Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

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

In Theaters: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Just Getting Started, The Shape of Water, The Disaster Artist, Coco, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Star, Wonder, Justice League, Lady Bird, Last Flag Flying, Daddy's Home 2, Murder on the Orient Express, Thor: Ragnarok, A Bad Moms Christmas

Coming Soon: Darkest Hour, Ferdinand, All the Money in the World, Downsizing, Father Figures, Pitch Perfect 3, Molly's Game, Bright, The Greatest Showman, Jumanji 2, The Post, The Commuter, Paddington 2, Proud Mary 

Rating system:

★★★★: Classic  

★★★½: Very Good   

★★★: Good  

★★½ : Eh

★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better  

★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?  

: Hope You Have A Good Date  

½: Little To No Redeeming Value

No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi                                             by James Eagan                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "It's about damn time you came to me! Don't you know who I am?!""

 People who know me in person know that I have three weaknesses. Pretty girls smiling at me, cute animals, and "Star Wars". How obsessed am I with "Star Wars"?.I don't know. Does the collection of figures on my counter, along with my collection of the films, comics, novels, video games, and DVDs for both television series being arranged in chronological order define what you would call obsession? I can better memorize these fictional planets than I can basic Algebra! Or American Geography! So you can believe containing my manly squees were very, very difficult......And I failed to do so. I don't care....SQUEE!

 "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" opens right after "The Force Awakens", where despite losing their planet destroying "Starkiller Base", The First Order and it's disfigured, force powerful Supreme Leader "Snoke" (Andy Serkis) still has a massive arsenal of ships and troops to hunt down and destroy "The Resistance", led by the former princess turned general, "Leia Organa" (Carrie Fisher). On the run from Snoke's command ship, commanded by the slimy "General Hux" (Domhnall Gleeson), The Resistance, stuck in a constant retreat with a disastrous battle, puts a new commander in charge, "Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo" (Laura Dern), who is constantly at odds with the hot-headed pilot, "Poe Dameron" (Oscar Isaac). With Holdo's competence in question, the recently awakened, Stormtrooper turned rebel, "Finn" (John Boyega), new friend, "Rose" (Kelly Marie Tran), and lovable little volleyball droid, "BB-8" plan to sneak aboard Snoke's ship and disable it's tracker.

 Meanwhile, the force sensitive heroine, "Rey" (Daisy Ridley), along with wookie warrior "Chewbacca" (Played in costume by both Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo), and spunky droid, "R2-D2" (Jimmy Vee taking over for the late Kenny Baker) finally find the legendary hero/last remaining Jedi of the Rebellion, "Luke Skywalker" (Mark Hamill) to return his original lightsaber. Rey hopes to have him train her in the ways of the Force, and bring him back to save the Resistance. Bad news is that Luke has seen some sh*t, and sees himself as having failed the galaxy for failing to prevent his nephew and the son of Leia and the now deceased Han Solo, "Kylo Ren" (Adam Driver), from falling to the dark side by becoming Snoke's apprentice and plunging the galaxy into chaos. Luke eventually comes around and agrees to train Rey, but fears what kind of power she is capable of and how it reminds him of his previous failure. 

 Just when you think the year is nearing it's close when it comes to excellent filmmaking, "The Last Jedi" comes up to remind us that "Star Wars" helped define what we consider modern cinema, and somehow, manages to change it all up in ways none of us could possibly imagine. The film is a complete jawdropper, with Director and Writer Rian Johnson ("Looper") crafting what could actually be attempting to compete with "The Empire Strikes Back" (The second, but absolute best entry in the entire saga). Rian Johnson gives the movie his own look, expertly balancing every story until it all culminates into one grand finale that will constantly have you jumping out of your seat, ripping your hair out in excitement, begging for it not to end. 

 The cinematography is stunningly gorgeous, with many action scenes, set pieces, or simple camera shots that just pop off of the screen. The ending in particular, which takes place on a salt mine planet, made up of nothing but white, yet with red hidden under the surface is one of the most badass things I have ever seen. (And I can say that happens several times throughout this movies two and a half hour runtime). Johnson gives us the ultimate "Star Wars" epic that fans have been craving for years, but never loses sight of a solid sense of humor. Believe it or not, despite how dark and shocking the movie gets, "The Last Jedi" is also one of the funnier entries in the series, with great dialogue between likable characters, and even a few humorous situations. (Yes, The little penguin-like critters, "The Porgs" are pretty adorable, but never annoy like the "Ewoks" or "Jar Jar" did.)

 Where "Star Wars" has found most of it's success (Aside from lots and lots of merchandising. No wonder "Disney" wanted the rights) is with it's characters, who are elevated by the actors who portray them. First and foremost, despite being a supporting player, this is basically Mark Hamill's movie in the sense that this is his time to truly shine. He is just amazing here, showing how the beloved hero can go from one way to another over the course of time, yet retain his basic personality and even tossing in a little more depth than before. He just commands the screen every moment he appears, in more ways than one. As does the late, great Carrie Fisher, who's role comes across as bittersweet due to her passing last year, but still warms the heart. Daisy Ridley is absolute perfection once again, in a character who's journey takes some unexpected turns. She also happens to have some pretty great chemistry with Adam Driver, who could go down as one of the most compelling villains in the entire saga, going from sympathetic, scary, and even a little funny at times. The writing and the emotional performance somehow make it work in a way that the prequel trilogy admittedly struggled when it came to the characterization of Anakin (Sorry Hayden.)

 Returning cast members all get their moments of greatness, with John Boyega still remaining such a rootable character, Oscar Isaac getting more screentime as before and experiencing his own surprising character arc, the always great Andy Serkis getting to chew some scenery in true motion capture form, along Domhnall Gleeson playing up the smarm like a pro, the always welcome Anthony Daniels (As "C-3PO", everyone's favorite cowardly droid), Gwendoline Christie (as "Captain Phasma", a ruthless, chrome armored Stormtrooper) getting actually more of a role than the fan favorite guy who never did anything ("Boba Fett"), and a funny cameo from Lupita Nyong'o (As "Maz Kanata", a diminutive alien pirate, who sends Finn and Rose on their mission). We also get some memorable newcomers like Kelly Marie Tran, in her first major film role, who is a marvelous addition to the cast, with Laura Dern getting some pretty awesome moments, and Benicio del Toro (as "DJ", a scoundrel with questionable loyalties) clearly having a lot of fun. 

 "The Last Jedi" addresses the concepts of good and evil, and questions how we initially perceive them in a way that's poetic, and to a certain degree somewhat poignant. It throws the audience for a loop, to the point I could really see some people (Nerds mostly) leaving the movie frustrated. Fan theories? Out the window. Predictable plot points? Nowhere to be found. The film really does not go down the conventional route that a "Star Wars" movie normally would, or even a route that most movies would even dare to do. By the end, even I was a little ticked off because I now had no idea where it was all going, and that we have to wait two more years to find out. It's freakin brilliant filmmaking, and Rian Johnson makes it his own, while incorporating it into the larger "Star Wars" universe.

 My only gripe has nothing to do with the movie itself, because the theater I was at had a speaker that was out throughout the entire movie. So at times the music would become louder than the dialogue, or things that were meant to be somewhat distorted, were even more so. Still, I did get to hear the boom of John Williams' reliably amazing musical score, which always sets the epic tone. "The Last Jedi" is powerful, dark, funny, and both heartbreaking and heartfelt (At the same time even), giving moviegoers what they've been clamoring for, and a few things they didn't even know they wanted. It's a real game changer in the multi-million dollar franchise, and sets a new standard for future films to come. Strong with the Force it is. 4 stars, if you haven't figured it out by now. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, Space Milk, Foul Artoo Language, And For Constantly Making The Audience's Jaws Drop. 

Just Getting Started                                           by James Eagan                                              ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for just getting started movieImage: "You wouldn't argue with the voice of God, would you?"

 After four "Four Star" reviews in a row, and weeks of me constantly praising and recommending films to people, it can get a bit tiring. I can only come up with so many adjectives to describe greatness, and my best of the year list can only fit so many movies, so to even it out I pretty much wanted the universe to at least mix it up a little. Throw a little curveball to add a change of pace. How about a movie in December that is terrible enough that it should have been released in January? Well.....Ask and you shall receive I guess....

 "Just Getting Started" begins in an old people paradise called Villa Capri, a retirement community where they all play games, drink, and do all kinds of naughty stuff together. The resident manager, "Duke Diver" (Morgan Freeman) is the most loved guy there, known for being the life of the party and seducing many of the lonely ladies there. But he meets his match when a new resident arrives, "Leo" (Tommy Lee Jones), who seems to have made it his mission to upstage Duke every chance he gets for no real reason.

