In Theaters: Lady and the Tramp, Last Christmas, Midway, Playing With Fire, Doctor Sleep, Arctic Dogs, Terminator: Dark Fate, Parasite, Countdown, The Lighthouse, Jojo Rabbit, Zombieland: Double Tap, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Jexi, Gemini Man, The Addams Family, Joker
Coming Soon: The Irishman, Charlie's Angels, The Good Liar, Ford V Ferrari, Frozen 2, 21 Bridges, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, Queen and Slim, PLAYMOBIL: The Movie, Jumanji 2 (or 3?), Black Christmas, Bombshell, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Cats, Spies in Disguise
★★★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: "Soooooo? What are the bases for dogs?"
Disney has got to be the most powerful, capable, and diabolical organization in the world today. Not only do they own many properties, such as "Stars Wars", "Marvel", "20th Century Fox", and basically most of your childhood. (Not to mention they also essentially murdered the "X-Men" franchise with the Fox buyout. Granted, it was near death anyway. It was a mercy killing.) Now they have their own "Netflix" equivalent with the recently launched "Disney+", which includes a massive portion of what they've given us over the years, as well as some high anticipated original content., thus ending the "Streaming Wars" before they began. They truly are an unstoppable, yet oddly generous empire aren't they?
A live-action remake of the 1955 animated classic of the same name (Remember, Disney just loves doing those these days), "Lady and the Tramp" tells the story of cute little Cocker Spaniel, "Lady" (Voiced by Tessa Thompson), who is adopted and loved deeply by her owners, who she only knows as "Jim Dear" (Thomas Mann) and "Darling Dear" (Kiersey Clemons). Life is good for Lady, along with her close friends, such as the uptight Scottish Terrier, "Jock" (Voiced by Ashley Jensen) and the slow, but sweet Bloodhound, "Trusty" (Voiced by Sam Elliott). However after the birth of a new baby girl, Lady starts to realize that she might be on her way to being neglected in favor of the newborn. Following an incident with with Darling's "Aunt Sarah" (Yvette Nicole Brown), and her nasty (But less racially insensitive) cats (Voiced by Nate Wonder and Roman GianArthur), Lady finds herself on the street. With help from an unnamed and loner Schnauzer-mutt, referred to only as "The Tramp" (Voiced by Justin Theroux), Lady must find her way home, while learning to appreciate the outside world, and possibly finding love along the way.
Probably the most simplistic, and surprisingly, one of the stronger of the recent remakes, "Lady and the Tramp" makes up for an admittedly limited budget with plenty of charm and genuine sweetness, even if once again, it may or may not be very necessary. Director Charlie Bean ("The LEGO Ninjago Movie") provides the film a beautiful look, matching the early 1900s look perfectly in a glossy fashion. (Sort of like a Christmas card brought to life.) The blending of real life and the CGI effects on the animal characters can be somewhat offputting at first (And certainly lack the immense amount of detail given to Disney's previous live-action adaptations like "The Jungle Book" or "The Lion King"), but thankfully, they're all very lively, adorable, and full of unexpected personality of their own. It's a few minor theatrical elements, which would explain the studio's decision to release the film through their streaming service rather than in theaters. (Although, it still deserved a theatrical release more than "Playing with Fire" or last year's "Show Dogs" did. Even this would of looked more fitting on the big screen than those movies did.)
Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux end up serving as excellent casting choices for the leads, and even have some good chemistry together despite their voices coming out of a couple of talking dogs. Sam Elliott and Ashley Jensen are hilarious comic relief, perfectly cast as these characters, while we get welcome small voice roles from Benedict Wong (as the voice of "Bull", a bulldog) and Janelle Monáe (as the voice of "Peg", a singing Pekingese), who also contributes to the film's soundtrack. On the human side, Thomas Mann and Kiersey Clemons are good, though they don't really have much to do. Meanwhile, Yvette Nicole Brown and Adrian Martinez (as an overly into his job dogcatcher) make for amusing antagonists. There's also a brief appearance for F. Murray Abraham (as an Italian chef), who gets to be a part of a re-imagining of the iconic spaghetti dinner scene.The film offers more diversity and inclusion this time, which is nothing but commendable. On the downside, the film's lack of a musical focus takes away from the impact of the songs, both new and old.
It's still hard to tell if all of these remakes (With more on the way) are good for the film industry, even when they're well done, but "Lady and the Tramp" at least offers up something that at least tries to standout, even while not really deviating from the original that much. The film looks pretty, offers good humor, and the kind of heart that will without a doubt delight families willing to give it a look after a long day of streaming movies they've already seen a million times before. Also, "Darkwing Duck". They have all of "Darkwing Duck" and both "DuckTales" shows on there too. See? You feel like you should, but you just can't hate Disney. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Some Dark Moments And Improper Ways Of Running Restaurants.
Image: She is really elfing cute.
Let me get this out of the way quickly so we can get into the review. It's November! Early November still. Christmas is over a month away and I would prefer everyone to take their time to enjoy it. It's the most wonderful time of the year, and yet, every year it gets shoved in your face earlier and earlier in an attempt to profit off of it. Can't we just appreciate the holiday when it's actually time to celebrate the holiday? Give Thanksgiving their own movie already. Ok, now back to the main topic.
"Last Christmas" follows "Kate" (Emilia Clarke), whose life has become a disastrous wreck of unluckiness and cynicism. Working at a year-round Christmas store owned by the self-named, "Santa" (Michelle Yeoh), Kate avoids constant calls from her overbearing mother, "Petra" (Emma Thompson), lacks any real interest in both her work and her life, and just keeps making terrible decision after terrible decision. But when Kate randomly bumps into the charismatic and insanely cheerful, "Tom" (Henry Golding), he begins to help her see a more positive side of life, breaking through her cynical outlook. While hanging out with Tom, Kate stars to readjust her own life, while also learning to become more selfless and happy to those around her.
A film that could of simply been called "Christmas Romantic Comedy: The Movie", "Last Christmas" has a bit more going for it than the genre usually allows. Directed by Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids", "Spy"), with a screenplay by Emma Thompson and Byrony Kimmings, the film is given a slick look, with an attractive aesthetic and attempts at more serious realism. It gets a little dark at times, and handles some heavy themes with respect, such as some allegories to "Brexit", that while a little sloppily injected into the story, are very relevant today. The film falters when it comes to dialogue, predictable plotting, and just the fact that it's still a romantic comedy throughout, complete with all of the flaws one can expect from that genre. (As you all already know, I've never really been much of a fan.)
Luckily, even when the dialogue (Which is a little too kitschy at times) fails her, Emilia Clarke is too adorable and easy to love. Not to mention Henry Golding is both unfairly good looking and so damn charming. The two of them are a joy to watch, sharing excellent chemistry in both the comedy, romance, and even the drama. There are a few delightful supporting parts from Michelle Yeoh (Who gets some of the funnier lines) and slightly weird Emma Thompson. The film unfortunately builds to an incredibly obvious late twist that takes too long to reveal and was something that one could almost see coming from the trailer. (The title itself almost spoils it.) Maybe the movie should of included the twist a little earlier and worked the story around it better, instead of waiting too long to the point the audience has already figured it out.
"Last Christmas" is like Christmas candy, in which is sugary and sweet, though something that's also for the undemanding. It's basically something you could find on the Hallmark channel, except with a bigger budget and a skilled director. An okay date movie for anyone willing to jump into Christmas a little early, though for any fellow Grinches out there, it's something you could skip. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, More George Michael Than Necessary, And Spiritual Uplifting.
Image: Maybe we should all know more about this story.
The first thought that entered my head the minute I saw that Director Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day", "The Day After Tomorrow", "White House Down") was doing his own World War II war/epic/drama, literally the first statement that entered my head was that this was going to want to be like Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk", but will likely end up like Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor".. WEll, at least it's not "Pearl Harbor.".
