific, thoroughly likable, and does one great scared face. (He looks absolutely and realistically horrified by what he sees in this movie.) Wyatt Russell is a badass, complicated character, with Mathilde Ollivier getting a bit more to do than be a damsel in distress. (That scene with the flamethrower was very much cathartic.) The supporting cast is solid, with some funny lines from John Magaro, Dominic Applewhite (as "Rosenfeld", Boyce's friend, who winds up in the Nazi lab), and Iain De Caestecker getting to take part in possibly the most twisted, traumatizing sequence in the entire film. Pilou Asbæk also looks like he's having the time of his life as a despicable villain who is the essential definition of the word scum.
On a personal level, this might end up becoming one of my favorite movies this year because there is nothing quite like it (And here I thought Nazi Zomies were a tired concept). This movie utulizes that in a smart, even captivating way. Not without it's flaws, such as some occasionally mediocre CGI and a few cheap jump scares, "Overlord" provides all of the B movie thrills you could possibly ask for. However, the film adds some extra depth to it's characters, who you find yourself very much caring for and hope for their survival and the overall vagueness to what's really going on just adds to the terror. The movie even takes time to delve into the true dread of war, the senseless deaths, and hard, even morally questionable decisions. There are some impressive practical effects, homages to classic, gorey horror, and some humor to go with the insanity. Yeah it's going to drop out of the box office like a fly, but I would say it's what exactly you want in a big blockbuster, that just so happens to have a smaller budget. It's a movie that I can recommend to you by simply telling you that it's just plain awesome. A great, gross time at the movies. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Grotesque Body Disfigurement, Blood And Bile Everywhere, And Nazis Being Nazis.
Image: Santa isn't gluten free.
Haven't we seen this all before? No, not in the 2000 live-action Ron Howard "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Which starred Jim Carrey), that was a massive hit at the time, though is definitely not as good as you remember it. (I mean, Jim Carrey is great in it. The rest of it is kind of....not.) What about the 1966 television special, that has been cemented into the minds of people of every age? We already have the amazing, beloved animated version with a runtime that's shorter than half an hour. This really doesn't need to be here. That one is obvious. The real question is if it accomplishes it's goal of warming hearts and filling with Christmas cheer the way the renowned Dr. Seuss intended it to.
Narrated by Pharrell Williams, "The Grinch" follows the beloved tale of that green, furry, lonely old grump, known as "The Grinch" (Benedict Cumberbatch). The Grinch lives alone with his loyal dog, "Max", up on a mountain outside of the town of "Whoville", which is populated by the always happy, Christmas loving citizens (Or the "Whos" as they're referred to. Kind of a "Who's Who of Whoville). Hating all things cheerful and despising Christmas most of all due to his life of being a loner, The Grinch avoids everyone in the town and keeps to himself, dreading the day that Christmas finally arrives. This year however, learning that the Whos are planning to make this Christmas bigger and better than ever, The Grinch comes up with an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. You get the idea! The Grinch plots to steal Christmas away from the townsfolk, with help from Max and a fat reindeer named "Fred". With a stolen sleigh, a "Santa" disguise, and a sick desire to do bad, The Grinch heads out to Whoville on Christmas night to steal away all of their presents, Christmas trees, food, decorations, and everything Christmas related. Meanwhile a young, sweet little Who, "Cindy Lou Who" (Cameron Seely), wanting to make a Christmas wish to Santa for her caring mother, "Donna" (Rashida Jones), inadvertently threatens to get in the way of the Grinch's diabolical scheme.
Theatrical film adaptations of revered Dr. Seuss stories have garnered mixed results. Starting with the first "Grinch" movie, followed by that......thing they claimed was "The Cat in the Hat" (Remember the part with the "Dirty Hoe"?), the actually pretty solid "Horton Hears a Who", and the mostly meh "The Lorax". From "Illumination Animation", the guys behind "Despicable Me", "The Secret Life of Pets", and the ones responsible for all those "Minions" memes your mom posts on your Facebook wall, this new version of "The Grinch" is much smaller in scale and softer than the live action version. Now that's actually a good thing, considering all the out of place adult humor that was in that movie. It's really tame, right down to the Grinch himself, who is still a jerk, but ends up becoming more of a green version of Gru from "Despicable Me". Which is fine, because it's for kids, and for the most part, there's a decent amount of enjoyment to be had, mostly thanks to bouncy animation. However, there really isn't much to it. The original story is quick and to the point, and while this movie doesn't add anything near to the amount the live action one did, it still feels padded down, with mostly some little subplots and characters just goofing around.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a solid choice for the role, who is still plenty lovable despite being well, a Grinch. He's humorously malicious and gross, but oddly relatable. Really when you get down to it. The Grinch is just the culmination of all of our cynical thoughts around Christmas time. The subplots involving Rashida Jones and Cameron Seely don't amount to much, while Angela Lansbury (as the Mayor of Whoville) pops up for literally just one minute. There are a few funny moments from Kenan Thompson (as "Bricklebaum", an overly enthusiastic Who, that thinks he's best friends with the Grinch), while the best laughs come from Max (Who has always been my favorite character) and Fred, who are hilariously animated and delightful to watch. Pharrell Williams' narration is actually fairly inspired (There's something about his voice that's just so, pun intended, happy...), while the new version of the classic Grinch song by Tyler, The Creator is catchy enough, but not exactly memorable. The characters are likable enough, but there doesn't end up being much a conflict this time around. (I'll give this to the live action version, at least they changed it up by making the Whos jerks too.) It's a pretty straightforward adaptation, that's faithful, but not particularly necessary.