 Both men also take an interest in the lovely "Suzie" (Rene Russo), who has been sent by corporate to make sure Duke is actually doing his job, and following the standard procedures. It turns out though that Duke is actually on the run, having been put into witness protection after testifying against the mob, and one of the mob wives (A random Jane Seymour appearence) now knows where Duke is and has sent someone to kill him. But that's not really all the important. The movie is just two old farts screwing with each other for about an hour and a half while the target audience gets a nice little nap in the process. 

 "Just Getting Started" is about as lazy and disposable as it's title, where it just never truly gets going. In terms of pacing and actual plotting. The movie just drags along, waiting for something to happen, but never actually figures out where it's going. It seems to be constantly distracted by itself, taking time to focus on random bits of goofiness, which hardly generate any real laughs, or even chuckles. It's thinly written and plotted for a movie that's barely even an hour and a half.  

 Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones are here to basically play characters that they've played before numerous times. While they're not exactly doing a terrible job at it, it doesn't justify how little the film utilizes their talents, and it makes their performances feel like little more than paychecks. Rene Russo luckily comes across as rather cute, showing some charm, and quite frankly is the only one who feels like an actual person compared to the rest of the cast of characters, who are more character types (Such as fat, horny, or stupid) than actual characters. I also have no idea what Jane Seymour (Who appears in three scenes, for a total of two minutes) is actually doing here. 

 Director Ron Shelton feels stuck in a different time as the film looks like it was something meant to come out sometime in the late 90s to early 2000s. "Just Getting Started" has so little to it, with very little going on throughout, and even when the plot actually does happen, it's almost done in such a nonchalant way that it's like the movie itself really doesn't care about itself either. It's nothing more than a last second Pre-Christmas turd to get dropped off before the year ends, and will likely fade away into nothingness in about a week, leaving little of an impact. It's the movie equivalent of Viagra failure. Or does that have a money back guarantee? How the Hell should I know? 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Old People Seduction, Shenanigans, And The Inability To Just Get It Over With.  

The Shape of Water                                               by James Eagan                                          ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the shape of waterImage: "You want me to put the ointment where?"

 You get a four star rating! You get a four star rating! Four star ratings all around! The constant praise I've been throwing around these days isn't just me going soft, it just shows that 2017 has just been a truly good year for film. It's a year for originality, experimental filmmaking, the mixing of genres, and most importantly, the appreciation for the odd and the unique. So yeah, I'm gonna miss giving out these four star ratings come late January/early February when all the crap comes out. 

 "The Shape of Water" takes place in the 1960s, and follows a lonely, sweet natured woman, "Elisa Esposito" (Sally Hawkins), who is mute due to an injury on her neck that she sustained at a young age, that has left a permanent scar. When she isn't hanging out with her equally lonely, gay ad artist, "Giles" (Richard Jenkins), Elisa works the night shift as a janitor with her really talkative friend, "Zelda" (Octavia Spencer) at a top secret research facility. The facility receives a visitor when the unhinged "Colonel Richard Strickland" (Michael Shannon) arrives with a mysterious, fish-man like creature dragged over from South America, known only as "The Asset" (Doug Jones), who Strickland's superiors want to study and experiment on.

 Elisa takes an interest in the strange creature, sneaking in to see it, and bonding with it through sign language. Feeling a strange connection to the creature and learning that Strickland intends to cut him open for experimentation, Elisa devises a plan, recruiting Giles to help her break out the Asset, and save him from a horrible fate. Elisa's relationship slowly begins to grow, blossoming not just a close friendship, but also true love itself. Not that I like you as a friend kind of love. The "You're beautiful on the Swamp Monster inside" kind. 

 From Director Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth", "Hellboy", "Pacific Rim", etc.), "The Shape of Water" brings out the best in his artistic style, with a striking amount of attention to detail, keeping itself grounded, yet whimsical at the same time. It's a dark fantasy, aimed at adults, but teeming with so much heart and occasionally a charmingly eccentric sense of humor. Guillermo del Toro always has had an eye for visuals, art, and set design, and the film bursts with color and graphic flair that just captivates you to the point where you just want to step right into the world that's been created. It's oddly fantastical, yet still finds it's place in a form of reality. 

 The film at times could give the appearance of distracting itself, by once in a while taking time to simply focus on one of the character's lives, but it serves a purpose especially by the end you see what everyone's role was meant to be. It's helped by well written, fleshed out characters, and some terrific actors portraying them. Sally Hawkins, who remains mute throughout, is thoroughly wonderful (Dare I say, enchanting), in how she is able to convey as much emotion as she does, without uttering a single word. (Add her to the long list of excellent actress performances going for Oscar consideration)

 Her relationship with the creature, who Doug Jones brings to life with mesmerizing screen presence, somehow works. It's cute, funny, heartbreaking, and complicated. (Despite his human appearance, he is still slightly animalistic) Michael Shannon's character would almost seem cartoonish, but he is able to turn him into a menacing, vile villain whose moments of humanity make him even more threatening and even scarier than the actual monster. Octavia Spencer just steals whatever scene she's in simply through her own charm, with Michael Stuhlbarg (as "Dr. Robert Hoffstetler", one of the scientists who sees the beauty of the creature, and may also be a Soviet spy) giving an emotionally complex performance, and an absolutely lovable Richard Jenkins, who just brings a smile to your face every time he's on screen. 

 "The Shape of Water" shows themes of love and  humanity, while even exploring some more topical themes. The film is truly a work of art, not just in how it looks, but also how it displays it's emotional soul. I mean, it made me care about the romantic relationship between a woman and a fish man. How did you do that? It's another addition to the long list of examples of excellent filmmaking that this year has had to offer. 4 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Adult Language, Nudity, And Well, The Promotion Of Mixed Species Relationships. 

The Disaster Artist                                               by James Eagan                                         ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "This is going to be the worst film EVER!

 The importance of following your dreams is something we've been taught since we've been kids, and I can bet that many people have dreamed of hitting it big as a movie star or at least someone involved with the filmmaking process. Sometimes you just gotta' go for it. Talent be damned. Forget what the haters think and just simply do what you want to do. Sure, you may make what will be considered one of the worst movies ever made, if not the worst, but hey, you went and did it. That alone deserves a standing ovation if you ask me. Even if you're an eccentric, odd sounding, mutant alien man with an obsessive need to show your ass to the world. 

 Based on the inspiring true story of the greatest filmmaker of our generation, "The Disaster Artist" starts with aspiring young actor, "Greg Sestero" (Dave Franco), while taking an acting class, witnesses for the first time, the man, the legend, "Tommy Wiseau" (James Franco) in the living skin suit. Struggling with stage fright, Greg is immediately drawn to Tommy, who he sees as completely fearless, despite the fact Tommy claims to be the same age as Greg (And looks double that), claims to be from Louisiana (But for some reason has a bizarre European-esque accent), and has a mysterious amount of money that quite frankly, nobody knows where it's coming from. Greg and Tommy soon become friends, bonding over their love of acting and decide to move to San Francisco, where Tommy somehow already has another apartment. (Don't ask. No idea how he already had that.)

 Both Tommy and Greg try and constantly fail at their dream, with Tommy having an especially difficult time because he's a god awful actor and just plain, well, odd. But eventually, Tommy gets the idea to make a real Hollywood movie, writing his own script for a movie he calls "The Room", where he will play all American hero, "Johnny", who gets betrayed by the love of his life, resulting in dramatic, dramaticness that will....I don't know. Nobody really knows what the original intention of the movie actually was. Despite knowing it's pretty much an incoherent mess, Greg agrees to be a part of Johnny's movie, resulting in him being cast as "Mark", Johnny's best friend who sleeps around with his fiancé, "Lisa" numerous times (And acts so shocked every time he does it.) A crew is brought on board, along with more actors, and so begins the making of what would be considered a legendary travesty of truly hilarious proportions. 

 "The Disaster Artist" is actually based on the book of the same name, written by the real Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, which revealed the peculiar and troubled production behind the making of 2003's cult classic, "The Room" (Classic in the sense that it's widely remembered for being so awful), while also focusing on the strange friendship between Greg and Tommy Wiseau. The film explores the story, filling it with humor (Some of it not really even needed since the humor of the situation is funny enough as it is) and finding some honest heart, making the movie also quite touching. 

 The story behind "The Room" is downright insane, but also serves as a rather wonderful testament to the art of filmmaking itself and just plain doing what you love, regardless of what those around you say what you can and can't do. Director, Producer, and Star, James Franco, who if you look at his massive filmography of directed films (Half of which you have and never will see), has clearly seen a connection with Tommy Wiseau, and finds the humanity in his story. By the end, you find yourself oddly warming up to him, even at his most baffling, seeing that he really is just an All American Every Man. (A Man who we know nothing about, says and does bonkers things, and has a ton of money he got from who knows where.)