"Midway" tells the true story that followed the aftermath of Japan's attack on "Pearl Harbor", and the United States' counterattack, leading the eventual "Battle of Midway" during World War II. The film mostly focuses on fighter pilot, "Richard "Dick" Best" (Ed Skrein), who is part of the upcoming attack, which is now orchestrated by "Admiral Chester W. Nimitz" (Woody Harrelson). Meanwhile, Intelligence officer, "Edwin T. Layton" (Patrick Wilson), who previously warned that relations with Japan were not as good as everyone thought, struggles to figure out the Japanese forces' plan of attack.
"Midway" has a lot going for it, and plenty of detractors that set out to keep it from reaching a level of inspirational greatness that the story deserves. Emmerich and screenwriter, Wes Tooke (Known mostly just as a producer), essentially create a cheesy action film that just so happens to be set during World War II. For a real life story such as this, it's a fine line between what could almost be seen as too corny to the point of offensiveness. This movie thankfully doesn't quite take it that far, and even when it does get a little over the top, you somewhat welcome it just because you like seeing true heroism on display in a way that causes for a round of applause. It's also just a little sloppy. Emmerich has never been one for storytelling or character development, though he admittedly can make a good action scene. The intense setpieces and solid special effects are certainly engrossing, and I appreciate the film not being held back by its PG-13 rating, still finding ways to show the true horror of war without relying on excessive violence. (However, the film's need to poorly placed green screen just serves as a constant distraction.)
The film's screenplay sadly does not allow for much character despite the large ensemble cast. Ed Skrein fits the bill for the slightly cocky, yet determined and selfless hero, though his accent kind of slips from time to time. Patrick Wilson and Woody Harrelson are both excellent, as are Luke Evans (as "Commander Wade McClusky", Best's superior), a suitably gruff Dennis Quaid (as "William Halsey", Commander of Best's division), and the very welcome, though underused Aaron Eckhart (as "Colonel Jimmy Doolittle", who planned out the "Doolittle Raid", the first retaliation after "Pearl Harbor"). The cast also includes Nick Jonas (as "Bruno Gaido", a carefree pilot), Mandy Moore (as Best's wife, "Anne"), among other recognizable faces in small parts. I do appreciate the film providing a little extra depth to our antagonists, with Tadanobu Asano (as "Admiral Yamaguchi") and Etsushi Toyokawa (as "Admiral Yamamoto"), who are portrayed as soldiers through and through. It would of been too easy to have them as simple villains, but instead the film shows humanity during a time of war, without neglecting the heavy casualties and unspeakable horror that it caused.
"Midway" is a well intentioned mess, trying to do too much, while remaining a crowdpleaser. There is some unexpected depth and not without moments of power, but the cornball dialogue and clichéd execution of drama, keep the film from being much more than something that you likely would of been showed in pieces during History class. Just safe enough, though not exactly the representation heroes deserve. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For War Based Violence.
Image: "Ooh, I thought you were Dwayne Johnson."
Every couple weeks I'm left wondering how exactly certain films find their way into a nationwide release on theater screens, where other grand cinematic experiences such as "Avengers: Endgame" only earlier this year were enjoyed by millions. Millions just waiting to see something that they never could of imagined seeing anywhere else, but on the big screen. Was there something about a baby crapping into John Cena's face that just screamed "Yeah. That's what the movies are made for!"?
"Playing with Fire" follows a a group of wildfire fighters (Or "Smoke-Jumpers"), led by superintendent, "Jake Carson" (John Cena), or "Supe", as he's called. Jake, along with his number two, "Mark" (Keegan-Michael Key), the wimpy "Rodrigo" (John Leguizamo), and the non-speaking "Axe" (Tyler Mane), rescue a trio of kids, "Brynn" (Brianna Hildebrand), "Will" (Christian Convery), and "Zoey" (Finley Rose Slater). Unable to get the kids to their parents, Jake and his crew are left with little option than to take care of them for the time being, despite the upcoming arrival of division commander, "Richards" (Dennis Haysbert). Of course cartoonish antics ensue and the kids find their ways into warming Jake's stoic heart.
From Nickelodeon Movies (And boy does it feel like something that wouldn't of been out of place premiering on that channel, instead of in theaters), "Playing with Fire" is a movie with a premise and a simple story outline, but nothing else. Directed by Andy Fickman ("She's the Man", "The Game Plan", "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"), the film looks so cheap despite apparently nearly costing $30 million (At least according to Box Office Mojo), and Fickman doesn't even remotely try to cover up how blandly uninteresting the film presents itself. We get the same repeating locations, lazy scene setups, and a lack of visual interest, which makes for a short, yet boring and unbearably diluted to the point of awkward. (It's almost like the movie is pausing to wait for a laugh track that never comes.)
We have capable and charming cast here, who do what they can with what little direction is given to them. John Cena, who has proven to be a skilled comedic actor, is likable and looks to be having fun. The material isn't very funny at all, but you can still tell he's not bad at what he does. Others like John Leguizamo, along with the reliably cute and lovable Judy Greer (as "Dr. Hicks", Jake's reliably cute and lovable love interest), have the most simple of roles to give. Keegan-Michael Key gets some of the film's more amusing moments, mostly because the sight of a slightly maniacal Keegan-Michael Key just appearing in a cartoonish fashion, is somewhat entertaining. I'm also very weirded out by how the twenty-three year old Brianna Hildebrand (Who many of my fellow geeks remember from "Deadpool", and also often cite her as being quite on the attractive side) looks like she's thirteen. This leads to be either think that the filmmakers found a way to make her look younger (Which considering this film's lacking production values, I find unlikely), or this was probably filmed some time ago. (I need confirmation on this!) The rest of the kids find themselves in the realm between childishly stupid and slightly psychopathic.
"Playing with Fire" has too much potty humor and an intentional lack of intellectual appreciation for what makes for good family entertainment (Though the film is oddly obsessed with "My Little Pony". Like really, really obsessed with it.). It's too juvenile to recommend for adults and too dumb for kids, and you get the idea that's exactly what the film was going for. It exists for the people involved to mess around and have a little fun with each other. (It's something Adam Sandler and Tyler Perry have made careers out of) The downside of it all is that nobody watching is having fun, and I sure as Hell don't think it had any business being in theaters. 1 Star. Rated PG For Laugh-Free Jokes And Lighter Fluid Consumption.
Image: Obi-Wan Kenobi, avoiding the urge to use a "Hello There!" right now.
Stephen King (Author of "The Shining, "It", "The Dark Tower", "Carrie", too many to list off of the top of my head) has got to have one of the largest and most expansive novel libraries of any author I've ever seen. (Not to mention, nearly every book is hundreds of pages long. How does he have the time to write all of these?) This has led to King having a new film adaptation a couple of times every year due to their popularity. (Both "It" movies being so successful probably helped too.) It's also funny how one of the most beloved cinematic adaptations of his works, "The Shining" (Directed by Stanley Kubrick), is one that King has infamously loathed. So the idea of a sequel, which is itself an adaptation, that sets out to pay homage to the original film, while keeping in line with the author's source material, is a task that only a capable director can accomplish.
Years after the original story, "Doctor Sleep" opens with "Danny Torrance" (Ewan McGregor), who is gifted with an ability referred to as "The Shining" (A mystical ability that allows him to see the dead, feel them, and connect with others with a similar power), is still haunted by what transpired at the "Overlook Hotel" (You know, where his dad went crazy and tried to axe him to death.). Danny has been able to lock up the ghosts of his pasts (Quite literally), but has turned to alcoholism and depression. Things start to take a turn for the better when Danny meets "Billy" (Cliff Curtis), who helps Danny improve his life and get a job at a hospice, where he helps those dying find peace in their final moments, earning the nickname "Doctor Sleep".
Years later, Danny is in a happier place, while communicating through his shining ability to communicate with a young girl, "Abra" (Kyliegh Curran), who shows her own remarkable shining power. Abra's life is put in danger when she uses her gift to witness the brutal death of a young boy (A bloody Jacob Tremblay cameo) at the hands of a deadly cult called the "True Knot", led by the creepy, yet unsettlingly attractive, "Rose the Hat" (Rebecca Ferguson). The cult feeds off of children with the shining, and Rose has her sights set on Abra. Danny must use his power to protect Abra from the True Knot's clutches, while at long last confronting the leftover inner turmoil and trauma he experienced as a child.