"The Grinch" doesn't add anything new, keeping things fairly simple for the most part, even with the unnecessary filler to get the movie just barely over an hour and twenty minutes. It's still funny, joyful fluff for the kids, that does actually find a way to get into the Christmas spirit. Especially once we get to the end, where the message is still surprisingly strong and heartfelt. It doesn't need to really exist, considering we already have a perfectly suitable, much shorter animated version to watch at home for cheaper. It's also something that's perfectly harmless, wonderfully animated, and sweet, which regardless of quality, is something the old doctor intended in the first place. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG, Though It Really Could Of Been An Easy G.
Image: "I choose to look at this glass as half full."
I knew Melissa McCarthy had it in her all along! There were hints sprinkled throughout many of her performances, and not just the few dramatic ones. Even in her most comedic of roles, you could tell she was clearly talented. However, if movies like "Life of the Party" taught me anything, it's that sometimes it's a little easier to fall down, with an embarrassing thud, rather than show what you're truly capable of. With that said, after this Oscar worthy performance, maybe that's all about to change.
"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" follows the true story of celebrity biographer, "Lee Israel" (Melissa McCarthy). Despite previously being praised for her ability to get into the mind of her subject, Lee has fallen on hard times, unable to find work, having trouble getting money for her rent, and is without friends or family, with the exception of her sick car, "Jersey". Though she finds a new possible friend in the form of the thoroughly fabulous "Jack Hock" (Richard E. Grant), Lee is still in debt, not having gotten any of her writing published due to criticisms of both her writing style and abrasive personality. While doing research for her planned biography on actress "Fanny Brice", she discovers an unknown letter from Brice. Lee finds out that the letter as it is, could be worth something. But after adding a few finishing touches of her own, she discovers how much more letters such as this could be worth. Lee begins forging more letter from other writers, playwrights, and literary personalities, and selling them to buyers, who believe them to be the real thing. However, this catches the attention of the FBI, causing Lee to enlist Jack to become her partner in crime in finding buyers for the forged letters. Things get further complicated from there, as we all know, stories like this have a tendency to go horribly wrong.
Directed by Marielle Heller ("Diary of a Teenage Girl"), "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is the kind of story that makes for a compelling drama, as well as a little comedy and even a surprising amount of likability. Based on the real life Lee Israel's autobiography of the same name, the film is insanely clever, intelligent, and witty as Hell. The script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, finds a way to make our main characters charming despite their occasional nastiness and obvious criminal activities. The back and forth dialogue is funny and thoroughly engaging, with the direction balancing some humor, with some drama that veers into almost thrilling territory, due to how invested you eventually become in the story. The 90s New York setting is perfectly shown in a somewhat dreary light, along with a excellent cast of characters, that bring out the movie's appealing nature.
Image: The "Licorice Dance?"
This is not usually movie I take a little extra time to write up a full review for. I see a lot of movies every year (I'm over one hundred and fifty already. No social life here.), and I have a tendency to leave a few things out, like I mentioned in my "Hunter Killer"/"Johnny English Strikes Again" Double Feature Review, due to the constant stress on my fingers and mind. I can only come up with so many adjectives to describe a large variety of films. I only do it if I have a special reason to do so. This future hipster favorite right here is one of those special reasons.
"Suspiria" takes place in 1977, during the German Autumm, following American, "Susie Bannion" (Dakota Johnson), who heads to West Berlin in hopes of being admitted into the "Markos Dance Academy", run by the elusive, unseen "Mother Markos" (Tilda Swinton). Susie is immediately allowed in, showing loads of potential, and catching the interest of the lead choreographer, "Madame Blanc" (Tilda Swinton, Again). The academy seems perfect, providing a place to live, and with Susie being allowed to stay without paying, but little does anyone know, something nefarious is lurking within the walls of the building. While Susie further impresses Blanc, on her way to becoming the lead in the academy's upcoming show, a fellow student, "Sara" (Mia Goth) looks into the mysterious disappearance of another student, "Patricia" (Chloë Grace Moretz). Patricia's vanishing has also been noticed by her aged psychotherapist, "Dr. Josef Klemperer" (Played by "Lutz Ebersdorf", who is just another Tilda Swinton in old man make-up), after telling him that the academy instructors are witches. Klemperer, still grieving the loss of his wife, "Anke" (Jessica Harper, who was the star of the original "Suspiria"), sets out to find out what's going on within the academy, as the women prepare for their show, as well as a twisted reveal.
A remake of a 1977 Dario Argento film of the same name, "Suspiria" is the kind of movie that was basically made to cause divisive critical reception. Since the movie is directed by Luca Guadagino (Who gave us last year's acclaimed "Call Me by Your Name"), you can tell it's going to be nothing short of stunning in terms of it's look. It's almost like a macabre painting come to life, with this constant eerie feeling in the background. The dancing scenes are suitably weird, but also beautifully choreographed. There is an ominous musical score provided by Thom Yorke (from Radiohead), and some truly unsettling imagery. It has the makings of a chilling, indie horror. However, the bad news is that it's also a bit of a disaster when it comes to character, story, and coherent intelligence. There are are unnecessary subplots and distractions, where the film focuses on characters who don't end up providing much importance. It would work if they had actual personalities, rather than types, or were at least interesting. Much of the historical politics don't really have the deep meaning the film seems to think they do, especially once the truth behind the mystery is revealed. By the end, while it's lovely to look at, everything goes exactly how you would imagine any generic, bloody horror movie would go.