 Speaking of James Franco himself, you might doubt him at first (Mostly because there isn't a single human in the world who looks and sounds like Tommy Wiseau), but he nails the part, inhabiting the character, and brings out his strangeness and his more erratic behavior, but he also showing why someone would gravitate towards him. He actually comes across somewhat likable and endearing to where you actually feel bad for him when you see the final outcome of his movie. He has excellent chemistry with Dave Franco (His real life brother, if it wasn't already obvious), who also just breathes optimism. We get plenty of fun performances out of a massive cast of actors, who most of which just appear throughout, such as a hilariously deadpan Seth Rogen (as "Sandy Schklair", the script supervisor who is bewildered at what's going on around him), the adorable Alison Brie (as "Amber", Greg's girlfriend), Ari Graynor (as "Juliette Danielle", the actress who plays "Lisa", Johnny's needlessly evil future wife), Josh Hutcherson (as "Phillip Haldiman", the actor who plays "Denny", the little creepy kid who is obviously an adult), Jacki Weaver (as "Carolyn Minnott", the actress who plays Lisa's mother, "Caudette", who definitely has breast cancer), and many more, who I would not want to spoil for you. 

 Say what you will about "The Room", the unintentionally comedy gold mine of ineptitude that it is, but it's certainly had a lasting impact on those who love film. "The Disaster Artist" embraces all of that, while also being hilarious and heartwarming. The messages of friendship and dedication are still strong, even when the actual impact of your work might not be what you expect. It still ends up leaving on a positive note, that is bound to make anyone who loves the movies smile. Hi Doggy! 4 stars. Rated R For Language, Navel Thrusting, Lisa TEARING JOHNNY APART, And Gratuitous James Franco Ass.  

Coco                                                                                 by James Eagan                                       ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: A boy and his....Wait, what the Hell is that thing with the tongue? 

 Please tell me if I'm becoming one of those critics who can't stop giving 4 star reviews, constantly praising to the point you're starting to run out of the right adjectives to use without sounding repetitive, I'm adding yet another film to the already long list of great movies you would even consider buying (Or at least seeing in theaters again), Pixar (And Disney) had to pop up and add another little gem to their already ridiculously impressive filmography. Thanks for making doing my "Best Movies of the Year" list more difficult, Pixar! I stand by my 4 star standards. 

 After a slightly overlong, but cute and funny "Frozen" short (If you're not a fan of "Olaf the Snowman", you're gonna hate this thing), "Coco" follows 12 year old "Miguel" (Anthony Gonzalez), who dreams of being a musician like his now deceased hero, famed musician "Ernesto de la Cruz" (Benjamin Bratt). But his shoe making family, who hates music, due to his deceased great-great-grandmother, "Mamá Imelda" (Alanna Ubach) being abandoned with his still living great-grandmother "Mamá Coco" (Ana Ofelia Murguia) by his mysterious, unknown great-great-grandfather. The family's ban on music is enforced by Miguel's tough "Abuelita" (Renée Victor), who will have none of Miguel's aspirations for music. On "Día de Muertos" (Day of the Dead), Miguel learns from an old photo that his great-great-grandfather may of actually be Ernesto de la Cruz, and tries to tell the rest of his family, who once again refuse to allow Miguel to continue with his dream, resulting in the smashing of his guitar.

 Miguel decides to prove himself in a talent show, sneaking into de la Cruz's mausoleum to "Borrow" his famous guitar, and through mysterious circumstances, ends up finding himself crossing over to "The Other Side", along with a bizarre street dog, "Dante", that he has befriended. Miguel runs into his skeletal dead relatives, along with Mamá Imelda, who agree to send him home through a relative "Blessing",  so long as he abandons music all together. Miguel refuses, setting off with Dante and "Hector" (Gael García Bernal), a bit of a schemer who wants to find a way to cross over to the land of the living, to track down Ernesto de la Cruz and get his blessing instead. Miguel and his friends are left with only until sunrise to find him or else he will end up trapped in the land of the dead forever. 

 "Coco"  is another movie that shows just how much work and effort Pixar will put into their movies, outmatching the rest of the competition with ease. Directed by Lee Unkrich ("Toy Story 3") with some co-direction from the co-writer Adrian Molina, the movie is beautifully detailed, with each frame filled with so much life (You know, for a movie about the dead) and color that you wonder how long and just how the animators were able to truly pull this one off. Visually the screen is filled with the many characters that pop up throughout and the sheer scope of the world presented that you can't take your eyes off the screen for a second without missing something. 

 Music plays a major role in "Coco" and the many songs, along with the score itself is unique and original, while also undeniably wonderful to listen to. The film is also really funny, with the script providing great back and forth dialogue among the characters, while balancing out strong messages of family and of death itself, which despite being sad, is also promoted in a somewhat joyful manner in how it's best to celebrate the departed ones we love and cherish their memories. Although being about death, the movie isn't afraid to get a little dark (In fact, it gets surprisingly heavy in the last act), and in typical Pixar fashion, it still manages to pull on the heartstrings and will probably make even the most cynical of adults tear up just a little bit.

 The unforgettable characters are all played wonderfully by an genuine cast, with Anthony Gonzalez carrying the film, with Gael García Bernal providing great comic relief and heart. Benjamin Bratt is always a welcome addition to most things, and the rest of the authentic group of actors give it their all. The real scene stealer here is the hilariously animated, and absolutely adorable dog Dante, who just cracks me up every second he's on screen. The legitimacy of the cast adds to the way the Day of the Dead is represented, along with the Latino based culture itself, which is done in a very respectful manner that is sure to get more people curious about it. 

 With an immense attention to detail, plenty of good laughs, and a heartfelt and emotional story, "Coco" is another Pixar winner for both kids and adults to enjoy, making for a literal perfect family movie about, well, family. I can see it becoming a family favorite, and like I said before, it sure makes doing my best of the year list much more difficult.  4 stars. Rated PG For Some Adult Jokes, Heavy Material, And For Executive Producer John Lasseter. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri                                by James Eagan                     ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for three billboards outside ebbing missouriImage: One strong mother.  

 I think anyone whose ever lived and/or driven through a small, southern town of any kind, has seen these people before. But too many of these films write them as caricatures. It takes a special script to show the dignity and passion that you will find in so many parts of the country. Just sprinkle in a hint of uncomfortable talk and opinions, and you've pretty much nailed it

 "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" opens with divorced, grieving mother, "Mildred Hayes" (Frances McDormand), who is filled with guilt over the violent rape and death of her daughter a few months prior, along with frustration over the lack of progress the town police has gotten in finding the man responsible. She gets the owner of an advertising agency, "Red" (Caleb Landry Jones), to allow her to rent out three billboards on the outside of town, getting them to read out "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests", "How Come, Chief Willoughby?". This catches the attention of the real, beloved town hero "Sherriff Bill Willoughby" (Woody Harrelson).

 Suffering from pancreatic cancer, Willoughby genuinely does in fact want to solve the case, but just can't seem to find anyone who could possibly be a suspect, while bumbling, bigoted officer/mama's boy, "Jason Dixon" (Sam Rockwell) just plain doesn't like Mildred. The townsfolk also begin to turn against Mildred, in sympathy towards Willoughby, sending her and her son, "Robbie" (Lucas Hedges) countless threats and harassment. Despite this, Mildred has no intention of removing the billboards until she sees justice for her daughter, keeping them up as the police department fumbles around. But Dixon makes it his mission to take down Mildred, and everything eventually just goes to sh*t. 

 "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is the perfect blend of dark and unpleasantness, with laugh out loud humor, and real drama, that hits all the right notes flawlessly. Written and Directed by Marin McDonagh ("Seven Psychopaths" and "In Bruges"), the film takes on the difficult task of humanizing some, lets just say, rather morally complicated characters. There are very few all good characters as most, if not all of them, do and say questionable things. Not even our main protagonist, Mildred is always in the right, to the point you at times question if you should be on her side in the first place despite sympathizing with her. Then again, pretty much everyone else in the town is horrible too. But that's all the intention. The characters are meant to be human, meaning you are going to see their faults, and yet, you can also see the good in them which makes them all pretty unforgettable. 

The excellent cast, who are all their absolute best here, help convey humanity, and of course, are just plain delightful to watch on screen. Frances MdDormand is a guaranteed Oscar nomination for Best Actress (If it doesn't happen, something is wrong in the world). She gives a heartbreaking, powerful, and complex performance that just grabs you instantly, making you empathize, even when she's at her worst. Woody Harrelson gives an emotional and likable performance (He probably is the least unlikable out of everyone), while Sam Rockwell is just terrific, making for probably one of this year's best (And most quotable) characters, who despite occasional moments of horrendousness, does become more fleshed out as she story progresses. The rest of the cast is wonderful, including Lucas Hedges (Who is picking his movies really well lately), Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes (as "Charlie", Mildred's abusive ex husband), and Peter Dinklage (as "James", one of the only decent people in town, who has the hots for Mildred).