Directed by Mike Flanagan ("Ouija: Origin of Evil") and based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, "Doctor Sleep" is not exactly a horror film, despite being a direct follow up to "The Shining". It's more of a suspenseful supernatural drama, that just so happens to feature some truly frightening horror elements and dark themes that will keep you up at night. Flanagan beautifully creates an eerie ambience, along with a unique eye for a large scope and stunning cinematography, which subtlety brings you into the tense atmosphere. There are some captivating setpieces and surreal imagery that messes with your head. (It's also helped by how well the film looks in IMAX. It's something that would of made Kubrick proud.) While not exactly scary in the traditional sense (That may be intentional though. The film doesn't seem to have the intention of going for scares.), much like the original film, there is this sense of dread that creeps its way into focus and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The screenplay (Also by Flanagan), takes its time to world build without going overboard (At two and a half hours, the film is able to keep itself focused despite many plot elements.) and gives its characters room to develop into their own.
Ewan McGregor, who has been having a much deserved comeback as of late, is quietly terrific. He doesn't overdo it his character's inner struggle and portrays it in a realistic fashion, along with bringing his natural likability. Rebecca Ferguson is monstrous and starling villainess, whose humanity and beauty make her all the more chilling, going from calm and almost soothing, to violent and sadistic on a whim. Kyliegh Curran, in one of her first major film roles, gives a strong and commanding performance, while we get good work out of Cliff Curtis, and suitably creepy turns from Zahn McClarnon and Emily Alyn Lind (as two of Rose's vile cult members). There is also a brief, but memorable and welcome presence from Carl Lumbly (as the ghost of "Dick Hallorann", the cook with the shining from the original film), replacing Scatman Crothers, in some pretty spot on casting.
"Doctor Sleep" stands on its own and the more you think about it, the more it hits you. The film only falters a bit in a slightly predictable last act, which kind of just becomes a greatest hits edition of "The Shining" (It's expected, but considering how well the film has kept itself separate from the original by this point, it wasn't necessary.), and the film certainly won't have the impact of the influential classic. That's not exactly something that's shocking however. What we get is a very uniquely gripping and unsettling thriller, that stops to let its humanity shine through. I hope Steven King will approve this time.3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Disturbing Themes, Bloody Images, And Soul Sucking Hippies.
Image: "Now we wait for the box office recipts!"
Animation, especially in this country, is still something that struggles to have itself taken seriously. Unless they're Disney, Pixar, and sometimes DreamWorks, they are seen as nothing more than kids stuff. It makes it harder for any non-major studio animated film to be acknowledged or receive much success. It would be nice to see something from anyone else deliver some quality animated entertainment. Granted, when we have movies like this, you're not helping the cause!
"Arctic Dogs" follows small arctic fox, "Swifty" (Jeremy Renner), who dreams of becoming a "Top Dog" for small town Arctic delivery service, much like his idol, "Duke" (Michael Madsen). However, Swifty is well, not a dog, and his cranky boss, "Magda" (Angelica Huston), has him sent over to packaging along with overweight polar bear, "PB" (Alec Baldwin) and stoner albatross, "Lemmy" (James Franco). Swifty gets his chance when his longtime crush, "Jade" (Heidi Klum) asks him to deliver a package outside of town to a hidden laboratory, where a suspicious walrus, named "Doc Walrus" (John Cleese) and his army of puffins are up to something dastardly. Through a series of events, the other top dogs go missing, the town is plagued by mysterious earthquakes and a sudden rise in temperature, and Swifty is left to become the one delivery person in town, becoming a hero to the townspeople. But Doc Walrus' evil plan is soon revealed, which threatens to destroy the town, and it's up to Swifty to rally everyone together to save the day in the tamest, most child-friendly way possible.
Directed (And Co-Written) by Aaron Woodley ("Spark: A Space Tail". Remember that?) and released through a group of studios you've never heard of, "Arctic Dogs" is the kind of film that has no business being in theaters at all, let alone in November of all times. (January? Maybe.) A lazily bland and shockingly convoluted mess of ideas that doesn't even offer good enough animation or enough laughs to make up for it. The plot is jumbled, with too many characters and undercooked plotlines going on at once. (It feels more like it was meant to be a TV series, but someone decided to culminate everything into an hour and a half long movie.) Nothing meshes together well, and the below average animation lacks any sense of identity or personality of its own. (Most of the characters look the same, or have the most basic of traits provided to make them stand out just enough.)
The movie also earns the award for most insane and out of place casting I've seen in a kids movie. Jeremy Renner (Who also contributed a few songs to the soundtrack), continues a descent into madness. If the recent rumors of abuse and doing cocaine with teenagers weren't enough, his character just isn't quite as likable as the film tries to present him as. Some voices add very little, such as Heidi Klum (who at least sounds like she's having a little more fun with her other character, "Bertha", a conspiracy theorist otter), Michael Madsen, Laurie Holden (as "Dakota", one of the Top Dogs), and especially Alec Baldwin (Who is obviously just here for a paycheck). Others like Angelica Huston and Omar Sy (as "Sal", another conspiracy theorist otter), are at least trying to inject some life into a lifeless script. The most enjoyable characters end up being a bizarre James Franco (Who somehow gets at least a chuckle or two), and a criminally underused, yet still very much welcome John Cleese (Who has enough personality to make anything entertaining). These two characters also have the most identifiable traits out of the cookie-cutter cast. (The Doc Walrus design, which is a fat walrus with robot legs and other villainous gadgets, is at least visually amusing)
While also suffering from an unfocused plot and poor pacing, "Arctic Dogs" is short of smarts, humor, and personality. The film isn't quite as insultingly bad as say "Norm of the North" or "The Emoji Movie", but it just comes across as too lame and stupid. Even the youngest of kids would like find this unbearably flimsy, especially when good family entertainment can be something that anyone of any age can enjoy. All this will be remembered for is for the future investigations into how in God's name this movie got released nationwide in 2,800+ theaters. Now there's a conspiracy. 1 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Snow Puns, Poopie Humor, And Puffin Abuse.
Image: I guess she'll be back too.
It's fitting that a franchise that deals with alternate, bad timelines, in of itself, has its own timelines and continuities represented by mostly mediocre to bad films. Inspired by the James Cameron directed fanboy classics, "The Terminator" and "T2: Judgement Day", we've had "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", "Terminator Salvation", and the more forgettable "Terminator Genisys", and now they've all been wiped from the main timeline in favor of what I can only assume is one final attempt at a reboot. Fourth times the charm?
"Terminator: Dark Fate" opens decades after "Sarah Connor" (Linda Hamilton) prevented the rise of evil AI, "Skynet", and saved humanity from suffering an apocalyptic event. Sadly, it turns out that fate really wants humanity to die at the hands of killer machines. A young woman, "Daniella Ramos" (Natalia Reyes), or "Dani" as she's called, finds herself the target of a relentless, liquefied Terminator, "Rev-9" (Gabriel Luna), who has no intention of stopping until she's dead. Luckily, Dani also has a protector, in the form of an enhanced human soldier from the future, "Grace" (Mackenzie Davis). When it appears that Grace and Dani are about to meet their ends at the hands of Rev-9, they are rescued by an even gruffer Sarah Connor than before, who has spent the past years hunting down rogue Terminators after suffering a terrible tragedy. It's revealed that in a new bad future, another evil AI, known as "Legion" has taken over, and sees Dani as a threat to it's tyrannical, human free utopia. Sarah, Grace, and Dani must form an uneasy, but necessary alliance to escape Rev-9's clutches, and track down a mysterious set of coordinates that should help our heroes avoid their....wait for it.....Dark Fate.