Dakota Johnson continues to distance herself from the "Fifty Shades" series, showing she has much more depth to her than those films allow her to show. It's also cool to see an almost all female cast, consisting of the great Tilda Swinton (Although more on her in a bit), Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz in a small part, Elena Fokina (as "Olga", a student who attempts to bail, leading to memorably gruesome results), and others, who may not get much for character, yet still give solid performances. Tilda Swinton's three roles are interesting ones. Her Madame Blanc role is great (Especially in her scenes with Dakota Johnson), while her role as Klemperer is completely distracting. The make up is amazing, maybe even award worthy. But she is reduced to doing a generic old man's voice, that sounds more like the one you do when mocking a caricature of a senile old person, rather than an actual one. Her other role, which doesn't come into the film till the last act is visibly disturbing, though really silly when you realize that all that buildup and intrigue leads up to something so goofy.
It's odd for me to admit that "Suspiria" is one of those movies that the more I thought about it, the less I enjoy it. I'm usually down for these kinds of artistically and intentionally divisive films. (Like last year's "Mother!" for example.) There is brilliance in the film, from it's direction, cinematography, and stylistic homages to classic horror. On the downside, it's all over the place in it's storytelling, with plotlines that lead nowhere, and with a two and a half hour runtime that feels even more noticeable with it's six act structure. (Not to mention an epilogue!) Whether you compare it to better horror movies to come out this year (Like "Hereditary") or simply better indie gorefests (Like "Mandy"), it feels like that student with potential that you know can make something great, but just ends up becoming a pretentious dick. It's fascinating, yet frustrating, and really leaves you questioning how worth it the whole ordeal was. It's still memorable to say the least. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gross Out Gore And Extreme, Bone-Crunching Ballet.
Image: "How about we drive to a theater with no Tyler Perry movies?"
Alright. We're back in the Tyler Perry-verse. An amazing world of constant suffering, tonal inconsistencies, and a lack of coherent filmmaking that you would never expect to come from someone who has been making movies for over a decade. You really can't prepare yourself once you enter, and you can't wait to escape back into what you know as reality. Lets do this!!!
"Nobody's Fool" follows successful, mentally unstable advertising representative, "Danica" (Tika Sumpter), who is dating a guy named "Charlie" (Voiced by Mehcad Brooks), who she met on the internet and has never seen in person, only talking to him on the phone. Danica gets a call from her weed loving mother, "Lola" (Whoopi Goldberg), who tells Danica that her sister, "Tanya" (Tiffany Haddish) is getting out of prison, and wants Danica to let her stay over. (Mostly because Lola doesn't want her craziness in her house.) Danica and her friend, "Kalli" (Amber Riley) go to pick up Tanya, bringing her over to Danica's place, where they both realize how much of a raving lunatic she is. After getting Tanya a job over at a coffee shop, owned by "Frank" (Omari Hardwick), who has a crush on Danica, Tanya starts snooping into Danica's relationship with Charlie, learning that the guy is likely not real, and that her sister is being "Catfished". So they hire the guys from the show "Catfish", "Nev Schulman" and "Max Joseph" (Both playing themselves), to look into Charlie. After finding out who he really is, Danica, Tanya, and Kalli go out to find him and confront him. That's about the first forty to fifty minutes I think. Then it just exists for a bit, becoming a romantic comedy/drama involving Danica and Frank. Sort of. Then something else happens in the last act to force some conflict, while this poor, suffering film critic continues to wonder why this movie is still going, and why I'm still sitting there watching it, despite the advertised plot being resolved an hour before the movie actually ends.
I'll give this to Director/Writer/Executive Producer/Guy I Know Can Do Better, Tyler Perry (All the "Madea" films, and most of my one to zero star reviews), it's almost inventive how ends up making bad films worse. It doesn't necessarily start off particularly good. It's much broader, raunchier than your average Tyler Perry flick (Complete with F-Bombs, even more swears, and adult content), and it's a little awkward at lead in the beginning. It's a silly plot, and rarely funny, but that simply makes for a bad comedy. That isn't anything shocking. What is shocking, is where the film goes from there. The main plot is wrapped up early in the movie, and dropped from the movie, before meandering around till something actually happens. It's such an amateurish filmmaking flaw that you would never expect to come out of an experienced filmmaker, who apparently hasn't actually improved at all over the years. The film is an hour and fifty minutes, and unnecessarily so.
Tiffany Haddish does what she does best, and as usual, does it well. (Whether her style of comedy is your thing or not, but you can't deny she gives it everything no matter the material.) However, despite getting top billing, she is actually a supporting character, who at some point almost completely vanishes during the second and third act. The real main character is Tika Sumpter, who I'm not sure is actually a very good actress. She doesn't have much dramatic range, no comedic chops, and in terms of onscreen presence and likability, Tiffany Haddish overwhelms her constantly. (Granted, it's a terribly written, thoroughly detestable character. So there isn't much you can do.) Omar Hardwick and Amber Riley are trying their best, while easily the funniest part of the movie comes from Whoopi Goldberg, who isn't in the movie near enough. The less I say about an awkward, somewhat uncomfortable Missi Pyle (as "Lauren", Danica's insane boss), the better. There is also a Chris Rock cameo that's so bizarre, it's almost funny at first, until you realize that he can do so much better.