 "Three Billboards" never pulls any of it's punches, and yet even in it's darkest moments, finds at least hints of positive light. One of the most intelligently written movies to come out this year, the laughs hit just as hard as the heaving drama, making you uncomfortable in all the ways that it intends to. I'm uncomfortable just writing about it. And that makes it even better. 4 stars. Rated R For Lots And Lots Of Language, Disturbing Material, And Southern "Charm".

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

Image result for the star movieImage: Three wise Camels. 

 So this is gonna' be an easy one. Religious movies, most of which are Christian, are all over the place these days, and most of them are just plain bad to offensively. Most of them are so down, or in some cases really angry at the world, rather than actually promoting the positive messages of love, family, kindness, and all that good stuff that should actually be associated with faith. So it's just nice to see one that's just, well, really happy. My God is a joyous one.

 "The Star" follows the much beloved story of the first Christmas, or more correctly, the birth of the son of God, "Jesus". Except this time from the much needed point of view of the animals involved. We begin with a donkey "Bo" (Steven Yeun), who along with his dove buddy, "Dave" (Keegan-Michael Key) dream of escaping their boring lives and joining the traveling caravan. Their dream takes a different turn when they end up in the care of "Joseph" (Zachary Levi) and "Mary" (Gina Rodriguez), who just so happens to be pregnant with the messiah and future king.

 Their journey to Bethlehem, along with a beautiful and mysterious star that appears in the sky, attracts the attention of the three wise men, traveling with gifts on their camels, "Felix" (Tracy Morgan), "Cyrus" (Tyler Perry), and "Deborah" (Oprah Winfrey), who discover that "King Herod" (Christopher Plummer) isn't taking the idea of a new king very well and has sent a silent enforcer, along with his two vicious (And rather incompetent) dogs, "Thaddeus" (Ving Rhames) and "Rufus" (Gabriel Iglesias) to hunt down the so called future king and kill him. Bo and Dave learn of this, and along with an excitable sheep friend, "Ruth" (Aidy Bryant) decide to protect Mary and Joseph on their journey. 

 "The Star" tells the same story I am pretty sure, every one on the planet has already heard before. Even non-Christians know how this goes. No surprises here, but the movie isn't really about surprises. For what it sets out to do, it's all done fairly well. From Sony Pictures Animation, who you probably remember (And the internet will certainly never let them forget) previously gave us the offensively lazy "The Emoji Movie". Unlike that abomination, this movie at least clever in how it tells it's story. (Aside from a few too many music cues. Pop Christian music is way too in your face for my taste.)

 The animation in "The Star" is nothing remarkable, but it's lively and serviceable. As are the characters, who benefit from some actually pretty talented voicework. Steven Yeun is plenty likable, with Keegan-Michael Key getting more of the laughs. Gina Rodriguez and Zachary Levi both do solid work, while easily the funniest moments come from Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey (A somewhat inspired combination). The large cast, which also includes Kelly Clarkson (as "Leah", a singing horse), Anthony Anderson (as "Zach", an insane goat), Kristin Chenoweth (as "Abby", a mouse who actually witnessed the miracle) among others, all pop up to serve their purpose, but do a good job even with most of them stuck in small parts.

 The movie doesn't really do much that's different from it aside from the talking animals, and even that itself isn't all that original. The film never truly sets itself apart, but with that said, there is nothing here to object to. It's sweet, innocent, with the noblest of intentions, and just feels joyful, which all Christmas movies should feel. Its not going to become a Christmas classic anytime soon, but its harmless and cute fun for the kiddies. 2 1/2 stars and Jesus approved. Rated PG For.....Ok, Seriously. Why Was This Not Rated G? It's An Animated Christian Kids Movie! That Should Of Been A Given. 

Wonder                                                                          by James Eagan                                      ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Mess with this boy and you and I are gonna' throw down.

 We all know kids are the best, always filling the world with wonder and imagination in ways that we stuffy, lame adults just can't seem to do anymore. We also know, on occasion, that they can be incredibly cruel sometimes. All you can hope is that you raise them the right way. Unless you are the parent, and the one responsible for their needlessly mean behavior. Then it's all your fault. You're to blame for how they end up. 

 "Wonder" follows little "Auggie" (Jacob Tremblay), who was born with a facial disfigurement, which while it has caused some minor health problems in his life, it's never affected his good natured, imaginative personality. After being homeschooled his whole life out of fear of what people might think, his parents "Isabel" (Julia Roberts) and "Nate" (Owen Wilson) decide its time that Auggie goes to an actual school, to live a normal life with other children. We follow Auggie's adventures in the school and even a look into the personal mindset of those around him, including a new friend, "Jack Will" (Noah Jupe), who befriends Auggie despite snobby little twerp "Julian" (Bryce Gheisar) setting his sights on bullying poor Auggie.  Auggie's loving sister, "Via" (Izabela Vidovic) feels somewhat neglected by the family, trying to deal with her own problems, which includes her former best friend, "Miranda" (Danielle Rose Russel) seemingly wanting to push her away. We get some insight on a few of these characters, and how knowing Auggie has brought change to their own lives, just as much as his. 

 From Director Stephen Chbosky (Who previously directed "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"), "Wonder" clearly takes a sentimental and tearjerker route in how it tells it's story, yet it finds a way to make it complex, taking time away from our main story simply to focus on our side characters, who all show their own humanity in a way that's really mature for a movie geared towards a young audience. At times because of that, it can seem a bit jumbled (Mostly probably due to being based on a book that likely explained a bit more), but it all does come together once we reach the movie's end.

 Jacob Tremblay has got to be one of the best child actors out there, incorporating some humor, while still giving an emotional performance that never once feels fake. He also has excellent chemistry with Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, and Izabela Vidovic, providing a great family dynamic. Mandy Patinkin has a sweet small role (as "Mr. Tushman", Auggie's kind principal) and all the young actors do fulfill their roles well. It's all thanks to a script that gives some good laughs to balance out the heavy subject matter, which is treated in an at times dark, but fairly realistic manner.

 Leave it to a good family movie to provide some nice, old fashioned feels in a way that's honest without getting too overly sappy. "Wonder" is to put it nicely, wonderful. The film treats the topic of bullying, among those who can be perceived as different respectfully, while also filling the film with a childlike innocence that is sure to connect with many families. Believe it or not, the best movie for me to recommend this week isn't the one with all the superheroes and the explosions. It's the one of those nice, last second surprises that catches you off guard and brings smiles all around to the audience. Auggie's the real superhero. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Bullying And Kids Who Are Just Big "Ol Meanies. 

Justice League                                                        by James Eagan                                       ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Holy Marvel's still better than us, Batman!"

 The DC Extended Universe has had trouble finding it's footing in the world, trying to catch up with their own answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while doing their beloved (And honestly, even more well known) characters justice. It also sucks that for the most part, they've been ridiculed by critics, and in their defense, the movies ("Wonder Woman" and most of "Man of Steel" excluded) have been disappointments in more ways than ones, despite plenty of talent behind them. This put a fan of DC like me in a bit of a pickle right now. There is that side of me that constantly reminds me that I am in fact a DC comics fan who just wants to see these beloved heroes succeed. I have to find the right balance between critic and partisan. I'm still evolving. 

 "Justice League" begins with the world still reacting to the death of the Man of Steel, "Superman" (Henry Cavill). This brings out the arrival of the exiled, power hungry alien general, "Steppenwolf" (Voiced by Ciarán Hinds), who intends to finish what he started many years before, by collecting the three ancient, "Mother Boxes", which are made up of powerful energy capable of reshaping the planet for his master, "Darkseid" (DC comics Big Bad. Look it up.) Realizing that the time as come to bring his team together, the Caped Crusader, "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Ben Affleck) works with his loyal butler, "Alfred Pennyworth" (Jeremy Irons) and his new lovely ally/amazon warrior princess, "Diana Prince/Wonder Woman" (Gal Gadot) to gather up a select few with special abilities.

This elite group of heroes includes nerdy speedster, "Barry Allen/The Flash" (Ezra Miller), alcoholic heir to the Atlantian throne, "Arthur Curry/Aquaman" (Jason Momoa), and cybernetically enhanced college student, "Victor Stone/Cyborg" (Ray Fisher), who survived a tragic accident due to his scientist father, "Silas Stone" (Joe Morton) using a Mother Box to save him. The team is clearly outmatched by Steppenwolf's massive army of fear sensing monstrosities, known as "Parademons", and must learn to put aside their petty differences if they are to save the world, and with the possible arrival as a seemingly deceased friend, they eventually form "The Justice League". 

 Much like the rest of the DC Extended Universe, "Justice League" has been plagued with problems from the start. whether it be nonstop rumors of reshoots, script changes, tone changes, executive meddling, and most tragically, Director Zack Snyder leaving only months before release due to the suicide of his daughter, leading to Joss Whedon (Who previously directed "The Avengers" and "The Avengers: Age of Ultron") to fulfill directorial duties for the remainder of the post production. As many have said, it feels like the movie has been directed by two separate people literally, and it's clear to see that all these problems would affect the finished project in more ways than one. Really, it's a bit of a miracle that the movie is at all coherent, let alone that it even exists at all. 

