In Theaters: The Sun Is Also A Star, A Dog's Journey, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Poms, The Hustle, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, The Intruder, Long Shot, UglyDolls, Avengers: Endgame, The Curse of La Llorona, Breakthrough, Little, Hellboy, Missing Link, The Best of Enemies, Pet Sematary, Shazam!
Coming Soon: Aladdin, Booksmart, Brightburn, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ma, Rocketman, Dark Phoenix, The Secret Life of Pets 2, Late Night, Men in Black International, Shaft, Toy Story 4, Child's Play, Anna, Yesterday, Annabelle 3, Spider-Man: Far From Home
★★★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: ""This new Maroon 5 album is amazing!"
Another day, another cheesy young adult romance novel turned into film. There's an audience for it, mostly consisting of young girls looking for something dreamy. They also usually involve some kind of depressing subject matter or someone on the verge of death. (Guess that really gets them going.) We have one here that appears to be trying to go for something a little different. Which is good, because these movies are bringing me the Hell down, man.
"The Sun Is Also A Star" follows two young adults, "Natasha Kingsley" (Yara Shahidi) and "Daniel Bae" (Charles Melton). Natasha is a physics student, with a very fact based outlook on life, looking for a way to prevent her and her family from being deported back to Jamaica. Daniel is more of a dreamer, hoping to become a poet despite his parents having decided that he will become a doctor ever since the day he was born. While Natasha goes to meet with a lawyer (John Leguizamo) to reopen her family's case to stay in America and Daniel goes out for his college interview, the two end up having themselves a "Meet-Cute" (You know the term. When a couple meets in silly, cutesy fashion. Hasn't happened to me yet.) Natasha isn't much of a believer in fate and love, and Daniel is determined to prove the existence of such things to her. Asking for one day to get Natasha to fall in love with him, Daniel and Natasha spend the day together, with it becoming apparent that there is a clear connection between the two. Sadly, real life starts to rear its ugly head, threatening a possible relationship between these love birds.
Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon (She also wrote the original novel for that other romance, "Everything, Everything") "The Sun Is Also A Star" doesn't so much change up the typical romantic novel based formula. It just happens to do a better job with it than others, though throughout the film, there are shining moments that show it actually could of achieved something much better. Directed by Ry Russo-Young ("Before I Fall"), the film is shot beautifully, and the cinematography is absolutely stunning, which for a film like this, isn't necessary, but is very much welcome. The direction adds a sort of fairy tale like, glossy look to the film, which on a way feels fitting to what the story is supposed to be. The screenplay by Tracy Oliver ("Girls Trip", "Barbershop: The Next Cut") offers some moments of insight and the occasionally funny line, but can't resist falling into sappiness and even a little pretentiousness with its themes of fate and love. (It's the kind of dialogue where you want to shout at the screen "We get it already!")
Where at times, the script falters, the chemistry between our two promising leads is very much a highlight. Yara Shahidi ("Black-ish", and its spin-ff "Grown-ish") is terrific, with a compelling storyline that's easy to understand and relate to. Charles Melton ("Riverdale") is charming, and you can see how these two, despite some differences, could find each other and find a connection. (Although his lips are incredibly distracting. You hinge on every word he says simply because your eyes can't help but focus on them.) John Leguizamo is good, though its very obvious where his character goes and it's pretty hard to believe. (Nothing is THAT coincidental.) Another solid part comes from Jake Choi (as "Charles", Daniel's antagonistic older brother), whose plotline does add a little conflict and doesn't end the way expected. (They don't force a villain where it isn't needed.)
By the numbers for the most part, "The Sun Is Also A Star" avoids most of the melodrama that plagues films like it. Nobody is dying, there isn't some evildoer trying to get in the way, and the contrivances are limited. (They're still there though. It's a staple of this genre.) The film ends up concluding on a surprisingly mature, realistic note that's unique and dare I say poetic. It really is a heartfelt, fitting way to end the film......And then it makes the mistake to keep going. The film truly ends on the most basic of notes, which while not bad exactly, it's just unnecessary and feels like the filmmakers didn't have the balls to commit. In the end, it's a fantasy, though not a bad one. However, you do feel like it could of been more if it really wanted to be. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Lovey-Dovey Talk.
Image: The new face of Hollywood.
With 2017's "A Dog's Purpose" and earlier this year's "A Dog's Way Home", I'm starting to see this has the start of a new cinematic universe that I have personally dubbed as "The Dead Dog-Verse". Seriously, these movies have body counts that could rival the three "John Wick" movies. (They certainly killed more dogs than those movies did.)
"A Dog's Journey" once again follows the reincarnated lives of a dog named "Bailey" (Voiced by Josh Gad), and the people he meets throughout his many lives. Currently, he's still living with his original owner, "Ethan" (Dennis Quaid) and his wife, "Hannah" (Marg Helgenerger), who have also allowed Hannah's daughter in law "Gloria" (Betty Gilpin) and her young daughter, "CJ" (Played by Emma Volk as a toddler, Abby Ruder Fortson as a child, and Kathryn Prescott as a young adult) to stay with them. While Gloria wallows in self pity due to the death of CJ's father, Ethan, Hannah, and Bailey are the ones that bond with CJ. Gloria eventually decides that she wants to live her miserable life elsewhere, taking CJ with her and refusing Ethan and Hannah to see her. When Bailey becomes ill, Ethan asks that Bailey find his way to CJ after he dies to take care of her. Bailey is then brought back as "Molly", a playful beagle, "Big Dog", a lazy, always hungry boerboel, and "Max", a snippy terrier. As these new dogs, Bailey follows CJ as she grows up, being there for her in her times of need.
Based on the book of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron (Also serving as a Co-Writer for the film), "A Dog's Journey" is unlike "A Dog's Way Home", an actual, direct sequel to "A Dog's Purpose". The movie is just as sentimental and just as uncomfortably dark as the previous film, complete with puppy cuteness and tonally inconsistent moments of death and despair. Granted, by this point, it kind of comes with the territory. But unlike the first film, this one follows a more straightforward structure. "A Dog's Purpose" followed a series of mini-plots that eventually led up to the final one which brought the opening story to a conclusion. The film was pretty sloppy, with not much time given to each storyline. This film only has one arc that just stretches over the course of four dog lives, which while very predictable, does at least allow for some actual development.
Josh Gad's voice over, while at times getting a little too goofy for a movie that has so many heavy moments, is still fairly inspired. He really does the kind of voice that matches the personalities of these dogs. The dogs themselves are utterly adorable, with the scene-stealer being Max, who gets the most screentime out of all of them. (Considering I own a little dog, this is an accurate portrayal of how they basically take command over everyone.) Dennis Quaid is very good in his limited screentime, along with a solid Henry Lau (as "Trent", CJ's childhood friend/love interest). Meanwhile Betty Bilpin is ridiculously vile, but she does a fantastic job at it, and even gets to have moments of humanity later in the film. Our main human character, CJ, is a likable lead, with Abby Ryder Fortson and Kathryn Prescott both giving wonderful performances. Here is where the heart of the film really does work, and while the film certainly embraces its cheesiness, it's still emotionally heartfelt and genuinely sweet.
Surprise free, with the feel of something you should be watching on TV rather than in theaters, "A Dog's Journey" is silly and builds to a conflict-free last act. It's melodramatic, and, unlike "A Dog's Way Home", this one actually doesn't fully commit to the darker aspects, likely due to having less ambition than that film. However, the film does oddly work, whether it be the lighthearted humor, some effective drama, and better than average acting. The film, like the dogs, is too relentlessly cute to dislike. It ends on a slightly confusing, yet heartwarming note that will give any dog lover exactly what they paid for. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Adorable Puppies, Death Of Said Puppies, Physical And Emotional Abuse, And A Little Dose OF Cancer Thrown In There. For The Family!
Image: I've seen Halle Berry in a vision, but Keanu Reeves wasn't in it.
One thing I've come to learn having been reviewing movies for over nine years is that Keanu Reeves is kind of a strange anomaly. (My introduction to him was in the massive 2013 flop, "47 Ronin") For a while, he was going through a slump in his career, and the film to inject life and give it a massive jump start came from the unlikeliest of places.In the form of an action movie where a man seeks revenge for the death of his cute little puppy. Never would of seen that one coming. Now we have one of the best action film franchises in the last ten years, if not more.
"John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" follows the continuing adventures of former legendary hitman, "John Wick" (Keanu Reeves), aka "The Bogeyman" aka "Baba Yaga". (The guy who killed someone with a pencil. A f*cking pencil!) John has had a rough couple movies, having lost his wife, his new puppy getting killed, leading to him going on a quest for revenge. However, things got more complicated and he was forced out of retirement permanently. After killing a member of the "High Table" (The mysterious superiors of this hitman centered world) on the premises of the hotel for hitmen, "The Continental", John is now on the run (Along with his dog, named er, "Dog".), having been declared "Excommunicado" with a bounty on his head of $14 Million.
Everyone, everywhere is after is after John, with him taking on hordes and hordes of would be assassins, resulting in him traveling to Casablanca in search of safety. John teams up with an old acquaintance, "Sofia" (Halle Berry) to escape the contracted killers hot on their trail. Meanwhile, The High Table sends in "The Adjudicator" (Asia Kate Dillon) to deal with John's allies, such as the manager of the Continental, "Winston" (Ian McShane) and the ruler of a group of homeless assassins, "The Bowery King" (Laurence Fishburne). The Adjudicator also hires sword happy killer/John Wick fanboy, "Zero" (Mark Dacascos) and his group of ninjas to finish John off for good. Loyalties are tested and the consequences of past actions are confronted.
With stuntman turned director, Chad Stahelski (Having brought us both previous "John Wick" movies), returning to direct once again, "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" is the third, and craziest entry yet. It also continues the series' streak of over the top, brilliantly choreographed action, slick and stylized direction, and an intricate amount of attention to world building. It's also completely awesome! The film expands on the established world of assassins and hitmen, having previously set things up in the first film, explaining more of how the system works in the second, and now showing just how far it extends across the world. The scope of the film, thanks to Stahelski's direction, takes up every inch of the screen, and needs to be viewed in the biggest theater possible. The action, which rarely relies on much CGI, is the definition of insane. In the first few minutes, we see a man get forcefully fed the thickest book you could find and a horse essentially used as weapon. From that point on, things only escalate as the film never stops to take a breath till the very end.