Directed by Tim Miller ("Deadpool"), with James Cameron returning for a producer/story credit, "Terminator: Dark Fate" decides to play more to the series' strengths, with tension and action, while not exactly giving anything new. Not just in what we've already seen before in this series, but also in other big franchise films like it. In a way, it's reminiscent of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (I know I'm not the first person to make this comparison.), which is both a good and a bad thing. It's embracing what fans loved about the original, while making way for newbies to find something to enjoy. (Also, lots of inclusion. If you're not a fan of women and minorities in roles of importance, you're going to likely leave unhappy no matter the quality.) However, it's also very predictable and kind of safe. That is likely a flaw with the film's screenplay, by David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray, which is plenty serviceable, but nothing game changing. Something that's very noticeable considering that the series was originally a game changer for modern blockbusters.
Linda Hamilton is thankfully more of a badass than she was before. She's tough, capable in a fight, and underneath the snarky attitude, there is a subtle layer of sadness that humanizes the character. It's not overplayed and gets just enough focus to make for a compelling arc. Mackenzie Davis, who has been proving herself to be a very talented actress, especially when it comes to physicality, adds some variety to the typical time traveling being character. Natalia Reyes does some okay work, but her story is incredibly obvious and derivative of other strong female characters. (Most of which come across as a bit more believable.) Gabriel Luna is a menacing baddie, while Diego Boneta (as Dani's brother) doesn't serve much purpose. The one everybody has been excited to see would be the original Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a retired "T-800" model, who has become a family man named "Carl"). He's not in the film much (And to be honest, the trailers spoiled what could of been a great reveal), but he steals every scene with a surprising amount of depth and some much needed humor.
"Terminator: Dark Fate" offers little originality, but provides some good specials works, explosive action, and a dark, moody story that finds a way to keep one's interest, even when you know what's coming. It is fascinating to see the possible tragic outcomes of what we assume is a happy ending, along with the idea that despite one's actions, the possibility of humanity causing its own doom, is something that this series has addressed from the start. An exciting and solid follow up that may not reach the heights of what came before it, yet at least remembers why it worked so well in the first place. 3 Stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence, Language, Scary Skeletal Machines, And Synthetic Nudity.
Image: It's not delivery....It's Digiorno.
2019 has been one of the most.....let's just say unique years for film. Loads of blockbusters, sequels, remakes, big time disasters, along with more mainstream foreign films and others that just plain well, strange. (Where do we classify "The Lighthouse" exactly?) Our best films have included the ultimate superhero crossover, a bunch of toys questioning their existences, a family lying to their dying grandmother about her cancer, and the story of a homicidal clown, which somehow ended up being more depressing than anyone expected. Now we have something that is truly unlike any other movie we've had this year, and one that will certainly creep its way into your memory for a long time.
Set in South Korea, "Parasite" follows the unemployed, depressingly poor "Kim" family, consisting of father and mother, "Ki-taek" (Son Kang-ho) and "Chung-sook" (Jang Hye-jin), along with son and daughter, "Ki-woo" (Choi Woo-shik) and "Ki-Jeong" (Park So-dam). The Kims have so little that they steal wi-fi from nearby homes, fumigate their place via leaving the windows open when the fumigator comes by, and usually scheme their way into getting any kind of money they possibly can. Ki-woo's university friend, "Min-hyuk" (Park Seo-joon), is leaving to study abroad and asks Ki-woo to take over as an English tutor for "Da-hye" (Jung Ji-so), the daughter of the incredibly wealthy "Park" family. The Parks, which also consist of parents, simply referred to as "Mr. and Mrs. Park" (Lee Sun-kyun and Cho Yeo-jeong), and a young son, "Da-song" (Jung Hyun-joon), have clearly way too much money and lavishness at their disposal, and Ki-woo sees an opportunity. After arranging for the rest of his family to be hired for various jobs under fake names and getting the rest of the Parks' help fired, such as longtime housekeeper, "Moon-gwang" (Lee Jung-Eun), the Kims are free to worm their way into the Parks' home and experience true luxury for the first time in their lives. However, there is a hidden darkness underneath all of the fun, and a secret within the Parks' household unveils a horrifying secret, leading to deadly consequences.
From acclaimed director, Bong Joon-ho ("Snowpiercer", "Okja"), "Parasite" is a much darker, more intricate film than it would at first appear. Joon-ho's surreal directorial style gives off a somewhat haunting aura, which spreads throughout the film despite it not being obvious that it's even there. It's beautifully crafted and well thought out, taking a sudden, though not completely jarring, shift part way through. The memorable screenplay by Joon-ho and Han Jin-won is full of great character moments and a darkly weird sense of humor. There's a sense of unease, especially while you watch some fairly unlikable characters doing scummy things, though you also oddly find yourself drawn to them as well.. You find yourself questioning who you sympathize with more. There's the Parks, who are clearly too rich to the point where they appear to live in another world, not noticing the endless poverty surrounding them, and are too damn stupid to see when they're being taken advantage of. However, they're kind, don't set out to hurt anybody, and there is still a familial love that anyone can relate to and understand. The Kims are dastardly schemers, who lie and step over others to get what they want, without caring about the consequences. With that said, the position they have been put in is all too real, and the desperation each person will do to protect their family is all very easy to understand.
The excellent cast finds the humanity of each character despite their flaws. Song Kang-ho is especially wonderful, along with equally strong work from Jang Hye-jin, Park So-dam, and Choi Woo-shik. Lee Sun-kyun is given surprising depth, and some humor from a delightfully over-dramatic Cho Yeo--jeong. Also, credit to Lee Jung-eun, who becomes more important later in the film. There are layers to each character, and each one's true motives are not at all what you would expect. Unpredictable would be the best way to describe the film, and what the film reveals itself to be in the second half will leave your jaw dropped throughout the rest of the runtime. When it becomes apparent what the point is, your perspective on everyone and everything within the film will be completely flipped on its head.
"Parasite" is the kind of film that was made for discussion, with anyone who sees it likely coming up with their own interpretations. For me, I see it as a look into the absolute worst of both worlds that can be created only through such a high societal discrepancy between those with too much and those with nothing. (This is also something that, while relevant in South Korea, is also something that's relevant just about anywhere.) It's shown to us in a strange and humorous, yet unsettling and eventually tragic fashion. It's a thing of beauty that will have you captivated by every frame, leaving you with no intention of looking away. Unexpected and deviously brilliant. This one will stick with me for a while. 4 Stars. Rated R For Adult Content, Language, And A Few Things I Can't Even Talk About Without Spoiling.
Image: "What do you mean there's no app for that?"
There's always a handful of movies where I just say, "Look. I'm late reviewing this, hardly anybody saw it, and the only reason I'm even thinking about it is because of my obligation to what I do.". So we're going to get through this one quickly so we can move on to more memorable material. Or maybe it's just guilt.
"Countdown" follows aspiring nurse, "Quinn Harris" (Elizabeth Lail), who downloads an app that seemingly predicts how long you have until your death, called "Countdown" (The app also states that she only has a couple days left to live). Like most teenagers, Quinn doesn't think much of it until she notices people that she's met who happened to have also downloaded the app are winding up dead. When she apparently breaks the user agreement, a demonic, cloaked figure begins to torment her with horrific images. Unable to delete the app or get a new phone, Quinn meets "Matt" (Jordan Calloway), who also downloaded the app and only has a short time before a supposed death. So the two of them team up to find a way to avoid the ticking clock, while the relentless demonic presence hunts them down.
Made of a budget around $6 million and directed by first timer, Justin Dec (Known for mostly short films and as a production assistant), "Countdown" is the kind of cheaper horror film that's made specifically to appeal to teenagers looking for something disposable and trashy. It's practically a subgenre, much like those cruddy made for theater Lifetime dramas, in which it's not meant to be good per se. Just entertainingly dumb enough to draw out a small crowd of people looking to yell at a movie. What's too bad is that the movie really didn't have to be that way. The film seems to rely on cheap horror, lame jump scares, and a predictable story to go with the silly premise. However, occasionally the film embraces a surprisingly solid sense of humor about itself and acknowledges the ridiculousness with a few good one liners, funny situations, and some admitted cleverness. The film is full of holes, but the script has a refreshing way of going about it and offers some satisfying, if not still somewhat absurd, explanations. (The code to the app is made up of demonic Latin. That's actually kind of inspired.)