 "Justice League" has clearly been altered, going for a more lighthearted tone than previous entries in the franchise, The film, to me, benefits from that change. Even with obvious cuts and chopped up scenes (There's gonna' be an Extended Cut, isn't there?), the film keeps itself focused, from point A to point B in a way that's safe and fairly basic, but retains a sense of likability and overall heart, which has been something that's been very much needed for the DCEU. The action is as wild and in your face as ever, but when the movie focuses on our main heroes (And actually shows them being, well, heroic), that's when it truly shines. 

 Ben Affleck is still a great Batman, showing character development since his last appearance, going from rather cruel and battered down to the justice seeking leader of the group. He has some solid chemistry with Gal Gadot, who by this point is still absolute perfection as Wonder Woman. The new additions, though in some ways very different from their comic counterparts, still get proper introductions despite this being their first true appearance in the franchise. Ezra Miller is completely lovable, serving as not only the comic relief, but also the audience surrogate. (Basically, he's what we geeks would be like if we had superpowers.), Jason Momoa is a ton of fun, stealing several scenes, and showing that the character can actually be pretty badass (Yeah I've read the comics. Aquaman is still boring.), and Ray Fisher, who despite mostly being covered in distracting CGI, does bring some actual humanity to his role. It's no spoiler that Superman does eventually return (You knew that, right?), and Henry Cavill, (Who I never thought was bad in the role), gives his best performance this time around, adding in humor, charm, and in a couple moments, some real intimidation. 

 "Justice League" gives us a lot of actors, in small or important parts, that all serve a purpose, including the always adorably charming Amy Adams, the awesomeness that is Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane (as "Martha Kent", Superman's adoptive mother), Connie Nielsen (as "Queen Hippolyta", Diana's mother), J.K. Simmons (as "Commissioner James Gordon", Batman's trusted ally), and Amber Heard (as "Mera", Aquaman's pretty, and badass, future love interest.) Then we get to our villain problem. Ciarán Hinds is doing a fine job and the character is certainly menacing looking, but aside from a few moments, he never really gets much development or motivation, simply serving as a big CGI monster that the heroes need to confront (Then again, I never saw Steppenwolf really do much in the comics anyway, so making him our big bad to get behind was probably a mistake.) 

 The biggest and most distracting flaw with "Justice League" would be the overuse of CGI, which despite the massive budget, really doesn't look at all convincing. Its made worse by the fact that 80% of the movie is CGi, especially when you get to the bombastic finale. Not all of it is bad, some of it looks better than most, and I had trouble noticing that Henry Cavill's mustache had been removed digitally. (Don't ask. Just another production issue.), but when the heavy use of special effects plays such a large part in the film, especially since our main villain and his minions are made up of them, it just puts off the audience and takes them out of the movie. 

 The production problems, many of them understandable, are hard to get away from. But still somehow "Justice League" at least shows a step in the right direction. You can tell which parts were Zack Snyder, and which were obviously added in by Joss Whedon right down to the tone, which ends up coming across as more cheerful, than dark. While that makes the movie more disposable, with lowered stakes, and originality, it does make it more of a joy to watch. The chemistry between our main characters is just too good, and even with the film's many flaws, there is a sense of endearment to it, that just made me smile. It's probably more of a guilty pleasure than an actually good movie, but hopefully its a sign of what good is to come. I can be had, but It's just a movie, right? 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Big CGI Action, Some Language, And....Really, It's Fairly On The Tame Side. 

Lady Bird                                                                       by James Eagan                                   ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for lady bird movieImage: Future Oscar winner.

 I'm going to get real deep here. But sometimes the simplest of stories are the most powerful, giving you the wide variety of emotions that life itself gives you, and presenting it in movie form. We experience a selection of feelings particularly when we're growing up, such as joy, sadness, uncertainty or confusion, constantly worrying about who we will be or where we will go when he finally leave the nest as they say....Heavy, right? It's somewhat uncomfortable when you really think about it. So if I found that way, I can only imagine what young girl just turning 18 would probably feel. Now with "Lady Bird", I got to experience it, and it's way more awkward than I would of thought. Guys have it easy.

 "Lady Bird" takes place in the early 2000s, following the life of a young woman living in Sacramento, "Christine McPherson" (Saoirse Ronan), who goes by the nickname "Lady Bird" (That she gave herself), while she begins to wrap up her Senior year of Catholic High School. Lady Bird goes about her life, demanding more out of it, wanting to get out of her hometown and go to a college as far away and as quickly as possible. Lady Bird is constantly at odds with her mother "Marion" (Laurie Metcalf), arguing with her often and continuously getting into trouble at school.

 She joins the theater club mostly due to falling in love with the nice, theater loving, but possibly gay "Danny" (Lucas Hedges), along with developing another crush on a "Bad boy"  musician "Kyle" (Timothée Chalamet). Lady Bird begins to change even more in these final months, replacing her nerdy BFF "Julie" (Beanie Feldstein) with the popular girl "Jenna" (Odeya Rush), all while secretly trying to get her loving, but unemployed father "Larry" (Tracy Letts) to find a way to get her into a college of her choosing (Meaning, more expensive and further away). Basically the movie is a simple coming of age story of a teenage girl, becoming an independent woman in probably the most realistically awkward way possible.

 Let me just get this out of the way, "Lady Bird", which is slightly semi-autobiographical of Director and Writer Greta Gerwig's own young life, is one of the best films of the year. (Top 5 guaranteed) It could easily go down as one of the best written ones, with so many memorable characters (Right down to basic supporting ones) that the movie occasionally will detour just to give them some slight focus, providing insight into their own life, and therefore making the movie feel more real. 

 "Lady Bird" is how you do the coming of age story in a way that's insightful, funny, sweet, but never in your face with sentimentality, simply presenting our story as it is, and how it should be presented. The dialogue is some of the funniest you'll hear in any movie this year, sprinkled in with some honest heart and emotion, that's never cloying, but sure enough should tug at the heart strings. The feeling that the film presents should be able to relate to anyone, young women in particular, who have all likely felt the way our main character, Lady Bird has from time to time, whether it be the wanting of more, the desire to just get away from where you've lived your entire life, or even the conflicting of strong personalities. The movie gives the most focus on Lady Bird and her mother, who go from happy with each other, to arguing about something out of nowhere, but then reverts back to their contentness, sometimes within a few minutes. (Yeah. I have seen that before.)

 It's the relationships that work best, thanks to the wonderful performances of it's cast, with the absolute perfection that is Saoirse Ronan continuing to impress. She's complicated, but remains lovable and endearing, even when she's at her most troublesome. Her chemistry with Laurie Metcalf is a mother, daughter relationship at it's most touching, with Metcalf giving a strong, and very passionate performance of her own. It's probably one of the best collection of cast members, with some great work from Tracy Letts, a great Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet (Who apparently has Oscar buzz for another film coming out soon), Beanie Feldstein, and a few notable parts from Stephen McKinley Henderson (as "Father Leviatch", Lady Bird's sad music teacher) and Lois Smith (as "Sister Sarah Joan", a mentor of sorts to Lady Bird), all given their share of laughs, drama, and shown in a positive way.

 Briskly paced and straight to the point, "Lady Bird" deals with heartbreak, family, and growing up with Gerwig's direction handling it brilliantly in a way that only a good filmmaker can. Destined to garner many Oscar nominations, and last I checked, still holding a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Seriously, don't let Armond White touch this one. Stop him at all costs.) It's impossible to dislike, easy to relate to, and should become an instant classic. 4 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Lady Problems.

Last Flag Flying                                                      by James Eagan                                         ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for last flag flying movieImage: Three Amigos.

 The story of the old war veteran buddies getting together after years apart has kind of become a classic story. It's been done many times before, of course.Yet to be perfectly honest, I have a soft spot for this stories like this. It's a way of getting to know characters as people, flaws and all, and if there is one director to not only do this story right, but give it the respect it deserves, it's Richard Linklater.

 "Last Flag Flying" opens thirty years after the Vietnam War, with Vietnam veteran, "Larry "Doc" Shepherd" (Steve Carell) tracking down one of his old army buddies, "Sal Nealon" (Bryan Cranston), who always has fairly been on the wild side, especially when it comes to alcohol. Doc convinces Sal to take him to a church where they find another one of their army buddies, "Richard Mueller" (Laurence Fishburne), who has found God and has become a pastor.

 Mueller really wants nothing to do with them, especially Sal, but Doc tells them about his son enlisting into the army and being killed in action while in Iraq, convincing Sal and Mueller to go with him to the funeral. Once they arrive, Doc learns the sad truth about how his son actually died, becoming disillusioned to his government and those who run it, deciding that he wants to take his son home to bury him instead. So the trio embark on a strange road trip, reminiscing about the war and coming to terms with what they did in the past and what they will do in the future. 