All of the aggressively bonkers violence wouldn't be enough if we didn't have an action hero to root for. Keanu Reeves, showing a remarkable amount of humanity with a simple stare, has made for one of the most relatable action movie heroes in recent memory. Sure, he can take on legions of experienced killers, going through them all like a video game character, but the fact that he does so, while getting the absolute crap beaten out of him, makes him more compelling. The reasons behind the character's plight makes John likable, and the further implied history only adds a little extra mystery to the character's origins, while not overdoing it with a needless amount of lore and backstory. Mark Dacascos is as violently villainous as he is hilarious, spending his downtime not killing to geek out over how much he's been wanting to meet John Wick. Halle Berry (Looking as lovely as ever), only appears for a portion of the film, but she steals the show. (Along with her dogs during a cathartic sequence that will have any dog lover cheering.) Asia Kate Dillon is a fascinating new addition, and Ian McShane returns to do what he does best, which is play Ian McShane, and it's always delightful. There are some great small parts for a wonderfully over the top Laurence Fishburne, Angelica Huston (as "The Director", a woman with ties to John's past), Lance Reddick (as "Charon", the concierge at the Continental), and Saïd Taghmaoui (as "The Elder", the man above the "High Table"). One of the most memorable sequences comes from a violent, yet humorously gentlemen-like fight between John and two of Zero's henchmen (Played by Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman).
Loyalty is a major theme this time, and it seems fitting considering this all started with the death of an adorable little puppy. "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" is non-stop action, with plenty of time for memorable characters and a wickedly dark sense of humor. It's relentless in its carnage, yet oddly beautiful in execution. The only downside is that it ends on such a quick, almost conclusion free note. Granted, it appears to be set up for another chapter, and if they keep the consistency of this series going, I'm all for it. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Bloody Death By Gun, Knife, Sword, Car, Book, Horse, Dog.....Basically Anything And Everything.
Image: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader tryouts are open to everyone this year.
By this point in my non profit, movie critic career, I've learned something about films targeted to a certain audience that I have no business being a part of. I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not an old lady, heading out to a girls movie night with by gal-pals, ready to laugh, cry, and clap. But, I think I've learned that sometimes, you don't need to be in the right demographic to tell if something is good.....You can also tell when it sure as Hell isn't.
“Poms” opens with the recently Cancer diagnosed, “Martha” (Diane Keaton), moving to a retirement community mostly so she can die in peace. However, the community is essentially under the tyrannical rule of “Vicki” (Celia Weston), who demands that everyone join a club of some sort. Having always had an interest in becoming a cheerleader as a young girl, Martha gets the idea to start up a cheerleading club with her with her nosy, overly hyperactive neighbor, “Sheryl” (Jacki Weaver). The club comes together nicely at first, with other community members such as “Alice” (Rhea Perlman), “Olive” (Pam Grier), and “Helen” (Phyllis Somerville) joining. However, Vicki for some reason just has to be the bad guy and puts a stop to the club. So Martha and Sheryl decide to do the club in secret. With help from Sheryl’s awkward grandson, “Ben” (Charlie Tahan) and the popular high school cheerleader, “Chloe” (Alisha Boe) to help prepare for upcoming cheerleading competition.
Now there is nothing wrong with a predictably generic, crowd-pleasing story, and "Poms" in theory really should just be that. Sadly, it seems tonal structure, attention to characters, or much of an actual plot have evaded the filmmakers. Both directed and written by first timer, Zara Hayes, the film is cobbled of borrowed ideas and plot points from similar films, except this time without any of the charm or heart. It's not the the movie is intentionally lacking in that department, it's just not there. Hardly any of the characters end up resonating, the attempts at sentimentality end up feeling hollow, and the humor is too broad and sitcom-like for something that gets uncomfortably dark. You can't have quirky moments about old women talking about their breasts, then cut to one of them throwing up in the bathroom due to a terminal illness in just a quick cutaway. You can't have both a cartoon-ish comedy, and yet try to toss in a deep moral about life that also incorporates the most realism that death has to offer.
I t's all a shame because Diane Keaton is still quite wonderful in the film, and you sympathize and understand where her character is coming from. Jacki Weaver, while occasionally a little too goofy at times, is also giving it her all. Others like Rhea Perlman, Pam Grier, Phyllis Somerville, along with the rest of the cheerleading club end up doing so little to justify their necessity to the story. The relationship between Aisha Boe and Charlie Tahan feels like an afterthought, with the both of them also serving little purpose by the end. While there is a once in a while amusing moment from Bruce McGill (as "Carl", the community's buffoonish security chief), the film forces conflict where there really shouldn't be any. Celia Weston, along with a group of mean high school cheerleaders, come across as so needlessly antagonistic over something that really doesn't affect them at all. (Just let them do their thing. They are literally not hurting anyone. Why do you care so badly?)
"Poms" may have the once in a while amusing moment and obviously well meaning messages. The film just can't balance a tone that's one part silly exaggeration, another part realistic drama. It ends on such a heavy note that doesn't feel deserved, in part because note enough development was given to the story or characters. It's too choppy to be basic, which itself wouldn't be enough for me to recommend, even to the intended demographic. A waste of great talent. 1½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Heavy Material And Old Lady Sex Talk.
Image: "It's settled. We'll go see the WAY better original version with Steve Martin and Michael Caine."
Online men are the easiest people to piss off. Like with "Captain Marvel" or that awesome, all female fight scene in "Avengers: Endgame", a female lead for "Star Wars", or you know, the "Ghostbusters" reboot from a couple years ago. (Remember that? The world didn't end did it?) In a time when toxic masculinity is threatened easier, now more than ever especially in the movies, we really didn't need crap like this right now. You know they're just gonna have a field day with this one.
A gender-flipped remake of the 1988 movie, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (Which was already a remake, so it's amazing just how little of a plot there actually is.) "The Hustle" follows a pair of female con artists, "Josephine" (Anne Hathaway) and "Lonnie" (Rebel Wislon). Josephine is rich, British, and full of herself, using her feminine charms to plan out elaborate ploys to con men out of their valuables, while Lonnie is more brash, using fake sob stories and honestly, just dumb luck to get what she wants. The two eventually cross paths, with Josephine seeing Lonnie as a threat to her operation. Not really sure how to describe how all of this plays out, but Josephine decides to train Lonnie in the art of the hustle. However, the two still can't seem to get along. So they have a bet to see who can faster con naive tech genius billionaire, "Thomas" (Alex Sharp). This leads to Josephine posing as an eccentric German doctor, and Lonnie going through an extended fake blind person routine that it borders on offensive.
Directed by comedian Chris Addison (Known for directing a few episodes of the critically acclaimed "Veep"....Talk about a major downgrade.), "The Hustle" is more of a premise than a story, and even in that regard, there's little to laugh about. Having been in production for about two years, the filmmakers don't appear to have gotten much further than the simple idea of gender flipping a much more well received film. The screenplay goes for the laziest, easiest jokes, with a reliance on poor slapstick, silly accents, and a colossal amount of stupidity. It would be one thing if it were all actually funny, but it's another when the film doesn't realize just how dumb it's actually being. It seems there's an attempt to make a point about how men look at women, not believing that they can be as capable (or even more so) than them when it comes to a battle of wits. However, not only does that idea get lost in the overbearing shenanigans, it also doesn't quite mean anything by the film's end. (The film strangely doesn't even appear to have one. It just blinks out of existence as if it's too worn out to go on any longer.)
Anne Hathaway, who hasn't been having the best of years so far ("Serenity" is still fresh in my mind.), and aside from the unnecessary accent (She can do anything. But the British accent is pushing it.), her usually natural charm can't save such a nothing character. Rebel Wilson, who recently showed how charming and cute she can be in earlier this year's "Isn't It Romantic", appears to have devolved back into the obvious pratfalls and obnoxiously loud, bad comedy. It's also hard to buy that these two are apparently meant to be evenly matched. While Hathaway's methods of using her looks to con men are too transparent to be taken seriously, it makes much more sense than Wilson's annoyingly cartoonish antics. Neither are funny enough to make up for the lack of a narrative, and their lack of chemistry just plain makes it depressing. Alex Sharp gets stuck with an overly bland role, but he does seem to be trying to get something out of it.
"The Hustle" lacks surprises, and surprisingly much coherence. It starts with little, builds to nothing, and eventually ends with less than it even started with. Much like its prolonged fake blind person gag, it goes on for far too long and doesn't reach it's climax free conclusion fast enough. I'd make a crack about how this movie cons its audience with the promise of laughter, but instead brings out groans and disgruntled sighs. But I want to have a higher standard than this movie. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Tired High Jinks And Worn Out Fat Jokes.
Image: All I'm finding are Rattata and Pigdey. No wonder I stopped playing "Pokémon Go".
Lets just point out the obvious, which needs to be stated early so we can talk about everything else. This is the greatest video game movie ever made! I know, it's a low bar. Hell, by this point there isn't even a bar anymore. ("Assassin's Creed", "Super Mario Bros.", "Mortal Kombat", "Warcraft", all of those "Resident Evil" movies, etc.) By this point, we've been willing to take just about anything. Still, you can tell early on that something was put into this that so few of those other movies had. Charm and actual effort to make well, a good movie that will give the fans what they want. I wanted this....I...I needed this.
Set in the world where all animals have been replaced by colorful creatures known as "Pokémon", which are caught for training and battle (It's not abuse if they're happy!), "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" follows young "Tim Goodman" (Justice Smith), who had always dreamed of becoming a Pokémon trainer when he was young. Sadly, he never achieved his aspirations and settled for becoming an insurance worker (Gonna' assume that it's not as exciting as catching Pokémon). Tim travels to Pokémon/human utopia, Ryme City, where police offer, "Hideo Yoshida" (Ken Watanabe) tells Tim the sad news that his detective father, "Harry", died in a car crash.
Alone in his dad's place, Tim comes across the titular, lovable fuzzy ball of electricity, "Pikachu" (Voiced by Ryan Reynolds). However, this Pikachu not only was Harry's apparent Pokémon partner, but he speaks in perfect English that only Tim is able to hear. When evidence becomes known that Harry stumbled upon a large conspiracy that could threaten the world, Tim and Pikachu team up to solve the case. With some help from enthusiastic wannabe reporter, "Lucy" (Kathryn Newton) and her always migraine suffering "Psyduck", Tim and Pikachu discover a purple gas called "R", which caused Pokémon to go wild, as well as a connection to the mysterious and immensely powerful Pokémon, "Mewtwo".