Some of the actors also do fine jobs with what given. Elizabeth Lail is charming and thoroughly capable, even carrying the film's more dramatic moments as professionally as one can despite the film's dependence on the more basic elements of horror. Jordan Calloway and Talitha Bateman (as "Jordan", Quinn's rebellious younger sister) do solid work, while Peter Facinelli (as "Dr. Sullivan", Quinn's rapey superior) is a walking stereotype. Some good laughs come from Tom Segura (as "Derek", a snarky phone salesman) and P.J. Byrne (as "Father John", who just geeks out over demonic things), who provide unexpected levels of intentional humor.
"Countdown" has the makings of a fun, tech-based dark comedy, but instead decides to be a generic, forgettable horror movie instead. There's little to be scared about, and when the film isn't offering anything of amusement, you're left to pick apart how stupid everything is. (Logically, people would of caught on to if this was real or not. We literally record and tweet everything these days.) Something meant to be nothing more than a time waster, though it could of tried a little harder to be something more enjoyable. Maybe they should remember that there are film critics that take their job pretty seriously. Just saying.2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Nightmare Faces, Sexual Assaulting Doctors, And Nerdy Priests.
Image:This story is laid out in black and white.
There were a lot of things I was not expecting to see today, let alone ever in my entire life. This movie decided to present all of those things, along with things no normal person would ever thought of, all into almost two hours of madness.
"The Lighthouse" follows "Ephraim Winslow" (Robert Pattinson), who is dropped off by a boat onto an isolated island to serve as an assistant to the elderly lighthouse keeper, "Thomas Wake" (Willem Dafoe). Nothing is off to a good start, such as Wake not allowing Winslow anywhere near the lighthouse light, the duo's inability to have a civil conversation, and Wake's constant flatulence. However, nothing is as it seems (Or is it?), as Winslow starts to fantasize (Or does he?) about a mermaid. Then there's Wake's superstitions about killing seagulls, and the seemingly endless solitude, which will eventually lead these two further into insanity. (Or will it?......It will.)
From Director Robert Eggers ("The Witch"), "The Lighthouse" is best enjoyed when you know little about it. Shot beautifully in black-and-white in a suitably haunting fashion, the film has a creepy aura that never goes away. The film's aesthetic highlights the ongoing craziness, which continuously spirals out of control the further the film goes along. The demented screenplay by Robert and Max Eggers is almost nonsensical with its dialogue. None of what we see makes sense, nor do we ever truly realize what's real and what isn't. That makes the film both confusing, yet immensely fun at the same time. It's helped by the film's focus on the amazing performances from our two terrific leads. Willem Dafoe, with the dirtiest and bushiest beard ever put the film, does his best stereotypical old sea captain impression in spectacular fashion. Robert Pattinson (Yes, the guy from "Twilight" has become one of the best actors working today. Accept it already!), is at his finest here, being both compelling to watch and occasionally hilarious. There is a somewhat twisted sense of humor going on throughout the film, which accompanies imagery that's both surreal, nightmarish, and at times, just weird for the sake of being weird.
Psychologically out of it's freakin mind, "The Lighthouse" can only be described as the insane final twenty minutes of "The Witch", except this time it's the entire movie. Sometimes it's too weird for the Hell of it, and by the ambiguous end, most of the debates among audiences as to what it all means probably don't actually mean anything. (I have my theory, but I won't spoil it.) But what we do get is a visual feast for the eyes, mental terror, and two extraordinary performances perfect the craft of acting. What a snobby critic would describe as a "Tour De Force", allow me to put this in a way that any person can understand. Duuude. This sh*t is crazy. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Seagull Abuse, Gassy Old Men, Things Men Say When They're Drunk, And The Reveal That Mermaids Do In Fact Have Genitalia. (I Learned Something Today.)
Image: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
Boy, nobody should be shocked that this was going to be a controversial one. I mean, you have to commend Director Taika Waititi ("What We Do in the Shadows", "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", and of course, "Thor: Ragnarok") for walking up to some studio executives and explaining to them his idea for a goofy little coming of age comedy........where Hitler shows up. Yep, that Hitler.
Set in the whimsical world of Nazi Germany during World War II, "Jojo Rabbit" follows a ten year old boy, "Johannes Betzler" (Roman Griffin Davis), who loves his Nazi government so much that his imaginary friend is an exaggerated version of "Adolf Hitler" (Taika Waititi). Having been given the nickname "Jojo Rabbit" due to failing to kill a rabbit, Jojo accidentally blows himself up with a grenade at a "Hitler Youth Camp", resulting in him being slightly scarred and forced to walk with a limp. Jojo's loving mother, "Rosie" (Scarlett Johansson), arranges for disgraced Nazi captain, "Klenzendorf" (Sam Rockwell), to find a way to include Jojo in all the Nazi fun. While the war appears to nearing its end and it appears that Germany is about to lose badly (Though they have been assured that they're doing fine.), Jojo still believes everything he's told, such as Jews being demonic mind readers with horns. Jojo's life and worldview are completely turned upside down when he discovers the horrific truth that Rosie is secretly harboring a young Jewish girl, "Elsa" (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Fearing the consequences harboring a Jew, Jojo keeps Elsa's existence a secret. During this time, Jojo learns more about Elsa and eventually finds himself smitten to her, much to the dismay of imaginary Hitler.
Probably the ballsiest movie of 2019, "Jojo Rabbit" is the kind of movie that will be determined by if you are willing to watch it. If the premise alone just destroyed any sense of enjoyment you could possibly have for it, don't go see it. You won't get past it, even though there ends up being a much deeper, stronger story behind it all. Waititi (Who also wrote the screenplay) gives the film a colorful look that you would almost find in a family film, except for the underlying horror hidden beneath the surface. The film keeps its zany and cartoonish tone throughout, providing loads of uncomfortable laughs and smart satire, especially in how the film shows how people could go about their everyday lives with so many terrible things going on around them. It's hilarious, but not to the point where its making fun of what happened during this time. There are moments of drama, where the film lets reality set in, and the film's heart starts to shine through.
The film thrives in its characterization, providing us many memorable and nuanced performances. Roman Griffin Davis, in his first acting role, is nothing short of terrific. Aside from the uneasy hilarity that comes with a young boy spouting out Hilter propaganda, he delivers on an immense amount of personality, and an odd sense of likability. (He's just a kid that doesn't know any better. It's just taken to a big extreme.) Thomasin McKenzie (From last year's "Leave No Trace"), is a star in the making, providing a fun sense of humor and some of the film's main drama. Scarlett Johansson is is wonderfully adorable, and just gives off such a warm feeling, in a performance that might deserve some Academy recognition. Taika Waititi is a riot, stealing every scene he's in, making one of the worst people in the history of the world (If not the worst) into a bumbling, sociopathic manchild in the most cathartic way possible. Other great performances come from a delightful Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson (as "Fräulein Rahm", an instructor for the camp), Alfie Allen (as "Finkel", Klenzendorf's assistant and possible lover), a brilliant Archie Yates (as "Yorki", Jojo's best friend, who gets to be a part of Hitler's army early), and a really creepy Stephen Merchant (as a sinister Gestapo agent).
Intentionally problematic and not exactly a film that everyone will get, "Jojo Rabbit" is more than a silly comedy about Nazi stupidity. What starts out as the darkest dark comedy you could find, ends up growing into one of the most touching films you'll see this year. When things are meant to be serious, the film knows when to tone down the silliness. While you'll still find yourself laughing (And most likely feeling uncomfortable about it at the same time), you'll also leave with a sense of childlike optimism that you didn't have before. Sweet and sincere, funny and awkward, and all kinds of wrong. It's a combination that only the guy who previously showed us what the Hulk's ass looked like could provide. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Uneasy Content, A Little Dose Of Reality, And Unicorn Feasts.
Image: "Great, now Zombies are falling from the sky."
When your surprise hit comedy takes a while to release it's sequel, and you have no intention of really doing anything all that different this time around, there is one simple thing that can salvage everything. Just remember to be funny. It's apparently not even that hard.