The fact that a Tyler Perry movie is bad is never shocking. It's just that they're rarely all bad for the same reasons. "Nobody's Fool" suffers from a plot, genre, and tonal form of Attention Deficit Disorder. It's in a constant battle to figure out what it wants to be about, with what it eventually becoming feeling just plain unlikable and most importantly, unfunny. The R rated humor doesn't mesh well with Tyler Perry's lazy sitcom style of direction, which takes far too long to end. I have other things to do, and other movies to see. I can't spend my limited time on explaining why a Tyler Perry movie sucks. 1 star. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And A Rather In Detail Sex Scene. (Uhhhhh, What Happened To All The Jesus Talk?)
Image: I see a little silhouetto of a man.
With biographical movies about iconic figures, especially ones of those still fresh in people's minds, we should probably be used to Hollywood fudging. It doesn't help when the people involved were the ones producing the film, which means that things will likely be a little on the biased side, resulting in even more arranging of things that didn't happen (Or at least in the way presented). By this point, unless they do something downright offensive, you kind of just need to go with it. Even the best ones do it. Creative licence, or something.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" follows the life story of "Farrokh Bulsara".....Who then changes his name to "Freddie Mercury" (Rami Malek). Freddie meets drummer, "Roger Taylor" (Ben Hardy), guitarist, "Brian Mary" (Gwilym Lee), and bassist, "John Deacon" (Joseph Mazzello), forming the band that would eventually become "Queen". The film shows the band's high points and low points, showing what led to the creation to some of their beloved songs such as "We Will Rock You", "Another One Bites the Dust", and of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody". The movie also details Freddie's relationship with close friend/temporary wife, "Mary Austin" (Lucy Boynton), while he struggles to understand his own sexuality, as well as showing the Freddie's personal problems, mostly involving Freddie's eventual lover/personal manager, "Paul Prenter" (Allen Leech). This leads to an eventual break up of the band, and when Freddie learns that he has contracted AIDS, he hopes to mend back his old relationships, resulting in a epic performance during the "Live Aid" benefit concert in Wembley Stadium.
A long awaited biopic, that has suffered countless production problems, "Bohemian Rhapsody" went through a couple different actors, one of which being Sacha Baron Cohen (Who left when he read the original script, where Freddie Mercury died half way into the movie) Then, the film eventually settled on Director/possible child sexual assaulter, Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects", and a few of the "X-Men" movies), who was removed part way through the film for being a dick on set with the cast and crew. This resulted in Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie the Eagle", and the director of the upcoming Elton John biopic, "Rocketman") being called in to finish the movie, while only getting an Executive Producer credit. With all these issues, it's hard for the movie's flaws to not be noticeable, especially early on. With an acceptable and effective, but simplistic and even a little cheesy screenplay by Anthony McCarten ("The Theory of Everything", "Darkest Hour"), that goes down a very predictable, more crowdpleasing storyline. Now you're still going to get some heartfelt, even wonderfully done moments, while getting through a fairly toned down, bullet points of a true story. It starts off unevenly paced, not wasting any time in getting the band together, but once the film settles down, and lets it's story simple breathe, there is some true greatness that finds it's way out.
Rami Malek (From "Mr. Robot") has been getting almost unanimous praise for not just his performance, but also how much the film gets him to look of Freddie Mercury. It's quite remarkable, and it bumps the movie up, even through it's more mediocre moments. He is terrific, on stage during the performances and even off the stage, where even if he doesn't quite capture what you would picture Freddie Mercury in your head to be, you're automatically drawn to him. He is perfect star making material, with a tremendous amount of onscreen presence, (Which if you think of Freddie Mercury, it's a fitting tribute). Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello are all good, even though their roles kind of mesh into each other. Lucy Boynton is excellent, having some great chemistry with Rami Malek (Granted, they are dating in real life), in a subplot that could of gone wrong so easily, but feels naturally sweet and heartwarming. Aidan Gillen (as "John Reid", Queen's first manager) and Tom Hollander (as "Jim Beach", Queen's lawyer, turned later manager) are good actors, who still do solid jobs in underwritten roles. Allen Leech is suitably scummy as our sort of villain (Not sure how I feel about biopics having actual villains, but again. Comes with the territory.), while Mike Myers (as "Ray Foster", a record producer) pops up in a couple weird scenes.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" may not be the exact in depth depiction of a true life story that some would hope for, and perhaps from a critical perspective, despite it's compelling central performance might be deserving of a lower rating. However, it;s the final twenty to twenty-five minutes, when the movie's final showstopping scene, with Queen performing during Live Aid, that ends up bumping the film up a little higher. It's a mesmerizing, breathtaking final scene, that is absolutely astonishing to see on an IMAX screen. The film is a little jumbled due to it's troubled production and it does feel as if the filmmakers just wanted to make a by the numbers crowd-pleaser that still does it's job well. Even if it is a little more disposable because of it. It still finds a way to rock you. I will spare you further Queen song puns out of respect. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Amazing Mustaches.
Image: "Who is the pinkest of them all?"
Halloween literally just ended! You know what that means, right? We just skip Thanksgiving and move right into Christmas. They don't even waste any time anymore do they?