Based on the video game, "Detective Pikachu", which in turn was a spin-off of the ever-expanding, over twenty year old franchise, "Pokémon", "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" is a bizarre idea that was just crazy enough to work. First off, Director/Co-Writer Rob Letterman ("Monsters Vs. Aliens", "Goosebumps") deserves credit for his attention to world building and capturing every last detail. The film has hundreds of Pokémon either in the background or in the foreground, blending into the live action world seamlessly. It's obviously all CGI. However, it's both terrific, and most importantly, expressive CGI. Every creature is full of personality of its own, even if they're just there for a simple cameo or Easter egg. The way the film portrays humans and Pokémon coexisting together, going about every day lives and having it seem natural, is actually quite brilliant. This also leads to some good laughs, most of which provided by our titular Pikachu.
Ryan Reynolds is impeccably cast, with his likable voice coming out of such an adorably designed character. Most of the humor comes from his Deadpool-esque wisecracks and quips, but also has some delightful back and forth with Justice Smith (Despite not actually being on screen with him.) Smith is also very charming, serving as an audience surrogate that any Pokémon can relate to. Kathryn Newton is mostly just here to be the tag along, but is endearing and infectiously cute. Others in the cast include, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy (as "Howard Clifford", the man behind the vision of Ryme City), who both don't exactly get much to do, but remain professional nonetheless. The Pokémon themselves steal most of the show. Aside from Pikachu, we have my all time favorite, Psyduck, adding to the strangeness, an awesome battle with the fire breathing "Charizard", a hilarious sequence with the miming, "Mr. Mime", and of course, the frighteningly strong, "Mewtwo". (I also love what the film ends up doing with the beady eyed, shape shifting blob, "Ditto". Never trusted that guy.) There are hundreds of Pokémon, sometimes all on screen at once, and any longtime fan will find themselves having the time of their life trying to spot them all.
Where "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" kind of stumbles would be with its story. It's not so much that it's a bad one, but rather entirely predictable right down to the twists and turns of what is supposed to be a mystery. (Who do you think the bad guy is? Just look at the cast!) The film's climax, while exciting and visually incredible, does start to get a little sillier as more of the villain's plan becomes apparent, which will leave casuals a bit more confused than anything. (It's one of those things that you'll just have to go along with.) Though the film's plot is serviceable, yet nothing special, the film is packed full of heart, and will make for a fun time for families. Even better though, the fans will have the absolute time of their life. Being a former Pokémon obsesser as a kid, I found myself retaining a large, childlike grin on my face for most of the movie, and I can't really think of any other video game adaptation ever being able to accomplish that. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Some Adult Humor, Scary Situations, And Mr. Mime Enhanced Interrogation.
Image: "Trust me, I'm a Botanist."
Is it okay to criticize a movie for being nothing more than intentionally trashy filmmaking, just as advertised? Of course it is! Especially if that movie sucks. But you knew that already.
“The Intruder” follows married couple, “Scott” (Michael Ealy) and “Annie” (Meagan Good), searching for a new house outside of the city to settle down in. They find the seemingly perfect place in “Fox Club”, which is a large house, secluded in a beautiful woodlands area. However, some red flags start to go up. Especially when they meet the original owner, “Charlie Peck” (Dennis Quaid), who introduces himself by blasting the head off of a deer. Despite Scott’s uneasiness around Charlie, the couple ends up buying the house, mostly because Annie just really likes it. Things start to get weird when Charlie just keeps showing up, mowing the lawn without asking, visiting Annie when Scott is away, and delivering lines in the creepiest possible manner. While Annie apparently doesn’t see any of this, Scott knows something is up and is determined to protect his new home, having no idea just how messed up and how dangerous Charlie truly is.
Like clockwork, around this time every year we get a movie like “The Intruder”. A film whose only intention is to be stupid, generic, and get people to yell at the screen at the actions of its characters, despite them never listening because they can’t hear you. For movies like this, it’s never about proper direction, editing, good writing, or even capable thrills. It’s about how dumb you can be for an hour and a half and how cheap you can make it. Released by “Screen Gems” (Having also distributed similar films, such as “When the Bough Breaks”, “No Good Deed”, and “The Perfect Guy”), the film lacks much suspense and thrills, and replaces it with dullness and lazy jump scares, stripping any sort of trashy fun you could of possibly had with it.
It’s odd how pretty much unlikable or annoying all of the characters are, especially when the least frustrating ends up being the homicidal maniac. Michael Ealy is trying his damndest to salvage poor writing, and though his character is clearly in the right not to trust Charlie, he goes about it in such a whiny, contrived manner that you could care less what happens to him. The same goes for Meagan Good, who makes some of the most shockingly moronic decisions you could make in a thriller. (Stop letting the creepy guy into your house! There’s a difference between being rude and not wanting the obviously unhinged guy with a shotgun wandering around your property!) Joseph Sikora (as “Mike”, Scott’s dick of a best friend) is the kind of doomed character that you can’t wait to see die. The bright spot would be Dennis Quaid’s absolutely deranged performance. Granted, his character does not do a good job hiding it, and it’s baffling that anyone would be remotely comfortable around him. He’s just so damn committed though, with his nervous ticks, maniacal grin, and menacing stare making up for the script’s shortcomings. It is also nice to simply see Dennis Quaid having a little fun for the first time in a while.
Directed by Deon Taylor, “The Intruder” doesn’t look bad, and is sleekly put together as well as any cheap horror thriller could be. But crap is still crap, even when it aspires to be nothing more than crap. You can’t really blame a film for being more than what it is, but if the fun factor is lacking and you find yourself more bored than anything, I wouldn’t say the filmmakers quite succeeded at even that. 1½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Well, A White Man In A Red Hat And A Shotgun Terrorizing A Black Couple…..Not Sure If That Was Meant To Be A Political Statement Or Not.
Image: So Charlize Theron likes guys who are clearly not in her league....So you're saying there's a chance!
It really goes to show that with the right amount of care, intelligence, and actual competency to make even the most tired of ideas work. Like with this movie, which is silly sounding on paper, isn't all that original, and appeals to a genre that you all know I've never been the biggest fan of. You need charm, and lots of it. Luckily, this movie has plenty to spare.
“Long Shot” follows determined journalist, “Fred Flarsky” (Seth Rogen), who quits his job the second it’s bought out by vile media mogul, “Parker Wembley” (Andy Serkis). Now unemployed, Fred goes to a party with his more successful best friend, “Lance” (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), where he happens upon his old crush/babysitter/the Secretary of State, “Charlotte Field” (Charlize Theron). With the current TV star turned President, “Chambers” (Bob Odenkirk), planning on quitting early to branch out into film, Charlotte appears to be the favorite to take over the job of President of the United States, becoming the first woman to do so (44 Presidents and we’re still not there yet). Seeing as Fred is a capable writer and currently not doing anything at the moment, Charlotte decides to hire him as her new speechwriter, despite the protests of her advisors, “Maggie” (June Diane Raphael) and “Tom” (Ravi Patel). Fred accompanies Charlotte while she travels the world to push for an environmental bill, with the two having more of a connection than expected.
The basic premise of "Long Shot" has been done many times before. The romantic comedy where the average guy gets the way, way out of his league girl. Been there, done that (Many times with Seth Rogen. Or Sandler. At least Rogen respects the premise). The film doesn't avoid predictability. What it does to make up for that is aside from loads of belly laughs, but it's a surprising amount of smarts and depth. Directed by Jonathan Levine ("50/50", "Warm Bodies", "The Night Before") and written by Dan Sterling ("The Interview") and Liz Hannah ("The Post"), the film ends up becoming just as much political satire as it is a rom-com. Whether it be unfair double standards for women or hilariously depressing political ineptitude, the film pokes fun at our current political climate. Though obviously it's still set in a bit of a fantasy world (Not sure politics work out quite like this), it's still very nice to see some genuine insight being provided by a raunchy comedy.
None of this would truly work if not for the leads, both of which also serving as producers. Seth Rogen, having become known for his likably goofy persona, also gets to show off some more acting chops than what we're used to seeing. Charlize Theron, not really known for doing many comedies, proves to be just as capable here than any other film. Together, their chemistry is pretty perfect, and not just in terms of their comedic timing. Their back and forth is funny and sweet, and thoroughly endearing, accomplishing the impossible task of making it seem as if Seth Rogen could actually end up with Charlize Theron. We also get a fun supporting cast, with the biggest scene-stealer being O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Who I had no idea could be see hilarious). There are also some good laughs from June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk (Who is still a more appealing President than Donald Trump), Alexander Skarsgård (as "James Steward", the good looking, but ungodly boring Canadian Prime Minister), and a really bizarre Andy Serkis in old, chubby man make-up.
"Long Shot" has strong themes as feminism and divisiveness in the political world, as well as sometimes what is necessary to properly play the political game. Well directed and put together, with wonderful chemistry between Rogen and Theron, some actual heart and depth, and most importantly for any comedy, a lot of big laughs. Honestly, it's probably one of the better comedies I've seen in a while. And who knows, at some point, maybe this will all play out in real life. Could happen. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Raunchy Language, Raunchy Drug Use, And Raunchy Ejaculation.
Image: So ugly they're cute....Cugly?
Man, wasn't "Avengers: Endgame" great? Like, that was really something special, huh? A great superhero movie that also made for an all around great movie for everyone. We all saw it. It's going to make trillions. Many of us (Like myself) already saw it more than once. Why am I babbling about Avengers still? Because O'm not really ready to talk about a movie about dolls....That are ugly.
Based on a bunch of plush toys (Hey, if LEGOs can make for a good movie, why can't they?),"UglyDolls" following the goofy looking, slightly deformed doll citizens of "Uglyville", where all they do is sing, dance, and party. One cheerful doll, "Moxy" (Kelly Clarkson), dreams of traveling up to the supposed "Big World", where she will be chosen for a child. However, the town's mayor, "Ox" (Blake Shelton) assures her that it doesn't exist. Moxy decides to ignore Ox and leave Uglyville to see if the Big World is real, taking along her buddies for the ride, including the pessimistic "Wage" (Wanda Sykes), Moxy's best friend "Ugly Dog" (Pitbull), the chubby "Babo" (Gabriel Iglesias), and some other one called "Lucky Bat" (Wang Leehorn).