 "Last Flag Flying" is based on the book by Darryl Ponicsan (Who also co-wrote the film with Linklater), which is a sequel to his other book, "The Last Detail", making this movie an unofficial sequel to the 1973 film version. (Unofficial meaning "Kind of, but not really") The movie takes a hard, but very heartfelt and often funny look at these complex characters and their history together, along with their reactions to the current world around them. The film takes on issues such as what kind of an impact war (And the almost indescribable horrors you can witness during it) can leave on you, regardless of how much you show it. It also shows how some things about it never truly change in regards to reasons why some wars begin, and why they stick with certain people.

 Our main actors are just perfectly cast, with great chemistry and dialogue with each other. They feel like real people, each with personal, but understandable problems. Steve Carell (Who is having a great year in terms of performances) is undeniably powerful, displaying sadness and grief, which makes his occasional smile and laugh all the more heartwarming. Bryan Cranston is also at his best here, along with Laurence Fishburne (Finally getting a good role) giving intricate, likable, and emotional performances. We also get some excellent work from fairly newcomer, J. Quinton Johnson (as "Charlie", a friend of Doc's deceased son/fellow soldier).

 Despite honestly treading through familiar territory (To the point where some audiences seem to roll their eyes at movies like this), "Last Flag Flying" displays a lot of heart, focusing on veteran brotherhood and keeping your patriotism, even when you don't like who is in charge of your country, or how they're running it. It does so in a way that retains some humor and time taken to allow honest emotion to sink in. I saw the film on Veteran's Day, with an audience full of older people, who all seemed to gravitate towards it. That is a great thing if you ask me. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Subject Matter. 

Daddy's Home 2                                                           by James Eagan                                              ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for daddys home 2 movieImage: "Yeah Mark, I'm shocked we got a sequel too."

 I know "Daddy's Home" was a surprise hit, but it was basically just a trailer idea than an actual movie. There were funny parts here and there, but like most mediocre comedies, it was at least one very funny guy, with one joke stretched to movie length. So why would a pointless sequel really be any different? Aside from being more pointless that is. 

 "Daddy's Home 2" starts off with former rivals, turned BFFs, "Brad" (Will Ferrell) and "Dusty" (Mark Wahlberg) coming together as "Co-Dads" for their kids. Christmas is coming up and they decide to have a Christmas where both families celebrate together as one. Complications arise in the form of Dusty's jackass father, "Kurt" (Mel Gibson), who invites himself over for the holidays, along with the arrival of Brad's overly talkative father "Don" (John Lithgow). Kurt is determined to make things miserable for everyone, so he arranges for the families to stay together in a cabin in the snow. The families both arrive, along with Brad's wife "Sara" (Linda Cardellini), Dusty's wife "Karen" (Alessandra Ambrosio), and their combined kids and step-kids, while Kurt plots to ruin Brad and Dusty's already rocky relationship. Things get even worse when Karen's ex husband "Roger" (John Cena) shows up (Who totally hates Dusty), and more wacky stuff happens from there. 

 "Daddy's Home 2" is more of the same, except this time, a bit more unnecessary than before and probably less funny. The first one wasn't exactly a riot, but there were a couple more laughs present before, where here I swear I laughed maybe once or twice. (The Thermostat joke is easily the funniest. Its an old one that never fails to get a laugh out of me. My Grandpa would have loved it.) Much like the first one however, it's basically a live action cartoon with pratfalls, goofy reactions, and people acting stupid for the sake of stupid.

 Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are both fine together, sharing some decent enough chemistry, with Linda Cardellini being her absolutely adorable self. The casting of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow as the fathers is actually quite inspired. They are nowhere near as funny as they should be, but the movie is more about the idea of what's funny, then what actually is. Overall the plot is something that could be solved fairly quickly, but since this is a stupid comedy, everyone reacts in the most over the top way possible, all leading to a "Climax" that tells you the filmmakers really didn't have much of an endgame in mind.

 While also pointless, "A Bad Moms Christmas" at least had a good heart to it. "Daddy's Home 2" tries to, but doesn't make it feel genuine. The movie feels like an excuse for all the actors to have fun together, crack a few jokes, and goof off. Which is fine really. At least they're having fun. Somebody has to during this movie. It's not exactly painful, you just wonder what's the point of spending ticket prices to watch family holiday dysfunction, when you can get plenty of that at home for free. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Jokes And Ruthless Will Ferrell Abuse. (At Least He Kept His Shirt On This Time.)

Murder on the Orient Express                    by James Eagan                                          ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: I know who done it. 

 Agatha Christie novels were probably the definition of what I would consider as perfect mysteries, particularly the ones about her most popular characters, detective Hercule Poirot. I would say one of the best stories involving him would be "Murder on the Orient Express" (Also, the first of these books I ever read), which is probably why it's been adapted, parodied, and just described to people so many times to the point some already know what's going to happen without actually reading the book. Still, there is a reason why it's so popular and why it's been done so many times, which is probably why I had such a damn good time with this one.

 "Murder on the Orient Express" follows the famed, slightly obsessive detective, "Hercule Poirot" (Kenneth Branagh), who is in desperate need of a vacation (And also happens to have an exquisite mustache). In order to escape any demands for him to take a case, Poirot is given a chance by his friend, "Bouc" (Tom Bateman), who happens to be the director of the famous "Orient Express", to take a three day trip to get away from it all. While on board, Poirot meets a strange variety of characters, including the slimy, thoroughly unpleasant "Samuel Ratchett" (Johnny Depp), who fears he might be in danger and wants Poirot to protect him. Despite being threatened, Poirot refuses. That night, the train ends up caught in an avalanche, leaving the passengers stranded. Poirot stumbles upon Ratchett's murdered corpse and realizing that he just can't get a damn holiday, takes the case to find Ratchett's murderer.

 Poirot begins to investigate all of the subjects, including "Governess Mary Debenham" (Daisy Ridley) and "Dr. Arbuthnot" (Leslie Odom Jr.), who she seems to have a close relationship with, a missionary "Pilar Estravados" (Penélope Cruz), the slightly racist "Gerhard" (Willem Dafoe), the bossy "Princess Dragomiroff" (Judi Dench) and her assistant "Hildegarde" (Olivia Colman), Ratchett's secretary "Hector MacQueen" (Josh Gad) and butler "Edward Masterman" (Derek Jacobi), the flirty "Caroline Hubbard" (Michelle Pfeiffer), "Count Rudolph Andrenyi" (Sergei Polunin) and "Countess Elena Andrenyi" (Lucy Boynton), the conductor "Pierre Michel" (Marwan Kenzari), and salesman "Biniamino Marquez" (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). While looking into the suspects, he begins to see an odd connection to an old, tragic case of a young girl's death, which reveals even more about not just the suspects, but also the victim. 

 Director Kenneth Branagh, despite an occasional change here and there, basically just recreates "Murder on the Orient Express" in a way you've probably seen a dozen times, with very little surprises. But he just happens to do an interesting job with it. The movie is flashy and excited, keeping a solid pace throughout the decently sized runtime. The plot is simple and old fashioned, almost to a fault, but we really don't get movies like this anymore. (Last murder mystery I saw was "The Snowman", and that was a piece of crap.) It's hard not to have a little fun, especially when you already know what happens and you see if anyone else can figure it out for themselves.  

Kenneth Branagh does just as excellent a job in front of the camera as he does behind it, giving an utterly brilliant and incredibly entertaining performance that just makes you want to watch his continuing adventures. We get some great work from the rest of the massive cast, with some standouts being the lovely Daisy Ridley, a delightful Willem Dafoe, the always wonderful Johnny Depp, a wisely toned done and sinister Johnny Depp, and a shockingly excellent performance from Josh Gad. (Had no idea Olaf could pull off a dramatic scene like that.) Some could see Michelle Pfeiffer as somewhat hammy, but there is at least an explanation for that later in the movie.

 There are a few unnecessary bits, such as an out of nowhere chase scene or an attempt at an action sequence, and overall "Murder on the Orient Express" isn't anything new and doesn't even try to be. However, the film has a nice, quirky sense of humor, is thoroughly fascinating, and even though I knew what was going to happen in the end, I still found myself on the edge of my seat by the climax. You do wish we could get more movies with this mindset, going for good old fashioned thrills that Hollywood just seems to want to avoid these days. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Disturbing Images, And Multiple Stabbings.  

Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!              by James Eagan                                           ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★


Image: "With this feather, we can tickle Blastoise until he Squirtles!"  

 I'm gonna let all of you in on a little secret. A deep, dark secret that I have kept hidden for some time now......I used to be a Pokémon fan. Like a really big Pokémon fan. As in, I watched nearly episode of the original series, owned a closet full of cards, video games, and toys, and even memorized the original 151 Pokémon by heart. Then like a Facebook friend I knew from high school, we just drifted apart without even realizing it. Still, there are some nostalgic memories that truly never go away.....Pika Pika. 