Ten years after the original, "Zombieland: Double Tap" following the continuing adventures of "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson), "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg), "Wichita" (Emma Stone), and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin), as they try to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, dubbed "Zombieland". Living by a set of rules devised by Columbus, the group has taken shelter in the now abandoned White House, having taken notice of the new and inventive forms of zombies that have started to appear. (Some smarter, faster, or even dumber than ever.) However, not everything is perfect in their new home. Wichita is turned off by Columbus' intent to ask for her hand in marriage, and Little Rock yearns to find people her own age to hang out with. The two abandon the group, leaving Tallahassee and Columbus to annoy each other with their basic personalities. While out and about, Columbus meets the living embodiment of a dumb blonde, "Madison" (Zoey Deutch), and she becomes part of the group, much to the chagrin of Tallahassee. But when Wichita returns with news that Little Rock has run off with a hippie, "Berkeley" (Avan Jogia), and now everyone has to go find her. Bringing Madison along for the ride, our heroes must trek through Zombieland in a mini-van to find Little Rock, all while discovering that there are a rising number of super powered, mega-Zombies on the loose.
With returning Director Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland", "Venom"), "Zombieland: Double Tap" could easily be seen by some as just a complete re-hash of the first film.....and it is. It's also smart enough to know that, and to remember what made the first film work so well in the first place. With the return of screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Both "Deadpool" movies), along with Dave Callaham, they continue the first film's clever deconstruction of the zombie genre and know when the let the film be as cartoonish as it wants. But it also gives our fantastic cast, who we already know work really well together, enough to work off each other, while on occasion probably letting them ad-lib every now and then. In addition, the bigger budget gives room for the film to get a little bigger (But thankfully not too overboard) and expand on the over the top, apocalyptic world that's been set up from the original movie.
The comedic chemistry between Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg is as hilarious as ever. Both of them bringing out their real life mannerisms and exaggerating them further, they play off each other perfectly. Emma Stone, who has since the original film found herself a couple Oscar nominations and a win, still feels right at home with everyone and delivers plenty of amusing sarcasm. Abigail Breslin, getting the smallest role of the main four, does at least get remind everyone how she's one of those actresses with enough natural personality to keep up with everyone else. We get some fun new additions to the cast, such as a hilariously idiotic Zooey Deutch (Who has a lot more range as an actress than I think people give her credit for), and the overqualified, but welcome Rosario Dawson (as "Nevada", a gun-toting badass, who might have a romantic connection with Tallahassee). Then there's the quick, but memorably bizarre appearances of Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch (as "Albuquerque" and "Flagstaff", a duo who share a remarkable and creepy amount of similarities to Tallahassee and Columbus), that gets one of the film's biggest laughs. As for Avan Jogia, he's just meh in a very thankless and forgettable role.
"Zombieland: Double Tap" can feel a little sitcom-ish at times, but then again, so did the first one. Some jokes are restated or expanded on simply because the first film did it for sure, yet the same ingredients somehow work. There are plenty of big laughs, a few unexpected surprises, and lots of good old fashioned, crazy zombie killing, that everyone can enjoy. It's nothing special, but it's like the rules say, enjoy the little things. 3 Stars. Rated R For Lots Of Language, Cartoonish And Bloody Violence, And Total Disregard For Presidential Portraits.
Image: I'd stay on her good side.
One of the first modern live-action re-imaginings of an animated Disney classic, the first "Maleficent" wasn't perfect by any means, but it certainly didn't have any problems finding an audience and even a fanbase that followed. It's a darker story for Disney (And Hell, it apparently had a rape allegory. Seriously.) and it was also at least somewhat different from the other many remakes we've had recently (Although it oddly isn't as good as many of them). Due to being a big box office hit, a sequel, no matter how unneeded, was going to come around at some point.
"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" follows the titular dark fairy, "Maleficent" (Angelina Jolie), having redeemed herself and given up her evil ways to watch over all of the magical folk of "The Moors", along with her adopted daughter, "Aurora" (Elle Fanning). Maleficent is distressed when she learns that Aurora's stale piece of white bread sweetheart, "Prince Phillip" (Harris Dickinson, replacing Brenton Thwaites), has asked Aurora to marry him. Despite disapproving of the union, Maleficent only wants to see her step-daughter happy. Maleficent, along with her human/raven sidekick/possible lover, "Diaval" (Sam Riley), accompany Aurora to the nearby kingdom, to meet Phillip's parents, "King John" (Robert Lindsay) and "Queen Ingrith" (Michelle Pfeiffer). However, it turns out Ingrith is a manipulative bigot, who hates all magical creatures and plots to destroy them all.
After an epic sass off between Maleficent and Ingrith, John ends up cursed to a deep sleep, and Maleficent is forced to flee the castle, only to be wounded in the process. Maleficent is rescued and brought to a hidden sanctuary populated by more fairies, led by the noble "Conall" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wants to use Maleficent as a chance to bring peace to both humans and fairy kind. Sadly, with vengeful fairy, "Borra" (Ed Skrein), demanding battle, and Ingrith ready for some mass genocide, a grand and magical race war is about to begin. (You know, from Disney!) It's up to the mother and daughter bond between Maleficent and Aurora to save the day, and prevent heavy casualties from both sides.
Directed by Joachim Rønning ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"), "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" is a lot like the first film in which story is taking a back seat to the visual effects and the production design. It's a very predictable outline that's set up, and the film follows every plot point to the exact letter. It's just the execution and the road getting there is absolutely insane. The visuals and art direction are definitely beautiful to look at. Even with the excessive CGI, it is a credit to Rønning, who despite obviously not intending to focus on plot, knows how to portrays the beauty of this world, along with a love for darker, creepier elements. (Gotta respect Disney for allowing the filmmakers to embrace freakier imagery.) The screenplay by Linda Woollverton (The original "The Lion King", "Alice in Wonderland", and the first "Maleficent"), with collaborators Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, is a bit on the goofy side, yet it makes the film oddly charming. (Especially when it likes our lead character be her endearingly snarky self.) It's when the film gets heavy with its themes of racial tension and the surprisingly high body count, to go with the film's unpredictable images. (I was not expecting to see a scary bear/raven hybrid, or a sadistic woman playing an organ as living creatures die horribly around her in kids a movie.)
One of the best aspects from the first film returns to grace us once again with her mesmerizing presence. Angelina Jolie, with her marvelous cheekbones, brings the character to life and finds her humanity. (Metaphorically of course.) Elle Fanning is still a wonderful casting choice, and both she and Jolie have some excellent mother/daughter chemistry together. They serve as the heart of the film, and even when the storytelling feels sloppy, you at least care for them. The always welcome Sam Riley provides the most humor, and remains the most memorable character, while Harris Dickinson is the human personification of a blank sheet of paper. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville (as "Knotgrass", "Thistlewit", and "Flittle", less competent versions of the fairies from the animated film), portray their characters through offputting motion capture like before, and still make for the most mediocre effects in the film. The great Chiwetel Ejiofor is underutulized, while Ed Skrein is damn near unrecognizable under those horns and makeup. Our villains end up stealing the show, with Michelle Pfeiffer just dripping with delicious villainy and smugness, along with delightfully evil performances from Jenn Murray (as "Gerda", Ingrith's cold staring henchwoman) and Warwick Davis (as "Lickspittle", Ingrith's goblin-esque mad scientist).
The final act is when the film just goes for broke, becoming "Game of Thrones" for kids, complete with loads of gruesome deaths and attempted murders. Not to mention the absolutely bonkers, yet still visually lovely, imagery that accompany them. Visually graceful and not without heart, "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" is a thoroughly entertaining, occasionally crazy, dark children's fantasy, even if its existence is completely unnecessary. To a certain degree, stronger than the first film, it probably doesn't need to be here, but on the big screen (Let alone an IMAX screen), it makes for a flawed, yet shockingly good time. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Scary Images, Casual Racism, Horrific Disintegrations, Maulings, And Horny Flying Creatures.