Moxy and her crew wind up in the "Institute for Perfection", which is where all of the perfect, but narcissistic dolls live. The nefarious leader of the institute, "Lou" (Nick Jonas), wants Moxy and her friends out of the picture, allowing them a chance to partake in an obstacle course known as the "Gauntlet" (Which will determine if they are worthy of being chosen for a child) simply to crush their collective spirits. Determined to make her dream come true, Moxy and her friends must prove Lou wrong and prove their worth, while Lou takes desperate measures to keep the conceited status quo.
As you can tell, the scope and aspirations have dropped immensely from "Avengers" last weekend. Directed by Kelly Asbury ("Shrek 2", "Gnomeo and Juliet", and "Smurfs: The Lost Village"), "UglyDolls" is both metaphorical and quite literal kiddie fluff. Filled with lame jokes and puns, a predictable and uninspired story, and light in terms of character development, it's obvious that the film is playing things very safe and soft for the youngest of children. Unlike something like say "Wonder Park", there does appear to be some kind of intention to be a bit more than just goofy antics. The film's message encourages positive self-esteem and having confidence in one's perceived flaws, though even the message does feel a bit off at times. (What kid wouldn't want an UglyDoll? They're much more creative and colorful than the supposed "Perfect" ones.) Regardless, it's still good for kids to promote something like that. The animation is a little uneven, in the case of the UglyDolls themselves, who are bouncy, cuddly looking, and expressive, and how bland and lifeless the Institute of Perfection is. (The film sadly spends most of its time here. I get the point being made, but it doesn't do much with the competent animation.)
The voice cast mainly consists of musicians, pop stars, and celebrity singers, who are mostly here to advertise the film's musical soundtrack. Some like Kelly Clarkson and especially Janelle Monáe (as "Mandy", a kind-hearted perfect doll, who befriends the UglyDolls) naturally have enough personality and charismatic stage presence to branch into voice work. Others like Blake Shelton and Pitbull add very little to the movie, and don't come across as natural. The film also doesn't really do anything with most of the ensemble, which also includes Emma Roberts (as "Wedgehead", a new member of Uglyville), Charli XCX, Lizzo, and Bebe Rexha (as "Kitty", "Lydia", and "Tuesday", a trio of perfect dolls working for Lou). The most memorable of performances come from Wanda Sykes (Who still gets an occasional chuckle) and a surprisingly villainous Nick Jonas (Maybe not surprisingly. He is a Jonas brother). The musical numbers, while nothing on par with anything from Disney, are fun, delightful showstoppers, and are thoroughly original.
Reviewing a movie like "UglyDolls" can be difficult, considering I'm obviously not the target audience. It's strictly kid based, and isn't meant to appeal to any of the adults who either took their kids to it or accidentally wandered into the theater. However, towards the end the heart of the film truly shows, and it concludes on an undeniably sweet and cute note. It's likable and at times amusing, but mediocre and fairly forgettable candy that your kids will eat up. At the least, no ugly dolls make the devastating sacrifice that saves humanity, leaving us in shock and uncontrollable sobbing....Hey, I can't have been the only one! 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG, Though It's So Harmless That A G Rating Could Of Been Possible.
Image: This....This isn't really the end....Is it?
Where were you when the "Snapture" happened? It's been about a year since "Avengers: Infinity War", and we had to see heroes fall, evil triumph, and probably more than any superhero movie (Or really any movie), see all hope being lost. It was a gut punch for sure, and since then everyone has been clamoring for what came next. There have been in depth speculations, research paper length fan theories, and for some reason, memes about Ant-Man going up Thanos' ass. (Why? Why Internet?) We no longer have need to hypothesize any longer. This is the moment we have been waiting for since back in 2008 when Tony Stark first said "I Am Iron Man"....Holy S*it!
The conclusion to what has been dubbed as "The Infinity Saga", and picking up after the events of "Infinity War", "Avengers: Endgame" opens in what remains of the universe after the Mad Titan, "Thanos" (Josh Brolin) used the reality and time bending "Infinity Stones" to wipe out half of the population, reducing them to specs of dust. The casualties include, but aren't limited to "Dr. Stephen Strange" (Benedict Cumberbatch), "T'Challa/Black Panther" (Chadwick Boseman), "Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch" (Elizabeth Olsen), "Sam Wilson/Falcon" (Anthony Mackie), "Peter Quill/Star-Lord" (Chris Pratt), "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Tom Holland), and many, many more of your beloved favorites. Two survivors, "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.) and Thanos' remaining step-daughter, "Nebula" (Karen Gillan), who is grieving for her deceased step-sister, "Gamora" (Zoe Saldana), are rescued from being adrift in space by the recently introduced, and immensely powerful, "Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel" (Brie Larson).
Returned to Earth, Tony is then reunited with other survivors, such as the first Avenger, "Steve Rogers/Captain America" (Chris Evans), "Bruce Banner/Hulk" (Mark Ruffalo), "Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow" (Scarlett Johansson), "James Rhodes/War Machine" (Don Cheadle), the God of Thunder "Thor" (Chris Hemsworth), and talking raccoon/the last Guardian of the Galaxy, "Rocket" (Voiced by Bradley Cooper). The plan is simple. Find Thanos and use the Infinity Stones to reverse all of the damage that Thanos has caused. Lets just say, things aren't that simple, and it appears that there isn't anything that can be done to bring everyone back.
Cut to five years later, everyone is trying to cope with what they have lost, such as former Avenger, "Clint Barton/Hawkeye" (Jeremy Renner), who has gone on a criminal killing spree after losing his entire family. However, hope arrives in the most unlikeliest form, the size changing "Scott Lang/Ant-Man" (Paul Rudd). Scott reveals that he's been trapped in the "Quantum Realm" (Place between time and space) for all these years, except to him it's only been a few hours. It seems time travel is in fact completely possible and is the last remaining alternative to fix what has been done. Our heroes decide to go back in time to find and "Borrow" the stones to reverse Thanos' deed and truly, "Avenge" the universe, while trying their best not causing irreparable damage to the timeline itself. It's the final battle. The grand finale. The end of an era. 22 movies. 11 years. The story arc that the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" set up from the start finally reaches its climax.
The epic culmination of years of planning, billions upon billions of dollars, and the greatest ensemble of actors in cinematic history, "Avengers: Endgame", even more than "Infinity War", is something that years ago, nobody would of believed could of existed. Once again directed by Anthony and Joe Russo ("Captain America: Civil War", "Avengers: Infinity War", and uh, "You, Me and Dupree"? You guys have come a long way.), and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, this is a comic book nerd's wet dream come to life on the big screen in a way that we've never seen before and will never see again. The Russo Brothers have found a way to keep the pace moving in a way that's not too slow, but not too fast, while Markus and McFeely balance tone and loads of characters. Nothing feels shortchanged, with dramatic moments being allowed to sink in, along with the usual Marvel sense of humor to balance it out. For how dark as the film gets, there are still plenty of laughs to be had, which help us relate and care for the characters. These are also people that we have seen grow and further develop over the years, and we want to see where their various story arcs will go in the future (Or for some, see how their arcs will end inevitably end.) It's a sight to behold, and the fact that they are all given depth and their own time in the spotlight in some shape or form, is an achievement in of itself.
"Avengers: Endgame" actually takes its time setting up the consequences left behind from last year's cliffhanger. The film shows how this would affect people, and how they would move on, if they even could. It's very intimate for something that was at one point simply seen as silly popcorn entertainment. Then the action kicks in, which is incredibly shot and the visual effects are game changing. Thanos again, looks like he's right there, with every detail (from his scars and facial expressions) on full display, fitting right into the real world. For what could be seen as a convoluted plot (Time travel, and the issues that come with messing around with it.), everything is tight packed, and explained in a way that makes surprisingly perfect sense. Honestly, time travel has never made more sense here than in any other movie before it. That's just great writing right there, and credit to the writers for making all of this work.
Now for the cast, and oh boy, this is quite the assembly. Robert Downey Jr. (Who without him, none of this would of even been possible.) is the one who started this entire universe, and gives a wonderfully human performance. It really is the definition of perfect character growth, and I doubt the Academy will acknowledge him once again. Chris Evans, the perfect Captain America, has one of the most emotionally powerful storylines in the film, while Chris Hemsworth (Who I swear might be a comedic genius) is an absolute riot, but even his story has some dramatic payoff. Most of the humor comes from Mark Ruffalo (In a role that needs to be seen to be believed), Bradley Cooper, and the unfailingly endearing Paul Rudd. Meanwhile, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, and the always underrated Jeremy Renner round out the flawless main cast. Not to mention Josh Brolin, bringing dimensions to a frightening villain that will go down in history as one of the greatest. There are smaller, but memorable roles for Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow (as "Pepper Potts", Tony's longtime love interest), Tessa Thompson (as "Valkyrie", a warrior ally to Thor), the once again hilarious Taika Waititi (as the voice of the talking pile of rocks, "Korg"), Danai Gurira (as "Okoye", a survivor of Wakanda), and many other surprises that I wouldn't even dare consider spoiling. There are cameos in this movie, and references to other films (And beyond) that cut deep into the larger cinematic universe. More than ever, it feels truly connected, and what it all builds up to what will become an experience that can never again be replicated. (Sorry DC. I love ya, but you will never have this.)
It's one thing to call "Avengers: Endgame" a masterpiece simply because of what the film achieves. The scope is massive, with the Russo Brothers piling up everything they can on screen, yet keeping it contained with a poignant, even uplifting story. The three hour runtime is never felt, everything comes together in tight fashion, and the tears will find their way out of your eyelids no matter how much you try to stop them. It's astonishing how we came to this moment in cinematic history, and we can't begin to predict how it will impact pop culture itself. There are laughs to be had, spectacular action, and heartwarming character moments, fully bringing this saga to a proper close. Our heroes have never been more heroic, and they may not be real, but by the end, you feel as if they are. Because of that, you will not be prepared for how it all ends. The greatest superhero movie ever made? Yyyyeah. That sounds about right. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Superhero Action, Irresponsible Use Of Time Travel, And The Ultimate Tearjerker.