"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" follows young "Clara" (Mackenzie Foy), who is still mourning the loss of her beloved mother. On Christmas Eve, Clara's grieving father (Matthew Macfayden), gives Clara a final gift from her mother, which is an egg, with a lock on it. While at a Christmas party hosted by her godfather, "Drosselmeyer" (Morgan Freeman), Clara, determined to find the missing key to the egg, wanders through Drosselmeyer's house and end upin a strange, fantastical world. Clara learns from one of the world's rulers, the sugary sweet "Sugar Plum Fairy" (Keira Knightley), that Clara's mother was the creator of their world, which is called the "Four Realms". The Realms, consisting of the realms of "Sweets", "Flowers", and "Snowflakes", are at war due with the closed off, dark "Fourth Realm", which is ruled by the feared "Mother Ginger" (Helen Mirren). With Clara's missing key being the possible uh, pardon the pun, "Key" to saving the kingdom, she sets out with the titular Nutcracker, "Philip" (Jayden Fowora-Knight), to head into the fourth Realm and put a stop to Mother Ginger's evil schemes. As Clara leads the Realms into battle, she starts to discover the world's hidden secrets and learning that things are not as they first appear.
Based on a mix of both the original story as well as the classic ballet, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" really has everything going for it. I mean, come on. It's Disney. It's also based on beloved, source material that should simple enough to adapt since it's been done many times before. Not to mention the large enough budget to make for excellent costume designs, as well as good visual and practical effects to go with a solid cast. It's bizarre how exactly this movie ends up being a complete misfire, that appears to have the makings for a good family adventure, that only gets more convoluted and silly the longer it goes on. The film starts off promising enough, pacing itself slowly, showing off the impressive sets, before easing into the adventurous and visually stunning world. There are also a few solid sequences of terror, such as a trio of demonic looking clown babies, dead eyed toy soldiers, and "The Mouse King", which is represented by an army of mice, gathering together to form one giant mouse. However, it's all fairly generic and results in a story you've seen before, not just in previous adaptations of "The Nutcracker", but more along the lines of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (It's basically the same exact premise). At some point, you start to notice that most of the characters are just simple tropes, without much of their own identities which is thanks to a lackluster screenplay and an incoherent plotline. Directed by both Lasse Hallström ("A Dog's Purpose", "Safe Haven") and Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer", "Captain America: The First Avenger"), who mostly got credit due to reshoots, the movie ends up feeling really shoddy and empty, with the pretty imagery trying to mask the fact that there isn't too much to the movie other than that.
Mackenzie Foy is a solid, charismatic young actress, and she shows plenty of promise. Kiera Knightley is well cast, and while her character only gets more over the top and cartoonish, she still looks like she's having a good time. Jayden Fowora-Knight is as bland and boring as his character, who despite having his damn name in the title, serves little purpose. The film doesn't end up doing much with actors such as Richard E. Grant (as "Shiver", the ruler of the Realm of Snowflakes), Eugenio Derbez (as "Hawthorne", the flamboyant ruler of the Realm of Flowers), and Morgan Freeman, who is basically a glorified cameo. And Helen Mirren is insultingly given nothing to do and ends up with little screentime, but she still adds some much needed class and does what she can with what little is provided. Matthew Macfayden doesn't end up doing much, but at least serves as probably the most sympathetic character. (He does a solid job showing grief) Easily, one of the more memorable sequences ends up involving a ballerina (Played by real life ballet dancer, Misty Copeland), in ballet performance part way through the film that shows that there were still hints of something unique in the film despite what it eventually settles on being. (It's an odd mix of trying to include classic musical theater elements and Narnia-esque fantasy.)
"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is a mess of an already clichéd story, with too many holes in the plot (Or at least things that don't quite make much sense), and shockingly for Disney, is almost completely charm free. It looks beautiful, with some clear effort put into the art design and a few somewhat inspired uses of nightmare fuel. It still just doesn't seem like the filmmakers has their hearts in it, and it feels like a Disney throwaway that just so happens to have a larger than necessary budget. The film sets out for terms like "Whimsy" and "Epic", but instead settles on "Lifeless" and "Forgettable". To say that, especially about a Disney movie no less, is just plain depressing. In fact, it's a real nutcracker. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And Sexy Kiera Knightley Baby Talk. (You Know You Like It.)
Time for something a little different. I've been doing this for eight long, wonderful, still completely unpaid years. During this time, the amount of movies I see a year just continues to grow and grow. I don't write full reviews of everything (That's why you gotta follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd), but I try my best to say what I need to say about almost everything. Sadly this week's new releases are kind of....well....There just isn't all that much to talk about when it comes to either of them. So, I thought it time to improvise a little.
Image: "Man, the Red Sox are running away with this."
"Hunter Killer" follows a rather convoluted plotline, with an American submarine getting destroyed while tracking a Russian sub deep in the Arctic. Fearing this could lead to something worse, "Admiral Charles Donnegan" (Gary Oldman) has "Admiral John Fisk" (Common) send in another American sub, commanded by "Commander Joe Glass" (Gerard Butler) to go in and find out what happened, while another team of soldiers, led by "Lieutenant Bill Beaman" (Toby Stephens), head into Russia to spy on a Russian marine base. Turns out the evil Russian Minister of Defense, "Dmitri Durov" (Michael Gor) is staging a coup against the Russian President, "Zakarin" (Alexander Diachenko), taking him hostage, and plotting to start a war with America. While Beaman and his men are tasked to rescue Zakarin, Glass' team discovered a sabotaged sub, bringing the captain, "Sergei Andropov" (The late, great Michael Nyqvist) aboard, despite the protests of some of the crew. Glass is forced to form an uneasy alliance with Sergei, working together to get to Beaman's team and Zakarin, and get them to safety before Durov starts World War III.