 In a world where all animals are actually Pokémon, creatures that come out of little balls, and are used for training and battle,"Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!" is basically a retelling (Retooling? Redoing?) of the fateful meeting of the humorously named, young protagonist who never ages, "Ash Ketchum" (Sarah Natochenny) and his trusty, spunky, and all around lovable first Pokémon, "Pikachu" (Ikue Ōtani). Despite a rocky start, Ash and Pikachu become the best of friends, sharing an inseparable bond. Once Ash begins his journey to become the greatest Pokémon master (His mom did say to dream big.), he witnesses a glimpse of the mysterious "Ho-Oh", a rare bird like Pokémon, that leaves one of it's rainbow feathers behind for Ash to take.

 Sometime later, Ash and Pikachu befriend fellow trainers (Not Misty and Brock, because they no longer exist apparently), "Verity" (Suzy Myers) and "Sorrel" (David Oliver Nelson). They decide to join Ash and Pikachu as they learn about the legend of the Rainbow feather and it's connection to the legendary Ho-Oh. Setting out to find him, they come across an abused "Charmander" (Fire Pokémon), Ash's develops a relationship with a "Caterpie" (Bug Pokémon), and meet a stereotypical jerky trainer, "Cross" (Voice Actor Name Unavailable). Also, wannabe baddies/members of the crime gang "Team Rocket", including "Jessie" (Michele Knotz), "James" (Carter Cathcart) and their talking cat Pokémon "Meowth" (Also Carter Cathcart) show up to constantly get themselves blown up. 

 "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!" is the twentieth Pokémon movie, which is also meant to celebrate the franchise's twentieth anniversary. (Now I feel old....) (It's also the first  Pokémon related thing I've been a part of in years. Haven't even touched a card or played a game in who knows when.) So it was quite the nostalgic trip to see Ash and Pikachu on the big screen once again. (Especially since I saw the original "First Movie" back in 1999.) It's honestly about as cheesy and goofy as I remember. From the dialogue, the voice work, the film basically embraces the narm and campiness, to the point it's fairly charming in it's own bizarre way. 

 The plot of "I Choose You!" is pretty episodic, recapping (And well, just retelling) emotional moments from the original show, with a few bigger plot points added in, along with our new characters, Verity and Sorrel, who are likable, but don't add much (While Cross is just here to be our bully character, who is just a laughable, walking cliché.) The real stars have (And always will be) Ash and Pikachu, whose relationship is undeniably heartwarming, and I do like that the other side Pokémon, like Charmander (Who eventually becomes Charizard) and Caterpie (Who eventually becomes Butterfree) are given their own emotional story arcs. And Team Rocket's inclusion is mostly here for comic relief, but they're still so pathetically bad at being, well, bad, that they're just plain lovable. 

 The movie leads up to a last second "Wham Line" in the climax, that got a mix of laughter, audible gasps, and people bursting out in tears from the audience. It was so pure, apologetically cheesy that it's kind of commendable in how seriously it's taken and delivered, which basically sums up the movie as a whole. "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!" is thinly plotted, with little reason to exist aside from the nostalgic factor, and is campy as you can possibly get, but it's so earnest in it's execution, that it's hard to dislike. The animation is beautiful to look at, there are good messages, and a genuine heart that should please longtime fans and most importantly, will make the kiddies happy. It's a goofy, but well intentioned kids movie that offers enough good morals and good nature to recommend. I'm honestly just glad I got to see something I grew up with continue to remain in the limelight. I'll hold them in my Poké Balls forever. 2 1/2 stars. Not Rated, But It Feels Like A Solid G Rating. 

Thor: Ragnarok                                                      by James Eagan                                       ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Hulk Want Infinity War Trailer NOW!" 

 When it comes to the immense success of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", the weakest link has always been the mighty "Thor". Now his first two movies ("Thor" and "Thor: The Dark World") are far from bad, (In fact, I'll still say they are genuinely good, entertaining superhero flicks). They have just felt less necessary to the grand scheme than the others. So maybe a bit of an overhaul (And a heavy dose of comedy) was the best decision they could of made. Thor needed to chill out.

 "Thor: Ragnarok" begins with the God of thunder, "Thor" (Chris Hemsworth) traveling to find out who's manipulating all the bad events through the film series, along with getting over no longer dating Natalie Portman. (I feel ya' dude.). His journey takes him to the lair of a fire demon, "Surtur" (Voiced by Clancy Brown), who warns of the incoming "Ragnarok" (Which means the apocalypse for Asgard). Thor returns home to Asgard to discover that his mischievous brother, "Loki" (Tom Hiddleston) has been posing as their father, "Odin" (Anthony Hopkins). Thor forces Loki to return to Earth with him to find Odin, and after getting some help from a cameo from "Doctor Strange" (Benedict Cumberbatch), they find out where Odin has been exiled.

 But the reunion doesn't last long when Odin confirms that Ragnarok is coming, in the form of Thor's older sister/the Goddess of Death, "Hela" (Cate Blanchett), who claims that Asgard belongs to her. After destroying Thor's magic hammer, Hela defeats both Thor and Loki and proceeds to take over Asgard and return it to it's conquering ways. Meanwhile, Thor winds up on planet of gladiators, run by "The Grandmaster" (Jeff Goldblum), who wants Thor to become part of his arena. Thor ends up being reunited with (And takes a serious beating from) "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk" (Mark Ruffalo). Thor plans to return to save Asgard from Hela, gathering a team consisting of Banner, Loki, and disgraced warrior, "Valkyrie" (Tessa Thompson) to return to Asgard before Hela sets her sights on the rest of the universe. 

 "Thor: Ragnarok" takes a bit to find it's footing, seeming a bit clunky in the opening few minutes, especially when it has to do away with some ongoing elements from the first two. But the second the film realizes what it's going for, it's a constantly moving, absolute blast till the explosive finish. Going full blown comedy gives everyone, including the audience, some of the most enjoyment you can possibly get out of a superhero movie, along with some of the most laughs. 

 From Director Taika Waititi,(Known for a lot of weird, quirky comedies), the movie embraces the bizarre, reveling in some freaky imagery and goofy scenarios, never taking itself too seriously. (There's a freakin' Willy Wonka reference in this.) He takes the movie down a route that is actually pretty risky, but it actually all works out for the better, mostly because the movie is just laugh out loud hilarious. Visually, it's Marvel at it's most colorful, with the effects on the Hulk (Who is more prominent here than in any of the other films) by this point are quite flawless and lively. 

 Chris Hemsworth is Thor (And he always will be), coming across as incredibly lovable, funny, and thoroughly awesome. He has some great back and forth with Tom Hiddleston, who is at his most enjoyably weasely. Mark Ruffalo is absolutely perfect. Cate Blanchett just devours the scenery and is having the time of her life doing it. (And yes, she is just ridiculously hot. How has anuone not noticed that through the years?) Karl Urban (as "Skurge", an Asgardian who works with Hela to save himself) is a delight, along with Jeff Goldblum, who is basically just playing Jeff Goldblum. (But is that really a bad thing?) Tessa Thompson is actually not here just to be a new replacement love interest (In fact, there isn't a romantic subplot at all), becoming a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe, and she gets to have just as much fun as the guys do. The biggest show stealer comes from Taika Waititi himself (as "Korg", a rock gladiator who becomes friends with Thor), getting some of the biggest laughs. Sadly, Idris Elba (as "Heimdall", the former gatekeeper, turned resistance leader) and Anthony Hopkins get about as much to do as they've had in any of the previous movies. (Luckily this time, they do serve a purpose to the story)

 "Thor: Ragnarok" might not be one of Marvel's best when it comes to storytelling, even though it feels a bit more important than the previous "Thor" films. But it does utilize one of Marvel's biggest strengths, which is just having a good sense of humor about itself. Not to mention a crazy finale that feels a bit more well thought out the more I think about it. (Oh, so that's what Ragnarok really meant?) Its enough fun for the casual fans, the comic nerds and geeks, and the average moviegoers to all enjoy. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, The Mandatory Christ Hemsworth Shirtless Scene, And The Devil's Anus. (It makes sense in context) 

A Bad Moms Christmas                                         by James Eagan                                           ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Now that's a happy Santa. But where are his bag of goodies?

 Alright, lets keep this one short and simple. Because as far as movies like this go, I'm not a Bad Mom, so I'm not the main demographic for this film. Much like the first film, there definitely are plenty of people who are going to just love the Hell out of this. And despite the more negative reception from critics, lets be honest, is this really that different from the last one? I think all of the good Mom's have earned it.