Image: "I'm here to talk to you about the Conjuring Initiative."
Producer James Wan ("Aquaman", the first two "The Conjuring" films, as well as creator of the series as a whole) probably has a endless list of scary legends and folktales, and is currently just crossing them off one by one to fill up his "Conjuring" cinematic universe. We didn't even know this was part of it until the premiere at "South by Southwest" (SXSW) last month. Still, kind of starting to get the feeling that from now on that they're going mostly end up being more miss than hit.
Taking place in the 1970s, "The Curse of La Llorona" follows social worker/single mother, "Anna" (Linda Cardellini). Child Protective Services sends Anna to investigate a mother, "Patricia Alvarez" (Patricia Velásquez), who appears to have lost her mind. Anna goes over to Patricia's place, finding strange symbols drawn all over the walls, along with her children locked in a closet. The children are taken away from Patricia, who claims that a supernatural entity, known as "La Llorona" (Marisol Ramirez), the Weeping Woman, wants her kids. Not too much later, the kids are found drowned in the lake, and Patricia blames Anna, saying that now La Llorona is going to target Anna's own children, "Samantha" (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and "Chris" (Roman Christou).
Almost immediately, Samantha and Chris start hearing the sobbing of La Llorona, before she marks them as her next target. With the lives of her children in danger, Anna turns to "Father Perez" (Tony Amendola), who you might remember previously had a run in with a certain creepy doll, for help. Perez suggests that Anna seek out "Rafael Olvera" (Raymond Cruz), an expert of sorts on the legend of La Llorona. Now Anna, with assistance from Rafael, must take part in an old ritual to stop La Llorona from taking Chris and Samantha through jump scary means.
Seems these Spin-Off films should instead be listed as the "Generic Ones". Directed by first time director, Michael Chaves (Who will be taking over the Director's Chair for the next "Conjuring" movie), "The Curse of La Llorona" is based on an old, and still very much feared, Latin American folktale. It's a very loosely connected spin-off that could end up being skipped over entirely. Mostly because it's just not all that interesting. The direction is bland and basic, going for your typical quiet, drawn out padding that results in a jump scare or two. It's not particularly scary, especially when you consider how well the main entries in this series have been able to provide genuine scares and an unsettled feeling that sticks with you after the movie ends. Not a poorly made film in the slightest, with an atmospheric setting and a solid creep factor. It's the story and execution that doesn't quite stick the landing.
It's nice to see Linda Cardellini in a main, starring role, and she does an excellent job with it. Not much for character, but her screen presence and strong performance make up for it. Raymond Cruz is a welcome source of humor, while Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Roman Christou are fairly solid child actors, who know how to portray childlike terror. (Though the characters are forced to make needlessly stupid decisions because the genre demands it.) Patricia Velásquez is just here to act crazy and her character arc ends up being dragged out too long, and Tony Amendola is just here to connect this movie to the other films in the series. As for our titular villain, La Llorona is creepy looking, but the constant use of lazy jump scares do little to differentiate her from other horror villains. (She's essentially just Valak from "The Conjuring 2" and "The Nun", except she's always crying.)
While there is an occasional decent spooky moment, "The Curse of La Llorona" ends up just being predictable and too formulaic to justify a recommendation. The story behind the actual legend is actually much more unsettling and frightening than anything that actually happens in the movie. A woman losing her mind at her husband's infidelity and murdering her children in a blind rage, only to end up as a curse, weeping spirit because of it? That would of been more interesting if the movie had focused on that instead. What we get is a ghostly home invasion movie, which makes it unnecessary. Here's hoping for more originality in the next "Annabelle" movie. (Again, didn't even know that was coming out till recently.) 2 Stars. Rated R For Terror Towards Children And Ghostly Tears.
Image: "And please let our box office returns be bountiful."
Faith based, and especially Christian oriented ones have kind of become the critical punching bag. Not to mention a movie like “Unplanned” sure didn’t help. I'm all for a little religious based entertainment, but why do most of them have to range from simply bad to horrifically offensive to everyone else? Considering the track record, this movie actually being a good one could almost be seen as affirmation to the existence of God. Like Marvel films are. See? It’s not that hard.
Based on true events accounted in the faith based novel “The Impossible”, “Breakthrough” follows Christian mother/author of aforementioned novel, “Joyce Smith” (Chrissy Metz), along with her husband, “Brian” (Josh Lucas) and adopted son, “John” (Marcel Ruiz). John is going through an angsty phase at the moment, becoming more and more distant from Joyce, who just wants to form a connection with how now teenage son. While messing around with his friends over a frozen lake, John ends up falling through the ice into the lake. A first responders rescue team goes to attempt to get John out of the lake, though they at first appear to be too late. Right as they're about to give up, a non-believer, “Tommy Shine” (Mike Colter), having possibly heard the voice of God, finds and rescues John. John is then taken to a hospital where he is put into a medically induced coma by “Dr. Garrett” (Dennis Haysbert). All hope appears lost, with the odds of John’s survival looking slim to none the longer he’s in the coma. With some help from the new local pastor, “Jason Noble” (Topher Grace), and the collected supporting of the rest of the community, Joyce’s faith is tested as everyone comes together to pray for Josh’s survival. Of course, miracles can happen.
Directed by Roxann Dawson (Mostly known for TV work), "Breakthrough" has one obvious aspect that so many other religious movies, especially today, seem to lack (You know, aside from being a capably, solidly written film.) It's one that actually presents its spiritually inspiring story in a way that should resonate with a more modernized audience. Don't get me wrong, it's not subtle in the slightest and the typical cheesiness in the dialogue can't help but worm its way into the film (It kind of comes with the territory.) However, in making up for a Hallmark channel like feel, Dawson's slick direction and well defined, likable characters help bring out the needed emotion to make this story work. Even better, it's done in a way that doesn't feel manipulative, mostly due to how realistically human everyone is portrayed.
Chrissy Metz (From "This Is Us") is a strong lead, with a compelling and compassionate character arc, that anyone can relate to, especially if you're a mother. Topher Grace provides light moments of humor, and plenty of heart, giving a wonderfully sweet performance. Others like Josh Lucas and Dennis Haysbert are both excellent in the film, giving it their all and even more so in the most dramatic of scenes. Mike Colter's character arc goes about where you would expect, but at least, unlike what you usually see in these kinds of films, he's still portrayed as a good person who just doesn't happen to believe in God. (Yeah yeah. The Athiest of course has to come to believe by the end. But it's progress considering these are usually portrayed as the villains more than half of the time.) But Marcel Ruiz is somewhat of a weak link at first, though does grow over time, showing more range as the film progresses.
Despite some sloppy last second subjects thrown in the last act (Though I appreciate the film at least attempting to acknowledge the inexplicability of perceived miracles), "Breakthrough" offers good, still morally elevating entertainment for Christian audiences. Unlike others in this genre, the good morals aren't beaten into your head and the more modern approach makes it more accessibly. The film shows the difference between blindly believing God will just fix everything, and just having honest to goodness faith that miracles can happen. It's about coming together through belief during a time of crisis, and isn't that what God (Whether or not you believe he's real) is meant to represent? It's nice to see a faith based film actually get that for once. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Perilous Content And Godly Intervention.
Image: Happy feet too.
What "Disneynature" does is the essential definition of simply doing something for the art and the experience, rather than for the money. These films, despite the strong educational value and the usual good reception from the people who actually see them, generally fail to make much of a profit at the box office. They have the tendency to fade quickly and never be mentioned again. I for one, respect the hell out of the studio for continuously making these films, providing families with something to educate, as well as entertain. Not to mention, provide a whole lot of animal cuteness.
Narrated by Ed Helms, "Penguins" focusing on scrappy male Adélie penguin, "Steve" in the harsh, icy climate in the Antarctic. The film follows Steve's journey as he searches for a suitable mate for the spring mating season. Steve eventually meets a female, named "Adeline", leading to the birth of two baby chicks. Now Steve must navigate fatherhood, such as finding food for his young, avoiding the constant weather changes, and the many dangerous predators, such as deadly leopard seals and baby eating skuas, that want nothing more than to devour Steve's new family.
"Penguins" is the latest and most lighthearted from Disneynature, and one of their best. A sweet, simple story, focusing on a singular animal and his mis-adventures. One of the funniest entries, the film benefits from a likably goofy narration from Ed Helms, who essentially is the human embodiment of a penguin as it is. Helms' narration matches the occasional silly situation that Steve finds himself in, such as collecting pebbles for a nest, only to have them stolen from other penguins in a hilariously cartoonish fashion. Yet, despite plenty of humor, the film does not shy away from the ruthlessness and unforgiving nature that real life has to offer. The film gets tense at times, and a scene involving some leopard seals attempting to snag some of the young penguins (And a few of them succeeding) could scare the kiddies (Honestly, it kind of freaked me out a little bit too.) It's handled in a respectful, heartfelt manner, showing that even these cute and cuddly birds have to struggle to survive just as much as any other animal.
As usual for Disneynature, "Penguins" has some of the most beautiful, and utterly remarkable footage you'll ever see. There are incredible shots of the stunning landscapes, before and after the shifts in weather, along with some breathtaking underwater footage. (Probably one of the most captivating IMAX experiences I've ever had.) Seeing the penguins go about their daily lives, which can be at times humorous as well as informational, shows how much personality these creatures have. Steve's story writes itself, and while the film might anthropomorphize things a bit more than probably it happened in real life, there is still something heartwarming about how much care a father and mother animal will put into their babies. Short, sweet, and with plenty to offer for the whole family. Why don't you give it the time of day? You have time before "Avengers: Endgame" comes out next week. That will be way heavier. 3 ½ stars. Rated G, Though The Kids Might Get Traumatized By The Animal On Animal Violence.
Image: After what?
So it goes to show that literally anyone can get anything made into a movie. The story behind this movie is actually much more interesting than anything that happens in it. "After" is based off of a 2014 book by Anna Todd, which itself was originally, and I'm not making this up, One Direction fan fiction! It was the same, with the exception of the characters being the guys from the band. (Apparently Harry Styles was the brooding, bad boy.) One thing led to another, people saw the first few chapters and I guess wanted more, leading to a series of novels. A name change here and there, and you get yourself a bestseller, resulting in $14 million produced film released nationwide. I guess fan fiction (Erotic or otherwise) really can lead to success.