Image: The fate of the world rests in.....
"Johnny English Strikes Again" is the apparent third installment in the "Johnny English" trilogy. (There was a second one?) This time, all of MI7's secret agents have found their identities exposed by a cyber attack. With little else to turn to, the unnamed "British Prime Minister" (Emma Thompson) is forced to bring in older, inactive agents to find the culprit. However, after accidentally knocking out all of the others through bumbling comedy, all the remains is the obviously idiotic, buffoon himself, "Johnny English" (Rowan Atkinson). Reuniting with his old partner, "Bough" (Ben Miller), English sets out to find the bad guy, coming across lovely Russian spy, "Ophelia" (Olga Kurylenko), which complicates an already complicated mission, due to English's own incompetence in the new digital age.
To write full reviews for both "Hunter Killer" and "Johnny English Strikes Again" would just end up wasting both my time and yours. It may not seem like it, but both films are in a way somewhat similar. In terms of quality mostly. "Hunter Killer" is every single submarine based action thriller you've seen before, complete with cheesy dialogue and this constant sense of cheapness. It's not without some solid suspense and thrills (Such as an excellent sequence where the submarine has to avoid an underwater mine field, as well as a small cavern), and even with the questionable CGI (And even more questionable green screen), the action is well done and solidly directed. (It was directed by someone named Donovan Marsh. No clue who that is.) Gerard Butler and his hard to classify accent still has a strong screen presence. Gary Oldman is just here because they wanted someone with Gary Oldman gravitas, and Linda Cardellini (as "Jayne Norquist", an NSA analyst) doesn't really do much. However, the late Michael Nyqvist (In one of his last roles) once again shows he was one of those actors who never truly got the appreciation he deserved, still managing to give a compelling performance.
"Johnny English Strikes Again" on the other hand is the definition of getting exactly what you pay for. It's a predictable, almost plot free film whose story is simply there to have excuses to use goofy slapstick. It's a parody we've seen way too many times, and when the movie's jokes fall flat, they fall pretty hard. With that said, it's not without it's moments of inspired stupidity. Rowan Atkinson's style of humor isn't for everyone, but you can never say he isn't giving it his all. His ability to remain completely straight faced no matter he situation can still get a few laughs. (The funniest being a scene involving virtual reality, which turns hilariously violent) Olga Kurylenko is as pretty as ever, and it's nice to see her in something more comedic for once. Emma Thompson is a treasure and can do no wrong, while Jake Lacy (as "Jason Volta", a tech based billionaire who makes for our obvious baddie) is as lame a villain as you can possibly get. The film does at times make a point of the old school spy genre vs. the more modern, tech based one, but the satire isn't focused on near enough.
Both "Hunter Killer' and "Johnny English Strikes Again" are essentially filler movies to buy some time till the bigger releases. They're B-Movies, that don't aspire to much. They're not so much bad, with both movies having their moments of enjoyment. It all ends up being so inconsequential. if you're someone who really wants to see them, they're both solid enough to rent, though not something you need to see in theaters in the slightest (Maybe make it a double feature like I did). Both movies have absurd action, preposterous plotting, Russians doing Russian things, and a general lack of knowledge when it comes to global politics. There! The experiment is over! 2 stars all around! "Hunter Killer" is Rated R For Language And Violence, But Just Barely Enough To Qualify. "Johnny English Strikes Again" is Rated PG For Shenanigans And Mugging.
Image: The Oscars better show some love.
It's 2018, over a century after this country was founded, and yet, there is still some things that need to be worked on. One of which being a big one, the discrepancy between the African American community and our police force. Now you can take the easy, overly sensitive white way out and leave it at the standard "Oh you just hate cops" mentality. (Because history hasn't shown us any reason why they would even have an issue in the first place.) People aren't making this sh*t up. There is an issue, that needs acknowledgement first before anything can even be done about it. Granted, I guess it's just easier for some people to just deny it. You can be grateful to law enforcement and still believe it's fallible.
Based on the acclaimed 2017 novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, "The Hate U Give" follows young high school student, "Starr Carter" (Amandla Stenberg). Starr lives in an all black community, "Garden Heights" with her parents, "Marverick" (Russel Hornsby) and "Lisa" (Regina Hall), along with her half brother, "Seven" (Lamar Johnson) and younger brother, "Sekani" (TJ Wright). Due to the high crime rate, thanks to feared drug dealer, "King" (Anthony Mackie), who essentially runs everything, Starr doesn't go to the local high school. She instead goes to the mostly white school on the richer side of town. Here, Starr acts slightly different around these kids, such as with her white boyfriend, "Chris" (KJ Apa) and her friends, including "Hailey" (Sabrina Carpenter).
While at a party, Starr comes across an old childhood friend/former romantic interest, "Khalil" (Algee Smith). The two reconnect while Khalil drives her home, getting pulled over by a white cop, who ends up shooting Khalil dead, mistaking a hairbrush for a gun. Khalil's murder sparks citizens all over the city to seek justice, with Starr being the only witness, who can possibly cause some sort of change. Starr is forced to find the courage to overcome her own fears, how her friends will see her, and King's own personal involvement in the community, to stand up to an unjust system.