 "A Bad Moms Christmas" starts with the "Bad Moms" from the first movie, "Amy" (Mila Kunis), "Kiki" (Kristen Bell), and "Carla" (Kathryn Hahn) deciding to do away with all the stress that comes around Christmas time, and just keep everything simple. (While once again engaging in raunchy activities) Everything seems to be going great until the arrival of their own Mothers, including Amy's overly critical Mother "Ruth" (Christine Baranski), Kiki's crazy and overly affectionate Mother "Sandy" (Cheryl Hines), and "Isis" (Susan Sarandon), Carla's Mother who only shows up when she needs money. Now our Bad Moms must juggle their own Mommy problems, along with family issues, and other wacky antics as the most wonderful time of the year draws closer.

 "A Bad Moms Christmas" is basically "Bad Moms", except on Christmas, Its silly, dirty, lacking much actual plot, and is mostly there to make your Mothers madly cackle in the theater with her friends. But it's also made by people who understand their audience, with actors who don't sleepwalk through the film,a couple decent laughs, and a heart that feels genuine. I know I should hate this movie, but aside from just being unnecessary, there's nothing really to hate.

 The laughs are mostly cheap, and certainly are as raunchy as you can get, but you do get an occasional chuckle out of them, especially thanks to the chemistry of the cast. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn are a hoot together, and they give the movie actual life and likability. With Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, and Christine Baranski all being perfectly cast as our main characters' Mothers (With Baranski getting probably the best laughs in the entire movie). Our cast is here to bring good nature to all the dirty humor, which makes the film's good intentions ring true. 

 If you liked the first "Bad Moms", then you should logically have a good time with "A Bad Moms Christmas". It doesn't really need to be here. However, its a lowbrow, but sweet little diversion that will probably make your Mamas happy. Isn't that good enough? Do you not want your Mama to be happy? 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Santa Strippers, Dick Cookies, Vagina And Ball Waxing, And Stuff You Don't Want To Think About Your Mom Doing. 

Suburbicon          by James Eagan           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for suburbicon movie imagesImage: MATT DAY.....Actually, he doesn't look too happy. Better not upset him more. 

 Sometimes even the best of talent just gets it wrong. Even when they're at their most ambitious, they can forget about the most important (And basic) forms of plot and story structure. Sorry, George. It just didn't work. Critics didn't care for your movie, and neither did audiences. 9th at the Box Office, with less than $3 million. Tough life. Gosh, you don't want to grow up to be like George Clooney, do you?

 "Suburbicon" takes pace in 1959, in the peaceful town of "Suburbicon" full of sunshine, happiness, and white people. (Lots and lots of white people.) The world of the townsfolk starts to crumble the second an African American family moves in, sending the people into a panic. Meanwhile, the home of "Gardner Lodge" (Matt Damon) is broken into, where two robbers (Alex Hassell and Glenn Fleshler) tie up Gardner, his blonde wife "Rose" (Julianne Moore), her red haired twin sister "Margaret" (Julianne Moore, obviously), and his son "Nicky" (Noah Jupe). The robbers chloroform the family, giving Rose an overdose and killing her.

 While Nicky's loving uncle "Mitch" (Gary Basaraba) insists on getting to the bottom of this, Nicky's life starts to take a weird turn. While he befriends the son of the African American family, Margaret sticks around at home and dyes her hair blonde like his dead mother. Soon, the arrival of an insurance agent "Bud Cooper" (Oscar Isaac), and the townspeople on the verge of a riot due to the "Colored" neighbors sends everything in this so called utopia descends into chaos. 

 "Suburbicon" is what happens when you cram too many, almost unconnected ideas into one complete package, without really focusing on any of them. Director George Clooney wants to make a dark comedy, a social satire, with commentary on racism, while tossing in a plot about murder and a mystery surrounding it. It's just too much of everything, that nothing gets enough attention. Which is a shame because on their own, you could have a lot of fun with these premises on their own, poking fun at them in a darkly comedic way. But the film just becomes a jumbled mess. 

 The script that, along with Clooney and frequent collaborator Grant Heslov, is co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, guarantees there will be a fair share of quirky comedic moments, even in some of the more violent, disturbing scenes. There are moments where it does somewhat come together. it's just not often enough, and most of the time, you feel like shouting at the screen for it to just pick a story and roll with it. All the plot points don't always mesh, leaving the audience confused as to what's happened and what's the point of it all.

 Matt Damon and Julianne Moore (Who looks pretty cute with red and blonde hair) are both doing a solid enough jobs. The real scene stealer is Oscar Isaac, who only gets a handful of scenes, but gets the best laughs and just livens up the screen just with his charisma alone. The movie focuses a bit too much on young Noah Jupe, and simply leaves the African American family as nothing more than a detour, getting little to no focus or characterization. (Really, that should of been the main plotline.)

 "Suburbicon" is trying to say something, but it's something we've seen done before, and much better. And when you botch that up, it just makes the final product even more disappointing. Its unfocused and doesn't have enough  laughs to really sell the satire. Its just too ambitious for it's own good. Everyone involved will recover. Just a misfire.2 stars. Rated R For Language, Casual Racism, And White People Slang. 

Jigsaw                by James Eagan           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: A Jawa begins his murderous rampage. "Utinni!!!"

 Ah, "Saw". One of the newer horror icons that struck a cord with many horror fanatics very quickly. For a while, there was a new one every year, around Halloween, with it becoming somewhat of a staple of the holiday. While I never actually saw any of them before this new sequel/reboot/cash grab, I still mostly thought it was just gross torture porn that basically ruined the horror genre for nearly a decade. Not saying I was particularly wrong, but being someone left with no choice but to look at a film objectively, I gotta give credit where it's due. Eh, Somehow less revolting and uncomfortable to sit through than "Boo 2!"

 "Jigsaw" opens with an arrest and the investigation of a recent murder, which sets up a supposed "Game" revealing that more will die gruesomely in a way that bears a resemblance to the brutal style of the now deceased, infamous serial killer, "John Kramer" (Tobin Bell), also known as "Jigsaw". Detective "Halloran" (Callum Keith Rennie) investigates the case, with assistance from forensic pathologists, "Logan" (Matt Passmore) and his cute assistant/weird Jigsaw fangirl, "Eleanor" (Hannah Emily Anderson).

 Meanwhile, five people wake up in a barn (And a creepy pale puppet), strapped to torture devices, being forced by Jigsaw to partake in his game and confess their sins to survive. The group includes "Anna" (Laura Vandervoort), "Mitch" (Mandela Van Peebles), "Carly" (Brittany Allen), "Ryan" (Paul Braunstein), and some other guy who gets sawed to bits. The remaining four must survive the game, while confronting their demons while the investigation into the supposed reappearance of Jigsaw raised the question as to if this is just a copycat, or the real Jigsaw has somehow risen back from the grave.  

 "Jigsaw" is in some ways what you are expecting, with a lot of gross out sequences, with characters suffering through over the top torture devices, while others try to figure out a way to stop the killer. its pretty basic as far as movies like these go. The interesting thing here though is that the movie goes for trashy fun, only on occasion actually succeeding at it, with a big plot twist and reveal that could hands down be the biggest shock I've had in a movie in a while. (Seriously, freakin "Jigsaw" actually shocked me.)

 Directed by The Spierig Brothers, who direct the film pretty basically, but with a few moments of flair (And bad CGI), "Jigsaw" is mostly there to give the fans what the want, without any intention to draw in anyone new. Gore and blood are splattered all over the place in grotesque fashion, yet it seems oddly toned down than what I was expecting. (Maybe I was just expecting worse.) The characters are there to serve their purpose with plenty of mediocre performances that have been trademarked by this franchise. 

 Callum Keith Rennie gives one of the more entertaining performances in the movie, piling on some good smarm and snarkiness to his character. Matt Passmore is our bland as Hell protagonist, with our victims doing little more than screaming (And dying), with Paul Braunstein not giving a crap in the slightest to the point it makes his constantly loutish performance slightly enjoyable. Hannah Emily Anderson is oddly cute (In that torture porn fanatic sort of way), and an uncredited Tobin Bell (Who does show why the character has become a popular horror icon) brings a menacing presence every time he's on screen (Or whenever you hear his voice.).

 While I'm not exactly changing my opinion on how damaging this franchise could be (There are some real sickos out there who get off to this crap), but I can see how "Jigsaw" could be seen as enjoyable garbage, especially with a couple moments of dark humor (But not nearly enough). The premise is interesting to say the least, and towards the end, we do get some clever character reveals, along with a plot twist that at least shows that the filmmakers did at least put some thought into this. (Also on a side not, there was not a single jump scare in this entire movie. Gotta' give credit to that.) If you're a fan, you're probably gonna eat this up (And vomit it back up afterwards), so it doesn't matter what I say. I'm just being fair when I say, "Jigsaw" is not horrible, or even that bad. It's what you pay for. Why you look forward to it is your problem. 2 stars. Rated R For Squishy Guts, Melted Faces, Slicey Slices, Stabby Stabby, And Other Ways You Can Violate The Human Body. 

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