"After" follows innocent, virgin college student, "Tessa" (Josephine Langford, sister of Katherine Langford). Tessa has an overprotective mother, "Carol" (Selma Blair) and a safe, but lame boyfriend, "Noah" (Dylan Arnold). However while in college, Tessa finds herself attracted to the angsty, pretentious bad boy, "Hardin Scott" (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), who is like so edgy and stuff because he wears black and broods a lot. Despite having no chemistry at all, Tessa can't get Hardin out of her head, and it turns out he can't do the same with her. The two grow closer, with Tessa ignoring the warnings from everyone around her, including Hardin's step-brother, "Landon" (Shane Paul McGhie). As Tessa and Hardin quickly (Very quickly) become intimate, she discovers more about him and his secrets.....Wait. What secrets? There is not secret! You want to know what this movie is about? Boy and girl shouldn't date, are told they shouldn't date, but want to date anyway because hormones. Nothing happens!
Behold! The most boring movie of 2019! Directed by Jenny Gage, who also co-wrote the screenplay with three other writers (Because a story this deep and involving needs three writers for some reason), "After" is the kind of movie you would expect something completely crazy to happen. What's this big secret? Just how dangerous is this guy? How will it affect the relationship and lead to the destruction of our lead girl's innocence? He's just an edgelord! There ends up being nothing there. It's not even one of those borderline abusive relationships, like what we saw in the "Fifty Shades" and "Twilight" films, which this has been compared to. It's just a romance. An ungodly unbearable, thoroughly unlikable and all around unpleasant one too. It's a formulaic, generically put together story that never goes anywhere you would never expect it to. Right down to the dialogue, which in of itself becomes predictable to the point you know exactly what kind of line is going to come out of each character's mouth before they actually say it. Not to mention a poor pace, which is oddly rushed. The relationship happens very quickly, and Tessa's infatuation with Hardin just sort of happens, with little work actually being put into it. It's hilarious how easily she's seduced. All she needed was a trip to a lake and some bad boy smolder for her to think herself to be in love.
Josephine Langford shows promise, and you can tell she has the personality to carry a film. It's just a badly written character, who gets less likable as the film progresses. On a dime, she goes from innocent to uncaring, willing to throw everything away for a guy she just met, and back again. It's all done in a half-assed manner, and gives the impression that the character is suffering from mood swings. It also doesn't help that Hero Fiennes-Tiffin is blandness personified, and you don't really see how these two could have any form of a connection, whether it be romantic or otherwise. He's not exactly dangerous or harmful. He's more whiny, pretentious, and annoyingly dull. Weirdly, Langford has more chemistry with Shane Paul McGhie, who is easily the most endearing character in the movie, and little ends up coming out of what you think at first is going to be a love triangle of sorts. Dylan Arnold's character arc is dropped out early, while actors like Selma Blair and Peter Gallagher (as "Ken", Hardin's father, who Hardin resents.) are given minuscule roles, but at least show up to be a professional as humanly possible. Also, was that Jennifer Beals (as Ken's new wife/Hardin's step-mother, who only appears for ten seconds.)?
"After" suffers from an onslaught of clichés, and even does a crappy job utilizing them. The film doesn't look too bad, and is slickly directed to make up for the lack of actual interest. However, the characters are occasionally too mean spirited and detestable, and the way the film portrays them makes the ordeal hard to watch at times. Lots of the conflicts are forced, and the drama mostly consists of petty, shallow arguments. Not sure how good of an adaptation of the book this is, but if it's anything like this movie, it makes the story behind it even more baffling. Uninspired, lacking in substance, and honestly, too safe for its own good. All this movie offers is a mind-numbingly uninteresting, and realistically doomed relationship that shouldn't be happening at all. Thanks for making me once again feel like a relationship counselor. (You two have nothing in common and shouldn't be together. It's as simple as that!) 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Sexual Content And Angst. So Much Angst.
Image:Hey I'm down too...And, uh, woke?
Let me explain to you guys just how dedicated I am to what I do. I willingly missed out on the extensive "Star Wars" related news revealed today for this movie. I don't get paid to do this, but I remain devoted to taking two hours out of my day, no matter what I'm doing, to see a movie that really has no impact on me whatsoever. Granted, the second my phone alerted me of the new trailer drop (Amazing by the way!), I stepped out of the theater to watch it twice. I'm only human! Plus I didn't miss anything anyway. We've all seen different versions of this movie before.
"Little" follows successful business woman, "Jordan Sanders" (Regina Hall), who after being bullied at a young age, dedicates her life to getting whatever she wants and whenever she wants it, usually by bullying other people into doing so. Now Jordan has become a tyrannical boss, belittling and verbally abusing everyone around her, including her assistant, "April" (Issa Rae). After insulting a little girl performing magic tricks, Jordan wakes up the next day trapped in the body of her middle school self (Played by Marsai Martin). When Child Protective Services shows up, April is forced to pose as Jordan's aunt and enroll her in school, while running the company in Jordan's place. Huh? You know, that's just about it. There's a lesson, school drama, and betterment of one's self through humility. There's nothing else really to it.
Directed by Tina Gordon (Co-Writer of "What Men Want"), who wrote the screenplay with Tracy Oliver (Writer of "Girls Trip" and "Barbershop: The Next Cut"), "Little" is a competently made, compacted season worth of a occasionally funny, but incredibly slight sitcom. The film surprisingly starts off fairly strong, even with the already played out premise. A solid set up, with good enough main characters and a few well earned laughs. It's when the plot starts to take hold, going down a generic route with little actual stakes. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with it, considering what exactly the movie intends to be in the first place. It's just that even with some good chuckles that consistently find their way into the film, there isn't all that much to latch onto.
The always underated Regina Hall isn't in the movie too much, though makes up for her lack of screentime by displaying her natural star power and comedic timing for however long she's given. Marsai Martin (From "Black-ish") is the real star, and is an already talented, charming young actress. Essentially playing Regina Hall in child form, Martin is a riot, taking command of the movie and making even the silliest of plot contrivances enjoyable. (Also, she was the apparent Executive Producer behind the film. That's pretty awesome!) She also has good chemistry with the excellent Issa Rae, who plays the straight one to all the antics. Actors like Justin Hartley (as "Mr. Marshall", Jordan's new teacher, who she has a crush on), Tone Bell (as "Preston", April's love interest), a group of less than stellar child actors, and others don't really have much influence on the film, mostly because they're negated to the background.
There is some goofy fun to be had with "Little", and the heart is in the right place. It's just that there is well, little to it. No surprises, hardly any conflict, and by the numbers resolution. You can't fault it for what it is, and despite playing things much safer than most comedies these days do, I do have to commend the film for not going out of its way to be raunchy just for the sake of being raunchy. (You know they easily could of done that.) An amusing diversion, that I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out of your way to see. Little else to it, really. 2 ½ stars. Rated PG-13 For Crude Humor And Unrealistic Reactions To The Laws Of Nature Being Completely Shattered To Pieces.
Image: You look like Hell....Boy.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of the beloved Dark Horse comics character created by Mike Mignola, who has been around for over twenty five years, or simply are someone who enjoyed the two well received Guillermo del Toro directed films, I think we asked ourselves the same question after seeing this movie. We traded in “Hellboy 3” for this?
“Hellboy” follows the titular powerful, snarky demon, “Hellboy” (David Harbour). A muscular, sawed off horned demon with a giant “Right Hand of Doom”, Hellboy works for the government monster hunting organization, “B.P.R.D.” (Standing for “Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense”). Having been raised as a son by the organization’s founder, “Trevor Bruttenholm” (Ian McShane), Hellboy still feels as if he doesn’t belong in the human world, with most of the population fearing him despite the good he does. An overly complicated series of events leads to Hellboy becoming a target due to an ancient dark prophecy where it is revealed that he will have involvement in an upcoming apocalyptic event.
The event is triggered by a vengeful hog demon, “Gruagach” (Voiced by Stephen Graham) summoning the evil sorceress, “Nimue, the Blood Queen” (Mila Jovovich). Nimue plots to raise an army of demons and magical monsters to wipe out the world of man and bring Hell on Earth, with Hellboy being an important piece of her plan. Allied with a young woman with psychic powers, “Alice Monaghan” (Sasha Lane) and monster hating military man, “Ben Daimio” (Daniel Dae Kim), who has secrets of his own, Hellboy must come to terms with his foreseen future as a destroyer and save the world the coming threat.
A reboot of the “Hellboy” series, and obviously combining elements that were originally going to be used for the development Hell destined threequel, this new “Hellboy” was pitched to move away from Guillermo del Toro’s more lighthearted, fantasy based adaptation. Instead it was going for a more horror based, grittier tone like the comic series, complete with more language and gorey violence. Lots and lots of violence. It's just another example of how a film can use the R rating in the worst way possible. Directed by Neil Marshall (“The Descent” and “Doomsday”) and written by Andrew Cosby (“2 Guns”), who writes the film like he just discovered the word “F*ck”, the film shoves it’s R rating in your face in an overly bombastic, obnoxious way. It’s shot and edited in a frenetic manner, with cartoonish acts of violence that happen on screen sometimes just for the sake of having them there. It seems more like a distraction from the lack of actual plot. There are mini arcs sprinkled throughout the film that never come together as a cohesive narrative, becoming confusing and more lost as the film progresses.
Taking over for the fan applauded Ron Perlman, David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) had some pretty big shoes (and horns) to fill. The make up looks good and he’s a capable actor, embodying the character’s likable mannerisms, and he sure can deliver a silly one liner with a straight face. However, it’s hard not to miss Perlman, who just brought more heart to the character, which is something this movie is missing big time. Mila Jovovich makes for a good, threatening villainess, while Ian McShane plays a much rougher version of the character then what we’ve seen before. Others like Sasha Lana and Daniel Dae Kim really don’t end up serving much purpose, though you can tell they’re trying to work with the poor writing. The movie also completely wastes Thomas Haden Church (as “Lobster Johnson”, a Nazi killing mercenary with a motive for lobsters). The most memorable aspects of the film would be the creature designs and practical effects, which counter the CGI, which varies from mediocre to straight up terrible. (The big, bloody climax looks like absolute crap!) There are some cool puppets and make up effects, such as a disfigured witch, “Baba Yaga” (Voiced by Emma Tate), that add a certain low budget charm to the film that isn’t exactly there when it comes to the characters and story.