Image: The new Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max. Vulgar mode optional.
When a movie reveals its existence a little over a month before its release date, you know somethings probably a little off about it.
"Jexi" follows pathetic schmuck, "Phil" (Adam Devine), who like the rest of the world, lives his life through his phone. After breaking his old one, he's able to get a brand new smartphone that has a very advanced (And unstable) AI, named "Jexi" (Voiced by Rose Byrne). Jexi is determined to make Phil's life better by any means necessary. Things start to pick up for Phil when he slowly starts to become braver, makes friends, finally gets somewhere in his job, and even finds a connection with his cute new love interest, "Cate" (Alexandra Shipp). However, it turns out Jexi is jealous of Phil's new relationship and wants him all to herself. With a new mission to force Phil to love only her, Jexi proceeds to ruin his life even more than it already was before.
Despite the obviously rushed distribution, "Jexi" is not as bad as you would think. It's nothing game changingly horrible or offensive. It's just not very good, but in a way that doesn't end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. You're mostly just left with the feeling of "Well, that was a movie.". Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore ("21 & Over", along with both "Bad Moms" movies), the film feels cheap and sitcom like, with direction that would even seem pedestrian by TV standards, complete with strange and distracting camerawork. (Lots of weird shaky cam and offputting close ups.) The film is focused on (And to a certain degree, held together as best it can) by Adam Devine. Sure, he's mugging constantly, and I do question the character's intelligence to the point you could consider labeling him as mentally unstable, but he's certainly giving it everything he can. Alexandra Shipp, once again stuck as the love interest to someone much lesser than her, is charming as usual despite the script's shortcomings. The film becomes more of a romantic comedy as it goes along, and they're thankfully cute enough, albeit unrealistic. We have appearances from a cartoonish Michael Peña (as Phil's over the top boss) and an amusing Wanda Sykes (as the sassy smartphone saleswoman). The selling point is Rose Byrne, and it feels like the movie only exists simply to have her say raunchy things for under an hour and a half. She still gets an occasional laugh or at least a chuckle, though even that gets a little old after a while.
Not without some okay moments of humor and the short runtime works to the film's benefit, "Jexi" is nothing spectacular in its badness. It's just too damn pointless. More of a skit than an actual movie, it ends on a predictably stupid note, but at least doesn't attempt to pad things out any longer than necessary. For a movie that wants to say something about how people waste their lives on their phones, this movie is ironically a waste of time in of itself. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Phone Sex. Literally.
Image: Will Smith looks great for his age.
Ang Lee has got to be one of the strangest directors out there. There are directors that have a specific type of film that they usually make, and plenty that have a slightly more ranged filmography. Ang Lee is kind of all over the place. He makes "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", then gives us "Hulk". Follows that up with "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pie", and tosses in that really off-putting one, "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk". Now we got Will Smith literally beating himself up.
"Gemini Man" follows incredibly skilled, though worn out government assassin, "Henry Brogan" (Will Smith), on his way towards retirement. However, Henry discovers that his superiors weren't entirely truthful about his most recent kill, resulting in the higher ups coming to the conclusion that he needs to retire permanently.....from life. When attempts to kill Henry fail, "Clay Varris" (Clive Owen), the leader of super top secret bad guy organization, "GEMINI", decides to send in the perfect person to get the job done. Henry is then confronted by himself, literally, in the form of "Junior" (Will Smith, de-aged), a younger clone, that has all of Henry's skills in a more Fresh Prince-like body. Allied with a fellow agent, "Danny Zakarweski" (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and old pilot buddy, "Baron" (Benedict Wong), Henry must find a way to avoid Junior and track down Varris to shut down GEMINI for good.
A concept that's over twenty years old, "Gemini Man" is a movie that's been passed around for years, looking for the right person to make it a reality. Director Ang Lee steps in to give us a thoroughly enjoyable and even somewhat engrossing, yet awkward and pretty damn stupid popcorn flick. With screenwriting credits given to Darren Lemke ("Jack the Giant Slayer"), Billy Ray ("Overlord", "The Hunger Games"), and David Benioff ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), yet also apparent credit given to a crap-load of other people, the film is kind of a mess. At first, the film seems clever in how it starts off fairly normally before jumping into science-fiction territory. Although it doesn't quite do a good enough job setting things up (Feels a bit like a TV pilot), you get a vibe for who our lead character is and his backstory. When things start to get crazy, they progressively get more absurd, especially once we reach the explosive (and ridiculous) finale. It's not helped by the cheesy dialogue, which is more than overly serious. It also makes the film kind of fun in the same way one would enjoy a soap opera (Except with more explosions and special effects).
Will Smith shows that he still has an incredible amount of onscreen charisma to carry a film. Using his age to his advantage, he proves to be a likable action hero, with a complexly vague history and very human motivations. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays more of a nuanced role, rather than cute, sort of love interest (That part thankfully gets dropped pretty early on), and Benedict Wong provides needed goofy comic relief. Clive Owen is enjoyably dastardly, sneering every line with glee, and only lacking a mustache to twirl. Now to talk about young Will Smith and the effects work that bring that character to life. It's biggest selling point for the whole film, and for good reason too. The de-aging effect, while not perfect, is still impressively done. What could of been distracting throughout ends up being surprisingly compelling and makes for an actually interesting character that you do start to care about. While it falters quite a bit towards the end (The CGI becomes horrifyingly apparent in the last couple minutes. It's like they ran out of budget or shot it as quickly as possible to wrap it up.), it's still an achievement worth recognition, despite not being on par with what Marvel has done with the technology. (I mean. They're both aging down and aging up their actors now.)
Both the biggest pros and cons of "Gemini Man" come from Ang Lee himself. Lee knows how to shoot a scene, provide some excellent cinematography, and even knows how to craft a creative action scene. (A setpiece involving the use of a motorcycle as a weapon, is a highlight) Whether the effects work well or not, he knows how to shoot around it to make it look as good as possible. However, he also makes a few odd editing choices, whether it being unintentionally hilarious slow motion, awkward close ups, and a sense of self importance for something that really doesn't have anything truly meaningful to say. (Also, I avoided seeing the film in the high frame rate because I think directors need to stop trying to make that a thing. It's offputting.) It's dumb fun, and nothing more than that. Bogged down by a weak screenplay and an over the top story, but benefiting from good action and enough silly excitement to waste a couple hours, it's the perfect mediocre action flick to help us bide our time till the next big (And possibly better) blockbuster. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Action Violence And More Attempts To Use CGI To Replace Our Actors In The Future. Watch Your Backs Guys.
Image: Altogether ooky.
Everyone pretty much knows who the Addams Family are, know the character names, and definitely know the song by heart. Yet odds are many of them never watched (or read, considering they originally started out as a comic strip) anything involving the characters. Maybe they saw the movie from the 90s, but that might be it. It's rather amazing that despite that, the fictional family is memorable just enough that you really don't need to of been a fan to know who they are.
Based on the iconic characters created by Charles Addams, "The Addams Family" serves as an origin story for the titular creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky family. Husband and wife, "Gomez" (Oscar Isaac) and "Morticia" (Charlize Theron) are forced to flee to a new home due to peoples' inability to accept someone different. Having settled down in a haunted house along with their Frankenstein monster-like butler, "Lurch" and disembodied hand named "Thing", Gomez and Morticia raise their equally demented children, "Wednesday" (Chloë Grace Moretz) and "Pugsley" (Finn Wolfhard). Years later, the Addams' discover a nearby town, where obsessive reality TV show host, "Margaux Needler" (Allison Janney) has turned it into an overly similar, closed off housing community called "Assimilation" (Ha! I get it!). The family plans for a celebration that will include a sword fighting right of passage for Pugsley, resulting in the extended family, including "Uncle Fester" (Nick Kroll), "Grandmama" (Bette Midler), and the talking wig creature, "Cousin Itt" (Snoop Dogg, doing beeps and boops), coming over to take part in it. Margaux wants nothing to do with them and is determined to have the Addams' run out of town. While the rest of the family starts to arrive, Pugsley hopes to not let his dad down, Wednesday befriends Margaux's neglected daughter, "Parker" (Elsie Fisher), and Morticia tries to keep everyone together, none the wiser to Margaux's scheme.
Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (Who both served as directors of the hilariously juvenile "Sausage Party"), "The Addams Family" is basically a movie getting by because of the fact that everyone knows who the characters are. It's an amusing enough plan, but when the film you put them in is so unremarkable, there ends up being very little to the actual film. The plot is clearly thin and the screenplay by Pamela Pettler ("Corpse Bride", "Monster House", and "9") and Matt Lieberman doesn't offer near enough laughs to compensate. The animation, while nothing spectacular, is nice looking and offers some good sight gags, which make for the film's funniest moments. However, the direction itself is too pedestrian and offers very little in terms of cinematic quality. After so many spectacular and grand animated films to come out over the recent years, you'd think there would be some more pizzazz to the film to liven it up. Sadly, it just feels bland, which is disappointing considering what could of been done with the movie. (It originally started production as a stop-motion film by Tim Burton. Wouldn't that of been something awesome?)
We do thankfully get an excellent (and admittedly brilliant) voice cast, starting with the equally committed and delightful Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron. (Be honest. Even in a live action adaptation, they would of made a perfect fit.) Finn Wolfhard, an unrecognizable Bette Midler, and the instantly recognizable Allison Janney are all great, while the bizarre casting of Snoop Dogg is too weird not to enjoy. (Though he is barely in the movie.) The scene stealers would be Nick Kroll (Getting the best lines) and the always welcome Chloë Grace Moretz, who you can tell is relishing every line with childlike, macabre glee. Everyone is giving a 100% and they add much needed life to a film that veers dangerously close to becoming generic and boring.
"The Addams Family" isn't without amusement and the message of accepting others, despite the obviousness, is still genuinely sweet. It's brought down by lackluster direction, a weak script, and little imagination. It results in the film giving off more of a straight to video vibe than a necessary theatrical viewing. (I also could of also done without the occasional attempts at "Modern" humor, which gives off "Hotel Transylvania"-esque vibes) It'll be fine for just the kids, but for characters so beloved and well known, you expect it to be something the entire family should be able to enjoy no matter their age. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Slightly Spooky Humor And What I Can Only Describe As Hand On Foot Fetish.
Image: "What, me worry?"
Ladies and gentlemen. What we have here is the most vile, revoltingly cruel, mean spirited, scummy, and truly grotesquely repulsive film of the year. (If not the last five to ten years.) This movie is not good for the world right now. And yes, I am giving it the rating I am, not in spite of that, but because of that. If that makes sense.
Based on the maniacal arch-nemesis of the Caped Crusader from DC comics, "Joker" tells the story of scrawny, depressed wannabe stand-up comedian, "Arthur Fleck" (Joaquin Phoenix), who suffers from a disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably against his will without any actual reason. Arthur lives with his sickly mother, "Penny" (Frances Conroy), in a rat infested (Quite literally), down and dirty Gotham City, which is likely to have a new mayor in the form of billionaire, "Thomas Wayne" (Brett Cullen), father of the future Batman himself, "Bruce" (Dante Pereira-Olson). However, things are soon to take a turn for the worse when after losing his job as a clown, Arthur is ruthlessly attacked on a train by some Wall Street bullies. The confrontation ends with lets just say, bloody results, and Arthur finds himself responsible for a movement of the people wanting to disrupt the system. Arthur also discovers a connection between his mother and Thomas Wayne, and is determined to find the truth. Arthur's journey of self-discovery leads down a road to madness. Thus we are revealed the tragic, horrifying origins of the greatest terror that Gotham City will ever know. (And you know, possibly the greatest comic book villain of all time.)
Whoo boy! This movie already has already caused an uproar before it even came out. There's talk of possible violence or shootings in movie theaters, and that this is a dangerous film that will inspire future serial killers. (Not to mention the fact that the film is reminding people about the 2012 "The Dark Knight Rises" shooting) This movie is causing loads of internet chaos right now. Directed by Todd Phillips ("War Dogs" and the "Hangover" trilogy), "Joker" is a comic book film unlike any comic book film you've ever seen. In reality, it's a psychological thriller that veers close into subtle horror. It's also easily Phillips' best film, with his commitment to the dirty, grimy 1980s inspired aesthetic. It's a gorgeously filthy looking film, with some stunning visuals and Oscar worthy cinematography that instantly grabs you and forces you to live in this literally and metaphorically rotting city. The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir ("Sicario: Day of the Soldado") has a certain calm level of constant unease and dread throughout, and it gets more wild as the film progresses. Not to mention, though the film doesn't directly follow any specific Joker-centric storylines from the comics, there are clear inspirations and references that are sure to please fans.
The character of the Joker has become an icon of possibly dangerous proportions. Having been brought to life by actors such as Jack Nicholson, Mark Hammil, and of course, the Oscar winning (And late, great) Heath Ledger, which has since made the role impossible to top for some fans. Thankfully, Joaquin Phoenix is not trying to copy anyone. He brings a more human side to the character that we've never truly seen before. He's just a guy, with some clear mental instability, that doesn't initially start off with villainous intent. His humanity is what makes him so much more frightening, and even when you find yourself sympathizing with Arthur's plight, you can see the seething anger and wickedness in his eyes and movements. You know it's going to get much worse.You're just waiting for that final straw that will set him off.
It's Phoenix's movie through and through, but there still other actors who appear prominently or sporadically including Brett Cullen (Portraying a more dick-ish Thomas Wayne), Zazie Beetz (as "Sophie", Arthur's out of his league love interest), Frances Conroy, Brian Tyree Henry (as a clerk at "Arkham Asylum"), Shea Whigham and Bill Camp (as a couple of detectives, that are suspicious of Arthur's activities). One of the biggest scene stealers would obviously be Robert De Niro (as "Murray Franklin", a popular talk show host that Arthur is a fan of). The big scene between Phoenix and De Niro is one of those edge of your seat powerhouse cinematic moments that people will be discussing for a long time for many reasons.
Now I feel I will need to address something really important. The violence in the film, while not really in the film too much, is very shocking and is possibly too real for some. It's not the violent acts we see that create the unnerving atmosphere, it's the themes, imagery, and what this character intends to represent. When people say that "Joker" could cause more heinous acts of violence and terrorism due to unstable sympathizers seeing themselves within the character, I honestly can admit, after seeing the movie, that I actually kind of agree with them. The film does glamorize what the Joker does to a certain degree, and the way the film presents itself in an almost cheerful manner. Of course I can see some wacko feeling inspired or that they're being represented in the film positively. (Also, despite being a major DC comics fan myself, I can admit that the more ruthless and militant of DC fans can be literally the worst kinds of people. Just the worst.)
The strange thing about "Joker" is that the film works because it revels in its villainy. We've never had a straight forward supervillain film like this before. There is no Batman or hero of any kind to put a stop to Arthur's descent into insanity. We see everything from his perspective, and when you're getting into the mind of a villain like the Joker, you need to be as nihilistic as possible. What should you ask for with a film that portrays a man become a homicidal monster that kills people because he finds it funny? To him, his evil actions are to be praised and applauded, and are portrayed as such despite them being otherwise. To that degree, I understand the film makers point, and their artistic choices.
"Joker" is the best film this year that I can completely understand someone absolutely hating. It's disgusting in nature and unapologetic in its cruelty. It's also a film that gets deep into the head of the character more than any other adaptation ever has. It's a mesmerizing experience that gives you the feeling of one going completely mad after one bad day. (Well, a couple of bad days But you get what I mean.) Damn near brilliant and so captivatingly brutal that I found myself unable to look away from a single frame. For better or for worse, "Joker" is here, and you will remember this movie no matter how hard you try not to. The Clown Prince of Crime has never been more fascinating. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language, Shocking Acts Of Violence, Bony Body Structures, And That Scene With The Scissors. (Yeah. No Horror Movie Has Made Me Jump The Way That Scene Did.)