Directed by George Tillman Jr. ("Barbershop"), "The Hate U Give" (The title, which comes from a Tupac Shakur song, with important significance to the story) is one of those small movies that could so easily slip under the radar. While it doesn't appear large in scale, it's nonetheless important and in a certain way, should be a bit of a game changer. The film is unapologetic with it's themes, such as discussions of police racism (Or the assumption that someone of color is up to no good compared to a white person), class inequality, perceptions of poorer communities and the lack of opportunity in those areas, and how some in the African American community would feel the need to act different around white people than how they would act around their own race. (It's almost as if some, even those who may or may not be full on racist, don't feel like they're safe despite claims of acceptance.) The film is well written, with natural feeling dialogue that's profound and moving, never simplifying things too much, but saying everything in a way that logically everyone should be able to understand.
Amandla Stenberg ("Everything, Everything", "The Hunger Games") is one of those young actresses who, no matter the actual quality of what she's in, just continues to prove she is one of the best and most captivating young actresses out there. She gives a powerhouse performance, which shows through subtle moments throughout the film, leading up to a spectacular sequence towards the end during a protest that I could see possibly being played during one of those clips they show when presenting the Oscar nominees for Best Actress. (You know. Maybe. To put it lightly.) Russel Hornsby is terrific, along with some great supporting work from Regina Hall, Issa Rae (as "April Ofrah", an activist who helps Starr), and Common (as "Carlos", Starr's cop uncle), who gets an excellent scene to tell his side of the debate. (Which is given just as much depth and understanding.) KJ Apa (From"Riverdale", as my sister has pointed out to me) is a likable character, who doesn't end up as a stereotype, and Sabrina Carpenter gets a chance to be rather vile in a realistic way. Anthony Mackie, who is a menacing presence throughout the film, at first seems like an unnecessary subplot to include a villain, but by the end, you see what the point the film is getting across with him. While Algee Smith only appears briefly, for one long, extended cameo, he is full of charisma, making for a memorable character. (And his fate feels even more tragic the more you learn about him.)
Aimed at younger audiences, but with messages that not even many adults seem to be able to comprehend, "The Hate U Give" is mature, relevant, and most importantly, bold. Even though it's not exactly one of those grand, big screen releases we're used to, it's just as powerful, if not more so. It's a movie I advise giving a chance, because, who knows, you might actually learn something about an important subject that you didn't quite grasp before. (Or you can keep denying there is a problem. I've heard that's much easier.) 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language And Heavy Material, Though Still Perfectly Suitable For Families.
Image: Man, The Joker sure is going for the brooding look.
To me, slasher films have always been the least frightening portion of the horror genre. Which is weird, because it logically should be the scariest. A maniac with the knife is most likely to go after you before some demon or ghost. It's just that I've never really been into it, mostly because of an overuse of jump scares and gore to compensate for a lack of actual scares. The original 1978 "Halloween" in a way served as a reminder of what it could be. After a string of horrible sequels that got wrong what that movie got right, this new sequel takes what worked and may of made something even a little better.
Taking place forty years after the original directed by renowned horror icon, John Carpenter, 2018's "Halloween" opens with British true-crime podcasters, "Aaron Korey" (Jefferson Hall) and "Dana Haines" (Rhian Rees), doing a section on the so called Bogeyman himself, "Michael Myers/The Shape" (Played in his unmasked form by the original actor, Nick Castle, then by James Jude Courtney when masked). The cold, murderous psycho is currently in a Sanitarium, where he is in the psychiatric care of "Dr. Ranbir Sartain" (Haluk Bilginer), who took over after the death of "Samuel Loomis" (Previously played in the original by Donald Pleasence). Aaron and Dana are allowed to visit Michael before he's scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security prison, presenting him with the original mask he wore on that fateful night. (You know, the ghoulish William Shatner one?) The two are also able to speak with "Laurie Strode" (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor from Michael's murder spree, who is suffering PTSD from what she went through.
Over the four decades, Laurie has spent her days living in a heavily fortified, sealed off house in the woods, preparing for the day Michael ever escaped so she could kill him herself. This has led to an estranged relationship with her daughter, "Karen" (Judy Greer), while also having some effect on Karen's daughter, "Allyson" (Andi Matichak), who really just wants to see her family put this whole thing behind them. However, as Halloween night approaches, the bus carrying Michael, along with a few other inmates, crashes. This leads to Michael escaping, getting his old mask back, and returning to his old hometown in Haddonfield to start a whole new night of terror. With her family in danger and with some help from an old officer friend, "Frank Hawkins" (Will Patton), Laurie is set to finally have her reunion with Michael, leading to an epic confrontation forty years in the masking.
Retconning into oblivion the many sequels, couple reboots, and remakes, "Halloween" has a clean slate to do something a little different while employing what we've seen before, but effectively. Directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express", "Our Brand Is Crisis"), with a script co-written by Green and Danny McBride, the movie doesn't do too much to change up the genre. It follows the basic outline, with killer breaking free, offing a few side characters, before going on his killing spree, leading to a final battle with the final girl. At least, for the most part, that's what the film does. Relying on slow building tension, with time taken for the characters, and like the original, using unique camera angles and really clever cinematography to give the most terrifying feeling a horror movie can possibly give you. The feeling that someone, somewhere, is watching you. Yet you can't see him, but instead can hear the breathing.
Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic, giving a heartfelt, compelling performance, filled with flaws, moments of weakness, but still proving to be a strong female character. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are also excellent, with their shared scenes with Curtis being some of the strongest moments of character work. The three of them make for great horror movie heroines (The Scream Queens Trio?) We get some good supporting parts from Will Pattion (One of the smarter horror movie characters), Toby Huss (as "Ray", Karen's husband/One of the dumber characters), along with a few bit parts that come from the victims of the slaughter, which vary from the obvious douchebags who have it coming, to a few people who you kind of hope didn't die so horribly. The subplot with Haluk Bilginer's character doesn't quite mesh well into the overall story, but it's a fascinating concept, which plays into why Michael Myers originally became such a horror icon in the first place. The film, much like the original, leaves things ambiguous, not giving us too many details behind Myers' actions and motivations, along with the nature of his evil. He's a frightening force of pure brutality, who kills like a shark without a purpose, while those desperately trying to get into his mind end up causing more harm than good. (You can't reason with pure evil.)
"Halloween" can't help itself with a few moments of predictability and of course, people acting and doing stupid stuff. (Hell, the way the whole situation ends up coming together in the first place was because some idiot showed a murderous lunatic his old mask.) Even with those annoying tropes, the movie isn't trying to change up the genre so much, but rather show that some old fashioned scare tactics still can work. The film is still suspenseful, filled with nightmarish images, and even with the violence, the movie leaves enough to your imagination, which is truly something terrifying. (Most of the kills we only end up seeing the gruesome aftermath of.) With characters that you care about, a little humor every now and then, and all leading up to a finale that's nothing short of awesome, this new "Halloween" makes for a sequel that feels like a natural continuation to the original. (And a slightly better one at that.) Once that classic score kicks in, you realize you're in for a good scary story. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Blood, And Nondiscriminatory Murder. (Myers Goes For Anyone, Any Age.)
Image: The actor in the middle is bit wooden.
Sorry I'm getting this review out so late. I have a life outside of this you know. I mean, by life, I refer to my job at a movie theater, the fact I had to see "A Star is Born" again (Go see it! Now!), and writing takes a lot of time out of the day. I have to sit down, keep focused and type till my fingers get tired. Besides, if you were going to see "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween", you've likely already seen it. (Not just saying that because it's the same movie as the first one....Though it is.)
A sequel to the hit 2015 family film (And based on the successful books and television series), "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" follows a new group of kids, "Sonny" (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, "Sam" (Caleel Harris), who has come to stay over with Sonny, his older, college ready sister, "Sarah" (Madison Iseman), and their mother, "Kathy" (Wendi McLendon-Covey) for a couple weeks, during Halloween. Sonny and Sam have a job where they clear out junk, going to a house previously owned by "Goosebumps" author, "R. L. Stine" (Jack Black). While cleaning the house, the two boys come across an old book, which turns out is actually the original first manuscript for one of Stine's Goosebumps books that was never completed. They open the book, which if you've seen the first one, is not a good thing.
The book released the evil ventriloquist dummy, "Slappy" (Previously voiced by Jack Black, though this time it's by his sound alike, Mick Wingert), who wants to make Sam and Sonny his family. However, Slappy is still a sadistic, homicidal psycho, with evil intentions. After Sarah's cheating boyfriend, "Tyler" (Bryce Cass) gets axed by Slappy (Okay, he just gets horribly injured. But still. He could have killed him), Sarah teams up with Sonny and Sam to attempt to get rid of Slappy. Sadly, Slappy has no intention of going anywhere, unleashing an army of monsters on Halloween night to attack the town and create the ultimate Halloween based nightmare, just like in the unfinished book. It's up to the kids, armed only with the book to contain the monsters, to save the day. Basically, it's the first movie again.
Okay, so it's not exactly the same, but by the end, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" really is just what was done before, except with less of a budget this time around. The movie doesn't seem to have the aspirations that the first one did, which had a larger scope and more character despite it's already small by comparison budget. The movie has more of a singular story, somewhat TV special feel (Especially in the special effects department), which could of been intentional, considering the original TV series thrived on that kind of old fashioned cheese. Because of this, there are times where the film can be fun. There are a couple spooky thrills, silly comedy, and a certain likability to the cheapness. A there are a couple delightful sequences, such as the gummy bear attack (Which is quite funny, and kind of horrifying in a way) and Slappy's cartoonish, but still somewhat frightening antics. There just isn't enough of it, and because of that, it just feels unnecessary and not exactly something you need to see in theaters.
Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Caleel Harris are all decent enough young actors, who are just stuck with character types rather than actual characters. Granted, it's that kind of movie, so you can only do so much. Actors like Wendi McLendon-Covey (Who I still find very much on the attractive side), Chris Parnell (as "Walter", a pharmacy manager, who ends up becoming Slappy's hunchback minion), and Ken Jeong (as "Mr. Chu", the next door neighbor, who gets waaaay too into Halloween), aren't given much to do, outside of play the typical dumb adults. When Jack Black (Who I guess went uncredited in the cast) finally shows up towards the last act in his prolonged, glorified cameo, gets easily the funniest lines and certainly livens things up. In terms of our villain, Slappy, he's still a pretty menacing and darkly humorous villain, who gets a scary moment once in a while, reminding everyone why he's the most popular villain from both the original books and show.
Not without it's moments, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" doesn't have enough of the charm that the original movie had, and will likely only entertain the kids. While that's fine I guess, but as I've said before about other similar movies, they too expect a little more. Nothing bad, but not anything special, with little originality or reason to be on the big screen. And now I feel like a dummy. 2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Puppet Jump Scares, And Attempted Puppet Murder.