“Hellboy” is too much all at once. It’s loud and all over the place, trying to throw in grindhouse levels of gore, random F-Bombs tossed in for the Hell of it, and tossing in as many story elements from the comics, culminating in a complete mess. The art design is fitting, and maybe there’s a funny line or two, but the film overstays its welcome pretty quickly. The del Toro films, while taking liberties from the source material (I’ve only read a handful of volumes so far.), still had heart, a memorable lead, and a sense of adventure. This new reboot (Which leaves a lot unfinished just to set up a sequel) just has an R rating, and thinks that's all it needs. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For…..Oh Boy. Excess Of Gore, Violence, Language, Everything An R Rating Can Get You.
Image: Just your typical family portrait.
"Laika", who are known for their critically acclaimed stop motion animated films such as "Coraline" and "Kubo and the Two Strings", have really yet to have its name cemented into the family household like "Disney", "Pixar", and "DreamWorks" has. Not really sure why this studio hasn't quite found a bigger following yet. They have a pretty solid track record (Four, now five, films. All good.), award nominations, and nobody I know dislikes any of their movies. Like all stop motion in general, their art just isn't appreciated the way it should be. Maybe branching out to a broader audience can change that.
"Missing Link" follows monster investigator, "Sir Lionel Frost" (Hugh Jackman), who dreams of becoming a member of a club of adventurers, run by the pompous, "Lord Piggot-Dunceby" (Stephen Fry). The club members want nothing to do with Frost, seeing his beliefs in myths and legends as a mockery of their club. When Frost gets a letter from an unknown person, claiming to have discovered the fabled Sasquatch (or "Bigfoot"), he makes a bet with Piggot-Dunceby that if he brings back proof of the discovery, Frost will be allowed to become a member of the club. Frost travels to America, only to learn that the letter was written by the Sasquatch himself, "Mr. Link" (Zach Galifianakis), or "Susan" as he prefers to be called. Susan believes that the also fabled Yetis are his cousins, and wants Frost to help him find them. Seeing this as a chance to make an even bigger discovery, Frost agrees to guide Susan into the snowy mountains to find the Yetis. Along with an old flame of Frost's, "Adelina" (Zoe Saldana), Frost and Susan must avoid a relentless bounty hunter, "Willard Stenk" (Timothy Olyphant), who has been hired by Piggot-Dunceby to prevent Frost from proving to the world that the Bigfoot exists.
Written and directed by Chris Butler (who also wrote and directed of one of Laika's best, "Paranorman"), "Missing Link" is the studio's lightest and more innocent entry, which is very fitting if consider the titular character's lovably naive nature. The laughs aren't as big this time, though there are still plenty (Some of which pushing the radar as usual), but where the film isn't lacking is an overabundance of natural charm. It's not just with the memorable characters, quirky sense of humor, or expressive character animation. There is also so much cleverness behind the film's look, art design, and elaborate setpieces (Such as an incredible scene involving a chase on a boat or an over the top saloon brawl). The detailed stop motion animation is incredible, where you can see the effort the animators put behind every frame. It's something that's only improved more over time, which is something considering how groundbreaking and unlike anything else back it was when the studio first started.
The inspired voice cast is each allowed to give it each their own personal flare to their parts, and all sound like they're getting to have a lot of fun doing it. The always charismatic Hugh Jackman, showing off more of his comedic chops, proves he can basically do just about any type of role. A wonderfully stammering Zach Galifianakis is instantly lovable, while Zoe Saldana is a delight. Stephen Fry and a hilariously unrecognizable Timothy Olyphant make for deliciously despicable villains. Then Emma Thompson (as a Yeti Elder) shows up to deliver some of the film's funniest lines in the most Emma Thompsony way possible. The humor is more reliant on standard slapstick that while funny, doesn't quite match how intellectual the dialogue in these film's are known for. (Luckily there are still some unexpected little one liners and quips that get some good belly laughs.)
"Missing Link" offers strong messages of empathy, selflessness, and understanding differences, which are perfect for kids (And adults too honestly). There is a certain good natured heart to the film that makes for a solid family movie night. While it doesn't reach the heights that Laika has become known for, it's too likable not to recommend for young audiences, especially when the parents can still find something to enjoy as well. It's clear that the filmmakers went for something lighter and softer, which isn't a bad move. Hopefully soon audiences will wise up to give these talented people a chance to become a household favorite. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Cartoon Violence And The Occasional Adult Joke. (Don't Worry, It Will Go Over The Little Ones' Heads.)
Image: "So, maybe t's time you stopped being a racist."
It's going to be hard to talk about this film without drawing comparisons to the recent Best Picture winner, "Green Book". (By the way, wonderful movie and all. Shouldn't of won.) It's impossible not to considering both deal with true (Or supposedly true) life friendships that formed in the most unlikely of places involving racial differences and prejudice. Both have generated a little controversy, especially now that we're experiences such strong racial divide, that movies like these can give the wrong message. Sort of promoting the idea that racism was defeated by the power of friendship between an African American person and a former racist. It's just that it can more enjoyed by old white people patting themselves on the back for not being racist. I doubt the intentions are anything other than noble and quality is still quality. I do get it though. Not exactly the message needed right now.
"The Best of Enemies" follows the true story of "Ann Atwater" (Taraji P. Henson) and "C. P. Ellis" (Sam Rockwell). Atwater is a tough civil rights activist, who is not known for backing down and speaks her mind regardless of what others think. Meanwhile, Ellis is a loving family man....who just so happens to be the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. In Durham, North Carolina in 1971, an all African American school is damaged in a fire, resulting in talks of the kids being integrated into an all white school. That's when attorney "Bill Riddick" (Babou Ceesay) is called in to organize a charrette, with both sides of the argument being run by Atwater and Ellis. The idea was completely insane, especially with how racially divided the town was. Eventually common ground has to be found, people must change with the times, and quite possibly, a few people find unexpected redemption.
The story behind "The Best of Enemies" is an incredible, and truly important one. Regardless if now is the time and place to tell it in such a Hollywood-ized fashion, it's pretty impossible not to find something to like about it. First time writer and director, Robin Bissell (Who mostly served as an Executive Producer for several films), the movie makes up for its TV movie feel with a surprising amount of attention to detail when it comes to the time period. The film looks great, and even when the dialogue can't help some occasional chessiness (It kind of comes with the territory), it's still solidly written. It does help that unlike "Green Book" (Which drew controversy with how many liberties ended up being taken), there appears to be more truth to the story. .
For films like this, it's become apparent that at least the performances will be strong. Luckily we have some great actors involved,. Taraji P. Henson, once again proving to be one of the most capable and versatile actresses out there, is wonderful. Meanwhile Sam Rockwell somehow finds a way to make his character not only human, but believably redeemable. Humanity is very integral to the story, and while it's not as in depth as you might want it to be,the point comes across in a powerful way. Others like Babou Ceesay, a very sinister Wes Bently (as "Floyd", a clan member, who takes matters into his own hands), and Anne Heche (as "Mary", C. P. Ellis' wife) are all good, though they aren't the focus. The film does smartly portray how inevitably difficult a debate like this can be, resulting in for one to truly change their way, they will have to truly prove it through loss.
Lacking the memorable dialogue, sleekness, or even the defining chemistry between characters from "Green Book", "The Best of Enemies" is an easy one to describe. Simple, maybe not necessary at the moment, yet still an endearing story that needs to be told. It's not a film that you need to rush to see at this very moment and it likely won't have the view changing effects the filmmakers are hoping for. It still boasts terrific performances, a lot of heart, and at least shows that hope for change, while difficult, isn't impossible. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Racial Hatred, Uncomfortable Moments, And Language.
Image: Who's a cute, widdle puddy tat!
You know, I think they missed out on a big opportunity with all these Stephen King adaptations they’ve been doing as of late. According to his many devoted cultists...er, I mean fans, Stephen King has set up a whole connected universe with his massive library of books. I’m just shocked with all the wannabe film universes studios have been trying to make a thing lately (Remember the “Dark Universe”? The one that lasted only one movie?), they never tried to make this one. Especially when there’s been so much more potential lately, such as with “It”. (One of the best horror movies I’ve seen in theaters.) Cut out “The Dark Tower”, and you could of had easily one of the more successful ones right here.
“Pet Sematary” opens with doctor, “Louis Creed” (Jason Clarke), moving to a small town in Maine (It’s Stephen King. Of course it’s set there!) with his wife, “Rachel” (Amy Seimetz), along with their two kids, “Ellie” (Jeté Laurence) and “Gage” (Played by both Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie). Their new house seems pretty perfect, despite the fact that it’s located right next to a road where trucks just speed by without care. There is also a large, woodland area, where a pet cemetary (Spelled “Sematary”) is located. Some weird occurances start to unfold, along with talks of death that begin to make Rachel the most uncomfortable, due to a traumatizing event she experienced as a child.
Death strikes when Louis and their new neighbor, “Jud” (John Lithgow), discover Ellie’s cat, “Church” dead on the side of the road. Jud, feeling bad for Ellie, takes Louis deeper into the cemetery to bury Church late one night, and the next day, Church shows up back home alive. However, he is not the same. He’s dirty, angry, and reeks of death. Jud reveals that the cemetery has a history of bringing things back, but not as they were before. The two realize their mistake, and hope to put it behind them. But the nightmare isn’t over yet, and when tragedy strikes, Louis decides to use the cemetery once again, leading to horrifying results.
An adaptation of the novel by Stephen King and a remake of the 1989 film, “Pet Sematary” is a pretty unremarkable horror film considering it’s coming out after movies such as “Hereditary” or “Us” (Which only came out a couple weeks ago, which means you can just see it again right now.). The film lacks many surprises or originality, so it has to make up for that with genuine unsettling atmosphere and some truly haunting, nightmarish imagery that will keep you up in the middle of the night. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, the film has a certain eerie look to it, that gives the feeling of something you would hear someone telling around a campfire to scare the children. The creep factor is amplified by the questionable moral decisions that build up over the film's speedy runtime. There are also some excellent shots, whether it be the shocking amount of gore or the upsetting visual images that accompany them.
Jason Clarke is excellent, going from a average guy to so distraught that he's willing to destroy the laws of nature to reclaim a lost one. He has some great development over the film, and even with how stupid the decisions he makes end up being, you can see how he came to them. Amy Seimetz has the look of pure, unfiltered fear down perfectly, while John Lithgow is compelling, giving an emotional performance even when it likely isn't necessary. The real star is Jeté Laurence, who is amazing, getting the role of a lifetime for such a young actress. Her character goes through a few changes, appearing one way before becoming the complete opposite. I can't give too much away, but I can say that she shows an immense amount of range that even few adult actors lack. Also credit to the cat (or cats) portraying "Church". Never seen a cat look so disheveled and pissed before in my life. (Not sure what you guys did to make that happen, but it works.)
"Pet Sematary" plays on one of the greatest, and scariest human emotions; Grief. While the film isn't anything special considering how experimental horror has become as of late, it plays off of the unsettling nature of human life and death very well. It doesn't quite stick the landing, with the ending just sort of happening without warning, yet the film's uneasy nature that makes for an effective scary story. 3 stars. Rated R For Scary, Upsetting Images, And Almost As Much Gore As "Unplanned".
Image: Just a picture of me, in my pajamas.
It seems that the "DC Extended Universe" has found the most unlikely of heroes to save it's cinematic universe from collapsing on itself. With disappointments like "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad", along with the franchise failing to keep "Superman" (Henry Cavill) and "Batman" (Ben Affleck) around (You know, the two biggest superheroes ever?), the whole thing has been all over the place. Still, there is hope with the wonderful, socially important "Wonder Woman", the completely bonkers and thoroughly entertaining "Aquaman", and now one of it's most endearing entries yet. (On a side note, we won't get into the debate over who the real "Captain Marvel" is. It's a long story.)
"Shazam!" follows young, orphaned troublemaker, "Billy Batson" (Asher Angel). Billy has run away from every foster home he's been put into to do, hoping instead to track down his birth mother. He is eventually adopted by "Victor and Rosa Vasquez" (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), becoming part of their foster family, which includes "Mary" (Grace Fulton), "Eugene" (Ian Chen), "Pedro" (Jovan Armand), "Darla" (Faithe Herman), and the superhero obsessed "Freddy" (Jack Dylan Grazer). Freddy, who has to walk on crutches, tries the most to befriend Billy, though Billy really wants nothing to do with his new family. After defending Freddy from some bullies, Billy finds himself transported to a magical place, known as "The Rock of Eternity", where the aging wizard, "Shazam" (Djimon Housou) resides. Shazam has been searching for his new champion, who is pure of heart to give his powers to.
Shazam chooses Billy and and bestows the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury, resulting in Billy being transformed into a lightning powered adult body (Zachary Levi). With help from Freddy, Billy does exactly what all kids with superpowers would do.....become a YouTube star and simply screw around for money. But all superheroes need a evil villain, and a dangerous one comes in the form of "Dr. Thaddeus Sivana" (Mark Strong). Dr. Sivana is obsessed with acquiring the abilities of Shazam, and has unleashed the monstrous entities, "The Seven Deadly Sins" on the world to get them. Billy must learn how to hone his new abilities to become the next big hero the world deserves, and quite frankly, the one DC needs right now.
Directed by David F. Sandberg (Who has ironically only directed horror films like "Lights Out" and "Annabelle: Creation") with a childlike sense of wonder, "Shazam!" is the most joyful, whimsical superhero movie in the history of cinema. It's also exactly what the the doctor ordered to bring much needed variety, and dare I say, charm to this film universe. Thanks to a smart, balanced screenplay by Henry Gayden, the film lightens the tone, filling itself with a sense of humor about itself (And it's genre), looking at it from a younger perspective. The clever aspect about the movie is that it's still a legitimate superhero film on it's own, yet it's also just as hilarious as just plain a good comedy. There are funny gags involving comic book clichés, as well as a few movie ones, poking fun at superpowers, catchphrases, and a battle between the hero and villain that's equal parts exciting and laugh out loud.
Let's talk about how inspired a choice Zachary Levi is to play this character. I mean, he's basically a boy in an adults body in real life as it is. He plays that personality perfectly and sincerely, with a lot of laughs and capability as a hero. Levi and the excellent Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie from "It") have wonderful chemistry, while Asher Angel shows promise as a young actor. Mark Strong knows how to play a menacing villain, and does it well as usual, whose darker storyline is the perfect contrast between the lighter, goofier tone. (He may be sending monsters to bite off people's heads, yet it doesn't feel out of place.) Djimon Hounsou appears briefly, but looks like he's having a great time. There are some lovable side characters, with Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, and the scene stealing Faithe Herman, who all bring heart to the film. (There are also a few unexpected surprises as well that I won't spoil.)
"Shazam!" feels like a kids movie you would of grown up with in the 80s or 90s. It's lighter and softer than previous DC films, but knows when the take a moment to let some darker moments sink in. There is an edge to the humor, yet still suitable for a younger audience. In fact, for a younger audience, this might be the most relatable of superhero movies. There is a formula and even when the film plays with it, it's noticeable, and the same goes for some of the special effects at times. (They're very good mostly except for a few parts. Though it somewhat adds to the charm when it isn't.) Beneath the laughs and action, there is a great, heartfelt story, that anyone can enjoy. It's a great standalone story in the DCEU, and continues to show that this film universe still has a chance to make it. That's a heroic achievement right there. 3 ½ stars. Rated PG-13 For Occasionally Scary Images And Teen Language.
Image: Uh, maybe I should explain.
Pure Flix, I feel like we need to have an intervention by this point. You were doing so well lately. By your standards obviously. But you were trying. Films like "The Case for Christ", "Unbroken: Path to Redemption", and your "Little Women" adaptation showed some sign of improvement. Even ones like "Samon" and "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness", while bad, weren't the usual hate filled propaganda you had become known for. You appeared to be moving away from that, and actually seemed to be trying to broaden your base. Sadly, you're an addict, and you just couldn't help yourself could you? Tragic. Faith based matters deserves a better argument. Especially a subject like this.
"Unplanned" follows the memoir of former Planned Parenthood clinic director, "Abby Johnson" (Ashley Bratcher). Despite the pleas from her parents (Robert Thompson and Robin DeMarco) and husband, "Doug" (Brooks Ryan), Abby believes in a woman's right to choose, seeing Planned Parenthood as a way of helping pregnant women through unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. The film goes through Abby's life over the years, from a bad relationship that resulted in her having prevented two of her own pregnancies, Abby's rising in the clinic and getting on the good side of the evil director, "Cheryl" (Robia Scott), and her eventual change of opinion after she witnesses an abortion up close. Abby goes on to become an activist for Pro-Life, turning her back on Planned Parenthood and their nefarious schemes.
Lets save personal opinions, politics, morals, and whatnot till the end. We're here to critique a film on it's own merits in terms of it's filmmaking quality. On that note alone, Pure Flix appears to have gotten worse. Directed and written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (The writers behind the first/worst "God's Not Dead" movies), the production values feel cheaper than ever. It looks like a bad TV movie, with poor editing choices that make the film's timeline oddly confusing. (It starts, then flashes back eight years, then flashes further back two years, before flashing forward two more times.) Terrible direction and bad writing are typical from this studio, but it's baffling to see how much worse they've gotten over the course of a single film. Characters are thin copies of basic tropes (Pro-Life=Good, Pro-Choice=Bad), painfully cheesy dialogue, and all kinds of questionable content. Not to mention how graphically bloody the film ends up being, matching most horror movies in the amount of gore on display. It's hilarious how shocked the filmmakers were at the R rating. You showed a bloody fetus getting sucked into a tube, along with a woman having a chemical induced abortion in her bathroom. What the Hell did you expect?
Ashley Bratcher is trying I think, but she sure doesn't have the amount of dramatic range necessary to carry the film. (The less about her cringey narration, the better.) Brooks Ryan is bland cardboard personified, while others come and go with roles that add little impact. Then there's Robia Scott, who is essentially a female version of Emperor Palpatine, portrayed as manipulative, uncaring, and sinister. The way Planned Parenthood is portrayed is as an evil corporation, who intentionally tries to sell abortions like time shares to make money. Yet the film also tries to toss in half-assed attempts at fairness, such as portraying the pregnant young women feeling guilty about their abortions and showing some of the employees as simply doing their jobs. You can't humanize them if you're constantly screaming that they're intentionally murdering unborn babies! Aren't they just as bad in your eyes by that argument? You could of at least tried to be less lazy about it.
"Unplanned" is full of crap as usual for the film studio, and not because of the fact that apparently plenty of people have already poked a lot of holes into the so-called "True Story". It's hypocritical in it's messages, relying on demonization and guilt rather than actual facts. It's also just doesn't seem at all sure about what it wants to be exactly. At times it feels like it still wants to be a family oriented religious film, yet indulges itself in it's graphic nature. It's brutally in your face with it's shock value, unfocused in it's story (It's funny how long it takes for anyone to even mention God in this movie.), and uncomfortable for the wrong reasons. So the woman has to realize the error of her ways like her husband demands, resulting in her becoming Pro-Life? Isn't that the same thing as a man deciding what a woman should do with her body? Did nobody notice how awkward that sounds? How about the part where the husband joked about punching a woman? Abortion is not like fast food!!!
Okay, now to get to my personal feelings, which I think probably should be conveyed to show impartialness. I believe that more people should take such decisions into as much consideration as possible. Aborting an unborn baby is not something I think anyone should simply come to an easy answer on. While personally I would prefer that the possible life should be given the chance to be, I would never in any way demand that a woman, who has likely gone through way more than I ever would, to have that baby regardless of her own personal beliefs, though I'm no absolutist. And that's yet another failure of this film. The filmmakers behind "Unplanned" don't bother to think about that. Nor do they think about the consequences of what they say or show. Good and evil. That's all it is to them. Maybe they could of made a point or even changed a few minds. It's a complicated subject and they could of contributed to the argument in a mature, understanding fashion. But lets be honest, that's not what they wanted to do. Just wanted to rile up the already agitated base. Not to mention just plain making a sh*tty movie to while they were at. Last time I give you guys credit for anything. No Stars (On a filmmaking standpoint alone.) Rated R For Disturbingly Bloody Images, Fear Mongering, And CGI Fetuses.